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).

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 – 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.

Film Review – MAGNUM FORCE (1973)

Image result for magnum force 1973MAGNUM FORCE (USA, 1973) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 25 December 1973 (USA), 26 December 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: 24 April–late June 1973; Running Time: 124m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Ted Post; Writer: John Milius, Michael Cimino (based on a story by John Milius and original material by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink); Producer: Robert Daley; Director of Photography: Frank Stanley; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Nessa Hyams (uncredited); Art Director: Jack T. Collis; Set Decorator: John Lamphear; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: James R. Alexander; Special Effects: Sass Bedig.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Harry Callahan), Hal Holbrook (Lt. Briggs), Mitchell Ryan (McCoy), David Soul (Davis), Tim Matheson (Sweet), Kip Niven (Astrachan), Robert Urich (Grimes), Felton Perry (Early Smith), Maurice Argent (Nat Weinstein), Margaret Avery (Prostitute), Richard Devon (Ricca), Tony Giorgio (Palancio), Jack Kosslyn (Walter), Bob March (Estabrook), Bob McClurg (Cab Driver), John Mitchum (DiGiorgio), Russ Moro (Ricca’s Driver), Clifford A. Pellow (Guzman), Albert Popwell (Pimp), Christine White (Carol McCoy), Adele Yoshioka (Sunny).
      Synopsis: Eastwood’s Inspector Harry Callahan is on the trail of vigilante cops who are not above going beyond the law to kill the city’s undesirables.
      Comment: Sequel to DIRTY HARRY lacks the style and efficiency of the original, suffering from a sluggish pace at times. However, the set pieces are well-handled and Eastwood commands the screen in his signature role with much to enjoy in his verbal jousts with immediate superior Holbrook. Soul also makes an impression in an early career appearance as one of a group of four rookie cops, which also include Urich, Niven and Matheson. The story would have benefited from tighter editing – alterations and additions had been made to Milius’ original script adding some filler and unnecessary scenes. Schifrin’s memorable propulsive score riffs on his similar work on the first film.
      Notes: Suzanne Somers makes an uncredited appearance as one of the victims in the pool scene early in the film. Film debut of Urich. Second of five films in the series and followed by THE ENFORCER (1976), SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) and THE DEAD POOL (1988).

Film Review – THEY LIVE (1988)

Image result for they live 1988THEY LIVE (USA, 1988) ***
     Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Guild Film Distribution (UK); Production Company: Alive Films / Larry Franco Productions; Release Date: 4 November 1988 (USA), 23 June 1989 (UK); Filming Dates: March – April 1988; Running Time: 94m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo (4 channels); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 18 – strong violence, language.
     Director: John Carpenter; Writer: John Carpenter (as Frank Armitage) (based on the short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson); Executive Producer: Andre Blay, Shep Gordon; Producer: Larry Franco; Associate Producer: Sandy King; Director of Photography: Gary B. Kibbe; Music Composer: Alan Howarth, John Carpenter; Film Editor: Gib Jaffe, Frank E. Jimenez; Art Director: William J. Durrell Jr., Daniel A. Lomino; Set Decorator: Marvin March; Costumes: Robin Michel Bush; Make-up: Francisco X. Pérez; Sound: Jeffrey L. Sandler; Special Effects: Roy Arbogast.
     Cast: Roddy Piper (Nada), Keith David (Frank), Meg Foster (Holly), George ‘Buck’ Flower (Drifter), Peter Jason (Gilbert), Raymond St. Jacques (Street Preacher), Jason Robards III (Family Man), John Lawrence (Bearded Man), Susan Barnes (Brown Haired Woman), Sy Richardson (Black Revolutionary), Wendy Brainard (Family Man’s Daughter), Lucille Meredith (Female Interviewer), Susan Blanchard (Ingenue), Norman Alden (Foreman), Dana Bratton (Black Junkie), John F. Goff (Well Dressed Customer), Norm Wilson (Vendor), Thelma Lee (Rich Lady), Stratton Leopold (Depressed Human), Rezza Shan (Arab Clerk), Norman Howell (Blonde Haired Cop), Larry Franco (Neighbor), Tom Searle (Biker), Robert Grasmere (Scruffy Blonde Man), Vince Inneo (Passageway Guard), Bob Hudson (Passageway Guard #2), Jon Paul Jones (Manager), Dennis Cosmo Michael (Male News Anchor), Nancy Gee (Female News Anchor), Claudia Stanlee (Young Female Executive), Christine Anne Baur (Woman on Phone), Eileen Wesson (Pregnant Secretary), Gregory J. Barnett (Security Guard #1), Jimmy Nickerson (Security Guard #2), Kerry Rossall (2nd Unit Guard), Cibby Danyla (Naked Lady), Jeff Imada (Male Ghoul), Michelle Costello (Female Ghoul).
     Synopsis: A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to wake up to the fact that aliens have taken over the Earth.
     Comment: John Carpenter’s take on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS taps into the cold war paranoia of the day of a US government led by Ronald Reagan. References to mass manipulation are woven into its action-packed narrative. Ex-wrestler Piper is cast in the lead role and whilst his acting is adequate at best, his physical attributes help the film’s many fight sequences. David, impressive in THE THING, co-stars as his sidekick. After a promising start, the film descends into a familiar violent shoot-em-up scenario. Moments of tongue-in-cheek humour help us to not take it too seriously.
     Notes: Because the screenplay was the product of so many sources—a short story, a comic book, and input from cast and crew—Carpenter decided to use the pseudonym “Frank Armitage”, an allusion to one of the filmmaker’s favorite writers, H. P. Lovecraft (Henry Armitage is a character in Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror)

Book Review – HUNTER’S GAMES (2014) by James P. Sumner

HUNTER’S GAMES (2014) ***½
by James P. Sumner
Published by OnlineBookServices.com, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-497-38699-0

BlurbAdrian Hell travels to San Francisco, commissioned to take out a government official who’s found himself on the wrong side of the wrong people. The job goes as planned, but before Adrian can leave the scene, he’s taken into custody by the FBI. Grace Chambers, a straight-talking special agent, asks him to help bring down a terrorist known as The Shark, who’s responsible for several recent attacks on the city. But things aren’t what they seem, and when the truth behind Adrian’s involvement is revealed, so too is the full extent of The Shark’s horrifying plans. Forced into a deadly game of cat and mouse, our unlikely hero goes bullet for bullet with an unseen enemy, as the fate of thousands of innocent people hangs in the balance. With time running out, and the body count rising, Adrian must do whatever it takes to stop his adversary before it’s too late.

James P. Sumner is a local author. When I say “local author” I mean local to me. He lives in Tottington, Bury. Hunter’s Games is the second novel in Sumner’s Adrian Hell series. Adrian is an ex-military black ops operative who now works as a hitman. He only takes out the really bad guys – those who deserve to be taken out. So, there’s an element here of moral questioning of Hell’s motives. Is he cleansing the world of the most vicious of criminals or is he in it for the money. There is actually backstory that signals his motivation and has left him with emotional scars. He covers these scars with a sticking plaster that presents itself in his personality as arrogant, self-confident, flippant, cynical and more than a little flamboyant. As a result, what could have been an annoying character, whose sarcastic wit and smart-alec remarks could have worn thin, actually grows on the reader as the novel progresses. Yes, the plot is derivative – Die Hard with a Vengeance meets James Bond meets Dirty Harry’s The Enforcer – but it zips along at a hell of a rate and is always entertaining. This could easily be seen as one of those Hollywood action thrillers starring a Liam Neeson-type macho male actor. Whilst I may have predicted some of the plot twists and rolled my eyes at the occasionally overly macho dialogue, I also smiled at the witty interplay between the characters. Sumner’s writing style, written in the present tense in order to heighten the tension, is engaging. He  is a self-published author who has demonstrated how you can be successful without the support of the traditional publishing industry and his enthusiasm for his material is mightily evident in the pages of this novel.

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 – 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 – WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968)

Image result for where eagles dare 1968WHERE EAGLES DARE (UK/USA, 1968) ****
      Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Jerry Gershwin Productions / Elliott Kastner Productions / Winkast Film Productions; Release Date: 4 December 1968 (UK), 12 March 1969 (USA); Filming Dates: 2 January 1968 – May 1968; Running Time: 158m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Mono (35 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm (70mm blow up); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG – moderate violence.
      Director: Brian G. Hutton; Writer: Alistair MacLean (based on his novel); Executive Producer: Jerry Gershwin; Producer: Elliott Kastner; Associate Producer: Denis Holt, Richard McWhorter; Director of Photography: Arthur Ibbetson; Music Composer: Ron Goodwin; Film Editor: John Jympson; Art Director: Peter Mullins; Set Decorator: Arthur Taksen; Costumes: Yvonne Blake, Arthur Newman (both uncredited); Make-up: Tony Sforzini (uncredited); Sound: Jonathan Bates, John Bramall, J.B. Smith; Special Effects: Fred Hellenburgh, Richard Parker; Visual Effects: Tom Howard.
      Cast: Richard Burton (Maj. Smith), Clint Eastwood (Schaffer), Mary Ure (Mary Ellison), Patrick Wymark (Col. Turner), Michael Hordern (Adm. Rolland), Donald Houston (Christiansen), Peter Barkworth (Berkeley), William Squire (Thomas), Robert Beatty (Carnaby), Brook Williams (Sgt. Harrod), Neil McCarthy (Sgt. Jock MacPherson), Vincent Ball (Carpenter), Anton Diffring (Col. Kramer), Ferdy Mayne (Rosemeyer), Derren Nesbitt (Von Hapen), Victor Beaumont (Col. Weissner), Ingrid Pitt (Heidi). Uncredited: Chris Adcock (German Soldier), Richard Beale (Telephone Orderly), Roy Beck (German Cablecar Engineer), Terence Conoley (Nazi), Ivor Dean (German Officer #2), Guy Deghy (Maj. Wilhelm Wilner), Jim Dowdall (German Officer on Stairs), Max Faulkner (Sgt. Hartmann), Harry Fielder (German Soldier), John G. Heller (German Major – at ‘Zum Wilden Hirsch’), Lyn Kennington (German Woman), Nigel Lambert (Young German Soldier), Olga Lowe (Lt. Anne-Marie Kernitser), Ian McCulloch (German Officer), Terence Mountain (German Radio Op), Derek Newark (German Major), Jim O’Brady (Waiter at Zum Wilden Hirsch), Edward Michael Perry (German Soldier), Anton Rodgers (German Officer at Airfield), Peter Roy (German Soldier), Bill Sawyer (Helicopter Pilot), Jack Silk (German Officer at Ammunitions Shed), Philip Stone (Sky Tram Operator), Jim Tyson (Innkeeper), Ernst Walder (Airport Control Officer).
      Synopsis: Allied agents stage a daring raid on a castle where the Nazis are holding an American General prisoner, but that’s not all that’s really going on.
      Comment: This is a highly entertaining wartime adventure written by Alistair MacLean. It gives THE GUNS OF NAVARONE  a run for its money as the best movie based on a MacLeran story. Burton, who took the lead role in an attempt to revive his box-office status, is an unlikely hero but acquits himself well. Eastwood does little more than add monosyllabic dialogue and shoot the enemy, but his star quality is obvious. There are some moments of humour between the leads, who strike up a likeable chemistry. The script is a fairly straight-forward rescue mission disguised as a complex espionage thriller. It adds the expected plot twists in order to keep the viewer guessing. Ultimately it is the action sequences that make the film exciting and Hutton manages to ratchet a fair amount of suspense from these. Ron Goodwin’s memorable score also helps to give the film its scale. Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt make the most of their under-developed roles. For all its implausibilities it remains one of the best examples of high adventure from 1960s cinema.
      Notes: MacLean wrote the script and novel simultaneously over a period of six weeks. Location scenes filmed in the Austrian Alps. This is one of the first films to use front projection effect. Specifically, this technology enabled filming of the scenes where the actors are on top of the cable car.