Sunburn (1979)

PG | 100 mins | Comedy | 10 August 1979

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HISTORY


       End credits also note that the picture was: "Filmed entirely on location in Mexico."
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, producer and screenwriter John Daly, chairman of the British-based production company Hemdale Leisure Corporation, was responsible for optioning the 1970 crime novel The Bind by Stanley Ellin, introducing a comedic tone into the story, and reimagining the setting from Florida to Acapulco, Mexico. The production visited the following Acapulco locations: the bullfighting arena known as the Plaza del Toros, San Diego Fort, Acapulco Bay, and the Las Brisas resort hotel, where “Jake” and “Ellie’s” waterfront villa was shot.
       In a 24 May 1978 HR article, production costs were estimated at $5 million. According to a 14 Feb 1979 LAT article, the project was funded by Hemdale and United Artists Theater Corp., a prominent U.S. exhibitor.
       A 5 Sep 1978 HR brief stated that principal photography was scheduled to begin 11 Sep 1978 in Acapulco, and production notes mentioned that the filmmakers intentionally scheduled filming during the fall rainy season to avoid the tourist crowd. A 14 Nov 1978 LAHExam article was among several sources that reported two accidents and a fatality that occurred during shooting. A matador was severely injured by a bull while filming the chase sequence through the bullfighting arena, and actress Farrah Fawcett-Majors suffered a mishap with her SCUBA diving equipment during an underwater scene and struggled to breathe until reaching shore. Additionally, a security guard employed by the production was murdered while off-duty. A 6 Dec 1978 Var article mentioned that filming completed 30 ... More Less


       End credits also note that the picture was: "Filmed entirely on location in Mexico."
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, producer and screenwriter John Daly, chairman of the British-based production company Hemdale Leisure Corporation, was responsible for optioning the 1970 crime novel The Bind by Stanley Ellin, introducing a comedic tone into the story, and reimagining the setting from Florida to Acapulco, Mexico. The production visited the following Acapulco locations: the bullfighting arena known as the Plaza del Toros, San Diego Fort, Acapulco Bay, and the Las Brisas resort hotel, where “Jake” and “Ellie’s” waterfront villa was shot.
       In a 24 May 1978 HR article, production costs were estimated at $5 million. According to a 14 Feb 1979 LAT article, the project was funded by Hemdale and United Artists Theater Corp., a prominent U.S. exhibitor.
       A 5 Sep 1978 HR brief stated that principal photography was scheduled to begin 11 Sep 1978 in Acapulco, and production notes mentioned that the filmmakers intentionally scheduled filming during the fall rainy season to avoid the tourist crowd. A 14 Nov 1978 LAHExam article was among several sources that reported two accidents and a fatality that occurred during shooting. A matador was severely injured by a bull while filming the chase sequence through the bullfighting arena, and actress Farrah Fawcett-Majors suffered a mishap with her SCUBA diving equipment during an underwater scene and struggled to breathe until reaching shore. Additionally, a security guard employed by the production was murdered while off-duty. A 6 Dec 1978 Var article mentioned that filming completed 30 Nov 1978.
       Fawcett-Majors, a glamorous television personality and magazine cover model at the time, who was attempting to transfer her celebrity onscreen, attracted a large international press contingent to Acapulco, estimated at seventy media personnel in the 5 Sep 1978 HR brief. Amid the fame, Fawcett-Majors was also experiencing a “‘backlash period,’” as described by the actress in a 3 Aug 1979 LAT column, following litigation and fallout over her departure from the hit television series, Charlie’s Angels (ABC, 22 Sep 1976-19 Aug 1981). Meanwhile, Hollywood studios remained skeptical about her potential as a film star since the box-office failure of her first starring feature, Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978, see entry).
       Fawcett-Majors received a “top star” salary of $750,000 for Sunburn, according to a 16 Jul 1979 DV article. On the strength of her international celebrity status, the film earned nearly $10 million in advances from theatrical, network television, syndication, and cable rights, leaving the picture in good shape to make a profit. The article noted, however, that these pre-sales figures and salary would decline for future projects if the film performed poorly. A 14 Nov 1978 LAT article stated that Sunburn “has to succeed if her career in movies is to be as successful as her career on magazine covers.”
       Fawcett-Majors’ popularity did not draw audiences to the theater, and the picture earned less than one million in film rentals, as reported in a 27 Apr 1980 LAT article, which included Sunburn on its “Big Thuds of 1979” list. The actress’ manager, Jay Bernstein, who is credited as executive producer on the film, was fired in the wake of this career downturn. In a 27 Jan 1980 LAT article, Bernstein blamed the film’s failure on allowing Fawcett-Majors to “carry a picture alone,” as well as the lack of project options following the Charlie’s Angels controversy. Furthermore, the article speculated that the actress’ separation from husband and television star, Lee Majors, which made headlines during the publicity tour, pulled attention away from the picture. Others, such as film critic Roger Ebert, noted that the public often took exception to television personalities who tried to launch film careers.
       The 10 Aug 1979 NYT review commented that Fawcett-Majors’ television stardom could translate onscreen, but characterized Sunburn as “counterproductive,” by “starting out as a vehicle for the leading lady and then losing her in a web of trumped-up intrigue.” Other critics also blamed the picture’s failure on “hesitant and erratic” storytelling, as described in the 10 Aug 1979 LAT review, while often leaving praise for, what the 8 Aug 1979 Var critic called, the “delightful scene stealing” of Charles Grodin and Art Carney.
      Music listed in end credits is preceded by the following statement: "The producers wish to thank the following artistes [sic] and record companies for their contribution."

              End credits include the acknowledgements: "The producers wish to thank the following for their help and cooperation: Teddy Stauffer and Miguel Torres for allowing us to film at the D.B.Q. and Carlos, Tollo and Tony Rullan for allowing us to film at the "Le Jardin" and for their invaluable assistance in making this film;" and "Datsun cars were courtesy of Nissan Motors; Motorcycles courtesy of Kawasaki and Telephones courtesy of Design Line Phones by the Bell System." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Oct 1978.
---
Daily Variety
16 Jul 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 1978
p. 1, 5.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1979.
---
LAHExam
14 Nov 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Nov 1978
Section F, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
14 Feb 1979
Section G, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
3 Aug 1979
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
10 Aug 1979
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jan 1980
Section M, p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times
27 Apr 1980
Section O, p. 6.
New York Times
10 Aug 1979
p. 16.
Variety
6 Dec 1978.
---
Variety
8 Aug 1979
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Hemdale and Bind Films Inc. present
A Tuesday Films Production
A Richard C. Sarafian Film
in association with Philip A. Waxman
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Underwater seq filmed by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Ward des by
MUSIC
Mus comp and arr by
SOUND
Dubbing mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Farrah Fawcett-Majors makeup by
Hairstylist
Public relations consultant
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod accountant
Prod coord
Scr supv
Asst accountant
Loc equip supplied by
Transportation
Unit pub
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Addl car stunts
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Col by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Bind by Stanley Ellin (New York, 1970).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"With A Little Luck," written by Paul James McCartney, performed by Wings, courtesy of MPL Communications Inc.
"Sunburn," music and lyrics by Graham Gouldman
"I Don't Want To Lose You," written by Steve Glen, Michael Burns, David Most, performed by Kandidate, courtesy of RAK Records
+
SONGS
"With A Little Luck," written by Paul James McCartney, performed by Wings, courtesy of MPL Communications Inc.
"Sunburn," music and lyrics by Graham Gouldman
"I Don't Want To Lose You," written by Steve Glen, Michael Burns, David Most, performed by Kandidate, courtesy of RAK Records
"Things We Do For Love," written by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, performed by 10cc, courtesy of Phonogram
"I'm Mandy Fly Me," written by Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart and Kevin Godley, performed by 10cc, courtesy of Phonogram
"One Night Tan," written by Rodney L. Temperton, performed by Heatwave, courtesy of GTO Records/EPIC Records
"This Night We Fell," written by Rodney L. Temperton, performed by Heatwave, courtesy of GTO Records/EPIC Records
Tracks from "Wuthering Heights," album by John Ferrara, courtesy of Midsong International Records Inc.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Bind
Release Date:
10 August 1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 10 August 1979
Production Date:
11 September--30 November 1978 in Acapulco, Mexico
Copyright Claimant:
Hemdale Leisure Corporation & Bind Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 October 1979
Copyright Number:
PA47281
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Acapulco, Mexico, local resident and wealthy American businessman, Walter Thoren, is mysteriously killed in a car wreck. Several weeks later, the board of directors at a New York-based insurance company meets to discuss Thoren’s policy. Since the police and coroner confirmed the death as accidental, the insurance company is obligated to pay a $5 million claim to Thoren’s widow. Before proceeding, however, company executive, Mark Elmes, insists on hiring renegade investigator, Jake Dekker, to explore the possibility of insurance fraud. In preparation to work undercover in Acapulco, Jake calls a modeling agency about employing a woman to pose as his wife, and the secretary assigns him the beautiful Ellie Morgan. Upon arrival in Mexico, Jake pretends to be a successful writer, and he and Ellie rent a luxurious villa next door to the Thoren family residence. That evening, the duo is invited to a party at the neighboring home of Fons Ortega, who was Thoren’s best friend and attorney. Dressed in a sexy gown, Ellie makes an impression, especially with Karl, Thoren’s son, who is well known in Acapulco as a playboy. During the party, Jake and Ellie are also introduced to Joanna, Thoren’s daughter. The following day, Jake convinces a reluctant Ellie to help plant surveillance devices at the Thoren residence. While lounging by the swimming pool with Karl and Joanna, she finds an opportunity to rig the telephone inside the house. During the visit, Joanna mentions a letter her father wrote on his sailboat before he died, but Karl interrupts the conversation before Ellie can learn more. Meanwhile, in town, Jake meets with acquaintance ... +


In Acapulco, Mexico, local resident and wealthy American businessman, Walter Thoren, is mysteriously killed in a car wreck. Several weeks later, the board of directors at a New York-based insurance company meets to discuss Thoren’s policy. Since the police and coroner confirmed the death as accidental, the insurance company is obligated to pay a $5 million claim to Thoren’s widow. Before proceeding, however, company executive, Mark Elmes, insists on hiring renegade investigator, Jake Dekker, to explore the possibility of insurance fraud. In preparation to work undercover in Acapulco, Jake calls a modeling agency about employing a woman to pose as his wife, and the secretary assigns him the beautiful Ellie Morgan. Upon arrival in Mexico, Jake pretends to be a successful writer, and he and Ellie rent a luxurious villa next door to the Thoren family residence. That evening, the duo is invited to a party at the neighboring home of Fons Ortega, who was Thoren’s best friend and attorney. Dressed in a sexy gown, Ellie makes an impression, especially with Karl, Thoren’s son, who is well known in Acapulco as a playboy. During the party, Jake and Ellie are also introduced to Joanna, Thoren’s daughter. The following day, Jake convinces a reluctant Ellie to help plant surveillance devices at the Thoren residence. While lounging by the swimming pool with Karl and Joanna, she finds an opportunity to rig the telephone inside the house. During the visit, Joanna mentions a letter her father wrote on his sailboat before he died, but Karl interrupts the conversation before Ellie can learn more. Meanwhile, in town, Jake meets with acquaintance Al Marcus, a veteran investigator residing in Acapulco, and hires him for the case. Through an informant at the local bank, Al has already discovered that Thoren was withdrawing large amounts of money for the last two years and even sold businesses to maintain his cash flow. Jake speculates that Thoren was being blackmailed. Back at the house, Ellie updates Jake on her progress with the surveillance and mentions the letter. While Jake is impressed with Ellie’s detective skills, he is also attracted to her, but resists mixing business and romance. That evening, Jake sneaks into the Ortega house and finds documents proving that Thoren was being blackmailed. Since the fatal accident, Mrs. Thoren has become the target of extortion. Jake tells Ellie that he is on the verge of solving the case and proving Thoren’s policy invalid, which means the insurance company will pay him a percentage of the claim, amounting to $500,000. The following day, Al informs Jake that Ortega and Thoren frequented the Villa del Mar sauna, which was recently purchased by the mafia. According to Al’s source, Ortega and Thoren stopped visiting after their regular masseur was replaced by a man named Dobbs. While Jake leaves to investigate the sauna, Ellie decides to take a SCUBA diving lesson. As the instructor leads the group on a dive, she swims to the Thoren sailboat to search for the letter Joanna mentioned. While underwater, she is attacked by a thug named Kunz from the local mafia, and almost drowns until the SCUBA instructor rescues her. After the incident, Al warns Jake that the undercover operation has been exposed and suggests Ellie fly home. That evening, Jake treats Ellie to a romantic dinner and buys her a large teddy bear. Elsewhere, Al visits Dobbs’ home and finds the masseur murdered in the bathtub. In the living room, he stumbles upon newspaper clippings revealing that Thoren was a former Nazi undercover agent whose real name was Heinrich Stressman. After Stressman was caught spying in the U.S. and jailed, he murdered a prison guard named Dobbs in Florida and escaped to Mexico, where he created a new life. When Al shares the information with Ellie and Jake, the trio surmises that the masseur, Dobbs, was somehow related to the guard. After discovering Thoren’s true identity, he must have alerted the mafia at Villa del Mar, who began blackmailing the German. Meanwhile, at the Thoren home, Frank Gela, the local mafia chief in Acapulco, threatens Mrs. Thoren with additional extortion. She, however, warns Gela that her husband wrote a suicide note in which he named Gela and his associates as the blackmailers. Gela advises her to burn the letter and leaves. Later that night, Jake arrives at the Thoren house and discloses to the family that he is an insurance investigator; however, Karl says he was not fooled by Jake’s cover. Jake encourages the Thorens to trust him and hand over the suicide letter, while reminding them that the blackmailers are ruthless killers. The family, however, is unwilling to cooperate, and Jake leaves. Back at the villa, Jake and Ellie take shelter and survive a shotgun assault from Gela’s hooligans. Afterward, Jake apologizes to Ellie for putting her life in danger and insists she return home tomorrow. The couple kisses and spends the night together. After a tearful goodbye in the morning, Ellie drives to the airport, accompanied by Al. On the way, Gela’s men ambush them, and a chase through the streets of Acapulco ensues, until Ellie’s car is eventually cornered. The hooligans knock Al to the ground and kidnap Ellie. Meanwhile, Karl arrives at the villa looking for Jake. To keep Gela from finding his father’s suicide note, Karl hides the document in the head of Ellie’s teddy bear, which was torn apart by bullets during the gunshot assault. Later, Karl arranges to meet Jake at a church, but he is murdered by Gela’s men before Jake arrives. Returning to the villa, Jake receives a telephone call from Gela instructing him to deliver the Thoren letter and the Ortega documents in exchange for Ellie’s release. Instead, Jake and Al plan to infiltrate the warehouse hideout where Gela is keeping Ellie. Parasailing to the location, they access the building through the roof, but the hooligans hear the intrusion and attempt to shoot the investigators. As Jake and Al fend off the attack, they pounce on Gela and rescue Ellie. Later, at the villa, Jake, Ellie, and Al meet Crawford, a representative of the insurance company, who informs Jake that the firm is under no obligation to pay him the percentage of the claim, since Jake did not prove that the claim was invalid. When Al accidently knocks the teddy bear’s head, the hidden suicide letter surfaces, providing the necessary evidence to void Thoren’s policy. After Jake tells Crawford that the insurance company owes him $500,000, he, Ellie and Al celebrate their newfound wealth. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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