• THE DAY OF THE JACKAL is a handsomely mounted, meticulously crafted espionage thriller which, despite its excessive length, will probably rank as one of the best pictures of the year. The events are pure fiction, interwoven into a background of solid fact which gives the film at times an almost documentary flavor. The plot centers around an attempt by leaders of the OAS (remember them?) to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle, shortly after the decolonization of Algeria. They hire a professional killer, code-named "The Jackal," who travels around Europe making painstaking preparations for the event. Meanwhile, the French and British authorities learn of his existence, and embark upon an all-out effort to establish his identity, locate him and arrest him before he can carry out his mission. Edward Fox, as the Jackal, is the soul of cool detachment, a professional's professional, uninterested in politics and approaching murder as a science. His personality is no more than sketched; he seems at times to be an extension of his own weapons, killing whenever necessary to cover his tracks. Michel Lonsdale gives an admirably understated performance as a crack British detective working frantically against time (and official secrecy) to unearth the Jackal's identity and whereabouts. Adrien Cayla-Legrand is the spitting image of de Gaulle. Delphine Seyrig is intelligent and believable as the Jackal's lover, though her motivations within the relationship are not clear.
The script occasionally breaks out in a rash of cliches, but for the most part the dialogue is serviceable, and Fred Zinnemann's direction never lags. The plot is clever, and suspense is built up slowly but steadily to a shattering climax. What more could a thriller fan ask? Rated "PG".
• SOYLENT GREEN is a projection of the not-too-distant future, as fantasized by some of the freakier ecology freaks. The scene is Manhattan, the year 2022, the population 41 million. Masses of people sleep in doorways, stairways and huge communal rooms, and the lucky few are constantly tripping over these derelicts on the way to their jealously guarded private apartments. Women are part of the apartment "furniture" (whatever became of Women's Lib?), and suicide for the elderly is officially encouraged. Books are censored. Food is rationed out in artificial chips by an unnamed agency, and manufactured by a giant company that is conspiring to keep a terrible secret from the masses of people. The movie's entire premise is tailor-made to appeal to the already-considerable paranoia of the environmentalist movement. The wider popularity of the film is due to the caliber of its stars, and its conventional police-drama storyline. Charlton Heston portrays a cynical, semi-honest detective investigating the murder of a top company official. Edward G. Robinson, in his final performance, plays Heston's research assistant who remembers the "good old days" of the 1970's. His long, drawn-out death scene is disconcerting, because of Robinson's actual death a few months before the film's release. Leigh-Taylor Young is believable if superficial as the murdered man's "furniture" girl, fearful about a future over which she has no control. Chuck Conners is pure cardboard as a villain, Joseph Cotton sympathetic as the doomed executive. Considering that the events are supposed to take place fifty years from now, SOYLENT GREEN has very little "futuristic" feeling. The buildings, automobiles and trucks used as backdrop seem to reflect a present-day urban slum. Technical considerations apparently take a back seat to the Message. Rated "PG".
• Those of us who missed television's so-called "golden age" now have an opportunity to relive some if its brighter moments. A potpourri of comedy sketches from that era have been combined into a movie, TEN FROM YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, in which Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca engage in the type of humor that is today being copied faithfully on the Carol Burnett Show. It's all there: the movie take-off (FROM HERE TO OBSCURITY, with Sid Caesar as Montgomery Bugle); a send-up of the television chestnut THIS IS YOUR LIFE, featuring Carl Reiner as the urbane, unflappable host and Caesar as the unwilling biographee; Imogene Coca in a silent film spoof, as a lovely but poor working girl exploited by an evil boss; Coca (again) as a fearful housewife breaking the news to her husband that she has just wrecked the family car. There are many other sketches, ranging from hilariously funny to mildly amusing. The skits were originally performed live, for the television as well as the studio audience, and what they lack in polish they more than make up for in spontaneity. The abominable laugh track is nowhere in evidence. Altogether, TEN FROM YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS makes for an enjoyable evening, and the film's success will probably spawn imitations. Which gives rise to a disquieting thought: Suppose old television shows start taking over the movies, as old movies have taken over television? Your neighborhood theater may get its revenge at last. Rated "G".