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HISTORY

Prior to opening credits, the following written prologue appears onscreen, which is also read by an uncredited narrator: “Switzerland – a country internationally famous for its fine watches, its great skiing and its luxurious resorts . . . but Switzerland’s biggest industry is banking. Because Swiss banks are unique in all the world. They have secret numbered accounts and the owner’s name always held in strictest confidence. This secrecy is protected by the Swiss government. No individual, no corporation, not even the power of a government can discover the name of a depositor. For this reason, anyone with a great deal of money to hide knows that Switzerland is the safest sanctuary. Criminals, tax evaders and political agents all find Swiss banks the perfect place to conceal their dirty money and their dirty secrets. The system is considered foolproof. Or at least it was . . . ”
       As noted in a 30 Apr 1975 Var article, the film marked the feature film producing debut of Maurice Silverstein, a veteran international distribution executive. The picture was a U.S.-German co-production between Durham Productions Inc., founded by American executive producer Raymond R. Homer, and Bavaria Atelier GmbH, based in Munich, West Germany. Although not credited onscreen, Lutz Hengst is mentioned in a 28 May 1975 Var article as Homer’s German producing partner.
       The 30 Apr 1975 Var article announced that principal photography would begin 5 May 1975 in Zurich, Switzerland. Following location shooting in Switzerland, the production transferred to the Bavaria studios in Munich, as noted in an 11 Jun 1975 Var ... More Less

Prior to opening credits, the following written prologue appears onscreen, which is also read by an uncredited narrator: “Switzerland – a country internationally famous for its fine watches, its great skiing and its luxurious resorts . . . but Switzerland’s biggest industry is banking. Because Swiss banks are unique in all the world. They have secret numbered accounts and the owner’s name always held in strictest confidence. This secrecy is protected by the Swiss government. No individual, no corporation, not even the power of a government can discover the name of a depositor. For this reason, anyone with a great deal of money to hide knows that Switzerland is the safest sanctuary. Criminals, tax evaders and political agents all find Swiss banks the perfect place to conceal their dirty money and their dirty secrets. The system is considered foolproof. Or at least it was . . . ”
       As noted in a 30 Apr 1975 Var article, the film marked the feature film producing debut of Maurice Silverstein, a veteran international distribution executive. The picture was a U.S.-German co-production between Durham Productions Inc., founded by American executive producer Raymond R. Homer, and Bavaria Atelier GmbH, based in Munich, West Germany. Although not credited onscreen, Lutz Hengst is mentioned in a 28 May 1975 Var article as Homer’s German producing partner.
       The 30 Apr 1975 Var article announced that principal photography would begin 5 May 1975 in Zurich, Switzerland. Following location shooting in Switzerland, the production transferred to the Bavaria studios in Munich, as noted in an 11 Jun 1975 Var item.
       The film was initially released overseas, as indicated by a 15 May 1976 Screen International column, which reported that the film was set to open 20 May 1976 in London, England. Warner Bros., Inc. was responsible for foreign distribution, according to the 30 Apr 1975 Var article. A 14 Feb 1977 HR news item stated that S. J. International Pictures, owned by Salah Jammal, had obtained domestic distribution rights. As mentioned in briefs from the 28 Jun 1977 HR and the 6 Jul 1977 Var, the U.S. premiere engagement was scheduled at five Denver, CO, theaters beginning 31 Aug 1977, followed by distribution to other major markets on 21 Sep 1977. Although the AMPAS Index to Motion Picture Credits notes that the Los Angeles, CA, release was 3 Jan 1979, the film was not reviewed in HR, Var or LAT. As stated in the 17 Sep 1980 Var article, the picture did not play in New York City.
       In Jul 1980, Sterling Film Portfolio and Film Fund Ltd., Midwestern-based tax shelter groups involved in financing the film, filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, “calling for an accounting and money judgment” for The Swiss Conspiracy and eight other pictures produced by Homer and Silverstein. Although the case was dismissed, plaintiffs planned to re-open the lawsuit in the NY district courts. Information regarding the outcome of the litigation has not been determined. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1977.
---
Screen International
15 May 1976
p. 2.
Variety
30 Apr 1975.
---
Variety
28 May 1975.
---
Variety
11 Jun 1975
p. 38.
Variety
6 Jul 1977.
---
Variety
17 Sep 1980.
p. 5, 35.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Bavaria Atelier GmbH and Durham Productions Inc. present
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam asst
Still photog
Gaffer
Key grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop man
Prop man
COSTUMES
Cost des
SOUND
Sd eng
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
STAND INS
Stunt dir
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Swiss Conspiracy by Michael Stanley (New York, 1976).
DETAILS
Release Date:
31 August 1977
Premiere Information:
London opening: 20 May 1976
US premiere in Denver, CO: 31 August 1977
Los Angeles opening: 3 January 1979
Production Date:
began 5 May 1975 in Switzerland and West Germany
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Germany (West), Switzerland, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

The banking industry in Switzerland is famous for maintaining secret numbered accounts, offering an ideal place to hide illicit funds. Recently, however, Hurtil Bank, in Zurich, Switzerland, has received anonymous letters threatening to expose the names of depositors unless the bank pays ten million Swiss francs. Additionally, blackmail letters, asking for one million francs each, have been sent to five Hurtil account holders: Denise Abbott, an attractive European socialite; Robert Hayes, a gangster from Chicago, Illinois; Dwight McGowan, a rich, corrupt businessman from Texas; Mr. Kosta based in Amsterdam, Holland; and Mr. Rascha, an arms dealer, who was mysteriously murdered in a restaurant after receiving his letter. In an effort to avoid scandal and police involvement, bank president, Johann Hurtil, hires American David Christopher to investigate. Christopher, a former U.S. Justice Department official, runs an international consulting firm based in Geneva, Switzerland. During his initial meeting with Hurtil, Christopher is introduced to Denise, who mentions that the criminals must know she does not have a million francs, if they have access to her account. While at the bank, Christopher also encounters Hayes, who recently arrived in Zurich to confront Hurtil and vice-president Franz Benninger about the blackmail. Upon learning Christopher has been entrusted with the case, Hayes is furious since Christopher was responsible for prosecuting him and his mafia associates in the U.S. Later, Christopher is en route to meet Denise at her hotel when Hayes tries to shoot him, but Christopher defends himself and exchanges blows with the gangster. Hayes flees, just before Captain Heinz Frey of the Swiss police arrives on the scene. As manager of Zurich’s ... +


The banking industry in Switzerland is famous for maintaining secret numbered accounts, offering an ideal place to hide illicit funds. Recently, however, Hurtil Bank, in Zurich, Switzerland, has received anonymous letters threatening to expose the names of depositors unless the bank pays ten million Swiss francs. Additionally, blackmail letters, asking for one million francs each, have been sent to five Hurtil account holders: Denise Abbott, an attractive European socialite; Robert Hayes, a gangster from Chicago, Illinois; Dwight McGowan, a rich, corrupt businessman from Texas; Mr. Kosta based in Amsterdam, Holland; and Mr. Rascha, an arms dealer, who was mysteriously murdered in a restaurant after receiving his letter. In an effort to avoid scandal and police involvement, bank president, Johann Hurtil, hires American David Christopher to investigate. Christopher, a former U.S. Justice Department official, runs an international consulting firm based in Geneva, Switzerland. During his initial meeting with Hurtil, Christopher is introduced to Denise, who mentions that the criminals must know she does not have a million francs, if they have access to her account. While at the bank, Christopher also encounters Hayes, who recently arrived in Zurich to confront Hurtil and vice-president Franz Benninger about the blackmail. Upon learning Christopher has been entrusted with the case, Hayes is furious since Christopher was responsible for prosecuting him and his mafia associates in the U.S. Later, Christopher is en route to meet Denise at her hotel when Hayes tries to shoot him, but Christopher defends himself and exchanges blows with the gangster. Hayes flees, just before Captain Heinz Frey of the Swiss police arrives on the scene. As manager of Zurich’s Federal Bank Detail, Frey is curious about Christopher’s business with Hurtil, but the consultant remains guarded about the investigation. During his appointment with Denise that evening, Christopher learns that she had a love affair with Lord James Ashwood, a prominent British politician. If her Swiss account is compromised, Denise fears the romance will be exposed, causing a scandal for Ashwood and his family. Meanwhile, Robert Hayes is murdered by two assassins, and Frey and Christopher discover the body later that night. The following day Christopher’s assistant, Connie, provides background profiles on the five account holders and reports that Hurtil and Benninger appear to be clear of any wrongdoing. Next, Christopher interviews McGowan, who states that he was careful not to share his Swiss account with anyone and cannot afford another setback since the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is investigating him for tax evasion. Back at the bank, Hurtil reads Christopher the final instructions from the blackmailers. Christopher and the three remaining blackmailed clients must deliver uncut diamonds worth fifteen million francs to a location in Interlaken, Switzerland. Since the situation is more dangerous in the wake of two murders, Hurtil agrees to pay the entire ten million demanded from the bank, and the one million demanded from each of the five account holders. During the meeting, Kosta is present, and Christopher asks the Dutchman why a blackmailer would be interested in him, but Kosta does not have an answer. Later, Christopher succumbs to Denise’s charm and spends the night with her. As the investigation continues, he suspects Franz Benninger and his girl friend, Rita Jensen, might be the blackmailers, after Christopher notices the vice-president furtively handing a portfolio to Jensen outside the bank. However, Christopher and Hurtil soon learn Benninger is innocent and can only be blamed for surreptitiously helping Rita access her deceased father’s account for which she did not have documentation. With Benninger absolved, Christopher pursues another lead and informs Hurtil that he is flying out of town, but will return tomorrow, in time to comply with the blackmailer’s instructions. At the airport, Christopher discloses details about the investigation to Frey, and the policeman grants him twenty-four hours to settle the case before he alerts Swiss authorities. Arriving back in Zurich the following day, Christopher is given a bag of uncut diamonds from Hurtil, then travels to Interlaken, accompanied by Kosta, Denise, and McGowan. There, the group receives further instructions from the blackmailer to board a steam train, but McGowan says he feels unwell and must return to his hotel. After the train ride up the mountain, Christopher, Kosta, and Denise are told by the conductor to proceed to the ski lift platform where an anonymous telephone caller orders Christopher to take the diamonds to the peak while Kosta and Denise remain below, in plain sight. However, Kosta offers to deliver the ransom instead, stating that he is more valuable to the blackmailers and, therefore, less likely to be killed. Christopher consents, and Kosta departs with the diamonds. Suddenly, Christopher changes his mind and follows Kosta, while pulling Denise onto the chair lift with him. Meanwhile, Frey and his men are en route to Interlaken to provide support for Christopher. During the ride on the ski lift, Christopher confronts Denise, revealing that he flew to London, England, yesterday to interview Lord Ashwood, who disclosed that she has been blackmailing him ever since the politician ended their affair. Christopher declares that Denise’s talent as a mistress of wealthy men is the link between Kosta, McGowan, Rascha, and Hayes, and, together, the five of them organized the blackmail. He also blames her for the deaths of Hayes and Rascha. Meanwhile, McGowan does not return to Zurich and instead takes a helicopter to the top of the ski lift where he waits for the arrival of the diamonds. As soon as Kosta reaches the top, McGowan betrays his accomplice, shooting the Dutchman dead. McGowan tries to escape with the diamonds in the helicopter, but Christopher disables the tail rotor with a gunshot, then kills McGowan. After Christopher retrieves the diamonds from the snow, Denise attempts to charm him and acquire the precious stones, but he is no longer deceived by her cunning. When Denise aims a gun at him, Christopher outwits her, just as Frey arrives to apprehend the socialite. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.