Operación Ogro (Orgo) (1979)
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo.
Starring: Gian Maria Volonté (Izarra), José Sacristán (Chabi), Ángela Molina (Amaiur), Eusebio Poncela (Txabi), Saverio Marconi (Luque), Georges Staquet (El Albañil), Nicole Garcia (Karmele), Féodor Atkine (José María Uriarte, alias Yoseba), Estanis González (Portero), Agapito Romo (Carrero Blanco), José Manuel Cervino (Lechero), José Luis Pérez, Luis Politti (Profesor), Agustín Navarro, Fernando Chinarro (Cirujano).
clandestine Basque organization ETA plans to kill Franco successor, Admiral Carrero Blanco
Spain 1975. The funeral for the famous Spanish dictator. "Francisco Franco dies after a 40-year dictatorship. 40 years during which fascism locked up in Spanish jails over a million political prisoners and countless death sentences were passed by the Spanish courts. Now Spain takes its first steps along the path of democracy. Civil and political; rights are restored to the Spaniards with freedom of speech, the press and the vote. But two more years must pass before the last political prisoners are freed. Many of them are Basque. For 40 years the Basques have fought alongside all those who struggled for liberty because fascism was their common enemy. But the Basque problem is older and more complex. The Basque people live within Spain's geographical borders. They have their own culture, language and traditions. Above all, they are a people who claim recognition of their national identity."
Bilbao (Duzkadi) 1978. A man named Chabi climbs up a hill via a road. He is being followed by a woman. She doesn't want him to see her, at least not yet. He keeps looking around as if he knows someone is following him. He goes into his apartment building and then into his house. There is a knock at his door. Chabi pulls out a pistol and asks who is it? It's the woman following him. He opens the door and she comes in. It's his wife Amaiur. She complains that she has had no news of him in six months. Their baby girl is back home. She asks Chabi if this is where he lives? He says he lives here occasionally.
He tells his wife that many people have changed over time: "People like you who have given up fighting." Amaiur says she hasn't given up. She's just fighting in a different way. They would negotiate with the Basque opponents, while her husband refuses to meet, talk or argue with them. She adds that at one time he was like brothers with their leader Izarra. Chabi says Izarra is only interested now in isolating them. Amaiur says that Chabi has isolated himself: "People don't understand you, they're scared." Chabi snaps back that people like his wife think the Spanish Government is going to give them independence. He thinks they are traitors, even though they don't realize it.
She asks him if she can stay over night? Amaiur has missed him. She hugs him tight.
In school a teacher beats the two hands of two boy who speak in Basque rather than Spanish. He says this is a Spanish school and they may only speak Spanish here. The two boys say together: "Basque!" They repeat it 4 or 5 times and get hit with the stick each time they do. A group of Basque boys go out at night. They paint graffiti on the street walls in favor of the Basque cause. The police chase them off.
1958. The boy's religious teacher says he is leaving the school to work for Basque civil rights and liberty.
February 1973. 15 years later. A group of Basque activists or, some people would say, "terrorists", meet together. They are considering kidnapping the new prime minister, Admiral Carrero Blanco. Nine of the men are in favor of the kidnapping. And what about executing him? There are only two men in favor of execution. The plan will be to kidnap the admiral and then request to exchange him for 150 Basque political prisoners.
Chabi tells his former religious teacher that he is for execution because Carrero is responsible for a lot of death sentences. And he's sent hundreds of Basques to jail. In fact, the admiral is the very symbol of Francoism. And the admiral is the only man who can hold all of the various Francoist factions together.
Madrid. 5 days later. Four Basque commandoes arrive in Madrid at the train station. They take a taxi to where they are going to be living. There they split up into two groups to go to two different hotels. They watch as Admiral Blanco's car door is opened and he steps out on the street to go into his cathedral. The Basques are watching him. He comes to this cathedral regularly. In fact, he goes everyday and with only one bodyguard. The leader Izarra says that from now on they will be going to church everyday.
Three months later. The Basques plan to snatch the Admiral in the church. They are going to need nine comrades to do the job. Chabi is worried that there is going to be a massacre in the church and this will politically destroy the ETA (the main organization of the Basque National Liberation Movement). And with the killing of innocents, they won't permit an exchange of prisoners.
That same night in Euzkadi (Basque Country). The priest that left the school for the ETA is shot down on the street by the police while he was trying to get away from them. While walking on the streets of Madrid, the Basque team hears that the notorious Basque terrorist Jose Maria Aguirre was killed in Bilbao.
Amaiur and the baby come to Madrid to be with Chabi. He's happy to see them. They hop into one of the cars owned by the movement. Chabi slowly drives by the Children's Clothes store. He says this is where Amaiur will work. Amaiur recognizes one of the workers. It's Carmen. Chabi drives to the end of the block and then tells her that she can hop out here and walk back to the store. Amaiur asks isn't there some way of them being together in the same apartment. Chabi says no. She doesn't like it, but she follows the rules.
Chabi and Izarra practice in another car to measure the time it will take to get out of Madrid before the road blocks will be put up. Izarra figures that the first roadblocks will be set up in about 8 minutes.
Over the police channel the talk is of the labor strikes. Some university students have joined with the laborers on strike. "Search out and arrest all known suspects." Chabi goes down to the building construction sights to take a closer look at the strike. He finds a place where work is still going on. He stops his car to watch what's going on. He sees four striking laborers come over to the site. The leader calls on the workers to join the strike. Fight against starvation wages and for trade union freedom! The workers are listening to them, but then they stop and shout that the police are coming. The four activists start running away. The police block the workers in and start hammering the workers with their batons. The leader kicks the policeman hitting him in the balls and that takes him out. He starts running past Chabi's car and Chabi yells at him to get in. The leader does get it. He has Chabi drop him off near a church. Chabi decides to follow the leader on foot. He follows the leader to the church. The men are in a meeting dealing with the strike.
Izarra and Chabi drop off a box at the Children's Clothing Store. Izarra takes Chabi down to the basement. He says that they found out that one can hears noises from their neighbors on both sides of the basement. So, if they are going to keep the Admiral here, they need to sound-proof the basement. Chabi says he knows where to find a builder who will sound-proof the basement. The man is one of the strike organizers. Izarra wants to know how Chabi know this man? Chabi says he followed him from the strike site. He admits that was a mistake, but at least they got a builder.
Chabi talks with the strike leader again. The builder says he's just afraid to take part in something illegal. Chabi says: "Whatever's against fascism, can't be wrong." The leader says: "I think you people are wrong." He doesn't support kidnappings, bombings and killings. Now Chabi breaks another rule. He tells the leader that they need the sound-proofing in order to get Carrero Blanco. The laborer is shocked: "Jesus! You tell me, a perfect stranger, a thing like that!"
Nevertheless, the labor leader shows up at the clothing store with his small three-wheeled truck. He goes inside the shop and talks with Amaiur about the job.
Izarra sees the Admiral in church in his full dress uniform. On the radio, the news is that Franco today nominated Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco as prime minister. Izarra observes that Carrero now will have a lot more bodyguards and escort cars. Their old plan now is obsolete.
November 3,1973. The ETA leaders unanimously vote to eliminate Admiral Carrero Blanco.
A new plan is put into effect. One of the Basque team pretends he is a sculptor. He is building a sculptor's studio in the basemen of a hotel not far from the Admiral's hotel. He has a moving crew bring in quite a few statues. After everyone leaves, he pulls the door tightly shut to his "studio". He takes out a piece of chalk and draws a big circle on the wall below a window. He then starts tearing into the wall with a pick axe.
Chabi's wife is transporting dynamite for the cause. She will bring the dynamite from Bilbao to the sculptor's studio
A little girl in a cafe picking up some milk asks Izarra if he's Basque? He says yes, but how die she know? It's probably the accent. She says she's always so happy when she meets people from her country.
Icar is late coming home to the group. The team wonders if something went wrong and Icar was picked up. Izarra goes out with a weapon to check on him. Icar is walking toward him. He says that there's a smell of gas in the studio. There must be a gas leak somewhere. He's late because he waited till dark to open a window to let some fresh air in. He says he has only dug a meter and a half. There was over half a meter of concrete. Izarra says that they are all going to have to work on digging the tunnel out to the middle of the street.
They all go to the basement studio. One or two men fill the dirt into sacks, one man digs in the tunnel and one man brings the dirt out of the tunnel. The manager comes around and asks Icar if he smells something unpleasant down here? Icar says yes. The manager then says his wife says it's gas. But it could still be the rotting of vaults full of skeletons from the old days.
The men experience a cave-in, but they pull the digger, Luque, out in time to save him. Luque says a truck ran over the top of the tunnel just before the cave-in happened. So they double-park one of the cars on the street just above the tunnel and this makes all the cars and trucks go around the car, forcing them into the left lane.
Amaiur comes to the area and flashes her car lights. Icar motions for her to come up. She drives next to the hotel door and takes the suitcases with the dynamite into the studio.
Bilbao 1978. Amaiur says to her husband that she is worried that a drastic action by the Basques might bring fascism back to Spain. Chabi gets a call and he has to go out. He and another man follow two policemen and shoot the police in the back. One of the policemen fires back at Chabi and hits him with a couple of bullets and Chabi goes down. An ambulance takes Chabi to the hospital. Amaiur, looking so sad, is at the hospital waiting to see her husband. Izarra arrives at the hospital. He has to get by the police, but he has some type of paper with him that gets him inside. He sees Amaiur and she cries to him that Chabi is doing very poorly.
Madrid. December 20, 1973. Today the commandoes are going to hook up the wiring for the detonator to explode the dynamite. They will test the light bulb to make sure the electricity hook up is working properly. Five seconds later, they switch it off. Icar will then connect the detonator, then go to the church. Chabi works on setting up the electrical wiring going around the front of the building. He gets some help from Izarra. Luque stands lookout down on the corner. The woman from the Children's Clothing Store drives up with the getaway car and parks. She has a pistol with her. She's definitely nervous. She is soon joined in the car by Amaiur with her baby.
The switch is tested, the light bulb lights and then is turned off. Icar connects the detonator to the dynamite. There are four stacks of dynamite each. This is going to be one powerful explosion.
The Admiral goes into the church accompanied by at least three body guards. Icar arrives in the church. 14 minutes to go. Icar gives the signal that the Admiral has left the church. Icar then gives a second signal. The Admiral's car is coming up the road and the men wait for it. They detonate the dynamite when the car is right over the dynamite. The explosion is so huge that it blows the car way up into the air and onto the roof of an apartment building. The wreck of a car falls off the roof on the other side of the building. No one could survive that powerful of a bomb. Icar, Izarra, Chabi and Luque jump into the getaway car. And off they go. They are pretending to be going on a vacation with suitcases packed on top of the car.
They listen to the police radio. They report an explosion in Calle Velasquez. Then they mention Claudio Coello. Claudio Coello is on the Prime Minister's route. They assume that the explosion was caused by a gas leak. As of yet, the police don't know that the Prime Minister was killed in the blast. After awhile, they notice the electrical wiring and begin to think the explosion may have come from a bomb. The bomb team is almost out of the city. Now the police are told to set up checkpoints on all roads out of the city.
On an isolated road in the countryside two men with a truck wait for the arrival of the getaway car. When the car arrives, the four men hop out of the car and rush over to the back of the truck filled with cut logs. The bottom half, however, is empty with only a false front made to look like the top half of the load where the real logs are at. The two truckers remove the false fronts and the four men dive into the opening. Then the false fronts are put back in place. The car takes off and then the truck takes off.
Bilbao 1978. The three commandoes are now at the hospital bedside of Chabi. Amaiur is there. Chabi is having doubts of whether or not his tactical preferences were the ones he should have followed. Chabi dies.
Good movie. It reminds me of Mission Impossible with its close concentration on the planning, plotting and then lots of details on how the plan is carried out. If you like that TV series/movies, you will probably like this film. There is quite a bit of suspense as there is always the possibility of the discovery of the plot. The ensemble cast was good.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
The Basque Country is the home of the Basque people in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast. It comprises the Autonomous Communities of the Basque Country and Navarre in Spain and the Northern Basque Country in France. The Basques originated from the people or culture that occupied Europe before the spread of Indo-European languages there. They are thought to be a remnant of the early inhabitants of Western Europe, specifically those of the Franco-Cantabrian region. This region includes the southern half of France and the northern strip of Spain looking at the Bay of Biscay. Northern Catalonia is sometimes included as part of the area.
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