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Three Days of the Condor

Three Days of the Condor
File:Three Days of the Condor poster.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
Screenplay by
Based on Six Days of the Condor 
by James Grady
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography Owen Roizman
Edited by Don Guidice
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • September 24, 1975 (1975-09-24) (USA)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $41,509,797 (US)[1]

Three Days of the Condor (stylized on the poster art as 3 Days of the Condor) is a 1975 American political thriller film directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, and Max von Sydow.[2] The screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel was adapted from the 1974 novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady.[2] Set mainly in New York City and Washington, D.C., the film is about a bookish CIA researcher who comes back from lunch, discovers all his co-workers shot dead, and tries to outwit those responsible until he figures out whom he can really trust. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. Semple and Rayfiel received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.[2]


Joe Turner (Robert Redford) is a CIA analyst, code name "Condor", who works in a clandestine office in New York City. He reads books, newspapers, and magazines from around the world, looking for hidden meanings and new ideas. As part of his duties, Turner files a report to CIA headquarters on a low-quality thriller novel his office has been reading, pointing out strange plot elements therein, and the unusual assortment of languages into which the book has been translated.

On the day Turner expects a response to his report, while Turner is out to lunch, a group of armed men, led by an Alsatian contract killer later identified as Joubert (Max von Sydow), murders the six people in the office. Returning to find his coworkers' bodies and realizing he is in danger, Turner calls the CIA's New York headquarters, and is given instructions to meet some agents who will take care of him. The meeting, however, is a trap, and Turner escapes an attempt to kill him.

Needing a place to hide, Turner forces a woman, Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway), whom he sees randomly in a ski shop, to take him to her apartment in Brooklyn Heights. He holds her prisoner while he attempts to figure out what is going on. Over time, Hale begins to trust Turner and they become lovers. However, his hiding place is discovered after Joubert spots him driving her car and notes the license plate number. A hitman, disguised as a postman with a parcel that must be signed for, shows up at the apartment. Turner opens the door and a fight ensues, in which Turner kills the hitman.

Deciding that he cannot trust anyone within the CIA, Turner begins to play a cat-and-mouse game with Higgins (Cliff Robertson), deputy director of the CIA's New York division. With the help of Hale, Turner abducts Higgins, who reveals Joubert's identity.

Higgins discovers that the postman who attacked Turner in Hale's apartment had collaborated with Joubert on a previous operation. That operation's mastermind, however, is revealed to be Leonard Atwood (Addison Powell), the CIA Deputy Director of Operations and Higgins' superior.

Meanwhile, using material he found on the fake postman's body, Turner learns where Joubert is staying, then uses his skills as a former telephone lineman to trace a call Joubert makes from his hotel room. He then finds the name and address of the person Joubert called: Atwood. Turner confronts Atwood at his home late at night and questions him at gunpoint. Turner learns that the report he had filed had uncovered a secret plan to take over Middle Eastern oil fields, setting in motion the deaths of all of his section's members.

Joubert surprises them, takes away Turner's pistol, and unexpectedly kills Atwood, as Atwood's superiors have hired Joubert to kill Atwood, overriding Atwood's original contract for Joubert to kill Turner. Joubert suggests that Turner leave the country, even become an assassin himself since Turner had shown such resourcefulness in staying alive. Turner rejects the suggestions, but seems to take seriously Joubert's warning that the CIA will still try to kill him. Joubert even muses aloud on how Turner's killing would likely be carried out.

Turner goes back to New York City and meets Higgins on a busy street. Higgins defends the oil fields plan, claiming that there will be a day in which oil shortages will cause a major economic crisis for the country, and that Americans will want the government to use any means necessary to obtain the oil. Turner says he has told the press "a story" (they are standing outside The New York Times office), but Higgins questions Turner's assurances that the story will be printed. After a brief dialogue, an anxious Turner walks away. The final shot is a freeze frame of Turner passing behind a Salvation Army band singing Christmas carols, while looking over his shoulder toward the camera.



Filming locations

Three Days of the Condor was filmed in various locations in New York City, New Jersey, and Washington DC, including the World Trade Center, The Ansonia, Central Park, and the National Mall.[3][4]

Critical response

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 86% of 37 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review, and the average rating was 7.1/10; the site's consensus is: "This post-Watergate thriller captures the paranoid tenor of the times, thanks to Sydney Pollack's taut direction and excellent performances from Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway."[5]

When first released, the film was reviewed positively by critic Vincent Canby, who wrote that the film "is no match for stories in your local newspaper", but it benefits from good acting and directing.[6] Variety called it a B movie that was given a big budget despite its lack of substance.[7] Roger Ebert wrote, "Three Days of the Condor is a well-made thriller, tense and involving, and the scary thing, in these months after Watergate, is that it's all too believable."[8]

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard makes mention of the film as an example of a new genre of "retro cinema" in his essay on history in the now influential book, Simulacra and Simulation (1981):

In the 'real' as in cinema, there was history but there isn't any anymore. Today, the history that is 'given back' to us (precisely because it was taken from us) has no more of a relation to a 'historical real' than neofiguration [sic] in painting does to the classical figuration of the real...All, but not only, those historical films whose very perfection is disquieting: Chinatown, Three Days of the Condor, Barry Lyndon, 1900, All the President's Men, etc. One has the impression of it being a question of perfect remakes, of extraordinary montages that emerge more from a combinatory [sic] culture (or McLuhanesque mosaic), of large photo-, kino-, historicosynthesis [sic] machines, etc., rather than one of veritable films."[9]

Some critics also described the film as a piece of political propaganda, as it was released soon after the "Family Jewels" scandal came to light in December 1974 which exposed a variety of CIA misconduct. However, in an interview with Jump Cut, Pollack explained that the film was written solely to be a spy thriller and that production on the film was nearly over by the time the Family Jewels revelations were made, so even if they had wanted to take advantage of them, it was far too late in the filmmaking process to do so. Despite both Pollack and Redford being well-known political liberals, they were only interested in making the film because an espionage thriller was a genre neither of them had previously explored.[10]

I didn't want this picture to be judged; it’s a movie. I intended it always as a movie. I never had any pretensions about the picture and it’s making me very angry that I'm getting pretensions stuck on me like tails on a donkey. If I wanted to be pretentious, I'd take the CIA seal and advertise this movie and really take advantage of the headlines. Central Intelligence Agency, United States of America, Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway. And don't think it wasn't suggested—obviously, that’s what advertising people do. We really put our foot down—Redford and I—to absolutely stop that.[10]

Awards and nominations

  • Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Film Editing, Fredric Steinkamp and Don Guidice; 1976.
  • Cartagena Film Festival: Golden India Catalina; Best Film, Sydney Pollack; 1976.
  • Golden Globe Awards: Golden Globe; Best Motion Picture Actress - Drama, Faye Dunaway; 1976.
  • Grammy Awards: Grammy; Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special, Dave Grusin; 1977.
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills; 2001[11]

Panning and scanning

In 1997, The Association of Danish Film Directors, on behalf of Pollack, sued Danmarks Radio, claiming that their broadcasting the film in a panned and scanned version violated his copyright. The case was unsuccessful, as the rights were not owned by Pollack personally in the first place. The case is believed to have been the first legal challenge to the practice of panning and scanning for broadcast on the grounds that it compromises the artistic integrity of an original film.[12]


Three Days of the Condor
File:Three DaysOST.jpg
Soundtrack album by Dave Grusin
Released August 1975
Label Capitol (1975)
DRG (2004 reissue)
Producer Neely Plumb

All music by Dave Grusin, except where noted.

  1. "Condor! (Theme from 3 Days of the Condor)" 3:35
  2. "Yellow Panic" 2:15
  3. "Flight of the Condor" 2:25
  4. "We'll Bring You Home" 2:24
  5. "Out to Lunch" 2:00
  6. "Goodbye for Kathy (Love Theme from 3 Days of the Condor)" (2:16
  7. "I've Got You Where I Want You" 3:12 (Grusin/Bahler; sung by Jim Gilstrap)
  8. "Flashback to Terror" 2:24
  9. "Sing Along with the C.I.A." 1:34
  10. "Spies of a Feather, Flocking Together (Love Theme from 3 Days of the Condor" 1:55
  11. "Silver Bells" 2:37 (Livingstone / Evans; Vocal: Marti McCall)
  12. "Medley: a) Condor! (Theme) / b) I've Got You Where I Want You" 1:57

Cultural impact

  • Joubert's musings on how Turner would be killed are reprised almost word-for-word in "The Junk Mail", episode #905 from Seinfeld. The speech is recast as a warning from Newman to Kramer about how the U.S. Postal Service will retaliate for Kramer's refusal to receive his mail.


In March 2015, Skydance Productions announced that it is planning to remake Three Days of the Condor as a television series.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Three Days of the Condor". The Numbers. Retrieved January 22, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Three Days of the Condor (1975)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Three Days of the Condor". On the Set of New York. Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  4. ^ Sydney Pollack (director) (1999). Three Days of the Condor (DVD). Los Angeles: Paramount. 
  5. ^ "Three Days of the Condor (1975)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 25, 1975). "Three Days of the Condor (1975)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 29, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Review: 'Three Days of the Condor'". Variety. 1975. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (1975). "Three Days of the Condor". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 8, 2014. 
  9. ^ Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. University of Michigan Press, 1994, p. 45. French original, Simulacres et Simulation, published by Éditions Galilée in 1981.
  10. ^ a b McGilligan, Patrick (1976). "Hollywood uncovers the CIA". Jump Cut (10–11). Retrieved December 24, 2013. 
  11. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
  12. ^ Morton Jacobsen, 'Copyright on Trial in Denmark', Image Technology, vol. 79, no. 5 (May 1997), pp. 16-20, and no. 6 (June 1997), pp. 22-24.
  13. ^ "Skydance Productions Developing 'Three Days of the Condor' Remake for TV (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 11 March 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2015. 

External links