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A Movie A Day: Quint on EXECUTIVE ACTION (1973)
Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] First thing’s first… It was an amazing night in the history of my country. I won’t celebrate here, no rubbing it in to those who don’t share my views and no preaching to the choir, but it was an amazing night. And an incredibly troubling night to watch this film. I said it yesterday that the Movie Gods must have a twisted sense of humor to let EXECUTIVE ACTION fall on election day.

Essentially what we have with this film is a What If? movie centered around the Kennedy Assassination. The film opens with text and voice-over telling us of an interview LBJ did before he died in which he said certain things that were removed by the powers that before before it aired… but it has now been admitted that it was LBJ asserting that JFK’s assassination was a conspiracy, and not the sole work of Lee Harvey Oswald. The scroll then goes on to make sure we know that the movie we’re about to see is a work of fiction, acting merely as a possible scenario based on the evidence of the assassination and who had motive and stood to benefit from Kennedy’s death. Basically a collection of great ’40s and ‘50s greats gather together, led by the awesome Robert Ryan, trying to convince a big oil man, Ferguson, played by Will Greer of WINCHESTER ’73 fame, to join them in plotting Kennedy’s death.

They play on greed, racism and fear of a Kennedy dynasty, outlining their plan for a re-election for JFK, then 8 years of Bobby Kennedy, then another 8 for Teddy Kennedy. They predict Kennedy’s siding with the blacks for equal rights and Kennedy’s desire to start pulling out of Vietnam as well as his nuclear disarmament proposition. At the end of the day, the ideals are meaningless. It’s all about power staying with power and they don’t like that they have no sway over his presidency. So, if I’m finding it a little freaky right now, and a bit scary, looking at the possible parallels here, please forgive me. A radically progressive candidate who has cut any ties (and money which equals influence) to big corporations and big oil, trying to pull out of a war that is very profitable for many very rich men, despite being incredibly unpopular with the people of the US… not to mention the personal comparisons you can make in terms of charm and ability to inspire crowds. Yeah, it’s eerie. Let’s just hope that secret security has been vastly improved since then, especially if the script isn’t exaggerating when the conspirators discuss the assassination… they really make it seem like the Secret Service were useless then, only a dozen or so detail, no sweeping buildings along the parade route, no real research on likely threats before travel, etc.

What’s interesting to me is just intricate the film goes into conspiracy theory detail without ever pulling the “inside job” card. The information agencies don’t know about it, but they unwittingly support it via a myriad of shadowy sources and connections that all, invariably, have ties to this small group of old, rich white dudes who are scared to death of minorities growing and of the US not being top bull anymore in terms of perceived military strength. If the film has a failing, it is in an area I find hard to criticize. The multiple threads to the vast conspiracy are very convoluted and at times I felt like I had to play a little catch-up with the movie, which was moving so fast through pages of dialogue informing us of the plot that I sometimes lost the thread, especially where Oswald was concerned. We get a very detailed look at Oswald’s history, his ties and loyalties to communist Russia, but also a weird ambiguous support from within our own government, but at the end of the day he’s just the patsy. The movie supposes he was telling the complete truth when he was caught and that all of the circumstantial evidence against him was carefully planned. He was set-up without ever knowing it or meeting the men pulling the strings of his destiny. What’s really disturbing and fascinating is how director David Miller (director of yesterday’s FLYING TIGERS) intercuts the fiction storyline with real life footage of Kennedy making speeches in the weeks leading up to that fateful day in Dallas. What’s especially disturbing is the access to the footage of the events leading up to the assassination that I had never seen before, like Kennedy getting off Air Force One, getting into the convertible and shaking hands on the tarmac as they get ready to drive off, towards his death. Will Greer and Robert Ryan are especially good as two of the conspirators, but a special nod has to be given to Burt Lancaster, who plays the most active member of the group, really keeping the wheels of the conspiracy greased and turning.

You’ll also see some very familiar faces, including one of my favorites Dick Miller as one of the riflemen. The conspirators have two teams of three training, completely unaware of the other team, training at moving targets with a crappy Italian sniper rifle, which was apparently dubbed “The rifle that never hurt anyone on purpose” by the Italians before it stopped being produced. Controlling both of these teams is another familiar face, Ed Lauter, whose famous chrome dome can be seen in everything from THE ROCKETEER to BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY to REAL GENIUS to MAGIC to Hitchcock’s FAMILY PLOT to the ’76 KING KONG remake. He’s not a particularly likable character in this movie, but he’s not a cartoon villain, either. He’s a mercenary, seeing his retirement offered and he doesn’t give a damn who ends up in the crosshairs. So, you have a fascinating script by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, a heavily cynical early ‘70s filmmaking vibe and some mediocre cinematography (but mediocre ‘70s cinematography is still better than just “good” cinematography today) and very thought-provoking theory on the events behind the assassination, which I’m absolutely convinced we still don’t know the full story behind. It all just doesn’t add up, but I don’t know if I’d go so far as to suggest a conspiracy to it all… but there is for sure shit we don’t know and will probably never know about it. Final Thoughts: EXECUTIVE ACTION isn’t the best movie in the world, but I’d rank it a solid 7/10… however keep in mind one of my favorite comic books growing up was Marvel’s What If? I love these kinds of stories and if they even get a little bit of it right, I hope to God that we’ve either evolved as a people or at least won’t be forced to live through a recreation of the horrid events from 1963.

Here’s what we have lined up for the next week: Wednesday, November 5th: THE BUSY BODY (1967)

Thursday, November 6th: IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963)

Friday, November 7th: LIBELED LADY (1936)

Saturday, November 8th: UP THE RIVER (1930)

Sunday, November 9th: DOCTOR BULL (1933)

Monday, November 10th: JUDGE PRIEST (1930)

Tuesday, November 11th: TEN LITTLE INDIANS (1965)

Thank the Movie Gods, we move on to a comedy next, following Robert Ryan back a few years to a movie that has nothing (I hope) to do with knocking off political figures! See you folks tomorrow for THE BUSY BODY! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers

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