The Internecine Project

The Internecine Project is a 1974 British espionage thriller film written by Mort W. Elkind, Barry Levinson, and Jonathan Lynn, directed by Ken Hughes and starring James Coburn and Lee Grant. Set in London in the early 1970s, it tells the story of former secret agent Robert Elliot who is being promoted to a government advisor. To eliminate any ties to his past, Elliot devises and carries out a clever plan in which his four former associates will unwittingly kill each other on the same night.

The Internecine Project
Directed byKen Hughes
Produced byBarry Levinson
Andrew Donally
Written byMort W. Elkind
Barry Levinson
Jonathan Lynn
StarringJames Coburn
Lee Grant
Harry Andrews
Ian Hendry
Michael Jayston
Music byRoy Budd
CinematographyGeoffrey Unsworth
Edited byJohn Shirley
Distributed byAllied Artists (US)
Release date
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Elliot's four associates are:

  • Alex Hellman: A civil servant who has fed Elliot government information.
  • Bert: A masseur who has also given Elliot information from his industrialist clients
  • Christina: A high-class prostitute who has given Elliot information from her clients.
  • David Baker: A research scientist who appears to have benefited from Elliot's fund in producing a weapon which uses sound to kill.

The intricate plot is broadly summarised as follows: Christina plants David Baker's own device in his home on a timer. When Baker returns, it goes off before he can stop it - apparently looking like an accident. Earlier in the evening, Baker had substituted Alex Hellman's insulin (Hellman being diabetic) with a lethal dose. Hellman, the last to die, has previously savagely murdered Bert with a hammer, this after Bert has strangled Christina in the shower after her return from Baker's home. With Bert, Christina and Baker all dead - Alex returns home in a state (having never murdered anyone before) and takes his lethal substituted medication. He dies slowly.

In the film's final scene, Elliot is leaving the country - having apparently cleared his dirty past clean away by disposing of his associates. Shortly before leaving his house, he has received a package through the mail. The package contains a notebook. The pages of the notebook contain a message written to Elliot from scientist David Baker. The message informs Elliott that Baker had never really trusted him - and that this package was only to be sent to Elliot in the event of Baker's death (which has just happened). The pages of the notebook have been saturated with a poison Baker had been working on. The poison is absorbed through the skin. The final scene shows Elliot's lifeless body slumped over.


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