TV Review – THE DEEP (2010)

THE DEEP (UK, 2010) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: Tiger Aspect Productions; Release Date: 3-31 August 2010; Running Time: 289m (5 episodes); Filming Dates: December 2009-March 2010; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Jim O’Hanlon, Colm McCarthy; Writer: Simon Donald, Paul Rutman; Executive Producer: Greg Brenman, Eleanor Moran; Producer: Will Gould; Director of Photography: Adam Suschitzky, Damian Bromley; Music Composer: Samuel Sim; Film Editor: Chris Wyatt, Helen Chapman; Casting Director: Jill Trevellick; Production Designer: Simon Bowles; Art Director: Andy Thomson; Costumes: Trisha Biggar; Make-up: Gilly Popham, Linda A. Morton; Sound: Simon Gershon; Special Effects: Chris Reynolds; Visual Effects: Thomas M. Horton, Shanaullah Umerji,  Simon Carr, Becky Roberts.
      Cast: James Nesbitt (Clem Donnelly), Minnie Driver (Frances Kelly), Goran Visnjic (Samson), Orla Brady (Catherine Donnelly), Sinéad Cusack (Meg Sinclair), Sacha Dhawan (Vincent), Vera Graziadei (Svetlana), Tobias Menzies (Raymond), Tom Wlaschiha (Arkady), Antonia Thomas (Maddy), Dan Li (Hatsuto), Nigel Whitmey (Lowe), Molly Jones (Scarlet), Amit Patil (Cg generalist), Nick Nevern (Stas), Richard Brake (McIndoe), Goran Kostic (Zubov), Ron Donachie (Sturridge), Nicholas Pinnock (Charlie Goodison), Shonagh Price (Sandra), Simon Donald (Dr. Christianson).
      Synopsis: A research submarine beneath the Arctic stumbles upon a terrifying secret with Earth-shattering consequences.
      Comment: Whilst the story gets more and more preposterous and the dialogue is often risible, this underwater thriller still manages to hook you in for the most part through its makers’ sheer enthusiasm for the material. Nesbitt is part of a submarine crew captained by Driver to return to the site beneath the Arctic ice where a previous research team (including Nesbitt’s wife, Brady) and their vessel disappeared. On arrival, they find they are not alone and have stumbled across a covert Russian drilling operation in UN waters. The story moves along at a nice clip, slowing occasionally for cliched moments of character development. Moments of tension and suspense are built at regular intervals as the crew begin to find themselves out of their depth. The acting is generally good with the cast often overcoming the limitations in the material. The technical attributes and visuals are excellent for the most part, with great production design of the hi-tech submarine – notwithstanding the occasionally obvious CGI moment. After managing to hold our attention through the first four hour-long segments, the story goes off the rails in the last episode with lazy writing that fails to tie up the character arcs and the plot satisfactorily as it lays on the emotional trauma. The result is a generally entertaining but flawed story that may satisfy undemanding genre fans.

Book Review – THE GIRL HUNTERS (1962) by Mickey Spillane

THE GIRL HUNTERS (1962) ***½
by Mickey Spillane
This paperback edition published in The Mike Hammer Collection: Volume 3 by Obsidian, 2010, 171pp (524pp) with The Snake (1964) and The Twisted Thing (1966)
Introduction by Max Allan Collins
First published in hardcover by E.P. Dutton, 1962
ISBN: 978-0-451-23124-6
      Blurb: Seven years of hitting the hard stuff have taken it out of PI Mike Hammer. That’s how long it’s been since he gave his beloved secretary the job from which she never returned. Now he’s back with a vengeance. Velda is alive, if only he can reach her in time. But New York’s toughest investigator still has friends in the right places. And his long-neglected .45 is definitely one of those. Piecing together the puzzling deaths of a senator, a newsagent and an FBI man, Hammer finds the missing link in a murderous network of international spies. One that turns out to be Spillane’s kind of beauty – and who knows a good deal more than she should.
      Comment: There was a 10-year gap between Mickey Spillane’s sixth and seventh Mike Hammer novels (Kiss Me Deadly and The Girl Hunters).  During this period Spillane semi-retired from writing and had become a Jehovah’s Witness. The Girl Hunters addresses the absence of Mike Hammer novels during this period by introducing a plot element that has Hammer’s secretary Velda missing in action for the last seven years. Hammer believing her dead has turned to drink, lost his PI licence and his friendship with NYPD captain Pat Chambers. But when a dying man gives Hammer hope Velda is still alive, he sobers up and resolves to find her. The mystery elements are blended well as the dying man is linked to the murder of a US senator and these events, in turn, are linked to the case Hammer and Velda were working on before her disappearance. Meanwhile, Hammer has become involved with Laura, the senator’s widow. The plot may be fanciful with its mix of espionage and hit-men, but Spillane manages to keep the reader from dwelling on the absurdities and emboils us in Hammer’s search for Velda. Whilst the early passages are slow as we become re-acquainted with Hammer and learn of the nature of Velda’s disappearance, once this set-up has been explained the pace quickens and the action is tough, sexy and intriguing. The finale is pure Spillane and will satisfy his loyal fan base. Written with tough-guy dialogue and in a spare first-person narrative prose, Spillane hits his stride once more and would enter a second prolific phase of writing, which could have been written ten years earlier.  A year later the book was adapted into a movie, in which Spillane played his own creation.

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).

Book Review – THE SLEEPWALKER (2019) by Joseph Knox

THE SLEEPWALKER (2019) ****
by Joseph Knox
This paperback edition published by Black Swan, 2020, 433pp
First published in hardcover by Doubleday, 2019
© Joesph Knox, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-7841-6218-4
      Blurb: As a series of rolling blackouts plunge the city into darkness, Detective Aidan Waits sits on an abandoned hospital ward, watching a mass murderer slowly die. Transferred from his usual night shift duties and onto protective custody, he has just one job. To extract the location of Martin Wick’s final victim before the notorious mass murderer passes away. Wick has spent over a decade in prison, in near-total silence, having confessed to an unspeakable crime that shocked the nation and earned him the nickname of The Sleepwalker. But when a daring premeditated attack leaves one police officer dead and another one fighting for his life, Wick’s whispered last words will send Waits on a journey into the heart of darkness. Manipulated by a reticent psychopath from his past, and under investigation from his new partner, Detective Constable Naomi Black, Waits realises too late that a remorseless contract killer is at work. Can Aidan Waits solve his last case before fleeing justice?
      Comment: The third book in Joesph Knox’s Aidan Waits series sees the author put his protagonist through even darker territory than in Sirens or The Smiling Man. The result is a fast-paced page-turning thriller full of twists. The main plot concerns the murder of a convicted killer, convicted for the deaths of a woman and her two children but claiming his innocence as he dies as a result of a hate attack. As Waits and his new partner, Naomi Black, delve deeper they uncover a broader web of cover-ups within the force relating to another case involving a missing female detective. Alongside this, Knox delves more into Waits’ personal past and his relationship with his sister and mother. To fully understand this latter sub-plot it is advised to read Knox’s books in order. If that wasn’t enough there is a further sub-plot involving Knox’s personal nemesis and drug crime lord, Zain Carver, who has put a contract out on the detective. Knox juggles the main plot and the various sub-plots extremely well, so the book does not feel overly cluttered until he tries to resolve (or not as the case may be) each of them in a finale which builds crescendo on crescendo.  Therein lies the problem. The book tries to cram so much exposition into its final act and whilst doing so has an ambiguous ending that will leave some readers distinctly unsatisfied. It may make for thrilling reading and certainly is exciting, but does make the reader question its contrived nature. This is where the modern novel is now mimicking the TV mini-series, which in itself mimicked the novel. The need to pile on shock revelation after shock revelation has removed an element of logic and plausibility from the narrative. That said this was still a hugely enjoyable read for those willing to forgive the contrivances and submit to Knox’s dark view of the world. It will be interesting to see what this challenging and gifted writer delivers next as I have the feeling there is a masterpiece within his gifts, just waiting to be unleashed.

Book Review – THE SMILING MAN (2018) by Joseph Knox

THE SMILING MAN (2018) ****
by Joseph Knox
This paperback edition published by Black Swan, 2019, 454pp
First published in hardcover by Doubleday, 2018
© Joesph Knox, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-7841-6219-1
      Blurb: A body has been found on the fourth floor of Manchester’s vast and empty Palace Hotel. The man is dead. And he is smiling. The tags have been removed from his clothes. His teeth have been replaced. Even his fingertips are not his own. Only a patch sewn into his trousers offers any information about him. Detective Aidan Waits and his unwilling partner, DI Sutcliffe, must piece together the scant clues to identify the stranger. But as they do, Aidan realises that a ghost from his past haunts the investigation. He soon recognises that to discover who the smiling man really is, he must first confront the scattered debris of his own life . . .
      Comment: Joesph Knox’s first book, Sirens, introduced us to Detective Aidan Waits. It was a dark, grim and macabre tale that proved to be one of the best debut novels in recent years. His follow-up, The Smiling Man, continues in the same vein. Waits is paired on the night shift with DI Peter Sutcliffe (Knox’s penchant for referencing serial killers both real and fictional is one of his traits). On attending the crime scene at a disused hotel they find a man’s body in one of the rooms. It cannot be identified and is distinguished only by the disturbing smile on his face. The investigation runs concurrently with events from Waits’ past, which re-surface on the release from prison of the psychotic Bateman. The plots are not directly linked but weave between each other throughout the novel, with Waits trying to rid himself of the events that led to his dark personality. It’s a psychological rollercoaster and Knox handles the elements well through his first-person narrative. The creepy elements in the Smiling Man mystery are reminiscent of cases such as The Black Dahlia. Knox admirably captures the darkness of the locale, despite being set during a rare Manchester heatwave, and showcases a cast of violent, eccentric and flawed characters. As such this book is not for those who don’t like their mysteries to veer too much toward the disturbingly dark side, but fans of Knox’s first novel will not be disappointed with this stylish follow-up.

Book Review – THE SHAMELESS (2019) by Ace Atkins

THE SHAMELESS (2019) ***½
by Ace Atkins
This paperback edition published by Corsair, 2020, 446pp
First published in hardcover by Corsair, 2019
© Ace Atkins, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-4721-5500-9
The Shameless (Quinn Colson Book 9) by [Atkins, Ace]      Blurb: Twenty years ago, teenager Brandon Taylor walked into the Big Woods north of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, and never returned. For former Army Ranger-turned-sheriff Quinn Colson, the Taylor case has a particular meaning. As a ten-year-old, Colson had been lost in those same woods and came back from them alive and a local legend. Years later, bones of a child are found in the woods, confirming for many the end to the Taylor story. As the case reopens, some point fingers to Quinn’s uncle, the former sheriff, who took his own life in a cloud of corruption and shame. Still, Quinn’s wife, Maggie, can’t believe it. As a childhood friend of the Taylor boy, she thinks there’s a darker conspiracy at work. Letters she receives from a mysterious inmate at a Tennessee state pen may hold the answers. With a heated election for governor on the horizon and the strengthening of a criminal syndicate’s death grip on the state, Quinn’s search for answers will upset the corruption that’s plagued his home since before he came back from Afghanistan. Greed, false piety, power, bigotry, and dirty deals make for a dangerous mix he knows all too well.
      Comment: Number 9 in the Sheriff Quinn Colson series takes Ace Atkins’ hero into a cold case that hits close to home. It’s a slow-burning story, built around two New York reporters arriving in Tibbehah County to investigate what really happened to a teenager who allegedly killed himself in the woods. Again the characters are rich and the dialogue superb. Those who have been with the series from the start and seen how it has developed will consider this book a crossroads in a story arc that has built throughout, with its cliffhanger ending and some major shifts for most of the characters. What it lacks in action (a hitherto pre-requisite of the series) it makes up for in plot progression. Quinn, newly married to Maggie is up against forces that would have him removed from office, sister Caddy takes up with a man affiliated to those forces, Fannie Hathcock looks to broaden her criminal empire and battle those who would oppose her, Boom struggles with alcoholism following events from the previous book, THE SINNERS. Many of these plot threads remain unresolved by the book’s conclusion, giving it the feel of a transitionary novel with its lack of closure potentially leaving readers unfulfilled. Casual readers would, therefore, be advised to start from the beginning with THE RANGER, to get acquainted with the core characters, their back-story and the setting. They will be rewarded with a series that has matured with each book and leaves you wanting more.

The Quinn Colson series:
The Ranger (2011) ***
The Lost Ones (2012) ***
The Broken Place (2013) ***
The Forsaken (2014) ***½
The Redeemers (2015) ****
The Innocents (2016) ***½
The Fallen (2017) ****
The Sinners (2018) ***½
The Shameless (2019) ***½

Film Review – THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956)

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (USA, 1956) **½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 26 April 1956; Filming Dates: late Aug–mid Sep 1955; Running Time: 78m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: John Sherwood; Writer: Arthur A. Ross; Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: Maury Gertsman; Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Edward Curtiss; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen, Robert Emmet Smith; Set Decorator: John P. Austin, Russell A. Gausman; Costumes: Jay A. Morley Jr.; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Leslie I. Carey, Robert Pritchard; Visual Effects: Clifford Stine.
      Cast: Jeff Morrow (Dr. William Barton), Rex Reason (Dr. Thomas Morgan), Leigh Snowden (Marcia Barton), Gregg Palmer (Jed Grant), Maurice Manson (Dr. Borg), James Rawley (Dr. Johnson), David McMahon (Captain Stanley), Paul Fierro (Morteno), Lillian Molieri (Mrs. Morteno), Larry Hudson (State Trooper), Frank Chase (Steward). Uncredited: Ricou Browning (The Gill Man (in water)), Don Megowan (The Gill Man (on land)), George Sowards (Ranchhand).
      Synopsis: In this third Gill-Man feature, the Creature is captured and turned into an air-breather by a rich mad scientist.
      Comment: The second sequel to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) starts promisingly if more than a little familiarly. Merrow and a group of scientists hunt the Gill Man in the Everglades. Merrow has brought along wife Snowden, who sets the pulses racing amongst the rest of the crew sending Merrow into jealous rages. Reason debates ethics with Merrow and the production becomes a little too talky during its mid-section. Once the Gill Man is captured and loses his gills via a fire the creature begins to adopt human physicalities. Unfortunately. this means the impressive creature design is shorn of its elegance and the Gill Man turns into a lumbering Frankenstein-like monster, but lacking any expressiveness through the heavy rubber mask. The finale at a coastal clinic reverts to formula and the creature becomes enraged when violence is inflicted on others, notably his fellow captive animals. The denouement is hugely disappointing lacking any resolution other than Merrow’s ultimate fate. Impressive underwater photography and the desire to stretch the characters are pluses in an otherwise largely routine fare.

Film Review – GOLD (1974)

GOLD (UK, 1974) ***½
      Distributor: Hemdale Film Distribution (UK), Allied Artists Pictures (USA); Production Company: Killarney Film Studios; Release Date: 5 September 1974 (UK), 16 October 1974 (USA); Filming Dates: October 1973; Running Time: 120m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Wilbur Smith, Stanley Price (based on the novel “Gold Mine” by Wilbur Smith); Producer: Michael Klinger; Director of Photography: Ousama Rawi; Music Composer: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: John Glen; Casting Director: Irene Lamb; Production Designer: Syd Cain, Alex Vetchinsky; Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Costumes: Marjory Cornelius; Make-up: Paul Engelen; Sound: John W. Mitchell; Special Effects: Cliff Richardson, Bill Warrington.
      Cast: Roger Moore (Rod Slater), Susannah York (Terry Steyner), Ray Milland (Hurry H. ‘Pops’ Hirschfeld), Bradford Dillman (Manfred Steyner), John Gielgud (Farrell), Tony Beckley (Stephen Marais), Simon Sabela (Big King), Marc Smith (Tex Kiernan), John Hussey (Plummer), Bernard Horsfall (Dave Kowalski), Bill Brewer (Aristide), Norman Coombes (Frank Lemmer), George Jackson (Gus, Mine Doctor), Ken Hare (Jackson), Ralph Loubser (Mine Captain), Denis Smith (Radio Commentator), Paddy Norval (Daniele, Girl in Bar), Garth Tuckett (Miner), Albert Raphael (Miner), Lloyd Lilford (Miner), Alan S. Craig (Miner), John Kingley (Miner), Carl Duering (Syndicate Member), Paul Hansard (Syndicate Member), André Maranne (Syndicate Member), Nadim Sawalha (Syndicate Member), Gideon Kolb (Syndicate Member), John Bay (Syndicate Member).
      Synopsis: Rod Slater is the newly appointed General Manager of the Sonderditch gold mine, but he stumbles across an ingenious plot to flood the mine, by drilling into an underground lake, so the unscrupulous owners to make a killing in the international gold market.
      Comment: Whilst the basic plot may be a little far-fetched, the grippingly authentic and well-filmed mining action scenes are tremendous. Hunt directs these set-pieces with a visceral intensity, which is helped by superb stunt work and whole-hearted performances, from Moore and Sabela in particular. Glen’s slick editing helps to heighten the suspense during these scenes. Dillman makes for a suitably eccentric and cold-hearted villain and Milland enjoys himself as the grumpy rich mine owner. York plays Dillman’s bored and unfaithful wife who falls for Moore’s charms and Gielgud leads the remote investors whose plot to make a killing on the stock market is the catalyst. A rousing final act makes up for some slow spots when the action moves above ground, where tighter editing could have made for a more efficient end-product. Overall, despite the reservations concerning pacing and plot, this is an entertaining thriller that deserves a re-appraisal.
      Notes: Many members of the production crew had connections to the James Bond film franchise.

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.

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) ***