I make no secret of my love of Arrow Films and the work they do. I know for a fact that I speak for everyone at Slime House TV when I say that Arrow’s care and attention to not only restoring classic films to a state far surpassing their original prints; but giving the lovers of those classics bonuses that would be understated by the term “Fan-Service” is nothing short of incredible.
Their upcoming release of Fred Zinnemann’s (High Noon, From Here to Eternity) superb political thriller is no exception.For the uninitiated, “The Day of the Jackal” tells the story of the titular Jackal; a professional hitman assigned to take out then French President Charles De Gaulle by the OAS (rebellious survivors of the aborted French Foreign Legion). It’s not that simple of course; hot on his heels is the French Intelligence Agency fronted by “France’s best detective” Claude Lebel (Michel Lonsdale).
Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Frederick Forsythe, the film still stands as a contender for the best book to film adaptation for it’s taut and precise retelling. Something that stood out to me upon watching it again was just how spot on Zinnemann was with his casting decisions. Notoriously stubborn with this element, he ruled out big names such as Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, and Roger Moore in favour for the then relatively unknown Edward Fox. The gamble may have affected box-office takings but never the less gave us a portrayal of the Jackal steeped in mystery from the moment we meet him. He’s like a version of the Milk Tray man that’ll judo chop you mid-sentence and leave bullet holes in all your melons. His performance is astoundingly controlled, and not knowing his face as well as other actors in the big hitter category means that it’s believable when he slips through the cracks by way of numerous identities. For further proof, look no further than the pseudo-remake starring Bruce Willis in the role alongside charisma vacuum Richard Gere.
In fact, the whole cast is great. Every performance oozes character with a personal favourite of mine being the persistent pigeon-loving Detective Lebel. As soon as he bowls in, announces that Derek Jacobi’s Caron will be his new secretary and that his first order is a percolator and a tonne of coffee, I was with the guy.
Originally released in 1973, the film joins such classics as “All The Presidents Men” and “The French Connection” for it’s engrossing use of cinema verité. Everything about it screams realism and with its upgrade to High Definition it’s never looked better. Clocking in at approx. two hours and twenty minutes, I was surprised by the pace of this film. It never dragged; in fact, I could have quite happily had the film be longer. Getting to see the efficient intricacies of The Jackal’s world was compelling stuff. If it were made today we’d likely get an origins movie showing you everything about his backstory, but as it is; it’s nigh on perfect.
Of course, we’re also treated to the original trailer for the film and people lucky enough to get their hands on a first pressing of the edition will get a collectors booklet with exclusive writing from the critic Mark Cunliffe and film historian Sheldon Hall. Last but not least, if you whack the disc into your PC or Mac, you’ll be treated to the fantastic script by Kenneth Ross too. Lovely stuff.
The fact that this isn’t even one of Arrow’s more packed editions speaks wonders to the high quality they put into everything they put out. This is a brilliant offering for the film that will surely please fans and newcomers alike that does nothing to stop my adoration for Arrow Film’s work.
Words By Robert Trott
Duration: 143 minutes
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1