Film Review – CALLAN (1974)

CallanCALLAN (UK, 1974) ***½
      Distributor: EMI Distribution; Production Company: Magnum Films / Syn-Frank Enterprises; Release Date: 23 May 1974; Filming Dates: began 29 October 1973; Running Time: 106m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Dolby (Dolby System®) | Mono (RCA Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Don Sharp; Writer: James Mitchell (based on the novel “A Red File for Callan” by James Mitchell); Producer: Derek Horne; Associate Producer: Harry Benn; Director of Photography: Ernest Steward; Music Composer: Wilfred Josephs; Film Editor: Teddy Darvas; Casting Director: Lesley De Pettit; Art Director: John Clark; Set Decorator: Simon Holland; Costumes: Ray Beck; Make-up: Freddie Williamson; Sound: Derek Ball, Charles Crafford, John Poyner; Special Effects: John Richardson.
      Cast: Edward Woodward (David Callan), Eric Porter (Hunter), Carl Möhner (Schneider), Catherine Schell (Jenny), Peter Egan (Toby Meres), Russell Hunter (Lonely), Kenneth Griffith (Waterman), Michael Da Costa (The Greek), Veronica Lang (Liz, Hunter’s Secretary), Clifford Rose (Dr. Snell), David Prowse (Arthur), Don Henderson (George), Nadim Sawalha (Padilla), David Graham (Wireless operator), Yuri Borienko (Security porter), Peter Symonds (Smart security man), Raymond Bowers (Shabby security man), Joe Dunlop (Policeman), Mollie Maureen (Old lady in the Strand).
      Synopsis: David Callan, secret agent, is called back to the service after his retirement, to handle the assassination of a German businessman, but Callan refuses to co-operate until he finds out why this man is marked for death.
      Comment: Big screen adaptation on a low budget of James Mitchell’s assassin creation who wrestles with his own conscience. The story was originally written as an hour-long TV play entitled A Magnum for Schneider (1967), which later led to the TV series Callan (1967-72). Woodward reprises his role and delivers a believable performance in this anti-glamourous approach to the genre. Mitchell’s script is strong, padding out his original story initially into a novel and then a screenplay. There’s little in the way of action, save for a wonderful cat-and-mouse car chase. This is a spy thriller that plays on the main character’s self-conflictions as he gets to know his mark. Whilst largely downbeat there are occasional flashes of black humour. Fans of the series will find much to enjoy, whilst others may see this as an antidote to the proliferation of over-the-top spy movies.

TV Review – ARMCHAIR THEATRE: A MAGNUM FOR SCHNEIDER (1967)

Armchair Theatre: A Magnum for Schneider (TV) (1967; UK; B&W; 55m) ****  pr. Leonard White; d. Bill Bain; w. James Mitchell; m. Robert Farnon. Cast:  Edward Woodward, Joseph Fürst, Ronald Radd, Peter Bowles, Francesca Tu, Russell Hunter, Helen Ford, Martin Wyldeck, John Scarborough, Ivor Dean.  This Armachair Theatre presentation was the first adventure of David Callan (Woodward), top agent for the S.I.S. Forcibly “retired” several years earlier because he had lost his nerve. Callan is called back into service to handle the assassination of Schneider, a German businessman who may be more than he seems. Confined to studio sets, despite the limitation so its production this remains a fascinating piece of television driven by Woodward’s brilliant performance and Mitchell’s sharp script – adding depth and a cynical humour to an unsympathetic character. Hunter is Callan’s unkempt underworld contact, Lonely. The TV series Callan was picked up later the same year and ran for four series from 1967-1972. Mitchell later novelised the story as “A Red File for Callan” and this in itself was later filmed for theatrical release as Callan in 1974. [12]

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]