Book Review – GENESIS 3 (2020) by Robert Ellis

GENESIS 3 (2020) *****
by Robert Ellis
Published by The Rock Library, 6 October 2020, 286pp
© The Rock Library, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-9993712-2-7

GENESIS - 3Blurb: This hard back book measures 250x297mm, has 286 pages, and contains over 600 images. It is not a history or a biography. It is a collection of my photographs from the Genesis line up of Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins. It is arranged in chronological order and spans the tours and events I was at. It begins in 1978 with ‘…and then there were three…’ and continues up to 1987 and ‘Invisible Touch’. I have unearthed a few surprises along the way that even I had forgotten. Take a colourful and spectacular journey down Genesis memory lane with me and a few fans who have contributed their stories.

Comment: Genesis 3 is a hefty photographic album aimed at die-hard Genesis fans, I received this book as a gift from my parents for my 60th birthday. Robert Ellis has delved into his archive of photographs of the band from the period 1978 to 1987 and come up with some real gems. The book covers the majority of the Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Mike Rutherford trio years, where on stage they were augmented by guitarist Daryl Stuermer and drummer Chester Thompson. Included are sessions from the band’s rehearsals for the …And Then There Were Three… shows and on the road from the subsequent tour; individual sessions with band members in 1979 during the hiatus between Three and Duke; promotional shots for the Duke album; coverage of the Abacab, Three Sides Live, Genesis and Invisible Touch rehearsals and tours. The bountiful collection of photographs is printed on hefty paper making for good quality prints and a heavy tome. Whilst it also carries a hefty price tag this wonderful book is a true collector’s item and will be a much treasured part of my band collection.

Book Review – THE MAKING OF ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (2009) by Charles Helfenstein

THE MAKING OF ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (2009) *****
by Charles Helfenstein
Published by Spies LLC, 18 December 2009, 292pp
© Charles Helfenstein, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9844126-0-0

Blurb: Step back in time to the late 1960s, when Sean Connery resigned from playing James Bond, producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli decided to gamble and doubled down with an untested director and an unknown star and came up with the crown jewels: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Based on years of research, hundreds of interviews, and exclusive access to the archives of author Ian Fleming, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, and director Peter Hunt, this inside look features never-before-published script details, storyboards, production documents, interviews, memos, marketing material, call sheets, and hundreds of rare, behind-the-scenes photographs of the cast and crew, including sequences and entire sets not seen in the film. From novel to script to screen, this book details the incredible journey of making the most unique entry in the James Bond film series, the longest running, most successful film franchise in history. This is not the white-washed “authorized” story, but the real story.

Comment: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is unique in many ways in the James Bond movie canon. It was the first film in which the part of Bond was recast – Sean Connery having bowed out after five films with Australian model George Lazenby taking over; it would prove to be Lazenby’s one and only performance as Bond; it would be Peter Hunt’s one and only film as director; it would be the only film in which Bond has a serious relationship and gets married. Released at the very end of the 1960s, there were rumblings that Bond may no longer be in vogue as the late 60s cultural revolution pushed cinema audiences to young and hip movies like Easy Rider. These factors led to the film getting a mixed reaction from critics and audiences. Another factor was that the Connery Bonds had become bigger and bigger and more outlandish and OHMSS was a back to basics approach, eschewing the gadgets and became the closest adaptation of one of Ian Fleming’s source novels in the series (director Hunt would always have a copy of the book with him during filming). The film, as well as Lazenby’s performance, has been re-assessed over the years and is now regarded as one of the very best in the series. Charles Helfenstein’s account of the making of OHMSS is an outstanding piece of research taking us from the novel to the scripting process to pre-production to casting to production to post-production and marketing to release and critical reception. It makes for a fascinating journey and tells the story of a director with a determined vision, a new star who was something of a maverick and a production team that put itself on the line to produce the best possible output. Helfenstein has drawn on his own interviews with cast and crew as well as archived information. The book is also packed with production photographs, trade ads, posters, lobby cards and details of marketing products. There is some detailed analysis of the various screenplays developed over a period of five years, including false starts. There is also detail of initial outlines for Diamonds Are Forever, written before Lazenby decided to withdraw from future Bonds. The result is a book that is a must for Bond fans and any movie scholar.

Film Review – MAN AT THE TOP (1973)

MAN AT THE TOP (1973, UK) ***
Drama
dist. Anglo-EMI Film Distributors (UK), Ambassador Film Distributors (USA); pr co. Anglo-EMI / Dufton / Hammer Film Productions; d. Mike Vardy; w. Hugh Whitemore, John Junkin (based on characters created by John Braine); exec pr. Nat Cohen; pr. Peter Charlesworth, Jock Jacobsen; ph. Brian Probyn (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1 (original ratio), 1.75:1 (intended ratio)); m. Roy Budd; m sup. Philip Martell; ed. Chris Barnes; ad. Don Picton; cos. Laura Nightingale; m/up. George Blackler, Elaine Bowerbank; sd. Claude Hitchcock, Terry Poulton (Mono); rel. May 1973 (UK), May 1975 (USA); cert: 15; r/t. 92m.

cast: Kenneth Haigh (Joe Lampton), Nanette Newman (Alex), Harry Andrews (Lord Ackerman), John Quentin (Digby), Mary Maude (Robin Ackerman), Danny Sewell (Weston), Paul Williamson (Tarrant), Margaret Heald (Eileen), Angela Bruce (Joyce), Charlie Williams (George Harvey), Anne Cunningham (Mrs. Harvey), William Lucas (Marshal), John Collin (Wisbech), Norma West (Sarah Tarrant), Clive Swift (Massey), Jaron Yaltan (Harish Taranath), Tim Brinton (Newsreader), John Conteh (Black Boxer), Nell Brennan (Waitress), Patrick McCann (White Boxer).

Northerner Joe Lampton (Haigh) becomes involved with Lord Ackerman (Andrews), the powerful chairman of a pharmaceutical concern, his beautiful wife Alex (Newman), and daughter Robin (Maude). But trouble starts when Joe is made Managing Director of one of Ackerman’s companies and makes a shocking discovery: his predecessor committed suicide. Mixing business conspiracy and social comment this third cinematic take on John Braine’s ambitious working class career climber has its moments without ever really catching fire. Haigh’s performance lacks a certain subtlety, accurately capturing the nature of his character but making him a little too one-dimensional in the process. The moral that plays out is “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and there is a certain hypocrisy in Lampton’s self-serving actions. The film is shot with an element of cold realism heightened by Budd’s spare score. Whilst Haigh is on screen the story is always interesting if its path leads to an unsatisfying, if inevitable, conclusion. Based on the TV series (1970-2), which in turn followed ROOM AT THE TOP (1959) and LIFE AT THE TOP (1965).

Film Review – BREAKHEART PASS (1975)

BREAKHEART PASS (1975, USA) ***
Mystery, Western
dist. United Artists; pr co. Gershwin-Kastner Productions; d. Tom Gries; w. Alistair MacLean (based on the novel by Alistair MacLean); exec pr. Elliott Kastner; pr. Jerry Gershwin; ph. Lucien Ballard (DeLuxe. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); m. Jerry Goldsmith; ed. Byron ‘Buzz’ Brandt; ad. Tambi Larsen; set d. Darrell Silvera; cos. Tom Dawson, Paula Lynn Kaatz; m/up. Phil Rhodes, Alma Johnson, Evelyn Preece, Vivienne Walker; sd. Gene S. Cantamessa, Frank E. Warner (Mono); sfx. Gerald Endler, A.D. Flowers, Logan Frazee; vfx. Bill Hansard, Don Hansard, William Suhr; st. Yakima Canutt; rel. 25 December 1975 (Finland), February 1976 (UK), 10 March 1976 (USA); cert: PG/PG; r/t. 95m.

cast: Charles Bronson (Deakin), Ben Johnson (Marshal Pearce), Richard Crenna (Gov. Richard Fairchild), Jill Ireland (Marica), Charles Durning (O’Brien), Ed Lauter (Maj. Claremont), Bill McKinney (Rev. Peabody), David Huddleston (Dr. Molyneux), Roy Jenson (Chris Banion), Rayford Barnes (Sgt. Bellew), Scott Newman (Rafferty), Robert Tessier (Levi Calhoun), Joe Kapp (Henry), Archie Moore (Carlos), Sally Kirkland (Jane-Marie), Sally Kemp (Prostitute), Eddie Little Sky (White Hand), Keith McConnell (Gabriel), John Mitchum (Red Beard), Read Morgan (Capt. Oakland).

When diphtheria breaks out at Fort Humboldt, a train is dispatched with medical supplies and relief troops. Also on board are Utah’s governor (Crenna), his mistress (Ireland), a marshal (Johnson) and his prisoner, outlaw John Deakin (Bronson). As the train passes through the mountains, soldiers go missing, telegraph lines are cut, and it is discovered that there is no epidemic. There is a conspiracy afoot, and it is up to Deakin, who is actually a federal agent, to expose it. A mix of traditional Western with Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” and Alistair MacLean’s “nothing is quite what it seems” school of fiction, this is an entertaining and well shot mystery. The confinement of the train setting adds challenges to the narrative as the narrow corridors make it difficult to buy into the skullduggery. However, a game cast is on hand to make the most of the material and the winter location photography adds a bleakness that is in sync with the material. The shootout finale does seem like a concession to Western fans, but the mystery elements work reasonably well. Although set in Nevada, the film was shot in Idaho.

Film Review – LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962)

LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962, USA) ****
Drama, Western
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Rank Film Distributors (UK); pr co. Joel Productions; d. David Miller; w. Dalton Trumbo (based on the novel “Brave Cowboy” by Edward Abbey); exec pr. Kirk Douglas (uncredited); pr. Edward Lewis; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (B&W. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Jerry Goldsmith; m sup. Joseph Gershenson; ed. Leon Barsha; ad. Alexander Golitzen, Robert Emmet Smith; set d. George Milo; cos. Stanley Kufel, Peter V. Saldutti; m/up. Dave Grayson, Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Waldon O. Watson, Frank H. Wilkinson (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); st. Bob Herron; rel. 27 April 1962 (UK), 24 May 1962 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 107m.

cast: Kirk Douglas (John W. “Jack” Burns), Gena Rowlands (Jerry Bondi), Walter Matthau (Sheriff Morey Johnson), Michael Kane (Paul Bondi), Carroll O’Connor (Hinton), William Schallert (Harry), George Kennedy (Deputy Sheriff Gutierrez), Karl Swenson (Rev. Hoskins), William Mims (First Deputy Arraigning Burns), Martin Garralaga (Old Man), Lalo Rios (Prisoner).

Douglas gives one of his best performances as a cowboy out of his time who attempts to break a friend (Kane) out of jail and is then pursued through the mountains by the local sheriff (Matthau). The film is played out for the most part from Douglas’ perspective as it laments the passing of the old west, which has been taken over by technological progress. The mix of drama and dry humour may seem jarring to some but adds a sense of realism as the humour is never over-played. There is brutality, represented by Kennedy’s sadistic jail warden. The humour is mainly played out through Matthau’s sheriff’s wilting exasperation at the incompetence of his men. There are symbolic scenes demonstrating the core theme of a modern west with the unforgettable bookends and Trumbo’s screenplay adaptation is well observed, excepting the jailbreak scene, which feels a little too easy. Douglas is superb and gets into the soul of his character and Lathrop’s black and white photography adds to the yearning for nostalgia. The section showing Douglas’s ascent of the mountain with his horse is depicted with authenticity and generates considerable suspense. Reported to be Douglas’ favourite of all his films. This was Carroll O’Connor’s film debut. An overlooked gem.

Film Review – THE HEROES OF TELEMARK (1965)

HEROES OF TELEMARK, THE (1965, UK) ***
Action, History, War
dist. Rank Film Distributors (UK), Columbia Pictures (USA); pr co. Benton Film Productions; d. Anthony Mann; w. Ivan Moffat, Ben Barzman (based on the novels “Skis Against the Atom” by Knut Haukelid and “But for These Men” by John Drummond – both uncredited); pr. Benjamin Fisz; ph. Robert Krasker (Technicolor. 35mm, 70mm (blow-up). Panavision (anamorphic). 2.20:1 (70 mm prints), 2.35:1); m. Malcolm Arnold; ed. Bert Bates; pd. ; ad. Anthony Masters; set d. Robert Cartwright, Ted Clements (both uncredited); cos. Elsa Fennell; m/up. Neville Smallwood, Maude Onslow; sd. Teddy Mason (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); sfx. John P. Fulton; st. Gerry Crampton; rel. 23 November 1965 (UK), 9 March 1966 (USA); cert: U; r/t. 131m.

cast: Kirk Douglas (Rolf), Richard Harris (Knut Strand), Ulla Jacobsson (Anna), Michael Redgrave (Uncle), David Weston (Arne), Sebastian Breaks (Gunnar), John Golightly (Freddy), Alan Howard (Oli), Patrick Jordan (Henrik), William Marlowe (Claus), Brook Williams (Einar), Roy Dotrice (Jensen), Anton Diffring (Major Frick), Ralph Michael (Nilssen), Eric Porter (Terboven), Wolf Frees (Knippelberg), Karel Stepanek (Hartmuller), Gerard Heinz (Erhardt), Victor Beaumont (German Sergeant), George Murcell (Sturmfuhrer), Mervyn Johns (Col. Wilkinson), Barry Jones (Professor Logan), Geoffrey Keen (General Bolt), Robert Ayres (General Courts), Jennifer Hilary (Sigrid), Maurice Denham (Doctor), David Davies (Captain of ‘Galtesund’), Philo Hauser (Businessman), Faith Brook (Woman On Bus), Elvi Hale (Mrs. Sandersen), Russell Waters (Mr. Sandersen), Jan Conrad (Watchman In Factory).

As Axis and Allied scientists race to create the first atomic bomb, British Intelligence receives shocking news of significant breakthroughs at a Nazi facility in occupied Norway. The British work with Norwegian Resistance head Knut Straud (Harris) and distinguished physicist Dr. Rolf Pederson (Douglas) to plan an urgent response. As a Norwegian team headed by Straud struggles to stop Nazi science in its tracks, a civilian hostage situation erupts. An uneven war adventure, which is a disappointment from a director with a legacy such as Mann. His direction here feels loose and the editing is at times slipshod – with real black and white bomber footage jarring against the Technicolor presentation and German soldiers seemingly blind as the resistance leaders simply shuffle past them time after time. The film’s strongest assets are the leads. Douglas and Harris give strong performances in an initially antagonistic partnership that grows as the film progresses. Some of the action scenes are well-staged and there is an added tension in the film’s climax aboard a ferry. Ultimately, though, this could have been much better.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: REVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS (2021)

DOCTOR WHO: REVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS (TV) (2021) **½
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); pr co. BBC Studios; d. Lee Haven Jones; w. Chris Chibnall; exec pr. Chris Chibnall; pr. Alex Mercer; ph. Luke Bryant (Colour. 2.00:1); m. Segun Akinola; ed. Joel Skinner; pd. Dafydd Shurmer; ad. Rebecca Brown; set d. Vicki Male; cos. Ray Holman; m/up. Claire Pritchard-Jones; sd. Harry Barnes (Dolby Digital); sfx. Real SFX; vfx. DNEG, Chris Thomas; b/cast. 1 January 2021 (UK/USA); cert: 12; r/t. 71m.

cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Chris Noth (Jack Robertson), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Leo Rugazzi), Harriet Walter (Jo Patterson), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Leo Rugazzi), Nathan Armakwei-Laryea (Armen), Helene Anderson (Rachel), Nicholas Briggs (Daleks (voice)), Sharon D. Clarke (Grace).

The Doctor is imprisoned halfway across the universe. On Earth, the sighting of a Dalek alerts Ryan, Graham and Yaz. Can the return of Captain Jack Harkness help them stop a deadly Dalek takeover? A disappointing special which is failed by a script that is full of plot holes and is decidedly lazy, skirting over key narrative progressions. It also fails to make the most of its dramatic potential – for example Jack and Yaz’s discovery of the Tokyo Dalek factory should have been the surprise reveal, but we had already been introduced to it a few scenes earlier. The whole threat lacks the global and epic scope its plot suggests, and the wrap-up is far too convenient. Barrowman’s return is welcome, but he disappears at the story’s conclusion. Noth’s performance is way over the top and just as unconvincing as it was in his previous appearance in ARACHNIDS IN THE UK (2018). Moments of character introspection are welcome and help to add some explanation of motivation. Whittaker is okay as the Doctor, but still lacks the presence of previous incarnations. The Daleks are great in both traditional and new designs and the clash of different factions recalls earlier episodes – notably REMEMBRANCE OF THE DALEKS (1988). Technical values are high and the episode is nicely shot, but the direction of Jones fails to overcome the limitations of Chibnall’s script.

TV Review – BLACK NARCISSUS (2020)

Black Narcissus' Gets FX Premiere Date, Trailer And Key Art Released –  DeadlineBLACK NARCISSUS (TV) (2020, UK) ***
Drama
dist. BBC One (UK), FX Network (USA); pr co. DNA Films; d. Charlotte Bruus Christensen; w. Amanda Coe (based on the novel by Rumer Godden); exec pr. Ayela Butt, Amanda Coe, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Lucy Richer; pr. Cahal Bannon; assoc pr. Vivien Kenny; ph. Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Colour. 2.00:1); m. Anne Dudley; ed. Jinx Godfrey; pd. Kave Quinn; ad. Andrea Matheson; cos. Kave Quinn; m/up. Nicole Stafford, Emmy Beech; sd. Ben Barker, Glenn Freemantle (Dolby Digital); sfx. Mark Meddings; vfx. Samantha Townend st. Jamie Edgell; rel. 23 November 2020 (USA), 27 December 2020 (UK); cert: NR; r/t. 165m.

cast: Gemma Arterton (Sister Clodagh), Aisling Franciosi (Sister Ruth), Nila Aalia (Angu Ayah), Patsy Ferran (Sister Blanche), Rosie Cavaliero (Sister Briony), Gianni Gonsalves (Srimati Rai), Soumil Malla (Joseph Anthony), Alessandro Nivola (Mr Dean), Wayne Llewellyn (Sannyasi), Dipika Kunwar (Kanchi), Chaneil Kular (Dilip Rai), Jim Broadbent (Father Roberts), Diana Rigg (Mother Dorothea), Aashish Shrestha (Phuba), Gina McKee (Sister Adela), Prabal Sonam Ghising (Pin), Komal Ghambole (Samya), Kulvinder Ghir (General Toda Rai), Karen Bryson (Sister Philippa).

A group of nuns face challenges in the hostile environment of a remote old Himalayan palace that they wish to make a convent. This adaptation of the 1939 novel by Rumer Godden suffers from being drawn out over three one-hour episodes as there really is no three act structure to contain it. The story relies on a gradual building of tension as the nuns battle with their sexual repression and their environment. The pluses are the excellent production values and photography and Dudley’s baroque score. There are fine performances too from Arterton and Franciosi as well as Cavaliero. The tension builds nicely in the final half hour, but the drama could have been edited down into a two-hour version and delivered a stronger dynamic. Powell and Pressburger’s 1947 movie version therefore remains definitive, despite the valiant attempts to more accurately reflect the source material here.

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)

Watch Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Episode I) | Full Movie | Disney+STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999, USA) ***
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas; exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Rick McCallum; ph. David Tattersall (DeLuxe. 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383, Vision Premier 2393), D-Cinema (Texas Instruments DLP 1280 x 1024, 1.9: 1 anamorphic). Dolby Vision, HDCAM (some scenes), Hawk Scope (anamorphic), Powerscope (anamorphic) (underwater scenes), VistaVision (some scenes). 2.35:1); m. John Williams; ed. Ben Burtt, Paul Martin Smith; pd. Gavin Bocquet; ad. Peter Russell; set d. Peter Walpole; cos. Trisha Biggar; m/up. Paul Engelen, Sue Love; sd. Tom Bellfort, Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood (Dolby Digital EX | SDDS (8 channels) | DTS-ES | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Geoff Heron, Peter Hutchinson; vfx. John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Scott Squires; st. Nick Gillard; anim. Miguel A. Fuertes; rel. 16 May 1999 (USA), 14 July 1999 (UK); cert: U; r/t. 136m.

cast: Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala / Padmé), Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Hugh Quarshie (Captain Panaka), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO (voice)), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Terence Stamp (Chancellor Valorum), Brian Blessed (Boss Nass (voice)), Andy Secombe (Watto (voice)), Ray Park (Darth Maul), Lewis Macleod (Sebulba (voice)), Warwick Davis (Wald / Pod race spectator / Mos Espa Citizen), Steve Speirs (Captain Tarpals).

The first of the second trilogy of STAR WARS movies goes back to the start of the story. Here, two Jedi Knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy (Lloyd) who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to reclaim their old glory. The film is a technical and visual marvel but is lumbered with a leaden narrative, a wordy script and wooden dialogue. Except for Neeson and the villainous McDiarmid, the actors fail to breathe life into the characters leaving an experience that lacks emotive investment. What’s left is to marvel at the staging of the action sequences, which at times feel too heavily choreographed, and to be antagonised by Jar Jar Binks – the singularly most annoying character of the series. The finale battle is well staged and sets up the thread to be taken forward in the next two films. Re-released in 3D in 2012. Followed by STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002).

AAN: Best Sound (Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Shawn Murphy, John Midgley); Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt, Tom Bellfort); Best Effects, Visual Effects (John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Scott Squires, Rob Coleman)

Film Review – THE EAGLE HAS LANDED (1976)

The Eagle Has Landed (1976) | They shoot jerries, don't they?EAGLE HAS LANDED, THE (1976, UK) ***½
Adventure, Drama, War
dist. Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK), Columbia Pictures (USA); pr co. Associated General Films / ITC Entertainment; d. John Sturges; w. Tom Mankiewicz (based on the novel by Jack Higgins); pr. David Niven Jr., Jack Wiener; ph. Anthony B. Richmond (Colour. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.35:1); m. Lalo Schifrin; ed. Anne V. Coates; pd. Peter Murton; ad. Charles Bishop; set d. Peter James; cos. Yvonne Blake; m/up. Eric Allwright, Paul Rabiger, Freddie Williamson, Betty Glasow, Mike Jones; sd. Jonathan Bates, Robin Gregory (Mono (35 mm prints) | 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | 4-Track Stereo (some 35 mm prints) (London premiere print)); sfx. Roy Whybrow; st. Gerry Crampton; rel. 25 December 1976 (Finland/Sweden), 31 March 1977 (UK), 2 April 1977 (USA); cert: PG/15; r/t. 135m.

cast: Michael Caine (Oberst Kurt Steiner), Donald Sutherland (Liam Devlin), Robert Duvall (Colonel Radl), Jenny Agutter (Molly), Donald Pleasence (Himmler), Anthony Quayle (Admiral Canaris), Jean Marsh (Joanna Grey), Sven-Bertil Taube (Captain von Neustadt), John Standing (Father Verecker), Judy Geeson (Pamela), Treat Williams (Captain Clark), Larry Hagman (Colonel Pitts), Alexei Jawdokimov (Corporal Kuniski), Richard Wren (Hans Altmann), Michael Byrne (Karl), Joachim Hansen (SS-Obergruppenführer), Denis Lill (Churchill’s aide), Rick Parsé (E-Boat Commander), Léonie Thelen (Branna), Keith Buckley (Hauptmann Gericke).

This adaptation of Jack Higgins’ bestseller has a fanciful plot of a team of WWII German soldiers and spies out to kidnap Winston Churchill to enable Nazi Germany to bargain a stronger settlement in lieu of their inevitable defeat. That it remains entertaining throughout is largely due to its strong cast. Caine is the sympathetic German commander; Duvall the architect of the scheme and Sutherland the German-Irish spy who infiltrates the English village community. Pleasence is also excellent as the scheming Himmler. Hagman’s bombastic performance, however, is off-key as a gung-ho American commander out to prove his superior’s judgement of him wrong. The love interest between Sutherland and Agutter also feels false and the sleepy locale is at odds with the stakes at play. The battle scenes in the final third of the movie are well edited though, covering up for Sturges’ reported lack of interest in post-production. The result is an enjoyable adventure that could have been better but demonstrates the importance of interesting casting and enthusiastic performances. The US release ran for 123m. An extended cut was released on DVD with 15m additional footage.