Concorde … Airport ’79, The (1979; USA; Technicolor; 113m) * d. David Lowell Rich; w. Eric Roth, Jennings Lang; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: Alain Delon, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, George Kennedy, Sylvia Kristel, Eddie Albert, Bibi Andersson, Charo, Martha Raye, Cicely Tyson, John Davidson, Andrea Marcovicci, Jimmie Walker, David Warner, Mercedes McCambridge. This film is the last of the AIRPORT genre which stars Kennedy who has to contend with nuclear missiles, the French Air Force and the threat of the plane splitting in two over the Alps! Nonsensical final entry in the series is dragged down by preposterous scenario, risible and often embarrassing dialogue and wooden performances. The series was laid to rest with this one. The film reached UK theatres a year later, and was renamed upon its release there. Raye’s final feature film. [PG]
JACK CARTER’S LAW by TED LEWIS (1974, Syndicate Books, 222pp) ****
Blurb: It’s the late 1960s in London and Jack Carter is the top man in a crime syndicate headed by two brothers—Gerald and Les Fletcher. He’s also a worried man. The fact that he’s sleeping with Gerald’s wife, Audrey, and that they plan on someday running away together with a lot of the brothers’ money, doesn’t have Jack concerned. Instead it’s an informant—one of his own men—that has him losing sleep. The grass has enough knowledge about the firm to not only bring down Gerald and Les but Jack as well. Jack doesn’t like his name in the mouth of that sort. It should be an easily solved problem for London’s suavest fixer, except for one slight problem: Jack has no idea where the grass is hiding.
Jack Carter’s Law is Ted Lewis’ follow-up to his highly influential Jack’s Return Home, which was filmed as, and later retitled, Get Carter. This second book in the series is set prior to the first. Whereas Jack’s Return Home gave Lewis’ anti-hero a personal vendetta as motivation for the ensuing mayhem, here Carter is acting in his role as fixer/enforcer for one of London’s biggest criminal gangs. As such, there is little for the reader to root for in a cast of characters that have few, if any, redeeming qualities. That said, Lewis masterfully keeps you engaged through his first-person perspective. Written in the present tense, not a popular style but effective here, the action feels immediate and the tension is kept high. Lewis also has a penchant for long descriptive paragrpahs, punctuated by salty and humorous dialogue. The book is not for the faint-hearted – there are several moments of brutality and cruelty – but for fans of gritty pulp fiction this is a great example of the genre. Lewis became something of a cult figure in the world of gritty crime fiction and unfortunately died young (aged only 42) after a battle with alcoholism.
Airport ’77 (1977; USA; Technicolor; 114m) *** d. Jerry Jameson; w. Michael Scheff, David Spector; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. John Cacavas. Cast: Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, George Kennedy, James Stewart, Brenda Vaccaro, Joseph Cotten, Olivia de Havilland, Darren McGavin, Christopher Lee, Robert Foxworth, Robert Hooks, Monte Markham, Kathleen Quinlan, Gil Gerard, James Booth. Art thieves hijack a 747, hit fog and crash into the ocean, trapping them and the passengers under 100 feet of water. Strong cast adds value to this third entry in the series. Good production values and a tense final act overcome the by now obvious characters and familiar situations. Developed from a story by H.A.L. Craig and Charles Kuenstle. Network TV version added one-hour of additional footage. Followed by THE CONCORDE… AIRPORT ’79 (1979). [PG]
Stormy Monday (1988; UK/USA; Rankcolor; 93m) ***½ d. Mike Figgis; w. Mike Figgis; ph. Roger Deakins; m. Mike Figgis. Cast: Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones, Sting, Sean Bean, James Cosmo, Mark Long, Brian Lewis, Ying Tong John, Mick Hamer, Ian Hinchcliffe, Andrzej Borkowski, Caroline Hutchinson, Les Wilde, Desmond Gill, Benny Graham, Derek Hoxby, Catherine Chevalier, Brendan P. Healy, Clive Curtis, Heathcote Williams. A crooked American businessman tries to push the shady influential owner of a nightclub in Newcastle, England to sell him the club. Atmospheric British gangster thriller pays homage to the Hollywood movies of the 30s and 40s. Bean is effective as out-of-work drifter drawn into a stand-off between Sting’s jazz club owner and Jones’ American gangster over a new property development. Griffith oozes appeal as the moll caught between her ties to Jones and her love for Bean. Well-judged script and neat camera work add to the noir feel. Followed by the TV series Finney in 1994, which ran for just one season. 
Airport 1975 (1974; USA; Technicolor; 107m) ** d. Jack Smight; w. Don Ingalls; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. John Cacavas. Cast: Charlton Heston, Karen Black, George Kennedy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Susan Clark, Helen Reddy, Linda Blair, Dana Andrews, Roy Thinnes, Sid Caesar, Myrna Loy, Ed Nelson, Nancy Olson, Larry Storch, Martha Scott, Guy Stockwell, Erik Estrada, Austin Stoker, Sharon Gless, Gloria Swanson. A 747 in flight collides with a small plane, and is rendered pilotless. Somehow the control tower must get a pilot aboard so the jet can land. A bland script uses every cliché in the book and invents a few more. Heston and Kennedy struggle manfully to rise above the material whilst a star-studded supporting cast gamely deliver the lame dialogue. Some nice airborne footage and a reasonably tense rescue attempt aside, this would become the basis for numerous parodies. Swanson’s final film. Followed by AIRPORT ’77 (1977). [PG]
North Sea Hijack (1980; USA; Technicolor; 100m) ***½ d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Jack Davies; ph. Tony Imi; m. Michael J. Lewis. Cast: Roger Moore, James Mason, Anthony Perkins, Michael Parks, Faith Brook, Lea Brodie, David Hedison, Jack Watson, George Baker, Jeremy Clyde, David Wood, Philip O’Brien, Anthony Pullen Shaw, John Westbrook, Jennifer Hilary. When terrorists take over two oil rigs and threaten to explode them if their demands are not met, a unique commando unit is sent in to stop them. Entertaining boys-own nonsense with Moore revelling in an atypical role of woman-hating/cat-loving head of elite anti-terrorist unit. It is a taut, efficient thriller with elements of humour. Perkins relishes his role as chief villain. Davies adapted his own novel “Esther, Ruth and Jennifer”. Aka: FFOLKES and ASSAULT FORCE. 
Soylent Green (1973; USA; Metrocolor; 97m) *** d. Richard Fleischer; w. Stanley R. Greenberg; ph. Richard H. Kline; m. Fred Myrow; ed. Samuel E. Beetley. Cast: Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Edward G. Robinson, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Brock Peters, Paula Kelly, Stephen Young, Mike Henry, Whit Bissell. In an overpopulated futuristic Earth, a New York police detective finds himself marked for murder by government agents when he gets too close to a bizarre state secret involving the origins of a revolutionary and needed new foodstuff. Ecologically themed sci-fi tells a depressing tale of corporate greed and oppression. Heston is commanding as the square-jawed cop and Robinson has a strong supporting role. The script doesn’t succeed in maximising potential from the premise or its source material, but there are poignant moments to be had. Based on the novel “Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison. Robinson’s last film. Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. 
THE GOODBYE LOOK by ROSS MACDONALD (1969, Penguin, 282pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Lew Archer, world-weary private investigator, is hired by Larry and Irene Chalmers when they suspect that their troubled son Nick is involved in their own burglary. But when a fellow investigator – one who’s been working with Nick – turns up dead, Archer soon realizes this isn’t simply about some stolen loot. To help their son, Archer must uncover the truth about a kidnap years ago, and discover why the handgun from a decades-old killing apparently turns up at every new and terrible murder.
Ross MacDonald is one of three writers considered to be the pinnacle fo the private eye genre – the other two being Raymond Chandler and Dashell Hammet. His Lew Archer novels and stories build on Chandler’s cynical view of Los Angeles and the flawed characters who inhabit it. This is the fifteenth of eighteen novels MacDonald wrote featuring the character and is typical of the later entries in the series. Archer becomes embroiled in a case revolving around a small group of families – all of whom are disfunctional. The mystery plot is cleverly unravelled as the book progresses at a good pace. With its convoluted plot, flawed characters and lone detective hero it feels as if it lives in the 40s or 50s, despite being set in a contemporary 1969. However, MacDonald was by then a master of his craft and his skill overcomes the slighly anachronistic feel. Highly recommended for scholars of the genre and fans in general.
Lew Archer novels:
- The Moving Target (1949)
- The Drowning Pool (1950)
- The Way Some People Die (1951)
- The Ivory Grin (1952) ****
- Find a Victim (1954)
- The Barbarous Coast (1956)
- The Doomsters (1958)
- The Galton Case (1959) *****
- The Wycherly Woman (1961)
- The Zebra-Striped Hearse (1962)
- The Chill (1964)
- The Far Side of the Dollar (1965)
- Black Money (1966) ****
- The Instant Enemy (1968)
- The Goodbye Look (1969) ****
- The Underground Man (1971)
- Sleeping Beauty (1973)
- The Blue Hammer (1976) ****
Them! (1954; USA; B&W; 94m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Gordon Douglas; w. Ted Sherdeman, Russell S. Hughes, George Worthing Yates; ph. Sid Hickox; m. Bronislau Kaper. Cast: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness, Onslow Stevens, Chris Drake, Leonard Nimoy, Dub Taylor, Fess Parker. That ol’ cinematic devil the A-bomb has spawned a colony of giant murderous ants bent on destroying humanity in this, the seminal big bug movie (an obvious and oft-credited influence for ALIEN among countless others). Influential sci-fi thriller capitalises on paranoia surrounding radiation fallout from the testing of atomic weapons – here mutating ants into giant killers. Arness and Whitmore make effective leads and Gwenn is good as the eccentric scientist. Good use of sound and lighting to maximise thrills. Fans of the later ALIENS (1986) may find certain similarities in the bug hunt. The sound that the giant ants make as they approach their prey is a recorded chorus of bird-voiced tree frogs (Hyla avivoca) of the southeastern US. Received an Oscar nomination for Best Special Effects. Warner’s highest-grossing film for the year. [PG]
Doctor Who: World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls (TV) (2017: UK: Colour: 106m) ∗∗∗∗½ pr. Peter Bennett; d. Rachel Talalay; w. Steven Moffat; ph. Ashley Rowe; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Pearl Mackie , Michelle Gomez, John Simm , Oliver Lansley, Paul Brightwell, Alison Lintott, Briana Shann, Rosie Boore, Samantha Spiro, Simon Coombs, Nicholas Briggs, David Bradley. Friendship drives the Doctor into the rashest decision of his life. Trapped on a giant spaceship, caught in the event horizon of a black hole, he witnesses the death of someone he is pledged to protect. Is there any way he can redeem his mistake? Are events already out of control? For once, time is the Time Lord’s enemy. Moffat’s season finales have generally been a case of excellent set-up and disappointing pay-off. This story comes close to meeting that trend, but ultimately wins out because of the superb performances, a witty script and its no-win situation. Capaldi excels here in fighting his moral dilemna. Gomez and Simm spark well with Capaldi and each other and there is a sense of irony about the resolution of their story. The first episode set up the premise brilliantly in one of the best ever episodes of the series. The resolution felt a little contrived in places and overly sentimental in the resolution of Bill’s story, but this is otherwise an excellent finale with a superb twist right at the end leaving us looking forward to the Xmas special to come.