Good Guys Wear Black (1978)

PG | 96 mins | Adventure | 1978

Director:

Ted Post

Producer:

Allan F. Bodoh

Cinematographer:

Bob Steadman

Production Designer:

B. B. Neel

Production Company:

Mar Vista Productions
Full page view
HISTORY

End credits include the following acknowledgement: "And special thanks to Jonathan Harris."
       According to a 25 May 1977 LAT article, Good Guys Wear Black was originally intended as the first film in a series featuring the character “John T. Booker,” played by emerging action star and karate champion, Chuck Norris. In the article, Norris mentioned that his interpretation of the part was based on actor Clint Eastwood’s recurring film role “Dirty Harry,” fellow martial artist Bruce Lee, and the literary and motion picture character “James Bond.” Although American Cinema and their distribution arm released two more Norris action pictures, Force of One (1980, see entry) and The Octagon (1980, see entry), the role of John T. Booker was not continued as planned. The Expendables 2 (2012, see entry) referenced Norris’ early career by naming his character “Booker,” as pointed out in a 16 Aug 2012 NYT review.
       Principal photography started for Good Guys Wear Black on 25 Apr 1977, as stated in a HR news item from the same date, and was scheduled to conclude in Jun 1977. Location work was based in the Los Angeles, CA, area and at the Squaw Valley ski resort in Olympic Valley, CA.
       A 4 Jul 1979 Var article noted that the budget was $2 million and advertising costs had reached approximately $5.5 million, while a 1 Dec 1981 DV article mentioned that production expenses were $1.1 million.
       According to the 4 Jul 1979 Var article and a 6 Dec 1978 Var brief, ... More Less

End credits include the following acknowledgement: "And special thanks to Jonathan Harris."
       According to a 25 May 1977 LAT article, Good Guys Wear Black was originally intended as the first film in a series featuring the character “John T. Booker,” played by emerging action star and karate champion, Chuck Norris. In the article, Norris mentioned that his interpretation of the part was based on actor Clint Eastwood’s recurring film role “Dirty Harry,” fellow martial artist Bruce Lee, and the literary and motion picture character “James Bond.” Although American Cinema and their distribution arm released two more Norris action pictures, Force of One (1980, see entry) and The Octagon (1980, see entry), the role of John T. Booker was not continued as planned. The Expendables 2 (2012, see entry) referenced Norris’ early career by naming his character “Booker,” as pointed out in a 16 Aug 2012 NYT review.
       Principal photography started for Good Guys Wear Black on 25 Apr 1977, as stated in a HR news item from the same date, and was scheduled to conclude in Jun 1977. Location work was based in the Los Angeles, CA, area and at the Squaw Valley ski resort in Olympic Valley, CA.
       A 4 Jul 1979 Var article noted that the budget was $2 million and advertising costs had reached approximately $5.5 million, while a 1 Dec 1981 DV article mentioned that production expenses were $1.1 million.
       According to the 4 Jul 1979 Var article and a 6 Dec 1978 Var brief, the film initially opened in 1978 in regional markets, including SC, NC and OR, before breaking in Los Angeles and New York City the following year. By Jun 1979, the film had earned $13.5 million. According to a 13 Feb 1980 DV article, film rentals totaled $8 million and the newly formed distributor, American Cinema Releasing (ACR), intended to capitalize on the success and Norris’ box-office appeal to interest exhibitors in the company’s expansion toward larger production budgets and nationwide releases.
       As described in a 27 Aug 1980 DV article, writer Elliot Hayden Parker sued Norris in Los Angeles Superior Court for at least $15 million, claiming he originated the story for Good Guys Wear Black and Norris’ next film, Force of One, in a five-page treatment. According to Parker, the films were conceived after he interviewed Norris for a Mar 1977 United Airlines magazine Mainliner article titled, “Good Guys Wear Black.” Although Parker was paid $5,000 and signed a contract, he alleged that he was “deceived” by Norris into releasing rights to the characters, title, and story outline. A 19 Jul 1996 HR legal brief reported that Norris filed a lawsuit against American Cinema Group (ACG) and executive producer Michael Leone, the studio’s owner, in regards to approximately $100,000 in unpaid income from the film’s revenue. The suit claimed that ACG was ordered to issue payment as a result of a 1987 Los Angeles Superior Court ruling, but failed to do so. The outcomes of the 1980 and 1996 cases were not available in the AMPAS library production files. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
13 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
27 Aug 1980.
---
Daily Variety
1 Dec 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 1996.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 May 1977
Section G, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
23 Mar 1979
p. 19.
New York Times
30 Jun 1979
p. 11.
New York Times
16 Aug 2012.
---
Variety
6 Dec 1978.
---
Variety
28 Jun 1979
p. 22.
Variety
4 Jul 1979.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Mar Vista Productions Presentation
A Ted Post Film
A Mar Vista Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
2d asst cam
Best boy
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Addl photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Vietnam, 2nd unit photog
Vietnam, 2nd unit photog
Vietnam, 2nd unit photog
Vietnam, 2nd unit photog
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop asst
Set dresser
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff asst
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Asst to the prod
Martial arts choreog
Martial arts choreog
Prod coord
Scr supv
Crafts services
Transportation capt
Transportation coord
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Casting coord
Loc auditor
Ski apparel furnished by
STAND INS
Car stunts
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Black Tiger
Release Date:
1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 21 March 1979
New York opening: 29 June 1979
Production Date:
25 April--June 1977
Copyright Claimant:
Action One Film Partners, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
26 April 1978
Copyright Number:
PA2298
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
96
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25071
SYNOPSIS

During the 1973 Vietnam War peace negotiations between the North Vietnamese and the U.S., Undersecretary of State and chief U.S. delegate, Conrad Morgan, assisted by his deputy, Edgar Harolds, meets privately with Murray Saunders, an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Despite the risk of undermining the talks, Morgan authorizes Saunders to organize a covert rescue of U.S. intelligence agents being held as prisoners of war (POW). Morgan wants the CIA’s secret elite commando unit, the Black Tigers, to handle the mission within the next forty-eight hours. Saunders argues that staging an immediate operation is dangerous, but carries out the assignment. In Vietnam, Saunders briefs the Tigers’ leader, Major John T. Booker. However, when the unit infiltrates a POW camp at night, they are unable to locate any prisoners and are ambushed by enemy gunfire. Booker and five of his soldiers are the only Black Tigers to survive. As they hide in the jungle and radio for their helicopter, which never arrives, Booker realizes the raid was a trap. Five years later, Booker is a professor of political science in Riverside, California. One day, an attractive woman named Margaret, who claims to be a reporter from Washington D.C., attends his class and persuades him to dine with her that evening. As they drive to dinner, a tow truck pushes Booker’s sports car into an intersection. With skillful steering, Booker avoids an accident and confronts the driver, who claims that his accelerator was stuck. After the near miss, Booker and Margaret settle for cocktails at his apartment, and Margaret reveals her knowledge of the Black Tigers, the ... +


During the 1973 Vietnam War peace negotiations between the North Vietnamese and the U.S., Undersecretary of State and chief U.S. delegate, Conrad Morgan, assisted by his deputy, Edgar Harolds, meets privately with Murray Saunders, an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Despite the risk of undermining the talks, Morgan authorizes Saunders to organize a covert rescue of U.S. intelligence agents being held as prisoners of war (POW). Morgan wants the CIA’s secret elite commando unit, the Black Tigers, to handle the mission within the next forty-eight hours. Saunders argues that staging an immediate operation is dangerous, but carries out the assignment. In Vietnam, Saunders briefs the Tigers’ leader, Major John T. Booker. However, when the unit infiltrates a POW camp at night, they are unable to locate any prisoners and are ambushed by enemy gunfire. Booker and five of his soldiers are the only Black Tigers to survive. As they hide in the jungle and radio for their helicopter, which never arrives, Booker realizes the raid was a trap. Five years later, Booker is a professor of political science in Riverside, California. One day, an attractive woman named Margaret, who claims to be a reporter from Washington D.C., attends his class and persuades him to dine with her that evening. As they drive to dinner, a tow truck pushes Booker’s sports car into an intersection. With skillful steering, Booker avoids an accident and confronts the driver, who claims that his accelerator was stuck. After the near miss, Booker and Margaret settle for cocktails at his apartment, and Margaret reveals her knowledge of the Black Tigers, the failed POW mission, and how the surviving members were left stranded in the enemy jungle for weeks. However, she avoids naming her source for the classified information. While curious about Margaret’s motives, Booker declares he is no longer interested in investigating the compromised operation. The next day, Booker learns from his former associate, Saunders, who still works for the CIA, that one of the surviving Tigers, Lou Goldberg, was recently killed in a freak accident and a second Tiger, Holly Washington, is missing. Saunders reveals that Booker and the remaining Tigers are inexplicably listed in a classified CIA file as double agents and are targets for assassination. Booker sets out to warn the remaining survivors, starting with Gordie Jones, who works at the Travel Town Museum in Los Angeles, California, but soon after Booker arrives, Gordie is shot dead in front of him. Accompanied by Margaret, Booker flies to California’s Squaw Valley Resort to alert Mike Potter, who is a member of the ski patrol. That evening, Margaret and Booker share a hotel room. Although the two are attracted to each other, Booker remains skeptical of Margaret. Meanwhile, in the news, Conrad Morgan, who has become one of the country’s leading diplomats since the Vietnam peace talks, is the top candidate for Secretary of State. The next morning, Booker and Margaret take the aerial tramway to the summit, where they find Potter preparing for a ski jump. Potter agrees to meet Booker at the bottom of the slope after his run, but he is assassinated by a gunman as soon as he takes off. After a pursuit through the forest, Booker intercepts the sniper attempting to escape on a motorcycle and kills him. When he rendezvous with Margaret, Booker demands to know the real reason why she is researching the Black Tigers. She explains that she was hired, in her job as an attorney, to investigate Morgan’s background for the Senate confirmation hearings and was invited by the client to a social function where she met Edgar Harolds, an aging diplomat at the end of his career. Harolds was intoxicated and inadvertently divulged classified information about the Tigers’ last raid. He also made clear his dislike for Morgan. Although Harolds did not directly implicate his former boss, Margaret got the impression that Morgan was somehow responsible for compromising the mission. She decides to return to Washington immediately and delay the hearings. At the airport, Booker kisses Margaret goodbye and promises to meet her in Washington, but as he watches her flight depart, the plane explodes in mid-air. After Booker updates Saunders about Margaret’s investigation, the two men travel to Washington to speak with Harolds. The bitter deputy confirms that the Black Tigers were framed as part of a secret deal Morgan made with the North Vietnamese negotiator, Kuong Yen. In exchange for peace, Morgan agreed to murder the elite commandos who had been a thorn in the side of the enemy throughout the war. Now that Morgan is on the verge of accepting the nation’s highest diplomatic office, Yen is blackmailing him to complete the deal, forcing him to eliminate the remaining Tigers. To ensure his own survival, Harolds mailed registered letters, proving Morgan’s doublecross, to four lawyers, whose names were kept anonymous. In the event of Harolds’ unexpected death, the lawyers were instructed to read the letters. As Booker and Saunders leave with a copy of the document, Morgan’s henchmen attempt to seize the evidence, but Booker overpowers them with karate. At Morgan’s estate outside Washington, Booker and Saunders confront the ambitious diplomat and insist that he withdraw his nomination as Secretary of State. Although they threaten to distribute the document to the media, Morgan disregards the warning and informs them that Harolds was just admitted to a psychiatric hospital; his letter will therefore be interpreted as the writing of a “madman.” Feeling defeated by Morgan’s latest trick, the two men walk away. In front of the house, Booker recognizes Morgan’s chauffeur, Franklin, as the tow trucker driver who pushed his car into the intersection. Later, as Morgan is driven to Washington for his appointment as Secretary of State, he is surprised to find that Booker has taken Franklin’s place at the wheel. With the back seat telephone disconnected and doors locked, Morgan tries to fight, and Booker deliberately drives the car off a bridge into a harbor. He swims to shore, leaving Morgan to drown. Meanwhile, Saunders orchestrates a press release that Morgan has withdrawn as a nominee for Secretary of State and remains unavailable for comment. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.