Juggernaut (1974 film)

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Directed by Richard Lester
Produced by Richard Alan Simmons as Richard DeKoker
Written by Richard Alan Simmons as Richard DeKoker
Alan Plater
Starring Richard Harris
Omar Sharif
David Hemmings
Anthony Hopkins
Shirley Knight
Ian Holm
Music by Ken Thorne
Cinematography Gerry Fisher
Edited by Antony Gibbs
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s)
  • 25 September 1974 (1974-09-25)
Running time 109 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Juggernaut is a British crime thriller film, produced in 1974.


The cruise liner SS Britannic is in the middle of a voyage in the Atlantic Ocean with 1200 passengers on board when the shipping line's owner (Ian Holm) in London receives a telephone call from a man with an Irish accent styling himself as "Juggernaut", who claims to have placed seven barrels of amatol (high explosive) aboard the ship which are timed to explode and sink it at dawn on the following day. He warns that the barrels are booby-trapped and that any attempt to move them will result in detonation, and offers that technical instructions in how to render the bombs safe will be given in exchange on a ransom being paid to him of £500,000. As an indication of his seriousness he then sets off a demonstration attack with a series of small bombs on the ship's bridge, which injure one crewmen. Unable to order an evacuation of the ship's passengers via lifeboats due to rough seas besetting it, the shipping line's management is inclined to yield to the ransom demand, however when the police are called in British government officials inform the company that if it does so they will withdraw the company's operating subsidy in line with the Government's policy of non-appeasement to blackmailed threats of violence.

Instead a Royal Navy officer, Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Fallon (Richard Harris), leading a bomb-disposal unit is dispatched, arriving on the scene by air transit and parachuting into the sea, with orders to board the ship and defuse the barrel-bombs before the deadline. Meanwhile, back in London Supt. McCleod (Anthony Hopkins), whose wife and two children happen to be holidaying on board the ship, leads Scotland Yard's investigation against the clock to capture the criminal master-bomber.

After an attempt to defuse one bomb by remote-controlled robot fails, setting it off and damaging the ship, Fallon decides to split up his team with each man working simultaneously on each of the remaining devices at different points around the ship, Fallon going first with each stage of the defusing operation and informing his men of each move by radio link, with the aim that if he fails and his bomb explodes, his men will know what went wrong and continue the process onwards, with his second in command taking up the lead, until the devices are disarmed. However, if two more bombs go off, the ship will sink. Fallon proceeds to apparently successfully disarm the bomb he is working on, with his men following each step, however it contains a hidden secondary mechanism and a sudden lurch in the ship due to the bad weather causes one of his men to trigger it, resulting in his death when it explodes, causing further damage to the ship. Fallon at this point abandons the operation and advises the Ship's Captain (Omar Sharif) to radio to the shipping-line to pay the ransom to avoid any more carnage, but has to continue after the British Government's refusal is received.

Meanwhile, an extensive police search back in London captures the bomber, who is revealed as an embittered former British military bomb-disposal officer, Sidney Buckland (Freddie Jones), and he's escorted to the police situation room. After interrogation, he agrees to tell Fallon - whom he knows personally, having trained him as a junior officer - by radio-link how to disarm the bombs as time is running out and the dawn detonation is fast approaching. However in doing so, after some hesitation when Fallon appeals for his clemency on the basis of their former comradeship, Buckland betrays him and his own chance for redemption, and gives fatally false direction. Fallon, sensing he's being misled, does the opposite of what he is told, thus rendering the device successfully inert in the film's climactic scene, the rest of the bomb-disposal unit swiftly follow his example, the ship and its passengers being saved.



The film was produced by David V. Picker Productions.

It was directed by Richard Lester, who took over after directors Bryan Forbes and Don Medford each left the project in pre-production.

On taking over the film, Lester completely rewrote the script with writer Alan Plater, as he recounts to biographer Andrew Yule. Producer/Writer Richard Alan Simmons, unhappy with the new script, had himself credited as Richard DeKoker on the finished film.

The film was shot mainly aboard a real cruise ship. The TS Hamburg had recently been sold by its German owners to the Soviet Union and renamed SS Maxim Gorkiy. Before the Soviets began operating the ship for paying passengers, they chartered it to the film company.

The Black Sea Shipping Company livery carried by the Maxim Gorkiy was altered, the Soviet Union's hammer and sickle emblem in the funnel and bow replaced by the logo of the fictitious Sovereign Line, and the ship was renamed the Britannic. Advertisements were run in British papers, soliciting extras who would take a lengthy cruise in the North Sea for free, but with the knowledge that the ship would actually seek out the worst possible weather, as the story demanded seas too rough for the lifeboats to be lowered, trapping the passengers on board.

Because the ship's charter was negotiated at a set rate before oil prices skyrocketed in February 1974, the Soviets, who paid the vessel's operating costs during filming, ended up losing money on the deal.

Origin of story[edit]

The film was inspired by a real event in May 1972 in which the QE2 suffered a bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax. Royal Marine Special Boat Service combat divers were parachuted near the ship.[1]

Alternative title[edit]

Although the film was originally released in the UK under its regular title, the 2005 DVD release there used the title Terror on the Britannic.


  1. ^ "QE2 History". Chris' Cunard Page. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 

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