Today marks the 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In the years after his murder, speculation has been rampant on whether there was a conspiracy. One of the first movies to tell the story of a possible conspiracy was the 1973 film, “Executive Action”. The film was originally released on November 7th, 1973, almost two weeks before the tenth anniversary of the JFK Assassination. Told in documentary style, the story was about a group of military industrialists, politicians and former US intelligence figures who vent their growing dissatisfaction with the Kennedy administration. They fear that Kennedy would end US involvement in Vietnam, which was a lucrative business prospect for them. They plot to kill the president, citing it would be done as an “executive action”.
The film speculates that Lee Harvey Oswald was being led to become the conspiracy’s ‘patsy’. The conspirators use a double of Oswald to shadow him in the weeks leading up to the assassination to leave behind a trail that the authorities can easily follow and link Oswald to the crime. It was also mentioned that Oswald’s Russian defection was known to the conspirators. The film makes no explicit link to US government agencies and the conspiracy, although the professionalism of the shooting team seems to indicate they have worked for the government on special assignments. The film implies that most of the law enforcement and government agencies were not involved, but were grossly inept.
Examples include, no special measures were taken for the president’s safety in Dallas; there was no communication between the FBI, CIA and Secret Service on possible security risks — even the head of the Secret Service stays in Washington during the visit. This explanation helps understand why the authorities were so keen to pin the blame on Oswald, the rogue assassin, who is “served up” by the conspirators to the authorities as an easy escape from any accusations of their own negligence.
Donald Sutherland has been credited as having the idea for the film and for hiring Freed and Lane to write the screenplay. Sutherland planned to act in and produce Executive Action, however, he abandoned the project and took a role in another film after failing to obtain financing for the film. Nearly 20 years later, he would play a character named “X” in Oliver Stone’s JFK. In that film, like in “Executive Action”, “X” would explain that Kennedy was assassinated because his foreign policy would have meant diminished profit for the military-industrial complex, and enraged high-ranking military officials who viewed such diplomacy as weakness. In fact, the speculation is eerily similar.
The movie’s dispute of reports on the assassination, including the controversial Warren Commission report presented in 1964, led to attacks against the film. Trailers for the film never ran on a number of television stations, including WNBC-TV in New York. The criticism of the film and its suggestion of a Military-industrial complex conspiracy led to the film being removed totally from the movie theaters after running for 2 weeks. It would be another 15 years before finally getting an official release and distribution for TV and video.
Regardless of your opinions of whether it was, in fact, a conspiracy; the film gives a convincing argument.