Joe Turner is an analyst for the CIA. He reads published texts from around the world and examines them for coded messages. He recently discovered an anomaly that he flagged to CIA headquarters, and he is awaiting their response. But when Joe goes for lunch, and takes the back-door shortcut to avoid getting caught in the rain, a team of assassins walk through the front door and slaughter everyone in the building. When Joe returns to find everybody dead, and alerts his superiors at the CIA’s New York headquarters, his world crashes down around him. A rendezvous to bring Joe to safety turns out to be a trap and suddenly he is a hunted man with a skilled assassin (Max von Sydow) on his tail. Joe needs a place to stay while he works out what is going on and he forces Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) - a young woman he encounters in a sporting goods store - to take him back to her apartment, where she becomes his unlikely prisoner. But Joe is running out of time, the killers are closing in, and unless he can win over Kathy’s trust, Joe Turner (codename: Condor) is going to die.
The 1970s were a great decade for conspiracy thrillers and Three Days of the Condor is one of the best, sitting somewhere between the entertaining ludicrousness of The Parallax View (which was scribed by one of Condor’s co-writers, Lorenzo Semple Jr.) and the noirish paranoia-with-a-message of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. It’s a slick and good-looking exercise in suspense filmmaking, which also pulls off the genius trick of being completely plausible while you watch it and then unravelling rapidly as soon as you think about it afterwards (but the same can be said of many of Hitchcock’s movies.) Robert Redford, at the peak of his career, plays the dishevelled hero with his usual boyish charm and Faye Dunaway is her trademark ice-maiden cool, although the romantic relationship that develops between their two characters (which, let’s face it, was inevitable) is unconvincing and feels clumsily tacked on. Max Von Sydow, as the assassin, plays the part with a wry twinkle in his eye, and there’s terrific support from Cliff Robertson and John Houseman as the men at the top of the network who Joe Turner should – or maybe not? – trust to bring him home. As is usual with ‘70s thrillers, everything is wrapped up with an unnecessarily convoluted political explanation that leaves more questions than answers but so what if the story doesn’t make much sense? Somehow, screenwriters Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel made a silk purse out of James Grady’s sow’s ear of a source novel and, on top of that, this is one of the few films that opens with a Dino De Laurentiis credit that feels like a movie made for grown-ups.
There are only two extras on the disc but they’re both good ones – an overview of the film by Sheldon Hall and an episode of The Directors devoted to (Condor director) Sydney Pollack’s career. There is also a booklet featuring a new essay on the film, an interview with Pollack, and some very nice archival images. All in all, this is another terrific Blu-ray from Eureka! Masters of Cinema: Three Days of the Condor has never looked or sounded so good.
Analysis Says: Very highly recommended.
THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SYDNEY POLLACK / SCREENPLAY: DAVID RAYFIEL, LORENZO SEMPLE JR. / STARRING: ROBERT REDFORD, FAYE DUNAWAY, CLIFF ROBERTSON, MAX VON SYDOW / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 11TH