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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

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 5, 2008, 4:03 a.m. CST

    Thanks Quint

    by Bloo

    I know on a night like this, with a movie like this your own political views are going to come into play, and I think alot of people feel the same way about Pres-Elect Obama as they did about Kennedy. Thanks for keeping it a minimum <P>This is a nice solid film, great "What If"

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 4:14 a.m. CST

    Political views

    by Quint

    I definitely don't want to offend anyone, especially our readers who supported McCain, but there was just no way to keep politics out of this one, not tonight. Thanks for noticing that I tried to keep it to a minimum. Now for some damn sleep!

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 5:12 a.m. CST

    This was before Zapruder's footage got public

    by ricarleite

    So I wonder how (or if) they show the actual killing, and how it differs from the real thing.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 5:17 a.m. CST

    the zapruder footage

    by Quint

    You're right, not at all in this movie. They recreate the shots, though, with very surprising accuracy... even if the Kennedy double doesn't look a thing like the man... but the final shot, the kill-shot, is pretty damn exact to what was in the Zapruder footage and much more graphic than I expected them to go. Okay, now sleep for real.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 5:38 a.m. CST

    Coincidence or not

    by mascan42

    you know Quint just got flagged by the Secret Service.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 6 a.m. CST

    this movie is as far fetched as a black President!

    by earlfist

    Congratulations USA! What a night! The human race just took a leap towards being a True brother and sisterhood! Look around your fellow citizens because you truly are the greatest nation on earth! From London with love.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 7:06 a.m. CST

    There have been 2 assassination plots against Obama already

    by Chewtoy

    The "meth heads" arrested at the Democratic convention, and the white supremacists arrested who were going to murder and behead blacks before taking shots at Obama. So why on earth would even a poster named "loserguy3000" freak out so much that a movie about Kennedy's assassination would make Quint think about people deciding to assassinate Obama?

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 9:44 a.m. CST

    JFK was assassinated by a Communist sympathizer

    by Windy City Blue

    Oswald was not a Communist agent, nor part of a conspiracy, but he was a twisted dupe for Communist ideology, agitating for Castro and actually choosing to live for a time in the Soviet Union. Rather than accept this simple fact because it fucks with their heads, the American Left has been jumping through hoops for 45 years claiming it was a right-wing conspiracy. Kennedy's death came at the hands of a left-wing nut job.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 10:26 a.m. CST

    Was it known that JFK had Diem overthrown...

    by Tacom

    when this movie was made?

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 11:25 a.m. CST

    Windy City Blue

    by Continentalop

    The problem is that it isn't only just the American Left but also the American Right who love to cling to absurd conspiracies: Kennedy Assassination; 9-11 was an inside Job/work of the Israeli's; the Vince Foster Assassination; FDR let Pearl Harbor happen, etc. I don’t know what it is about the human race, but there is something that makes us looks for conspiracies to explain huge events, as if a lone gunman or 19 hijackers isn’t a good enough explanation. Of course sometimes conspiracies do come true (I am looking at you, Gulf of Tonka!).

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 11:36 a.m. CST

    They're on it!

    by mbeemer

    I saw Obama's stirring victory speech on CNN, and when they pulled back I saw the *large* plexiglass shields covering the sides of the stage facing the crowd.<p> I'm 'sure' those where there as windscreens. Yep.<p> I'm sad that they have to take those precautions, but at the same time glad they have the foresight and the dedication to be serious about protecting the president-elect.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 12:09 p.m. CST

    mbeemer.....Obama, the plexiglass President.

    by Quake II

    Obama will most likely be behind bulletproof glass at every public event for the next 4 years. He needs a "Pope-mobile" as well. And maybe a few look-a-like decoys. Personally, you couldn't pay me enough money to be the first black US President. Fuck that.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 12:33 p.m. CST

    Fucking Nick Fury!

    by Continentalop

    He should have Obama's LMD ready by now. This is why SHIELD should be disbanded, incompetents fucks.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 1:10 p.m. CST

    Good double feature with WInter Kills

    by Continentalop

    This film parallels the Kennedy Assassination and has a killer cast (Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Toshiro Mifune, Sterling Hayden, Anthony Perkins, Elizabeth Taylor & Eli Wallach)

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 2:25 p.m. CST

    Big Money

    by Jim Halpert

    Full disclosure: I voted for Barack Obama. Let's not pretend, though, that the candidate who spent more than any other in the history of the United States has no ties to big money or big corporations -- especially when he did so forgoing a pledge that he signed earlier in the campaign to use only public funds.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 5:26 p.m. CST

    Jim Halpert

    by Geekgasm

    Thank you. Let's not kid ourselves that politics - left, right, center, or otherwise - is anything other than dirty, dirty business that runs on an engine fueled by rich people's money. Rich liberals and rich conservatives.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 6:15 p.m. CST

    funds and whatnot

    by Quint

    I may be speaking out of my ass here, but wasn't Obama's campaign run completely on the people's money, not accepting money from big business or lobbyists at all? And didn't he inspire the DMC to cut all financing from lobbyists as well? I thought that was one of the big points of his campaign was that it was fully funded not by the rich and super-rich, but by the common person. Maybe I'm wrong, but the perception I have is that he's going into office without huge strings attached to big business.<BR><BR>And loserguy, if you don't think this site is and has always been about the personality of those writing and how the day's events influence the review being written, then you don't know what makes AICN what it is. You can disagree with me on if it's appropriate or not, but I never claimed to be anything more than a film lover who likes to write about movies and have a dialogue with other film lovers who read the site. If you can't see the parallels this particular story might have to what's going on today then you're willingly ignoring the obvious. Like him or hate him, Obama's path is very much following Kennedy's in terms of his start, his following and his message of changing the system which will stop a lot of dirty money from getting into even dirtier hands. He's not going to be popular with a lot of people, especially if he gets into office and keeps his campaign promises. It's up to him now not to let down the country and those who believed in him.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 6:29 p.m. CST

    Ten Little Indians

    by zombiwolf

    is a fantastic movie. And I can't wait to see the JFK situation of Watchmen

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 7:30 p.m. CST


    by Red Dawn Don

    It was a little freaky seeing Grandpa Walton being a baddie. Poster Windy City Blue, I agree too many people in this USA believe in too many conspiracys. They think that the GOVERNMENT is imperfect except when it comes to conspiracies and then the GOVERNMENT never makes a mistake. People please listen up, cover-ups seldom work. People talk to the media and things never fall into place like they do in movies and books. Just look at Watergate as an example of a typical GOVERNMENT conspiracy. The truth wins out. I guess it is too hard to believe Oswald and a crappy Italian gun can kill the most powerful man in the world (JFK). Or that guys with box cutters can take over a jumbo jet. Must be more complex that that... err NO.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 8:27 p.m. CST

    Big Money Pt. II

    by Jim Halpert

    Barack Obama raised a lot of his cash through grass-roots donations -- people kicking in $20 on his website, fundraisers like one he had here in Louisville where he'd charge five or ten dollars per ticket. But he also had ample donations from the rich and powerful. Here's just one article from last summer: Again, don't get me wrong -- I voted for him, I think he's the right man for the right time and I'm glad he won. (And I read "A Movie A Day" religiously and enjoy the heck out of it.) It's just impossible in 2008 to win elective office, especially on a national level, without some serious corporate support. We might wish that it weren't so but that's the nature of politics now -- even for dignified, adept and principled men like Barack Obama.

  • Nov. 5, 2008, 9:36 p.m. CST

    Will Geer

    by Vic_Arpeggio

    If you think Will Geer is scary here, Red Dawn Don, watch Frankenheimer's SECONDS. He's still folksy-- and all the scarier for it.

  • Nov. 6, 2008, 8:35 a.m. CST

    If you think Will Geer is scary...

    by tangcameo

    ...try watching Andy Griffith in "Murder in Coweta County". It was made for TV and stars Griffith as the local southern rich man in town, who almost gets away with murder, and Johnny Cash as the county sherrif who catches him. Griffith is so creepy in the role that he nearly creeped me right out of my skin. And his performance in the electric chair makes Green Mile look like a nice Disney fairy tale.

  • Nov. 6, 2008, 3:47 p.m. CST

    candidate who has cut any ties (and money which equals influence

    by Charlie_Allnut

    Uhhh Obama raised more money then any other candidate, most of it from rich people. And Kennedy wasn't exactly a "radical" either. Not trying to start a political debate here, just saying its a little early to start calling people saints.