Three Days of the Condor

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Three Days of the Condor
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySydney Pollack
Screenplay by
Based onSix Days of the Condor
by James Grady
Produced byStanley Schneider
CinematographyOwen Roizman
Edited byDon Guidice
Fredric Steinkamp (supervising)
Music byDave Grusin
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • September 25, 1975 (1975-09-25) (US)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7.8 million[1]
Box office$41.5 million (US/Canada)[2] (worldwide rentals: $32.7 million)[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.[3] The screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel was based on the 1974 novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady.[3]

Set mainly in New York City and Washington, D.C., the film is about a bookish CIA researcher who comes back from lunch one day to discover his co-workers murdered, then subsequently tries to avoid his own murder and outwit those responsible. 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.[3]


Joe Turner is a bookish CIA analyst, codenamed "Condor". He works at the American Literary Historical Society in New York City, which is actually a clandestine CIA office. The staff members examine books, newspapers, and magazines from around the world to compare them to actual operations or to find ideas. Turner files a report to CIA headquarters on a thriller novel with strange plot elements; despite poor sales it has been translated into various languages.

Turner leaves through a back door to get staff lunches. Armed men enter the office and murder the other staffers there. Turner returns to find his co-workers 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 Wicks, his head of department, who will bring him to safety. Turner insists that Wicks bring somebody familiar, since "Condor" has never met his departmental head. Wicks brings Sam Barber, a college friend of Turner who is also a non-field CIA employee. The rendezvous is a trap and Wicks attempts to kill Turner, who wounds him before escaping. Wicks kills Barber to eliminate a witness and blames Turner for both shootings. Later, Wicks is killed by an intruder in his hospital room.

Turner encounters a woman named Kathy Hale 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, a European who led the massacre of Turner's co-workers, discovers Turner's hiding place. Turner visits Sam Barber's apartment and spends some tense moments in the elevator with Joubert once the other passengers have left. Outside the building, Joubert tries to shoot Turner, but Turner manages to blend into a small crowd. The next morning, a hitman disguised as a mailman arrives at Hale's apartment, but Turner manages to kill him.

No longer trusting anyone within "the Company", Turner plays a cat-and-mouse game with Higgins, the 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. Utilizing his United States Army Signal Corps training, he traces a phone call and learns the name and address of Leonard Atwood, CIA Deputy Director of Operations for the Middle East. Confronting Atwood at gunpoint in the latter's mansion near Washington, D.C., Turner suggests that his own original report filed to CIA headquarters had exposed a rogue CIA operation to seize Middle Eastern oil fields; fearful of its disclosure, Atwood had privately ordered Turner's section eliminated.

As Atwood confirms this, Joubert enters and unexpectedly kills him, faking a suicide. Atwood's superiors had hired Joubert to eliminate 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 and even become 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 Higgins is confused, asking Turner, "What did you do?" Turner says he has "told them a story." Higgins then tells Turner that he is about to become a very lonely man, and he questions whether Turner's whistleblowing will really be published. "They'll print it," Turner defiantly replies. However, as "Condor" begins to walk away, Higgins calls out "How do you know?".



The film was shot on location in New York City (including the World Trade Center, 55 East 77th Street, Brooklyn Heights, The Ansonia, and Central Park), New Jersey (including Hoboken Terminal), and Washington, D.C. (including the National Mall).[4][5]


Three Days of the Condor
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedAugust 1975
LabelCapitol (1975)
DRG (2004 reissue)
ProducerNeely 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; sung by Marti McCall)
  12. "Medley: a) Condor! (Theme) / b) I've Got You Where I Want You" 1:57


The film was released in September 1975, earning $8,925,000 in theatrical rentals in the United States and Canada by the end of the year.[6] It went on to earn rentals of $20 million in the United States and Canada from a gross of $41.5 million.[2] It earned rentals of $32.7 million worldwide.[1]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 87% of 53 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review, and the average rating was 7.4/10; 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."[7]

When first released, the film was reviewed positively by Vincent Canby, critic for The New York Times, who wrote that the film "is no match for stories in your local newspaper", but it benefits from good acting and directing.[8] Variety called it a B movie that was given a big budget despite its lack of substance.[9] 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."[10]

John Simon wrote how the book, Six Days of the Condor, had been rewritten for the film:

That the action has been relocated from sleepy Washington to furious New York City, almost all names have been changed, that the plot has been vastly over-complicated, is of lesser interest than a straight genre film, has been overloaded into an elegy of private, political, and finally, cosmic pessimism, a kind of national, if not metaphysical, guilt film to enchant the disenchanted.[11]

In closing his review, Simon said the lesson he derived from the film was, "we must be grateful to the CIA: it does what our schools no longer do — engage some people to read books."[11]

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard lists 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 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 culture (or McLuhanesque mosaic), of large photo-, kino-, historicosynthesis machines, etc., rather than one of veritable films."[12]

Some critics 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 "dirty tricks". 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.[13]

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.[13]


According to former Soviet intelligence officer Sergei Tretyakov, the fictional clandestine office shown in Three Days of Condor convinced KGB generals to establish an equivalent office in Moscow, the Scientific Research Institute of Intelligence Problems (Russian: Научно-исследовательский институт разведывательных проблем).[14]

Awards and nominations[edit]


Legal action[edit]

In 1997, The Association of Danish Film Directors (Danske Filminstruktører), on behalf of the director Sydney Pollack, sued Danmarks Radio on the grounds that cropping the film for television compromised the artistic integrity of the original film and that broadcasting the film in a reduced screen version violated Pollack's copyright. However, the case was unsuccessful because the film rights to Three Days of the Condor were not actually owned by Pollack. The case is believed to have been the first legal challenge to the practice of panning and scanning widescreen films on screens with a 4:3 aspect ratio.[16][17]

Cultural legacy[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.
  • The Marvel Comics superhero film Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) was inspired by this film and other sources as well as by the original comic book source material. The directors, the Russo brothers, admit this and say that Robert Redford's casting in their film was intended as an homage.[18]
  • Perhaps the most famous line in the film is Turner's challenge to Higgins, “You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?” Director Sydney Pollack has admitted to using variations of that line in three of his other films: Tootsie (1982), The Firm (1993), and The Interpreter (2005).
  • The famous hacker Kevin Mitnick chose the Condor nickname after watching the movie.[19]
  • R&B Singer Amerie sampled the movie's main theme "Condor!" for her 2002 hit "Why Don't We Fall in Love".

TV series[edit]

In March 2015, Skydance Media in partnership with MGM Television and Paramount Television announced that they would produce a TV series remake of the film.[20] In February 2017, Max Irons was cast as Joe Turner in the series entitled Condor for Audience.[21]

This eventually became a series developed by Todd Katzberg, Jason Smilovic, and Ken Robinson. The series premiered on June 6, 2018 on Audience. In July 2018, the series had been renewed for a second season. However, in January 2020, Audience announced it would be ending operations in its current format, effectively cancelling the show. The second season, already filmed at the time of the announcement, premiered on June 9, 2020, on C More and RTÉ2.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Knoedelseder, William K. Jr (August 30, 1987). "De Laurentiis: Producer's Picture Darkens". Los Angeles Times. p. 1. Archived from the original on March 28, 2021. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Three Days of the Condor". The Numbers. Archived from the original on January 27, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Lucia Bozzola (2013). "Three Days of the Condor (1975)". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
  4. ^ "Three Days of the Condor". On the Set of New York. Archived from the original on May 30, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  5. ^ Sydney Pollack (director) (1999). Three Days of the Condor (DVD). Los Angeles: Paramount.
  6. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 44
  7. ^ "Three Days of the Condor (1975)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on December 5, 2013. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
  8. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 25, 1975). "Three Days of the Condor (1975)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 9, 2014. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  9. ^ "Review: 'Three Days of the Condor'". Variety. 1975. Archived from the original on September 15, 2020. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (1975). "Three Days of the Condor". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on December 31, 2020. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Film. Crown Publishers Inc. pp. 195-198. ISBN 9780517544716.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ a b McGilligan, Patrick (1976). "Hollywood uncovers the CIA". Jump Cut (10–11). Archived from the original on November 19, 2012. Retrieved December 24, 2013.
  14. ^ Earley, Pete (2007). Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War. Penguin Books. pp. 37–39.
  15. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved September 16, 2014.
  16. ^ Jacobsen, Morton (May 1997). "Copyright on Trial in Denmark". Image Technology. Vol. 79, no. 5. pp. 16–20.
  17. ^ Jacobsen, Morton (June 1997). "Copyright on Trial in Denmark". Image Technology. Vol. 79, no. 6. pp. 22–24.
  18. ^ Faraci, Devin (March 7, 2014). "The Russo Brothers On Why THE WINTER SOLDIER Is THREE DAYS OF CAPTAIN AMERICA". Birth. Movies. Death. Archived from the original on September 14, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  19. ^ The Internet : a historical encyclopedia. Hilary W. Poole, Laura Lambert, Chris Woodford, Christos J. P. Moschovitis. Santa Barbara, Calif. 2005. ISBN 1-85109-664-7. OCLC 62211803. Archived from the original on July 20, 2023. Retrieved June 21, 2022.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  20. ^ "Skydance Productions Developing 'Three Days of the Condor' Remake for TV (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. March 11, 2015. Archived from the original on January 9, 2020. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  21. ^ "Max Irons To Star In Audience TV Series Inspired By 'Three Days Of The Condor'". Deadline. February 6, 2017. Archived from the original on July 31, 2020. Retrieved February 7, 2017.

External links[edit]