Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Day of the Jackal (1973): Fred Zinnemann's Masterpiece

After his exquisite A Man for All Seasons (1966) won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Fred Zinnemann had every reason to feel like the luckiest director in Hollywood. The truth is he would not get to direct his next film for another seven years. His attempt to direct an adaptation of André Malraux’ Man’s Fate for MGM had fallen through, and a court battle with the studio almost pushed him over the edge and into bankruptcy. It seemed like his career had nowhere left to go when, suddenly, straight out of nowhere, an offer from Universal came to direct an adaptation of a spy novel that was about to be a huge best-seller. The book, published in 1971, was Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal, and the movie, released in 1973, is a masterpiece—the greatest film of Zinnemann's career.

Not everyone felt that way at the time, least of all Zinnemann himself. In an interview, he was modest: “The Day of the Jackal was made purely as entertainment,” he claimed, “and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It should not be taken seriously politically or in any other way, because it’s just a technical exercise in suspense.” Today, The Day of the Jackal is widely regarded as one of the best thrillers of its era: politically-charged, suspenseful to the max, and taken seriously (for a variety of reasons) by a host of devoted fans all around the world. And yet Zinnemann would forever insist that the movie was little more than a simple crowd-pleaser; one look at the finished film and it is clear he was underrating his own masterpiece. Why did he do this? In his 1992 autobiography, A Life in Pictures, he provides some hints as to why.

Zinnemann, it seems, was intensely paranoid about the modern Hollywood system after the cancellation of Man’s Fate, which, as he wrote, “marked the end of an era in picture making and the dawn of a new one, when lawyers and accountants began to replace showmen as head of the studios and when a handshake was a handshake no longer." In a strange career move, he must have determined that the best way to sell a complex project like The Day of the Jackal to those lawyers and accountants was to reduce its qualities; it was, he claimed, just a simple thriller about a plot to assassinate Charles de Gaulle, and that was it. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

From its opening voiceover (“August, 1962 was a stormy time for France…”), The Day of the Jackal presents itself as a radical portrait of the seething, right-wing French “patriots” of the 1960’s, who felt betrayed by General Charles de Gaulle’s controversial decision to pull France out of the Algerian War. The general, during his terms in office, was hated equally by the right and the left, but for different reasons. The right despised him for losing the war, and the left would never forgive him for carrying on the war in the first place (actress Anne Wiazemsky once claimed that even Jean-Luc Godard thought de Gaulle deserved to be shot). Knowledgeable lovers of cinema will recall that Gillo Pontecorvo’s excellent The Battle of Algiers (1966) ended with the nationalists uniting victoriously while the French military pulled out of Algeria, shamed and embarrassed. Zinnemann’s film is the story of what happened next.

At the center of Zinnemann’s film is a continental chase between two European men, one a professional assassin, the other a detective. The first man, the assassin, is an anonymous Englishman, codenamed the Jackal (Edward Fox), hired by the French OAS (Secret Army Organization) to assassinate Charles de Gaulle for half a million in cash. The second man, the detective, is Claude Lebel (Michael Lonsdale), the French spy who is appointed by a committee at Élysée Palace to help hunt down the Jackal before time runs out. For the longest time in the movie, Lebel and the rest of the authorities believe they have an idea who the Jackal may be, only to eventually realize (at the last minute) that they’ve been wrong the whole time. By the end of the film, the Jackal remains a mystery, his anonymity left unsolved.

Lebel is technically supposed to be the movie’s hero, and the Jackal technically its villain, but both men are equally likable, and I think part of the reason why the movie works so well is because the two characters are perfect foils for one another. By giving us both an appealing hero and an appealing villain, Zinnemann allowed it so that audiences could watch the film with fluctuating sympathies towards both men. When we’re disgusted with the Jackal’s reprehensible killings, we root for Lebel. When we grow tired of Lebel’s long, slow, calculated process of cracking the case, we find ourselves rooting for the Jackal again. This is a fun, ongoing process of love/hate feelings towards both men that we share all throughout the picture. Audiences who saw Zinnemann’s Spanish Civil War epic Behold A Pale Horse (1964) were disappointed that it didn’t end with Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn duking it out, but no worries: Zinnemann doesn’t make that same mistake here. We are promised a final showdown between Fox and Lonsdale, and, fortunately, we get one.

The Jackal has got to be one of the most interesting antiheroes ever to lead a Hollywood film. Watching the movie, we have a mixed response to the character. In a sense, we can’t help but like him; he’s a charming, fairly uncomplicated man, who seeks to kill de Gaulle not because of any personal feelings he may have about the man (hell, for all we know, he may even like de Gaulle a little), but because—to put it frankly—he wants the money. “You must understand: this is a once-in-a-lifetime job,” he warns Colonel Rodin (Eric Porter) and his OAS cronies. “Whoever does it can never work again.” His insists that his fee of half a million in cash is quite sound: “Considering you expect to get France in return, I’d have thought it a reasonable price.” On the other hand, much as we’d like to sympathize with the Jackal’s dreams of fortune and glory, we also have to take into account that he is, at the end of the day, a killer, and that an assassination of the general will do a lot more harm than good. De Gaulle has, arguably, done his military a great favor by pulling them out of a pointless, unpopular war. Why kill him?

The film is wall-to-wall with sudden bursts of violence, many of them committed by the Jackal himself. To ensure that we are repulsed, not excited, by such moments, Zinnemann visually associates the Jackal’s killings with pornography in certain scenes. In the scene where the Jackal smashes in the gut of a forger (Ronald Pickup) who has tried to blackmail him, Zinnemann moves for a close-up of the Jackal’s face—hardened, silhouetted in shadow—while a portrait of a topless model looms tall in the background. In the scene where the Jackal kills Madame de Montpellier (Delphine Syrig), Zinnemann once again closes in on the Jackal’s shadowy face, quietly snapping the neck of the woman underneath him—a murder committed during sex. In the scene where the Jackal kills a landlady who has offered him a glass of water, a small picture of a naked baby can be glimpsed on the wall behind him. Another murder, in which the victim is a homosexual (Anton Rodgers), serves a different purpose: it occurs offscreen while John Huston’s Moulin Rouge (which was about a handicapped dwarf) plays on a TV set, foreshadowing the grand finale in which the Jackal will, ironically, disguise himself as a handicapped war veteran.

A number of Zinnemann’s most famous films (High Noon, From Here to Eternity, The Nun’s Story, A Man for All Seasons) share a common theme: the isolated protagonist with a conscience in crisis. In The Day of the Jackal, it is not the Jackal who suffers a conscience crisis, but Lebel; he is not at all pleased with being assigned this demanding job of tracking down a dangerous killer. In Forsyth’s book, the character is described as “the cartoonist’s image of a hen-pecked husband,” and no wonder: when we first see Lebel in the movie, he is innocently tending to pigeons in his backyard when his wife suddenly comes running out of the house, telling him he’s needed at work, demanding that he remember to come home early. To cope with the difficulties of the job, he requests the assistance of a younger colleague, Caron (a young Derek Jacobi), and warns him that many things will be needed to set up their new office, among them “a percolator and lots of coffee.” Some of the best moments in Kenneth Ross’ brilliant screenplay involve the back-and-forth rapport between Lebel and Caron, among them this memorable exchange:

Caron: You know, sir, what they’ll do to you if you don’t catch this man in time?
Lebel: I’ve been given a job, so we’ll just have to do it.
Caron: But no crime has been committed yet, so where are we supposed to start looking for the criminal?
Lebel: We start by recognizing that, after de Gaulle, we are the two most powerful people in France.

And so they are. Before we know it, Lebel and Caron become France’s answer to Holmes and Watson. Indeed, as we later realize, they are even better detectives than we’ve given them credit for. They are, for example, keeping a close watch for the white Alfa Romeo two-seater which the Jackal is reportedly driving around Europe. They are quick to arrive on the scene of a hotel near Grasse where the Jackal has allegedly spent the night. They successfully trap an OAS spy who has infiltrated Élysée Palace. And so on. We like Lebel and Caron so much, in fact, that, yes, we do want to see them catch the Jackal in time, even though we also harbor a perverse desire to see the Jackal succeed in eliminating his target first. By giving us both a likable villain and a likable dynamic duo, Zinnemann achieves the impossible: he has ensured it so a majority of his audience will be satisfied with his movie no matter who wins in the end.

Trains. There are trains in nearly all of Zinnemann’s movies. Remember the train filled with young Holocaust survivors in The Search (1948), Frank Miller’s train in High Noon, Omar Shariff’s missed train in Behold A Pale Horse and the several trains which Lillian boards in Julia (1977). The great critic Marilyn Ferdinand has commented on Zinnemann’s “affinity for trains, close-ups, and ability to coax iconic performances to dizzying heights,” and in The Day of the Jackal he provides a set piece for a train sequence that is dizzying, indeed. The Jackal, disguised as a schoolteacher named “Perl Lundquist,” has just arrived in Paris and is headed for a Turkish bath. In the film’s most spellbinding shot, Zinnemann and his cameraman, Jean Tournier, track the Jackal’s taxi as it speeds off—while Lebel and Caron’s car passes the taxi in the opposite direction, towards the train station, in the exact same shot. Other sequences in the movie boast some fine editing by Ralph Kemplen (the only crew member who was Oscar-nominated for his efforts) and a thunderous score by Georges Delerue. Roger Ebert, in his glowing 4-star review of the film, summed it up best: “The movie’s technical values (as is always the case with a Zinnemann film) are impeccable.”

The movie is well-remembered for its impressive gallery of British and French actors, some of them playing nuanced characters, some of them not. Forsyth’s 350-paged book had enough space for an unlimited amount of backstories; the movie, with its 143-minute running time, doesn't. In the movie, the gunsmith (Cyril Cusack) who sells the Jackal an elaborate rifle is just a simple salesman who takes his job seriously; in the book, he is given a name, "M. Goosens," and is revealed to be a lonely, divorced family man. Also in the book, the OAS have a bodyguard, Viktor Kowalski, who is kidnapped by Action Service after he is baited with news that his daughter is dying of leukemia. In the movie, he is named Wolenski (Jean Martin, who played Colonel Mathieu in The Battle of Algiers), does not have a daughter and is intercepted by Action Service simply because they know his wrist is handcuffed to the OAS’ important files. These backstories didn’t make their way into the film because they don’t have much to do with the conflict between the Jackal and Lebel (another sequence from the book that was cut involved the Jackal entering a gay bar, dressed in drag!), but otherwise Kenneth Ross’ screenplay remains fairly true to Forsyth. Ross, for some unexplained reason, would go on to write only three more screenplays after this film, two of them for John Frankenheimer.


One subplot that Ross and Zinnemann do retain from Forsyth’s book turns out to be one of the film’s more emotionally-involving stories, and it doesn’t even involve the Jackal or Lebel. The OAS have a female spy, Denise (Olga Georges-Picot), named “Jacqueline” in the book, who seeks to avenge her fiancée’s death in Algeria. In a scene in the film that, once again, subtly equates violence with pornography, an OAS member burns a photograph of Denise’s fiancée while ordering her to “get involved” with one of de Gaulle’s officials; a tear can be seen sliding down her face while she helplessly watches her lover’s picture cast into the fire. Later in the film, however, she makes a stunning transformation into a sexy, irresistible femme fatale, and we realize that she is actually very good at her job. Her scheme to seduce St. Clair (Barrie Ingham) during a ride on horseback looks as though it were inspired by Hitchcock’s Notorious, and it’s little surprise that a seemingly committed family man such as him winds up falling for her.

Alas, it is not a match made in heaven, and eventually St. Clair realizes he’s been duped. A phone conversation with an OAS contact is played before the committee at Élysée Palace, and, yes, that is most definitely Denise’s voice on the phone. The Minister (Alan Badel) demands an explanation. Then, in one of the saddest moments in the film, St. Clair slowly stands up before his peers, and tells the truth: “I regret to have to inform you, Minister, that it was the voice of a friend of mine... she is staying with me at the moment... excuse me.”

This scene is beautifully, heartbreakingly delivered by the actor Barrie Ingham, who also provides the film’s opening narration; he would later be more well-known to juvenile audiences as the voice behind Basil of Bakerstreet in Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective (1986). But he steals this one scene in The Day of the Jackal so unexpectedly that he’s one of the things about the movie we remember the most. In the book, the character of St. Clair is a nastier piece of work: an obnoxious ball-buster who resents Lebel’s authority, and whose eventual disgrace before his peers is hardly worthy of our pity. Zinnemann and Ross, however, are wise to make him more of a naïve and pathetic figure in the movie, and we can’t help but feel a little bad for him; his downfall is a reminder of the Van Heflin hero’s fate in Zinnemann’s classic film noir Act of Violence (1949). True, in retrospect, St. Clair has nobody to blame but himself; his mistake could have been easily avoided if he had simply remained true to his family. But not every sinner in the world finds themself in the unusual position of somehow committing treason in the wake of adultery, making his suicide of a drug overdose at the end of the film all the more tragic.

Another emotionally-charged subplot in the film involves the tragic fate of Madame de Montpellier, nicknamed “Colette,” who is unfortunate enough to meet the Jackal at the hotel near Grasse. The wonderful actress Delphine Seyrig (from Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) portrays her as a rich housewife who appreciates the Jackal’s attempts to flirt with her; she comfortably admits to him that her life story is “unfortunately” true, and that she is not terribly pleased about her 19-year old son getting a military commission. They discuss mountain-climbing in the Alps, foreshadowing Zinnemann’s great final film, Five Days One Summer (1982). They have sex twice, once at the hotel, another time at her own house when the Jackal arrives on her doorstep uninvited (there is, amusingly, a plentiful amount of nudity and sex in the film for a PG-rated thriller). It is here, at the house, that the Jackal murders her when she innocently inquires about what he’s up to. At this point we find ourselves starting to hate the Jackal; Colette has given him her hospitality and her love, and we sincerely believe her when she insists she won’t rat out on him, so his decision to execute her as a witness feels grossly unjust. She, like St. Clair, is another poor soul in the movie who pays an unfair price for her adultery.

If there’s anything in the movie that may turn off some viewers today, it might be Zinnemann’s depiction of the gung-ho, by-any-means-necessary attitudes of the Action Service, who are willing to go to just about any extreme measures to ensure that the Jackal is caught. Which means that, yes, they are open to torture; one of the most excruciating sequences in the movie involves the torture of Wolenski the bodyguard, who suffers so badly from his electric shocks that he dies immediately after spilling the beans. In scenes like these, Zinnemann is dangerously skirting the borderlines of a pro-torture argument, but I don't think he's going so far as to make an outright case for torture. One scene shows an Action Service cop listening to Wolenski’s confessions, disgusted by the cries of suffering on the audio tape, ripping off his headphones and roaring, “What the hell did they do to the bastard!??” Here, the movie is quick to demonstrate that the practice of torture has flaws of its own.

Lebel, too, finds himself having to go to some ruthless measures in order to do his job, and when it is discovered that he is the one who wire-tapped St. Clair’s phone, the Minister asks him how he knew whose phone to tap. “I didn’t,” Lebel coolly replies, “so I tapped all of them.” This is a disturbing line, yes—especially in our era of the dreaded Patriot Act—but I would argue that Zinnemann is simply asking us if a practice as immoral as wire-tapping might be necessary in such a drastic ticking time-bomb situation, unethical as it may be. As Neil Sinyard thoughtfully puts it in his book on Zinnemann, Films of Character and Conscience, “The implication seems to be that terrorism can only be combated by terrorism from the State, which necessitates an indifference to the relation between means and ends. It is a depressing thought, for the danger is that it might ultimately blur the distinction between the two.”

The movie's lead actors are sensational. Edward Fox is absolutely right for the Jackal, bringing to the role a sense of mystery and anonymity that a more famous actor would have been incapable of supplying. Fox revealed in a recent interview with Riverside Studios that he was cast in the role because Zinnemann was impressed with his delivery of an absurd line of dialogue (“Nothing is ever a lady’s fault!”) in Joseph Losey’s The Go-Between (1970). In the same interview, Fox informs a live audience that Zinnemann and Frederick Forsyth got along rather well (he claims they even went to bars together, where they were accosted by hookers), although Fox adds that their working relationship was more formal: "Zinnemann wasn’t very keen on having anybody who wasn’t integral to the film on the set. Visitors weren’t terribly welcome, and that included old Freddie Forsyth, too."

Michael Lonsdale’s portrayal of Lebel is a terrific demonstration of Zinnemann’s favorite type of protagonist: tense and uneasy about his responsibilities, before finally gathering up the courage to face his fears and live up to the challenge awaiting him. Lonsdale has often been typecast throughout his career in roles as religious figures; his portrayals of clergies in Orson Welles’ The Trial (1962), Jacques Jean-Annaud’s The Name of the Rose (1986), Milos Foreman’s Goya’s Ghosts (2006) and Xavier Beauvois’s recent Of Gods and Men (2011) all come to mind. But whenever he returns to his thriller roots, it is always a true delight; Steven Spielberg has verified that he cast Lonsdale as the crime lord “Papa” in Munich (2005) after fondly remembering his portrayal of Lebel in Zinnemann’s film.

The final confrontation between Fox and Lonsdale is one of the great final confrontations in the history of movies. The Jackal just barely misses his target (de Gaulle has bent too far forward), and suddenly the door bursts open and Lebel is up there in the same room with him—it's the first time they've met face-to-face. Both struggle to load their weapons and fire at each other, but Lebel fires first (with a MAT-49 picked up from a fallen CRS guard), and the Jackal is blasted against the wall. There is an unforgettable close-up of Lebel's face, sweaty and well-lit (as opposed to shadowy, like the Jackal's face after the murders of Colette and the forger). He cannot quite believe it: he has struck down the Jackal himself. The look of astonishment on his face suggests this may be the first time in his life he has ever killed a man.

The film’s only flaw is the quickened pace of the concluding scenes following the Jackal's death, which feel too rushed. Disappointingly, the chilling last line of Forsyth’s book (“The day of the jackal was over”) is never included. The final shot, of a key character standing sadly over the Jackal’s freshly-buried grave, is so mesmerizing that we want Zinnemann to hold the shot for a long time—but he doesn’t. The end credits begin rolling sooner than they should, although the closing image of a lion statue parked in front of Élysée Palace does, in some ways, remind us of the lion and dragon statues in the closing moments of A Man For All Seasons, another film about a martyred rebel.

Zinnemann leaves us with some troubling questions, among them the question of whether or not the heroes have actually succeeded in, well, learning anything at all about their enemy. "I don’t think we ever really had any idea what kind of man you’ve been pursuing during the past two weeks," the Minister confesses to Lebel—and that, unfortunately, remains to be the case when the movie is over. The Jackal may be dead, but so what? They didn't even get to find out what his real name was; their suspicion of him as being one “Charles H. Calthrop” turns out to be a false lead. "If the Jackal wasn’t really Calthrop," ponders Inspector Thomas (Tony Britton), "then who the hell was he?" All that torture and wire-tapping, it seems, may have saved the general’s life, but there are no personal rewards to be reaped. Few things are uglier than killing a man with no identity and no recorded background, doomed to be buried in a forgotten and unmarked grave. They never knew anything about him.

Claude Lebel is the only character left standing at the end of the movie who still truly, honestly wants to know who the Jackal was. For everybody else in the movie, it doesn't matter, and life goes on. For him, it won't. He’ll have to go back home to his wife, back to his pigeons, back to his job, back to his missions with Caron, continuously wishing he could have had a little more time to learn something about his enemy. He never does get to find out who the Jackal was, or why the Jackal turned to a life of cold-blooded killing. But Lebel, bless his heart, would still like an answer to those questions. In its own special way, that is a sign of progress. And he is the only person in the movie who goes to the Jackal’s funeral.


  1. Adam. I love this movie, and I'm a big fan of Behold a Pale Horse, as you know. This is just the best thriller ever made. I remember being so gripped and surprised by the attempted assassination scene, and Zinnemann builds all this suspense in a film about about an attempt to assassinate someone we know will not be assassinated. The Jackal's inexorable progress is so well done, and so well played by Fox. Love the surprise car accident. Your comprehensive review here is tremendous.

  2. Saw the movie for the first time this weekend. A remarkably gripping story that zips by faster than its two-plus hours. You do it great justice here. Especially pointed are your references to the Patriot Act and the question of what constitutes justifiable torture. I find it interesting to watch the end of Touch of Evil with the same thoughts in mind. Police say they got Sanchez to confess to the explosion, thus vindicating Quinlan's less than scrupulous investigation. Knowing now that such coersions generate little useful information, we're left to consider that maybe Quinlan was in the wrong after all. Tangent at best... Just wanted to say you did a great job surveying this great film.

  3. Hokahey, now that I think about, I actually fully agree with your assertion that this is the best thriller ever made. It's certainly my favorite! Zinnemann really gives it his all here, and as much as I like Behold A Pale Horse, this film allowed Zinnemann to return to the territory already marked by that film - and perfect it the second time around. It truly is amazing how much suspense is built over an ending that we can already predict. Part of that, I think, has to do with the suspense of seeing just who, exactly, is going to stop the Jackal in time. Good thing it's Lebel.

    Glad you mentioned the surprise car accident, too; I thought about mentioning that scene in this piece, but couldn't figure out how it would fit. One thing that's always amused me about that scene is how the passenger in the other car is killed, but his German Shepherd is still barking ferociously in the backseat... the ultimate fate of the dog is never explained! But that's besides the point of course, haha.

    Robert, I'm so glad you liked the movie; I had wanted to make sure my piece was uploaded over the weekend at the same time the movie was airing on TCM, and am overjoyed to see that somebody found this review after seeing it! I totally agree with you about the Touch of Evil similarities, too. Welles, like Zinnemann, excelled in thrillers late in his career.

    Thanks for the comments, guys!

  4. Phenomenal review of one of my favorite movies. I especially appreciate your linking of Zinnemann interviews, and your analysis of the train and violence/sex motives is spot on.

    There are maybe a few things I'd quibble about. I may be in the minority but I've never had a problem choosing sides: I'm always cheering for Lebel in this one. I don't know if I share your review of the Jackal as complex. He's fairly straightforward in his motivations and we learn next to nothing about him. Compelling yes, complex no.

    Also, one really can't say De Gaulle got France into the Algerian War, as he wasn't president when it started (and certainly not when France first colonized the region). But that's picking nits.

    Minor quibbles notwithstanding, this is the best review of Jackal I've read yet. If nothing else, you've made me eager to watch it again.

  5. Groggy, thanks for the comments. About the issue of the Jackal's complexity, which part of my review are you referring to, exactly? I know I call him "a charming, fairly uncomplicated man" at one point, but I don't see to recall ever suggesting he's a character with any other motivations besides greed. I know I did say Lebel is the most complex and tortured character in the film - which he is - but if I said the same thing about the Jackal, let me know where and I'll correct it... because yeah, the Jackal's definitely not a complicated character.

    And I'll probably edit the review so that it says the left was mad at De Gaulle for continuing the war, rather than starting it.

  6. The left were angry because De Gaulle returned to power in '58, in what was effectively a coup d'etat, although one with much popular support. If he hadn't done that France would probably have had a Communist leader - hence Godard's hatred.

    The right were angry because they helped De Gaulle take power on the understanding he would keep the French colony of Algeria. He did not and it became independent in '62. The film is set after these events with the OAS trying to get revenge for this supposed betrayal.

    Also, the torture scenes depicted are fairly accurate - the French secret police did some bad things to De Gaulle's opponents, although Zinneman may be trying to visually reference torture of Algerians by the French a la Battle of Algiers.

    I don't think you need to know these things to appreciate the film but it does add some depth. Also, are you sure there's a scene in the book where the Jackal wears a dress? I don't remember that one. And it's the kind of thing that would stick in the memory.

  7. Anonymous, thanks for the helpful comments.

    I read the book several months ago, so my memory is a little hazy, but I recall the Jackal walking into a beauty shop in one scene, and then, in the next scene, emerging into a gay bar and hooking up with the Anton Rodgers character -- while dressed in drag, I recall, although I don't remember specifically how Forsyth worded it.

    Agreed about the comparison to the torture scenes in Battle of Algiers. It would certainly explain the casting of Jean Martin in the film.

    That's interesting that Godard might have wanted De Gaulle assassinated just because he was an anti-Communist. Though I wonder if Godard post-La Chinoise would've felt differently about the matter. In any case, I'm sure Godard probably hates this film, since the guys at Cahiers du Cinema didn't care much for Zinnemann (Truffaut despised High Noon)... and vice versa. Zinnemann once made a witty comment about Godard, Rivette and Pierre Kast's reputations as film critics/filmmakers: "What amused me especially is that most of these guys have made pictures that are absolutely ghastly."

    1. Adam,

      I find the movie very interesting and a great piece of dramatic and historical fiction. The questions that come to my mind, after watching it several times, are the following:
      1. What mistake, if any, did he make to get caught? I know Lebel does some superior detective work but he just knows that the Jackal is at 154 on the top floor and goes there. Of course, in the movie, the police officer shoots at the lower lock though the Jackal locked the upper or bolt lock.
      2. If he was successful, how could he have gotten away? He only tinted half of his hair and did a poor job of it. He could disguise himself again as the old French Soldier but then what? Obviously, after the crowd had watched de Gaule's head explode like the ripe melon, the crowd would have been thrown into a panic. Police and military would be running everywhere. I'm thinking that with all that would be going on, he could mix in but he used up his passports. He would be sitting in France and spending his money but waiting for an out.
      3. What would have happened if he didn't steal the lady's car? They would have never suspected the Danish disguise and he would have been in Paris without them knowing. They'd probably still be searching for Paul Duggan.
      All in all, I think that was the Jackal's one mistake. He could have possibly gotten away with the murder of the lady but taking her car and leaving it just a little ways from a train station was a mistake he paid for. The Danish disguise led the police straight to Paris. If there was a way to send them on a wild goose chase like sending them in the opposite direction, that would have been more helpful to him.
      I really do like the movie and enjoy watching it just to see how they discover the Jackal.

  8. Hi Adam, Thanks for a very very good review of this movie - this is simply the best movie for me. I first watched this film on and old black & white TV about 30 years ago, and after that watched it on vcd, and dvd. I'd re-watch this movie every two to three years, and it still feels like the first time.

    This is simply the best spy/espionage/assassination/detective movie of all time!

    Besides that, I'd like to know, if there are other movies that is (almost) as good as this one that you can recommend to me?

    - from a movie fan in Malaysia


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