Hellfighters (1968; USA; Technicolor; 121m) ***½ d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Leonard Rosenman. Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Vera Miles, Jim Hutton, Bruce Cabot, Jay C. Flippen, Edward Faulkner, Barbara Stuart, Edmund Hashim. The story of macho oil well firefighters and their wives. Whilst it plays almost every cliché in the book – and set a few – this is still an entertaining, well-staged action-packed story. Likeable characters, witty and simplistic plot and episodic nature keeps us interested. Rosenman’s theme and score are memorable. Wayne’s character of Chance Buckman is based on real-life oil well firefighter ‘Red’ Adair. Adair, “Boots” Hansen, and “Coots” Matthews, all served as technical advisers on the film. [PG]
Green Berets, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 142m) ** d. Ray Kellogg, John Wayne; w. James Lee Barrett; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Miklós Rózsa. Cast: John Wayne, David Janssen, Jim Hutton, Aldo Ray, Raymond St. Jacques, Bruce Cabot, Jack Soo, George Takai, Patrick Wayne, Luke Askew, Irene Tsu, Edward Faulkner, Jason Evers, Mike Henry, Vera Miles. A US army colonel picks two teams of crack Green Berets for a mission in South Vietnam. First off is to build and control a camp that is trying to be taken by the enemy the second mission is to kidnap a North Vietnamese General. Misguided attempt to justify US involvement in Vietnam War by serving it up with genre heroics seen in many flag-waving WWII movies. Wayne gives his usually competent square-jawed performance, but he is not well served by a long-winded and sloppy script plus uneven supporting performances. Based on the novel by Robin Moore. 
In Harm’s Way (1965; USA; B&W; 165m) **½ d. Otto Preminger; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Loyal Griggs; m. Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy, Patricia Neal, Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Burgess Meredith, Slim Pickens, Dana Andrews, Brandon DeWilde, Jill Haworth, Stanley Holloway, Franchot Tone, Carroll O’Connor, Larry Hagman, Barbara Bouchet. A naval officer reprimanded after Pearl Harbor is later promoted to rear admiral and gets a second chance to prove himself against the Japanese. Bloated and flatly directed WWII drama has more than a hint of melodrama and fails to satisfy despite improvement in its final act. Script suffers by trying to open up too many dead-end sub-plots involving a casting mix of seasoned veterans and future stars. Virtues are crisp black and white cinematography and stoic performance from Wayne. Based on the novel “Harm’s Way” by James Bassett. [PG]
KILLER INTENT (2018) **½
by Tony Kent
Published by Elliott and Thompson Ltd., 2018, 530pp
Blurb: When an attempted assassination sparks a chain reaction of explosive events across London, Britain’s elite security forces seem powerless to stop the chaos threatening to overwhelm the government. As the dark and deadly conspiracy unfolds, three strangers find their fates entwined: Joe Dempsey, a deadly military intelligence officer; Sarah Truman, a CNN reporter determined to get her headline; and Michael Devlin, a Belfast-born criminal barrister with a secret past. As the circle of those they can trust grows ever smaller, Dempsey, Devlin and Truman are forced to work in the shadows, caught in a life-or-death race against the clock, before the terrible plot can consume them all.
Enjoyment of this book will depend pretty much on your willingness to buy into the increasingly implausible plot presented. The story has its twists and turns, but none of these came as a surprise and the motivation and actions of the chief villain of the piece increasingly defied logic. Kent has two strong heroes in Dempsey and Devlin and a gutsy heroine in Truman. However, the latter character takes an increasingly back-seat role, having been the conduit for the early action. The book then descends into a stereotypical chase with a hostage/shootout climax that is somehow unfulfilling.
The book could have been more tightly edited. There is not enough in terms of plot progression and characterisation to warrant a 530-page count. The motivations of the characters are drawn out and repeated through long monologues. The book is essentially pulp-fiction and in that genre quantity does not necessarily directly correlate with quality. Here, readers have too much time to think and absorb and that enables them to dwell on the plot’s incredulities. That said, there are moments of promise and Kent may well go on to refine his skills as the series progresses – there is a swift set-up for follow-up stories in this tale’s closing pages. He has a good handle on action scenes, which will ensure his writing remains popular with a like-minded readership.
Unfortunately, the moments of promise are undermined by its preposterous plot resulting in a book that both pleases and frustrates at the same time.
Longest Day, The (1962; USA; B&W; 178m) ****½ d. Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki; w. Cornelius Ryan, Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall, Jack Seddon; ph. Jean Bourgoin, Walter Wottitz; m. Maurice Jarre. Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Curt Jurgens, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger, Sean Connery, Mel Ferrer, Eddie Albert, Richard Todd, Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Edmond O’Brien, Gert Frobe, Kenneth More, Red Buttons, Steve Forrest, Peter Lawford, Sal Mineo, Leslie Phillips, George Segal, Peter van Eyck, Stuart Whitman, Frank Finlay, Jack Hedley. The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view. Like the event itself this is a triumph of logistics in its attempt to recreate the seminal invasion of 6 June 1944. Crisply photographed in black and white this may have its fair share of genre cliches, but its strive for authenticity is admirable. It proved to be the inspiration for a number of similar WWII recreations during the 1960s and 1970s., but none bettered this efficiently marshalled all-star movie. Won Oscars for Cinematography and Special Effects (Robert MacDonald, Jacques Maumont). Todd was himself in Normandy on D-Day Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan. There is also a digitally remastered colourised version of the film. [PG]
Alamo, The (1960; USA; Technicolor; 193m) **** d. John Wayne; w. James Edward Grant; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dimitri Tiomkin. Cast: John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Richard Boone, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O’Brien, Chill Wills, Joseph Calleia, Ken Curtis, Carlos Arruza, Jester Hairston, Veda Ann Borg, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Cliff Lyons. In 1836, as General Santa Anna and the Mexican army sweep across Texas, Colonel William Travis is tasked with defending a small mission on the Mexicans’ route at all costs. Grand spectacle, notably the closing final battle scenes, are the main draw for this exercise in logistics. Wayne handles the whole thing with considerable aplomb. Whilst the inevitability of the story’s conclusion has been laid down by history, there is a sense of admiration for the spirit of the volunteers that only occasionally veers into the overly-patriotic and preachy. Wayne, Widmark and Harvey all bring star quality to the proceedings. Great score by Tiomkin. Wayne assumed huge personal debt to get film finished after United Artists refused funding once budget was exceeded. Oscar winner for Best Sound. Original video release cut to 161m. Remade in 2004. [PG]
Jack Ryan – Season One (2018; USA; Colour; 1 x 65m, 7 x 42m-51m) **** pr. Nazrin Choudhury, José Luis Ecolar, Robert Phillips; d. Morten Tyldum, Daniel Sackheim, Patricia Riggen, Carlton Cuse; w. Carlton Cuse, Graham Roland, Stephen Kronish, Daria Polatin, Patrick Aison, Annie Jacobsen, Nazrin Choudhury, Nolan Dunbar; ph. Richard Rutkowski, Checco Varese, Christopher Faloona; m. Ramin Djawadi. Cast: John Krasinski, Abbie Cornish, Wendell Pierce, Ali Suliman, Emmanuelle Lussier Martinez, Dina Shihabi, Karim Zein, Nadia Affolter, Jordi Mollà, Arpy Ayvazian, Adam Bernett, Amir El-Masry, Goran Kostic, Eileen Li, Mena Massoud, Victoria Sanchez, Marie-Josée Croze, John Hoogenakker, Shadi Jahno, Zarif Kabier, Kevin Kent, Brittany Drisdelle, Shailene Garnett, Matt McCoy, Maxime Robin, Kenny Wong, Chadi Alhelou, Jonathan Bailey, Jamil Khoury, Stéphane Krau, Al Sapienza, Kareem Tristan Alleyne, Ron Canada, Michael Gaston, Matthew Kabwe, Yani Marin, Laurean Adrian Parau, Kaan Urgancioglu, Jessica Abruzzese, Numan Acar, Mehdi Aissaoui. When CIA analyst Jack Ryan stumbles upon a suspicious series of bank transfers his search for answers pulls him from the safety of his desk job and catapults him into a deadly game of cat and mouse throughout Europe and the Middle East, with a rising terrorist figurehead preparing for a massive attack against the US and her allies. Impressively mounted reworking of Tom Clancy’s hero as an ex-marine with a past thrown back into the field to hunt down the terrorist leader, whilst trying to protect the leader’s defecting wife and children. Action scenes are well handled and for the most part the script is both intelligent and suspenseful, only occasionally lapsing into genre conventions. Krasinski is good as the latest actor to take on the role of the eponymous hero with Pierce equally good as his superior. Suliman manages to convey menace with a deeper rooted motivation as the terrorist leader, making him a three-dimensional character. Certain elements of the background stories are left unresolved signalling a second season will follow. 
Horse Soldiers, The (1959; USA; DeLuxe; 115m) ***½ d. John Ford; w. John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin; ph. William H. Clothier; m. David Buttolph. Cast: John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Althea Gibson, Strother Martin, Hoot Gibson, Anna Lee, Russell Simpson, Carleton Young, Ken Curtis, Judson Pratt, Willis Bouchey, Bing Russell, O.Z. Whitehead, Hank Worden. A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply centre. Solid Civil-War Western sees Cavalry Colonel Wayne and army medic Holden sparring with their ideals as rebel hostage Towers watches over and gradually warms to Wayne. Ford directs efficiently, handling the action scenes and spectacle with his usual aplomb. Whilst not amongst Ford-Wayne’s classics, this is still a sturdy character study. Loosely based on Harold Sinclair’s 1956 novel of the same name, which in turn was based on the historic 17-day Grierson’s Raid and Battle of Newton’s Station in Mississippi during the Civil War. [PG]
Sea Chase, The (1955; USA; WarnerColor; 117m) *** d. John Farrow; w. James Warner Bellah, John Twist; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Roy Webb. Cast: John Wayne, Lana Turner, David Farrar, Lyle Bettger, Tab Hunter, James Arness, Paul Fix, Alan Hale Jr., John Qualen, Claude Akins, Richard Davalos, Lowell Gilmore, Wilton Graff, Peter Whitney, Luis Van Rooten. As World War II begins, German freighter captain Karl Ehrlich tries to get his ship back to Germany through a gantlet of Allied warships. Interesting cat-an-mouse drama set at sea with Wayne in commanding form despite being cast as a German. Turner adds glamour as the love interest. Elements of the plotting are contrived, but the story maintains interest until its finale. Based on the novel by Andrew Geer. [U]
Operation Pacific (1951; USA; B&W; 111m) ***½ d. George Waggner; w. George Waggner; ph. Bert Glennon; m. Alan Crosland Jr. Cast: John Wayne, Patricia Neal, Ward Bond, Scott Forbes, Martin Milner, Philip Carey, Milburn Stone, Paul Picerni, William Campbell, Kathryn Givney, Cliff Clark, Jack Pennick, Virginia Brissac, Lewis Martin, Sam Edwards. During WWII, a submarine’s second in command inherits the problem of torpedoes that don’t explode. When on shore, he is eager to win back his ex-wife. Well-made war film combines tense battle scenes with standard romantic interludes. The submarine action is well-staged allowing Wayne moments of heroics. The scenes on land are more formulaic as Neal and Wayne try to figure out their future. A colourised version was released on video. [PG]