The Day of the Jackal

The Evian Accords were signed in 1962 which gave Algeria independence from France. French nationals living in Algeria sought to have the African nation integrated into France. The OAS (Organisation de l’Armée Secrète) or Secret Army Organization was composed of French Nationals, French Army personnel and members of the French Foreign Legion and they fought to keep Algeria for France. There was a military revolt in 1961 and many of the leaders of the revolt were taken into custody. Some escaped to lead the OAS which carried on a terrorist campaign in Algeria and France. Riots were initiated, public buildings were bombed, and banks were robbed. There were also attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle.

This movie is a fictionalized account of an attempt on de Gaulle’s life. It is based on a novel of the same name by Frederick Forsyth. Forsyth has written many novels on various subjects including The Fourth Protocol, The Odessa File, The Negotiator and, of course, The Dogs of War.

In this story, the OAS commanders decide to hire a professional assassin to kill de Gaulle after attempts to carry out the killing using their own organization have failed. They do extensive research on the world’s top killers and decide on an Englishman, brilliantly played by Edward Fox, who calls himself The Jackal. The Jackal demands half a million dollars to carry out the assassination. That may not seem like much these days for killing the president of a country but it was a great deal of money back when this story takes place. The Jackal demands strict secrecy from the men who hired them. To finance their operation, the leaders order the OAS to rob banks and armored cars without telling why.

The OAS works closely with The Jackal. They engage one of their female operatives to get close to an official high in de Gaulle’s government. She keeps the OAS informed of the French Government’s investigations into the OAS and the leaders in turn inform The Jackal.

As The Jackal’s plan unfolds, we see him contacting a gunsmith (Cyril Cusack) in Italy to build a special rifle he’s designed for the assassination attempt. We also see him working with a counterfeiter to get the special documents he’ll need for his work.

The French government, concerned by the lack of information about the OAS, kidnaps an OAS courier in Italy and spirits him back to France. There he is tortured into revealing the existence of The Jackal. The OAS informs The Jackal that his code name is known to French officials but he decides to go ahead with his plan anyway. The French government puts Claude Lebel, their best detective, on the case. The remainder of the movie is an intriguing look at Lebel as he uses every means possible to find out about The Jackal. It is also an intriguing look at The Jackal’s cunning ways he avoids Lebel.

This story is historically accurate and portrays the events of the time very well. One of the main draws of this 1973 movie is watching The Jackal plot his every move and the brilliance with which he does so. This movie was remade in 1997 and starred Bruce Willis. The recent movie doesn’t even come close to the plot or intelligence of the original. It was more of a boring brute force method of solving problems rather than with cunning.

Cast

  • Edward Fox – The Jackal
  • Terence Alexander – Lloyd
  • Michel Auclair – Colonel Rolland
  • Alan Badel – The Minister
  • Tony Britton – Inspector Thomas
  • Denis Carey – Casson
  • Adrien Cayla – Legrand-De Gaulle
  • Cyril Cusack – The Gunsmith
  • Maurice Denham – General Colbert
  • Vernon Dobtcheff – The Interrogator
  • Jacques Francois – Pascal
  • Olga Georges – Picot – Denise
  • Raymond Gérôme – Flavigny
  • Barrie Ingham – St. Clair
  • Derek Jacobi – Caron