I caught this one twice before on TV, and now it’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video. It’s Three Days of the Condor, fashioned after the 1974 novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady. The movie came out the year after the book, and I can only guess by the titles the movie is the book somewhat abbreviated. Details are from Wikipedia. Here is a listing of the cast:
- Robert Redford as Joseph Turner
- Faye Dunaway as Kathy Hale
- Cliff Robertson as Higgins
- Max von Sydow as Joubert
- John Houseman as Wabash
- Addison Powell as Leonard Atwood
- Walter McGinn as Sam Barber
- Tina Chen as Janice Chong
- Michael Kane as S.W. Wicks
- Don McHenry as Dr. Lappe
Ow! This has John Houseman in it, cool as ever and fresh from his role as Charles W. Kingsfield in The Paper Chase.
Of course, the lead role goes to Redford, earnest as always. Joseph Turner has the ideal job. He works ostensibly for the American Literary Historical Society, where his job consists of reading books. But the venerable ALHS is really a CIA front, and the receptionist keeps a loaded .45 in her desk drawer. Later we learn the piece is not a CIA thing. She keeps it because, being well into middle age, she is concerned about rape. The heater will feature in the remainder of the plot.
Also working there is Turner’s cute girlfriend, Janice. They may have plans for the future.
But sinister workings are conspiring to unravel all such plans. Somebody is watching the front entrance of the offices, and that person is marking off a list of names matching photos to ensure correct identification. The eighth and final name is scratched off.
Lunch time, and the key to the plot is sprung. It’s Turner’s day to fetch sandwiches from a local shop, and it’s raining. To minimize the rain he takes the back entrance, making his absence from the premises unnoticed by the keeper of the list.
While he is gone a gang of three assassins burst into the offices, led by one posing as the friendly postman. They methodically machine gun every person working at the offices. All seven. Turner comes back with the sandwiches discovering everyone dead.
He notices the .45 and grabs it before fleeing. He phones CIA control and alerts them to the catastrophe. A meeting is arranged to bring Turner in safely. Only it’s a trap. Turner’s friend Sam is enlisted to provide somebody Turner will trust. At the meeting, in an alley between two buildings, the assassin opens fire. Turner pulls his piece and takes down the gunman with a shot to the leg. As Turner escapes, the gunman kills Sam. The gunman’s wound eventually proves fatal, as somebody working with the conspiracy infiltrates the hospital and disconnects his life support.
Turner needs help. He kidnaps Kathy Hale at gunpoint and forces her to take him to her apartment. Eavesdropping, he has learned she has plans to be gone for several days, and her absence will not be noticed.
Meanwhile, at the CIA, people are working to figure out what is going on. Turner has by now figured there are people in The Company working a secret plot, but we can never figure who is in and who is out.
Turner goes to Sam’s apartment. Sam’s wife has not been notified. He tells the widow to hide out and to stay hidden, then he leaves. On his way out he meets Joubert, leader of the assassins, in the elevator and suspects the truth. He pulls a ruse and escapes into the night.
Back at Kathy’s apartment, he brings her around to the truth to his story. Biology kicks in, and they spend the night in bed.
But he has been spotted driving Kathy’s car, and the following morning the postman shows up with a package that needs to be signed for. Just in time, Turner realizes it’s one of the killers, and there is a terrific fight involving the spraying of bullets from a machine pistol. Kathy comes out of the shower, interrupting the shooter’s concentration, and Turner kills him with the .45. Now Kathy is in 100%.
Turner’s investigation leads him to the home of Leonard Atwood, high up in the CIA and apparently leader of the plot. Joubert shows up with a weapon of his own. He kills Atwood and gives Turner a ride to the train station. The CIA has hired him to put the kibosh on the conspiracy, and Joubert no longer has any ambitions toward Turner. But he warns Turner he will never be safe again.
Turner has other ideas. He meets with Higgins, his CIA contact, on a street in New York. Higgins wants Turner to get in a car with him and return to the CIA. But Joubert has warned him this kind of thing would happen. Turner refuses the offer, and Higgins hints he has no other options. Then Higgins notices where they are standing as he watches a truck loaded with newsprint backing into The New York Times printing plant. Turner has laid out the entire story to the paper. Higgins questions whether the paper will print the story. Turner assures him they will.
Yeah, this bears little resemblance to the book. The book is set in Washington, D.C. and, as has been mentioned, spans six days instead of three. The movie is about a plan to initiate a Middle-East War to gain access to petroleum. The book is about a CIA office being used to smuggle drugs.
This is one of those plots that hangs on the believability of some outlandish concepts. A group within the CIA is working undetected to start a war? Undetected? Who believes that? This is not called the Central INTELLIGENCE Agency for nothing.
There is a secure CIA facility in a building in Manhattan with the front entrance closely watched. And there is a back door, which Turner can exit whenever he wants? And the killers have not been informed about this other exit, or else they ignore the possibility?
Turner’s group spends its time reading pulp fiction and popular journals, seeking to detect evidence of nefarious plots. Actually, this is what the National Security Agency does. Don’t the two agencies talk with each other?
I obtained the Kindle edition of the book and hope to post a review later this year.