Monday, July 21, 2014
"Interview with the Assassin": a riveting "fact or fiction" docudrama about a possible second gunman on the Grassy Knoll, shooting JFK
Recent documentaries about the Kennedy assassination have tended to support the “Oswald alone” theory, but I found a riveting film by Neil Burger back from 2002 on Netflix, “Interview with the Assassin”. I’m surprised I missed it at first, when I was still living in Minneapolis.
The film starts out with Ron Kobeleski (Dylan Haggerty) setting up interview in a home in Santa Barbara CA with a neighbor Walter Ohlinger (Raymond J. Barry), who will quickly say that he was the “second gunman” on the Grassy Knoll in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. He is dying of cancer and wants to talk. (This is around the year 2000, in October.) You think that this is a direct documentary film and it is a while before you become convinced that it must be acted after all.
Ron doesn’t have the press credentials of a “real reporter” and his wife chides him about getting a “real job” to support the family (sounds like Zach Braff’s character in the previous movie). But Ron takes the bait, and follows Walter around the country, tracking down a mystery figure John Seymour (Darrell Sandeen) who he says hired him in 1962 to do the assassination. He also finds Walter’s ex-wife, who gives a rather interesting perspective.
The road trip leads them first to Seymour’s son (Jack Tate), apparently in Virginia Beach (I recognize the streets), and then to Bethesda Naval Medical Center, the skyscraper across Wisconsin Ave. from NIH, where Seymour is a patient. Seymour dies while Walter “interrogates” him.
Walter has displayed some unbelievable ruses, including fake press passes, and smuggling guns on to planes (although this is pre 9/11). His history of arrests and mental illness surfaces. Nevertheless, Ron’s family gets threatening visitors and phone calls, suggesting there is something to this, that he might be on to the “real” conspiracy.
The film builds up to an encounter in Washington DC, where Walter gets Ron in to a personal appearance of the President (still Clinton), and in a complicated sequence, Ron thinks he prevents another assassination. Back home in California, Walter comes to Ron’s home, and Ron kills him in self-defense. At this point, the filmmaking has used the “Paranormal Activity” technique of using footage in home security cameras. Ron winds up being convicted of murder, and the final notes in the film make Ron’s conviction seem like part of the conspiracy.
The film can be rented on YouTube for $1.99, or from Netflix. The style reminds me of the Dateline presentation of a "snuff" case ("The Devil's Cinema") with a Canadian filmmaker, rerun recently and discussed on the TV blog Ju,y 19.