Lance The (OMG!) Obscure Movie Guy
As the saying goes, “There are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth.” In this instance, we’re going to be taking an obscure journey on a tale that has at least three sides — a film, a book, and a reality. And since you heard that keyword OBSCURE, then you know it’s got to be me, Lance the Obscure Movie Guy, filling in for the Beard once more.
Alas I’m not even sure where to start this journey though, as it has many layers. But I suppose we’ll start with a reality. Operation Wrath of God was a covert operation carried out by Mossad, the Israeli national intelligence agency, to assassinate the individuals involved in the 1972 killings of 11 Olympic team members during the Summer Olympics of that year.
The individuals that were targeted were a part of a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September. It was never specified as to what Black September’s reasoning was behind the attack, but they dubbed their attack as Operation Iqrit and Biram. Not coincidentally, those are the names of two Palestinian villages that were expelled by Israeli Defense Forces during the Arab / Israeli war in 1948. So that’s a lot to unpack just as a basic synopsis and back drop.
Fast forward to 1984 and you find the written version of this story in the book simply titled Vengeance. Vengeance was written by author George Jonas and has been printed in 21 editions in 13 languages. The source of the book was also the main character, Yuval Aviv, simply known in the book as Avner.
Yuval claimed he was a former Mossad agent who was involved in Operation Wrath of God. Jonas was commissioned by two publishing houses based in Toronto, Lester & Orpen Dennys, and Collins Canada Ltd to do the research and write the book.
It became so popular that in 1986 the book would be turned into a made for tv
movie titled Sword of Gideon. Sword of Gideon was a Canadian made for tv movie/miniseries that aired as four one-hour episodes on the CTV Television Network, and later on HBO in the US.
Jonas met with Yuval in 1981. He claims he spent more than 2 years and over $30K of the publisher’s money doing research in Israel and other parts of Europe. The book would go on to be a huge financial success and become a bestseller. It garnered more than $500K in advanced foreign sales alone.
The movie starred Steven Bauer (Scarface, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) and Michael York (Logan’s Run, Austin Powers Trilogy). Sword of Gideon got mixed reviews, not because of the acting or production, but mainly the source material. It was calling into question the legitimacy of Yuval Aviv’s claims that he was a part of Mossad or if he was even involved directly with Operation Wrath of God.
Now Jonas’ research was good, and he always believed that Yuval was involved, but
it wouldn’t be until later that we would get clarification on Yuval. In the 2011 book titled, The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks, it is claimed that Steven Spielberg vetted Yuval as
part of the pre-production process on his movie Munich, which came out in 2005.
Spielberg had assembled a group of researchers and, through his connections at the White House and a Middle East Diplomat, came to the conclusion that, “His real name was Juval Aviv. Furthermore, Spielberg’s brain trust discovered FBI files proving that he and his team were not fictitious.”
It’s here that we come full circle on operation Wrath of God. The final rendition of the tale is Spielberg’s movie simply titled Munich. Munich came out in 2005. It was produced and directed by Spielberg. It was written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth.
It starred Eric Bana (Black Hawk Down, Hulk, Troy) Daniel Craig (James Bond) and Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of The Caribbean). It was nominated for 5 Academy
Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Score. The Film Score was composed and conducted by John Williams (Star Wars, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter).
It had all the makings of a film with epic proportions. In 2017 the New York
Times ranked it the 16th best film of the 21st century so far. It grossed $131 million at the box office worldwide on a $70 million budget. However here in the states it only made $47 million making it Spielberg’s lowest grossing film domestically to date.
Not much is remembered from the 1972 Summer Olympics other than the Munich Massacre. In 2016, two days prior to the start of that year’s Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee honored those that had fallen during the massacre.
In 2020 there was a moment of silence observed during the opening
ceremonies for the Summer Olympics. Whatever you want to call it though, Operation Wrath of God, The Munich Massacre, Sword of Gideon, or simply Vengeance, one thing is for sure. It’s a classic case of fact being stranger than fiction, where the story almost seems too fantastical to be true, but sadly this one is.