Film Review – THUNDERBALL (1965)

Thunderball (1965) Review - The Action EliteTHUNDERBALL (1965, UK) ****
Action, Adventure, Thriller
dist. United Artists Corporation; pr co. Eon Productions; d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins (based on a story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming and an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham); exec pr. Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman (each uncredited); pr. Kevin McClory; ass pr. Stanley Sopel (uncredited); ph. Ted Moore (Technicolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Barry; ed. Ernest Hosler; pd. Ken Adam; ad. Peter Murton; set d. Peter Lamont (uncredited); cos. Anthony Mendleson; m/up. Basil Newall, Paul Rabiger; sd. Maurice Askew, Bert Ross, Eileen Warwick (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); sfx. John Stears; vfx. Roy Field (uncredited); st. Yvan Chiffre; rel. 21 December 1965 (USA), 29 December 1965 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 130m.

cast: Sean Connery (James Bond), Claudine Auger (Dominique ‘Domino’ Derval), Adolfo Celi (Emilio Largo), Luciana Paluzzi (Fiona Volpe), Rik Van Nutter (Felix Leiter), Guy Doleman (Count Lippe), Molly Peters (Patricia Fearing), Martine Beswick (Paula Caplan), Bernard Lee (‘M’), Desmond Llewelyn (‘Q’), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Roland Culver (Home Secretary), Earl Cameron (Pinder Romania), Paul Stassino (Angelo Palazzi / Major François Duval), Rose Alba (Madame Bouvar), Philip Locke (Vargas), George Pravda (Pofessor Ladislaw Kutze), Michael Brennan (Janni), Leonard Sachs (Group Captain Pritchard), Edward Underdown (SIr John – Air Marshal), Reginald Beckwith (Kenniston), Harold Sanderson (Hydrofoil Captain).

When a British Vulcan bomber is stolen with two atomic bombs on board. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. announce that they have the plane and will detonate the bombs unless one hundred million dollars worth of uncut diamonds are delivered. James Bond (Connery) tracks the plane down to the Bahamas but still has to deal with the deadly Emilio Largo (Celi). This was the biggest Bond film of the 1960s and is one of the best. Connery is at the height of his game here and the story has a scale that is larger than any of the previous entries. The underwater sequences may tend toward the slow side, but on the whole the story moves along at a good clip and is well edited. The humour is more evident, but it is still kept in check. Paluzzi is one of the best Bond villainesses and her verbal and literal tussles with Connery are memorable. The Bahamas are well photographed, and the underwater staging is handled with skill by second unit director Ricou Browning. Followed by YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967). Remade with Connery as NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983).

AA: Best Effects, Special Visual Effects (John Stears).

Film Review – THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1990)

Three British Quad film posters, The Hunt For Red October, Crimson ...THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (USA, 1990) ****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Production Company: Paramount Pictures / Mace Neufeld Productions / Nina Saxon Film Design; Release Date: 2 March 1990 (USA), 20 April 1990 (UK); Filming Dates: began 3 April 1989; Running Time: 135m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby SR (35 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm, 70 mm (blow-up); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, 2.20:1 (70mm); BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: John McTiernan; Writer: Larry Ferguson, Donald Stewart (based on the novel by Tom Clancy); Executive Producer: Larry DeWaay, Jerry Sherlock; Producer: Mace Neufeld; Director of Photography: Jan de Bont; Music Composer: Basil Poledouris; Film Editor: Dennis Virkler, John Wright; Casting Director: Amanda Mackey; Production Designer: Terence Marsh; Art Director: William Cruse, Dianne Wager, Donald B. Woodruff; Set Decorator: Mickey S. Michaels; Costumes: James W. Tyson (uncredited); Make-up: Wes Dawn, Jim Kail, Dino Ganziano; Sound: Cecelia Hall, George Watters II; Special Effects: Al Di Sarro; Visual Effects: Scott Squires.
      Cast: Sean Connery (Marko Ramius), Alec Baldwin (Jack Ryan), Scott Glenn (Bart Mancuso), Sam Neill (Captain Borodin), James Earl Jones (Admiral Greer), Joss Ackland (Andrei Lysenko), Richard Jordan (Jeffrey Pelt), Peter Firth (Ivan Putin), Tim Curry (Dr. Petrov), Courtney B. Vance (Seaman Jones), Stellan Skarsgård (Captain Tupolev), Jeffrey Jones (Skip Tyler), Timothy Carhart (Bill Steiner), Larry Ferguson (Chief of the Boat), Fred Thompson (Admiral Painter (as Fred Dalton Thompson)), Daniel Davis (Captain Davenport), Ned Vaughn (Seaman Beaumont – USS Dallas), Anthony Peck (Lt. Comm. Thompson – USS Dallas), Mark Draxton (Seaman – USS Dallas), Tom Fisher (Seaman – USS Dallas), Pete Antico (Seaman – USS Dallas), Ronald Guttman (Lt. Melekhin – Red October), Tomas Arana (Loginov (Cook) – Red October), Michael George Benko (Ivan – Red October), Anatoli Davydov (Officer #1 – Red October (as Anatoly Davydov)), Ivan G’Vera (Officer #2 – Red October), Artur Cybulski (Diving Officer – Red October), Sven-Ole Thorsen (Russian COB – Red October), Michael Welden (Kamarov – Red October), Boris Lee Krutonog (Slavin – Red October (as Boris Krutonog)), Kenton Kovell (Seaman – Red October), Radu Gavor (Seaman – Red October), Ivan Ivanov (Seaman – Red October), Ping Wu (Seaman – Red October), Herman Sinitzyn (Seaman – Red October), Krzysztof Janczar (Andrei Bonovia – Konovalov (as Christopher Janczar)), Vlado Benden (Seaman – Konovalov), George Saunders (Seaman – Konovalov (as George Winston)), Don Oscar Smith (Helicopter Pilot), Rick Ducommun (Navigator C-2A), George H. Billy (DSRV Officer), Reed Popovich (Lt. Jim Curry (as LCDR Reed Popovich)), Andrew Divoff (Andrei Amalric), Peter Zinner (Admiral Padorin), Tony Veneto (Padorin’s Orderly), Ben Hartigan (Admiral (Briefing)), Ray Reinhardt (Judge Moore (Briefing)), F.J. O’Neil (General (Briefing)), Robert Buckingham (Admiral #2 (Briefing)), A.C. Lyles (Advisor #1), 53David Sederholm (Sunglasses), John Shepherd (Foxtrot Pilot), William Bell Sullivan (Lt. Cmd. Mike Hewitt), Gates McFadden (Caroline Ryan), Louise Borras (Sally Ryan), Denise E. James (Stewardess), Stanley (Self).
      Synopsis: In 1984, the USSR’s best submarine captain in their newest sub violates orders and heads for the USA. Is he trying to defect, or to start a war?
      Comment: Connery is a Russian submarine commander who US intelligence analyst Jack Ryan (Baldwin) believes is looking to defect with his vessel and its revolutionary silent drive system.. The Russian navy is in pursuit and the US authorities are hedging their bets believing the submarine to be armed with nuclear missiles. McTiernan directs with a great sense of atmosphere and tension and is helped by an excellent cast led by Connery and Baldwin. Despite a couple of hokey visual effects, the production is well-mounted and the technical credits are top class – notably the sound and production design. It launched a successful series of films in which Harrison Ford (who was initially offered the role for this film but turned it down) and later Ben Affleck and Chris Prine would take on the role of Ryan. Connery trained for the role by spending time stationed on a submarine. Won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing (Cecelia Hall, George Watters II). Followed by PATRIOT GAMES (1992), CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994), THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (2002) and WITHOUT REMORSE (2020) as well as the TV series Jack Ryan (2018-9).

Film Review – RANSOM (1974)

RANSOM (UK, 1974) ***
      Distributor: British Lion Film Corporation (UK), Twentieth Century Fox (USA); Production Company: Lion International / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Rwaley Film & Theatre; Release Date: 27 February 1975 (UK), 16 April 1975 (USA); Filming Dates: began 14 January 1974; Running Time: 94m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Caspar Wrede; Writer: Paul Wheeler; Producer: Peter Rawley; Director of Photography: Sven Nykvist; Music Composer: Jerry Goldsmith; Film Editor: Eric Boyd-Perkins; Casting Director: Lesley De Pettit; Art Director: Sven Wickman; Costumes: Ada Skolmen; Make-up: Stuart Freeborn; Sound: John Bramall, Ken Scrivener; Special Effects: Roy Whybrow.
      Cast: Sean Connery (Tahlvik), Ian McShane (Petrie), Jeffry Wickham (Barnes), Isabel Dean (Mrs. Palmer), John Quentin (Shepherd), Robert Harris (Palmer), James Maxwell (Bernhard), William Fox (Ferris), Harry Landis (Lookout Pilot), Norman Bristow (Denver), John Cording (Bert), Christopher Ellison (Pete), Richard Hampton (Joe), Preston Lockwood (Hislop), Karen Maxwell (Eva), Colin Prockter (Mike), Malcolm Rennie (Terry), Knut Wigert (Polson), Knut M. Hansson (Matson), Frimann Falck Clausen (Schmidt), Kaare Kroppan (Donner), Alf Malland (Police Inspector), Brita Rogde (Air Hostess), Sven Aune (Co-Pilot), Per Tofte (British Embassy Driver).
      Synopsis: A gang of hijackers led by McShane seize a British plane as it is landing in Scandinavia.
      Comment: Hostage thriller is a little drawn out by diving straight into the scenario, thereby allowing little room for character development or motivation. Whilst the complex nature of the story unfolds as it progresses, it somehow lacks the suspense of its ticking-clock premise. Connery is as effective as ever in the lead role of the Scandinavian police chief at odds with his government’s approach to the situation, whilst trying to figure ways to delay McShane and his terrorists. Its matter-of-fact approach at least prevents the story from descending into cliche melodrama and characterisations. Effective location photography adds to the sense of realism in this efficient, if not wholly satisfying, suspenser.
       Notes: Initial US release version ran 88m. Aka: THE TERRORISTS.

Film Review – TARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE (1959)

Image result for tarzan's greatest adventureTARZAN’S GREATEST ADVENTURE (UK, 1959) ****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), Paramount British Pictures (UK); Production Company: Solar Film Productions; Release Date: 8 July 1959 (USA); Filming Dates: mid Feb–late Mar 1959; Running Time: 88m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: John Guillermin; Writer: Berne Giler, John Guillermin (based on a story by Les Crutchfield and characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs); Executive Producer: Harvey Hayutin, Sy Weintraub; Producer: Sy Weintraub; Director of Photography: Edward Scaife; Music Composer: Douglas Gamley; Film Editor: Bert Rule; Casting Director: Nora Roberts; Art Director: Michael Stringer; Make-up: Tony Sforzini; Sound: John Cox.
      Cast: Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Anthony Quayle (Slade), Sara Shane (Angie), Niall MacGinnis (Kruger), Sean Connery (O’Bannion), Al Mulock (Dino), Scilla Gabel (Toni).
      Synopsis: Tarzan is out to capture a quintet of British diamond hunters in Africa, who killed a pair of natives while robbing supplies.
     Comment: Excellent jungle adventure is perhaps the best of the Tarzan pictures. Scott’s pursuit of Quayle is superbly edited and directed with a grittiness missing from the series since the early Johnny Weissmuller entries. Quayle gives a nuanced performance whilst Connery is notable in an early role. Scott’s Tarzan is an intelligent and fully verbal version closer to Burroughs’ vision.
      Notes: Connery was paid five thousand six hundred dollars for his role in this movie. When asked to play in the next Tarzan movie, he said he couldn’t because “two fellows took an option on me for some spy picture and are exercising it. But I’ll be in your next.” The “spy picture” was DR. NO (1962), the first of his numerous appearances as James Bond 007. Followed by TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT (1960).

Book Review – OUTLAND (1981) by Alan Dean Foster

OUTLAND (1981) ***
by Alan Dean Foster (based on a screenplay by Peter Hyams)
Paperback published by Warner Books, March 1981. 272pp.
ISBN: 0-446-95829-8

35190Blurb: Here on Io — moon of Jupiter, hell in space — men mine ore to satisfy the needs of Earth. They are hard men, loners for whom the Company provides the necessities: beds, food, drink and women for hire. Now, in apparent suicide or in frenzied madness, the men are dying… To OUTLAND comes the new U.S. Marshal O’Neil, a man with a sense of duty so strong it drives him to ferret out evil, greed and murder regardless of the cost. If he must, he will forfeit love, livelihood — even life itself.

OUTLAND was effectively a Space Western movie written and directed by Peter Hyams that riffed on the plot of the classic Western HIGH NOON. The movie starred Sean Connery as the Marshal left to fight alone against a corrupt mine manager and the hitmen sent to kill him on a remote moon of Jupiter. Alan Dean Foster is an old hand at novelisations and he adapts Hyams’ screenplay very professionally, bringing additional depth to the main characters and pacing the narrative well. O’Neil’s inner-torment and outer-determination to be seen to do the right thing in tackling the drug smuggling operation despite the personal sacrifices he makes are the heart of the story and Foster balances this well with the unfolding plot. The interplay between O’Neil and his only real ally – a cynical female doctor – is enjoyable. A decent, if less than original, film gets a decent novelisation.

Film Review – THE LONGEST DAY (1962)

Image result for the longest day 1962Longest 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]

Film Review – HELL DRIVERS (1957)

Image result for hell drivers blu-ray reviewHell Drivers (1957; UK; B&W; 108m) **** d. Cy Endfield; w. John Kruse, Cy Endfield; ph. Geoffrey Unsworth; m. Hubert Clifford.  Cast: Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins, Patrick McGoohan, William Hartnell, Wilfrid Lawson, Sidney James, Jill Ireland, Alfie Bass, Gordon Jackson, David McCallum, Sean Connery, Wensley Pithey, George Murcell, Marjorie Rhodes. Ex-convict takes a dodgy job driving loads of gravel through winding British roads, and realises that sneaky boss has rigged a scam with the brutal foreman, which inevitably leads to human wastage. Memorable and gritty drama with many future stars and character actors making early appearances. Baker and McGoohan are the standouts as warring truck drivers. Well-directed by Endfield and complemented by moody photography from Unsworth. Tough and uncompromising. [PG]

Film Review – INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989)

Image result for indiana jones and the last crusade blu-rayIndiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989; USA; DeLuxe; 127m) ***  d. Steven Spielberg; w. Jeffrey Boam, George Lucas, Menno Meyjes; ph. Douglas Slocombe; m. John Williams.  Cast: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliott, Alison Doody, John Rhys-Davies, Julian Glover, River Phoenix, Michael Byrne, Vernon Dobtcheff, Paul Maxwell, Kevork Malikyan, Alex Hyde-White, Richard Young, Alexei Sayle. When Dr. Henry Jones Sr. suddenly goes missing while pursuing the Holy Grail, eminent archaeologist Indiana Jones must follow in his father’s footsteps and stop the Nazis. Highlight is the chemistry and interplay between Ford and Connery. This third instalment is played more for laughs – and there are a fair few. Unfortunately, the change in tone diminishes from the adventure with overly-choreographed action set-pieces and a lazy screenplay overloaded with plot conveniences. Won Oscar for Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt and Richard Hymns). Followed by INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008). [PG]

Film Review – NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983)

Never Say Never Again (1983; UK/USA/West Germany; Technicolor; 134m) ∗∗∗  d. Irvin Kershner; w. Lorenzo Semple Jr.; ph. Douglas Slocombe; m. Michel Legrand.  Cast: Sean Connery, Barbara Carrera, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max von Sydow, Kim Basinger, Edward Fox, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen, Michael Medwin, Ronald Pickup, Pamela Salem, Rowan Atkinson, Valerie Leon, Milos Kirek, Anthony Sharp. A SPECTRE agent has stolen two American nuclear warheads, and James Bond must find their targets before they are detonated. Whilst it is good to see Connery return as 007, this production lacks the style and production values of the official series. There are moments of effective humour, but the action sequences are only adequately handled. Carrera and Brandauer are excellent as the SPECTRE agents, but forget Fox as M and Atkinson in an unfunny cameo. Remake of THUNDERBALL (1965). [PG]

Film Review – DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)

Diamonds Are Forever (1971; UK; Technicolor; 120m) ∗∗∗  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Norman Burton, Joseph Fürst, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Leonard Barr, Lois Maxwell, Margaret Lacey. A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an extortion plot headed by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Connery makes a welcome return as Bond, but here the cartoonish humour is played up at the expense of suspense. The plot is uninspiring and the Las Vegas locations feel tacky rather than glamorous, but the set pieces are well staged. The film set a tone for the series that would last for more than a decade. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]