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Executive Action on DVD


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Finally this, imo much underrated film is going to be released on DVD in October! At the moment it's only available on the US Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Executive-Action-Bur...8433&sr=1-1

Excellent. I read the book but haven't seen the movie.

I wonder how closely the movie follows the book.

I also wonder why Mark Lane distances himself from the movie.

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I was disappointed in this movie when I finally got a chance to see it. I guess I was put off by stilted dialogue and wooden acting. (I also had to laugh when Lancaster tells his co-conspirators than one shooter will be "on the grassy knoll.") But maybe I made a rush to judgment. I'll have to see it again. But I could see how it bombed at the box office.

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In a 1974 essay published in Jump Cut, a "reviewer of contemporary media," Fred Kaplan writes:

The most blatant manifestation of this milieu can be seen in the film, EXECUTIVE ACTION. Not a disguised fiction hidden behind veils of pseudonyms, this is a scenario of the JFK assassination itself. On paper, it’s a heavyweight project, written by Dalton Trumbo from a book by conspiracy freaks Mark Lane (Rush to Judgment) and Donald Freed (The Glasshouse Tapes), directed by David Miller, who helped out Trumbo in his blacklisted days.

The film itself, on the other hand, is a total fiasco. It is so improbable, so filled with holes, so negligent even in the task of raising good, hardcore questions. Even if there were a conspiracy, I doubt if its schemers have much to worry about here. According to the collaborators, the assassination was spearheaded by a handful of rightwing Big Businessmen who feared that JFK was going to strike the oil-depletion allowance, enforce strong antitrust laws, incite black revolution, sign a test ban treaty, and pull out of Vietnam. With all these threats to this power elite’s position and ideology (C. Wright Mills spins in his grave again), the only possible course of action—it is taken for granted—is “Executive Action,” i.e., assassination of The Executive. And who are they going to get to pull off this intrigue? Well, the CIA recently fired some Cuban trainees as a result of the Bay of Pigs scandal; they're available, and can be bought ...

And on it goes. Much of this is based on two of the earliest and most nonsensical conspiratorial writings on the subject: the oil business in Buchanan’s Who Killed Kennedy (the assassin leader being a wealthy oilman named Mr. X who wanted to test the limits of his power), the assertion of a sharpshooting double for Oswald in Richard Popkin’s The Second Oswald. (Popkin teaches a philosophy of history course at Washington University which, so a student there tells me, might as well be entitled, “Tales of Intrigue,” the entire expanse of world history taking on conspiratorial overtones at every significant juncture.)

There are whoppers all through this movie. Perhaps the biggest begins to strike us ten minutes through the plot. Namely, these businessmen (squintingly sinister and coldly unidentified) have many connections and great power, enough to pull together a grand conspiracy and an equally magnificent cover-up, stealing civil defense code books and disconnecting the D.C. phone lines to get the gunmen out of the country, and knocking off 18 witnesses to keep it hushed up. Thus one would think that they'd also be able to bargain for group-interest privileges, as they have throughout modern history, without having to resort to such risky dealings.

There are also a fair share of half-truths in all this, and loose ends trip things up too. Ruby’s role in the plot is equivocally presented, and the Officer Tipitt shooting is very weakly explained. And what about those eighteen witnesses? Who were they? What did they witness? Trumbo and Miller don't get bogged down in details; they simply ignore them.

But it’s all a cop-out anyway. The film opens with a disclaimer that this scenario is, in effect, just a “maybe. “ And director David Miller has said in interviews, “We have no proof that these people in the film did it. The only thing we are trying to prove is that one man could not have accomplished this feat.” The most dismal failure of EXECUTIVE ACTION, then, is that, in fact, Miller & Co. present no persuasive, much less compelling, evidence leading to this conclusion either. Strip away all the leftwing fantasy, and there is nothing remaining that would be inconsistent with the theory that Oswald did it alone....

....and for that matter, why was EXECUTIVE ACTION—made? The answer seems fairly clear: Money. In this social climate, an audience for such rampant, illogical, unrealistic, paranoia-drenched entertainment exists. Indeed, EXECUTIVE ACTION was being rejected by all the studios—until Watergate flashed its way onto the television sets of millions and the front pages of every newspaper in the land. The box-office potential for such fare suddenly zoomed upward. As EXECUTIVE ACTION’s producer, Gary Horowitz, said, that made all the difference. In other words, these films are merely playing on the highly volatile sentiments of the time. Not in any rational or even truly relevant fashion, mind you—the films explain nothing about Watergate or any other political phenomenon—but simply for its own grubby sake.

Executive Action was released post-Garrison and pre-Groden on Goodnight America at a time when Watergate was still big and the Kennedy assassination was no longer prominent in the media. Like Ron Ecker I was a bit disappointed when I saw it in the theater, but Mark Lane was a hero of mine and I was grateful that President Kennedy's murder was again receiving some publicity.

I do not share Kaplan's views.

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Strictly as a movie, the script struck me as unworthy of the talents of Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan. Maybe they took the parts out of conviction, but then why did the stone-faced Lancaster simply phone in his lines? And listening to Ryan deliver long expository statements, instead of having to act, was painful.

I'm rather amazed that the script was written by Trumbo. He also wrote "Spartacus," and "Executive Action" is no "Spartacus."

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Glad this is out on DVD. I have looked for it in DVD at local store twice in the last year, but they had it only on VHS.

Also had opportunity to see The Parallax View again. This has really withstood the test of time! Its now being talked about by filmy people as a key movie of the entire decade-- which, considering the decade is saying a lot. The character actor who does the MKULTRA guy was outstanding.

ANYONE WHO HASN'T SEEN IT, you are really missing a great movie. Especially rich for those interested in MKULTRA.

I also recommend you see Medium Cool, which is a catagorical imperative-- or at least half of one-- for anyone on this forum!

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I know what people mean when they say it's a bit stilted but I still think it's a good film and is a very good attempt at explaining a fairly believable scenario (imo) of what happened, particularly if you don't know the subject very well. Apparently I heard that the film was banned in the UK for some time - I don't know if it still is but I haven't been able to buy a copy here anywhere, even online in VHS format. I had a friend in the US send me a copy. I'll be interested to see if it does become available here on DVD. If not I'll just get it from the US instead :huh:

Also I remember that the names in the film of real people have been changed but only slightly so that if you know anything about the case you know who they are talking about. James Hosty becomes 'Jim Hastings' I think.

I also liked the way that you see one of the assassins portrayed as a young latin woman, a reference to the 'Ruth Ann' in the Mac Wallace story perhaps?

Edited by Francesca Akhtar
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I know what people mean when they say it's a bit stilted but I still think it's a good film and is a very good attempt at explaining a fairly believable scenario (imo) of what happened, particularly if you don't know the subject very well.

I think knowing the subject beforehand is what makes the difference, for me anyway. If I hadn't been so familiar with the case, I could have sat back to enjoy the story. Instead I was listening to see how they would handle or express this and that, and it made it all sound contrived or hackneyed. I sat there wanting to edit the script, to make all that expository dialogue more bearable, though of course it was much too late.

There is plenty of expository dialogue in "JFK" too, but Stone, being the first-rate moviemaker that he is, does a much better job with it. His movie is gripping no matter how well you know the subject, in a way that "Executive Action" is not. But I do want to see EA again.

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  • 3 weeks later...
I know what people mean when they say it's a bit stilted but I still think it's a good film and is a very good attempt at explaining a fairly believable scenario (imo) of what happened, particularly if you don't know the subject very well.

I think knowing the subject beforehand is what makes the difference, for me anyway. If I hadn't been so familiar with the case, I could have sat back to enjoy the story. Instead I was listening to see how they would handle or express this and that, and it made it all sound contrived or hackneyed. I sat there wanting to edit the script, to make all that expository dialogue more bearable, though of course it was much too late.

There is plenty of expository dialogue in "JFK" too, but Stone, being the first-rate moviemaker that he is, does a much better job with it. His movie is gripping no matter how well you know the subject, in a way that "Executive Action" is not. But I do want to see EA again.

I didn't want to start a new thread just for the book, but, I recently read the book and was impressed by it, even though I wouldn't suggest everybody go out and get a copy. I wanted to know if anyone else has read the book, I noticed Myra mentioned she had. I was intrigued by the intelligence jargon [ie definitions] and it crystallized a reflection of mine, [and perhaps others] that perhaps Igor Vaganov was a "false sponsor." When I think of all the books, articles, essays etc., that have come out through the years, I get the definite impression that [whether someone agrees or not, who reads this] many of the "works" that have come out do contain "bits and pieces" of essential aspects of the assassination that have been uncovered, it is just that on the Forum, all of this information filters through individual perceptions, and many times drifts into conflicting, sometimes heated divergences of opinion.

One last observation, in going over the newest batch of declassified documents, I have noticed that some pretty big names ie intelligence and military operatives etc., were deposed before the HSCA formed, in the era of the Church Committee and Senate Select Committee with regards to Intelligence Operations, which I was not aware of.......

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  • 3 months later...

As the film's researcher, David Lifton persuaded one of the producers to utilize the NIX footage in their film & he made sure that UPI who owned it, used EFX(where Groden worked) to make copies so that both Robert & David would secure themselves a great 35mm copy of NIX.

It didn't quite work out for David Lifton though.

(TGZFH)

I thought it was a titbit worth sharing, I haven't seen the film yet but I considered purchasing it a few times..

watching "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald" :) not too long ago may have put me off it.

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The most sophisticated and satisfying cinematic fiction relating to the JFK assassination remains, for me, "The Package."

Even though its plot line literally has nothing to do with the events in Dallas.

Written by John Bishop. Directed by Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive"). Starring Gene Hackman, Tommie Lee Jones, Joanna Cassidy, and John Heard. Released in 1989. Available on DVD.

Charles

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  • 2 years later...

Just a tidbit here.

EA started out with Ruby walking down the ramp to the police station to shoot Oz.

Roy Vaughn, former Midlothian Police Chief, sued the movie maker and won causing EA to divert from the opening of the movie, since it was never provened Ruby came to his shooter's spot this way.

I knew Roy but he wouldn't say if he was awarded $ in the settlement or not. I personally believe that the producers of EA changing the film's opening was enough for Roy.

I also like " THE PACKAGE " and its setting up of its patsy.

jim

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I know what people mean when they say it's a bit stilted but I still think it's a good film and is a very good attempt at explaining a fairly believable scenario (imo) of what happened, particularly if you don't know the subject very well.

That is what I was thinking. The film does a good job of explaining the framing of Lee Oswald - and the likely shooting sequence of the real shooters.

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