EXECUTIVE ACTION broke a path for Oliver Stone’s JFK by being the first mainstream movie to suggest conspiracy behind the murder of the President in 1963. Written by Dalton Trumbo, directed by David Miller, the low-budget (under $1,000,000), low-key speculative thriller drew predictable reflex snarls from the Establishment mouthpieces in the press and was mostly dismissed by critics. Of the films released in 1973, it lagged in the pack at 89th place for earnings.
Outraged by Kennedy’s boat-rocking positions on nearly everything, wealthy industrialists conclave, turning to rogue ‘black ops’ agents to design a hit that can be blamed on a ‘crazed lone gunman’. Patsy secured in the person of Lee Harvey Oswald, sniper teams practice until the time and place coincide. *
Trumbo’s screenplay worked in material from attorney and assassination researcher Mark Lane and Donald Freed. They were originally pegged for drawing up the story by actor Donald Sutherland, but he couldn’t secure financing. Producer Edward Lewis (Spartacus) took over.
Burt Lancaster plays the operation mastermind. The right-wing businessmen are played by Robert Ryan, Will Geer, John Anderson and Walter Brooke. Ed Lauter heads Lancaster’s mercenary kill team.
The low-budget hurts, and director Miller, a hit or miss craftsman (Lonely Are The Brave his best film) is unimaginative in his set-ups and slack in his pacing. The performances feel drained of energy. It was Ryan’s last film, he died four months before it was released, from cancer, age 63.
With Colby Chester, Paul Carr, Richard Bull, Lloyd Gough and Dick Miller. 91 minutes.
* Jack’s boat-rocking was really battleship-rocking, trying to alter the inexorable course of the military-industrial complex and the insatiable appetites of its assorted components. The oil companies were upset. The Federal Reserve was challenged. The criminal freak in charge of the FBI hated him and his brother. He told the CIA he would break them. The insane Joint Chiefs. The segregationist cretins. The Mob. Yes, Virginia there is such a thing as conspiracy: history is made by them. Well, whaddaya know, here comes a convenient crazy loner…