Film Review – DIRTY HARRY (1971)

Image result for dirty harry 1971DIRTY HARRY (USA, 1971) ****½
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures (US), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 21 December 1971 (USA), 30 March 1972 (UK); Filming Dates: 20 April 1971 – 18 June 1971; Running Time: 102m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 15- contains strong violence.
       Director: Don Siegel; Writer: Harry Julian Fink & Rita M. Fink, and Dean Riesner (based on a story by Harry Julian Fink & Rita M. Fink); Executive Producer: Robert Daley; Producer: Don Siegel; Associate Producer: Carl Pingitore; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: Carl Pingitore; Casting Director: ; Art Director: Dale Hennesy; Set Decorator: Robert De Vestel; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: William Randall.
       Cast: Clint Eastwood (Harry), Harry Guardino (Bressler), Reni Santoni (Chico), John Vernon (The Mayor), Andrew Robinson (Killer), John Larch (Chief), John Mitchum (De Giorgio), Mae Mercer (Mrs. Russell), Lyn Edgington (Norma), Ruth Kobart (Bus Driver), Woodrow Parfrey (Mr. Jaffe), Josef Sommer (Rothko), William Paterson (Bannerman), James Nolan (Liquor Proprietor), Maurice Argent (Sid Kleinman), Jo de Winter (Miss Willis), Craig Kelly (Sgt. Reineke).
       Synopsis: When a mad man calling himself ‘the Scorpio Killer’ menaces the city, tough as nails San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan is assigned to track down and ferret out the crazed psychopath.
      Comment: Classic renegade cop movie was highly Influential and redefined the crime genre for a new generation. Siegel directs an efficient and effective crime thriller in which Eastwood established the blueprint for all maverick cop characters that followed. Much maligned by liberal critics at the time for its approach, it has since grown significantly in reputation for its lean script and Eastwood’s career-defining performance. Robinson is also excellent as the psychotic serial killer. The cat-and-mouse nature of the plot is well realised and leads to a tense finale. The screenplay contains much quotable dialogue and adds depth to the characters as well as addressing its broader message. There is a dynamite jazz-rock music score from Schifrin, which adds significantly to the movie’s style.
      Notes: Serial killer Scorpio was loosely based on the Zodiac killer, who used to taunt police and media with notes about his crimes, in one of which he threatened to hijack a school bus full of children. This was Josef Sommer’s first film. The first of five movies starring Eastwood as Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan. Followed by MAGNUM FORCE (1973), THE ENFORCER (1976), SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) and THE DEAD POOL (1988).

Film Review – FANTASTIC VOYAGE (1966)

Image result for fantastic voyage 1966FANTASTIC VOYAGE (USA, 1966) ***½
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox; Release Date: 24 August 1966 (USA), 14 October 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 25 January – mid June 1965; Running Time: 100m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Richard Fleischer; Writer: Harry Kleiner (screenplay), David Duncan (adaptation) (based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby); Producer: Saul David; Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo; Music Composer: Leonard Rosenman; Film Editor: William B. Murphy; Art Director: Dale Hennesy, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Stuart A. Reiss, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Bruce Walkup, Truman Eli, Ollie Hughes (all uncredited); Make-up: Ben Nye; Sound: David Dockendorf, Bernard Freericks; Special Effects: Johnny Borgese, Greg C. Jensen (both uncredited); Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Art Cruickshank, Emil Kosa Jr.
      Cast: Stephen Boyd (Grant), Raquel Welch (Cora), Edmond O’Brien (General Carter), Donald Pleasence (Dr. Michaels), Arthur O’Connell (Col. Donald Reid), William Redfield (Capt. Bill Owens), Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Duval), Jean Del Val (Jan Benes), Barry Coe (Communications Aide), Ken Scott (Secret Service), Shelby Grant (Nurse), James Brolin (Technician), Brendan Fitzgerald (Wireless Operator). Uncredited: Brendon Boone (Military Policeman), Kenneth MacDonald (Henry – Heart Monitoring), Christopher Riordan (Young Scientist).
      Synopsis: A diplomat is nearly assassinated. In order to save him, a submarine is shrunken to microscopic size and injected into his bloodstream with a small crew. Problems arise almost as soon as they enter the bloodstream.
      Comment: Imaginative sci-fi memorable for its superb production design and photographic effects, which deservedly won Academy Awards. The script is solid, even if the dialogue is a little hokey at times, and provides the requisite set-pieces, helping build tension in the story. The concept of miniaturisation is fanciful, but once you get past that element there is much to enjoy in the fantasy it creates. Boyd makes for a likeable square-jawed hero and Welch adds glamour to the mix.  Capably directed by Fleischer and with an eerily discordant score from Rosenman.
      Notes: The picture marked the first major screen role for actress Raquel Welch. Won Oscars for Art Direction-Set Decoration (Jack Martin Smith, Dale Hennesy, Walter M. Scott and Stuart A. Reiss) and Special Effects (Art Cruickshank). Novelised by Isaac Asimov. Followed by an animated TV series in 1968.

Film Review – REGAN (1974)

Image result for regan 1974REGAN (TV) (UK, 1974) ****
      Distributor: Thames Television; Production Company: Armchair Cinema / Euston Films / Thames Television; Release Date: 4 June 1974; Filming Dates: 6 February 1974 – 5 March 1974; Running Time: 77m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Tom Clegg; Writer: Ian Kennedy Martin; Executive Producer: Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor; Producer: Ted Childs; Associate Producer: Mary Morgan; Director of Photography: John Keeling; Music Composer: Cy Payne (as Mark Duvall); Film Editor: Chris Burt; Casting Director: Lesley De Pettit; Art Director: Jack Robinson; Costumes: Jo Osmond, David Murphy; Make-up: Michael Morris; Sound: Tony Dawe.
      Cast: John Thaw (Det. Insp. Jack Regan), Dennis Waterman (Det. Sgt. George Carter), Lee Montague (Arthur Dale), Garfield Morgan (Det. Chief Insp. Frank Haskins), David Daker (Tusser), Janet Key (Kate Regan), Maureen Lipman (Annie), Morris Perry (Det. Chief Supt. Maynon), Stephen Yardley (Det. Insp. Laker), Barry Jackson (Morton), Miquel Brown (Miriam), Peter Blythe (Peter), Carl Rigg (Det. Sgt. Kent), Michael Da Costa (South), Ron Pember (Landlord), Jonathan Elsom (Interviewer), Betty Woolfe (Mrs. Berry), Seymour Matthews (Doctor), Don Henderson (Strip-Club Heavy), Nancy Gabrielle (Johno’s Wife), Del Baker (Det. Sgt. Cowley).
      Synopsis: A flying squad officer is led a merry dance by gangsters from a London pub and, although he survives a brutal beating ‘get rid of this filth,’ he subsequently dies. Enter John Thaw’s vengeful and unconventional copper Regan.
      Comment: Smart cop thriller for the ITV Armchair Cinema series acted as a pilot for the TV series The Sweeney (1975-8). Thaw is immediately into his stride as DI Regan and Waterman provides good support as Carter, his more thoughtful DS. The plot concerning rival gangs manoeuvering to remove a common problem is nothing new but is written and filmed in a gritty style that was to prove hugely influential on the small screen. Echoes of cinematic greats such as DIRTY HARRY, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and GET CARTER (all 1971) abound with witty and urban dialogue and tough action scenes.

Film Review – SWEENEY 2 (1978)

Image result for sweeney 2 1978SWEENEY 2 (UK, 1978) ***
      Distributor: EMI Distribution; Production Company: Euston Films; Release Date: April 1978; Filming Dates: Novcmber 1977 – December 1977; Running Time: 104m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Tom Clegg; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin (based on “The Sweeney” created by Ian Kennedy Martin); Executive Producer: Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor; Producer: Ted Childs; Associate Producer: ; Director of Photography: Dusty Miller; Music Composer: Tony Hatch; Film Editor: Chris Burt; Casting Director: Marilyn Johnson; Art Director: William Alexander; Costumes: David Murphy; Make-up: Eddie Knight; Sound: Derek Rye, Hugh Strain, Ian Toynton; Special Effects: Arthur Beavis.
      Cast: John Thaw (Det. Insp. Jack Regan), Dennis Waterman (Det. Sgt. George Carter), Denholm Elliott (Jupp), Ken Hutchison (Hill), Anna Gaël (Mrs. Hill), Barry Stanton (Big John), John Flanagan (Willard), David Casey (Goodyear), Derrick O’Connor (Llewellyn), John Alkin (Det. Sgt. Tom Daniels), James Warrior (Det. Con. Jellyneck), Guy Standeven (Logan – Bank Manager), Brian Gwaspari (White), Frederick Treves (McKyle), Johnny Shannon (Harry – Villain), Clifford Kershaw (Gloria’s Father), Toby Salaman (Doctor), Nigel Hawthorne (Dilke), Lewis Fiander (Gorran), Anna Nygh (Shirley Hicks), Michael J. Jackson (Soames), Lynn Dearth (Mrs. White), Fiona Mollison (Mrs. Haughton), Sarah Atkinson (Mrs. Mead), John Lyons (Mead), Brian Hall (Haughton), Matthew Scurfield (Jefferson), Gareth Milne (Bank Teller), Sebastian Witkin (Skateboarder), Hubert Rees (Bank Manager), George Innes (Pete Beale), Roddy McMillan (Collie), Michael O’Hagan (Doyle), Arthur Cox (Detective), Georgina Hale (Switchboard Girl), Patrick Malahide (Major Conway), Max Mason (SPG Constable), Frank Coda (Commissionaire), Yvon Doval (Mr. Mahmoun), Jim McManus (Barman), John Vine (PC), David Gillies (PC), Seretta Wilson (Girl), Diana Weston (Air Hostess), George Mikell (Superintendent), Marc Zuber (Andy), Joe Zammit-Cardona (Customs Official), Leon Lissek (Cardona Alexandros), Marilyn Finlay (School Teacher), Seymour Matthews (Harry – Fingerprint Man), Stefan Gryff (Nino), Michael Scholes (Boy in Bed), Danny Rae (Taxi Driver), Rosario Serrano (Mrs. Konstantikis), Eamonn Jones (Barman), Alan Ross (Fiddler).
      Synopsis: Second cinematic spin-off from the popular 70’s police series. Regan & Carter head a Flying Squad investigation into a series of bank raids by a team of well-armed villains who are flying in from the continent
      Comment: This follow-up to the first big-screen outing for Thaw and Waterman in SWEENEY! (1977) is a tough and violent story of the pursuit of a gang of bank robbers who are funding a residential development in Malta. The story stretches its running time and contains a lot of padding – including a bomb threat segment in a hotel that has no other reason to be in the story. That said it works slightly better than the first film as it is more closely linked to the style and characters of the TV series. Thaw and Waterman have established a strong rapport and there is a “fly-on-the-wall” documentary feel to the way the story is filmed, adding to the levels of authenticity. However, there is less in the way of character progression and the whole thing amounts to little more than an extended, albeit enjoyable, episode of the series.
      Notes: As seen through Denholm Elliott’s character, The Sweeney was not afraid to face the fact that there are such things as bent officers. The character was based on a real-life former head of the Flying Squad, who had been convicted at the Old Bailey on corruption charges in 1977.

Film Review – THE BEGUILED (1971)

Image result for the beguiled 1971THE BEGUILED (USA, 1971) ****
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 31 March 1971 (USA), July 1971 (UK); Filming Dates: 9 April 1970; Running Time: 105m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – moderate language, sex and violence.
      Director: Don Siegel; Writer: John B. Sherry, Grimes Grice (based on the novel “The Painted Devil” by Thomas Cullinan); Executive Producer: Jennings Lang; Producer: Don Siegel; Associate Producer: Claude Traverse; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: Carl Pingitore; Casting Director: Robert J. LaSanka; Production Designer: Ted Haworth; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen; Set Decorator: John P. Austin; Costumes: Helen Colvig; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: John L. Mack, Waldon O. Watson.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (John McBurney), Geraldine Page (Martha), Elizabeth Hartman (Edwina), Jo Ann Harris (Carol), Darleen Carr (Doris), Mae Mercer (Hallie), Pamelyn Ferdin (Amy), Melody Thomas Scott (Abigail), Peggy Drier (Lizzie), Patricia Mattick (Janie), Charlie Briggs (1st Confederate Captain), George Dunn (Sam Jefferson), Charles G. Martin (2nd Confederate Captain), Matt Clark (Scrogins), Patrick Culliton (Miles Farnswoth), Buddy Van Horn (Soldier).
      Synopsis: During the Civil War a wounded Union soldier who has been taken in at a Southern girls’ school. The girls become curious and then sensuous. But when jealousy sparks, the anger is ultimately focused on the soldier.
      Comment: This is a haunting tale in which Eastwood plays against type in an unsympathetic role. Themes of sexual repression and sodomy are well-handled by Siegel, never crossing the line into exploitation. Page is excellent as the headmistress with her own secrets. The production is handsomely mounted and beautifully photographed by Surtees. The sexual tension builds throughout the story as Eastwood manipulates the naivety of his saviours. He gives his best screen performance to date as a result.
      Notes: Remade in 2017.

Film Review – SWEENEY! (1977)

Related imageSWEENEY! (UK, 1977) ***
      Distributor: EMI Distribution; Production Company: Euston Films; Release Date: 20 January 1977; Filming Dates: April 1976 – May 1976; Running Time: 97m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: ; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: David Wickes; Writer: Ranald Graham (based on The Sweeney created by Ian Kennedy Martin); Executive Producer: Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor; Producer: Ted Childs; Director of Photography: Dusty Miller; Music Composer: Denis King; Film Editor: Chris Burt; Casting Director: Marilyn Johnson; Art Director: William Alexander; Set Decorator: ; Costumes: David Murphy; Make-up: Michael Morris; Sound: Tony Dawe, Clive Smith; Special Effects: Arthur Beavis.
      Cast: John Thaw (D.I. Jack Regan), Dennis Waterman (D.S. George Carter), Barry Foster (Elliott McQueen), Ian Bannen (Charles Baker), Colin Welland (Frank Chadwick), Diane Keen (Bianca Hamilton), Michael Coles (Johnson), Joe Melia (Ronnie Brent), Brian Glover (Mac), Lynda Bellingham (Janice Wyatt), Morris Perry (Flying Squad Cdr. Maynon), Paul Angelis (Secret Serviceman), Nick Brimble (D.S. Burtonshaw), John Alkin (D.S. Tom Daniels), Bernard Kay (Matthews), Antony Scott (Johnson’s Henchman), Antony Brown (Murder Inquiry Supt.), John Oxley (Chadwick’s Deputy Editor), Peggy Aitchison (Carter’s Neighbour), Hal Jeayes (Manservant), Sally Osborne (Sally), John Kane (Special Branch Sgt.), Chris Dillinger (Johnson’s Henchman), Peter Childs (Murder Inquiry Insp.), Alan Mitchell (Detective Insp.), Leonard Kavanagh (Pathologist), Anthony Woodruff (Coroner), Michael Latimer (P.P.S.), Matthew Long (Traffic Police Sgt.), Joyce Grant (McQueen’s Secretary), Johnny Shannon (Scotland Yard Duty Sgt.), David Corti (Young Boy), Susan Valentine (Chadwick’s Secretary (as Susan Skipper)), Nadim Sawalha (Chairman of the Oil Producers’ Conference).
      Synopsis: Hard-bitten Flying Squad officer Jack Regan gets embroiled in a deadly political plot when an old friend asks him to investigate the death of his girlfriend.
      Comment: Typical of its time in its political incorrectness, violent action and seeking out corruption in the higher echelons of government. Thaw and Waterman more than adequately carry forward their small-screen portrayals. Foster and Keen are impressive in the supporting cast. Whilst the plot is an interesting play on the Profumo affair of the early 1960s it somehow fails to deliver satisfactorily. The action scenes are well-directed and the crew of the TV series all play their part. The shocking finale is well-executed and played out.
      Notes: Based on the TV series The Sweeney (1974-8) and followed by SWEENEY 2 (1978) and an updated adaptation in 2012.

Film Review – KELLY’S HEROES (1970)

Image result for kelly's heroesKELLY’S HEROES (Yugoslavia/USA, 1970) ***½
      Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Avala Film / Katzka-Loeb / The Warriors Company; Release Date: 23 June 1970 (USA), 17 September 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 30 June 1969 – December 1969; Running Time: 144m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Stereo (35 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm (70mm blow-up); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG – contains mild language and violence.
Director: Brian G. Hutton; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin; Producer: Sidney Beckerman, Gabriel Katzka; Associate Producer: Irving L. Leonard; Director of Photography: Gabriel Figueroa; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: John Jympson; Production Designer: John Barry; Set Decorator: Mike Ford; Costumes: Anna Maria Feo; Make-up: Trevor Crole-Rees; Sound: Jonathan Bates, Cyril Swern, Harry W. Tetrick; Special Effects: Karl Baumgartner.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Kelly), Telly Savalas (Big Joe), Don Rickles (Crapgame), Carroll O’Connor (General Colt), Donald Sutherland (Oddball), Gavin MacLeod (Moriarty), Hal Buckley (Maitland), Stuart Margolin (Little Joe), Jeff Morris (Cowboy), Richard Davalos (Gutowski), Perry Lopez (Petuko), Tom Troupe (Job), Harry Dean Stanton (Willard), Dick Balduzzi (Fisher), Gene Collins (Babra), Len Lesser (Bellamy), David Hurst (Colonel Dankhopf), Fred Pearlman (Mitchell), Michael Clark (Grace), George Fargo (Penn), Dee Pollock (Jonesey), George Savalas (Mulligan), John G. Heller (German Lieutenant), Shepherd Sanders (Turk), Karl-Otto Alberty (German Tank Commander), Ross Elliott (Booker), Phil Adams (Third Tank Commander), Hugo De Vernier (French Mayor), Frank J. Garlotta (Tanker), Harry Goines (Supply Sergeant), David Gross (German Captain), Sandy McPeak (Second Tank Commander), James McHale (Guest), Robert MacNamara (Roach), Read Morgan (U.S. Lieutenant), Tom Signorelli (Bonsor), Donald Waugh (Roamer), Vincent Maracecchi (Old Man in Town).
      Synopsis: A group of U.S. soldiers sneaks across enemy lines to get their hands on a secret stash of Nazi treasure.
      Comment: Entertaining, if overlong, WWII heist caper coasts on the performances of its charismatic cast. Hutton, who previously worked with Eastwood on 1968’s  WHERE EAGLES DARE, handles the action scenes and pyrotechnics with great aplomb. Eastwood is the former US army officer who persuades Savalas and his platoon of misfits to venture behind enemy lines in search of a bounty of gold bars. They are joined along the way by Sutherland, as the anachronistic hippie “Oddball” who is surprisingly leading a squadron of three Sherman Tanks. Rickles is a supplies man operating his own black market and O’Connor gives an OTT performance as the unwitting General who assumes the assault on the German lines is out of sheer bravery. Lalo Schifrin’s score is amusing in a sequence where it recalls Ennio Morricone’s scores for Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns. Some may grumble at the levity in what was a bloody war and yes there are uneasy moments where you feel guilt at your enjoyment. A longer cut (circa 20 minutes were cut) would have carried more character focus and perhaps created a more complete story, but what we have is a loud, brash and often humorous caper movie.
      Notes: Songs: “Burning Bridges,” words and music by Lalo Schifrin and Mike Curb, sung by Mike Curb Congregation; “Si tu me dis,” music and lyrics by Lalo Schifrin and Gene Lees, sung by Monique Aldebert; “Sunshine,” composer undetermined, sung by Hank Williams.
The film is based on a true incident. The caper was covered in a book called “Nazi Gold: The Sensational Story of the World’s Greatest Robbery–and the Greatest Criminal Cover-Up” by Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting. The heist was perpetrated by a combination of renegade Nazi and American officers. It was also listed as the “biggest” robbery ever in the Guinness Book of Records, in the 1960s.

Film Review – THE COMMUTER (2018)

Image result for the commuter 2018THE COMMUTER (USA/UK, 2018) **
      Distributor: Lionsgate (USA), StudioCanal (UK); Production Company: StudioCanal / The Picture Company / Ombra Films; Release Date: 8 January 2018 (USA), 19 January 2018 (UK); Filming Dates: 25 July 2016 – September 2016; Running Time: 104m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: ARRIRAW; Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence, injury detail.
      Director: Jaume Collet-Serra; Writer: Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, Ryan Engle (based on a story by Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi); Executive Producer: Jaume Collet-Serra, Michael Dreyer, Ron Halpern, Didier Lupfer; Producer: Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona; Associate Producer: Lacey Darlene Paulson; Director of Photography: Paul Cameron; Music Composer: Roque Baños; Film Editor: Nicolas De Toth; Casting Director: Reg Poerscout-Edgerton; Production Designer: Richard Bridgland; Art Director: Wing Lee; Set Decorator: Tina Jones; Costumes: Jill Taylor, Betsy Heimann; Make-up: Sunday Englis; Sound: James Harrison, Steve Little; Special Effects: Stefano Pepin; Visual Effects: Steven Begg, Adam Rowland.
      Cast: Liam Neeson (Michael MacCauley), Vera Farmiga (Joanna), Patrick Wilson (Alex Murphy), Jonathan Banks (Walt), Sam Neill (Captain Hawthorne), Elizabeth McGovern (Karen MacCauley), Killian Scott (Dylan), Shazad Latif (Vince), Andy Nyman (Tony), Clara Lago (Eva), Roland Møller (Jackson), Florence Pugh (Gwen), Dean-Charles Chapman (Danny MacCauley), Ella-Rae Smith (Sofia), Nila Aalia (Sherri), Colin McFarlane (Conductor Sam), Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Oliver), Adam Nagaitis (Conductor Jimmy), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Agent Garcia), Damson Idris (Agent Denys), Andy Lucas (Manny Engineer), Zaak Conway (Caleb O’Malley), Ben Caplan (Frank), Letitia Wright (Jules Skateboarder), Simon Hibbs (Sean O’Malley), Nathan Wiley (Sniper), Jamie Beamish (Nathan), Ben Nathan (Police Officer), David Alwyn (Platform Trooper), John Alastair (Officer O’Neal), Edward Bluemel (Gwen’s Boyfriend), Aoife Hinds (Jeanie), Alana Maria (Officer Jones), Pat Kiernan (Pat Kiernan), Natalie Duddridge (Natalie Duddridge), Jaime Menéndez (Enrique Mendez).
       Synopsis: An Insurance Salesman/Ex-Cop is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.
      Comment: Preposterous thriller straight out of the “good ideas” department of the studio corporate wagon. It is almost a carbon-copy re-run of Neeson and Collet-Serra’s previous aeroplane-in-jeopardy collaboration NON-STOP. Whilst it is efficiently made and Neeson, as always, makes for a sympathetic hero, you find yourself scratching your head as to how this could actually be conceived as being in the least bit plausible. The set-pieces are so precisely choreographed they consistently ring false notes, resulting in the deflation of any suspense built through the competent direction and editing. This is formula product assembled for a forgiving modern audience that puts style and visual excitement ahead of intelligent story-telling.

Film Review – TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970)

Image result for two mules for sister sara 1970TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (USA, 1970) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Rank Film Distributors (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company / Sanen Productions; Release Date: 28 May 1970 (USA), 19 July 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 February 1969 – mid-May 1969; Running Time: 114m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG – contains strong violence and sexual threat.
      Director: Don Siegel; Writer: Albert Maltz (based on a story by  Budd Boetticher); Producer: Carroll Case, Martin Rackin; Director of Photography: Gabriel Figueroa; Music Composer: Ennio Morricone; Music Supervisor: Stanley Wilson; Film Editor: Robert F. Shugrue; Art Director: José Rodríguez Granada; Set Decorator: Pablo Galván; Costumes: Carlos Chávez, Helen Colvig; Make-up: Margarita Ortega, Frank Westmore; Sound: Jesús González Gancy, Ronald Pierce, Waldon O. Watson; Special Effects: Frank Brendel, León Ortega.
      Cast: Shirley MacLaine (Sara), Clint Eastwood (Hogan), Manolo Fábregas (Colonel Beltran), Alberto Morin (General LeClaire), Armando Silvestre (1st American), John Kelly (2nd American), David Povall (Juan), Ada Carrasco (Juan’s Mother), Pancho Córdova (Juan’s Father), José Chávez (Horacio), Pedro Galván, José Ángel Espinosa ‘Ferrusquilla’ (French Officer), Enrique Lucero (3rd American), Aurora Muñoz (Sara’s Friend), Xavier Marc (Yaqui Chief), Hortensia Santoveña (1st Woman in the Night), Rosa Furman (2nd Woman in the Night), José Torvay (Mexican Guerrilla), Margarito Luna (Mexican Guerrilla), Xavier Massé.
      Synopsis: A nun is rescued from three cowboys by a stranger who is on his way to do some reconnaissance, for a future mission to capture a French fort. Inevitably the two become good friends but the nun has a secret.
      Comment: A handsome low-key Western that coasts on the interactions between the two stars in a riff on THE AFRICAN QUEEN. MacLaine is sassy and funny as the nun and Eastwood adds a level of humour to his stranger persona carried forward from the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns of the mid-1960s. Don Siegel directs the story efficiently and the film is colourfully photographed on location in Mexico. Ennio Morricone’s score is witty and recalls his scores for Leone. Ultimately, this is a character-led story and as such the minimal plot does little to engage. There is a memorable sequence where MacLaine has to help remove an Indian arrow from Eastwood’s shoulder and another involving the blowing-up of a railway bridge. The result, however, is a diverting entertainment that coasts on the charisma of its two stars and also feels a little disposable.
      Notes: The second film collaboration between director Don Siegel and star Clint Eastwood.

Film Review – STAN & OLLIE (2018)

Related imageSTAN & OLLIE (UK/USA/Canada, 2018) ****
      Distributor: Entertainment One (UK), Sony Pictures Classics (US); Production Company: BBC / Fable Pictures / Sonesta Films / eOne Entertainment; Release Date: 21 October 2018 (UK), 14 November 2018 (US); Running Time: 98m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild bad language.
      Director: Jon S. Baird; Writer: Jeff Pope; Executive Producer: Kate Fasulo, Christine Langan, Xavier Marchand, Joe Oppenheimer, Eugenio Pérez, Gabrielle Tana; Producer: Faye Ward; Co- Producer: Jim Spencer; Director of Photography: Laurie Rose; Music Composer: Clint Mansell; Music Supervisor: Karen Elliott; Film Editor: Úna Ní Dhonghaíle, Billy Sneddon; Casting Director: Andy Pryor; Production Designer: John Paul Kelly; Art Director: David Hindle, Astrid Sieben; Set Decorator: Claudia Parker; Costumes: Guy Speranza; Make-up: Jeremy Woodhead, Mark Coulier; Sound: Paul Cotterell, James Harrison; Special Effects: Chris Reynolds; Visual Effects: Noga Alon Stein, Mark Michaels, Jolien Buijs.
      Cast: John C. Reilly (Oliver Hardy), Steve Coogan (Stan Laurel), Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy), Nina Arianda (Ida Kitaeva Laurel), Danny Huston (Hal Roach), Rufus Jones (Bernard Delfont), Susy Kane (Cynthia Clark), Richard Cant (Harry Langdon), Ella Kenion (Holiday Camp Organizer), John Henshaw (Nobby Cook), Sanjeev Kohli (Manager of Glasgow Empire), Lucy Appleton (Audience Member), Bentley Kalu (Elephant Wrangler), Keith MacPherson (James Finlayson), Joseph Balderrama (James Horne), Kate Okello (Newcastle Receptionist), Greg Canestrari (Stan’s Lawyer), Charlie Robinson (Savoy Guest), Harry Hepple (Wally Brady), Roger Ringrose (Doctor), Julie Eagleton (Irish Woman, Cork Harbour), Daniel Fearn (Cab Driver), Nick Owenford (Studio Executive), Sophie Wardlow (Laurel and Hardy’s Makeup artist), Conrad Asquith (Lord Warley), Paul Riddell (Holidaymaker), Toby Sedgwick (Theatre Manager), Rebecca Yeo (Concierge Savoy), Matt Dunkley (Conductor), Andy Mihalache (Arthur I. Royce), Stewart Alexander (Joe Schenck), Danny Scheinmann (Jeweler), Paul Bailey (Art Greene), David Gambier (Audience Member), Eve Harding (Train Passenger 1), Ashley Robinson (Gordon Douglas), Karl Jenkins (Chill Wills), Michael Haydon (Audience member), Swaylee Loughnane (Theatre Goer), Geoffrey Osborne (Photographer), Elise Lamb (Plymouth Girl), Gary Kiely (Irishman), Martin Bratanov (Audience Member), Josh Alexander (Stall Holder), Laraine Dix (Savoy guest), Callum Forman (Stage Hand), Tom Bates (Roach Scene Hand), Sinéad Daly (Dublin Mother), Steve Healey (Theatre Goer), Alex Jaep (Audience Member), Phillip Seddon (Doorman), Simon Ager (Poster Man Newcastle), Lewis Reynolds (Plymouth Stage Hand).
      Synopsis: Laurel and Hardy, the world’s most famous comedy duo, attempt to reignite their film careers as they embark on what becomes their swan song – a gruelling theatre tour of post-war Britain.
      Comment: Wonderful account of the twilight years of the greatest comedy double-act of all-time. Coogan and Reilly give extraordinary performances as L&H, perfectly capturing their mannerisms and voices. Henderson and Arianda also score heavily as the pair’s wives. The production design neatly captures 1953 England, albeit with a slightly romantic glow. Pope’s script efficiently condenses events into a tight running-time, which ensures it doesn’t outstay its welcome. The recreation of some of the duo’s stage and movie routines is highly authentic and very funny. There are moments of gentle humour and melancholy, but it is all delivered with an honesty and obvious affection for the subject matter. Let’s hope it leads a new generation to appreciate these true legends of cinema.