Film Review – HORROR EXPRESS (1972)

Image result for HORROR EXPRESS QUAD POSTERHORROR EXPRESS (Spain/UK, 1972) ***
      Distributor: Gala Film Distributors  (UK), Scotia International (USA); Production Company: Benmar Productions / Granada Films; Release Date: November 1973 (USA), December 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: December 1971 – January 1972; Running Time: 91m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Eugenio Martín; Writer: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet; Producer: Bernard Gordon; Director of Photography: Alejandro Ulloa; Music Composer: John Cacavas; Film Editor: Robert C. Dearberg; Production Designer: Ramiro Gómez; Set Decorator: Ramiro Gómez; Costumes: Charles Simminger; Make-up: Julián Ruiz; Sound: Antonio Illán; Special Effects: Pablo Pérez; Visual Effects: Brian Stevens.
      Cast: Christopher Lee (Prof. Sir Alexander Saxton), Peter Cushing (Dr. Wells), Telly Savalas (Capt. Kazan), Alberto de Mendoza (Father Pujardov), Silvia Tortosa (Countess Irina Petrovska), Julio Peña (Inspector Mirov), Ángel del Pozo (Yevtushenko), Helga Liné (Natasha), George Rigaud (Count Maryan Petrovski), Alice Reinheart (Miss Jones), José Jaspe (Konev – Conductor), Víctor Israel (Baggage Man), Juan Olaguivel (Creature), Vicente Roca (Station Master), Barta Barri (First Telegraphist), José Marco (Vorkin), José Canalejas (Russian Guard).
      Synopsis: In 1906, in China, a British anthropologist discovers a frozen prehistoric creature and must transport it to Europe by train.
      Comment: Euro-horror transfers the plot of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD from the remote base of the Antarctic to the Siberian Express. The production starts unsteadily but slowly gathers momentum building to an exciting climax. Great make-up effects for both the monster and the effects of its work. Neat use of lighting in the confined spaces of the train helps to generate mood and tension. Lee and Cushing add dignity amongst a largely solid European cast. Savalas is delicious as a sadistic soldier who enters the story late in the day. Although set in the icy Siberian landscape the film was shot in Spain.
      Notes: Various roles are dubbed by Roger Delgado (the Police Inspector), Robert Rietty (Father Pujardov), and Olive Gregg (all female voices).

Film Review – KELLY’S HEROES (1970)

Image result for kelly's heroesKELLY’S HEROES (Yugoslavia/USA, 1970) ***½
      Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Avala Film / Katzka-Loeb / The Warriors Company; Release Date: 23 June 1970 (USA), 17 September 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 30 June 1969 – December 1969; Running Time: 144m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Stereo (35 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm (70mm blow-up); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG – contains mild language and violence.
Director: Brian G. Hutton; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin; Producer: Sidney Beckerman, Gabriel Katzka; Associate Producer: Irving L. Leonard; Director of Photography: Gabriel Figueroa; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: John Jympson; Production Designer: John Barry; Set Decorator: Mike Ford; Costumes: Anna Maria Feo; Make-up: Trevor Crole-Rees; Sound: Jonathan Bates, Cyril Swern, Harry W. Tetrick; Special Effects: Karl Baumgartner.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Kelly), Telly Savalas (Big Joe), Don Rickles (Crapgame), Carroll O’Connor (General Colt), Donald Sutherland (Oddball), Gavin MacLeod (Moriarty), Hal Buckley (Maitland), Stuart Margolin (Little Joe), Jeff Morris (Cowboy), Richard Davalos (Gutowski), Perry Lopez (Petuko), Tom Troupe (Job), Harry Dean Stanton (Willard), Dick Balduzzi (Fisher), Gene Collins (Babra), Len Lesser (Bellamy), David Hurst (Colonel Dankhopf), Fred Pearlman (Mitchell), Michael Clark (Grace), George Fargo (Penn), Dee Pollock (Jonesey), George Savalas (Mulligan), John G. Heller (German Lieutenant), Shepherd Sanders (Turk), Karl-Otto Alberty (German Tank Commander), Ross Elliott (Booker), Phil Adams (Third Tank Commander), Hugo De Vernier (French Mayor), Frank J. Garlotta (Tanker), Harry Goines (Supply Sergeant), David Gross (German Captain), Sandy McPeak (Second Tank Commander), James McHale (Guest), Robert MacNamara (Roach), Read Morgan (U.S. Lieutenant), Tom Signorelli (Bonsor), Donald Waugh (Roamer), Vincent Maracecchi (Old Man in Town).
      Synopsis: A group of U.S. soldiers sneaks across enemy lines to get their hands on a secret stash of Nazi treasure.
      Comment: Entertaining, if overlong, WWII heist caper coasts on the performances of its charismatic cast. Hutton, who previously worked with Eastwood on 1968’s  WHERE EAGLES DARE, handles the action scenes and pyrotechnics with great aplomb. Eastwood is the former US army officer who persuades Savalas and his platoon of misfits to venture behind enemy lines in search of a bounty of gold bars. They are joined along the way by Sutherland, as the anachronistic hippie “Oddball” who is surprisingly leading a squadron of three Sherman Tanks. Rickles is a supplies man operating his own black market and O’Connor gives an OTT performance as the unwitting General who assumes the assault on the German lines is out of sheer bravery. Lalo Schifrin’s score is amusing in a sequence where it recalls Ennio Morricone’s scores for Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns. Some may grumble at the levity in what was a bloody war and yes there are uneasy moments where you feel guilt at your enjoyment. A longer cut (circa 20 minutes were cut) would have carried more character focus and perhaps created a more complete story, but what we have is a loud, brash and often humorous caper movie.
      Notes: Songs: “Burning Bridges,” words and music by Lalo Schifrin and Mike Curb, sung by Mike Curb Congregation; “Si tu me dis,” music and lyrics by Lalo Schifrin and Gene Lees, sung by Monique Aldebert; “Sunshine,” composer undetermined, sung by Hank Williams.
The film is based on a true incident. The caper was covered in a book called “Nazi Gold: The Sensational Story of the World’s Greatest Robbery–and the Greatest Criminal Cover-Up” by Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting. The heist was perpetrated by a combination of renegade Nazi and American officers. It was also listed as the “biggest” robbery ever in the Guinness Book of Records, in the 1960s.

Film Review – KOJAK: FATAL FLAW (TV) (1989)

Image result for KOJAK FATAL FLAWKojak: Fatal Flaw (TV) (1989; USA; Technicolor; 94m) **½  d. Richard Compton; w. Albert Ruben; ph. Geoffrey Erb; m. Cameron Allan.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Andre Braugher, Angie Dickinson, Steven Weber, George Morfogen, Charles Cioffi, Richard Jenkins, Paul Guilfoyle, Kario Salem, David Ciminello, Sally Jessy Raphael, Don King. Popular book writer is murdered. Kojak finds out that shortly before his death he was working on a book about the mafia, so the mob is automatically his number one suspect.  Dickinson adds glamour to this okay mystery. Savalas seems more engaged with the material and the whole thing is competently directed by Compton. [PG]

Film Review – KOJAK: ARIANA (TV) (1989)

Kojak: Ariana (TV) (1989; USA; Technicolor; 96m) **  d. Paul Krasny; w. Maurice Hurley; ph. Geoffrey Erb; m. Cameron Allan.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Andre Braugher, Shari Headley, Caroline Wilde, Hector Elizondo, Joe Grifasi, Kario Salem, Jean De Baer, David Margulies, Liliana Komorowska, Mike Starr, James Rebhorn. One of Kojak’s old enemies uses Ariana, a young Greek girl, as bait to trap the legendary New York detective. Meanwhile, Kojak finds himself a brash young associate. After a promising start this first episode of a revived series of Kojak TV Movies descends into sentimentality and some weak comic moments. Braugher is introduced to handle the action sequences, whilst Savalas seems a little tired in his iconic role. [PG]

Film Review – THE PRICE OF JUSTICE (TV) (1989)

Image result for kojak the price of justicePrice of Justice, The (TV) (1987; USA; Technicolor; 95m) **½  d. Alan Metzger; w. Albert Ruben; ph. Victor J. Kemper; m. Patrick Williams.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Kate Nelligan, Pat Hingle, Jack Thompson, Brian Murray, John Bedford Lloyd, Jeffrey DeMunn, Tony DiBenedetto, Ron Frazier, Stephen Joyce. When the bodies of two young boys are discovered in a Harlem river, their mother is the obvious suspect, particularly with her scandalous past. But Kojak believes that she is innocent. This did she/didn’t she mystery never really catches fire and is little more than a routine addition to the Kojak series. Savalas, here lacking his support cast from the series, gives a subdued performance but Nelligan conveys effectively the confused emotional state of the mother. Hingle and Thompson are good in support, but the script is unconvincing.  Based on the novel “The Investigation” by Dorothy Uhnak. [15]

Film Review – THE BELARUS FILE (TV) (1985)

Image result for the belarus fileBelarus File, The (TV) (1985; USA; Colour; 95m) **½  d. Robert Markowitz; w. Albert Ruben; ph. Alan Metzger; m. Joseph Conlan, Barry De Vorzon.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Suzanne Pleshette, Max von Sydow, Herbert Berghof, Dan Frazer, Betsy Aidem, Alan Rosenberg, Charles Brown, George Savalas, David Leary, Harry Davis, Rita Karin, Mark Russell, Vince Conti. The murders of several elderly Russian men lead Kojak to a group of Nazi war criminals who are living in America with the full knowledge and approval of the U.S. Government. Savalas’ Kojak character is shoe-horned into an adaptation of John Loftus’ novel with middling results. There is no real mystery to sustain the story and the heavy-handed handling of the material flattens the intended emotional impact. On the plus side, Savalas remains charismatic, Von Sydow essays a dignified performance and there are occasional and welcome nods to the glory days of the TV series. [PG]

Film Review – KOJAK: THE SUMMER OF ’69 (TV) (1977)

Kojak: The Summer of ’69 (TV) (1977; USA; Technicolor; 96m) ***  d. Gene R. Kearney; w. Gene R. Kearney; ph. John McPherson; m. John Cacavas.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Stephen McHattie, Alex Dreier, Harrison Page, Pepe Serna, Phillip R. Allen, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson, George Savalas, Woodrow Parfrey, Thalmus Rasulala, Catlin Adams, Diane Baker. A man is released from prison, and a woman who rides with him to New York is found murdered in his abandoned car (with the MO of a dead serial killer). Interesting premise helped by strong portrayal of psychotic killer by McHattie. Flashback elements are distracting and the sub-plot involving a mob fixer is never fully realised. Good use of NYC locations add authenticity. Compiled from two-part episode from fifth season of Kojak TV series. [15]

Film Review: KOJAK: KOJAK’S DAYS (TV) (1977)

Kojak: Kojak’s Days (TV) (1977; USA; Technicolor; 96m) *** d. Charles S. Dubin; w. Chester Krumholz, Matthew Rapf; ph. Sol Negrin; m. John Cacavas; ed. Eric Albertson, Jim Benson.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Maud Adams, William Hurt, Ken Kercheval, Louise Sorel, Michael Tolan, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson, George Savalas. An unidentified corpse in a stolen Rolls-Royce is found the same morning a wife kills her husband and abandons her child, leaving a trail that could lead to her suicide. Dramatic impetus is undermined by having four separate cases for the detectives to solve. Whilst this adds authenticity it makes the viewing hard-going at times. Extensive use of NYC locations, good performances by a strong cast and Savalas’ presence are main strengths. Adams is wasted in a what amounts to little more than a cameo. Compiled from two-part episode from fourth season of Kojak TV series. [PG]

Film Review – KOJAK: A SHIELD FOR MURDER (TV) (1976)

Image result for kojak a shield for murderKojak: A Shield for Murder (TV) (1976; USA; Technicolor; 96m) ***½  d. Jeannot Szwarc; w. William P. McGivern, Robert Malcolm Young; ph. Sol Negrin; m. John Cacavas.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Geraldine Page, Charles Kimbrough, Michael Lombard, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson, George Savalas, Kenneth McMillan, Thom Christopher, Janet Ward, Frederick Coffin, Mary Beth Hurt, Lester Rawlins. A young man is killed by police after he attempts to kill an assistant district attorney at a courthouse. Kojak learns that the young man was a boyfriend of an ice skater who is in prison for the murder of her mother two years before. But when he tries to look further into the case, he gets pressured to drop it, with the orders ultimately coming from a powerful political operative. Highly effective feature-length episode in the Kojak series plays of themes of political greed, corruption and psychological torment. The performances are first-rate – notably Hurt as the tortured victim of the cover-up and Page as the orchestrator. Savalas is a commanding presence in his signature role. From the fourth season of the series. [PG]

Film Review – KOJAK: A QUESTION OF ANSWERS (TV) (1975)

Image result for kojak season threeKojak: A Question of Answers (TV) (1975; USA; Technicolor; 97m) ***½  d. Jerry London; w. Albert Ruben; ph. Sol Negrin; m. John Cacavas.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Eli Wallach, Michael V. Gazzo, Jennifer Warren, Jerry Orbach, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson, George Savalas, Allan Rich, F. Murray Abraham. A man tries to clear his name by helping Kojak trap a loan shark. Strong feature-length entry in the series makes extensive use of New York locations adding authenticity and bite to this deft and downbeat story. Savalas and Wallach excel and are strongly supported by Warren and Orbach. Third season opener for Kojak TV series. [PG]