After 'Convoy', Peckinpah spent five years in the wilderness. It had been the same with 'Major Dundee'. Then, Daniel Melnick's offer of 'Noon Wine' for TV proved the life-raft that led to an initially productive relationship with Phil Feldman and Peckinpah's masterpiece, 'The Wild Bunch'. This time, though, the comeback wouldn't be quite as spectacular.
Don Siegel had given Peckinpah his first gig on a movie set back in 1954. Now at the end of his own career, the director of 'Dirty Harry' and 'Escape from Alcatraz' - the man who had done arguably as much as Sergio Leone in making Clint Eastwood an icon - was reduced to calling the shots on a half-assed Bette Midler vehicle called 'Jinxed'. Hollywood might have written Peckinpah off, but Siegel had no hesitation in hiring him as second unit director to shoot an elaborate action sequence. Peckinpah got his drinking and predilection for thin white lines under control, turned up on set and demonstrated rigid professionalism.
It was his ticket back to directing. Sadly, he'd only get a shot at one last film. Most of the offers that came in were uber-low budget and held no interest. Still, it was important to get back behind the camera so he picked the best of a bad lot and accepted producers Peter Davies and William Panzer's offer to direct 'The Osterman Weekend'.
CIA bigwig Maxwell Danforth (Burt Lancaster) encourages zealous agent Lawrence Fassett (John Hurt) to pursue Russian spy ring Omega. Fassett is traumatised from his wife's murder, but throws himself into the assignment. He identifies TV writer Bernard Osterman (Craig T. Nelson), financier Joseph Cardone (Chris Sarandon) and plastic surgeon Richard Tremayne (Dennis Hopper) as members of Omega who might be "turned". He posits to Danforth that their friendship, dating back to college, with political pundit John Tanner (Rutger Hauer) could provide the wedge to get at them. Danforth gives him the go ahead. Fassett presents Tanner with evidence against his friends. Tanner is distraught, but sees an opportunity he can exploit: long critical of Danforth's machiavellian counter-intelligence techniques, Tanner agrees to assist Fassett on the condition that Danforth consent to be interviewed on Tanner's high-rating and controversial current affairs TV show 'Face to Face'. Danforth assents. Fassett kits out Tanner's home with a panoply of surveillance equipment in advance of Osterman, Cardone and Tremayne arriving at Tanner's home for their annual reunion (events known as "Osterman weekends" in honour of Bernard Osterman, who instigated the tradition). Before the guests have even arrived, Tanner gets cold feet at his wife Ali (Meg Foster) and son Steve's involvement and against Fassett's wishes, drives them to the airport. A kidnap attempt en route is foiled by Fassett's men at the last moment and Tanner reluctantly decides to do things Fassett's way. The guests arrive, but it isn't long before tensions run high. Fassett's supposedly "invisible" presence is belied by a series of manipulations, and when Tanner finally discovers the truth about his friends' conspiratorial behaviour he realises things aren't as Fassett would have had him believe. The agent has a quite different agenda ...