Sunday, March 04, 2012
And now for something completely different. The 1973 film, Executive Action, directed by David Miller (a man who made films starring everyone from the Marx Brothers to John Wayne in his lifetime), is what's been on my mind of late. I only viewed it for the very first time last week, a surprising fact considering the JFK assassination has been something of great interest to me - an interest which occasionally borders on obsession - for over 20 years. Yes, I'm one of those. In the last 50 years, there have been over 400 books published on the matter (from a conspiracy angle: I know such a word may frighten some, but it simply means that at least two people collude to create an event), most of which are currently out of print, and many of which probably aren't worth reading. I've read a few duds myself, though if you're at all curious, I would highly recommend: James W. Douglass's JFK And The Unspeakable: Why He Died And Why It Matters (published just a couple of years back and widely held as one of the best books on the subject. Douglass is a long-time Catholic peace activist, and his book is littered w/ Catholicism, something which at first had me thinking I'd purchased the wrong book, but persist and you will find an absolutely compelling narrative w/ lots of new information brought to light); Thom Hartmann and Lamar Waldron's massive tome, Legacy Of Secrecy: The Long Shadow Of The JFK Assassination, a well-researched monolith which claims to be the definitive work on the topic (something I wouldn't necessarily disgree with); Mark Lane's Plausible Denial (Lane has written many books on the topic, and was both the first person to have written an article on the case [within weeks of the assassination], as well as publishing a book on the matter, 1966's best-selling Rush To Judgment. He's also somewhat of a self-important boofhead, though his decades of research and tenacity in the face of overwhelming hostility is commendable); The Girl On The Stairs: My Search For A Missing Witness To The Assassination Of John F. Kennedy by Barry Ernest, another recently published book which narrows most of the story down to the author's search for one of the workers/witnesses from the Texas Book Depository; and The Men On The Sixth Floor by Glen Sample and Mark Collom, another semi-self-published text which attempts (and claims to succeed) in nailing down who was on the 6th floor of the Book Depository on that day (it ties the story in w/ some earlier murder cases in Texas, as well as LBJ's corruption throughout the 1940s-'60s). Hey, you gotta have a passion outside of family and music, right?
But that's the background; what's worth discussing here is the film in question. Starring Burt Lancaster and veteran actor Robert Ryan (a well-known liberal playing against type), it's actually co-written by author Mark Lane, and attempts to put to the big screen a scenario which might've taken place. Playing on the conspiracy angle, it details the plot from its inception to its conclusion: various business/military types meet up at a mansion and discuss the curse of Kennedy in the White House and what is to be done about it. It's decided that an assassination must be ordered for the good of the country, and the plan is set into action. Burt Lancaster's character, the main instigator, hires a crack team of assassins through his black ops connections and starts them practicing their target shooting in a remote desert area. A patsy is sought through the protagonists' connections w/ the intelligence community, Lee Harvey Oswald is chosen from a file and from then until the fateful day, he is sheparded about, set up and impersonated. Whether you have any interest in the assassination and its various theories or not (and I obviously certainly do), the film works brilliantly regardless as an excellent example of hard-hitting, documentary-style '70s cinema, perfect fodder for American audiences during the height of the Watergate scandal. Well, you'd think it would've been, though the film caused such an uproar upon release that it was quickly pulled from cinemas and barely seen by anyone until it started getting TV airings in the '80s. It's available on DVD, though the best option is to watch it right here and now, in high definition on Youtube. Along w/ its main stars, it also features the work of various "famous" '70s/'80s character actors - so utterly famous that I couldn't actually name a single one of them - whom you will no doubt recognise from many other films. The film is pure grit. More people should see it, and now's your chance.