The Hoax


1h 25m 1972

Brief Synopsis

Two scuba divers find a hydrogen bomb in the ocean that was accidentally dropped there. They decide to capitalize on their discovery by threatening to wipe out Los Angeles unless everyone in the city deposits one dollar into their Swiss bank account.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jan 1972
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Centurion Productions, Inc.; Tempo Enterprises
Distribution Company
All-Scope International
Country
United States
Location
Malibu, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m

Synopsis

In Los Angeles, prankster and sometime writer Cy McCarten leaves his sleeping girl friend, Gracie, after painting her face with lipstick, and drives his makeshift mail truck to the apartment of his best friend, Clete Dempsey. Clete, an airplane company engineer, joins Cy for a weekend scuba dive at a beach called Bluff Cove. There, they ignore the Coast Guard planes circling nearby, and when Cy stubs his toe in the shallow water, they uncover what they think is an old torpedo. Back at home, Cy is teasing Gracie when he hears a radio announcement about a hydrogen bomb lost from an Air Force jet bomber that cannot be detonated because the locking mechanism is permanently on. Cy calls Clete, who has also heard the reports, and they realize that their "torpedo" is actually a bomb. Upon returning to the cove to examine it, they discuss what to do, and although Clete wants to alert the harbor patrol, Cy quickly convinces him that they can make money by demanding one dollar from everyone in L.A. in return for a promise not to detonate the bomb. As Clete sets up a Swiss bank account to receive all the funds, Cy writes a letter to the police, mayor and newspapers outlining their demands. He purposely makes himself sound insane in the letter, hoping to frighten the populace into compliance. At low tide that night, they solder off the identification number on the bomb's tail fin. The next day, inept Sgt. Sam O'Roherty brings Cy's letter to Chief Belkins, who soon receives a call from the mayor. Belkins promises to play down the story as nonsense, but minutes later, reporters show up at the station and the tail fin arrives at the post office. Gunther and Larkin, nuclear weapons experts, are called in to identify the tail fin, which they immediately assess as genuine. Flummoxed, Belkins agrees to inform the city. Cy and Clete soon read in the newspaper that two F.B.I. agents and Belkins will fly to Switzerland to investigate the bank account. Belkins then tells the mayor that he has found fingerprints but, having no matches on file, will have to fingerprint anyone who buys a ticket or boards a plane to Switzerland. At the same time, Cy goes to the airport to buy a ticket to Geneva, but upon spotting another Swiss traveler being fingerprinted, buys tickets to Rome instead. The next day, the boys read that many of the city's residents are frightened and planning to leave, and amazed that their plan has been so successful, they plan for their new riches. Clete wants to be a sculptor, while Cy hopes to get married and have children. When Clete points out that Gracie is not very bright, Cy counters that she is pretty and a good cook. At home, Gracie is mailing her dollar, and upon hearing that Cy plans to leave town the following week with Clete, at first insists on going along, then decides she cannot leave her job. Meanwhile, Belkins and O'Roherty go to Geneva, where bank manager Mr. Kroeslinger chastises the United States for having a bomb, then informs them that they cannot access information about a bank account without a court order from the Swiss government. Back in L.A., Clete visits his mother, who is frightened about the bomb scare and notes that even with the locking mechanism, nothing man-made is foolproof. As the citizens of Los Angeles and even other cities send in money, Cy and Clete look at boats to buy. Finally the day comes that they plan to fly to Europe to retrieve their money. As they prepare to leave, Clete feels guilty about the fear they have stirred up and wonders how much money, if any, is in the account. Cy reveals he has written a confessional letter revealing the hoax, to be sent in a few days. Meanwhile, Belkins ascertains Clete's name from the Swiss account and the police race to his apartment, not realizing that the boys are on their way to the airport. Just as the landlady, Mrs. Petrucci, informs the police that Cy and Clete are going to Rome, the boys board the plane and take off. However, Belkins tells the control tower that the plane contains a bomb, and it is turned back to L.A. When Cy and Clete hear that there is a bomb threat, they freeze in terror, and then are arrested once they land at the airport. Their trial is held soon after, at which Clete, against Cy's wishes, bargains for one year of probation in return for turning over all of the money to the city for smog control. On their way back to Switzerland with Belkins to empty the account, Cy remains furious, convinced that the account bears at least $100,000. At the bank, when the account is totaled it is revealed to contain over $1.8 million. The boys board the plane home, where Clete gently informs a fuming Cy that he had another, secret account to which half of the funds were funneled. Clutching their $1.8 million check, the boys toast to their future.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Jan 1972
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Centurion Productions, Inc.; Tempo Enterprises
Distribution Company
All-Scope International
Country
United States
Location
Malibu, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although the onscreen credits list a 1971 copyright for Centurion Productions, Inc., the film was not registered for copyright. The Hoax marked the debut of Bill Ewing, who played "Cy McCarten," and the only starring role of Frank Bonner, who went on to play "Herb Tarlek" in the television series WKRP in Cincinnati. According to an undated contemporary article, writer Kevin Davis, a computer programmer, sold the script to Tempo Productions in 1970 for $5,000 and a percentage of the profits. That article stated that Davis was cast in a bit part, and a August 9, 1971 Daily Variety news item adds Gary Rist to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. As noted in the Hollywood Reporter review, the film was shot mainly on location in Malibu, CA.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1972

Released in United States 1972