Film Review – BREAKOUT (1975)

BREAKOUT (1975, USA) **
Action, Adventure, Drama
dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); pr co. Columbia Pictures / Persky-Bright-Vista; d. Tom Gries; w. Howard B. Kreitsek, Marc Norman, Elliott Baker (suggested by a book by Warren Hinckle & William Turner and Eliot Asinof); pr. Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler; ph. Lucien Ballard (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Jerry Goldsmith; ed. Bud S. Isaacs; ad. Alfred Sweeney; rel. 7 March 1975 (West Germany), 1 May 1975 (UK), 22 May 1975 (USA); BBFC cert: 15; r/t. 96m.
cast: Charles Bronson (Nick Colton), Robert Duvall (Jay Wagner), Jill Ireland (Ann Wagner), John Huston (Harris Wagner), Randy Quaid (Hawkins), Sheree North (Myrna), Jorge Moreno (Sosa), Emilio Fernández (J.V.), Paul Mantee (Cable), Alan Vint (Harve), Alejandro Rey (Sanchez), William B. White (2nd Officer), Roy Jenson (Spencer), Sidney Clute (Henderson), Chalo González (Border Guard), Antonio Tarruella (1st Prison Guard), Don Norgano Frill (2nd Prison Guard).
Vehicle for Bronson in which he plays a bush pilot hired by Ireland for fifty thousand dollars to go to Mexico to free her husband (Duvall), an innocent prisoner. Saddled with a weak script, Gries fails to find a consistent tone as the film veers uneasily between action drama and comedy. This is not helped by using Bronson in a character more suited to the likes of Burt Reynolds. The story is confusing, and the characters’ motives are never fully explored or explained leaving the audience with little to invest in them. The performances are mixed – Duvall has little to do, and his talent is wasted. There are better performances from Quaid and North, who manage to capture the tonal balance best. Huston has a couple of brief scenes as Duvall’s grandfather determined to keep him behind bars. Technical accomplishments are varied, the editing is often clunky, but there are some genuinely hairy stunts performed. Dan Frazer appears uncredited as a US Customs agent. Apparently the film was inspired by the real 1971 helicopter rescue and breakout of Joel David Kaplan from a Mexican prison.

Film Review – TAKEN 3 (2014)

TAKEN 3 (2014, France/USA/Spain) **
Action, Thriller
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. EuropaCorp / M6 Films / Taken 3 / Twentieth Century Fox; d. Olivier Megaton; w. Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen (based on characters created by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen); pr. Luc Besson; ph. Eric Kress (Colour. 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Hawk Scope (anamorphic) (source format), Super 35 (source format) (some scenes). 2.35:1); m. Nathaniel Méchaly; ed. Audrey Simonaud, Nicolas Trembasiewicz; pd. Sébastien Inizan; ad. Christophe Couzon, Natacha Hatch, Dominique Moisan, Nanci Roberts; rel. 16 December 2014 (Germany), 7 January 2015 (USA), 8 January 2015 (UK); BBFC cert: 12; r/t. 109m.
cast: Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills), Forest Whitaker (Franck Dotzler), Famke Janssen (Lenore St. John), Maggie Grace (Kim Mills), Dougray Scott (Stuart St. John), Sam Spruell (Oleg Malankov), Don Harvey (Garcia), Dylan Bruno (Smith), Leland Orser (Sam (Gilroy)), David Warshofsky (Bernie (Harris)), Jon Gries ((Mark) Casey), Jonny Weston (Jimy), Andrew Borba (Clarence), Judi Beecher (Claire), Andrew Howard (Maxim).
Liam Neeson returns for his third outing as ex-government operative Bryan Mills, who is accused of a ruthless murder he never committed or witnessed. As he is tracked and pursued, Mills brings out his particular set of skills to find the true killer and clear his name. Like its immediate predecessor, this action vehicle is directed by Megaton, who again employs his staccato editing techniques to the action sequences robbing them of any sense of tension or rhythm. The plot formula is a poor man’s riff on THE FUGITIVE. Whilst Neeson is again watchable in the lead and Whitaker adds an element of intelligence as the pursuing detective, the plot implausibility and its increasingly cartoonish and nonsensical violence suck any heart or emotion from the narrative. The movie goes rapidly downhill toward its inevitably formulaic and over-the-top shootout finale. Extended version runs 115m.

Film Review – TAKEN 2 (2012)

TAKEN 2 (2012, France/USA/Turkey/UK) **½
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. EuropaCorp / M6 Films / Grive Productions; d. Olivier Megaton; w. Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen (based on characters created by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen); pr. Luc Besson; ph. Romain Lacourbas (Colour. 35 mm (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema. Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format) (some scenes), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format), . 2.35:1); m. Nathaniel Méchaly; ed. Camille Delamarre, Vincent Tabaillon; pd. Sébastien Inizan; ad. Christophe Couzon, Dominique Moisan, Nanci Roberts, Atilla Yilmaz; rel. 7 September 2012 (France), 4 October 2012 (UK), 5 October 2012 (USA); BBFC cert: 12; r/t. 92m.
cast: Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills), Maggie Grace (Kim), Famke Janssen (Lenore), Leland Orser (Sam), Jon Gries (Casey), D.B. Sweeney (Bernie), Luke Grimes (Jamie), Rade Serbedzija (Murad Krasniqi), Kevork Malikyan (Inspector Durmaz), Alain Figlarz (Suko), Frank Alvarez (Car Wash Attendant), Murat Tuncelli (Custom Officer Albania), Ali Yildirim (Imam), Ergun Kuyucu (Mirko), Cengiz Bozkurt (Border Guard #1), Hakan Karahan (Reception Clerk), Saruhan Sari (Waiter), Naci Adigüzel (Cheikh), Aclan Bates (Cheikh’s Aide), Mehmet Polat (Hotel Driver).
In Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Neeson) and his wife (Janssen) are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed while rescuing his daughter (Grace). This follow-up to the popular 2008 hit is basically more of the same – only this time the whole family is involved. Neeson picks up where he left off in the first movie, but the script sadly offers little that is new or challenging, leaving us with a greatest hits re-run that remains entertaining despite its implausibility and by-the-numbers approach. Megaton’s kinetic editing, however, more often induces confusion and dizziness rather than create suspense and thrills. Extended version runs 98m. Followed by TAKEN 3 (2015).

Film Review – TAKEN (2008)

TAKEN (2008, France/USA/UK) ***
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. 20th Century Fox; pr co. EuropaCorp / M6 Films / Grive Productions; d. Pierre Morel; w. Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen; pr. Luc Besson; ph. Michel Abramowicz (Colour. 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision Premier 2393), D-Cinema. Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), HDCAM SR (1080p/24) (source format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format). 2.35:1); m. Nathaniel Méchaly; ed. Frédéric Thoraval; pd. Hugues Tissandier; ad. Gilles Boillot; rel. 16 February 2008 (France), 26 September 2008 (UK), 30 January 2009 (USA), ; BBFC cert: 18; r/t. 93m.
cast: Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills), Maggie Grace (Kim), Famke Janssen (Lenore), Katie Cassidy (Amanda), Leland Orser (Sam), Jon Gries (Casey), David Warshofsky (Bernie), Holly Valance (Sheerah), Xander Berkeley (Stuart), Olivier Rabourdin (Jean-Claude), Gérard Watkins (St-Clair), Marc Amyot (Pharmacist), Arben Bajraktaraj (Marko), Radivoje Bukvic (Anton), Mathieu Busson (Undercover Agent), Michel Flash (Gio), Nicolas Giraud (Peter), Rubens Hyka (Leka), Camille Japy (Isabelle), Valentin Kalaj (Vinz).
Neeson stars as Bryan Mills, a former government operative trying to reconnect with his daughter, Kim (Grace), in this fast-paced action thriller. His worst fears become real when sex slavers abduct Kim and her friend shortly after they arrive in Paris for vacation. With just four days until Kim will be auctioned off, Bryan must call on every skill he learned in black ops to rescue her. The movie coasts on Neeson’s charisma and macho performance as well as the tightly edited action sequences. The pace is such that director Morel manages to gloss over the story’s plot holes and its many conveniences. The villains remain two-dimensional targets for Neeson’s killing machine and there is only lip-service paid to the strained relationship between Neeson and ex-wife Janssen. That said, what we have left is an undeniably enjoyable and bone-crunching entertainment. Followed by TAKEN 2 (2012).

Book Review – ANTHRAX ISLAND (2021) by D.L. MARSHALL

ANTHRAX ISLAND (2021) ****½
by D.L. Marshall
This paperback edition published by Canelo, 2021, 342pp
© D.L. Marshall, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-80032-275-2

Blurb: FACT: In 1942, in growing desperation at the progress of the war and fearing invasion by the Nazis, the UK government approved biological weapons tests on British soil. Their aim: to perfect an anthrax weapon destined for Germany. They succeeded. FACT: Though the attack was never launched, the testing ground, Gruinard Island, was left lethally contaminated. It became known as Anthrax Island. Now government scientists have returned to the island. They become stranded by an equipment failure and so John Tyler is flown in to fix the problem. He quickly discovers there’s more than research going on. When one of the scientists is found impossibly murdered inside a sealed room, Tyler realises he’s trapped with a killer…

Comment: The debut novel of D.L. Marshall mixes the ingredients of an Alistair MacLean adventure with a locked-room mystery,  a James Bond spy caper and the group paranoia of John Carpenter’s The Thing (to which the author adds an overt nod on page 83 ). All great influences and all blend together to create a highly enjoyable page-turning thriller. Marshall’s story is told from a first-person perspective by the hero, mercenary spy John Tyler, who is transported onto the titular island under the guise of a technician to repair a faulty protective door unit. The group of scientists working on the island are testing for remnant samples of experiments undertaken secretly during WWII. The death of Tyler’s supposed predecessor is followed by others and the group quickly become distrustful of Tyler and each other, whilst the discovery of a new strain of the deadly anthrax attracts international interest. Marshall takes us through many twists and turns in his mazy plot and the tension builds as the paranoia amongst the group increases. Marshall’s prose style is fluid and engaging. Tyler as a character feels real and human and has depth along with a personal motivation which unfolds throughout the story. Writing the novel in the first-person Marshall succeeds in elevating the “whodunnit” elements of the plot allowing the reader to unravel the mystery along with the protagonist. Marshall keeps a trick or two up his sleeve right up to the story’s protracted denouement, which veers off into more traditional action movie tropes in the final chapters. That said, this remains a hugely impressive and thoroughly enjoyable read that promises great things for the intended series.

Film Review – CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013, USA) ****½
Action, Drama, Thriller

dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Sony Pictures Releasing (UK); pr co. Michael De Luca Productions / Scott Rudin Productions / Trigger Street Productions; d. Paul Greengrass; w. Billy Ray (based upon the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty); exec pr. Eli Bush, Gregory Goodman, Kevin Spacey; pr. Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin; ph. Barry Ackroyd (Technicolor. 35 mm (anamorphic) (partial blow-up) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (2.8K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 16 (source format) (some scenes), Super 35 (also 3-perf) (source format), VistaVision (source format) (visual effects). 2.39:1); m. Henry Jackman; ed. Christopher Rouse; pd. Paul Kirby; ad. Aziz Hamichi; set d. Dominic Capon; cos. Mark Bridges; m/up. Frances Hannon; sd. Oliver Tarney, Michael Fentum, James Harrison (SDDS | Datasat | Dolby Digital | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Surround 7.1); sfx. Dominic Tuohy; vfx. Daniel Barrow, Andy Taylor, Kris Wright, Charlie Noble, Adam Rowland; st. Rob Inch; rel. 27 September 2013 (USA), 9 October 2013 (UK); cert: PG-13/12; r/t. 135m.

cast: Tom Hanks (Captain Richard Phillips), Catherine Keener (Andrea Phillips), Barkhad Abdi (Muse), Barkhad Abdirahman (Bilal), Faysal Ahmed (Najee), Mahat M. Ali (Elmi), Michael Chernus (Shane Murphy), David Warshofsky (Mike Perry), Corey Johnson (Ken Quinn), Chris Mulkey (John Cronan), Yul Vazquez (Captain Frank Castellano), Max Martini (SEAL Commander), Omar Berdouni (Nemo), Mohamed Ali (Asad), Issak Farah Samatar (Hufan), Thomas Grube (Maersk Alabama Crew), Mark Holden (Maersk Alabama Crew), San Shella (Maersk Alabama Crew), Terence Anderson (Maersk Alabama Crew), Marc Anwar (Maersk Alabama Crew), David Webber (Maersk Alabama Crew), Amr El-Bayoumi (Maersk Alabama Crew), Vincenzo Nicoli (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kapil Arun (Maersk Alabama Crew), Louis Mahoney (Maersk Alabama Crew), Peter Landi (Maersk Alabama Crew), Angus MacInnes (Maersk Alabama Crew), Ian Ralph (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kristian Hjordt Beck (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kurt Larsen (Maersk Alabama Crew), Bader Choukouko (Somali Boy), Idurus Shiish (Pirate Leader), Azeez Mohammed (Pirate Leader), Abdurazak Ahmed Adan (Pirate Leader), Duran Mohamed Hassan (Asad’s Crew), Nasir Jama (Asad’s Crew), Kadz Souleiman (Asad’s Crew), Scott Oates (Navy SEAL Group), David B. Meadows (Navy SEAL Group), Shad Jason Hamilton (Navy SEAL Group), Adam Wendling (Navy SEAL Group), Billy Jenkins (Navy SEAL Group), Mark Semos (Navy SEAL Group), Dean Franchuk (Navy SEAL Group), Rey Hernandez (Navy SEAL Group), Christopher Stadulis (Navy SEAL Group), Roger Edwards (Navy SEAL Group), John Patrick Barry (Navy SEAL Group), Raleigh Morse (Navy SEAL Group), Dale McClellan (Navy SEAL Group), Hugh Middleton (Navy SEAL Group), Raymond Care (Navy SEAL Group), Stacha Hicks (UKMTO Officer), Will Bowden (US Maritime Officer), Len Anderson IV (USS Bainbridge VBSS Officer).

In April 2009, the U.S. containership Maersk Alabama sails toward its destination on a day that seems like any other. Suddenly, Somali pirates race toward the vessel, climb aboard and take everyone hostage. The captain of the ship, Richard Phillips (Hanks), looks to protect his crew from the hostile invaders, and their leader, Muse (Abdi). The pirates are after millions of dollars, and Phillips must use his wits to make sure everyone survives and returns home safely. Greengrass provides a masterclass in building tension and then holding it, whilst Hanks gives one of his absolute best performances and is totally believable as the experienced captain trying to stay one step ahead of the Somali pirates. Abdi is also excellent as the skinny leader of the pirate group. The film has been criticised for lacking sufficient background and motivation on the Somalians, but in fact there are subtle points made about the gulf between the might of those who have (represented by the US Navy) and the futility of those who have not (the Somalian fishermen forced into piracy). Credit to Greengrass for showing the shock and trauma of Hanks’ character once rescued – a scene devastatingly real as performed by Hanks.

AAN: Best Motion Picture of the Year (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca); Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Barkhad Abdi); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Christopher Rouse); Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Oliver Tarney); Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro); Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray)

TV Review – INTERGALACTIC (2021)

INTERGALACTIC (UK, 2021, 8 x 45m) **
Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure

net; Sky One; pr co. Babieka / Moonage Pictures / Tiger Aspect Productions; d. Kieron Hawkes, China Moo-Young , Hannah Quinn; cr. Julie Gearey; w. Julie Gearey, Laura Grace ; exec pr. Paul Gilbert; series pr. Nick Pitt.

cast: Savannah Steyn (Ash Harper), Eleanor Tomlinson (Candy), Natasha O’Keeffe (Emma), Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Tula), Thomas Turgoose (Drew), Oliver Coopersmith (Echo), Imogen Daines (Verona), Diany Samba-Bandza (Genevieve), Hakeem Kae-Kazim (Yann Harper), Craig Parkinson (Dr. Lee), Parminder Nagra (Rebecca Harper), Neil Maskell (Wendell), Samantha Schnitzler (Captain Alessia Harris).

The year 2143. Climate change has screwed the planet and the world’s cities, now mostly underwater, are controlled by a pseudo democratic government called the Commonworld. After sky cop Harper (Savannah Steyn) is set up for a crime she had nothing to do with, she is placed on board prisoner transport ship the Hemlock bound for an off-planet prison. On board she is thrown into the melee of a mutiny stirred up by a band of hardened female criminals who threaten to kill her if she doesn’t fly them to safety.

Intergalactic must be one of the biggest wasted opportunities to hit our TV screens in recent years.  Backed by Sky with a top-notch production design (by Mark Geraghty); more than acceptable visual effects; and a solid-gold premise inspired by one of British TVs best sci-fi adventure series (Blake’s 7) this should have been a celebration of what is great about British TV. Unfortunately we had to deal with characters, who for the most part were very difficult to like and left us with no-one to root for; incessant and overly gratuitous use of foul language; banal and cliched dialogue and storylines; and a finale that wasn’t. The latter is partly explained by the fact there were two more scripts to shoot before production was curtailed by the pandemic. The producers, directors and writers must take the blame for the rest. Tonally, the series veered from witty and tongue-in-cheek to violent and abrasive – often in the same scene. The former losing out increasingly to the latter as the series progressed. That would have been okay, as the stakes were raised in those later episodes, but what we were left with was a depressing tale of self-centred characters whose cause and motivations were never fully explained to any logical or believable level. The performances were almost universally one-note and ranged from the awful (Duncan-Brewster, who simply snarls her way through her entire performance) to the passable (most of the rest) . Only Turgoose managed to inject any depth into his character, whilst Coopersmith struggled to bring some Han Solo-esque charm to his. The series had admirable qualities in its use of a diverse cast and its pushing most of the leading roles to females. There are also the occasional amusing and witty lines of dialogue that shine like beacons amongst most of the writing (Turgoose remarking the one planet they visit was “worse then Bolton”). Stereotypes are much in evidence, however, and the story becomes increasingly predictable and derivative of other, better productions (and that is saying something when one of the inspirations was Con-Air). The design of the Hemlock, the prison ship stolen by the mutineers, is genuinely impressive and it is a shame it is not peopled by characters we would like to spend more time with. The camera work is good, but the direction often feels amateurish and the cast seem unable to bring any level of empathy to their characters.  There is a backstory for each that feels like it was taken from the “bumper book of prison characters” and there is insufficient subtlety in the writing to present these backstories in anything other than flat monologues. For an example of how to write a sci-fi show about a group of misfits and a totalitarian government, Geary should have looked no further than Firefly, which attacked similar themes with much more style and wit as well as characters you wanted to spend time with, rather than wince at every aggressive use of the “f-word” – instead she did not even look to the strengths of Blake’s 7 and landed much closer to Con-Air – more is the pity. It is hard to see the series being picked up for a second run, which is a shame in that it will likely kill off any further attempts to create a rebirth for British sci-fi TV for the foreseeable future.

Two new Sky series recall earlier classic British TV with differing results

Intergalactic (2021, UK, Episodes 1-4) **½
Fearless young cop and galactic pilot, Ash Harper (Savannah Steyn), who has her glittering career ripped away from her after being wrongly convicted of a treasonous crime and exiled to a distant prison colony. But on the way there, Ash’s fellow convicts stage a mutiny and seize control of their prison transfer ship.
Mare of Easttown (2021, USA, Episodes 1-3) *****
As her life crumbles around her, a small-town Pennsylvania detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) investigates a local murder. The series explores the dark side of a close community and provides an authentic examination of how family and past tragedies can define our present.

Intergalactic" (2021) British movie posterSky has two series currently available or broadcasting that have their roots in classic British TV series. The first is the heavily publicised British sci-fi action adventure Intergalactic (Sky One), with the whole series of 8 episodes (curtailed from 10 by the pandemic) available to download for subscribers. The series is the brainchild of Julie Gearey and has a largely multi-ethnic female led cast led by Savannah Steyn as a discredited cop forced to serve her sentence off-world, where she falls in with several other prisoners who take over their transport ship, the “Hemlock” (a cool Millenium Falcon styled spaceship) and go on the run from the Common World. In their midst is a terrorist leader, who has her own secrets the Common World need to suppress. An added complication is the Steyn’s mother is the the leader of the Common World security team in pursuit of the escapees. There is much murkiness behind the back story, which gradually becomes clearer as the series progresses. The plot sounds familiar because it is a direct riff on the 1970s classic “Blake’s 7” , only here the action is more violent, the language much coarser, the characters less likeable, the stories less original and the dialogue is a mix of the truly awful and the occasionally witty. The look and tone is also highly derivative in taking elements of “Mad Max”, “Firefly” and Con Air” blending together their more cliched elements. The cast is, on paper, a strong one that includes Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Eleanor Tomlinson, Thomas Turgoose, Natasha O’Keeffe, Oliver Coopersmith, Imogen Daines, Diany Samba-Bandza, Parminder Nagra and Craig Parkinson. Most of the performances are one dimensional and lacking in nuance as the cast struggle to take their characters beyond the machismo of their dialogue. That said there are moments where the potential for a stronger series emerges – I am currently half-way through the run and after a dodgy start there have been some genuinely funny moments as well as a few unintentional ones. Where the series truly scores is in its look. The production design and CGI visual effects are excellent, if occasionally a little over-processed, from the opening shots of London in ruins to the new raised city and beyond into the galaxy. Its often pulpy trash, but it is also somehow strangely addictive as it struggles to add a fun factor.  Hopefully the characters will settle down and become more rounded as the series progresses. For now it borders between the awful and the entertaining as a distinct guilty pleasure. I’ll come back later with my views on the last 4 episodes.

Kate Winslet as Mare SheehanMare of Easttown (Sky Atlantic), on the other hand, is a reminder of the high quality output from American production company HBO (Home Box Office). Here Kate Winslet plays a detective in a backwater Pennsylvania town. She is dogged by the fact she has been unable to solve a missing persons case and is embroiled with a current murder investigation where the suspects come close to home. No doubt the two cases will at some point be linked. In between time, she has her own domestic issues to address following the death of her son, the break-up of her marriage and her grand-parenting duties due to the absent mother, who is wrestling with a drug problem. It all sounds miserably downbeat, but here the writing is so strong and the characters totally believable with a razor-sharp script (written by Brad Ingelsby) injected with dark humour and witty dialogue. So far I have seen the first three episodes (of 7) of the series, which is being run weekly by Sky concurrently with HBO. The story has more than few echoes of one of British TV’s very best series, “Happy Valley”, and I would be surprised if it were not an influence on Ingelsby. Like “Happy Valley” this series has a gripping and multi-layered story with genuine character interactions and superb performances from its cast – most notably Winslet, who is flawless. It is a drama that sucks you into its world and holds you there in its vice-like grip. It looks set to be one of the best series since the turn of the century.

Book Review – FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1960) by Ian Fleming

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1960) ***½
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2012, 262pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1960
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1960
Introduction by Ian Rankin (8pp)
ISBN: 978-0-099-57694-5

Short Stories:
From a View to a Kill (43pp) **½
For Your Eyes Only (61pp) ****
Quantum of Solace (34pp) ***
Risico (54pp) ****
The Hildebrand Rarity (54pp) ***½

Blurb: ‘Private armies, private wars. How much energy they siphoned off from the common cause, how much fire they directed away from the common enemy!’ Five stories. Five missions. Five glimpses into the mind of a spy. From Jamaican estates to brooding French forests, Bond is tested to his limits by the world’s most dangerous men and the dark secrets they keep.

Comment: Before James Bond hit the movie screens, consideration had been given to a television series and four of the five stories in this collection were adapted from story outlines Fleming had compiled. The fifth, “From a View to a Kill”, was initially outlined as background for MOONRAKER. Fleming uses these stories to explore Bond’s motivation and attitude. In “Quantum of Solace” Bond’s glib remark that if he ever got married it would be to an air hostess, because they are eager to please, is typical of his view of women. The tale is a cautionary one, however, as his host recounts a chilling account of a husband spurned. The story plays out as a warning to Bond. In “For Your Eyes Only” Bond debates the psychological impact of revenge killing with Judy Havelock, whose parents have been murdered by a drug cartel. He ultimately lets her help him pay back the debt. “The Hildebrand Rarity” sees Bond question man’s need to kill for trophies as his rude American host, Milton Krest, seeks a rare fish in the Seychelles, whilst abusing is sub-servient wife. Krest looks to add poison to the sea thereby killing thousands of other fish in his quest for his prize. Bond reflects on his own need to kill for his country and his own sport of killing a stingray, which he views as predatory. His debate with himself is widened as he becomes more concerned with the abuse Krest delivers to his wife and there is ambiguity in the ultimate justice. “From a View to a Kill” and “Risico” are more straight-forward adventures. The former feels more like an interlude and hardly stretches Bond. It is wrapped up too neatly and is the weakest of the stories here. “Risico” is an excellent story that pits Bond against feuding smugglers Kristatos and Colombo. There is action and intrigue packed into a very satisfying tale, that along with “For Your Eyes Only” would form the basis for the Roger Moore film of the latter title. This collection of stories is much more down to earth than Fleming’s preceding novels and in the stronger stories is the better for it, as it makes Bond more human and less of a plot cypher.

TV Review – DEMPSEY AND MAKEPEACE (1985)

DEMPSEY AND MAKEPEACE (TV) (1985, UK) **½
Crime, Action, Drama

dist. ITV – Independent Television (UK); pr co. Golden Eagle Films / London Weekend Television (LWT); d. Tony Wharmby; w. Ranald Graham; exec pr. Nick Elliott; pr. Tony Wharmby; ph. Mike Humphreys (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Alan Parker; ed. Ray Helm; pd. Gordon Melhuish, Colin Monk; cos. Robin Pidcock, Sue Thomson; m/up. Pauline Boulton, Margaret Palphramand; sd. Reg Mills (Mono); sfx. Any Effects; st. Roy Alon; rel. 11 January 1985 (UK); cert: 12; r/t. 94m.

cast: Michael Brandon (Dempsey), Glynis Barber (Makepeace), Ray Smith (Spikings), Ralph Michael (Lord Winfield), Terence Alexander (Commander Duffield), Ray Jewers (Phil Parris), Mark Wing-Davey (Mark Savory), David Baxt (Joe), Peter Ross-Murray (Eddie), Desmond Cullum-Jones (Coltrane), Billy Kearns (O’Grady), Norman Chancer (Bologna), Tony Osoba (Det. Sgt. Chas Jarvis), Douglas Milvain (Sir John Fielding), John Barcroft (Asst. Com. Jennings), Cheryl Prime (Car Rental Girl), Victor Baring (Club Manager), Eric Kent (Danny Price), Tony Jay (Abe Moser), Margot Van der Burgh (Diana Moser).

The introductory episode to the popular TV series which ran for three series and thirty episodes from 1985-6. In this pilot NYPD detective Dempsey (Brandon) uncover corruption in the force and is assigned to London for his safety. There he is teamed with upper-class female detective Makepeace (Barber) to investigate a smuggling operation. The story may lack sophistication but is typical action fare for the period. Brandon has a gruff charm and Barber adds significant glamour. Smith is the duo’s exasperated boss who struggles to keep his detectives in line. Brandon and Barber establish a winning chemistry that would develop off-screen. The whole thing is utterly predictable but entertains on a basic level and operates within its distinct limitations.  Aka: ARMED AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.