|The Domino Principle|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stanley Kramer|
|Produced by||Stanley Kramer|
|Screenplay by||Adam Kennedy|
|Based on||novel by Adam Kennedy|
|Music by||Billy Goldenberg|
|Cinematography||Fred J. Koenekamp|
|Edited by||John F. Burnett|
|Distributed by||AVCO Embassy Pictures|
The Domino Principle is a 1977 neo noir thriller film starring Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, Mickey Rooney and Richard Widmark. The film is based on the novel of the same name and was adapted for the screen by its author Adam Kennedy. It was directed and produced by Stanley Kramer.
Kramer wrote in his memoirs that he "wouldn't be surprised" if Hackman, Bergen and Widmark "would prefer to remain as anonymous as the conspirators" in the film, adding "if I'm right, it's a feeling I share."
Roy Tucker (Gene Hackman), serving time for the murder of his wife's first husband, is approached in prison by a man named Tagge (Richard Widmark) on behalf of a mysterious organization with an offer: in exchange for helping him escape and start a new life, Tucker must work for the organization for a few weeks. Following his escape with cellmate Spiventa (Mickey Rooney), whom the organization immediately kills, Tucker flies to Puntarenas, Costa Rica where he is reunited with his wife Ellie (Candice Bergen). After a few idyllic days, the organization's Tagge, Pine (Edward Albert) and General Reser (Eli Wallach) return them to Los Angeles. There, the details of his mission slowly unfold. He realizes that he is expected to assassinate someone and refuses. The organization retaliates by kidnapping his wife.
The next morning, Tucker fires on his target from a helicopter, but it is hit by return fire and crashes. Tucker and Reser escape but Tucker takes Pine hostage and demand a plane and the return of his wife. At the airstrip, Tucker tells Tagge that he deliberately fired short. Tagge reveals that he had two other shooters in place, including Tucker's supposedly murdered cellmate Spiventa, and Tagge's group has been manipulating Tucker for over a decade. Aboard the plane with Ellie, Tucker spots someone planting a toolbox in the back of Tagge's car. Unable to get the pilot to abort takeoff, Tucker watches helplessly as Tagge is blown up with his car. The couple return to Costa Rica where Tucker sees his new life dismantled as quickly as it was assembled: his false passport destroyed, his money taken and Ellie killed. Spiventa and Pine arrive to kill Tucker, but he gets the drop on them and dumps their bodies in the ocean. The film closes with a resolute Tucker vowing not to give in, unaware he is in the crosshairs of yet another assassin.
- Gene Hackman as Tucker
- Candice Bergen as Ellie
- Richard Widmark as Tagge
- Mickey Rooney as Spiventa
- Edward Albert as Ross Pine
- Eli Wallach as General Reser
- Ken Swofford as Ditcher
- Neva Patterson as Gaddis
- Jay Novello as Captain Ruiz
- Joseph V. Perry as Bowkemp
- Majel Barrett as Mrs. Schnaible
The Domino Principle was based on the sixth novel by former actor Adam Kennedy. New American Library purchased the paperback rights for $250,000 and there was considerable interest in the film rights before publication. The novel came out in 1975. The Los Angeles Times praised the book's "power and originality". The New York Times praised Kennedy as "a fine writer who maintains suspense until the end."
In November 1975 Stanley Kramer announced he had purchased the rights for a reported $250,000. Kramer said the novel "is not only an exciting adventure but also stresses that such things could happen here."
In March 1976 Kramer announced he had signed a two picture deal with Lew Grade to make the film, the first of which was to be The Domino Principle with Gene Hackman and Candice Bergen, and the second of which was to be The Sheikhs of Araby, a comedy with Sid Caesar and Don Rickles. (That film would ultimately never be made.)
Kramer said he never identified who hired the assassin or their target because "that is not the point of the picture. The point I tried to make is that there are powerful, undetected forces that affect our destiny without even us suspecting they exist."
Filming took place in April and May 1976. On the first day of location filming in San Quentin Prison, a guard was stabbed by an inmate.
Hackman later said "we had a lot of problems on that film; I had arguments with Stanley Kramer." Hackman later read a published diary written by Kramer during the making of the film which described Hackman's behavior on set. The actor called the diary "embarrassing but I have to say it was accurate. And he was probably right in his remarks about me. The film we were making just wasn't worth the difficulties I was giving him. The truth is I was in trouble on that film and I got scared."
In December 1976 Bergen said about the film, "thanks to Gene it turned out to be the best part I've ever done. I said, 'I have such a long way to go before I can become that woman, Gene. I just can't do it unless you help me.' He was incredibly generous with his time and energy, his enthusiasm and his outrageous skill. For the first time I took a risk and didn't rely on my looks." However Bergen later called the film "terrible" and said she only did it "because it gave me the chance to play an ordinary woman. I put on a sappy wig and wore sappy clothes and for once in my life I didn't look like Candice Bergen and they [the critics] creamed me for that saying I looked like Shelley Winters."
The film opened to mostly negative reviews and lasted only two to three weeks in theaters, dooming Kramer's first attempt at directing a thriller.
Film critic Vincent Canby of New York Times (which wasn't full of praise for the film) focused on the fact that the movie's plot made no sense, noting at one point that when Hackman's character said "I've done a lot of bad things in my life, but I ain't going to do that" the question of "What is he not going to do?" was neither established nor answered.
The Variety Staff wrote in their review: "The Domino Principle is a weak and tedious potboiler starring Gene Hackman as a tool of mysterious international intrigue, and a barely recognizable Candice Bergen in a brief role as his perplexed wife. Stanley Kramer’s film contains a lot of physical and logistical nonsense."
"I'm told a lot of people didn't understand it," said Hackman later. "I didn't understand it either."
Stanley Kramer and Kennedy were later going to reunite on an adaptation of Raise the Titanic for Lew Grade, which replaced Araby as Kramer's second film under his deal with Grade. However Kramer left that project.
- Canby, Vincent (March 24, 1977). "Film: Kramer's Falling 'Domino'". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- Variety Staff (December 31, 1976). "The Domino Principle". Variety. United States: Variety Media, LLC. (Penske Media Corporation). Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- Kramer, Stanley; Coffey, Thomas H (1997). A mad, mad, mad, mad world : a life in Hollywood. Harcourt Brace. p. 216.
- Kennedy, Adam (1975). The Domino Principle: 2 (1st ed.). New York City: Viking Adult. ISBN 978-0670278121.
- Book Business: Easy Birth By JOYCEILLIG. The Washington Post 23 Mar 1975: 4.
- The Saint Won't Play the Sinner Los Angeles Times 15 Sep 1975: e10.
- Convict on 'Special Assignment' Kirsch, Robert. Los Angeles Times 12 Nov 1975: g8.
- Criminals At Large By NEWGATE CALLENDAR. New York Times 21 Dec 1975: 227.
- Ali to Star in 'The Greatest' Murphy, Mary. Los Angeles Times 5 Nov 1975: e9.
- Briefs on the Arts: 'Domino Principle' Bought by Kramer Piccolo Cabaret Is Opened Here 'Nightwork' To Become Film Marginalia: 'Angel Street' Due New York Times 4 Nov 1975: 28.
- MOVIE CALL SHEET: Film Debut for Lorenzo Music Murphy, Mary. Los Angeles Times 19 Mar 1976: e13.
- Stanley Kramer has played the movie odds right--mostly Tessel, Harry. Chicago Tribune 13 Sep 1976: b2.
- Love is matter of 'Principle' Schiffmann, William. Chicago Tribune 4 May 1976: b5.
- HACKMAN RESTLESS AS THE SQUIRE OF BEVERLY HILLS Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times 31 Dec 1978: j25.
- At the Movies Flatley, Guy. New York Times 10 Dec 1976: 62.
- Reed, Rex (1979). Travolta to Keaton. Morrow. p. 138.
- Alexander Walker, National Heroes: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties, 1985 p 197
- The Domino Principle. Avid Home Entertainment (VHS). Santa Monica, California: Bain Capital. January 1, 1998. ASIN B0000066CL. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- The Domino Principle. Lionsgate Home Entertainment (DVD). Santa Monica, California: Lionsgate. January 24, 2006. ASIN B000C65YR6. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- Preproduction: A Titanic Task SCHREGER, CHARLES. Los Angeles Times 20 Oct 1979: c6.