(director/writer: William Richert; screenwriter: novel by Bill Condon; cinematographer: Vilmos Zsigmond; editor: ; music: Maurice Jarre; cast: Jeff Bridges (Nick Kegan), John Huston (Pop Kegan), Anthony Perkins (Ceruti), Belinda Bauer (Yvette Malone), Dorothy Malone (Emma Kegan), Eli Wallach (Joe Diamond), Sterling Hayden (Z.K. Dawson), Elizabeth Taylor (Lola), Ralph Meeker (Gameboy Baker), Richard Boone (Keifetz), Joe Ragno (Doorman), Michael Toma (Ray Doty), Toshiro Mifune (Keith), Irving Selbst ( Irving Mentor), Tomas Milian (Frank Mayo), David Spielberg (Miles Garner), Brad Dexter (Capt. Heller), Joe Spinell (Fletcher), Gladys Hill (Rosemary), Sidney Lanier (Raymond–The Butler); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Fred Caruso; Columbia Pictures; 1979)

A fascinating but confusing melodrama inspired by the Kennedy assassination.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fascinating but confusing melodrama inspired by the Kennedy assassination. Writer/director William Richert (“A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon”/”The American Success Company”) shapes it into an irreverent black comedy offering its own fictionalized wild conspiracy theory or two. It’s based on the complex satirical novel by “The Manchurian Candidate” author Bill Condon’s 1974 novel. This was the screenwriter’s first feature film directed and it’s a dandy even if it doesn’t make much sense. President Tim Kegan was assassinated 19 years ago, in 1960, and the crime has not been convincingly resolved in private by the family. The younger half-brother of the President, Nick Kegan (Jeff Bridges), who has no political ambition, is summoned to board a ship off the coast of Malayasia and is met by one of his wealthy father’s operatives Keifetz (Richard Boone). He calls attention to Fletcher (Joe Spinell), who fell off an oil rig and before dying blurts out on his death bed that he was the second rifleman who assassinated the President. He tells Nick to go to Philadelphia where the shooting took place and the rifle is hidden. By the time Nick gets home to tell his domineering father (John Huston) the news, it’s learned the men who sought the rifle are dead and the rifle was taken. Dad puts Nick on the case to investigate, with back-up from his team. Nick will go on a strange and risky adventure across the country, where many are killed and the mysteries grow greater even when things seem to become clearer. Those he thinks he knows like his magazine reporter girlfriend Yvette (Belinda Bauer) are not who he thinks they are. Which also goes for the eccentric and menacing defense contractor Z.K. Dawson (Sterling Hayden) that he first meets on his Tulsa ranch. The gangsters involved include small time criminal nightclub owner Joe Diamond (Eli Wallach), the imprisoned Mafia chief Frank Mayo (Tomas Milian), the big-time mob operator Gameboy Baker (Ralph Meeker) and the friend of the underworld Irving Mentor (Irving Selbst), all of whom spin too many lies to follow what is true or not. Even his dad’s own techie spy, Ceruti (Anthony Perkins), can’t be trusted. What becomes difficult to follow after so much intriguing stuff about the assassination is unearthed, is how quickly things are dropped as the film moves awkwardly into an unfulfilling comic book like climax. In any case, the film can’t be dismissed without questioning what it raised, as something funny is happening here and I don’t mean the comical parts. Even Liz Taylor shows up for a non-speaking cameo, as the womanizing President’s procurer of women.

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