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The Kidnapping of the President is a 1980 Canadian-American political thriller film starring William Shatner, Hal Holbrook, Van Johnson and Ava Gardner. It was produced and directed by George Mendeluk and co-produced by John Ryan from a screenplay by Richard Murphy and Charles Templeton, based on Templeton's novel. The original music was by Nash the Slash and Paul Zaza and the cinematography by Mike Molloy. The film was made by Presidential Films and Sefel Films and distributed by Crown International Pictures.

The Kidnapping of the President
Kidnapping of the president.jpeg
Theatrical film poster
Directed byGeorge Mendeluk
Produced byGeorge Mendeluk
John Ryan
Written byRichard Murphy
Charles Templeton
StarringWilliam Shatner
Hal Holbrook
Van Johnson
Ava Gardner
Music byNash the Slash
Paul Zaza
CinematographyMike Molloy
Edited byMichael MacLaverty
Distributed byCrown International Pictures
Release date
  • 15 August 1980 (1980-08-15) (U.S.)
  • 19 September 1980 (1980-09-19) (Canada)
Running time
114 minutes
United States


During a diplomatic visit to Toronto, President Adam Scott (Hal Holbrook) was warned by Secret Service Agent Jerry O'Connor (Shatner) about a potential life threat. Ignoring his warning, the President is abducted by South American terrorist, Roberto Assanti (Miguel Fernandes), along with his female accomplice, for political pursuits and personal profits.

While held captive in an armored truck booby-trap with high explosives, ineffective bribes occurred due to the Secret Service unable to meet the terrorists' high demands - $100 million worth in diamonds along with two airplanes by the midnight deadline. With the explosives timed to detonate at midnight, Agent Shatner has to find a way into the truck to rescue the President, Vice President Ethan Richards (Van Johnson), and the Vice President's wife Beth (Ava Gardner) before it detonates.

Agent Shatner eventually gets one of Assanti's terrorist group members to turn on Assanti, which caused Assanti's sister to die. Agent Shatner learns Assanti's plan for the President and develops a plan for his own to help save the President - go through the engine and firewall with a cutting torch.[1]

Aubert Pallascio plays the Canadian Prime Minister, who is unnamed but bears a resemblance to real Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.[2]



The Kidnapping of the President was based on Charles Templeton's 1977 bestseller novel, of the same name. The film differs from the novel since the novel set the kidnapping in New York City's Herald Square, and the subsequent siege in nearby Times Square. Meanwhile, the film placed the kidnapping scene in Templeton's home city, Toronto, and the mob, chase, and explosion scenes in Nathan Phillips Square.[3] Cast members found Toronto to be a nice and interesting city with an admirable lack of condescension.

Although the novel and the film have its differences, senior feature writer at The Globe and Mail, Stephen Godfrey found "the film is as easy to 'read' as the book apparently was. The inevitable cross-cutting - from fanatical terrorists to the presidential cavalcade, and later from a nearly unflappable security man (William Shatner) in Toronto - is well handed."[3]

Critical ReceptionEdit

The film received lukewarm ratings overall. It has received a lot of talk from the New York Post and the Newark Star Ledger as well as outstanding reviews from Bergen Records and other newspaper organizations.[4]

Unlike Bergen Records and other newspapers, Janet Maslin, from The New York Times, disagreed with the reviews because she thought the plot was not fresh enough to be frightening and the characters were not brave enough to do anything new.[4]

Chris Lowry, a writer for Film Reviews, found Medneluk's directing uninspiring and Murphy's screenplay mediocre for an action movie. Lowry stated, "the film disorients and disturbs the audience at the outset"[5] since the subject of kidnapping a President isn't a funny concept in general. He expected the editing to be better as well since the readers of the novel were aware that the setting is different in the film compared to the novel.[5]

Awards and NominationsEdit

Although the film has received no awards, it has received two nominations in the 1981 Genie Awards.[6]

Best Achievement in Film Editing - Michael MacLaverty

Best Achievement in Overall Sound - Mike Hoogenboom, Douglas Ganton, and Nolan Roberts


  1. ^ The Kidnapping of the President (1980), retrieved 2018-04-03
  2. ^ "President-napping gory but enjoyable: Canadian movie skilfully made". The Globe and Mail, September 20, 1980.
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b Perozak Smindak, Helen (August 24, 1980). "Mendeluk's movie, "The Kidnapping of the President" premieres" (PDF). The Ukrainian Weekly.
  5. ^ a b Lowry, Chris (1980). "Film Reviews/George Mendeluk's The Kidnapping of the President". Cinema Canada. 0 (0). ISSN 1918-879X.
  6. ^ The Kidnapping of the President, retrieved 2018-04-01

External linksEdit