Release dateFebruary 10, 1970 (1970-02-10) NetworkAmerican Broadcasting Company CastDarren McGavin (Jacob Gallery), Broderick Crawford (Gen. Lewis Meyers), Mako (Yuro), James Whitmore (Overman), Paul Lukas (Dr. Nagy), Sam Elliott (Bryant) Similar moviesNo Exit, Gunmen from Laredo, Death Game
The Challenge is a 1970 made-for-television movie starring Darren McGavin and Mako. Director George McGowan chose to hide his involvement by using the pseudonym Alan Smithee. This was the last film appearance of Paul Lukas.
An American orbital weapons platform crashes in an uninhabited area of the Pacific. An unnamed Asian country arrives first, but US naval forces block their escape from the area. The platform would allow any country to threaten the US from space. While the US has an overwhelming advantage in force, the country is allied with China, which the US does not want to aggravate. The Chinese government does not want to enter a full-scale war, but neither do they want to lose face. They agree to settle the matter with a "surrogate" war, fought by a single representative of each country. General Meyers is opposed to the proposal as he believes US forces can crush its adversaries.
American agents track down and bring back Jacob Gallery (Darren McGavin) from a Latin American country, where he is a guide on a big game hunt. Meyers is familiar with Gallery, who was court-martialed during the Vietnam War for hunting Viet Cong sentries at night and keeping trophies of his kills. During one such unauthorized nightly expedition, his unit was wiped out while he was hunting alone. Meyers wants to send Bryant, a soldier who respects authority, but the secretary wants to send someone whose disregard for rules and procedures is more likely to produce victory.
A small tropical island is selected for the battle, its inhabitants relocated to Guam. Gallery reluctantly agrees to the assignment after demanding $1 million in advance. He is put through a training program and given a selection of weapons, including a double-barreled gun that combines an automatic rifle and a shotgun. He is warned that the greatest threat on the island is fungi, which can quickly infect any wound. A former resident of the island advises Gallery on where to find fresh water.
Gallery is sent on his way from a surfaced submarine at the same time his adversary is sent. After his first encounter with Yuro (Mako), he sets up his base inside a hidden cave. He begins polluting the water sources, forcing Yuro to the last one. When Yuro goes to the pond, Gallery ambushes him. Yuro escapes, but not before being wounded. Gallery discovers Yuro's treetop base and booby traps it with a grenade. But Yuro had set razor blades in the tree trunk, one of which cuts Gallery's leg.
On the submarine, Meyers arrives and unveils his plan to secretly send Bryant since Gallery has not been successful after four days.
In the now-abandoned village, a feverish Gallery sets traps, but Yuro gets the drop on him. Gallery barely escapes and makes his way to the beach with Yuro in pursuit. Hearing his name, he peeks around rocks to see Bryant holding Yuro at gunpoint. Bryant tells Gallery to kill Yuro and be a hero, but a disgusted Gallery shoots Bryant instead. Yuro runs off.
Making his way back to his cave, Gallery comes upon one of Yuro's countrymen, hanging dead in one of Yuro's tree snares, signaling betrayal from both countries. Resting in his cave, he hears Yuro beseeching him to forsake the treacherous country that sent a second man against the rules. Yuro offers to save Gallery from his festering wound, but is pointing his gun at the cave. Gallery empties his magazine into the greenery, killing Yuro. He takes out his transmitter to proclaim victory, but decides against it, throwing it away before succumbing to his infection.