The Domino Principle

The Domino Principle is a 1977 thriller film starring Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, Mickey Rooney and Richard Widmark. The film is based on the novel of the same name and was adapted for the screen by its author Adam Kennedy. It was directed and produced by Stanley Kramer.[2]

The Domino Principle
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStanley Kramer
Produced byStanley Kramer
Written byAdam Kennedy
StarringGene Hackman
Candice Bergen
Mickey Rooney
Richard Widmark
Music byBilly Goldenberg
CinematographyFred J. Koenekamp
Ernest Laszlo
Edited byJohn F. Burnett
Distributed byAVCO Embassy Pictures
Release date
  • March 23, 1977 (1977-03-23)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million


Roy Tucker (Gene Hackman), serving time for the murder of his wife's first husband, is approached in prison by a man named Tagge (Richard Widmark) on behalf of a mysterious organization with an offer: in exchange for helping him escape and start a new life, Tucker must work for the organization for a few weeks. Following his escape with cellmate Spiventa (Mickey Rooney), whom the organization immediately kills, Tucker flies to Puntarenas, Costa Rica where he is reunited with his wife Ellie (Candice Bergen). After a few idyllic days, the organization's Tagge, Pine (Edward Albert) and General Reser (Eli Wallach) return them to Los Angeles. There, the details of his mission slowly unfold. He realizes that he is expected to assassinate someone and refuses. The organization retaliates by kidnapping his wife.

The next morning, Tucker fires on his target from a helicopter, but it is hit by return fire and crashes. Tucker and Reser escape but Tucker takes Pine hostage and demand a plane and the return of his wife. At the airstrip, Tucker tells Tagge that he deliberately fired short. Tagge reveals that he had two other shooters in place, including Tucker's supposedly murdered cellmate Spiventa, and Tagge's group has been manipulating Tucker for over a decade. Aboard the plane with Ellie, Tucker spots someone planting a toolbox in the back of Tagge's car. Unable to get the pilot to abort takeoff, Tucker watches helplessly as Tagge is blown up with his car. The couple return to Costa Rica where Tucker sees his new life dismantled as quickly as it was assembled: his false passport destroyed, his money taken and Ellie killed. Spiventa and Pine arrive to kill Tucker, but he gets the drop on them and dumps their bodies in the ocean. The film closes with a resolute Tucker vowing not to give in, unaware he is in the crosshairs of yet another assassin.



The film opened to mostly negative reviews and lasted only two to three weeks in theaters, dooming Kramer's first attempt at directing a thriller. The review in New York Times (which wasn't full of praise for the film) focused on the fact that the movie's plot made no sense, noting at one point that when Hackman's character said "I've done a lot of bad things in my life, but I ain't going to do that" the question of "What is he not going to do?" was neither established nor answered.

According to Lew Grade, who helped finance the film, it "broke even."[3]


  1. The Domino Principle company credits at The New York Times
  2. Variety film review; March 23, 1977
  3. Alexander Walker, National Heroes: British Cinema in the Seventies and Eighties, 1985 p 197
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