Film Review: ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979)

Image result for escape from alcatraz 1979ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (USA, 1979) ****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: Paramount Pictures / The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 22 June 1979 (USA), 24 January 1980 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 October 1978 – January 1979; Running Time: 112m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Don Siegel; Writer: Richard Tuggle (based on the book by J. Campbell Bruce); Executive Producer: Robert Daley; Producer: Don Siegel; Associate Producer: Fritz Manes; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Jerry Fielding; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Marion Dougherty, Wallis Nicita; Production Designer: Allen E. Smith; Art Director: ; Set Decorator: Edward J. McDonald; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: Bub Asman, Bert Hallberg, Alan Robert Murray; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar.
       Cast: Clint Eastwood (Frank Morris), Patrick McGoohan (Warden), Roberts Blossom (Chester ‘Doc’ Dalton), Jack Thibeau (Clarence Anglin), Fred Ward (John Anglin), Paul Benjamin (English), Larry Hankin (Charley Butts), Bruce M. Fischer (Wolf), Frank Ronzio (Litmus), Fred Stuthman (Johnson), David Cryer (Wagner), Madison Arnold (Zimmerman), Blair Burrows (Fight Guard), Bob Balhatchet (Medical Technical Assistant), Matthew Locricchio (Exam Guard), Don Michaelian (Beck), Ray K. Goman (Cellblock Captain), Jason Ronard (Bobs), Ed Vasgersian (Cranston), Ron Vernan (Stone), Regina Baff (Lucy), Hank Brandt (Associate Warden), Candace Bowen (English’s Daughter), Joe Miksak (Police Sgt.), Stephen Bradley (Exam Guard), Garry Goodrow (Weston), Ross Reynolds (Helicopter Pilot), Al Dunlap (Visitors’ Guard), Denis Berkfeldt (Guard), Jim Haynie (Guard), Tony Dario (Guard), Fritz Manes (Guard), Dana Derfus (Guard), Don Cummins (Guard), Gordon Handforth (Guard), John Scanlon (Guard), Don Watters (Guard), Dan Leegant (Guard), Joe Knowland (Guard), James Collier (Guard), R.J. Ganzert (Guard), Robert Hirschfeld (Guard), Lloyd Nelson (Guard), George Orrison (Guard), Gary Warren (Guard), Joseph Whipp (Guard), Terry Wills (Guard), John Garabedian (Guard), Dale Alvarez (Inmate), Sheldon Feldner (Inmate), Danny Glover (Inmate), Carl Lumbly (Inmate), Patrick Valentino (Inmate), Gilbert Thomas Jr. (Inmate), Eugene Jackson (Inmate).
      Synopsis: Frank Morris (Eastwood), a hardened con with a history of prison breaks, is sent to serve the rest of his life sentence at Alcatraz — America’s most infamously brutal and inescapable maximum security prison. Morris quickly realizes the prison’s dehumanizing effects and clashes with its cruel warden (McGoohan). Fed up with life at Alcatraz, Morris and two convict brothers (Ward, Thibeau) meticulously plan the unthinkable: an escape from the island.
      Comment: Well-made account of a true story of the last attempt of prisoners to escape from the remote, rock-based San Francisco prison. Eastwood teams once again with director Siegel and the latter is at his efficient and effective best. Eastwood uses his screen persona to good effect in a role that allows him to stick within his confines. The tension in the relationship between the prisoners and their captors, notably McGoohan’s determined warden, is well played by a strong cast. The final escape sequence itself is impressively staged.
      Notes: Glover’s film debut. Song: “D Block Blues,” by Gilbert Thomas, Jr. Less than one year after the real-life events that are depicted in the film, the prison was shut down. The escape occurred on June 11, 1962, and the prison closed on March 21, 1963. Because the penitentiary cost much more to operate than other prisons (nearly ten dollars per prisoner per day, as opposed to three dollars per prisoner per day at Atlanta), and half a century of salt water saturation had severely eroded the buildings, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered the penitentiary closed on March 21, 1963.

Book Review – OUTLAND (1981) by Alan Dean Foster

OUTLAND (1981) ***
by Alan Dean Foster (based on a screenplay by Peter Hyams)
Paperback published by Warner Books, March 1981. 272pp.
ISBN: 0-446-95829-8

35190Blurb: Here on Io — moon of Jupiter, hell in space — men mine ore to satisfy the needs of Earth. They are hard men, loners for whom the Company provides the necessities: beds, food, drink and women for hire. Now, in apparent suicide or in frenzied madness, the men are dying… To OUTLAND comes the new U.S. Marshal O’Neil, a man with a sense of duty so strong it drives him to ferret out evil, greed and murder regardless of the cost. If he must, he will forfeit love, livelihood — even life itself.

OUTLAND was effectively a Space Western movie written and directed by Peter Hyams that riffed on the plot of the classic Western HIGH NOON. The movie starred Sean Connery as the Marshal left to fight alone against a corrupt mine manager and the hitmen sent to kill him on a remote moon of Jupiter. Alan Dean Foster is an old hand at novelisations and he adapts Hyams’ screenplay very professionally, bringing additional depth to the main characters and pacing the narrative well. O’Neil’s inner-torment and outer-determination to be seen to do the right thing in tackling the drug smuggling operation despite the personal sacrifices he makes are the heart of the story and Foster balances this well with the unfolding plot. The interplay between O’Neil and his only real ally – a cynical female doctor – is enjoyable. A decent, if less than original, film gets a decent novelisation.

Film Review – EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE (1978)

Image result for every which way but loose 1978EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE (USA, 1978) **
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures / The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 20 December 1978 (USA), 21 December 1978 (UK); Filming Dates: 19 April–early July 1978; Running Time: 114m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: James Fargo; Writer: Jeremy Joe Kronsberg; Producer: Robert Daley; Associate Producer: Jeremy Joe Kronsberg, Fritz Manes; Director of Photography: Rexford L. Metz; Music Supervisor: Snuff Garrett; Film Editor: Joel Cox, Ferris Webster; Art Director: Elayne Barbara Ceder; Set Decorator: Robert De Vestel; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Don Schoenfeld; Sound: Bert Hallberg; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Philo Beddoe), Sondra Locke (Lynn Halsey-Taylor), Geoffrey Lewis (Orville), Beverly D’Angelo (Echo), Walter Barnes (Tank Murdock), George Chandler (Clerk at D.M.V.), Roy Jenson (Woody), James McEachin (Herb), Bill McKinney (Dallas), William O’Connell (Elmo), John Quade (Cholla), Dan Vadis (Frank), Gregory Walcott (Putnam), Hank Worden (Trailer Court Manager), Ruth Gordon (Ma), Jerry Brutsche (Sweeper Driver), Cary Michael Cheifer (Kincaid’s Manager), Janet Cole Notey (Girl at Palomino), Sam Gilman (Fat Man’s Friend), Chuck Hicks (Trucker), Timothy P. Irvin (M.C. at Zanzabar), Tim Irwin (Bandleader), Billy Jackson (Bettor), Joyce Jameson (Sybil), Richard Jamison (Harlan), Jackson D. Kane (Man at Bowling Alley), Jeremy Joe Kronsberg (Bruno), Fritz Manes (Bartender at Zanzabar), Michael Mann (Church’s Manager), Lloyd Nelson (Bartender), George Orrison (Fight Spectator), Thelma Pelish (Lady Customer), William J. Quinn (Kincaid), Tom Runyon (Bartender at Palomino), Bruce Scott (Schyler), Al Silvani (Tank Murdock’s Manager), Hartley Silver (Bartender), Al Stellone (Fat Man), Jan Stratton (Waitress), Mike Wagner (Trucker), Guy Way (Bartender), George P. Wilbur (Church), Gary Davis (Biker), Scott Dockstader (Biker), Orwin C. Harvey (Biker), Gene LeBell (Biker), Chuck Waters (Biker), Jerry Wills (Biker), Manis the Orangutan (Clyde).
      Synopsis: An easy-going trucker and great fist-fighter travels the San Fernando Valley with his promoter and an orangutan, he won on a bet, in search of cold beer, country music and the occasional punch-up.
      Comment: Eastwood looked for a change of pace with this lowbrow action comedy. The film is an excuse for a series of set-piece fist fights, coarse jokes, chaos and destruction. There is little in the way of plot to maintain interest, leaving the character interaction to give the movie its core. Clyde, the dysfunctional orangutan sidekick of Eastwood, steals the show and there is a feisty performance from Gordon as Eastwood’s long-suffering mother. Locke is the love interest and she also gets the chance to sing. The production chugs along without any real heart, relying on gags that are only sporadically funny and performances that are all too knowing.
      Notes: The film and its soundtrack featured several country-and-western songs including tracks sung by Mel Tillis, Charlie Rich and Eddie Rabbitt. Followed by ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN (1980).

Film Review – THE GAUNTLET (1977)

Image result for the gauntlet 1977THE GAUNTLET (USA, 1977) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); Production Company: Warner Bros / The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 21 December 1977 (USA), 22 December 1977 (UK); Filming Dates: 4 April – June 1977; Running Time: 109m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: 4-Track Stereo; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack; Producer: Robert Daley; Associate Producer: Fritz Manes; Director of Photography: Rexford L. Metz; Music Composer: Jerry Fielding; Film Editor: Joel Cox, Ferris Webster; Art Director: Allen E. Smith; Set Decorator: Ira Bates; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Don Schoenfeld; Sound: Bert Hallberg; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Ben Shockley), Sondra Locke (Gus Mally), Pat Hingle (Josephson), William Prince (Blakelock), Bill McKinney (Constable), Michael Cavanaugh (Feyderspiel), Carole Cook (Waitress), Mara Corday (Jail Matron), Doug McGrath (Bookie), Jeff Morris (Desk Sergeant), Samantha Doane (Biker), Roy Jenson (Biker), Dan Vadis (Biker), Carver Barnes (Bus Driver), Robert Barrett (Paramedic), Teddy Bear (Lieutenant), Mildred Brion (Old Lady on Bus), Ron Chapman (Veteran Cop), Don Circle (Bus Clerk), James W. Gavin (Helicopter Pilot), Thomas H. Friedkin (Helicopter Pilot), Darwin Lamb (Police Captain), Roger Lowe (Paramedic Driver), Fritz Manes (Helicopter Gunman), John Quiroga (Cab Driver), Josef Rainer (Rookie Cop), Art Rimdzius (Judge), Al Silvani (Police Sergeant).
      Synopsis: A hard but mediocre cop is assigned to escort a prostitute into custody from Las Vegas to Phoenix, so that she can testify in a mob trial. But a lot of people are literally betting that they won’t make it into town alive.
      Comment: Preposterous, ludicrous, but entertaining if taken in the right spirit and you are willing to condone its black humour as well as ignore the numerous plot holes. The movie must have set the record for the most gunshots on film. Eastwood and Locke make for a sparky team of misfits brought together by fate and a desire for the villains to remove them both from the scene. A long chase ensues with cartoon violent action sequences and barbed dialogue keeping things interesting. It’s hard not to smile at the absurdities or be impressed by Locke’s confident performance and Eastwood’s atypical dim-witted detective.
      Notes: The premise was reworked as the Bruce Willis vehicle 16 BLOCKS (2006).

Warner Archive announces Blu-Ray releases of Shaft’s Big Score! and Shaft in Africa

As expected ahead of the release of the new Shaft movie in June, Warner Archive has announced it will finally be releasing the second and third of Richard Roundtree’s original Shaft films on Blu-Ray. The releases of both Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973) will take place on 21 May. Both films will be remastered in HD. As with most Warner Archive releases it is not expected there will be any additional content. There will also be a Triple feature release including Shaft (1971) Warner has shared the following detail:

SHAFT’S BIG SCORE (1972)
NEW 2019 1080p HD MASTER
Run Time 105:00
Subtitles English SDH
Sound Quality DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 – English
Aspect Ratio ORIGINAL ASPECT RATIO – 2.40:1, 16 X 9 LETTERBOX
Product Color COLOR
Disc Configuration BD 50
You can’t say the mob wasn’t warned about John Shaft. “He’s a bad dude,” a numbers racketeer cautions them. Now, Shaft himself will deliver that message in a way New York City’s wiseguys understand.
Richard Roundtree reunites with the director (Gordon Parks) and screenwriter (Ernest Tidyman) of 1971’s trendsetting Shaft for Shaft’s Big Score!, the second of Roundtree’s three movie portrayals of the street-smart, leather-jacketed private investigator. This time, the blown-to-kingdom-come murder of a client plunges Shaft into a case that bounces him like a pinball between the 133rd Precinct and competing mobs. But the players are about to be played in this “rousing and entertaining thriller” (Newsweek).

SHAFT IN AFRICA (1973)
NEW 2019 1080p HD MASTER
Run Time 112:00
Subtitles English SDH
Sound Quality DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 – English
Aspect Ratio 16 X 9 LETTERBOX, 2.40:1
Product Color COLOR
Disc Configuration BD 50
Go ahead. Slug, drug, kidnap and leave John Shaft buck naked in a sweltering hellhole. It’s still no deal. If you want to recruit this tough-minded Manhattan detective for an overseas assignment, you’d better use a language he understands. One that offers a fat up-front fee. And a drop-dead-gorgeous accomplice. Richard Roundtree returns as the indomitable Shaft, who poses as a slave, unmasks the leaders of an Africa-to-Europe slavery cartel and, for good measure, mixes his business with amorous pleasure involving a beautiful princess (Vonetta McGee). The cool-fire impact of Roundtree’s performances endures: The actor won the 1993 MTV Movie Award for Lifetime Achievement for his work in the three Shaft thrillers.

When Harlem P.I. John Shaft first appeared on the movie scene, he was a “shut your mouth” detective to reckon with, a fact underscored by Isaac Hayes’ Oscar®-winning* Best Original Song (1971). Richard Roundtree plays the hard-hitting, street-smart title role in these signature “blaxploitation” films, hunting for a kidnap victim in Shaft (1971) and seeking a friend’s murderer in Shaft’s Big Score! – mixing it up with mob thugs each time. Finally, there’s Shaft in Africa (“He’s the Brother Man in the Motherland,” proclaimed ads), with our hero bringing down a slavery cartel. Shaft’s the name. Excitement’s the game!

Film Review – THE ENFORCER (1976)

Image result for the enforcer 1976THE ENFORCER (USA, 1976) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures / The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 22 December 1976 (USA), 26 December 1976 (UK); Filming Dates: 14 June — early September 1976; Running Time: 96m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono | Dolby Digital (5.1); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: James Fargo; Writer: Stirling Silliphant, Dean Riesner (based on a story by Gail Morgan Hickman & S.W. Schurr and characters created by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink); Producer: Robert Daley; Director of Photography: Charles W. Short; Music Composer: Jerry Fielding; Film Editor: Joel Cox, Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Mary Goldberg; Art Director: Allen E. Smith; Set Decorator: Ira Bates; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: Bert Hallberg; Special Effects: Joseph A. Unsinn.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Harry Callahan), Tyne Daly (Kate Moore), Harry Guardino (Lt. Bressler), Bradford Dillman (Capt. McKay), John Mitchum (DiGeorgio), DeVeren Bookwalter (Bobby Maxwell), John Crawford (The Mayor), Samantha Doane (Wanda), Bob Hoy (Buchinski), Jocelyn Jones (Miki), M.G. Kelly (Father John), Nick Pellegrino (Martin), Albert Popwell (Mustapha), Rudy Ramos (Mendez), Bill Ackridge (Andy), Bill Jelliffe (Johnny), Joe Bellan (Freddie the Fainter), Tim O’Neill (Police Sergeant), Jan Stratton (Mrs. Grey), Will MacMillan (Lt. Dobbs), Jerry Walter (Krause), Steve Eoff (Bustanoby), Tim Burrus (Henry Lee), Michael Cavanaugh (Lalo), Dick Durock (Karl), Ron Manning (Tex), Adele Proom (Irene DiGeorgio), Glenn Leigh Marshall (Army Sergeant), Robert Behling (Autopsy Surgeon), Terence McGovern (Disc Jockey), Stan Ritchie (Bridge Operator), John Roselius (Mayor’s Driver), Brian Fong (Scoutmaster), Art Rimdzius (Porno Director), Chuck Hicks (Huey), Anne Macey (Madam), Gloria Prince (Massage Girl), Kenneth Boyd (Abdul), Bernard Glin (Koblo), Fritz Manes (Detective #1).
      Synopsis: Dirty Harry must foil a terrorist organization made up of disgruntled Vietnam veterans. But this time, he’s teamed with a rookie female partner that he’s not too excited to be working with.
      Comment: Third DIRTY HARRY film turns its slender plot into a series of violent action set-pieces. Most of the fun is derived from the interplay between Eastwood and Daly, who is excellent in her first major role as Eastwood’s female partner. The teaming gives rise for Harry to display his prejudices and some of these scenes may play uncomfortably with modern audiences (as they did with Daly at the time). Over the course of the film, the partnership warms up and reaches it’s almost inevitable conclusion during a fine shootout finale on Alcatraz. Whilst it lacks the gravitas of the original this second sequel moves at a faster clip than MAGNUM FORCE. However, the direction is uneven, injecting elements of black humour and the potential to play stronger messages about idealism and feminism are largely glossed over. The result is a diverting, but strangely stilted star vehicle.
      Notes: Preceded by DIRTY HARRY (1971) and MAGNUM FORCE (1973) and followed by SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) and THE DEAD POOL (1988).

Film Review – THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (1976)

Image result for the outlaw josey walesTHE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES (USA, 1976) ****½
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); Production Company: Warner Bros. / The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 26 June 1976 (USA), 29 August 1976 (UK); Filming Dates: 6 October – late November 1975; Running Time: 135m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Philip Kaufman, Sonia Chernus (based on the book “Gone To Texas” by Forrest Carter); Producer: Robert Daley; Associate Producer: James Fargo, John G. Wilson; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Jerry Fielding; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Jack Kosslyn; Production Designer: Tambi Larsen; Set Decorator: Charles Pierce; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: Bert Hallberg; Special Effects: R.A. MacDonald, A. Paul Pollard, Frank Hafeman (uncredited).
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Josey Wales), Chief Dan George (Lone Watie), Sondra Locke (Laura Lee), Bill McKinney (Terrill), John Vernon (Fletcher), Paula Trueman (Grandma Sarah), Sam Bottoms (Jamie), Geraldine Keams (Little Moonlight), Woodrow Parfrey (Carpetbagger), Joyce Jameson (Rose), Sheb Wooley (Travis Cobb), Royal Dano (Ten Spot), Matt Clark (Kelly), John Verros (Chato), Will Sampson (Ten Bears), William O’Connell (Sim Carstairs), John Quade (Comanchero Leader), Frank Schofield (Senator Lane), Buck Kartalian (Shopkeeper), Len Lesser (Abe), Doug McGrath (Lige), John Russell (Bloody Bill Anderson), Charles Tyner (Zukie Limmer), Bruce M. Fischer (Yoke), John Mitchum (Al), John Davis Chandler (First Bounty Hunter), Tom Roy Lowe (Second Bounty Hunter), Clay Tanner (First Texas Ranger), Bob Hoy (Second Texas Ranger), Madeleine Taylor Holmes (Grannie Hawkins), Erik Holland (Union Army Sergeant), Cissy Wellman (Josey’s Wife), Faye Hamblin (Grandpa), Danny Green (Lemuel).
      Synopsis: A Missouri farmer joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family.
     Comment: One of the best Westerns ever made, this often violent but epic tale works over a number of evolving themes and is also a remarkable character study. Eastwood the director allows the story sufficient room to breathe and develop and draws great performances from a strong cast. Eastwood the star fleshes out his standard persona into a characterisation that grows as the story progresses. Chief Dan George also gives a wonderful scene-stealing performance as an old Indian with an ironic sense of humour. The film is beautifully photographed by Surtees, who takes advantage of the autumnal vistas with great use of natural light. All other aspects of the production are top notch, with the authentic production design and costumes also standout aspects. Jerry Fielding’s score, nominated for the Academy Award for Original Music Score, is sparse and eschews the convention for big orchestral gestures, settling instead for sparse but subtly effectively interjections which heighten the tension in this mature and intelligent genre classic.
     Notes: Philip Kaufman started to direct the film but was replaced by Eastwood, a controversial move which prompted the DGA to institute a ban on any current cast or crew member replacing the director on a film – a rule which has ever since been titled the “Eastwood rule.” Based on the book “Gone to Texas” by Forrest Carter. Followed by THE RETURN OF JOSEY WALES (1986) without Eastwood.

Film Review – THE EIGER SANCTION (1975)

Image result for clint eastwood totem poleTHE EIGER SANCTION (USA, 1975) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: The Malpaso Company / Jennings Lang / Universal Pictures; Release Date: 21 May 1975 (USA), 21 August 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 12 August – late September 1974; Running Time: 129m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Hal Dresner, Warren Murphy, Rod Whitaker (based on the novel by Rod Whitaker, as Trevanian); Executive Producer: David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck; Producer: Robert Daley ; Director of Photography: Frank Stanley; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Art Director: George C. Webb, Aurelio Crugnola; Set Decorator: John M. Dwyer; Costumes: Glenn Wright, Charles Waldo; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: James R. Alexander, Robert L. Hoyt; Special Effects: Ben McMahan.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Jonathan Hemlock), George Kennedy (Ben Bowman), Vonetta McGee (Jemima Brown), Jack Cassidy (Miles Mellough), Heidi Brühl (Mrs. Montaigne), Thayer David (Dragon), Reiner Schöne (Freytag), Michael Grimm (Meyer), Jean-Pierre Bernard (Montaigne), Brenda Venus (George), Gregory Walcott (Pope), Candice Rialson (Art Student), Elaine Shore (Miss Cerberus), Dan Howard (Dewayne), Jack Kosslyn (Reporter), Walter Kraus (Kruger), Frank Redmond (Wormwood), Siegfried Wallach (Hotel Manager), Susan Morgan Cooper (Buns), Jack Frey (Cab Driver).
      Synopsis: A classical art professor and collector, who doubles as a professional assassin, is coerced out of retirement to avenge the murder of an old friend.
      Comment: Saddled with a weak by-the-numbers script this spy thriller is considerably bolstered by the superb mountain climbing footage and Eastwood’s star power. Eastwood also performed his own stunt work adding a sense of authenticity and he directed the climbing sequences with considerable skill, managing to create a tense climactic ascent of the Eiger. Kennedy shines in a support role as Eastwood’s climbing buddy, as does Cassidy as a gay assassin. Great use is made of Monument Valley and Swiss locations and John Williams provides an evocative score.
      Notes: The scenes that depict Hemlock training for the Eiger climb include Monument Valley’s “Totem Pole,” a rock spire with an elevation over 5,500 feet. According to production notes, Eastwood performed the climb himself while Kennedy was lowered onto the rock’s crest by helicopter. Shortly after the scene was filmed, the Navajo Nation deemed “Totem Pole” off-limits to future climbers. Twenty-six-year-old British climber David Knowles died on the Eiger during the production.

Film Review – THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (1974)

Image result for thunderbolt and lightfoot 1974THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (USA, 1974) ***½
      Distributor: United Artists; Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 22 May 1974 (USA), 19 September 1974 (UK); Filming Dates: July – September 1973; Running Time: 115m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Michael Cimino; Writer: Michael Cimino; Producer: Robert Daley; Director of Photography: Frank Stanley; Music Composer: Dee Barton; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Patricia Mock; Art Director: Tambi Larsen; Set Decorator: James L. Berkey; Costumes: Jules Melillo; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: Bert Hallberg, Norman Webster; Special Effects: Sass Bedig.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Thunderbolt), Jeff Bridges (Lightfoot), George Kennedy (Red Leary), Geoffrey Lewis (Eddie Goody), Catherine Bach (Melody), Gary Busey (Curly), Jack Dodson (Vault Manager), Eugene Elman (Tourist), Burton Gilliam (Welder), Roy Jenson (Dunlop), Claudia Lennear (Secretary), Bill McKinney (Crazy Driver), Vic Tayback (Mario Pinski), Dub Taylor (Station Attendant), Gregory Walcott (Used Car Salesman), Erica Hagen (Waitress), Alvin Childress (Janitor), Virginia Baker (Couple at Station), Stuart Nisbet (Couple at Station), Irene K. Cooper (Cashier), Cliff Emmich (The Fat Man), June Fairchild (Gloria), Ted Foulkes (Young Boy), Leslie Oliver (Teenager), Mark Montgomery (Teenager), Karen Lamm (Girl on Motorcycle), Luanne Roberts (Suburban Housewife), Lila Teigh (Tourist).
      Synopsis: With the help of an irreverent young sidekick, a bank robber gets his old gang back together to organise a daring new heist.
      Comment: Road movie turns into heist movie in this entertaining vehicle for Eastwood and Bridges. The plot is initially slight and the pace slow as we are introduced to the two misfit loners. Once Kennedy and Bridges enter the story the character interplay becomes the main focus and the pace quickens as the quartet take to work to raise money to fund their heist. The tone swings from comedy to melodrama to violent action but is generally well-handled by Cimino on his directorial debut. Bridges delivers a superb and believably natural performance and Eastwood generously gives him centre stage. Kennedy too stands out as Eastwood’s stubbornly proud ex-partner.
      Notes: Cimino modelled this movie after one of his favourite films, CAPTAIN LIGHTFOOT (1955). Bridges was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.

Music Review – MIKE + THE MECHANICS: OUT OF THE BLUE (2019)

Mike + The Mechanics
Out of the Blue (2019) ***

Image result for mike + the mechanics out of the blueMike Rutherford – Guitar, Bass, Drum Programming
Andrew Roachford – Vocals, Keyboards
Tim Howar – Vocals
Anthony Drennan – Lead Guitar, Bass
Gary Wallis – Drums
Luke Juby – Keyboards, Backing Vocals

Clark Datchler – Keyboards (3)
Paul Meehan – Keyboards and Programming (1 & 2)
Priscilla Jones-Campbell, Bryon Jones, James Thompson, Joy Malcolm – Choir (4)

Produced by Mike Rutherford and Paul Meehan
Recorded at The Farm Sand Drungewick Studios by Harry Rutherford
Mixed by Mike Rutherford and Nick Davis
Matered by 360 Mastering

TRACKS:
New songs:
1 One Way (Rutherford/Roachford/Datchler) ****
Strong opener with a classy chorus and wonderful vocal from Roachford. The best of the three new songs on the album.
Out of the Blue (Rutherford/Roachford/Datchler) ***
Typical Mechanics sound with a neat arrangement and sturdy chorus, but just doesn’t stand out as having anything new to offer
What Would You Do (Rutherford/Roachford/Datchler) **
The programmed intro is reminiscent of the failed Rewired experiment. Pleasant enough, but again lacks any distinguishing elements.
Re-recordings:
The Living Years (Rutherford/Robertson) ****
The band’s best-remembered song is still an affecting ballad, delivered here with a soulful interpretation by Roachford. The acoustic arrangement on the bonus disc gives a different arrangement and perhaps more heart-wrenching vocal from Roachford.
Beggar on a Beach of Gold (Rutherford/Robertson)) ***
Tim Howar may lack Paul Young’s range but there is an energy to his performance of this classic Mechanics track.
Get Up (Rutherford/Carrack) ****
Probably the only one of these recordings to actually improve on the original.
Another Cup of Coffee (Rutherford/Neil) ***
Almost a carbon-copy of the original but Carrack’s version cannot be bettered.
All I Need is a MIracle (Rutherford/Neil) ***
Again Howar energetically takes on a song that Paul Young made his own both on record and live. A good effort.
Silent Running (Rutherford/Robertson) **
Minus the atmospheric introduction, this pales in comparison to the original. Roachford’s soulful vocal interpretation is solid.
10 Over My Shoulder (Rutherford/Datchler/Howar) ∗∗∗
Like “Another Cup of Coffee”, this treads the same path as the original down to the whistled chorus. Adds nothing new.
11 Word of Mouth (Rutherford/Neil) ****
Has the live feel of the original and is again sung with passion by Howar. Enjoyable closing rocker.

Mike + The Mechanics’ ninth album is a strange concept mixing three new songs with eight re-recordings of old favourites that are a staple of the band’s live set.  The new songs are passable but lack the freshness of most of the songs on Let Me Fly. The decision to re-record some old favourites to make up the bulk of the album is a bold move. Unfortunately, most of these re-recordings merely restate the live arrangement and are therefore largely redundant. Why not just release a live album? The only real purpose would be to support the re-invention of the band, which has been touring successfully in this new combination for the last eight years, and prove to listeners the new line-up can handle the old material – which it can.  The deluxe version of the album has a second CD with six lo-fi acoustic recordings including a wonderfully evocative piano-led arrangement of “The Living Years” sung with real emotion by Roachford.