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 – 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 – THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS (1989)

THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS (UK/France/Spain, 1989) ***
      Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors; Production Company: Fildebroc / Ciné 5 / Sofica / Timothy Burrill Productions / Iberoamericana Films Producción; Release Date: 25 August 1989 (UK), 3 April 1991 (USA) (TV); Filming Dates: 22 August 1988 – October 1988; Running Time: 102m; Colour: Rankcolor; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo; Film Format: 35mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Richard Lester; Writer: George MacDonald Fraser (based on the novel “Twenty Years After” by Alexandre Dumas); Executive Producer: Wayne Drizin, Mario Sotela; Producer: Pierre Spengler; Director of Photography: Bernard Lutic; Music Composer: Jean-Claude Petit; Film Editor: John Victor-Smith; Casting Director: Debbie McWilliams, Concha Campins; Production Designer: Gil Parrondo; Art Director: Raul Paton; Set Decorator: Michael Seirton; Costumes: Yvonne Blake; Make-up: José Antonio Sánchez, Cynthia Cruz; Sound: Les Wiggins; Special Effects: Reyes Abades.
      Cast: Michael York (D’Artagnan), Oliver Reed (Athos), Frank Finlay (Porthos), C. Thomas Howell (Raoul), Kim Cattrall (Justine de Winter), Geraldine Chaplin (Queen Anne), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Philippe Noiret (Cardinal Mazarin), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Eusebio Lázaro (Duke of Beaufort), Alan Howard (Oliver Cromwell), David Birkin (Louis XIV), Bill Paterson (Charles I), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Cyrano de Bergerac), Billy Connolly (Caddie), Servane Ducorps (Olympe), William J. Fletcher (De Guiche), Laure Sabardin (Chevreuse), Marcelline Collard (Lamballe), Pat Roach (French Executioner), Jesús Ruyman (Headsman), Fernando De Juan (Ireton), Barry Burgues (Young Clerk), Leon Greene (Captain Groslow), Ágata Lys (Duchesse de Longueville), Bob Todd (High Bailiff), Lucy Hardwick (Lady-in-Waiting), Aldo Sambrell (Burly Demonstrator), Jack Taylor (Gentleman on Horseback), Ricardo Palacios (Big Lackey), Luciano Federico (Tall Lackey), Carmen Fernández (Commedia player), Rafael de la Cruz (Commedia player), German Estebas (Commedia player), Jesús García (Commedia player), Fernando Simón (Commedia player).
      Synopsis: It’s 1649: Mazarin hires the impoverished D’Artagnan to find the other musketeers: Cromwell has overthrown the English king, so Mazarin fears revolt, particularly from the popular Beaufort.
      Comment: Lacks the heart of the director’s 1973/4 adaptation of THE THREE MUSKETEERS and THE FOUR MUSKETEERS, partly due to the tragic death of Kinnear from a riding accident during filming. Other problems are in the rushed nature of the story which is crammed from a thick novel into less than two hours of screen time. York provides linking narration in case the viewer gets lost through the rapidly changing setting and plot developments. The story feels incohesive as a result. On the plus side are the energetic sword fights and a returning cast trying their best to keep the adventure spirited. Cattrall makes for a game villain and York, Reed, Finlay and Chamberlain are engaging as the musketeers. Great location work and natural photography add to technical merits.

Film Review – THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (THE REVENGE OF MILADY) (1974)

Image result for the four musketeers swordfightTHE FOUR MUSKETEERS (THE REVENGE OF MILADY) (Spain/Panama/USA/UK, 1974) ****½
     Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox (USA), Fox-Rank (UK); Production Company: Alexander, Michael and Ilya Salkind Productions / Film Trust S.A. / Este Films; Release Date: 26 February 1975 (USA), 25 March 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: May-September 1973; Running Time: 108m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35 mm (Eastman 100T 5254); Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
     Director: Richard Lester; Writer: George MacDonald Fraser (based on the novel “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas); Executive Producer: Ilya Salkind, Alexander Salkind (uncredited); Producer:  Ilya Salkind, Michael Salkind (both uncredited); Associate Producer: Wolfdieter von Stein; Director of Photography: David Watkin; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: John Victor-Smith; Production Designer: Brian Eatwell; Art Director: Leslie Dilley, Fernando González; Costumes: Yvonne Blake; Make-up: José Antonio Sánchez, Cristóbal Criado, Charlene Roberson; Sound: Don Challis, Don Sharpe; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: Doug Ferris (uncredited).
     Cast: Oliver Reed (Athos), Raquel Welch (Constance de Bonancieux), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Michael York (D’Artagnan), Frank Finlay (Porthos), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Geraldine Chaplin (Queen Anne of Austria), Jean-Pierre Cassel (Louis XIII), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Michael Gothard (Felton), Nicole Calfan (Maid Kitty), Ángel del Pozo (Jussac), Eduardo Fajardo (Captain), Simon Ward (Duke of Buckingham), Faye Dunaway (Milady), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu), Sybil Danning (Eugenie), Gitty Djamal (Beatrice), Jack Watson (Busigny), Bob Todd (Firing Squad Officer), Tom Buchanan (Firing Squad Sergeant), Leon Greene (Swiss Officer), Lucy Tiller (Mother Superior), Norman Chappell (Submarine Inventor), Richard Adams (Tortured Thug), Tyrone Cassidy (English Officer).
     Synopsis: D’Artagnan has become a Musketeer. Protestants hold La Rochelle, and the Queen loves Buckingham, who’ll soon send ships to support the rebels. Richelieu enlists Rochefort to kidnap Constance, the Queen’s go-between and D’Artagnan’s love. The Cardinal uses the wily, amoral Milady de Winter to distract D’Artagnan. But soon, she is D’Artagnan’s sworn enemy, and she has an unfortunate history with Athos as well.
     Comment: Shot at the same time as THE THREE MUSKETEERS (THE QUEEN’S DIAMONDS) – originally it was intended to be one long film with an intermission – this segment covers the second half of Dumas’ novel. As such the tone is slightly darker although the spirit of the first half still permeates via some swashbuckling set pieces, battle scenes and nifty pieces of comedy. The stakes have been raised as Dunaway’s Milady seeks revenge on York’s D’Artagnan and Welch’s Constance after they foiled her attempts to discredit Chaplin’s Queen Anne. Once again the sumptuous production and costume design are wonderfully captured by Watkin’s radiant cinematography and enhanced by Schifrin’s boisterous score. Reed and Dunaway come to the fore and their scenes together add significant depth to the drama. The finale as the Musketeers fight Lee’s Rochefort and the Cardinal’s guards contains some of the best sword fighting in screen history.
     Notes: Followed by THE RETURN OF THE MUSKETEERS (1989).

Film Review – THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973)

Related imageTHE THREE MUSKETEERS (THE QUEEN’S DIAMONDS) (Spain/USA/Panama/UK, 1973) ****½
     Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: Alexander, Michael and Ilya Salkind Productions  / Film Trust S.A. / Este Films; Release Date: 25 March 1974 (UK), 28 March 1974 (USA); Filming Dates: May-September 1973; Running Time: 105m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm (Eastman 100T 5254); Film Process: Panavision, Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U – Contains mild violence and innuendo.
     Director: Richard Lester; Writer: George MacDonald Fraser (based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas); Executive Producer: Ilya Salkind, Alexander Salkind (uncredited), Michael Salkind (uncredited), Pierre Spengler; Producer: Ilya Salkind; Associate Producer: Wolfdieter von Stein; Director of Photography: David Watkin; Music Composer: Michel Legrand; Music Supervisor: ; Film Editor: John Victor-Smith; Casting Director: Miriam Brickman (uncredited); Production Designer: Brian Eatwell; Art Director: Leslie Dilley, Fernando González; Costumes: Yvonne Blake; Make-up: José Antonio Sánchez, Cristóbal Criado, Charlene Roberson; Sound: Don Challis, Don Sharpe; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: .
     Cast: Oliver Reed (Athos), Raquel Welch (Constance de Bonacieux), Richard Chamberlain (Aramis), Michael York (D’Artagnan), Frank Finlay (Porthos / O’Reilly), Christopher Lee (Rochefort), Geraldine Chaplin (Queen Anna), Jean-Pierre Cassel (King Louis XIII), Spike Milligan (M. Bonacieux), Roy Kinnear (Planchet), Georges Wilson (Treville), Simon Ward (Duke of Buckingham), Faye Dunaway (Milady), Charlton Heston (Cardinal Richelieu), Joss Ackland (D’Artagnan’s Father), Nicole Calfan (Kitty), Michael Gothard (Felton), Sybil Danning (Eugenie), Gitty Djamal (Beatrice), Ángel del Pozo (Jussac), Rodney Bewes (Spy), Ben Aris (1st Musketeer), William Hobbs (Assassin), Gretchen Franklin (D’Artagnan’s Mother), Francis De Wolff (Sea Captain).
     Synopsis: The young D’Artagnan (York) arrives in Paris with dreams of becoming a King’s Musketeer. He meets and quarrels with three men, Athos (Reed), Porthos (Finlay), and Aramis (Chamberlain), each of whom challenges him to a duel. D’Artagnan finds out they are Musketeers and is invited to join them in their efforts to oppose Cardinal Richelieu (Heston), who wishes to increase his already considerable power over King Louis XIII (Cassel). D’Artagnan must also juggle affairs with the charming Constance Bonacieux (Welch) and the passionate Lady De Winter (Dunaway), a secret agent for the Cardinal.
     Comment: A joie-de-vivre permeates every frame of Lester’s definitive adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic adventure novel. This represents the first half of the story with the second following a year later. The result is a supremely entertaining swashbuckler filled with great sword fights, delicious humour, authentic production design and costumes. The whole cast enter into the spirit of the production with note-perfect performances, whilst Lester’s spirited direction and Watkin’s sumptuous cinematography make for a visual delight. York, Reed, Chamberlain and Finally are well cast as the Musketeers whilst Welch demonstrates a gift for comedy as York’s love interest. Heston is obviously enjoying himself as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and Dunaway shows promise of what she would go on to deliver in the follow-up.
     Notes: Lester shot the film in conjunction with its sequel, THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974). Originally intended as a single film, the split prompted a lawsuit from the cast demanding payment for both films.

Film Review – ARABIAN ADVENTURE (1979)

Image result for arabian adventure 1979ARABIAN ADVENTURE (UK, 1979) **½
      Distributor: British Lion Film Corporation (UK), Associated Film Distribution (AFD) (USA); Production Company: EMI Films / British Lion Film Corporation / Major Studio Partners; Release Date: 19 July 1979 (UK), 21 November 1979 (USA); Filming Dates: 24 July 1978 – October 1978; Running Time: 98m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Kevin Connor; Writer: Brian Hayles; Executive Producer: Kevin Connor; Producer: John Dark; Director of Photography: Alan Hume; Music Composer: Ken Thorne; Film Editor: Barry Peters; Casting Director: Allan Foenander; Production Designer: Elliot Scott; Art Director: Jack Maxsted; Set Decorator: Terry Ackland-Snow; Costumes: Rosemary Burrows; Make-up: Yvonne Coppard, Robin Grantham; Sound: Jim Atkinson; Special Effects: George Gibbs; Visual Effects: Cliff Culley, Charles Staffell.
      Cast: Christopher Lee (Alquazar), Milo O’Shea (Khasim), Oliver Tobias (Prince Hasan), Emma Samms (Princess Zuleira), Puneet Sira (Majeed), Peter Cushing (Wazir Al Wuzara), Capucine (Vahishta), Mickey Rooney (Daad El Shur), John Wyman (Bahloul), John Ratzenberger (Achmed), Shane Rimmer (Abu), Hal Galili (Asaf), Elisabeth Welch (Beggarwoman), Suzanne Danielle (Eastern Dancer), Art Malik (Mamhoud), Jacob Witkin (Omar, the Goldsmith), Milton Reid (Jinnee), Roy Stewart (The Nubian).
      Synopsis: An evil magician seeks to gain power by obtaining a magic rose. A peasant boy and a Prince join forces to stop him.
      Comment: The last of five fantasy adventures made by director Connor with producer Dark. This hokey Arabian Nights tale owes much to the strong cast headed by Lee at his villainous best. However, Tobias lacks charisma and acting chops as the hero prince. Samms makes for an appealing princess whilst Rooney adds some comic relief and Cushing some gravitas in cameo roles. The action scenes are plentiful, but often sub-par with obvious choreography. The visual effects are average at best, as is evident in the climactic magic carpet battle. A fun adventure nonetheless for the undemanding.
      Notes: Feature film debut of Emma Samms.

Film Review – THE WICKER MAN (1973)

Image result for the wicker man blu rayWicker Man, The (1973; UK; Eastmancolor; 95m) ****½  d. Robin Hardy; w. Anthony Shaffer; ph. Harry Waxman; m. Paul Giovanni.  Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsay Kemp, Russell Waters, Aubrey Morris, Irene Sunters, Walter Carr, Ian Campbell, Leslie Blackater, Roy Boyd, Peter Brewis, Barbara Rafferty. A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there. Chilling and disturbing thriller shot on a low budget and dominated by religious symbolism. Woodward’s portrayal of the Christian policeman horrified by the pagan society he enters is superb. Lee is also excellent as the island’s lord of the manor, whose family are responsible for the islanders’ livelihoods. The final shots are amongst the most memorable in screen history. Heavily edited from 99m to 87m on release to fill B-feature slots, the film has since been restored to a 95m version, something close to its original length. Remade in 2006. Followed by a “spiritual sequel”, THE WICKER TREE (2011). [15]

Film Review – AIRPORT ’77 (1977)

Image result for airport 77Airport ’77 (1977; USA; Technicolor; 114m) ***  d. Jerry Jameson; w. Michael Scheff, David Spector; ph. Philip H. Lathrop; m. John Cacavas.  Cast: Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, George Kennedy, James Stewart, Brenda Vaccaro, Joseph Cotten, Olivia de Havilland, Darren McGavin, Christopher Lee, Robert Foxworth, Robert Hooks, Monte Markham, Kathleen Quinlan, Gil Gerard, James Booth. Art thieves hijack a 747, hit fog and crash into the ocean, trapping them and the passengers under 100 feet of water. Strong cast adds value to this third entry in the series. Good production values and a tense final act overcome the by now obvious characters and familiar situations. Developed from a story by H.A.L. Craig and Charles Kuenstle. Network TV version added one-hour of additional footage. Followed by THE CONCORDE… AIRPORT ’79 (1979). [PG]

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

Man with the Golden Gun, The (1974; UK; Colour; 125m) ∗∗∗  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz; ph. Ted Moore, Oswald Morris; m. John Barry.  Cast: Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize, Clifton James, Richard Loo, Soon-Tek Oh, Marc Lawrence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Marne Maitland, Desmond Llewelyn, James Cossins, Yao Lin Chen. Bond is led to believe that he is targeted by the world’s most expensive assassin and must hunt him down to stop him. Moore’s second outing as 007 starts well, with little reliance on gadgets, but later the action descends into increasingly comedic set-pieces. Lee is a strong villain, but the plot is lacking any threat beyond that to Bond himself. Exotic locations and good production values, but Ekland is given an idiotic role whilst Adams is underused as the Bond girls. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]