Film Review – HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

Image result for HORROR EXPRESS QUAD POSTERHORROR EXPRESS (Spain/UK, 1972) ***
      Distributor: Gala Film Distributors  (UK), Scotia International (USA); Production Company: Benmar Productions / Granada Films; Release Date: November 1973 (USA), December 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: December 1971 – January 1972; Running Time: 91m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Eugenio Martín; Writer: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet; Producer: Bernard Gordon; Director of Photography: Alejandro Ulloa; Music Composer: John Cacavas; Film Editor: Robert C. Dearberg; Production Designer: Ramiro Gómez; Set Decorator: Ramiro Gómez; Costumes: Charles Simminger; Make-up: Julián Ruiz; Sound: Antonio Illán; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: Brian Stevens.
      Cast: Christopher Lee (Prof. Sir Alexander Saxton), Peter Cushing (Dr. Wells), Telly Savalas (Capt. Kazan), Alberto de Mendoza (Father Pujardov), Silvia Tortosa (Countess Irina Petrovska), Julio Peña (Inspector Mirov), Ángel del Pozo (Yevtushenko), Helga Liné (Natasha), George Rigaud (Count Maryan Petrovski), Alice Reinheart (Miss Jones), José Jaspe (Konev – Conductor), Víctor Israel (Baggage Man), Juan Olaguivel (Creature), Vicente Roca (Station Master), Barta Barri (First Telegraphist), José Marco (Vorkin), José Canalejas (Russian Guard).
      Synopsis: In 1906, in China, a British anthropologist discovers a frozen prehistoric creature and must transport it to Europe by train.
      Comment: Euro-horror transfers the plot of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD from the remote base of the Antarctic to the Siberian Express. The production starts unsteadily but slowly gathers momentum building to an exciting climax. Great make-up effects for both the monster and the effects of its work. Neat use of lighting in the confined spaces of the train helps to generate mood and tension. Lee and Cushing add dignity amongst a largely solid European cast. Savalas is delicious as a sadistic soldier who enters the story late in the day. Although set in the icy Siberian landscape the film was shot in Spain.
      Notes: Various roles are dubbed by Roger Delgado (the Police Inspector), Robert Rietty (Father Pujardov), and Olive Gregg (all female voices).

Film Review – THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE (1967)

THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE (UK, 1967) **
Distributor: Anglo Embassy (UK), Embassy Pictures (USA); Production Company: Amicus Productions; Release Date: May 1967; Filming Dates: began 12 September 1966; Running Time: 85m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Freddie Francis; Writer: Milton Subotsky (based on the novel “The Gods Hate Kansas” by Joseph Millard); Producer: Max Rosenberg, Milton Subotsky; Director of Photography: Norman Warwick; Music Composer: James Stevens; Film Editor: Peter Musgrave; Production Designer: Bill Constable; Art Director: Don Mingaye, Scott Slimon; Costumes: Eileen Welch; Make-up: Bunty Phillips; Sound: Gerry Humphreys; Special Effects: Les Bowie, Terry Schubert (uncredited).
      Cast: Robert Hutton (Dr. Curtis Temple), Jennifer Jayne (Lee Mason), Zia Mohyeddin (Farge), Bernard Kay (Richard Arden), Michael Gough (Master of the Moon), Maurice Good (Stilwell), John Harvey (Bill Trethowan), Hedger Wallace (Alan Mullane), Luanshya Greer (Girl Attendant), Diana King (Mrs. Trethowan), Paul Bacon (Dr. Rogers), Christopher Banks (Doctor – Street), Dermot Cathie (Peterson), Norman Claridge (Dr. Frederick Andrews), James Donnelly (Guard), Frank Forsyth (Blake), Leonard Grahame (McCabe), Michael Hawkins (Williams), Jack Lambert (Doctor – Office), Robin Parkinson (Maitland).
Synopsis: Scientists investigating an unusual meteor shower in a rural field are possessed by an alien force bent on an ulterior purpose.
      Comment: Low-budget sci-fi struggles to be anything near convincing despite straight-laced performances of its cast and occasional visual flourishes from director Francis. The story is a sub-Quatermass plot of aliens infiltrating the English home counties and their intentions being misunderstood. Horton in the lead role lacks presence and the rest of the cast struggle to retain their dignity given third-rate props to work with. The script lacks intelligence and logic for the most part, but the experience somehow remains lightly entertaining for those in the right mood.
Notes: The production used many of the sets and props left over from Amicus’s DALEKS: INVASION EARTH: 2150 A.D. (1966) as a cost-cutting measure. Released on a double-bill with THE TERRONAUTS.

Film Review – REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955)

REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (USA, 1955) **½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 29 March 1955; Filming Dates: late Jun–early Aug 1954; Running Time: 82m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Universal 3-D (dual-strip 3-D); Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild violence, scary scenes.
      Director: Jack Arnold; Writer: Martin Berkeley (based on a story by William Alland); Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: Scotty Welbourne; Music Composer: William Lava, Herman Stein (both uncredited); Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Paul Weatherwax; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen, Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Russell A. Gausman, Julia Heron; Costumes: Jay A. Morley Jr.; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Jack A. Bolger Jr, Leslie I. Carey.
      Cast: John Agar (Professor Clete Ferguson), Lori Nelson (Helen Dobson), John Bromfield (Joe Hayes), Nestor Paiva (Lucas), Grandon Rhodes (Jackson Foster), Dave Willock (Lou Gibson), Robert B. Williams (George Johnson), Charles Cane (Captain of Police).
      Synopsis: The Creature from the Black Lagoon is back! This time he’s captured by scientists and transported to an aquarium in south Florida.
      Comment: Sequel to CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) follows genre convention by having the creature (the Gill Man) taken from its natural habitat (the Amazon) to be exhibited at a sea life centre in Florida. There professor Agar and student Nelson study the creature and try to assess its level of intelligence. Of course, the creature escapes and mayhem ensues. There are some well-shot scenes that stand out as individual moments, but once the creature is on the rampage the film descends into routine thrills and chills. Agar is pretty wooden as the male lead, but Nelson is appealing. The finale is something of a let down in its swiftness of resolution.
      Notes: Look for a young, uncredited Clint Eastwood in his first screen appearance as a goofy lab assistant. Also shot in 3-D. Followed by THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956).

Film Review – GOLD (1974)

GOLD (UK, 1974) ***½
      Distributor: Hemdale Film Distribution (UK), Allied Artists Pictures (USA); Production Company: Killarney Film Studios; Release Date: 5 September 1974 (UK), 16 October 1974 (USA); Filming Dates: October 1973; Running Time: 120m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Wilbur Smith, Stanley Price (based on the novel “Gold Mine” by Wilbur Smith); Producer: Michael Klinger; Director of Photography: Ousama Rawi; Music Composer: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: John Glen; Casting Director: Irene Lamb; Production Designer: Syd Cain, Alex Vetchinsky; Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Costumes: Marjory Cornelius; Make-up: Paul Engelen; Sound: John W. Mitchell; Special Effects: Cliff Richardson, Bill Warrington.
      Cast: Roger Moore (Rod Slater), Susannah York (Terry Steyner), Ray Milland (Hurry H. ‘Pops’ Hirschfeld), Bradford Dillman (Manfred Steyner), John Gielgud (Farrell), Tony Beckley (Stephen Marais), Simon Sabela (Big King), Marc Smith (Tex Kiernan), John Hussey (Plummer), Bernard Horsfall (Dave Kowalski), Bill Brewer (Aristide), Norman Coombes (Frank Lemmer), George Jackson (Gus, Mine Doctor), Ken Hare (Jackson), Ralph Loubser (Mine Captain), Denis Smith (Radio Commentator), Paddy Norval (Daniele, Girl in Bar), Garth Tuckett (Miner), Albert Raphael (Miner), Lloyd Lilford (Miner), Alan S. Craig (Miner), John Kingley (Miner), Carl Duering (Syndicate Member), Paul Hansard (Syndicate Member), André Maranne (Syndicate Member), Nadim Sawalha (Syndicate Member), Gideon Kolb (Syndicate Member), John Bay (Syndicate Member).
      Synopsis: Rod Slater is the newly appointed General Manager of the Sonderditch gold mine, but he stumbles across an ingenious plot to flood the mine, by drilling into an underground lake, so the unscrupulous owners to make a killing in the international gold market.
      Comment: Whilst the basic plot may be a little far-fetched, the grippingly authentic and well-filmed mining action scenes are tremendous. Hunt directs these set-pieces with a visceral intensity, which is helped by superb stunt work and whole-hearted performances, from Moore and Sabela in particular. Glen’s slick editing helps to heighten the suspense during these scenes. Dillman makes for a suitably eccentric and cold-hearted villain and Milland enjoys himself as the grumpy rich mine owner. York plays Dillman’s bored and unfaithful wife who falls for Moore’s charms and Gielgud leads the remote investors whose plot to make a killing on the stock market is the catalyst. A rousing final act makes up for some slow spots when the action moves above ground, where tighter editing could have made for a more efficient end-product. Overall, despite the reservations concerning pacing and plot, this is an entertaining thriller that deserves a re-appraisal.
      Notes: Many members of the production crew had connections to the James Bond film franchise.

Film Review – RANSOM (1974)

RANSOM (UK, 1974) ***
      Distributor: British Lion Film Corporation (UK), Twentieth Century Fox (USA); Production Company: Lion International / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Rwaley Film & Theatre; Release Date: 27 February 1975 (UK), 16 April 1975 (USA); Filming Dates: began 14 January 1974; Running Time: 94m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Caspar Wrede; Writer: Paul Wheeler; Producer: Peter Rawley; Director of Photography: Sven Nykvist; Music Composer: Jerry Goldsmith; Film Editor: Eric Boyd-Perkins; Casting Director: Lesley De Pettit; Art Director: Sven Wickman; Costumes: Ada Skolmen; Make-up: Stuart Freeborn; Sound: John Bramall, Ken Scrivener; Special Effects: Roy Whybrow.
      Cast: Sean Connery (Tahlvik), Ian McShane (Petrie), Jeffry Wickham (Barnes), Isabel Dean (Mrs. Palmer), John Quentin (Shepherd), Robert Harris (Palmer), James Maxwell (Bernhard), William Fox (Ferris), Harry Landis (Lookout Pilot), Norman Bristow (Denver), John Cording (Bert), Christopher Ellison (Pete), Richard Hampton (Joe), Preston Lockwood (Hislop), Karen Maxwell (Eva), Colin Prockter (Mike), Malcolm Rennie (Terry), Knut Wigert (Polson), Knut M. Hansson (Matson), Frimann Falck Clausen (Schmidt), Kaare Kroppan (Donner), Alf Malland (Police Inspector), Brita Rogde (Air Hostess), Sven Aune (Co-Pilot), Per Tofte (British Embassy Driver).
      Synopsis: A gang of hijackers led by McShane seize a British plane as it is landing in Scandinavia.
      Comment: Hostage thriller is a little drawn out by diving straight into the scenario, thereby allowing little room for character development or motivation. Whilst the complex nature of the story unfolds as it progresses, it somehow lacks the suspense of its ticking-clock premise. Connery is as effective as ever in the lead role of the Scandinavian police chief at odds with his government’s approach to the situation, whilst trying to figure ways to delay McShane and his terrorists. Its matter-of-fact approach at least prevents the story from descending into cliche melodrama and characterisations. Effective location photography adds to the sense of realism in this efficient, if not wholly satisfying, suspenser.
       Notes: Initial US release version ran 88m. Aka: THE TERRORISTS.

Film Review – THE LOVERS! (1973)

The Lovers!THE LOVERS! (UK, 1973) ***
      Distributor: British Lion Film Corporation; Production Company: British Lion Film Corporation; Release Date: 5 October 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: began 12 June 1972; Running Time: 88m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Herbert Wise; Writer: Jack Rosenthal (based on the TV series created by Jack Rosenthal); Producer: Maurice Foster; Director of Photography: Robert Huke; Music Composer: Carl Davis; Film Editor: Bernard Gribble; Production Designer: Peter Mullins; Costumes: Emma Porteous; Make-up: George Partleton; Sound: Brian Simmons.
      Cast: Richard Beckinsale (Geoffrey Scrimshaw), Paula Wilcox (Beryl Battersby), Susan Littler (Sandra), Rosalind Ayres (Veronica), Anthony Naylor (Neville), Nikolas Simmonds (Roland), Joan Scott (Beryl’s Mum), John Comer (Geoffrey’s Dad), Stella Moray (Geoffrey’s Mum), Pamela Moiseiwitsch (Enid), Bruce Watt (Jeremy), Paul Greenwood (Trainee Manager (Party)), Bernard Latham (‘Handsome’ (Party)), Karen Ford (Foreign Girl (Party)), James Snell (Doctor), Mary Henry (Woman (Jumble Sale)), Serena (Stripper), Margaret Flint (Bookstall Manageress), Ian Gray (Bookstall Assistant).
      Synopsis: Old-fashioned girl Beryl (Wilcox) slaps down the advances of her frustrated boyfriend (Beckinsale), whose clumsy attempts to initiate ‘Percy Filth’ suggest he’s not quite up to speed himself! Like everyone else, Geoffrey and Beryl want to fall in love – or they think they do; like everyone else, since Adam and Eve. But Adam and Eve didn’t live in Manchester in 1972.
      Comment: One of the better of a glut of cinema adaptations of TV sit-coms during the 1970s. This one benefits from a sharp, observational script from Rosenthal and good use of locations in and around Manchester. The leads, Beckinsale and Wilcox, are also likeable in their naivety as they struggle to balance peer group pressure with their own values. The nature of the plot may seem fragmented at times – as if trying to cover a series worth of material in an hour and a half – but the occasional gem shines through. Whilst it may seem rather dated today in the way it tackles its subject matter, it is indicative of the period in which it was made and is, therefore, a nice time capsule comment on relationship ideals in the 1970s.
      Notes: The TV series, The Lovers, ran from 1970-2 for two series and 13 episodes.

Film Review – PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

Image result for planet of the apes 1968PLANET OF THE APES (USA, 1968) ****½
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: APJAC Productions / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Release Date: 8 February 1968 (USA), 21 March 1968 (UK); Filming Dates: 21 May 1967 – 10 August 1967; Running Time: 112m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: 4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35 mm (Eastman 50T 5251); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Franklin J. Schaffner; Writer: Michael Wilson, Rod Serling (based on the novel by Pierre Boulle); Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs; Associate Producer: Mort Abrahams; Director of Photography: Leon Shamroy; Music Composer: Jerry Goldsmith; Music Supervisor: Lionel Newman (uncredited); Film Editor: Hugh S. Fowler; Art Director: William J. Creber, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Norman Rockett, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Morton Haack; Make-up: John Chambers; Sound: David Dockendorf, Herman Lewis; Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Art Cruickshank, Emil Kosa Jr.
      Cast: Charlton Heston (George Taylor), Roddy McDowall (Cornelius), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius), James Whitmore (President of the Assembly), James Daly (Honorious), Linda Harrison (Nova), Robert Gunner (Landon), Lou Wagner (Lucius), Woodrow Parfrey (Maximus), Jeff Burton (Dodge), Buck Kartalian (Julius), Norman Burton (Hunt Leader), Wright King (Dr. Galen), Paul Lambert (Minister).
      Synopsis: An astronaut crew crash lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved.
      Comment: Classic multi-layered sci-fi which raises questions on the changing culture in society during the 1960s, as its premise turns evolution on its head. Heston’s cynical hero is at odds with his travelling companions as well as his eventual captors and it is a brave move for the character’s cynicism to make him not altogether likeable. Heston gives a strong performance mixing his character’s anger and helplessness with a keen determination to prove his point. Evans provides a neat contrast as the ape scientist and defender of the ape society’s faith. Schaffner directs with style with some great camera work during the opening act in the planet’s wasteland. McDowall (who would appear in all but one of the original sequels, adds charm as the archaeologist chimp. Hunter too gives a good account of herself as the only ape scientist to trust Heston. Alongside Chambers’ ground-breaking make-up there’s a top-notch score by Goldsmith and great use of desolate Utah and Arizona locations.
      Notes: Followed by four sequels – beginning with BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970) – a TV series (1974) and an animated TV series (1975-6). After a remake in 2001, the series was rebooted in 2011 with three more films commencing with RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Film Review – THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)

Related imageTHE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (UK, 1974) ***
      Distributor: United Artists Corporation; Production Company: Eon Productions; Release Date: 19 December 1974; Filming Dates: 18 April 1974 – 23 August 1974; Running Time: 125m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono | 3 Channel Stereo (London premiere print); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG – Contains moderate violence.
      Director: Guy Hamilton; Writer: Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz (based on the novel by Ian Fleming); Producer: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman; Associate Producer: Charles Orme; Director of Photography: Ted Moore, Oswald Morris; Music Composer: John Barry; Film Editor: Raymond Poulton, John Shirley; Casting Director: Weston Drury Jr., Maude Spector; Production Designer: Peter Murton; Art Director: John Graysmark, Peter Lamont; Costumes: Elsa Fennell; Make-up: Paul Engelen; Sound: Gordon Everett; Special Effects: John Stears; Visual Effects: Roy Field (uncredited).
      Cast: Roger Moore (James Bond), Christopher Lee (Scaramanga), Britt Ekland (Goodnight), Maud Adams (Andrea Anders), Hervé Villechaize (Nick Nack), Clifton James (J.W. Pepper), Richard Loo (Hai Fat), Soon-Tek Oh (Hip), Marc Lawrence (Rodney), Bernard Lee (‘M’), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Marne Maitland (Lazar), Desmond Llewelyn (‘Q’), James Cossins (Colthorpe), Yao Lin Chen (Chula), Carmen Du Sautoy (Saida), Gerald James (Frazier), Michael Osborne (Naval Lieutenant), Michael Fleming (Communications Officer).
      Synopsis: Bond is led to believe that he is targeted by the world’s most expensive assassin and must hunt him down to stop him.
      Comment: Moore’s second outing as 007 starts well, with little reliance on gadgets, but later descends into increasingly outlandish set-pieces – Lee’s flying car being a particular low point. Lee actually makes for a strong villain and Villechaize a memorable henchman, but the plot is lacking in any wider threat than that to Bond himself – the climate crisis theme of the subplot maybe even more topical today but is treated here in a tokenistic way. Again, cashing in on cinematic trends of the day the film shifts locale from that in  Fleming’s novel (Jamaica) to the Far East – introducing elements of martial arts to cash in on the then-recent glut of movies inspired by Bruce Lee. The fun-house scenes that bookend the film are well shot and tense and it’s nice to see Barry return to score the films – even if the theme song is one of the series’ poorest. There are elements of the vintage Bond classics here but too often they are undermined by an increasing desire to be cute – witness the impressive car jump stunt which is totally weakened by a supposedly humorous sound effect – worse was to follow in later entries. Followed by THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977).

Film Review – LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)

Image result for live and let die 1973LIVE AND LET DIE (UK, 1973) ***
      Distributor: United Artists Corporation; Production Company: Eon Productions; Release Date: 27 June 1973 (USA), 5 July 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: 13 October 1972 – 15 March 1973; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Guy Hamilton; Writer: Tom Mankiewicz (based on the novel by Ian Fleming); Producer: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman; Director of Photography: Ted Moore; Music Composer: George Martin; Film Editor: Bert Bates, Raymond Poulton, John Shirley; Casting Director: Weston Drury Jr.; Art Director: Syd Cain; Set Decorator: Simon Wakefield, Frederic C. Weiler (both uncredited); Costumes: Julie Harris; Make-up: Paul Rabiger; Sound: Ken Barker, John W. Mitchell; Special Effects: Derek Meddings; Visual Effects: Charles Staffell.
      Cast: Roger Moore (James Bond), Yaphet Kotto (Kananga / Mr. Big), Jane Seymour (Solitaire), Clifton James (Sheriff Pepper), Julius Harris (Tee Hee), Geoffrey Holder (Baron Samedi), David Hedison (Leiter), Gloria Hendry (Rosie), Bernard Lee (‘M’), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Tommy Lane (Adam), Earl Jolly Brown (Whisper), Roy Stewart (Quarrel), Lon Satton (Strutter), Arnold Williams (Cab Driver 1), Ruth Kempf (Mrs. Bell), Joie Chitwood (Charlie), Madeline Smith (Beautiful Girl), Michael Ebbin (Dambala), Kubi Chaza (Sales Girl), Brenda Arnau (Singer).
      Synopsis: 007 is sent to stop a diabolically brilliant heroin magnate armed with a complex organization and a reliable psychic tarot card reader.
      Comment: Moore’s debut appearance as 007 continues the series’ shift toward a tongue-in-cheek style initiated in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER with its glib, sometimes dismissive, approach. Comedic overtones begin to emerge at the expense of suspense, notably in the flying school action sequence. James’ Sheriff JW Pepper proved popular with cinemagoers, if not serious Bond fans, and would return in the next film in the series. This is also the point at which the Bond films started to follow trends rather than set them. The Blaxploitation genre had exploded by this time and the themes, locations and characters presented here capitalise on this. Kotto makes for a more down to earth and formidable villain than had been the case in those 60s Bonds, but as a result, the threat seems more subdued. The film does at least boast one of the series’ strongest theme songs (courtesy of Paul & Linda McCartney) and a well-staged, if slightly overlong, boat chase. Followed by THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1975).

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)

Image result for Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerSTAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (USA, 2019) ***½
      Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Production Company: Lucasfilm / Bad Robot / Walt Disney Pictures; Release Date: 16 December 2019 (USA), 19 December 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: 1 August 2018 – 15 February 2019; Running Time: 142m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: DTS (DTS: X) | Dolby Atmos | Auro 11.1 | Dolby Digital | IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Sonics-DDP | 12-Track Digital Sound; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12 – moderate violence, threat.
      Director: J. J. Abrams; Writer: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams (based on a story by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow and Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams and characters created by George Lucas); Executive Producer: Tommy Gormley, Callum Greene, Jason D. McGatlin; Producer: J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan; Associate Producer: Nour Dardari; Director of Photography: Dan Mindel; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Maryann Brandon, Stefan Grube; Casting Director: Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg; Production Designer: Rick Carter, Kevin Jenkins; Art Director: Paul Inglis; Set Decorator: Rosemary Brandenburg; Costumes: Michael Kaplan; Make-up: Digital Makeup Group; Sound: David Acord; Special Effects: Dominic Tuohy; Visual Effects: Industrial Light & Magic and others.
      Cast: Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Naomi Ackie (Jannah), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Richard E. Grant (General Pryde), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Keri Russell (Zorii Bliss), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Greg Grunberg (Snap Wexley), Shirley Henderson (Babu Frik), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Dominic Monaghan (Beaumont), Harrison Ford (Han Solo (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron’s journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.
      Comment: A technical triumph of visual effects and energetic action set-pieces this is an engrossing experience for two-thirds of its run time. Unfortunately, it becomes bloated during its final act with a need to tick too many boxes as it plays out its crowd-pleasing finale. It’s a shame as there is so much that is right with this conclusion to a saga that has spanned 42 years. The story propels us from one strange or exotic location to another and from set-piece to set-piece as it guides us through the simple quest that will ultimately lead to final closure on the Sith/Jedi war. As a spectacle, it is hard to resist, yet it somehow fails to connect on an emotional level as character revelations seek to top each other and some of the plot contrivances are overly convenient and obvious. Also, during the many action scenes, you begin to wonder whether any Stormtrooper can shoot straight. That said, the CGI and design work is simply amazing and Williams provides yet another majestic score. The result is an entertaining and largely satisfying final chapter that at the same time leaves you thinking it could still have been better.
      Notes: Also shot in 3-D.