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.

Film Review – THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961)

Image result for the guns of navarone 1960Guns of Navarone, The (1961; USA; Eastmancolor; 158m) ****  d. J. Lee Thompson; w. Carl Foreman; ph. Oswald Morris; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, James Darren, James Robertson Justice, Richard Harris, Bryan Forbes, Allan Cuthbertson, Michael Trubshawe, Percy Herbert, George Mikell. A British team is sent to cross occupied Greek territory and destroy the massive German gun emplacement that commands a key sea channel. Top-notch WWII action-adventure yarn with well-staged set-pieces, a strong cast and a acript that is more thoughtful than usual for the genre. Peck, Quinn and Niven deliver memorable performances. Oscar winner for Special Effects (Bill Warrington, Chris Greenham). Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. Followed by FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (1978). [PG]

Film Review – ICE STATION ZEBRA (1968)

Image result for ice station zebra dvdIce Station Zebra (1968; USA; Metrocolor; 148m) ∗∗∗½  d. John Sturges; w. Douglas Heyes, Harry Julian Fink; ph. Daniel L. Fapp; m. Michel Legrand.  Cast: Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan, Jim Brown, Tony Bill, Lloyd Nolan, Alf Kjellin, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Ted Hartley, Murray Rose, Ron Masak, Sherwood Price, Lee Stanley, Joseph Bernard. A nuclear submarine commander is dispatched to the polar ice region on a rescue mission when an emergency signal is received from a research station. It soon becomes apparent that the mission is more than just a simple rescue operation. Well cast spy drama may be overlong, but retains its interest throughout thanks to a solid script and strong performances from Hudson and McGoohan. Excellent production values and imaginative use of studio sets. Originally shown in theatres with an opening overture, which was restored for the 2005 DVD release. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. [U]

Film Review – FEAR IS THE KEY (1972)

Image result for fear is the key 1972 dvdFear is the Key (1972; UK; Technicolor; 103m) ∗∗∗½  d. Michael Tuchner; w. Robert Carrington; ph. Alex Thomson; m. Roy Budd.  Cast: Barry Newman, Suzy Kendall, John Vernon, Dolph Sweet, Ben Kingsley, Ray McAnally, Peter Marinker, Elliott Sullivan, Roland Brand, Tony Anholt. Following the death of his family in an aeroplane crash, a man plots an elaborate revenge scheme on those responsible. Taut thriller with an exciting, if over-extended car chase right at the start and a suspenseful ticking clock conclusion on the sea bed sandwiching more familiar espionage elements. Newman makes an effective action hero and Tuchner directs with style. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. [15]

Film Review – WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL (1971)

When Eight Bells Toll (1971; UK; Eastmancolor; 94m) ∗∗∗  d. Etienne Perier; w. Alistair MacLean; ph. Arthur Ibbetson; m. Angela Morley (as Walter Stott).  Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Nathalie Delon, Robert Morley, Jack Hawkins, Corin Redgrave, Derek Bond, Ferdy Mayne, Maurice Roëves, Leon Collins, Wendy Allnutt, Peter Arne, Oliver MacGreevy, Jon Croft. A British agent is on a mission to determine the whereabouts of a ship that disappeared near the coast of Scotland.  Enjoyable and lively, if slight, spy adventure is helped by witty dialogue and performances – notably Hopkins and Morley – as well as great Scottish locations. Hawkins’ voice is dubbed by Charles Gray. MacLean scripted from his own novel. [15]

Film Review – WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968)

Where Eagles Dare (1968; UK/USA; Metrocolor; 158m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Brian G. Hutton; w. Alistair MacLean; ph. Arthur Ibbetson; m. Ron Goodwin.  Cast: Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Robert Beatty, Mary Ure, Patrick Wymark, Michael Hordern, Donald Houston, Peter Barkworth, Ferdy Mayne, Anton Diffring, William Squire, Brook Williams, Neil McCarthy, Vincent Ball, Derren Nesbitt. 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. Spectacular action mixes with intrigue in this enormously entertaining adventure. Burton makes an unlikely hero and Eastwood gives stoic support. Beautifully photographed in the Austrian Alps. MacLean wrote the script and novel simultaneously over a period of six weeks. [PG]

Film Review Round-up – BEAR ISLAND (1979) and WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY (2014)

Bear-IslandBear Island (1979; Canada/UK; Colour; 118m) ∗∗∗  d. Don Sharp; w. David Butler, Don Sharp; ph. Alan Hume; m. Robert Farnon; ed. Tony Lower.  Cast: Donald Sutherland, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Barbara Parkins, Lloyd Bridges, Lawrence Dane, Patricia Collins, Michael J. Reynolds, Nicholas Cortland. A group of people converge on a barren Arctic island. They have their reasons for being there but when a series of mysterious accidents and murders take place, a whole lot of darker motives become apparent. Typical of its author this adaptation benefits from a strong cast who manfully struggle with poor dialogue. The pace remains lively and the action frequent making it something of a guilty pleasure. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. [PG]

download (1)What We Did on Our Holiday (2014; UK; Panalux; 95m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin; w. Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin; ph. Martin Hawkins; m. Alex Heffes; ed. Steve Tempia, Mark Williams.  Cast: Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Celia Imrie, Emilia Jones, Ben Miller, Amelia Bullmore, Bobby Smalldridge, Alexia Barlier, Imogen Toner, Kirstin Murray. A couple and their three children travel to the Scottish Highlands for the kids’ grandfather’s birthday party. It’s soon clear that when it comes to keeping a secret under wraps from the rest of the family, their children are their biggest liability. Beautifully observed comedy with a game cast and a charming performance from Connolly. Descends into predictability in its final act, but a winner nonetheless. [12]