You may have realized, by now, that I love when great actors get caught up in making bad movies. Olivier in The Jazz Singer? Elizabeth Taylor in The Flintstones? Bruce Willis, Al Pacino and Robert Deniro in everything after 1995?
Amazingly, Audrey Hepburn avoided making a horrible movie until very late in her career as she essayed the lead in this Sidney Sheldon adaption. Sure, Jacqueline Bisset was to play the lead, but the much younger role of Elizabeth Roffe in the novel was rewritten to accomodate the star. Also, John Frankenheimer was originally set to direct, but left the project to work on Prophecy — imagine something being so bad you’d rather make that movie — and being replaced by James Bond director Terence Young.
When Sam Roffe, President of Roffe & Sons Pharmaceuticals, dies in a climbing accident, the entire company goes to his ingenue daughter Elizabeth, which is strange as Hepburn was fifty when this came out. Everyone on the board is a suspect, including the man that Elizabeth has just married, Rhys Williams (Ben Gazzara). There’s even a Man in Black!
This sets off a chase across Europe with a murderous snuff movie making maniac killing to the sounds of Ennio Morricone, just like any number of giallo we’ve enjoyed. Except this movie has people like James Mason and Omar Sharif in it and cost $12 million to make in 1979, which would be around $43 million today.
Supposedly Hepburn was in the throes of her second divorce and needed money, so she couldn’t walk once she realized that she was in a movie where a race car driver burns alive using real footage, so this is kind of snuff within snuff. She honored her contract and made $1 million plus a percentage of the gross, so she made a million dollars.