Cloak & Dagger (1984 film)

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Cloak & Dagger
Cloak & Dagger (1984 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Franklin
Produced by Allan Carr
Screenplay by Tom Holland
Story by Cornell Woolrich
Tom Holland
Music by Brian May
Cinematography Victor J. Kemper
Edited by Andrew London
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $13 million
Box office $9,719,952

Cloak & Dagger is a 1984 American spy adventure film directed by Richard Franklin starring Henry Thomas, Dabney Coleman and Michael Murphy. It was written by Tom Holland and based on a Cornell Woolrich short story which was previously filmed as The Window.[1] It was originally released in a double feature with The Last Starfighter on July 13, 1984 and then released separately on August 10, 1984.

Cloak & Dagger was a box office disapointment while being nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor for Dabney Coleman, as well as a Young Artist Award nomination for Henry Thomas.


Davey Osborne (Henry Thomas) is an 11-year-old who lives in San Antonio, Texas with his father, Hal Osborne (Dabney Coleman). His mother has recently died, leaving only him and his father, a military air traffic controller who has problems relating to his child. Davey is a lonely child and still grieving over his mother, so he immerses himself in the fantasy world of Cloak & Dagger, an espionage game which exists in both role playing and video forms. Davey has one friend, Kim, (Christina Nigra) a girl who lives nearby with her single mother. Davey is interested in the world of espionage and his hero is the character Jack Flack from the game. He wants to live an action-packed life like Jack Flack and he carries around a water pistol as his "gun" and a softball as his "grenade". Davey spends much of his free time playing Cloak & Dagger and spinning elaborate fantasies involving Jack Flack, an imaginary friend who takes the form of a more dashing version of his father (the role of Flack is also played by Coleman).

One day Davey's friend Morris (William Forsythe), who owns a game shop in the local mall, sends Davey and Kim on an errand, where Davey witnesses a murder. Right before the victim dies, he gives Davey a Cloak & Dagger video-game cartridge and says that the cartridge contains important military secrets, & that he must get it to the FBI. Davey seeks help from the authorities but they simply believe him to be engaging in fantasy play.

Heavily armed but inattentive spies, led by Dr. Rice (Michael Murphy), chase Davey relentlessly as he flees across the city. The action moves from Davey's house, to a series of tour boats, to the Alamo. Along the way Davey manages to continually evade his pursuers with the aid and advice of the imaginary Jack Flack. However, along the way Davey's relationship with Jack becomes more strained as his own sense of morality and concern for his friend Kim collide with Jack's harsh methods and cavalier attitude. This comes to a head when Davey is cornered by Rice along the River Walk.

During the fight, Jack urges Davey to set up the two spies into the "Crossfire Gambit", causing one to kill the other. Jack convinces Davey to pick up the gun of the dead spy, but rather than shoot Rice, Davey panics and runs away down a dead-end path. Rice arrives and corners Davey. Assuming the gun Davey holds is the same red ink-filled water pistol from earlier, Rice taunts him by threatening to shoot both his kneecaps and stomach and allowing him to die in agony. When Davey proves unwilling to shoot first, Jack tries to get Rice's attention. Standing in front of a blank wall (and holding his Agent-X bulletproof beret in front of him for protection), Jack dares Rice to shoot him. Davey looks to Jack, warning him not to do anything, and Rice instinctively turns and fires a burst at the wall, thinking "Jack" is a hidden ally. An enraged Davey fires his pistol, killing Rice and causing his lifeless body to fall into the river.

Realizing that Jack had tricked him into shooting the spy, Davey throws away the pistol, pulls the miniature of Jack out of his pocket and, with a shout of "I don't want to play anymore!" breaks the miniature in two, stomping it into the concrete. Jack tells Davey his father behaved the same way at his age, growing tired of playing "Cowboys and Indians". As he speaks, blood begins to pour from the bullet holes that now riddle his body, and Jack abruptly collapses. While expressing regret about the rule, "...leaving when they stop believing," Jack confesses Davey was always his favorite playmate. Distracting Davey by asking for a smoke, Jack fades away into nothing. When Davey calls to Jack, saying he can't do it alone, Jack's voice reassures him that he always could, and tells him to go save Kim.

Earlier in a scene at the Alamo, Davey had been befriended by a kind elderly couple. Seemingly the only adults to believe him, or at least the only ones who are willing to humor his adventures, the couple turn out to be enforcers working for the spies. Davey manages to escape their clutches, but without the game cartridge, and he chases the couple to the airport where they are attempting to flee the country. At the airport, Davey forces the couple's hand by pretending that they are his parents and that they are abandoning him. When security attempts to intervene, Davey tells the guard the proof is the game cartridge he knows they have. Cornered, the couple kidnaps Davey at gunpoint and commandeers a plane, unaware that Davey has brought with him a bomb which the spies had intended to use to kill Kim. Unwilling to listen to Davey about the bomb, the couple requests a pilot. Meanwhile, Hal has arrived at the airport with Kim's mother, and after being informed of the hostage situation, he volunteers to be the pilot. As the plane moves to the runway, Davey tries to summon Jack for help; his father hears him and identifies himself as "Jack Flack" and calls Davey to the cockpit. When the female enforcer shows up to bring him, she discovers the bomb and panics, calling for her husband. As the two enforcers try to disable the bomb, Hal succeeds in getting Davey out of the plane through the cockpit window. Davey runs after the plane as it continues to taxi down the runway, calling for his father, until the bomb explodes, killing the enforcers, incinerating the cartridge, and leaving the wreckage in flames. As Davey stares at the flames a figure appears and approaches him, looking at first like the silhouette of Jack Flack before revealing that it is in fact his father. As the two embrace Davey asks how he was able to escape, to which Hal replies with the Cloak & Dagger catchphrase, "Jack Flack always escapes." The film ends with the two reunited and Davey insisting he no longer needs Jack Flack because he has his father.



"It's pretty exciting," said Thomas of the film. "It's got some violence in it. I get to fire a gun."[2]

Filming for this movie took place on location in Henry Thomas' hometown of San Antonio. Scenes of the neighborhood the Osbornes lived in were filmed in the inner-loop suburb of Alamo Heights. The scenes that took place on the Riverwalk and the Japanese Sunken Gardens were filmed on location. The scenes depicting the exterior of the Alamo were filmed on location, however the interior had to be recreated because they were not allowed to film inside the Alamo. The mall scenes were filmed at the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California, not San Antonio's now defunct Windsor Park Mall whose location was indicated on the Atari cartridge's sticker.[3]

Dabney Coleman later recalled:

I thought it was a great idea. I didn’t get along with the director [Richard Franklin]. He's since passed on, but he was… Well, I won’t say that. But it was great working with that little kid. Henry Thomas. What a great kid. And a great actor. I’ll tell you, though, it's amazing how many people have come up to me and said something to me about that film, including Timothy Bottoms... So Timothy came up to my table at Dan Tana's, where I was, uh, kind of a regular... Timothy says, "You don’t know me from veal parmesan, but I just want to thank you for playing Jack Flack. You don’t know what that movie means to my son and me." That happens to me two or three times a year. It's always either a father saying, "I saw that movie with my son," or a son saying, "I saw it with my dad." But then they say, "Seeing that movie was very important in my life." And that's always very nice to hear.[4]

Video game tie-in[edit]

Critical to the movie's plot is an Atari video game called Cloak & Dagger made for the Atari 5200 (The arcade version appears in the movie; the 5200 was started but never completed). The game was under development using the title Agent X when the movie producers and Atari learned of each other's projects and decided to cooperate. This collaboration was part of a larger phenomenon at the time of films featuring video games as critical plot elements (as with Tron and The Last Starfighter) and of video game tie-ins to the same films (as with the Tron games for the Intellivision and other platforms).[5]


The film was released during the Los Angeles Olympics. Universal felt that the target audience of younger children would not be as interested in Olympics and the film would have less competition.[6] The film ended up bombing, taking in just $9,719,952 off of a 13 million dollar production budget.

Cloak & Dagger received positive reviews, with a 67% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on nine reviews.[7] On her review, Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised Franklin's direction, as well as the performances of Thomas and Coleman.[8]


  1. ^ Vander Kaay, Chris; Fernandez-Vander Kaay, Kathleen (2014). The Anatomy of Fear: Conversations with Cult Horror and Science-Fiction Filmmakers. NorLightsPress. p. 22. ISBN 978-1935254973. 
  2. ^ At the Movies Maslin, Janet. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 23 Mar 1984: C6.
  3. ^ "Cloak & Dagger (1984) - Filming Locations - IMDb". Retrieved 2017-01-06. 
  4. ^ Interview with Dabney Coleman
  5. ^ Cloak and Dagger at US Gamer
  6. ^ THEATERS TAKE 2ND TO OLYMPICS: THEATERS: OLYMPICS LEAD Pollock, Dale. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 Aug 1984: d1.
  7. ^ Rotten Tomatoes - Cloak & Dagger
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (1984-08-10). "Cloak and Dagger (1984) - THE SCREEN: 'DAGGER', SPY GAMES". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-01-27. 

External links[edit]