In the Paris suburb of Petit-Clamart on 22 August 1962, an assassination attempt is made on the President of France General Charles de Gaulle by the militant French underground organisation OAS in anger over the French government granting independence to Algeria.
As the president’s motorcade passes, de Gaulle’s unarmoured Citroën DS car is raked with machine gun fire, but the entire entourage escapes without injury. Within six months, OAS leader Jean Bastien-Thiry and several other members of the plot are captured and Bastien-Thiry is executed.
The remaining OAS leaders, now exiled in Vienna, decide to make another attempt, and hire a professional British assassin (Edward Fox) who chooses the code name “Jackal”. Agreeing to the killer’s demand of half a million US dollars for his services, the OAS leaders order several bank robberies to raise the money.
Meanwhile, the Jackal begins to plan his assassination of the highly protected French president. He travels to Genoa and commissions a custom-made rifle and fake identity papers. As a professional, he spares the reliable gunsmith, but kills the forger when the man attempts blackmail. In Paris, he sneaks an impression of the key to a flat that overlooks the Place du 18 juin 1940.
In Rome, where the OAS team have moved, members of the French Action Service identify and kidnap the OAS chief clerk Viktor Wolenski (Jean Martin). Wolenski dies under interrogation but not before the agents have extracted some elements of the assassination plot, including the word “Jackal”, and reported their findings to the Interior Minister (Alan Badel) who convenes a secret cabinet meeting of the heads of the French security forces.
When asked to provide his best detective, the Police Commissioner Berthier (Timothy West) recommends his own deputy, Claude Lebel (Michel Lonsdale). Soon after, Lebel is given special emergency powers to conduct his investigation, which is complicated by de Gaulle’s express orders for secrecy and his refusal to change any of his planned public appearances.
As the investigation progresses, Colonel St. Clair (Barrie Ingham), a personal aide to the President and one of the cabinet members, discloses the government’s knowledge of the plot through pillow talk to his new mistress Denise (Olga Georges-Picot), who immediately passes this information on to her OAS contact. Meanwhile, Lebel uses an old boy network of police agencies in other countries to determine that British suspect Charles Calthrop may be travelling under the name Paul Oliver Duggan, who appears in British records as someone who died as a child. Learning that Duggan has crossed into France, Lebel orders his men to search all hotel registrations in an effort to locate the killer.
The Day of the Jackal is a 1973 Anglo-French political thriller film directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Edward Fox and Michel Lonsdale. Based on the 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth, the film is about a professional assassin known only as the “Jackal” who is hired to assassinate French president Charles de Gaulle in the summer of 1963.
The Day of the Jackal received positive reviews and went on to win the BAFTA Award for Best Film Editing (Ralph Kemplen), five additional BAFTA Award nominations, two Golden Globe Award nominations, and one Academy Award nomination. The film grossed $16,056,255 at the box office, and earned an additional $8,525,000 in North American rentals.
The Day of the Jackal (1973)
Directed by: Fred Zinnemann
Starring: Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair, Alan Badel, Tony Britton, Cyril Cusack, Maurice Denham, Olga Georges-Picot
Screenplay by: Kenneth Ross
Cinematography by: Jean Tournier
Film Editing by: Ralph Kemplen
Costume Design by: Joan Bridge, Rosine Delamare, Elizabeth Haffenden
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: May 16, 1973