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.
TARZAN’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).
OUTLAND (1981) ***
by Alan Dean Foster (based on a screenplay by Peter Hyams)
Paperback published by Warner Books, March 1981. 272pp.
Blurb: 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.
Longest 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]
Hell 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]
Indiana 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]
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]
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]
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]
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]