Book Review – MOONRAKER (1955) by Ian Fleming

MOONRAKER  (1955) ****½
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2012, 325pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1955
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1955
Introduction by Susan Hill (20pp)
ISBN: 978-0-099-57687-7
Moonraker      Blurb: He’s a self-made millionaire, head of the Moonraker rocket programme and loved by the press. So why is Sir Hugo Drax cheating at cards? Bond has just five days to uncover the sinister truth behind a national hero, in Ian Fleming’s third 007 adventure.
      Comment: Anyone familiar with the 1979 film adaptation – the low point of Roger Moore’s tenure as James Bond – should lay any preconceptions at the door. This is one of the very best James Bond novels. Unlike the first two in the series, Fleming’s third 007 adventure gives his lead character room to breathe and as a result, he becomes a more human hero. The first part of the book is the set-up and is almost routine in its playout – showing Bond’s life between missions. The introduction of Sir Hugo Drax, who is suspected of cheating at cards at M’s private club, sets the foundation for the remainder of the story. Drax is something of a celebrity figure and is respected for his development of an atomic deterrent in the ever-escalating cold war environment. The death of Drax’a security chief raises suspicions and Bond replaces him. Slowly he infiltrates Drax’s operation, run by a team of German technicians and supported by Drax’s personal assistant Gala Brand, who is, in fact, an undercover special branch officer. As Bond and Gala slowly unravel the reality around Drax’s test flight for his Moonraker rocket – echoes of WWII resentment and Russian coercion come into play. The final section of the book is taut, suspenseful and one of the best passages of writing in Fleming’s bibliography. Drax is one of Fleming’s best villains and Krebs a sinister henchman. Gala is an appealing heroine, who is brave and resourceful. The lonely life of a spy is described in Bond’s routine work and the ironic coda and his relationship with his boss, M, is explored to some degree. This set the template for more fantastical plots and charismatic villains and as such is highly recommended as a great example of what the series offered.

Book Review – LIVE AND LET DIE (1954)

LIVE AND LET DIE  (1954) ***½
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2019, 303pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1954
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1954
ISBN: 978-0-099-57686-0
      Blurb: Mr Big is brutal, brilliant and feared worldwide. Protected by Voodoo forces and the psychic powers of his prisoner Solitaire, he is an invincible SMERSH operative at the head of a ruthless smuggling ring. James Bond’s new assignment will take him to the heart of the occult: to infiltrate this secret world and destroy Mr Big’s global network. From Harlem’s throbbing jazz joints to the shark-infested waters of Jamaica, enemy eyes watch Bond’s every move. He must tread carefully to avoid a nightmarish fate.
      Comment: Ian Fleming’s follow-up to his debut James Bond novel Casino Royale is a fast-paced and entertaining read. It is also a relic of its time and the text, although softened in this version, should be taken in that context in the way it deals with its largely black cast of characters. Bond is up against Mr. Big, who is smuggling sunken pirate treasure to help fund the Russian spy network SMERSH. Bolstered by its action set-pieces – notably as Bond and Felix Leiter penetrate Mr Big’s empire resulting in Leiter “disagreeing with something that ate him” and the tense finale where Bond and Solitaire are hauled over a corral reef. The book has three settings – New York, the Florida keys and Jamaica and is the first of the books to introduce a globe-hopping element. Bond is presented as a tough and single-minded agent with little time for sentiment. Mr. Big is an impressive, if two-dimensional, villain. Themes of voodoo permeate throughout the plot, but are not fully explored. Solitaire is a little bland and her supposed powers to see into the future are underplayed as a potentially interesting character dissolves into the typical captive woman yearning for Bond to free her. Fleming was still honing his craft at this stage and better stories and plots would follow, but it remains a good example of why the series became so popular.

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 – 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.

Book Review – CASINO ROYALE (1953) by Ian Fleming

CASINO ROYALE (1953) ****
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2018, 256pp (229pp)
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1953
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1953
Introduction by Anthony Horowitz
ISBN: 978-0-099-57597-9
Casino Royale      Blurb: Le Chiffre is a businessman with expensive tastes – and SMERSH’s chief operative in France. As his dissolute lifestyle threatens to ruin him, his only hope of survival is to risk his paymasters’ money at the baccarat table. Across from him sits James Bond, the finest gambler in the British secret service. Bond’s mission: to outplay Le Chiffre and shatter his Soviet cell. midst the opulence of the Royale-les-Eaux casino, the two men face each other in a game with the highest stakes of all.
      Comment: The book that started a phenomenon. Ian Flemings’ Casino Royale introduces us to Britsh spy James Bond – 007. The story is a relatively low key beginning for Bond, bearing in mind what was to follow, but that is part of the books’ charm. By pitting Bond against an enemy agent in a card game we get to delve into Bond’s character and philosophy. His attitudes, particularly to women, may seem anachronistic today but were indicative of the time the book was written. Published only a few years after the end of World War II it demonstrated how many men found it difficult to share their emotions – their sensitivities hardened by their experience by their wartime experience. The plot is fanciful in its set-up of the card game being a vehicle by which Le Chiffre urgently seeks to recover lost funds in order to redeem his benefactors. Once we have accepted the notion then we are treated to a tense battle of wills. The second half of the book deals with the aftermath of the game and includes a torture scene that has become infamous over the years and is certainly extremely sadistic – even by today’s standards. Bond’s falling for his fellow agent, Vesper Lynd, plays out alongside this and leads to a shocking finale which goes a long way to explaining Bond’s approach with women in the books that followed. Fleming’s writing is also at its tightest here and he describes the card game with a depth of knowledge. The short chapters keep the reader turning the pages by either ending on a key plot progression or mid-scene. This debut work is Fleming at his most efficient and Casino Royale remains one of the best of the series.

The James Bond novels of Ian Fleming:
Casino Royale (1953) ****
Live and Let Die (1954) ***½
Moonraker (1955) ****½
Diamonds Are Forever (1956) ***
From Russia with Love (1957) ****
Doctor No (1958) ****
Goldfinger (1959) ***½
For Your Eyes Only (1960) (short stories) ***
Thunderball (1961) ****
The Spy Who Loved Me (1962) **
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963) *****
You Only Live Twice (1964) ****
The Man with the Golden Gun (1965) ***
Octopussy and the Living Daylights (1966) (short stories) ***

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 – LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)

Image result for live and let die 1973LIVE AND LET DIE (UK, 1973) ***
      Distributor: United Artists Corporation; Production Company: Eon Productions; Release Date: 27 June 1973 (USA), 5 July 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: 13 October 1972 – 15 March 1973; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Guy Hamilton; Writer: Tom Mankiewicz (based on the novel by Ian Fleming); Producer: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman; Director of Photography: Ted Moore; Music Composer: George Martin; Film Editor: Bert Bates, Raymond Poulton, John Shirley; Casting Director: Weston Drury Jr.; Art Director: Syd Cain; Set Decorator: Simon Wakefield, Frederic C. Weiler (both uncredited); Costumes: Julie Harris; Make-up: Paul Rabiger; Sound: Ken Barker, John W. Mitchell; Special Effects: Derek Meddings; Visual Effects: Charles Staffell.
      Cast: Roger Moore (James Bond), Yaphet Kotto (Kananga / Mr. Big), Jane Seymour (Solitaire), Clifton James (Sheriff Pepper), Julius Harris (Tee Hee), Geoffrey Holder (Baron Samedi), David Hedison (Leiter), Gloria Hendry (Rosie), Bernard Lee (‘M’), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Tommy Lane (Adam), Earl Jolly Brown (Whisper), Roy Stewart (Quarrel), Lon Satton (Strutter), Arnold Williams (Cab Driver 1), Ruth Kempf (Mrs. Bell), Joie Chitwood (Charlie), Madeline Smith (Beautiful Girl), Michael Ebbin (Dambala), Kubi Chaza (Sales Girl), Brenda Arnau (Singer).
      Synopsis: 007 is sent to stop a diabolically brilliant heroin magnate armed with a complex organization and a reliable psychic tarot card reader.
      Comment: Moore’s debut appearance as 007 continues the series’ shift toward a tongue-in-cheek style initiated in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER with its glib, sometimes dismissive, approach. Comedic overtones begin to emerge at the expense of suspense, notably in the flying school action sequence. James’ Sheriff JW Pepper proved popular with cinemagoers, if not serious Bond fans, and would return in the next film in the series. This is also the point at which the Bond films started to follow trends rather than set them. The Blaxploitation genre had exploded by this time and the themes, locations and characters presented here capitalise on this. Kotto makes for a more down to earth and formidable villain than had been the case in those 60s Bonds, but as a result, the threat seems more subdued. The film does at least boast one of the series’ strongest theme songs (courtesy of Paul & Linda McCartney) and a well-staged, if slightly overlong, boat chase. Followed by THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1975).

Film Review – FIREFOX (1982)

Image result for firefox 1982FIREFOX (USA, 1982) **½
      Distributor: Warner Bros; Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 14 June 1982 (USA), 15 July 1982 (UK); Filming Dates: 26 August – November 1981; Running Time: 136m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Dolby (35 mm prints) | 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm, 70mm (blow up); Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Alex Lasker, Wendell Wellman (based on the novel by Craig Thomas); Executive Producer: Fritz Manes; Producer: Clint Eastwood; Associate Producer: Paul Hitchcock; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Maurice Jarre; Music Supervisor: ; Film Editor: Ron Spang, Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Marion Dougherty, Mary Selway; Production Designer: ; Art Director: Elayne Barbara Ceder, John Graysmark, Beala Neel; Set Decorator: Ernie Bishop; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Christina Smith; Sound: Bub Asman, Alan Robert Murray, Robert G. Henderson; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar; Visual Effects: John Dykstra.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Mitchell Gant), Freddie Jones (Kenneth Aubrey), David Huffman (Captain Buckholz), Warren Clarke (Pavel Upenskoy), Ronald Lacey (Semelovsky), Kenneth Colley (Colonel Kontarsky), Klaus Löwitsch (General Vladimirov), Nigel Hawthorne (Pyotr Baranovich), Stefan Schnabel (First Secretary), Thomas Hill (General Brown), Clive Merrison (Major Lanyev), Kai Wulff (Lt. Colonel Voskov), Dimitra Arliss (Natalia), Austin Willis (Walters), Michael Currie (Captain Seerbacker), James Staley (Lt. Commander Fleischer), Ward Costello (General Rogers), Alan Tilvern (Air Marshal Kutuzov), Oliver Cotton (Dmitri Priabin), Bernard Behrens (William Saltonstall), Richard Derr (Admiral Curtin), Woody Eney (Major Dietz), Bernard Erhard (KGB Guard), Hugh Fraser (Police Inspector Tortyev), David Gant (KGB Official), John Grillo (Customs Officer), Czeslaw Grocholski (Old Man), Barrie Houghton (Boris Glazunov), Neil Hunt (Richard Cunningham), Vincent J. Isaac (Sub Radio Operator), Alexei Jawdokimov (Code Operator), Wolf Kahler (KGB Chairman Andropov), Eugene Lipinski (KGB Agent), Phillip Littell (Code Operator), Curt Lowens (Dr. Schuller), Lev Mailer (Guard at Shower), Fritz Manes (Captain), David Meyers (Grosch), Alfredo Michelson (Interrogator), Zeno Nahayevsky (Officer at Plane), George Orrison (Leon Sprague), Tony Papenfuss (GRU Officer), Olivier Pierre (Borkh), Grisha Plotkin (GRU Officer), George Pravda (General Borov), John Ratzenberger (Chief Peck), Alex Rodine (Captain of the Riga), Lance Rosen (Agent), Gene Scherer (Russian Captain), Warwick Sims (Shelley), Mike Spero (Russian Guard), Malcolm Storry (KGB Agent), Chris Winfield (RAF Operator), John Yates (Admiral Pearson), Alexander Zale (Riga Fire Control Chief), Igor Zatsepin (Flight Engineer), Konstantin Zlatev (Riga Technician).
      Synopsis: The Soviets have developed a revolutionary new jet fighter, so the British send an ex-Vietnam War pilot on a covert mission into the Soviet Union to steal it.
      Comment: Change of direction for Eastwood as he takes on a tale that mixes Alistair MacLean-style high adventure with the spy thriller. Whilst the basis of the plot is plausible it is often executed in a ham-fisted manner, not helped by some telegraphed performances – notably Jones as the caper leader. Eastwood looks uncomfortable with the genre and the script gives him little to work with. He directs efficiently and handles the action sequences well, though the flight chase scenes now look dated.
      Notes: After its initial release, Eastwood recut the film by 13m; this 124m version has aired on cable TV. The story is loosely based on an actual event in which a Soviet fighter pilot (Viktor Belenko) defected to Japan on September 6, 1976. Belenko was stationed in Chuguyekva, Primorsky Krai, RSFSR (Soviet Russia) where he flew a MiG-25 to Hakodate, Japan.

Film Review – THE EIGER SANCTION (1975)

Image result for clint eastwood totem poleTHE EIGER SANCTION (USA, 1975) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: The Malpaso Company / Jennings Lang / Universal Pictures; Release Date: 21 May 1975 (USA), 21 August 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 12 August – late September 1974; Running Time: 129m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Hal Dresner, Warren Murphy, Rod Whitaker (based on the novel by Rod Whitaker, as Trevanian); Executive Producer: David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck; Producer: Robert Daley ; Director of Photography: Frank Stanley; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Art Director: George C. Webb, Aurelio Crugnola; Set Decorator: John M. Dwyer; Costumes: Glenn Wright, Charles Waldo; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: James R. Alexander, Robert L. Hoyt; Special Effects: Ben McMahan.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Jonathan Hemlock), George Kennedy (Ben Bowman), Vonetta McGee (Jemima Brown), Jack Cassidy (Miles Mellough), Heidi Brühl (Mrs. Montaigne), Thayer David (Dragon), Reiner Schöne (Freytag), Michael Grimm (Meyer), Jean-Pierre Bernard (Montaigne), Brenda Venus (George), Gregory Walcott (Pope), Candice Rialson (Art Student), Elaine Shore (Miss Cerberus), Dan Howard (Dewayne), Jack Kosslyn (Reporter), Walter Kraus (Kruger), Frank Redmond (Wormwood), Siegfried Wallach (Hotel Manager), Susan Morgan Cooper (Buns), Jack Frey (Cab Driver).
      Synopsis: A classical art professor and collector, who doubles as a professional assassin, is coerced out of retirement to avenge the murder of an old friend.
      Comment: Saddled with a weak by-the-numbers script this spy thriller is considerably bolstered by the superb mountain climbing footage and Eastwood’s star power. Eastwood also performed his own stunt work adding a sense of authenticity and he directed the climbing sequences with considerable skill, managing to create a tense climactic ascent of the Eiger. Kennedy shines in a support role as Eastwood’s climbing buddy, as does Cassidy as a gay assassin. Great use is made of Monument Valley and Swiss locations and John Williams provides an evocative score.
      Notes: The scenes that depict Hemlock training for the Eiger climb include Monument Valley’s “Totem Pole,” a rock spire with an elevation over 5,500 feet. According to production notes, Eastwood performed the climb himself while Kennedy was lowered onto the rock’s crest by helicopter. Shortly after the scene was filmed, the Navajo Nation deemed “Totem Pole” off-limits to future climbers. Twenty-six-year-old British climber David Knowles died on the Eiger during the production.

Book Review – KILLER INTENT (2018) by Tony Kent

KILLER INTENT (2018) **½
by Tony Kent
Published by Elliott and Thompson Ltd., 2018, 530pp
ISBN: 978-1-78396-382-9

36570437Blurb: When an attempted assassination sparks a chain reaction of explosive events across London, Britain’s elite security forces seem powerless to stop the chaos threatening to overwhelm the government. As the dark and deadly conspiracy unfolds, three strangers find their fates entwined: Joe Dempsey, a deadly military intelligence officer; Sarah Truman, a CNN reporter determined to get her headline; and Michael Devlin, a Belfast-born criminal barrister with a secret past. As the circle of those they can trust grows ever smaller, Dempsey, Devlin and Truman are forced to work in the shadows, caught in a life-or-death race against the clock, before the terrible plot can consume them all.

Enjoyment of this book will depend pretty much on your willingness to buy into the increasingly implausible plot presented. The story has its twists and turns, but none of these came as a surprise and the motivation and actions of the chief villain of the piece increasingly defied logic. Kent has two strong heroes in Dempsey and Devlin and a gutsy heroine in Truman. However, the latter character takes an increasingly back-seat role, having been the conduit for the early action. The book then descends into a stereotypical chase with a hostage/shootout climax that is somehow unfulfilling.

The book could have been more tightly edited. There is not enough in terms of plot progression and characterisation to warrant a 530-page count. The motivations of the characters are drawn out and repeated through long monologues. The book is essentially pulp-fiction and in that genre quantity does not necessarily directly correlate with quality. Here, readers have too much time to think and absorb and that enables them to dwell on the plot’s incredulities. That said, there are moments of promise and Kent may well go on to refine his skills as the series progresses – there is a swift set-up for follow-up stories in this tale’s closing pages. He has a good handle on action scenes, which will ensure his writing remains popular with a like-minded readership.

Unfortunately, the moments of promise are undermined by its preposterous plot resulting in a book that both pleases and frustrates at the same time.