Sunday, January 18, 2015

Anatomy Of a Kill: Zinnerman's 'The Day Of The Jackal' (1973)

Christopher Saunders at offers a piece on one of my favorite films, The Day of the Jackal, which is based on one of my favorite thrillers, Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal.

Frederick Forsyth spent the late '60s covering Nigeria's civil war for the BBC. In Biafra he encountered mercenaries, hired killers who terrified and fascinated him. "I heard some pretty miserable life stories, out of which came how to get a false passport, how to get a gun, how to break a neck," Forsyth recalled. In 1970 Forsyth returned to London with no job, no money or prospects - but plenty of stories.

Forsyth remembered working for Reuters in France in 1962. He witnessed the OAS terror campaign against Charles De Gaulle for granting Algeria independence. Wondering how he'd kill De Gaulle, the world's best-defended president, Forsyth decided a contract killer stood more chance than fanatics. Forsyth wrote a novel in 35 days, little anticipating its subsequent success. Soon The Day of the Jackal became an international bestseller.

In 1971, British producer Sir John Woolf presented Forsyth's manuscript to Fred Zinnemann. The legendary director of High Noon, From Here to Eternity, The Nun's Story and A Man for All Seasons was reeling after MGM cancelled his long-cherished project, Man's Fate. Zinnemann resented "lawyers and accountants...[replacing] showmen as the heads of the studios." Considering Jackal both commercially viable and challenging, Zinnemann signed on.

Jackal proved an expensive undertaking. Shooting spanned across France, England, Italy and Austria. Co-producer Julien Delrode secured Zinnemann extraordinary access to French government sites, including the Interior Ministry. Zinnemann filmed the climactic Liberation Day scenes at a Bastille Day parade, featuring De Gaulle impersonator Adrien Cayla-Legrand. The result thrilled critics and audiences alike: Roger Ebert called Jackal "a beautifully executed example of filmmaking... put together like a fine watch."

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:,manual

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Frederick Forsyth via the below link:

I’ve been reading Frederick Forsyth since his classic thriller The Day of the Jackal in 1971.

I like that Forsyth uses his skills as a journalist to infuse his thrillers with true facts and details about crime, espionage, terrorism and war. Forsyth also offers a good, thrilling and suspenseful story.

His new thriller, The Cobra (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), continues in that fine tradition.

“There are two ways of doing this job, a news agency bureau chief told me once,” Forsyth wrote in a piece called Behind the Story: The Cobra. “You can not bother and get it wrong, or take the trouble and get it right. In my office, we get it right.”

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