The Executioner (1970 film)

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The Executioner
The Executioner poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Sam Wanamaker
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Columbia Pictures
Written by Jack Pulman
Starring George Peppard
Joan Collins
Keith Michell
Judy Geeson
Oscar Homolka
Charles Gray
Nigel Patrick
George Baker
Peter Bull
Ernest Clark
Peter Dyneley
Music by Ron Goodwin
Edited by R. Watts
Release dates 3 June 1970 Dallas[1]
Running time 107 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Executioner is a 1970 cold war spy thriller British film starring George Peppard as secret agent John Shay who suspects his colleague Adam Booth, played by Keith Michell, is a double agent. In the film, Peppard's character tries to prove the double role of his colleague to his spy-masters and when he fails to do so he kills him.[2][3] It was produced by Charles H. Schneer for Columbia Pictures and filmed in Panavision and Technicolor.[4]

Plot[edit]

Peppard plays British MI5 agent John Shay, who had grown up in the United States,[5] and who was nearly killed while on assignment abroad. Convinced that he was framed, he returns to London to uncover the mole responsible for the set-up. John Shay suspects that his colleague Adam Booth (Keith Michell) is a Russian spy.[6] The action takes place in London, Athens, Istanbul and Corfu, where Shay goes in his investigation trying to gather evidence that Booth is a double agent. When Shay's superiors are not convinced, and even after a special hearing clears Booth of any wrongdoing, he takes matters into his own hands and executes Booth.[1][2][6][7][8]

Shay assumes the identity of Booth,[1][6] and, with the assistance of Booth's widow and his own girlfriend, he launches into an investigation to uncover Booth's connections. Shay maintains a romantic relationship with both women.[6] Joan Collins plays Booth's wife, the romantic interest of Shay and British scientist Philip Crawford (George Baker), who provided information to Shay about Booth being a double agent. Shay's superiors are played by Nigel Patrick and Charles Gray, while Judy Geeson appears as Shay's girlfriend and secretary Polly Bendel, who assists him in his investigations by providing him with information apparently confirming his suspicions.[1][5][9]

Shay finds a plane ticket in Booth's pocket which he then uses to fly to Athens along with Booth's widow Sarah Booth, who is unaware that her husband has been murdered by Shay. Upon arrival in Athens, Shay assumes Booth's identity and subsequently goes to Corfu, where he is captured along with Sarah by Soviet agents who want Crawford in return for the freedom of their captives. A CIA agent under the name of Professor Parker manages to free them both. Colonel Scott (Shay's superior) reveals that Sarah's husband was indeed a double agent who was used by MI5 to supply the Soviets with false information.[1][7]

Reception[edit]

Film and Television Daily writes that the film recreates in an exciting way the "recurring themes" of espionage and counter-espionage, that "embrace the fantastic and implausible".[10]

Variety magazine criticises the redundancy in the film and calls it a "triple-cross suspenser" where "interest fades fast".[5]

Paul Mavis writes that the film has a "twisty plot" and a good cast and praises the direction of Wanamaker but criticises the complexity of the plot which, according to Mavis, clashes with the action parts. Mavis also calls for "tighter editing".[6]

The book Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973 calls Peppard's acting "easygoing" and criticises Wanamaker's direction as making the film feel slower-paced than it actually is.[11]

Films and Filming writes that Peppard plays his role in such wooden fashion as to make a believable spy but sometimes "he overemphasises his inflexibility"; however, director Wanamaker keeps the pace tight enough that Peppard's inflexibility does not really affect the film to any great extent.[8]

Cast[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "The Executioner (1970) Brief Synopsis". TCM. "With conclusive information from British scientist Philip Crawford, who is also involved with Sarah, Shay then murders Booth and finds a plane ticket to Athens in his pocket. [...] In Athens, where Shay impersonates Booth,..." 
  2. ^ a b Wesley Alan Britton (1 January 2006). Onscreen And Undercover: The Ultimate Book of Movie Espionage. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 94–. ISBN 978-0-275-99281-1. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Jerry Roberts (5 June 2009). Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. Scarecrow Press. p. 610. ISBN 978-0-8108-6378-1. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Entertainment World 2. Entertainment World Publications. 1970. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "The Executioner". Variety. December 31, 1969. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Paul Mavis (31 May 2013). The Espionage Filmography. McFarland. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-4766-0427-5. Retrieved 15 June 2013. "Peppard assumes the identity of Collins' husband, a fellow agent he has killed." 
  7. ^ a b Motion Picture Herald. Quigley Publishing Company. 1970. p. 30. Retrieved 16 June 2013. "When this fellow is cleared in a special hearing, Peppard sets himself up as executioner and shoots him dead only to discover later that his victim had been a double agent tricking the Communists instead of aiding them. John Shay George Peppard Sarah Booth Joan Collins Polly Judy Geeson Colonel Scott Nigel Patrick Vaughan Jone. [...] Sam Wanamaker directed briskly, if conventionally, in such locations as in and around London, in Athens and on Corfu." 
  8. ^ a b Films and Filming 17. Hansom Books. 1970. p. 50. Retrieved 16 June 2013. "...who clear Booth at an inquiry, he is forced to take the law into his own hands and become Booth's summary executioner." 
  9. ^ James Robert Parish; Michael R. Pitts (1974). The great spy pictures. Scarecrow Press. pp. 167–168. ISBN 978-0-8108-0655-9. Retrieved 16 June 2013. "His bureau secretary girlfriend Polly Bendel (Geeson) removes pertinent files which verify Peppard's assumption and throws suspicion on agent Adam Booth (Michell) , with whose wife (Collins) Peppard is having an affair.[...] He then assumes the dead man's identity and with Collins in tow, keeps the late agent's rendezvous in Athens." 
  10. ^ Film and Television Daily: The International Newspaper of Motion Pictures & Broadcasting. Wid's Films and Film Folk. 1970. p. 174. Retrieved 15 June 2013. "GEORGE PEPPARD (center), in a scene from "The Executioner" ... The recurring cold war game of espionage and counter-espionage that embraces the fantastic and implausible is excitingly created in Columbia Pictures' "The Executioner." 
  11. ^ Tom Lisanti; Louis Paul (1 January 2002). Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Films and Television, 1962-1973. McFarland. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7864-1194-8. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 

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