The Holcroft Covenant (film)

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The Holcroft Covenant
The Holcroft Covenant poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Frankenheimer
Produced byMort Abrahams
Edie Landau
Ely Landau
Written byEdward Anhalt
George Axelrod
CinematographyGerry Fisher
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
October 18, 1985
Running time
112 min
Budget£8,000,000[1] or $13 million[2]
Box office$393,825[3]

The Holcroft Covenant is a 1985 spy thriller film based on the Robert Ludlum novel of the same name. The film stars Michael Caine and was directed by John Frankenheimer. The script was written by Edward Anhalt, George Axelrod, and John Hopkins.


Noel Holcroft's late father - who was a former associate of Adolf Hitler - left behind a fortune supposedly to make amends for his wrongdoings. But more than 40 years later, Noel finds himself embroiled in a web of conspiracies involving the children of two of his father's Nazi colleagues, a mysterious organization supposedly devoted to ensuring the Nazis never again come to power, and a woman who may be Noel's downfall or his only hope.




The film was part of a five picture slate from Thorn EMI in 1985, others including A Passage to India, Wild Geese II, Morons from Outer Space and Dreamchild.[4]


Edy and Ely Landau bought the film rights to the novel along with The Chancellor Manuscript.[5] The first draft of the script was done by John Hopkins before Edward Anhalt was brought in to do rewrites. However when John Frankenheimer became attached as director, he got George Axelrod to rework most of the screenplay.[2] Frankenheimer called the film "a conspiracy movie" about "a man's search for his father."[2] The director added, "I love Ludlum. I'm a great fan of Ludlum. I buy Ludlum's books. I mean, I pay bookstore prices for Ludlum."[6]

"The script I worked from was relatively humorless," says Axelrod. "When John and I suggested adding much more humor, the producers said they didn't want a Walter Matthau romp. But John told them he could take the script of Some Like It Hot and turn it into a social documentary on the effects of gang warfare on the music business in Chicago during Prohibition and how that affected women's liberation - and that they needn't worry about him being too funny."[2] Axelrod admitted he did not read the novel because he didn't have time.[2]


Renee Soutendijk was meant to have a role in the film but it was removed shortly before filming and she was told she was not required for filming. "In my opinion, it was central to the story but . . . such things have happened before," she said. "It's the American way of dealing with people. In the U.S. you become aware of just being a product. You're either money to them or you're not."[7]

Although James Caan was originally cast as Noel Holcroft, he walked off the set due to disagreements with the producers.[8][9] Director John Frankenheimer later said "I will be forever grateful to James Caan. Forever. Because he gave me the best gift that's ever happened to me in my career, which is Michael Caine."[10] As far as I'm concerned, he is probably the best actor I've ever worked with," added Frankenheimer. "Certainly the best actor I've ever worked with who gets the girl."[6]


Filming started in Berlin on 2 July 1984. After Caan left the film, filming resumed on 11 July. Scenes were also shot in Munich, Landau and London.[11]


The film was released on October 18, 1985. Against an $8 million budget, the film made only $393,825 in the United States during its initial release.[3]


The film has mostly negative reviews. Variety said its troubled production had resulted in a film that has "a muddled narrative deficient in thrills or plausibility".[12] Time Out London says all Caine does is spend the film "jetting to international tourist locations so that he can be filled in on the next plot twist by an obliging minor character".[13] Questionable directorial decisions by John Frankenheimer combined with "Ludlum’s lame storytelling" and "trying to turn the rambling, 528-page potboiler into a leaner 100-minute-long movie" are also said to have contributed to the film's failings.[14]

Home media[edit]

The film has been released on DVD and Blu Ray.[15]


  1. ^ Andrew Yule, Hollywood a Go-Go: The True Story of the Cannon Film Empire, Sphere Books, 1987 p137
  2. ^ a b c d e Red lights, cameras and chaos in Berlin O'Toole, Lawrence. The Globe and Mail8 Nov 1984: E.1.
  3. ^ a b "The Holcroft Covenant". Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Backers' passage to prosperity". The Guardian. 11 May 1985. p. 19.
  5. ^ 5 ON THE LUDLUM EXCHANGE Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times 17 June 1980: g1.
  6. ^ a b "FILM DIRECTOR SURGES BACK AFTER INACTION". Chicago Tribune. 3 May 1985.
  7. ^ "Dutch star prepares to shine in America". The Globe and Mail. 15 June 1984. p. E.1.
  8. ^ "At the Movies: Loneliness of the actor as a computer". New York Times. 20 July 1984. p. C6.
  9. ^ "James Caan Takes a Gamble On 'Las Vegas,' and Scores". The New York Times. May 17, 2004.
  10. ^ "The Curse of Frankenheimer". The Guardian. August 18, 1984.
  11. ^ "MICHAEL CAINE TO STAR IN 'THE HOLCROFT COVENANT'". Philadelphia Daily News. 24 July 1984. p. 48.
  12. ^ "The Holcroft Covenant". Variety. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  13. ^ "The Holcroft Covenant". Time Out London. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  14. ^ "REVIEW: "THE HOLCROFT COVENANT" (1985), ... Cinema Retro". Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  15. ^ "The Holcroft Covenant". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 28 October 2018.

External links[edit]