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.

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.

Book Review – DR. NO (1958) by Ian Fleming

DR. NO (1958) ****
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2012, 329pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1958
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1958
Introduction by Sam Bourne a.k.a Jonathan Freedland (10pp)
ISBN: 978-0-099-57692-1

Blurb: Dr Julius No is a man with a mysterious past. Nobody knows what secrets are hidden on his Caribbean island, and all those who have attempted to investigate further have disappeared. When two British agents go missing in Jamaica, Bond is sent to investigate. Battling the Doctor’s twin obsessions with power and pain, he uncovers the true nature of his opponent’s covert operation – but he must undergo a deadly assault course before he can destroy the Doctor’s plans once and for all.

Comment: This sixth novel in Fleming’s James Bond series brings the spy back from a seemingly terminal finale at the end of From Russia With Love. He is chastised by M for his choice of firearm and dispatched on a routine mission to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of two members of the Jamaica station staff – who it is believed have taken a romantic triste. Bond soon discovers there is more to the couple’s disappearance leading him to the island of Crab Key and the sinister Doctor Julius No. It is easy to see why this book was chosen to kick off the film series. It is the most fantastical novel in the series to date and also the most thrilling in terms of set pieces – notably the extended finale where Bond is subjected to an assault course designed to test human endurance of pain. Honey Rider is a Bond girl with a backstory that makes her fiercely independent and very interesting. It is understandable that Bond falls for her. Dr, No is the archetypal Bond villain, handicapped through the loss of his hands and having to use metal pincers, and his verbal jousts with Bond over dinner set a template for future Fleming novels and the film series. The book’s exotic setting, fluent writing and slick pace make this one of the strongest in the series, despite its outlandish plot.

Film Review – ESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979)

BBC Two - Escape to AthenaESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979, UK) **½
Action, Adventure, Comedy, War
dist. ITC Film Distributors (UK), Associated Film Distribution (AFD) (USA); pr co. Incorporated Television Company (ITC); d. George P. Cosmatos; w. Edward Anhalt, Richard Lochte (based on a story by Richard Lochte and George P. Cosmatos); exec pr. Lew Grade (uncredited); pr. David Niven Jr., Jack Wiener, Erwin C. Dietrich (uncredited); assoc pr. Colin M. Brewer; ph. Gilbert Taylor (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Lalo Schifrin; ed. Ralph Kemplen; ad. Petros Kapouralis; set d. Peter James; cos. Yvonne Blake; m/up. Eric Allwright, Paul Engelen, Ramon Gow, Mike Jones, Jacques Moisant; sd. Nicholas Stevenson, Derek Ball, Bill Rowe (Mono); sfx. John Richardson; st. Vic Armstrong; rel. 9 March 1979 (UK), 6 June 1979 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 125m.

cast: Roger Moore (Major Otto Hecht), Telly Savalas (Zeno), David Niven (Professor Blake), Stefanie Powers (Dottie Del Mar), Claudia Cardinale (Eleana), Richard Roundtree (Nat Judson), Sonny Bono (Bruno Rotelli), Elliott Gould (Charlie Dane), Anthony Valentine (SS Major Volkmann), Siegfried Rauch (Braun), Michael Sheard (Sergeant Mann), Richard Wren (Reistoffer), Philip Locke (Vogel), Steve Ubels (Lantz), Paul Picerni (Zeno’s Man), Paul Stassino (Zeno’s Man).

A bizarre mix of World War II adventure and comedy, involving a group of Allied P.O.W.s, Nazis, black market priceless art treasures, Greek resistance, a Greek monastery, and a secret German rocket base. The film was shot in Rhodes and feels like it was made on a holiday for its impressive roster of stars – most of whom sport anachronistic apparel and haircuts. There is a laziness to much of the direction and story-telling that is only marginally offset by some excellent stunt work and pyrotechnics. That said the action sequences are often poorly shot and fail to generate the level of excitement and suspense the budget spend deserves. As for the cast, Moore is badly miscast as the German Commandant, whilst Gould’s wisecracking  troupe comedian character and performance feel like they belong in another movie. The pluses are Savalas’ determined resistance leader and Cardinale’s passionate brothel owner. Niven coasts on his natural charm as an art historian, whilst Powers delivers an energetic performance as a dancer pursued by Moore. Roundtree has little else to do than fire his gun, whilst Bono is another bizarre casting choice as an army chef. Even Lalo Schifrin’s score lacks pizzazz. Ultimately, Cosmatos is not able to find the right tone and action fans will be disappointed in this sub-Alistair MacLean tale.  Watch for William Holden in a brief cameo as one of the prisoners. Edited US prints run to 101m.

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Poster by Josh Kirby, 1983 for sale at PamonoSTAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983, USA) ***½
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox ; pr co. Lucasfilm; d. Richard Marquand; w. Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas (based on a story by George Lucas); exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Howard G. Kazanjian, Rick McCallum; ph. Alan Hume (DeLuxe. 35mm (Eastman 5384). Digital Intermediate (4K) (2019 remaster), Dolby Vision, J-D-C Scope (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Sean Barton, Duwayne Dunham, Marcia Lucas; pd. Norman Reynolds; ad. Fred Hole, James L. Schoppe; set d. Michael Ford, Harry Lange; cos. Aggie Guerard Rodgers, Nilo Rodis-Jamero; m/up. Stuart Freeborn, Graham Freeborn, Tom Smith, Pat McDermott; sd. Ben Burtt (70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby (35 mm prints)); sfx. Roy Arbogast; vfx. Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston; st. Glenn Randall; rel. 25 May 1983 (USA), 2 June 1983 (UK); cert: U; r/t. 131m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Sebastian Shaw (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (The Emperor), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader (voice)), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Alec Guinness (Ben ‘Obi-Wan’ Kenobi), Kenny Baker (R2-D2 / Paploo), Michael Pennington (Moff Jerjerrod), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna), Denis Lawson (Wedge), Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar), Dermot Crowley (General Madine), Caroline Blakiston (Mon Mothma), Warwick Davis (Wicket), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Femi Taylor (Oola), Annie Arbogast (Sy Snootles), Claire Davenport (Fat Dancer), Jack Purvis (Teebo), Mike Edmonds (Logray), Jane Busby (Chief Chirpa), Malcolm Dixon (Ewok Warrior (as Malcom Dixon)), Mike Cottrell (Ewok Warrior), Nicolas Read (Nicki (as Nicki Reade)), Adam Bareham (Stardestroyer Controller #1), Jonathan Oliver (Stardestroyer Controller #2), Pip Miller (Stardestroyer Captain #1), Tom Mannion (Stardestroyer Captain #2), Margo Apostolos (Ewok (as Margo Apostocos)), Ray Armstrong (Ewok), Eileen Baker (Ewok), Michael Henbury Ballan (Ewok (as Michael H. Balham)), Bobby Bell (Ewok), Patty Bell (Ewok), Alan Bennett (Ewok), Sarah Bennett (Ewok), Pamela Betts (Ewok), Danny Blackner (Ewok (as Dan Blackner)), Linda Bowley (Ewok), Peter Burroughs (Ewok), Debbie Lee Carrington (Romba Ewok (as Debbie Carrington)), Maureen Charlton (Ewok), Willie Coppen (Ewok (as William Coppen)), Sadie Corre (Ewok (as Sadie Corrie)), Tony Cox (Ewok), John Cumming (Ewok), Jean D’Agostino (Ewok), Luis De Jesus (Ewok), Debbie Dixon (Ewok), Margarita Farrell (Ewok (as Margarita Fernandez)), Phil Fondacaro (Ewok), Sal Fondacaro (Ewok), Tony Friel (Ewok), Daniel Frishman (Ewok (as Dan Frishman)), John Ghavan (Ewok (as John Gavam)), Michael Gilden (Ewok), Paul Grant (Ewok), Lydia Green (Ewok), Lars Green (Ewok), Pam Grizz (Ewok), Andrew Herd (Ewok / Jawa), J.J. Jackson (Ewok),

As the evil Emperor Palpatine (McDiarmid) oversees the construction of the new Death Star by Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones) and the Galactic Empire, smuggler Han Solo (Ford) is rescued from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt by his friends, Luke Skywalker (Hamill), Princess Leia (Fisher), Lando Calrissian (Williams), and Chewbacca (Mayhew). Leaving Luke Skywalker Jedi training with Master Yoda (Oz), Solo returns to the Rebel fleet to prepare to complete his battle with the Empire. During the ensuing fighting, the newly returned Luke Skywalker is captured by Darth Vader. This third of the original STAR WARS trilogy is the least effective, being served by a script that offers little new and unimaginative direction. The Death Star plot merely re-cycles that of the first film and the character interaction lacks the slick camaraderie so apparent in the first two films. Fortunately, there is sufficient action and bravura in the lead performances to push through these faults and produce an entertaining, if flawed, conclusion. 1997 Special edition with added new effects runs to 134m. Original title: RETURN OF THE JEDI. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999).

AA: Special Achievement Award: Visual Effects (Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, Phil Tippett)
AAN: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Norman Reynolds, Fred Hole, James L. Schoppe, Michael Ford); Best Sound (Ben Burtt, Gary Summers, Randy Thom, Tony Dawe); Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt); Best Music, Original Score (John Williams)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

Star Wars: Leigh Brackett and The Empire Strikes Back You Never Saw | Den  of GeekSTAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980, USA) *****
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox ; pr co. Lucasfilm; d. Irvin Kershner; w. Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan (based on a story by George Lucas); exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Gary Kurtz, Rick McCallum; ass pr. Jim Bloom, Robert Watts; ph. Peter Suschitzky (DeLuxe. 35mm. Digital Intermediate (4K) (2019 remaster), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic), VistaVision (special effects). 2.35:1); m. John Williams; m sup. ; ed. Paul Hirsch; pd. Norman Reynolds; ad. Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins; set d. Michael Ford; cos. John Mollo; m/up. Graham Freeborn, Stuart Freeborn, Barbara Ritchie; sd. Richard Burrow, Bonnie Koehler, Teresa Eckton (70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints) | Dolby Digital EX (DVD) | DTS-ES (6.1 channels) (Blu-ray) | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Nick Allder, Neil Swan, David H. Watkins; vfx. Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Bruce Nicholson; st. Peter Diamond; rel. 17 May 1980 (USA), 20 May 1980 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 124m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Alec Guinness (Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), John Hollis (Lobot, Lando’s Aide), Jack Purvis (Chief Ugnaught), Des Webb (Snow Creature), Clive Revill (Emperor (voice)), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Julian Glover (General Veers), Michael Sheard (Admiral Ozzel), Michael Culver (Captain Needa), John Dicks (Imperial Officer), Milton Johns (Imperial Officer), Mark Jones (Imperial Officer), Oliver Maguire (Imperial Officer), Robin Scobey (Imperial Officer), Bruce Boa (Rebel Force General Rieekan), Christopher Malcolm (Rebel Force Zev (Rogue 2) (as Christopher Malcom)), Denis Lawson (Rebel Force Wedge (Rogue 3) (as Dennis Lawson)), Richard Oldfield (Rebel Force Hobbie (Rogue 4)), John Morton (Rebel Force Dak (Luke’s Gunner)), Ian Liston (Rebel Force Janson (Wedge’s Gunner)), John Ratzenberger (Rebel Force Major Derlin), Jack McKenzie (Rebel Force Deck Lieutenant), Jerry Harte (Rebel Force Head Controller), Norman Chancer (Other Rebel Officer), Norwich Duff (Other Rebel Officer), Ray Hassett (Other Rebel Officer), Brigitte Kahn (Other Rebel Officer), Burnell Tucker (Other Rebel Officer).

Luke Skywalker (Hamill), Han Solo (Ford), Princess Leia (Fisher) and Chewbacca (Mayhew) face attack by the Imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda. Only with the Jedi Master’s help will Luke survive when the Dark Side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones). The sequel to STAR WARS was confirmation we were now into a full blown series – this one listed as Episode V. Being the middle film in the first trilogy the film gains by the reduced need for character and background set-up and loses in the lack of closure. However, as a cinema experience it was, and still is, exhilarating. The action sequences are superbly edited and imaginatively handled. The story has a darker tone with its portent around the dark side of the force and the relationship between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and the finale is truly memorable. Williams’ majestic score drives the action along and Hamill, Ford and Fisher pick up where they left off. The developing relationship between Ford’s Han Solo and Fisher’s princess Leia gives the story an emotional edge and the introduction of Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian adds another memorable character to the roster. The muppetry with Jedi Master Yoda and a cameo from Guinness keep the mysticism at a high level only hinted at in the first film. A true fantasy classic. Special edition with new effects runs 127m. Original title: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).

AA: Best Sound (Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Peter Sutton); Visual Effects (Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Bruce Nicholson)

AAN: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins, Michael Ford); Best Music, Original Score (John Williams)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977)

Star Wars (Star Wars: A New Hope) (1977) - Movie Review / Film EssaySTAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE (1977, USA) *****
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. 20th Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas; exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Gary Kurtz, Rick McCallum; ass pr. James Nelson (uncredited); ph. Gilbert Taylor (Technicolor. 35mm. Digital Intermediate (4K) (2019 remaster), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic), VistaVision (special effects). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; m sup. ; ed. Richard Chew, Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas; pd. John Barry; ad. Leslie Dilley, Norman Reynolds; set d. Roger Christian; cos. John Mollo; m/up. Stuart Freeborn; sd. Sam F. Shaw (70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby (35 mm prints)); sfx. John Stears; vfx. John Dykstra, Dave Carson, John Knoll, Alex Seiden, Joe Letteri, Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams; st. Peter Diamond; rel. 25 May 1977 (USA), 27 December 1977 (UK); cert: U; r/t. 121m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin), Alec Guinness (Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader (voice)), Phil Brown (Uncle Owen), Shelagh Fraser (Aunt Beru), Jack Purvis (Chief Jawa), Alex McCrindle (General Dodonna), Eddie Byrne (General Willard), Drewe Henley (Red Leader), Denis Lawson (Red Two (Wedge)), Garrick Hagon (Red Three (Biggs)), Jack Klaff (Red Four (John D.)), William Hootkins (Red Six (Porkins)), Angus MacInnes (Gold Leader), Jeremy Sinden (Gold Two), Graham Ashley (Gold Five), Don Henderson (General Taggi), Richard LeParmentier (General Motti), Leslie Schofield (Commander #1).

The Imperial Forces, under orders from cruel Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones), hold Princess Leia (Fisher) hostage in their efforts to quell the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Luke Skywalker (Hamill) and Han Solo (Ford), captain of the Millennium Falcon, work together with the companionable droid duo R2-D2 and C-3PO (Daniels) to rescue the beautiful princess, help the Rebel Alliance and restore freedom and justice to the Galaxy. It is hard to believe today in this world of blockbuster CGI driven epics, the impact the original STAR WARS had on release in 1977. Driven by a fast-paced pulpy script, superbly edited with its scene transitions ensuring the story keeps moving. It made a star of Ford as the cynical Han Solo and introduced characters that would pass into cinema folklore. The well-choreographed action sequences, great visual effects, detailed model work and imaginative realisation of alien landscapes and worlds were spectacular for the time. Influences ranged from the western to samurai films and swashbucklers. The effects industry may have moved on, but the heart and sheer exuberance of this story have rarely been equalled since. The special edition with new effects runs 125m. Original title: STAR WARS. Followed by the equally superb STAR WARS: EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980).

AA: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian); Best Costume Design (John Mollo); Best Sound (Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler, Derek Ball) Best Film Editing (Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew); Best Effects, Visual Effects (John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune, Robert Blalack); Best Music, Original Score (John Williams); Special Achievement sound effects. (For the creation of the alien, creature and robot voices.) (Ben Burtt)

AAN: Best Picture (Gary Kurtz); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Alec Guinness); Best Director (George Lucas); Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (George Lucas)

Film Review – THUNDERBALL (1965)

Thunderball (1965) Review - The Action EliteTHUNDERBALL (1965, UK) ****
Action, Adventure, Thriller
dist. United Artists Corporation; pr co. Eon Productions; d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins (based on a story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming and an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham); exec pr. Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman (each uncredited); pr. Kevin McClory; ass pr. Stanley Sopel (uncredited); ph. Ted Moore (Technicolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Barry; ed. Ernest Hosler; pd. Ken Adam; ad. Peter Murton; set d. Peter Lamont (uncredited); cos. Anthony Mendleson; m/up. Basil Newall, Paul Rabiger; sd. Maurice Askew, Bert Ross, Eileen Warwick (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); sfx. John Stears; vfx. Roy Field (uncredited); st. Yvan Chiffre; rel. 21 December 1965 (USA), 29 December 1965 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 130m.

cast: Sean Connery (James Bond), Claudine Auger (Dominique ‘Domino’ Derval), Adolfo Celi (Emilio Largo), Luciana Paluzzi (Fiona Volpe), Rik Van Nutter (Felix Leiter), Guy Doleman (Count Lippe), Molly Peters (Patricia Fearing), Martine Beswick (Paula Caplan), Bernard Lee (‘M’), Desmond Llewelyn (‘Q’), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Roland Culver (Home Secretary), Earl Cameron (Pinder Romania), Paul Stassino (Angelo Palazzi / Major François Duval), Rose Alba (Madame Bouvar), Philip Locke (Vargas), George Pravda (Pofessor Ladislaw Kutze), Michael Brennan (Janni), Leonard Sachs (Group Captain Pritchard), Edward Underdown (SIr John – Air Marshal), Reginald Beckwith (Kenniston), Harold Sanderson (Hydrofoil Captain).

When a British Vulcan bomber is stolen with two atomic bombs on board. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. announce that they have the plane and will detonate the bombs unless one hundred million dollars worth of uncut diamonds are delivered. James Bond (Connery) tracks the plane down to the Bahamas but still has to deal with the deadly Emilio Largo (Celi). This was the biggest Bond film of the 1960s and is one of the best. Connery is at the height of his game here and the story has a scale that is larger than any of the previous entries. The underwater sequences may tend toward the slow side, but on the whole the story moves along at a good clip and is well edited. The humour is more evident, but it is still kept in check. Paluzzi is one of the best Bond villainesses and her verbal and literal tussles with Connery are memorable. The Bahamas are well photographed, and the underwater staging is handled with skill by second unit director Ricou Browning. Followed by YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967). Remade with Connery as NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983).

AA: Best Effects, Special Visual Effects (John Stears).