Long Forgotten Executive Action

DATELINE:  Believe It or Don’t


One of the most unusual of the early theoretical movies on the Kennedy Assassination was called Executive Action from 1973, a mere ten years after the event.

Already big questions had sparked big movie stars like Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Will Geer, as well as John Anderson (often chosen to play Abe Lincoln in movies and TV) as billionaire conspirators who want the President dead.

They select a patsy who is some kind of covert double agent. His name is Oswald.

Though the film claims to be somewhat fictional, it quotes Lydon Johnson at the movie start as saying he believed that John Kennedy was killed by an unknown group. This movie, made with the participation of early assassination doubter Mark Lane, is fairly courageous and breath-taking, even after five decades.

We must also express surprise at the stars who chose to play the men who want President Kennedy dead.

The film is no cheap, low-budget affair. It is well produced and directed by David Miller who made some interesting movies in the 1950s and was written by Dalton Trumbo, the famous blacklisted writer.

This returned Grandpa Walton to the bad guy roles that made him famous early in his roles, and Will Geer is notably sinister. This was also Robert Ryan’s final film.

The angles, once thought to be outrageous, have become more acceptable in recent research. The film may not be a genuine biopic or docudrama in the sense of trying to achieve 100% truth, but this may be closer than anyone thought back in the 1970s.

More than a curio, this film is downright compelling to watch.

Antidote to High Noon: Lawman

DATELINE: Movie Western Classic Uncovered

How did we miss this one way back when in 1971 or on DVD since? For shame on us.

This classic just never received the accolades it deserved. Lawman was a Western on the tail end of double bills when spaghetti oaters had run their course.

Some highly selective actors chose to appear in this film because they preferred quality to money. So, here you can find Burt Lancaster at his most laconic; Robert Ryan, aging and suffering a loss of full manhood; Lee J. Cobb, showing that a town boss can be civilized.

It’s High Noon going the wrong way in dark light. Lancaster will take in a group of men for trial who may be slapped on the wrist and fined for their violent antics, but if their masculine pride and propensity for violence brings them to the brink of death, so be it. This one is directed by Michael Winner who later gave us Death Wish.

The townsfolk are peppered with so many familiar faces of old movies: Robert Emhardt, Lou Frizzell, John Hillerman, and John McGiver. Even if you don’t know the names, you will laugh with recognition as each one does his turn. A more motley crew of sniveling cowards you could not assemble as residents of Sabbath.

Cobb’s men listen to his fatherly lectures on how times have changed, and he will simply pay off the right people. Younger men have more sense of honor, and they are prepared to go violently into the good night.

Robert Duvall, Ralph Waite, John Beck, Albert Salmi, J.D. Cannon, and Richard Jordan in his film debut, are the cowpokes who work for Cobb who was fresh off the series The Virginian where he claimed to be sick of westerns.

Like so many great movies set in the world of horses, this is a character drama where the hero may not be heroic and drinks coffee in a saloon.

We would be remiss not to recommend Lawman from the dying days of the Western. It may be one of the last great Westerns of Old Hollywood.