THE INTERNECINE PROJECT (1974) Reviews of spy thriller – free to watch online

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‘Who will be alive when the hands stop?’
The Internecine Project is a 1974 British thriller film about an ex-spy who devises a plan to kill anyone that knows much about his past.

Directed by Ken Hughes (Night School aka Terror Eyes) from a screenplay co-written by co-producer Barry Levinson (Who?) and Jonathan Lynn (Nuns on the Run; Yes, Minister; On the Buses) from the novel Internecine by Mort W. Elkind. Also produced by Andrew Donally.

The British Lion production stars James Coburn, Lee Grant, Harry Andrews, Ian Hendry, Michael Jayston, Christiane Krüger and Keenan Wynn.

The notable soundtrack score was composed by Roy Budd (Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger; Welcome to Blood City; The Black Windmill; The Stone Killer; Fear is the Key; Get Carter).


” …generally downplays tension in a futile quest to transform simplicity into a labyrinth of motivations and second thoughts. The Internecine Project isn’t without effective scenes, but when one considers how bizarre the plot is, the effort should really be livelier.”

The film, written by Barry Levinson and Jonathan Lynn, bristles with tension and leads to a wonderful and satisfying conclusion. Aside from Coburn’s outstanding performance, you can relish yeoman work from Lee Grant, Harry Andrews and Ian Hendry- all set to Roy Budd’s atmospheric score.” Cinema Retro

“Despite the plot turning around a succession of calls from conveniently empty public phone boxes (all in working order), and the presence of a stereotype female journalist acting as Coburn’s conscience, the film gains in weight thanks to its topical implications. All in all, a neat and unpretentious thriller that offers more food for thought than most such unashamedly commercial movies.” DVD Beaver

” …an enjoyable and engaging yarn, though I question the picture’s replay value as I would imagine that the tension would be greatly dismissed on repeat viewings. Still, the film has plenty to admire, most notably Christiane Kruger, and at least one incredibly effective and brutal scene that had me questioning how the film ever received a PG rating.” DVD Drive-In

“The cinematography is professional but director Ken Hughes arranges his scenes simply and goes for no particular stylistic touches. He freezes on each of the characters for a Mission: Impossible-like ID frame, complete with a file picture. Too bad that the faces come at us too fast to remember all the names. If you like clever murder thrillers, The Internecine Project is a good example from the 1970s.” DVD Savant 

“The tension never quite reaches the high level that it should, characterizations are a bit half-hearted, and the film’s attempt at generating a romantic subplot is weak. Nonetheless, the presence of familiar actors in roles that suit their skills, as well as the heat generated by a couple of genuinely exciting scenes, make the film worth a look.” Every 70s Movie

“A fun, gimmicky thriller informed by past modest but efficient narrative clockworks like The Assassination Bureau and Sleuth, this all-star thriller overcomes its cumbersome title with a can’t-miss narrative structure and an impressive international cast who keep the events chugging along at a brisk pace. The twist ending is a kick as well…” Mondo Digital

” …[a] bit daft plotwise (why doesn’t Robert just stealthily handle all this himself?), but that’s the fun of the film. This is a tightly structured exercise where we spend the first half lining up the dominoes and the second half watching them get knocked down […] And the final resolution of all this is outstanding.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

“The plan certainly does border on being over-the-top and too dependent on the participants doing everything exactly as their instructed in order for it to be successful, but overall I felt it could’ve been possible, which is the main ingredient that makes it work as it manages to remain delicately within the realm of believability.” Scopophilia


“The only issue I have with the entire film is that the narrative structure is a tad clunky. Some might question whether the scheme needed to be this complex, but those people would do best to watch something else. It’s an awfully churlish criticism for something that is so much diabolical fun.” Shameless Self Expression

“No, it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s a solid little film […] it’s an opportunity to see James Coburn in his prime; lanky, weathered, wary – in service of a taut suspense narrative. You could do much, much worse in your movie viewing than to give this espionage thriller a chance.” Zekefilm

Plot [contains spoilers]:
Former secret agent Robert Elliot is being promoted to a government advisor. To eliminate any ties to his past, Elliot devises a plan in which his four former associates will unwittingly kill each other on the same night. His four associates are:

Alex Hellman: A civil servant who has fed Elliot government information.
Bert: A masseur who has also given Elliot information from his industrialist clients
Christina: A high-class prostitute who has given Elliot information from her clients.
David Baker: A research scientist who appears to have benefited from Elliot’s fund in producing a weapon that uses sound to kill.

Christina plants David Baker’s own device in his home on a timer. When Baker returns, it goes off before he can stop it – apparently looking like an accident. Earlier in the evening, Baker had substituted Alex Hellman’s insulin (Hellman being diabetic) with a lethal dose. Hellman, the last to die, has previously savagely murdered Bert with a hammer, this after Bert has strangled Christina in the shower after her return from Baker’s home. With Bert, Christina and Baker all dead – Alex returns home in a state (having never murdered anyone before) and takes his lethal substituted medication. He dies slowly.

One of the film’s key points is that Elliot ruthlessly manipulates the four characters using their weaknesses as persuasion. Alex is not only diabetic but is also rather indecisive and lacking in confidence. Bert is a misogynist – and is the only character who needs no persuasion to murder a woman. David is a family man and protective of his children’s education. Christine is portrayed as rather naive and will seemingly do anything for Elliot.

Elliot is leaving the country – having apparently cleared his dirty past clean away by disposing of his associates. Shortly before leaving his house, he receives a package through the mail that contains a notebook. The pages of the notebook contain a message written by scientist David Baker that informs Elliott that Baker had never really trusted him – and that this package was only to be sent to Elliot in the event of Baker’s death. The pages of the notebook have been saturated with a poison Baker had been working on. Elliot’s lifeless body is seen slumped over as his car arrives at Heathrow Airport.


Cast and characters:
James Coburn … Professor Robert Elliot
Lee Grant … Jean Robertson
Harry Andrews … Bert Parsons
Ian Hendry … Alex Hellman
Michael Jayston … David Baker
Christiane Krüger … Christina Larsson
Keenan Wynn … E.J. Farnsworth
Terence Alexander … Business Tycoon
Philip Anthony … Eliot’s Secretary
Julian Glover … Arnold Pryce-Jones
Mary Larkin … Jean’s Secretary
Ewan Roberts … Laboratory Technician
David Swift … Chester Drake
Rolf Wanka … Art Dealer
Ray Callaghan … TV Producer
Ralph Ball … Boy Friend
Susan Majolier … Laboratory Assistant
Brian Tully … First Businessman
Michael Nightingale … Second Businessman
Carrie Kirstein … Air Hostess
Richard Cornish … Co-Pilot


Main soundtrack theme:

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