Directed by: Ken Hughes
Written by: Mort M. Elkind (novel) Jonathan Lynn (screenplay) and Barry Levinson (screenplay)
Starring: James Coburn, Lee Grant, Harry Andrews and Ian Hendry
Reviewed by: Josh G.
Thought slashers were of nonexistence in the mid 1970s? If you’re a diehard fan of the sub genre, then you’ll obviously not think so. The Italians had their say in slasher fare, but I’m guessing that if you ever happened to come across The Internecine Project that you looked the other way. It’s labeled as a thriller, and rightfully so. With famous actors such as James Coburn and his character’s love interest, Lee Grant, there was no way that this killer suspense flick had any right to be brought into the House of Horror. Although it’s not quite a giallo, and hardly a gorefest, it’s about a distinguishable cast being picked off one-by-one. The only difference is that the killer is not just in one person, but spread out among five. Interested in learning more? Then read the file inside, known only as The Internecine Project.
A man with a past in secret agency, Robert Elliot (Coburn), is moving on in the business world. However, he must wipe his documents clean of any references to his nasty previous life accounts. Unluckily for four close partners in crime, they are the documents. Using his cunning persuasion and fearsome consequences, Elliot brings his friends into a game of death, seemingly at the hands of each other. Who will kill whom, and whom will kill who? With a clever communication system used by all involved, Robert will be able to make sure that his plan will go off without a problem. But will his lovely flame, Jean Robertson (Grant) complicate his wrongful deadly schedule? By hammer, by suffocation, by syringe and more, how many will be left to die, unknowingly the victim of a longtime ally, Robert Elliot. The players, Albert Parsons (Harry Andrews), Alex Hellman (Ian Hendry), David Baker (Michael Jayston) and Christina Larsson (Christiane Krüger) are being played!
Released on a CBS Fox Video, also through Lorimar International Distribution, The Internecine Project starts off with a pair of hands searching through some files, finally finding the one they were looking for. These hands are fashioned with black leather gloves, giving the audience an impression that perhaps this is no ordinary file. Inside are the names of four individuals, as listed in the previous paragraph. These are obviously the dead bodies to be. When Elliot goes onto a news station, we receive the perspectives of the victims who are watching him on the television, all in the city of London. As the camera presents a close-up of each person, a quick shot of their picture from the confidential file is shown, equipped with a cheesy lighthearted and ‘suspenseful’ tune. However, there’s not too much to laugh at in this film. It tries to stay serious, and it gets the job done rather well. It’s tame, but still violent.
The first forty-five to fifty minutes of our feature is all a buildup to the variety of murders that will be shown past the hour mark. We connect with Robert Elliot and his demanding new job, which will require him to make some alterations to the health status of those specific people who are living. He meets up with Alex, a nervous man who has been given instructions to kill Albert Parsons with a hammer while exiting a building. Next is David, who has to make sure that Alex Hellman receives a different type of medicine by fixing his daily dosing syringe. Prostitute Christina has been given an odd device, which’ll show its true deadly potential when David Baker enters his home. Last but not least, Albert has to sneak into Christina’s home and find some way to off her, all along while Elliot will keep track of the devious entourage through his telephone. But will his genius plan work perfectly? Not quite. A few kinks must be worked out on the way.
James Coburn’s character is a very smart man, and if it wasn’t for such a brain, he would have been found out long before the first murders occur. He makes sure to never talk to his ‘accomplices’ directly. In a long list, Elliot observes the movements of his mice by never even having to leave his place or pick up the phone. Next to one person’s actions is something like “4 rings,” which means when he hears the telephone ring four times, he’ll know that that action is completed. But what if the phone rings out of line with the schedule? Or somebody backs out? Alex ends up calling Elliot to notify that he cannot go on with killing Albert. Robert starts to get a glimpse of exactly how something like this could go wrong. It’s what he feared. As the tagline reads, ‘Even the perfect murder needs room for error.’ More troubles arise when Lee Grant calls Coburn, and eventually, visits at his place. She’s starting to believe that she was just a one night stand. Poor Jean Robertson.
A PG-RATED thriller from 1974, The Internecine Project still contains blood and nudity. However, only the hammer kill has any red smudges, and even then it’s minimal. Christiane Krüger shows off her butt in a shower scene, just before the highlight of the movie, when she’s strangled by Albert with black rubber gloves on through the shower curtain. She’s also closer to skin city when rinsing off, teasing the camera as she washes half turned away. Based on the quality of the video, it’s close, but no cigar. Or in this case, no breasts. The murders, which are nothing brutal, still have the advantages of being colorful and never repeated. You know that most, if not all of the four victims will die when you enter the movie. You can even see the twist ending coming miles away, but it’s still a fun treat. Coburn gets his just desserts, and you get a movie that’s worth seeing, despite taking a while to get to the cream filling. Bottom line, The Internecine Project is one of the most clever, unappreciated thrillers of the 1970s. Rent it!
*Now available on DVD through Scorpion Releasing.
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