The Intercine Project (1974)

Country: United Kingdon / West Germany
Directed by Ken Hughes
James Coburn, Lee Grant, Harry Andrews, Ian Hendry, Keenan Wynn, Christiane Kruger, Michael Jayston, Julian Glover
Music by Roy Budd

Based on the novel ‘Intercine’ by Mort W. Elkind

internecine adj. mutually destructive.

That’s not me, being a smart alec, above. I have 2 reasons for listing a dictionary definition. Firstly, I didn’t know what ‘internecine’ meant. Secondly, the DVD cover (through Feemantle Media) states that it is ‘a fancy word for multiple murder’. I wanted to check if that was true. Hmmm!

Onto the plot! The movie gets off to a promising, if somewhat mysterious start with a gloved driver speeding from place to place, checking times on a stop-watch. At each stop he inspects a manilla folder. The four folders contain information on Christine Larsson (Christiane Kruger), Alex Hellman (Ian Hendry), David Baker (Michael Jayston) and Albert Parsons (Harry Andrews). Each of these characters are essential to the plot but take a back seat for a while.

We move on. Julian Glover has a small role as host of the TV show ‘The World This Week’, and this weeks guests include Professor Robert Elliot (James Coburn), who is a senior lecturer on economic studies at Havard University, and Jean Robinson (Lee Grant), a journalist. By the taunting and the repartee between the two guests, it is obvious that they have had a previous relationship that has gone sour, and now she doesn’t trust him or what he stands for.

Her suspicions grow when E.J. Farnsworth (Keenan Wynn), Vice President of Central Oil, meets with Elliot and during a game of golf, offers Elliot the high flying position of ‘Chairman Of The President’s Economic Committee’. There’s a small catch. Before Elliot can accept the position he has to clean up all the skeletons in his closet. Put simply, he has to dispose of the people who know all his dirty secrets that have helped him to the top – the four characters mentioned in the second paragraph of this review.

At this point, you’re probably saying ‘Gee David, this all seems rather complicated and political, what with wheeling and dealing between the White House and the oil companies!’ My response is ‘nah!’ It’s only complicated to make you think that Elliot is important. It really is an elaborate excuse to arrange some simple murders. As we’ve seen, the dictionary definition of ‘internecine’ is ‘mutally destructive’. So after all that overly complicated plotting at the beginning, we get to the heart of the movie. Elliot has to convince his four cohorts to kill each other – ‘mutal murder’.

The Internecine Project is a low key film compared to Coburn’s glossy espionage thrillers from the sixties, such as Our Man Flint, In Like Flint and The President’s Analyst; but as the story plays out, the tension slowly builds up, and what you’re left with is a taut little thriller.

The film has a lot to recommend it. It features another great moody score by Roy Budd, and has a fine cast of English character actors fleshing out the smaller roles. The story too, is engrossing. But this is a small film and not a particularly happy one at that. Coburn never breaks into his trademark grin and there is a sense of foreboding about the whole affair. If you choose to seek out The Internecine Project, be prepared for something quite different to the films that Coburn had done before.

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