Skullduggery (1970 Film)
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Skullduggery 1970 Film
Film poster
Directed byGordon Douglas
Produced bySaul David
Written byNelson Gidding
Based onLes Animaux dénaturés by Vercors
StarringBurt Reynolds
Susan Clark
Roger C. Carmel
Music byOliver Nelson
CinematographyRobert C. Moreno
Vincent Saizis
Edited byJohn Woodcock
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • March 6, 1970 (1970-03-06)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States

Skullduggery is a 1970 American science fiction film directed by Gordon Douglas, produced by Saul David, and starring Burt Reynolds, Susan Clark and Edward Fox.

The screenplay is based on the French novel Les Animaux dénaturés (1952) (variously titled in English as You Shall Know Them, Borderline, and The Murder of the Missing Link) by Jean Bruller (writing under the pseudonym "Vercors").


On an expedition in Papua New Guinea, the Tropis, a tribe of apelike creatures, are being used as slaves by humans. When one of the Tropis is allegedly murdered, the following murder trial centers round the question of whether the Tropis a form of human or animal.




The book was published in the US as You Shall Know Them in 1953. The New York Times called it a "humanely sardonic story".[1] It became a best seller.[2]

The author adapted the novel into the play Zoo, which was performed in Paris. Otto Preminger optioned the stage rights and got Nelson Gidding to adapt it under the title The Case of the Troublesome Topis.[3]

Giddings later said he showed the original novel by Jean Bruller writing as "Vercors" to Otto Preminger with the idea of making a film of the book. After they viewed a play based on the novel presented in Carcassonne, Preminger agreed but later became busy with other film projects.

Giddings ended up writing a screenplay. The rights to the novel were sold to producer Saul David after he left 20th Century Fox. It was the first film he was to make under a deal with Universal.[4]

The film was to have been the first major feature film production of ABC Pictures with the film crew planning on shooting in Papua New Guinea where an Australian Army General who Gidding had known in World War II provided extensive cooperation to the production.

One of the producers from ABC Pictures wanted to talk to David about the film at short notice as he was flying to Europe. David refused to meet him due to the medical problems of David's daughter that precluded a meeting; however, David refused to tell the producer why he would not see him. Thinking himself insulted, the producer placed the film on hold with the production of the film being purchased by Universal Pictures who insisted the film be shot in much safer and economical Jamaican locations.

Burt Reynolds agreed to star, turning down a lead role in MASH (1970) to do the film.[5][6]


Filming started 6 January 1969.[7]

On the first day of shooting David sacked his director Richard Wilson and replaced him with Gordon Douglas who directed David's In Like Flint. The termination was put down to "creative differences".[8]

After casting Burt Reynolds and Susan Clark, Karl Malden expressed interest in playing the role of Otto Krebs that the screenplay described as a fat man. David thought Malden too thin and hired an actor he thought was corpulent, Roger C. Carmel but was dismayed when Carmel arrived on location having slimmed down for the role.[9]

Producer Saul David created and named his character of Berle Tanen after then-MCA executives Berle Adams and Ned Tanen.[10]

Burt Reynolds later said the film had a "good script. The guy's a good writer, Lorenzo Semple Jr. Badly directed, kind of sloughed off. Susan Clark was good; she's a good actress. But nobody knew how to sell the picture. Any time you have Pat Suzuki dressed as a small ape, I think you're in trouble."[11]


The film was not a success.

David had a number of films in development at Universal - A Stretch on the River, Marie Beginning, Dove Creek Rodeo and The Tuck - but none were made.[12]

Further reading

See also


  1. ^ Books of The Times By CHARLES POORE. New York Times 18 June 1953: 27.
  2. ^ Best Seller List New York Times 9 Aug 1953: BR8.
  3. ^ PHOENIX JOINING BROADWAY RANKS: 74th St. Repertory Troupe Will Move Into Lyceum By SAM ZOLOTOW. New York Times 16 Mar 1965: 42.
  4. ^ 'Fool's Parade' Purchased Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 20 Aug 1968: f16.
  5. ^ New York Today: Burt Reynolds Courts Winning Record Kramer, Carol. Chicago Tribune 20 Dec 1970: n1.
  6. ^ Burt Reynolds--Beauty Is Skin-deep, but Talent Will Out Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 26 Mar 1972: o1.
  7. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Pat Suzuki Signs for Role Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 20 Dec 1968: f22.
  8. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Aldo Ray to Star in 'Mercy' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 18 Jan 1969: b9.
  9. ^ pp.69-72 Weaver, Tom Nelson Giddings Interview in I Was a Monster Movie Maker: Conversations with 22 SF and Horror Filmmakers McFarland, 16 Jun 2001
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Workaholic Burt Reynolds sets up his next task: Light comedy." Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune 28 Nov 1976: e2.
  12. ^ 'Share' on Lorimar Schedule Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 6 Oct 1969: e32.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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