The Eliminator aka DANGER ROUTE (1967)

A lost Patrick Wymark movie in the sense his role was cut from the finished film. Meade Roberts' adaptation of Andrew Yorke's 1966 novel, The Eliminator was directed by Seth Holt and released as Danger Route in 1967. Richard Johnson plays Jonas Wilde, a government assassin who wants to quit, but is sent on a final mission from which he's not expected to return. Patrick Wymark was cast as Hartman, "a tough ex-Nazi."

Richard Johnson as Jonas Wilde.

Produced by horror film specialists, Amicus, Danger Route was a troubled production with director Seth Holt falling ill and the original cinematographer allegedly fired during production. Richard Johnson had starred in several Royal Shakespeare Company productions with Wymark, most notably The Duchess of Malfi and the original production of The Devils. Johnson had also famously turned down the role of James Bond and had recently played Bulldog Drummond in an updated movie Deadlier Than The Male (1967). The Eliminator was retitled Danger Route, and released in the UK in November 1967 by United Artists on a double-bill with the James Garner western Hour of the Gun. In the United States it was released on a double bill with the Lloyd Bridges war movie Attack on the Iron Coast.

In a May 1967 interview dealing with the early end of his stage play The Judge, Patrick Wymark revealed that he had spent a couple days at Shepperton the week before filming The Eliminator. There had been a press call at the Royal Garden Hotel on 3rd March 1967 to announce the casting of Barbara Bouchet as Mari in The Eliminator, and Diana Dors was reported as completing her scenes as Rhoda on 13th April, so it would appear that Wymark's scenes around 25th April were filmed towards the end of the production. In the novel, Hartman is the target who Wilde approaches under the cover name of Charles Vane and kills in the opening chapters . Hartman's dialogue includes the line: "it is a long time since I have enjoyed a legitimate excuse for hurting a man. Once upon a time I had a great many excuses, and I was very good at it." No stills survive from Wymark's scenes, but it's easy to imagine he looked similar to his role in The Champions episode Operation Deep Freeze which was filmed in March 1967.

As released,the entire mission has been cut from the movie. The film opens in the same manner as the novel with two conspirators meeting in a cinema to set Wilde up for betrayal. But then our first sight of Wilde is when he returns from his assassination run in Barbados.Barbara Bouchet's character later makes a joke about the name Charles Vane but since this is the first time the name is mentioned in the released movie the significance is lost. It's not clear why the Hartman scenes were cut, but it must have been quite late in the day as Patrick Wymark is billed as appearing in the movie in the Arrow Books paperback tie-in.

Danger Route was probably too downbeat to challenge James Bond. Ironically, Andrew Yorke's Eliminator series was repackaged by Pinnacle Books in the 1970's to cash in on the Executioner/Remo Williams vigilante craze, so perhaps it was just ahead of its time. As it is, another fascinating what might have been...

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