Three Days of the Condor

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Three Days of the Condor
Three Days of the Condor poster.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Produced by Stanley Schneider
Screenplay by
Based on Six Days of the Condor
by James Grady
Starring
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography Owen Roizman
Edited by Don Guidice
Fredric Steinkamp (sup)
Production
company
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • September 24, 1975 (1975-09-24) (US)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $41,509,797 (US)[1]

Three Days of the Condor is a 1975 American political thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, and Max von Sydow.[2] The screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel was based on the 1974 novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady.[2]

Set mainly in New York City and Washington, D.C., the film is about a bookish CIA researcher who comes back from lunch, discovers all his co-workers murdered, and tries to outwit those responsible until he figures out whom he can really trust. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. Semple and Rayfiel received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.[2]

Plot[edit]

Joe Turner (Robert Redford) is a bookish CIA analyst, code named "Condor". He works at the American Literary Historical Society in New York City, which is actually a clandestine CIA office. The seven staff members read books, newspapers, and magazines from around the world, looking for hidden meanings and other useful information. Turner files a report to CIA headquarters on a thriller novel with some strange plot elements, noting the unusual assortment of languages it has been translated into.

On the day Turner is expecting a response to his report, he steps out to pick up staff lunches at a near-by deli. Meanwhile, armed men enter the office and murder the other six people. Turner returns to find his coworkers dead; frightened, he grabs a gun and exits the building. He contacts the CIA's New York headquarters in the World Trade Center from a phone booth, and is given instructions to meet his Head of Department (Wicks), who will bring him into safety. The rendezvous, however, is a trap. Wicks shoots an accompanying CIA staffer and attempts to kill Turner, who wounds Wicks before escaping.

Turner encounters a woman, Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway), and forces her to take him to her apartment. He holds Hale hostage while he attempts to figure out what is happening. Hale slowly comes to trust Turner and they become lovers. However, Joubert (Max von Sydow), a foreigner who led the massacre of Turner's co-workers, discovers Turner's hiding place. A hitman (Hank Garrett), disguised as a mailman, arrives at Hales apartment, but Turner kills him.

Concluding that no one within "the Company" can be trusted, Turner plays a cat-and-mouse game with Higgins (Cliff Robertson), deputy director of the CIA's New York division. With Hale's help, Turner abducts Higgins, who identifies Joubert as a freelance assassin who has undertaken assignments for the CIA. Back at his office, Higgins discovers that the "mailman" who attacked Turner worked with Joubert on a previous operation. Their CIA case officer was Wicks.

Meanwhile, Turner discovers Joubert's location is by utilizing his US Army Signals Corps training to trace a call from his hotel room. Turner learns the name and address of Leonard Atwood (Addison Powell), CIA Deputy Director of Operations for the Middle East. Turner confronts Atwood in his Washington area mansion and interrogates him at gunpoint. Turner learns that the report he filed provided links to a rogue operation to seize Middle Eastern oil fields. Fearful of its disclosure, Atwood privately ordered Turner's section be eliminated.

As Atwood confirms this, Joubert surprises them by unexpectedly shooting the CIA deputy director. Atwood's superiors have hired Joubert to stage the suicide of someone who was about to become an embarrassment, overriding Atwood's original contract for Joubert to kill Turner. Joubert suggests that the resourceful Turner leave the country, even becoming an assassin himself. Turner rejects the suggestion, but heeds Joubert's warning that the CIA will try to eliminate him as another embarrassment, possibly entrapping him through a trusted acquaintance.

Back in New York, Turner has a rendezvous with Higgins near Times Square. Higgins describes the oilfield plan as a contingency "game" that was planned within the CIA without approval from above. He defends the project, suggesting that when oil shortages cause a major economic crisis, Americans will demand that their comfortable lives be restored by any means necessary. Turner points to the New York Times building, and says he has "told them a story". Higgins is dismayed but questions whether Turner's whistleblowing will be published. "They'll print it", Turner defiantly replies. However, as "Condor" turns away, Higgins calls out that he is about to become a very lonely man.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Filming locations[edit]

Three Days of the Condor was filmed in various locations in New York City, New Jersey, and Washington DC, including the World Trade Center, 55 East 77th Street, NYC, The Ansonia, Central Park, and the National Mall.[3][4]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film earned $8,925,000 in theatrical showings in North America.[5]

Critical response[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 86% of 43 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review, and the average rating was 7.1/10; the site's consensus is: "This post-Watergate thriller captures the paranoid tenor of the times, thanks to Sydney Pollack's taut direction and excellent performances from Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway."[6]

When first released, the film was reviewed positively by critic Vincent Canby, who wrote that the film "is no match for stories in your local newspaper", but it benefits from good acting and directing.[7] Variety called it a B movie that was given a big budget despite its lack of substance.[8] Roger Ebert wrote, "Three Days of the Condor is a well-made thriller, tense and involving, and the scary thing, in these months after Watergate, is that it's all too believable."[9]

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard makes mention of the film as an example of a new genre of "retro cinema" in his essay on history in the now influential book, Simulacra and Simulation (1981):

In the 'real' as in cinema, there was history but there isn't any anymore. Today, the history that is 'given back' to us (precisely because it was taken from us) has no more of a relation to a 'historical real' than neofiguration [sic] in painting does to the classical figuration of the real...All, but not only, those historical films whose very perfection is disquieting: Chinatown, Three Days of the Condor, Barry Lyndon, 1900, All the President's Men, etc. One has the impression of it being a question of perfect remakes, of extraordinary montages that emerge more from a combinatory [sic] culture (or McLuhanesque mosaic), of large photo-, kino-, historicosynthesis [sic] machines, etc., rather than one of veritable films."[10]

Some critics also described the film as a piece of political propaganda, as it was released soon after the "Family Jewels" scandal came to light in December 1974 which exposed a variety of CIA misconduct. However, in an interview with Jump Cut, Pollack explained that the film was written solely to be a spy thriller and that production on the film was nearly over by the time the Family Jewels revelations were made, so even if they had wanted to take advantage of them, it was far too late in the filmmaking process to do so. He said that despite both Pollack and Redford being well-known political liberals, they were only interested in making the film because an espionage thriller was a genre neither of them had previously explored.[11]

I didn't want this picture to be judged; it’s a movie. I intended it always as a movie. I never had any pretensions about the picture and it’s making me very angry that I'm getting pretensions stuck on me like tails on a donkey. If I wanted to be pretentious, I'd take the CIA seal and advertise this movie and really take advantage of the headlines. Central Intelligence Agency, United States of America, Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway. And don't think it wasn't suggested—obviously, that’s what advertising people do. We really put our foot down—Redford and I—to absolutely stop that.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Wins
Nominations

Panning and scanning[edit]

In 1997, The Association of Danish Film Directors, on behalf of Pollack, sued Danmarks Radio, claiming that their broadcasting the film in a panned and scanned version violated his copyright. The case was unsuccessful, as the rights were not owned by Pollack personally in the first place. The case is believed to have been the first legal challenge to the practice of panning and scanning for broadcast on the grounds that it compromises the artistic integrity of an original film.[13]

Soundtrack[edit]

Three Days of the Condor
Three DaysOST.jpg
Soundtrack album by Dave Grusin
Released August 1975
Label Capitol (1975)
DRG (2004 reissue)
Producer Neely Plumb

All music by Dave Grusin, except where noted.

  1. "Condor! (Theme from 3 Days of the Condor)" 3:35
  2. "Yellow Panic" 2:15
  3. "Flight of the Condor" 2:25
  4. "We'll Bring You Home" 2:24
  5. "Out to Lunch" 2:00
  6. "Goodbye for Kathy (Love Theme from 3 Days of the Condor)" 2:16
  7. "I've Got You Where I Want You" 3:12 (Grusin/Bahler; sung by Jim Gilstrap)
  8. "Flashback to Terror" 2:24
  9. "Sing Along with the C.I.A." 1:34
  10. "Spies of a Feather, Flocking Together (Love Theme from 3 Days of the Condor)" 1:55
  11. "Silver Bells" 2:37 (Livingstone / Evans; Vocal: Marti McCall)
  12. "Medley: a) Condor! (Theme) / b) I've Got You Where I Want You" 1:57

Cultural impact[edit]

  • Joubert's musings in the penultimate scene (see under Plot above) on how Turner might be killed by the CIA are reprised almost word-for-word in the Seinfeld episode "The Junk Mail." The speech is used as a warning from Newman to Kramer about how the U.S. Postal Service will retaliate for Kramer's refusal to receive his mail.
  • In Out of Sight, Jack Foley (George Clooney) and Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) discuss the film's romantic subplot, which Sisco describes as dubious.

TV series[edit]

In March 2015, Skydance Media in partnership with MGM Television and Paramount Television will produce a TV series remake of the film.[14] In February 2017, Max Irons was cast as Joe Turner in the series entitled Condor for Audience.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Three Days of the Condor". The Numbers. Retrieved January 22, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Three Days of the Condor (1975)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Three Days of the Condor". On the Set of New York. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  4. ^ Sydney Pollack (director) (1999). Three Days of the Condor (DVD). Los Angeles: Paramount. 
  5. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 44
  6. ^ "Three Days of the Condor (1975)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 25, 1975). "Three Days of the Condor (1975)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 29, 2008. 
  8. ^ "Review: 'Three Days of the Condor'". Variety. 1975. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (1975). "Three Days of the Condor". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 
  10. ^ Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. University of Michigan Press, 1994, p. 45. French original, Simulacres et Simulation, published by Éditions Galilée in 1981.
  11. ^ a b McGilligan, Patrick (1976). "Hollywood uncovers the CIA". Jump Cut (10–11). Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  12. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
  13. ^ Morton Jacobsen, 'Copyright on Trial in Denmark', Image Technology, vol. 79, no. 5 (May 1997), pp. 16-20, and no. 6 (June 1997), pp. 22-24.
  14. ^ "Skydance Productions Developing 'Three Days of the Condor' Remake for TV (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 11 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Max Irons To Star In Audience TV Series Inspired By 'Three Days Of The Condor'". Deadline. 6 February 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 

External links[edit]