Film Review – DIRTY HARRY (1971)

Image result for dirty harry 1971DIRTY HARRY (USA, 1971) ****½
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures (US), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 21 December 1971 (USA), 30 March 1972 (UK); Filming Dates: 20 April 1971 – 18 June 1971; Running Time: 102m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 15- contains strong violence.
       Director: Don Siegel; Writer: Harry Julian Fink & Rita M. Fink, and Dean Riesner (based on a story by Harry Julian Fink & Rita M. Fink); Executive Producer: Robert Daley; Producer: Don Siegel; Associate Producer: Carl Pingitore; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: Carl Pingitore; Casting Director: ; Art Director: Dale Hennesy; Set Decorator: Robert De Vestel; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: William Randall.
       Cast: Clint Eastwood (Harry), Harry Guardino (Bressler), Reni Santoni (Chico), John Vernon (The Mayor), Andrew Robinson (Killer), John Larch (Chief), John Mitchum (De Giorgio), Mae Mercer (Mrs. Russell), Lyn Edgington (Norma), Ruth Kobart (Bus Driver), Woodrow Parfrey (Mr. Jaffe), Josef Sommer (Rothko), William Paterson (Bannerman), James Nolan (Liquor Proprietor), Maurice Argent (Sid Kleinman), Jo de Winter (Miss Willis), Craig Kelly (Sgt. Reineke).
       Synopsis: When a mad man calling himself ‘the Scorpio Killer’ menaces the city, tough as nails San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan is assigned to track down and ferret out the crazed psychopath.
      Comment: Classic renegade cop movie was highly Influential and redefined the crime genre for a new generation. Siegel directs an efficient and effective crime thriller in which Eastwood established the blueprint for all maverick cop characters that followed. Much maligned by liberal critics at the time for its approach, it has since grown significantly in reputation for its lean script and Eastwood’s career-defining performance. Robinson is also excellent as the psychotic serial killer. The cat-and-mouse nature of the plot is well realised and leads to a tense finale. The screenplay contains much quotable dialogue and adds depth to the characters as well as addressing its broader message. There is a dynamite jazz-rock music score from Schifrin, which adds significantly to the movie’s style.
      Notes: Serial killer Scorpio was loosely based on the Zodiac killer, who used to taunt police and media with notes about his crimes, in one of which he threatened to hijack a school bus full of children. This was Josef Sommer’s first film. The first of five movies starring Eastwood as Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan. Followed by MAGNUM FORCE (1973), THE ENFORCER (1976), SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) and THE DEAD POOL (1988).

Film Review – REGAN (1974)

Image result for regan 1974REGAN (TV) (UK, 1974) ****
      Distributor: Thames Television; Production Company: Armchair Cinema / Euston Films / Thames Television; Release Date: 4 June 1974; Filming Dates: 6 February 1974 – 5 March 1974; Running Time: 77m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Tom Clegg; Writer: Ian Kennedy Martin; Executive Producer: Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor; Producer: Ted Childs; Associate Producer: Mary Morgan; Director of Photography: John Keeling; Music Composer: Cy Payne (as Mark Duvall); Film Editor: Chris Burt; Casting Director: Lesley De Pettit; Art Director: Jack Robinson; Costumes: Jo Osmond, David Murphy; Make-up: Michael Morris; Sound: Tony Dawe.
      Cast: John Thaw (Det. Insp. Jack Regan), Dennis Waterman (Det. Sgt. George Carter), Lee Montague (Arthur Dale), Garfield Morgan (Det. Chief Insp. Frank Haskins), David Daker (Tusser), Janet Key (Kate Regan), Maureen Lipman (Annie), Morris Perry (Det. Chief Supt. Maynon), Stephen Yardley (Det. Insp. Laker), Barry Jackson (Morton), Miquel Brown (Miriam), Peter Blythe (Peter), Carl Rigg (Det. Sgt. Kent), Michael Da Costa (South), Ron Pember (Landlord), Jonathan Elsom (Interviewer), Betty Woolfe (Mrs. Berry), Seymour Matthews (Doctor), Don Henderson (Strip-Club Heavy), Nancy Gabrielle (Johno’s Wife), Del Baker (Det. Sgt. Cowley).
      Synopsis: A flying squad officer is led a merry dance by gangsters from a London pub and, although he survives a brutal beating ‘get rid of this filth,’ he subsequently dies. Enter John Thaw’s vengeful and unconventional copper Regan.
      Comment: Smart cop thriller for the ITV Armchair Cinema series acted as a pilot for the TV series The Sweeney (1975-8). Thaw is immediately into his stride as DI Regan and Waterman provides good support as Carter, his more thoughtful DS. The plot concerning rival gangs manoeuvering to remove a common problem is nothing new but is written and filmed in a gritty style that was to prove hugely influential on the small screen. Echoes of cinematic greats such as DIRTY HARRY, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and GET CARTER (all 1971) abound with witty and urban dialogue and tough action scenes.

Film Review – SWEENEY 2 (1978)

Image result for sweeney 2 1978SWEENEY 2 (UK, 1978) ***
      Distributor: EMI Distribution; Production Company: Euston Films; Release Date: April 1978; Filming Dates: Novcmber 1977 – December 1977; Running Time: 104m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Tom Clegg; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin (based on “The Sweeney” created by Ian Kennedy Martin); Executive Producer: Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor; Producer: Ted Childs; Associate Producer: ; Director of Photography: Dusty Miller; Music Composer: Tony Hatch; Film Editor: Chris Burt; Casting Director: Marilyn Johnson; Art Director: William Alexander; Costumes: David Murphy; Make-up: Eddie Knight; Sound: Derek Rye, Hugh Strain, Ian Toynton; Special Effects: Arthur Beavis.
      Cast: John Thaw (Det. Insp. Jack Regan), Dennis Waterman (Det. Sgt. George Carter), Denholm Elliott (Jupp), Ken Hutchison (Hill), Anna Gaël (Mrs. Hill), Barry Stanton (Big John), John Flanagan (Willard), David Casey (Goodyear), Derrick O’Connor (Llewellyn), John Alkin (Det. Sgt. Tom Daniels), James Warrior (Det. Con. Jellyneck), Guy Standeven (Logan – Bank Manager), Brian Gwaspari (White), Frederick Treves (McKyle), Johnny Shannon (Harry – Villain), Clifford Kershaw (Gloria’s Father), Toby Salaman (Doctor), Nigel Hawthorne (Dilke), Lewis Fiander (Gorran), Anna Nygh (Shirley Hicks), Michael J. Jackson (Soames), Lynn Dearth (Mrs. White), Fiona Mollison (Mrs. Haughton), Sarah Atkinson (Mrs. Mead), John Lyons (Mead), Brian Hall (Haughton), Matthew Scurfield (Jefferson), Gareth Milne (Bank Teller), Sebastian Witkin (Skateboarder), Hubert Rees (Bank Manager), George Innes (Pete Beale), Roddy McMillan (Collie), Michael O’Hagan (Doyle), Arthur Cox (Detective), Georgina Hale (Switchboard Girl), Patrick Malahide (Major Conway), Max Mason (SPG Constable), Frank Coda (Commissionaire), Yvon Doval (Mr. Mahmoun), Jim McManus (Barman), John Vine (PC), David Gillies (PC), Seretta Wilson (Girl), Diana Weston (Air Hostess), George Mikell (Superintendent), Marc Zuber (Andy), Joe Zammit-Cardona (Customs Official), Leon Lissek (Cardona Alexandros), Marilyn Finlay (School Teacher), Seymour Matthews (Harry – Fingerprint Man), Stefan Gryff (Nino), Michael Scholes (Boy in Bed), Danny Rae (Taxi Driver), Rosario Serrano (Mrs. Konstantikis), Eamonn Jones (Barman), Alan Ross (Fiddler).
      Synopsis: Second cinematic spin-off from the popular 70’s police series. Regan & Carter head a Flying Squad investigation into a series of bank raids by a team of well-armed villains who are flying in from the continent
      Comment: This follow-up to the first big-screen outing for Thaw and Waterman in SWEENEY! (1977) is a tough and violent story of the pursuit of a gang of bank robbers who are funding a residential development in Malta. The story stretches its running time and contains a lot of padding – including a bomb threat segment in a hotel that has no other reason to be in the story. That said it works slightly better than the first film as it is more closely linked to the style and characters of the TV series. Thaw and Waterman have established a strong rapport and there is a “fly-on-the-wall” documentary feel to the way the story is filmed, adding to the levels of authenticity. However, there is less in the way of character progression and the whole thing amounts to little more than an extended, albeit enjoyable, episode of the series.
      Notes: As seen through Denholm Elliott’s character, The Sweeney was not afraid to face the fact that there are such things as bent officers. The character was based on a real-life former head of the Flying Squad, who had been convicted at the Old Bailey on corruption charges in 1977.

Film Review – SWEENEY! (1977)

Related imageSWEENEY! (UK, 1977) ***
      Distributor: EMI Distribution; Production Company: Euston Films; Release Date: 20 January 1977; Filming Dates: April 1976 – May 1976; Running Time: 97m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: ; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: David Wickes; Writer: Ranald Graham (based on The Sweeney created by Ian Kennedy Martin); Executive Producer: Lloyd Shirley, George Taylor; Producer: Ted Childs; Director of Photography: Dusty Miller; Music Composer: Denis King; Film Editor: Chris Burt; Casting Director: Marilyn Johnson; Art Director: William Alexander; Set Decorator: ; Costumes: David Murphy; Make-up: Michael Morris; Sound: Tony Dawe, Clive Smith; Special Effects: Arthur Beavis.
      Cast: John Thaw (D.I. Jack Regan), Dennis Waterman (D.S. George Carter), Barry Foster (Elliott McQueen), Ian Bannen (Charles Baker), Colin Welland (Frank Chadwick), Diane Keen (Bianca Hamilton), Michael Coles (Johnson), Joe Melia (Ronnie Brent), Brian Glover (Mac), Lynda Bellingham (Janice Wyatt), Morris Perry (Flying Squad Cdr. Maynon), Paul Angelis (Secret Serviceman), Nick Brimble (D.S. Burtonshaw), John Alkin (D.S. Tom Daniels), Bernard Kay (Matthews), Antony Scott (Johnson’s Henchman), Antony Brown (Murder Inquiry Supt.), John Oxley (Chadwick’s Deputy Editor), Peggy Aitchison (Carter’s Neighbour), Hal Jeayes (Manservant), Sally Osborne (Sally), John Kane (Special Branch Sgt.), Chris Dillinger (Johnson’s Henchman), Peter Childs (Murder Inquiry Insp.), Alan Mitchell (Detective Insp.), Leonard Kavanagh (Pathologist), Anthony Woodruff (Coroner), Michael Latimer (P.P.S.), Matthew Long (Traffic Police Sgt.), Joyce Grant (McQueen’s Secretary), Johnny Shannon (Scotland Yard Duty Sgt.), David Corti (Young Boy), Susan Valentine (Chadwick’s Secretary (as Susan Skipper)), Nadim Sawalha (Chairman of the Oil Producers’ Conference).
      Synopsis: Hard-bitten Flying Squad officer Jack Regan gets embroiled in a deadly political plot when an old friend asks him to investigate the death of his girlfriend.
      Comment: Typical of its time in its political incorrectness, violent action and seeking out corruption in the higher echelons of government. Thaw and Waterman more than adequately carry forward their small-screen portrayals. Foster and Keen are impressive in the supporting cast. Whilst the plot is an interesting play on the Profumo affair of the early 1960s it somehow fails to deliver satisfactorily. The action scenes are well-directed and the crew of the TV series all play their part. The shocking finale is well-executed and played out.
      Notes: Based on the TV series The Sweeney (1974-8) and followed by SWEENEY 2 (1978) and an updated adaptation in 2012.

Film Review – THE COMMUTER (2018)

Image result for the commuter 2018THE COMMUTER (USA/UK, 2018) **
      Distributor: Lionsgate (USA), StudioCanal (UK); Production Company: StudioCanal / The Picture Company / Ombra Films; Release Date: 8 January 2018 (USA), 19 January 2018 (UK); Filming Dates: 25 July 2016 – September 2016; Running Time: 104m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Atmos; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: ARRIRAW; Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence, injury detail.
      Director: Jaume Collet-Serra; Writer: Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, Ryan Engle (based on a story by Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi); Executive Producer: Jaume Collet-Serra, Michael Dreyer, Ron Halpern, Didier Lupfer; Producer: Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona; Associate Producer: Lacey Darlene Paulson; Director of Photography: Paul Cameron; Music Composer: Roque Baños; Film Editor: Nicolas De Toth; Casting Director: Reg Poerscout-Edgerton; Production Designer: Richard Bridgland; Art Director: Wing Lee; Set Decorator: Tina Jones; Costumes: Jill Taylor, Betsy Heimann; Make-up: Sunday Englis; Sound: James Harrison, Steve Little; Special Effects: Stefano Pepin; Visual Effects: Steven Begg, Adam Rowland.
      Cast: Liam Neeson (Michael MacCauley), Vera Farmiga (Joanna), Patrick Wilson (Alex Murphy), Jonathan Banks (Walt), Sam Neill (Captain Hawthorne), Elizabeth McGovern (Karen MacCauley), Killian Scott (Dylan), Shazad Latif (Vince), Andy Nyman (Tony), Clara Lago (Eva), Roland Møller (Jackson), Florence Pugh (Gwen), Dean-Charles Chapman (Danny MacCauley), Ella-Rae Smith (Sofia), Nila Aalia (Sherri), Colin McFarlane (Conductor Sam), Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Oliver), Adam Nagaitis (Conductor Jimmy), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Agent Garcia), Damson Idris (Agent Denys), Andy Lucas (Manny Engineer), Zaak Conway (Caleb O’Malley), Ben Caplan (Frank), Letitia Wright (Jules Skateboarder), Simon Hibbs (Sean O’Malley), Nathan Wiley (Sniper), Jamie Beamish (Nathan), Ben Nathan (Police Officer), David Alwyn (Platform Trooper), John Alastair (Officer O’Neal), Edward Bluemel (Gwen’s Boyfriend), Aoife Hinds (Jeanie), Alana Maria (Officer Jones), Pat Kiernan (Pat Kiernan), Natalie Duddridge (Natalie Duddridge), Jaime Menéndez (Enrique Mendez).
       Synopsis: An Insurance Salesman/Ex-Cop is caught up in a criminal conspiracy during his daily commute home.
      Comment: Preposterous thriller straight out of the “good ideas” department of the studio corporate wagon. It is almost a carbon-copy re-run of Neeson and Collet-Serra’s previous aeroplane-in-jeopardy collaboration NON-STOP. Whilst it is efficiently made and Neeson, as always, makes for a sympathetic hero, you find yourself scratching your head as to how this could actually be conceived as being in the least bit plausible. The set-pieces are so precisely choreographed they consistently ring false notes, resulting in the deflation of any suspense built through the competent direction and editing. This is formula product assembled for a forgiving modern audience that puts style and visual excitement ahead of intelligent story-telling.

Film Review – COOGAN’S BLUFF (1968)

Image result for coogan's bluffCoogan’s Bluff (1968; USA; Technicolor; 93m) ***½  d. Don Siegel; w. Herman Miller, Dean Riesner, Howard Rodman; ph. Bud Thackery; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee J. Cobb, Susan Clark, Don Stroud, Tisha Sterling, Betty Field, Tom Tully, David Doyle, James Edwards, Louis Zorich, Melodie Johnson, Rudy Diaz, Meg Myles, Seymour Cassel, Marjorie Bennett. An Arizona deputy goes to New York City to escort a fugitive back into custody. First collaboration between Eastwood and Siegel is a pointer to things to come with Eastwood’s economic and laconic approach perfectly complemented by Siegel’s efficient direction. Cobb is excellent as world-weary NYC lieutenant and the script is both punchy and witty. Schifrin’s jazzy score perfectly underpins the action. Inspiration for the TV series McCloud starring Dennis Weaver. [15]

TV Review – LUTHER: SERIES 5 (2019)

Image result for luther series 5Luther: Series 5 (TV) (2019; UK; Colour; 4 x 60m) **½  pr. Derek Ritchie; d. Jamie Payne; w. Neil Cross; ph. John Pardue; ed. Jamie Trevill.  Cast: Idris Elba, Ruth Wilson, Dermot Crowley, Enzo Cilenti, Hermione Norris, Patrick Malahide, Michael Smiley, Wunmi Mosaku, Lewis Young, Sonita Henry, Luke Westlake, Lex Daniel, Michael Obiora, Katie Brayben, Paul McGann, Roberta Taylor, Anthony Howell, Nicholas Asbury.  When a series of seemingly indiscriminate killings become ever more audacious Luther and new recruit DS Catherine Halliday are confounded by a tangle of leads and misdirection that appears designed to protect an untouchable corruption. Relentlessly grim and often strangely compelling, but ultimately too implausible to be fulfilling. When almost every major character, including the detective hunting them, seems to have psychological issues resulting in disturbingly violent actions there is little empathy to be invested in the characters and we are left with a feeling of being a voyeur to the sick and gruesome acts of murder. The detective work is also clumsily written with us having to accept Luther’s brilliant deductions as inexplicable foresight, rather than clever analysis. This is no police procedural. In all the key chase and heavy drama scenes, the rest of the populace of London also seem to strangely disappear, giving the whole thing a feeling of being acted out on some different plane as if we are observing an alternative reality. This may have been deliberate to intensify the drama, but adds to the false sense of environment. That’s perhaps as well as any police force that operated in the way this one does would be dragged across the coals. There are moments to enjoy amidst the horror – notably some moments of black humour and the performances of Cilente and Malahide in contrasting roles; the former as a psychotic killer and the latter an old-school gangster. The re-appearance of Wilson’s character (another psychotic killer), whilst resolving issues that hung over from previous stories, is actually a distraction from the more interesting elements of this story. Elba’s Luther is at the centre of everything and, for the most part, keeps you just about on his side, despite his increasingly bizarre behaviour, until the two plot strands come to a head. Ultimately though this is sensationalism TV that draws the viewer to it like a seedy newspaper headline. As such its widespread appeal, which perhaps it does not deserve, is guaranteed.

Book Review – IN A HOUSE OF LIES (2018) by Ian Rankin

IN A HOUSE OF LIES (2018) ***½
by Ian Rankin
Published by Orion, 2018, 372pp
ISBN: 978-1-4091-7691-6

Blurb: Everyone has something to hide… A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still – both for his family and the police – is that his body was in an area that had already been searched. Everyone has secrets… Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now – after a decade without answers – it’s time for the truth. Nobody is innocent… Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus.

The 22nd book in Ian Rankin’s John Rebus series sees the retired detective feeling his age as his deteriorating health leads him to quit smoking and limit his drinking. Bored, he grasps at the opportunity to help his former partner, DI Siobhan Clarke, by re-investigating an old case. Meanwhile, Clarke herself is deeply embroiled in a murder investigation whilst fighting off an internal enquiry into her conduct.

Rankin steers away from any major political and social issues and concentrates on the mechanics of the two cases. The murder mystery involves a high-ranking businessman and a film producer as well as two corrupt cops, giving the novel a few narrative strands to weave together. Of course, there is a link between these threads and Rebus again locks horns with his nemesis Big “Ger” Cafferty who is tied to both.

Nothing too surprising here, just another well-written crime mystery by a writer who knows his craft. It’s difficult to see where Rankin will take his lead character as he ages in retirement and struggles with ill-health.

The Rebus Series:

Knots and Crosses (1987) ***
Hide and Seek (1991) ***
Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992) ***
Strip Jack (1992)
The Black Book (1993) ***
Mortal Causes (1994) ***
Let it Bleed (1996)
Black and Blue (1997) ****½
The Hanging Garden (1998) ****
Dead Souls (1999)
Set in Darkness (2000) ****
The Falls (2001)
Resurrection Men (2002) ****
A Question of Blood (2003) ****
Fleshmarket Close (2004) ****
The Naming of the Dead (2006)  ****½
Exit Music (2007) ****
Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) ***½
Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) ***
Even Dogs in the Wild (2015) ****
Rather Be the Devil (2016) ***½
In a House of Lies (2018) ***½

Film Review – ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

Related imageEscape from New York (1981; UK/USA; Metrocolor; 99m) ***½  d. John Carpenter; w. John Carpenter, Nick Castle; ph. Dean Cundey, George D. Dodge; m. John Carpenter, Alan Howarth.  Cast: Kurt Russell, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Harry Dean Stanton, Isaac Hayes, Season Hubley, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, Frank Doubleday, John Stobel, Bob Minor, John Diehl, George “Buck” Flower. In 1997, when the US President crashes into Manhattan, now a giant max. security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in for a rescue. Cult classic may have dated, notably in the visual effects, but still has much to enjoy. Russell deftly essays Clint Eastwood in his portrayal of Snake Plissken. Good support cast of oddball characters and some nice tongue-in-cheek touches from director/co-writer Carpenter. Grimy and decadent representation of Manhattan as a prison city is well realised. Followed by ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996). [15]

Film Review – BRANNIGAN (1975)

Image result for brannigan 1975Brannigan (1975; UK; Colour; 111m) ***  d. Douglas Hickox; w. Christopher Trumbo, Michael Butler, William P. McGivern, William W. Norton; ph. Gerry Fisher; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: John Wayne, Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, Mel Ferrer, Ralph Meeker, John Vernon, Lesley-Anne Down, Barry Dennen, Brian Glover, James Booth, Daniel Pilon, John Stride, Arthur Batanides, Pauline Delaney, Del Henney. An American detective is sent to London to bring back an American mobster who is being held for extradition. Nice twist on the fish-out-of-water formula with Wayne coasting on his charisma. Attenborough also adds a sprightly performance to this otherwise routine crime action thriller. Hickox directs with some flair although his shooting in London often resembles a tourist film capturing as many iconic shots as possible. [15]