Somehow, Golan and Globus tried to make 52 Pick-Up three times. First time around, they thought Joe Don Baker would be the star — thanks Austin Trunick — then they hired Elmore Leonard to adapt his book. He’s not on the final credits of this movie, but said, “Menahem Golan hired me to adapt my novel, 52 Pick-Up, and set it in Tel Aviv. I wrote two drafts and then told him to get another writer. He did and the result was The Ambassador which has nothing to do with 52 Pick-Up. It has none of my characters, none of my situations, nothing. But he still owed me for the screen rights and had to pay up before he could release the picture.”
Then, two years later, John Frankenheimer made the actual movie of 52 Pick-Up with Leonard and Cannon.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Peter Hacker (Robert Mitchum) and head of security Frank Stevenson (Rock Hudson) — yes, the slam bang action stars of a movie released the same year as The Terminator — are trying to get Jewish people and Muslims to get along and make some peace, but people keep getting killed.
Meanwhile, Peter’s wife Alex (Ellen Burstyn) is hooking up with Mustapha Hashimi (Fabio Testi, given this movie as a mea culpa from Cannon for getting fired from Bolero), which adds some human drama to the politics. Also, blackmail. Also also Donald Pleasence as Israeli Defense Minister Eretz.
J. Lee Thompson was pretty much making movies just for Cannon throughout the 80s with films like 10 to Midnight, The Evil That Men Do, King Solomon’s Mines, Murphy’s Law, Firewalker, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Messenger of Death and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects. Al of those are way better than this movie.
As we discussed in the article on That Championship Season, Mitchum had been accused of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, which is one of the reasons why he made this movie. Telly Savalas was originally going to play Rock Hudson’s role, but after a scheduling conflict, Rock flew out just a week after he broke up with his lover Tom Clarke. He was sick throughout filming, which may have been the start of the disease that he died from, but regardless he clashed with Mitchum throughout the production.