Sudden Terror


1h 35m 1971

Brief Synopsis

Witnessing an assassination, a boy claims the assassins are hunting him. With his older sister, the pair escape numerous attacks and are aided by their grandfather and a resourceful young bystander even under the spectre of martial law.

Film Details

Also Known As
Eyewitness
MPAA Rating
Release Date
Mar 1971
Premiere Information
London opening: week of 3 Sep 1970
Production Company
Associated British Picture Corp., Ltd.; Irving Allen Ltd.
Distribution Company
National General Pictures Corporation
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Malta
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Eyewitness by Mark Hebden (London, 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

On a Mediterranean island, eleven-year-old Timothy "Ziggy" Armstrong-Smith lives with his Grandpa, who is a lighthouse attendant and former army colonel, his teenaged sister Pippa and their housekeeper, Madame Ribioc. Entertained by his wildly fantastical imagination, Ziggy spends a lot of his time living in daydreams of adventure, which he relates to his family as fact. Often amused by his antics and tall tales, his family puts up with Ziggy's stories, but have learned to ignore them. When the president of an African country visits the island, Pippa takes Ziggy to watch the parade held in the dignitary's honor, which is being overseen by the chief of police, Inspector Galleria. While standing along the parade route, Pippa becomes distracted by Tom Jones, a young English tourist who sees her from a distance and decides to introduce himself. Upon spotting a mysterious man deliver a package to one of the police guards, Ziggy slips away and follows him. Exploring, he finds a high vantage point from which to view the parade and inadvertently witnesses the police guard use the gun hidden inside the package to shoot at the motorcade. Although the sniper is aiming at Galleria, who is riding with the president, he instead kills the president. When chaos erupts after the murder, Pippa realizes that Ziggy is missing and Tom offers to help her find him, assuring her that "boys are always all right." Meanwhile, during his escape, the mysterious man who delivered the package kills a waiter and Ziggy becomes aware that he has been seen by the murderous policeman, Paul Grazzini, who is actually a Mafia man in disguise. Ziggy flees and is relentlessly chased through the streets by Grazzini and his brother and accomplice, Victor. Eventually, Ziggy eludes them long enough to rendezvous with Pippa and Tom. Upset, he tells them about the sniper, but Pippa, who is annoyed that he ran away from her, explains to Tom that Ziggy frequently tells dramatic stories. However, Ziggy's sincere terror at the sight of a hastily approaching car almost convinces the couple to believe him, until the driver is revealed to be a woman in a hurry. Soon after, the mysterious man meets secretly with the Grazzinis, expecting to be paid, but is instead murdered and his body thrown over the cliff. After the young people return to the lighthouse, Galleria makes a televised speech, informing the island's citizens that martial law has been declared until the killer is caught and a curfew put in place between 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Because of the curfew, Grandpa invites Tom to stay with them at the lighthouse. When Pippa tells him about Ziggy's unlikely story that a policeman killed the president, Grandpa considers it out of character for the boy, saying that Ziggy has never actually lied outright. During dinner, policemen sent to question and take account of the island citizens arrive and talk to Grandpa, but Ziggy, fearing they might be the murderers, sneaks out of the house and walks to town to visit his little friend, Anne Marie. After telling her about the murder, he asks her to go to the police station and make a report for him, as he is afraid of being found by the killer. When his family realizes that Ziggy is not in his room, Grandpa calls the police headquarters and reports him missing. At the station, Anne Marie informs the police that Ziggy saw a uniformed policeman shoot the president, but the kindly sergeant taking her report convinces her that Ziggy was probably mistaken. Although the Grazzinis have completed their mission, Paul is reluctant to leave, because he fears that Ziggy will identify him. Intent on continuing their search for the boy, they arrive at the police station and, by coincidence, are ordered to drive Anne Marie home. Chatty Anne Marie informs them that Ziggy saw the murderer, lives at the lighthouse and is waiting in her garden. When they arrive at her house, Ziggy recognizes Paul and calls out to Anne Marie that he is the murderer. Victor then shoots the girl, but Ziggy escapes. Taking refuge in a monastery, Ziggy collides with a monk, who tries to protect him when he sees Ziggy's pursuer, but the murderers shoot the monk dead and Ziggy again escapes, this time by racing through the catacombs. Eventually the Grazzinis give up, knowing that Ziggy will eventually return home to the lighthouse. Meanwhile, as the investigation proceeds, it occurs to Galleria that the nature of the killing was more indicative of a simple murder than an assassination of a dignitary and wonders if the killer shot the wrong man. When the police match up reports about the missing Ziggy with Anne Marie's story and subsequent murder, Galleria notices that the one thing that connects them to the president's death is the presence of the police and tells his lieutenant that the killer he is seeking is "the enemy within." At home, Grandpa receives a call from the police station, informing him that they are coming to discuss Ziggy's disappearance and Anne Marie's report. While they wait, Grandpa and Pippa try to guess where Ziggy might take refuge and recall a nearby establishment between the lighthouse and town owned by a man named Parker. When the Grazzinis, still in uniform, knock on the lighthouse door, the housekeeper presumes they are the police and tells them where the family believes Ziggy is hiding. The men then kill the housekeeper and drive away before anyone else sees them. After taking a headcount of everyone on the force, Galleria guesses that the killers are impersonating policemen and are connected with a previous case, which concluded with the death of a brother of two Mafia men. After the housekeeper's murder is discovered, Grandpa, Pippa and Tom drive to Parker's place, where they find the terrified Ziggy in hiding and discover that Parker has been killed. Realizing that the killers are still on the premises, Tom and Grandpa, using his army skills, prepare several Molotov cocktail bombs. After asking Tom to drive Pippa and Ziggy to safety while he creates a diversion, Grandpa plays a recording of bagpipe music and, as the younger people sneak out of the house and run to the car, throws the explosives. Grandpa injures Victor, but Paul notices the young people escaping and chases them in a police jeep. Galleria arrives, having heard the shots and explosions while on the way to the lighthouse, and kills Victor. Meanwhile, with Pippa and Ziggy huddled in the back seat, Tom races along a cliff road, but cannot break free of Paul. Their chase causes an oncoming truck to be forced off the road and into the sea. When Paul catches up, his heavier jeep easily forces the smaller car off the road to a precarious point on the cliff top, where Tom is momentarily knocked unconscious and the car flipped over. By driving the jeep back and forth, Paul pushes the smaller car closer and closer to the edge of the cliff, but before he can push it completely over, Galleria and Grandpa arrive. Galleria shoots Paul, whose car rolls over the cliff and into the sea. Some time later, at a restaurant where the family is celebrating Pippa and Tom's engagement, Ziggy claims to see a man who looks suspiciously like Hitler.

Film Details

Also Known As
Eyewitness
MPAA Rating
Release Date
Mar 1971
Premiere Information
London opening: week of 3 Sep 1970
Production Company
Associated British Picture Corp., Ltd.; Irving Allen Ltd.
Distribution Company
National General Pictures Corporation
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Malta
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Eyewitness by Mark Hebden (London, 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The British release title of this co-production was Eyewitness. Jeremy Kemp's opening onscreen credit reads: "as Inspector Galleria." Chief electrician Michael Browne's name was erroneously spelled Micheal in the opening credits. The rock group Fairfield Parlour's opening onscreen credit reads: "Music & Title Song by." After the cast's credits at the end of the film, a statement appears expressing gratitude to the people and police force of Malta, who assisted in the making of the film. According to the studio production notes, the picture was shot in thirty-three locations within Malta and its capital city, Valetta, including an eighteenth-century villa and an unused fortress.
       Although a 1970 copyright statement for Irving Allen Limited appears on the title card, the film was not registered with the copyright office until December 22, 1989 as PA-447-421. When the film was produced, production company Associated British Picture Corp. was a member of the EMI Films group; however, by the time of the film's release in the United States, the company had been subsumed by EMI Film Productions, Ltd. and was no longer a corporate entity. The production notes stated that the setting of the film was moved from Paris, the original setting of Mark Hebden's novel Eyewitness, because director John Hough and producers Irving Allen and Paul Maslansky wanted to film near water, preferably on an island. During the film, the character "Tom Jones" introduces himself to "Pippa" by making a point that he is not the famous English singer Tom Jones (1940-). The character "Inspector Galleria" makes a reference to one of the stories in the early twentieth-century mystery series by novelist G. K. Chesterton, which featured the famous priest and sleuth "Father Brown."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1970

Released in United States 1970