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]

Film Review – YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)

You Only Live Twice (1967; UK; Technicolor; 117m) ∗∗∗  d. Lewis Gilbert; w. Roald Dahl; ph. Freddie Young; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsurô Tanba, Teru Shimada, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Charles Gray, Tsai Chin. Agent 007 and the Japanese secret service ninja force must find and stop the true culprit of a series of space-jackings before nuclear war is provoked. Despite an explosive finale and impressive production values (notably Ken Adam’s wonderful volcano interior), this is Bond by numbers. Connery looks bored and the script ticks all the boxes in moving from one set piece to another without generating any real suspense. It does, however, boast possibly John Barry’s finest score for the series. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – THUNDERBALL (1965)

Thunderball (1965; UK; Technicolor; 130m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Guy Doleman, Molly Peters, Martine Beswick, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Roland Culver, Earl Cameron, Paul Stassino, Rose Alba, Philip Locke. James Bond heads to The Bahamas to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo in an international extortion scheme. The biggest Bond film of the 60s 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 humour is more evident, but still kept in check and Paluzzi is one of the best ever Bond villainesses. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming, which itself was based on a story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming [PG]

Film Review – GOLDFINGER (1964)

Goldfinger (1964; UK; Technicolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Martin Benson, Cec Linder, Austin Willis, Lois Maxwell, Bill Nagy, Desmond Llewelyn, Margaret Nolan. Investigating a gold magnate’s smuggling, James Bond uncovers a plot to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve. Third Bond film is the one that set a formula that would be repeated for many years to come. Frobe is the most memorable Bond villain, Sakata as Oddjob is the series’ best henchman, Blackman a feisty femme fatale and the Aston Martin DB5 is the definitive Bond car. The action-packed film has so many iconic moments they disguise some of its limitations, such as the sometimes loose direction. Nevertheless, it remains the best remembered of Connery’s tenure. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)

From Russia with Love (1963; UK; Technicolor; 115m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendáriz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Eunice Gayson, Walter Gotell, Francis De Wolff, George Pastell, Nadja Regin, Lois Maxwell, Aliza Gur, Martine Beswick, Vladek Sheybal. James Bond willingly falls into an assassination plot involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE. Second 007 film is a tense, gritty and well-made espionage thriller. The gadgets are still in the background here and Bond is left to his intelligence and his wits. Shaw makes an excellent heavy and Lenya is suitably creepy as Rosa Klebb. The production values are a notch up on DR. NO and the result is an exciting and action-packed adventure. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – DR. NO (1962)

Dr. No (1962; UK; Technicolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather; ph. Ted Moore; m. Monty Norman.  Cast: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, Zena Marshall, John Kitzmiller, Eunice Gayson, Lois Maxwell, Peter Burton. James Bond’s investigation of a missing colleague in Jamaica leads him to the island of the mysterious Dr. No and a scheme to end the US space program. First 007 film is a colourful adventure, if a little slow-moving by today’s standards. Connery eases into the role with style and Andress is stunning as the first Bond girl. Many of the elements are set here, but there is a simplicity to the production that remains endearing compared to later entries in the series. Great set designs by Ken Adam. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)

Murder on the Orient Express (1974; UK; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗∗  d. Sidney Lumet; w. Paul Dehn; ph. Geoffrey Unsworth; m. Richard Rodney Bennett.  Cast: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Michael York, Colin Blakely, George Coulouris, Denis Quilley, Vernon Dobtcheff, Jeremy Lloyd, John Moffat. In 1935, when his train is stopped by deep snow, detective Hercule Poirot (Finney) is called on to solve a murder that occurred in his car the night before. Strong cast is the main interest in this otherwise standard Agatha Christie mystery, to which the solution becomes very clear too soon. Finney is excellent as Poirot and the script has some lovely humorous touches. Bergman won her third Oscar as a Swedish missionary. Finney, the elegant cinematography and costume design were also nominated for Academy Awards. Twice remade for TV – in 2001 with Alfred Molina as Poirot and again in 2010 as part of ITVs Poirot series with David Suchet. Followed by DEATH ON THE NILE (1978). [PG]