JFK assassination triple-header! These films seem to have been made before good posters were a thing. But despite that, these are the three to watch – a movie and two documentaries, if you want to go into greater depth about the 1963 coup d’etat (state takeover) in the USA that deposed President John Kennedy and replaced him with his arch-enemy Lyndon B Johnson, in order for Johnson to reverse the policy direction of the US Government thus launching the Vietnam war from which the Johnson family stood to make $25m.
Watch them in order, as there’s an escalation of detail. ‘Executive Action’ is a lean and mean play-by-play of how the conspiracy to murder the President developed. It is a brilliant, brutal film. You have probably not heard of it because it was barely publicised, probably because it was too close to the truth! It’s a stripped-down, bare-bones version of the story that avoids explicitly bringing in LBJ or the CIA and many points are left deliberately vague or are inaccurate, but they were dealing with what they knew then in 1973 and from what they had at the time it is incredibly well done and has the feel of a docu-drama. Burt Lancaster plays a William Harvey-type figure, with crime movie legend Robert Ryan as the Allan Dulles-esque behind the scenes kingpin and Will Geer as the Murchison-style oil tycoon.
Then there’s the two docos. The world of Kennedy documentaries is a vast quagmire with an almost endless number of films purporting to reveal new secrets or show some new perspective. An exhaustive survey of them would take a lifetime. However watching these two gives you what you need to know. The first was made during the ‘second generation’ investigation, by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, that concluded that there was, after all, a conspiracy to kill Kennedy and more than one person had been involved in the shooting. Like the report, that exposed the 1964 Warren Commission as having been a whitewash (in fact to a considerable extent the Warren Commissioners were themselves the killers!) the doc is incisive and devastating in blowing the murderers’ crude deception apart.
The grand-daddy of them all though and final climax to all onscreen meditations on the Kennedy assassination is the landmark British documentary series ‘The Men Who Killed Kennedy’. This is a 9-part epic that goes into depth about a whole array of issues relating to the coup from start to finish. It is not perfect, for example it gives screen time to some witnesses that are not now considered credible such as Ed Hoffman, Beverley Oliver, Ruth Paine and Judith Baker. It also could use an update as the last episode was made in 2003 so the series does not include new evidence that has come to light in the last 20 years, in particular Howard Hunt’s bombshell confession. But this is incidental. To all intents and purposes the murder is solved in this series. (If you want to skip to the big reveal, just watch Episode 9!)
All in all this is a powerful and important body of work that chronicles an event that as one witness described it ‘nullified’ American democracy and enslaved the American people to a gang of criminals. On this day the USA became a banana republic and it will remain one until the truth is shouted from the rooftops that ‘the criminal Lyndon Johnson murdered JFK in a dirty coup d’etat for venal personal gain’.
For America ever to recover from this event, there would need to be a genuine ‘truth and reconciliation’ process (similar to the one that followed Apartheid in South Africa), that brought the truth to light and unveiled the culprits publicly and for the record. And how about a memorial in the middle of the parking lot behind the picket fence, with the names of the more than 100 Americans who were murdered by the perpetrators of the coup? Most of them were brave, upstanding and honest citizens doing their duty to their country. Indeed, one positive that comes out of this story surprisingly clearly through the many interviews and descriptions in these films is the admirable and robust character of American citizenry that was inherent in the United States and Texas populations before 1963.
The leader who achieves such feats of justice and openness will be a permanent hero of the Republic. But until then unfortunately this loathsome crime will continue to hang over the USA like a dark cloud, tarnishing everything that has followed and dishonoring every American.