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The Day of the Jackal is a 1973 Anglo-French film, adapted from the 1971 novel of the same name by English author Frederick Forsyth.

Plot

In 1962 an unsuccessful attempt is made to assassinate Charles De Galle by members of the OAS because of De Galle granting of Independence to the French quasi-colony of Algeria. The leaders of the OAS decide to kill De Galle as a attempted Coup d'état for France itself. To accomplish this they hire an "Englishman" who agrees under the following conditions: his code name will be the "Jackal"; his price is $500,000 dollars and total secrecy even from his employers-although he does agree to contact an OAS spy within De Galle's cabinet.

The "Jackal" acquires a British passport under a fake name, "Paul Oliver Duggan," and travels to Genoa Italy, where he also acquires a sniper rifle from a gunsmith and fake identity papers from a forger; he kills the forger who attempts to blackmail him for more money than what he agrees to pay.

Meanwhile the French Security Services have Kidnapped an OAS member and tortured him into revealing information about the OAS Leaders-including the assassination plot. Realizing they must track down an unknown assassin with few clues, a French Detective of the Surete Claud Lebel is assigned to job of doing so. In the process of making discrete Inquiries to Scotland Yard, the British Secret services unearth a suspect Charles Calthrop {the first three letters of his first name and last name spell "Jackal" in French} and establish that the Duggan passport is under a fake name. Lebel is also compelled to report to the French Ministers of State on his investigation; unknowingly, one of the Ministers' mistresses is an OAS spy, from which the "Jackal" learns that just as he is hunting De Galle, they are also hunting him.

Determined to complete his "contract" the "Jackal" stops at a hotel where he seduces a French noblewoman and persuades her to give him shelter. On the way to meet her, he is in a road accident and wrecks his car, although he manages to retrieve his rifle and take the other car to meet his paramour. Before he meets with her the police had talked to her about "Duggan;" when she mentions this to the "Jackal," he kills her and goes to Paris in her car. Meanwhile the French investigation of the car accident reveals that is a painted over Alda Romero Giulietta Spider such as "Duggan" had been known to be driving-and the missing car is at the woman's estate. Likewise, the noblewoman is discovered to be dead and her car missing. The Public is informed that a murderer of the Countess is being hunted-with the "Jackel" latest secret identity. The "Jackal" hides in a public bathhouse where he allows a man to pick him up-he then kills the man who foolishly remarks that the "Jackel" resembles the Wanted man.

Meanwhile Lebel is getting annoyed that three times he has come close to catching the "Jackal" but the man has always escaped. He therefore employs wiretapping on the French Ministers of States telephones and uncovers the OAS Spy. He also realizes that the "Jackal" has a schedule from three days from now-the "Jackal" will assassinate De Galle on August 25-Liberation Day-the one day of the Year De Galle will be in public.

On Liberation day, the "Jackal" under a disguise of a one legged French War Veteran goes to the hotel where he has staked his sniper's nest; knocks the hotel concierge unconscious, and makes his preparations. Lebel making a last tour of the Public square, asks a Policeman if anyone out of the ordinary has passed by him. The man remarks that he has seen a one legged veteran go to a nearby hotel. Lebel realizes that this is the "Jackal" and mentions the police man to follow him. Just as they go up to the top room-the "Jackal" fires at De Galle-and misses because of the French habit of kissing a person face cheeks! The "Jackal" kills the policeman but is himself killed when Lebel uses the Mat 49 against him. In England the police are about to clear out Cathrop apartment when Cathrop appears alive.

As the "Jackal" is buried in a public grave, the question is asked: "If the Jackal wasn't Cathrop, then who the hell was he?"

Cast

The Jackal....Edward Fox

Trivia

  • The actors playing the French Cabinet have painfully English accents.
  • Multiple items from the book were changed for the movie:
    • The Jackal buys his gun and forged papers in Brussels.
    • The Jackal is not involved in a car accident; it is not explained in the movie how the Jackal manages to move the body of the accident victim to his own wrecked car without being badly bitten by a nasty tempered German shepherd.
    • The French Cabinet minister whose mistress is the OAS Spy resigns his post in the book, whereas in the movie he commits suicide. Likewise, in the book the, "Jackal" kills the Countess after she accidentally discovers that he is planning to kill De Galle.
    • The book also hints that the "Jackal" is a very expensive mercenary/killer for hire; his last two "jobs" are the killing of the Dictator Trujillo {killed May 30, 1961-a goof is that the book claims Trujillo was killed by rebels after his armored car was stopped by the Jackal killing the driver-when in fact Trujillo was killed in his automobile{!} and also killing of two German scientists who are involved in a Egyptian/former SS project of arming weapons of mass destruction against Israel. {The later project-which did exist-was the basis for Forsyth's book The Odessa File.}. It is unknown what other "jobs" the Jackal has undertaken The "Jackal" was apparently associated with Belgium Mercenaries in Katanga Insurgency which started in 1960-as he apparently has no fingerprint record in England yet has experienced hand to hand combat training it is possible that he was former member of the French Foreign Legion-which would explain his involvement in African Wars. Apparently his mercenary pay was a source of income sufficient to keep an apartment in a very expensive part of London itself. He also has connections in the Middle East-he plans to retire after finishing the De Galle "job" to Beirut Lebanon-the "Switzerland" of the Middle East-although years later Beirut became a battleground for years!
    • Continuity errors found in the book:
      • When his "employers" try to warn the Jackal that the French Security services know of his existence by telephoning his London Apartment, there is no indication that either the French or English authorities try to trace this number to the Jackal real identity-although unless of course he has registered in a false name! In the book the Jackal gives the Forger his real but soon to be expired Driver's license and claims that he cant use it since it belongs to someone now dead and he is banned from driving in Britian-it could be that the Jackal has faked his own death prior to becoming a mercenary-thus being "offically dead" he can't use the license since he runs the risk of being picked up by the police who discover that his license belongs to a "dead" man.
      • When the Jackal is being buried the burial record is falisfied to show he was a unknown foreign tourist killed in a car accident; since the "Jackal" is being publicly hunted for the Countess murder, it would have been more logical to have ended as "...the following day the body of unnamed man was buried...the burial record shows that it was that of an unknown burglary suspect who before being killed in a shootout with police in which an officer died was wanted for murder."
  • In 1997, a remake was produced, which has as an unnamed Irish mercenary hired by the Russian Mob to commit a killing in Washington D.C.
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