In the aftermath of Watergate, a number of conspiracy movies appeared, such as this one, written by the late Adam Kennedy ( based on his novel ).
Gene Hackman plays ex-Vietnam veteran 'Roy Tucker', a loser who has wound up in prison. He receives visits from Marvin Tagge ( Richard Widmark ), who claims to represent an organisation designed to assist the wrongly convicted. They offer him freedom, and despite distrusting Tagge he accepts. But he brings along a fellow cell mate by the name of Spiventa ( Mickey Rooney ). Exactly why is hard to see, as Spiventa is an irritating little man who drives Tucker mad with persistent talk of sex, not what you want to hear when you are behind bars.
Tagge's benefactors kill Spiventa before Tucker's astonished eyes. Reunited with wife Ellie ( Candice Bergen ), and given a new identity ( strangely, he does not attempt to change his appearance. Shaving off that cheesy moustache would have been a start ), he settles down, but finds there is a catch - Tagge wants Tucker to do no less than assassinate the President of the United States. He refuses, so Tagge has Ellie abducted...
I will leave the synopsis here, but I am sure you can guess the rest for yourself. The script has enough plot holes to make you want to read the book ( neat trick that! ). The people Tagge represents are never revealed. The allusions to J.F.K.'s killing are unmistakable. Despite the findings of The Warren Commission, the doubt as to whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone persists to this day.
This was Stanley Kramer's first movie in years, and while no turkey, it lacks the grip of say John Frankenheimer's 'The Manchurian Candidate' or Alan J.Pakula's 'The Parallax View'. Being a left-wing conspiracy movie, it tends to skirt around its subject matter instead of getting to grips with it. I prefer right-wing ones myself - they are funnier! 'Domino' has the look and feel of a made-for-T.V. movie, and boasts what must be the easiest prison escape in movie history not to mention an ending copped from the Michael Caine classic 'Get Carter'.
What makes it watchable are Gene Hackman and Richard Widmark. The latter, who sadly passed away earlier this year, is superb as the mysterious Tagge, who initially appears to be behind the operation until he too is ruthlessly eliminated, beginning a chain of deaths designed to remove all trace of evidence as one by one the perpetrators of this evil plot fall - just like dominoes. As Tucker, the innocent pawn, Hackman is marvellous. You have to wonder though why he chose to hide out in such an obvious place. In his shoes, I'd have fled to the other side of the world, anywhere to get away from these fanatics. Hackman's love scenes with Bergen slow the plot down, and it is almost a relief when she gets snatched. Presumably the producers thought so too, which explains why it opens with a bizarre prologue setting out the film's entire premise - voiced by British actor Patrick Allen - warning the audience that 'they' are out there, and that 'they' are out to get us. Comedian Les Dawson later spoofed this opening in his B.B.C. show 'The Dawson Watch'.
Mickey Rooney had earlier worked with Kramer on 'Its A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'. His 'death' scene here resembles like an outtake from that picture, with the actor looking as though he has been stung by a wasp rather than shot dead.
Conspiracy movies used to be only made by the left, but now the right are getting in on the act too. Last year, 'Taking Liberties', an absurd concoction of lies and half-truths about Tony Blair's Government turned out to be Britain's answer to 'Reefer Madness'. At least, 'Domino' had lovely Candice Bergen. The best Chris Atkins' film could offer was Anne Widdecombe!
Surprisingly, 'The Domino Principle' was made by Sir Lew Grade, the legendary British television mogul behind 'The Saint', 'Jesus Of Nazareth' and 'The Muppet Show'. He worked with Adam Kennedy again in 1980 on 'Raise The Titanic!', whose failure was so great it sank Grade's ambitions of being the new Louis B.Meyer. Being somewhat open-minded, I would not rule out the possibility of a conspiracy.
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