EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Chris Fisanick for suggesting this movie.
Based on the Anders Bodelsen novel Think of a Number, this Daryl Duke-directed (The Thorn Birds) and Curtis Hanson-written (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, L.A. Confidential, Sweet Kill) was an early Carolco film and also one of the earliest films to take advantage of Canada’s Capital Cost Allowance incentive plan, which gave production companies tax inducements to make commercial films in Canada. It’s probably the best-regarded film to ever take advantage of that tax shelter, as most are the slashers that we love.
Oh yeah — Duke walked off the film due to creative differences and Hanson, who had originally wanted to direct the film, took over the remainder of the shoot and handled all the post-production on the film, which is why that decapitation — no spoilers — and head in a bag show up in the film.
Miles Cullen (Elliott Gould) is a bank teller inside a large mall — Toronto’s Eaton Centre — is on to robber Arthur Reikle’s (a deranged Christopher Plummer) plan to rob his bank, so in advance of the man holding the bank up, he’s been stashing money and shorting the till. When it happens, he shorts Reikle, who is dressed as Santa, and keeps the money for himself. That should be all, until Reikle learns from the news that the bank has reported that more has been stolen than he took. He figures out the scam as Cullen makes his move — now that he has more confidence — on co-worker Julie Carver (Susannah York), who is actually having an affair with their boss.
Miles and Reikle engaged in a game of wits — and violence — that ends for a time with the criminal in jail and using his lover Elaine (Celine Lomez, The Ivory Ape and nearly Curtains before she was replaced by Linda Thorson) to get info on his rival. Of course, they fall in love and of course once he gets out of jail, Reikle brutally murders her.
Obviously, only one of these two men is going to make it out of this movie alive.
The third adaption of this story — 1970 Danish theatrical film directed by Palle Kjærulff-Schmidt and starring Henning Moritzen and Bibi Andersson and a 1972 West German TV movie directed by Rainer Erler and starring Klaus Herm and Edith Schultze-Westrum — this is one dark watch for the holidays, yet one that rewards the viewer. Roger Ebert went so far as to say that it was worthy of Hitchcock. Gould allegedly had a screening of the film of Hitchcock who was said to have loved it.
Oh yeah! John Candy is in this! I totally forgot!