SHERWOOD (2022, UK, 6 x 60m, 15) ****
dist. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (UK); pr co. House Productions; d. Lewis Arnold, Ben A. Williams w. James Graham; exec pr. Lewis Arnold, James Graham, Juliette Howell, Ben Irving, Tessa Ross, Harriet Spencer; pr. Rebecca Hodgson; ph. Sam Care, Simon Archer (Colour | 2.00:1); m sup. Catherine Grieves; ed. Sacha Szwarc, Sam White; ad. Stephanie Nicolle.
cast: David Morrissey (DCS Ian St Clair), Lesley Manville (Julie Jackson), Robert Glenister (DI Kevin Salisbury), Kevin Doyle (Fred Rowley), Claire Rushbrook (Cathy Rowley), Lorraine Ashbourne (Daphne Sparrow), Terence Maynard (DS Cleaver), Perry Fitzpatrick (Rory Sparrow), Andrea Lowe (DI Taylor), Philip Jackson (Mickey Sparrow), Clare Holman (Helen St Clair), Adam Hugill (Scott Rowley), Adeel Akhtar (Andy Fisher), Bally Gill (Neel Fisher), Nadine Marshall (Jenny Harris), Bill Jones (Ronan Sparrow), Harpal Hayer (PC Arjun Patel), Chloe Harris (PC Kirsty Dove), Safia Oakley-Green (Cinderella Jackson), Don Gilet (Jacob Harris), Mark Addy (Ron St Clair), Alun Armstrong (Gary Jackson), Stephen Tompkinson (Warnock), Lindsay Duncan (Jennifer Hale).
In this moody crime drama, seemingly patterned after the highly popular BROADCHURCH, two shocking murders shatter an already fractured community, leading to one of the largest manhunts in British history while threatening to inflame historic divisions sparked during the Miners’ Strike three decades before. Intercutting the two time periods enables writer Graham to set the character background and the story involves a large cast of highly accomplished actors. The performances of the ensemble cast are uniformly excellent The result is a largely absorbing drama that only wanders through its later episodes as establishing backstory for many of the characters takes precedence. The mystery element switches between the search for the murderer of Armstrong’s former NUM member to that of a police spy who has, unknown to the rest of the community, remained there. There are also personal dramas for most of the lead characters to deal with – notably the antagonism between detectives Morrissey and Glenister. The portrayal of a community divided by ongoing grudges carried over from the miner’s strike of 1984 is painstakingly detailed, but the finale which gathers all those characters together to have their say feels a little staged and manufactured but serves to hammer home the points.
SHAFT AMONG THE JEWS by Ernest Tidyman was published in hardback in the US by Dial Press on 29 June 1972 and now celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.
In the book, Shaft is hired by a group of Jewish diamond merchants to find out what is causing the destabilisation of their business. Morris Blackburn, an ambitious trader, is in financial difficulties and using his right-hand man, David Alexander, to source his stock illegally and then cut the supply line. Blackburn is visited by Avrim Herzel, an old friend of his father, who claims to have developed a formula for manufacturing synthetic diamonds and wants his formula to be a gift to the world. Blackburn plans for the old man to teach him his methods, then secretly plots to kill him and use the formula for personal profit. But Herzel is also being sought by Ben Fischer and his Israeli Secret Service agents, having left his homeland with the formula. Also looking for Herzel is his daughter, Cara. When Shaft goes undercover at Blackburn’s store and Cara turns up looking for her father the various parties come together explosively.
Inspiration for SHAFT AMONG THE JEWS came from a 1968 New York Times report on the murder of three travelling diamond salesmen over a three-month period. In the report executive secretary Arnold J. Lubin spoke on behalf of New York’s Diamond Dealers Club expressing fear of “Syndicate” involvement.
Tidyman was pleased with his work on the novel and in a letter to James Lynch of the New York Times said, “I think it’s better than the first one but what the hell.”
The UK hardback would be published on 15 February 1973 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Paperback versions of the book would follow in the US through Bantam in June 1973 and in the UK through Corgi on 21 September 1973.
DIAMONDS (1975, Switzerland/Israel/USA/UK, 108m, PG) **½
dist. AVCO Embassy Pictures (USA), Fox-Rank (UK); pr co. AmeriEuro Pictures / Euramat Films; d. Menahem Golan; w. Menahem Golan, David Paulsen; pr. Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan; ph. Adam Greenberg (Eastmancolor | 1.85:1); m. Roy Budd; ed. Dov Hoenig; ad. Kuli Sander.
cast: Robert Shaw (Charles / Earl Hodgson), Richard Roundtree (Archie), Barbara Hershey (Sally (as Barbara Seagull)), Shelley Winters (Zelda Shapiro), Yosef Shiloach (Mustafa), Shaike Ophir (Moshe), Gadi Yagil (Gaby), Yona Elian (Zippi), Yehuda Efroni (Salzburg), Yossi Graber (Rabinowitz), Bomba Tzur (Momo), Aryeh Moskona (Avram), Tali Goldberg (Policewoman), Arik Dichner (Arik), Chen Plotkin (Danny Rabinowitz), Naomi Blumenthal (Ruth Rabinowitz (as Naomi Greenbaum)).
This minor heist movie sees Shaw as a British aristocrat who decides to become a thief as a way of embarrassing his security expert twin brother, who has built the supposedly impregnable Diamond Exchange in Tel Aviv. For the caper, Shaw enlists ex-con Roundtree, a heist expert, and his girlfriend Hershey (here billed as Barbara Seagull) to assist. Golan’s direction and shot setups are haphazard and the pacing is inconsistent as it gets bogged down with the need to add location colour. Shaw is much too good for the material, whilst Budd’s excellent pulsing score helps to add some tension to the heist climax. Winters’ role as an American woman looking for a suitor is superfluous. The theme song over the end credits is sung by The Three Degrees.
NARROW MARGIN (1990, USA, 97m, 15) ***
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. TriStar Pictures (USA), Guild Film Distribution (UK); pr co. Carolco Pictures; d. Peter Hyams; w. Peter Hyams (based on the screenplay by Earl Felton and the story by Martin Goldsmith & Jack Leonard); pr. Jonathan A. Zimbert; ph. Peter Hyams (Technicolor | 2.39:1, 2.20:1 (70mm prints)); m. Bruce Broughton; ed. James Mitchell; pd. Joel Schiller; ad. David Willson.
cast: Gene Hackman (Robert Caulfield), Anne Archer (Hunnicut), James Sikking (Nelson), Harris Yulin (Leo Watts), J.T. Walsh (Michael Tarlow), M. Emmet Walsh (Sgt. Dominick Benti), Susan Hogan (Kathryn Weller), Nigel Bennett (Jack Wootton), J.A. Preston (Martin Larner), B.A. ‘Smitty’ Smith (Keller), Codie Lucas Wilbee (Nicholas), Barbara Russell (Nicholas’ Mother), Antony Holland (Elderly Man), Doreen Ramos (Elderly Woman), Kevin McNulty (James Dahlbeck), Andrew Rhodes (Nigro), Lon Katzman (Loughlin), Dana Still (Bellman With Message), Lesley Ewen (Larner’s Secretary), Barney O’Sullivan (Ticket Agent).
This remake of Richard Fleischer’s well-regarded 1952 film noir sees Archer witness a brutal murder by mobsters. She hides out in a remote cabin in the Canadian tundra. Hackman is the Deputy DA who journeys into the wilderness to convince Archer to testify in court. When mob assassins shoot at the cabin in a helicopter, Hackman and Archer make a mad dash through the wilderness to escape the mob only to be trapped on a train with the villains on their tail. It lacks the dark intensity of the original but benefits from Hackman’s witty performance. The script is generally weak and lacks plausibility, but there are occasional flourishes of humour – notably in the exchanges between Hackman and Sikking. Great stunt work is in evidence too as the story is punctuated with violent action sequences. Archer, however, is given little to do other than look scared and Hyams seems undecided on tone throughout. The Canadian scenery is breathtaking and wonderfully captured by Hyams. Broughton provides a suitably brooding score. The result is a flawed but often highly entertaining thriller worth it for Hackman alone.
THE SAINT AND THE BRAVE GOOSE (1979, UK, 94m, PG) **½
Action, Crime, Mystery
pr co. ITC Entertainment; d. Cyril Frankel; w. John Kruse (based on the character created by Leslie Charteris); exec pr. Robert S. Baker; ph. Frank Watts (Colour | 1.33:1); m. John Scott; ed. Bert Rule; pd. John Stoll.
cast: Ian Ogilvy (Simon Templar), Gayle Hunnicutt (Annabel West), Stratford Johns (George Duchamps), Derren Nesbitt (Insp. Lebec), Joe Lynch (Capt. Finnigan), Michelle Newell (Genevieve), Edward Brayshaw (Oscar West), Peggy Thorpe-Bates (Mrs. Cloonan), John Hallam (Bernadotti), Leon Lissek (Pancho), Michael Robbins (Beeky), Prentis Hancock (Vic), Wensley Pithey (Franklyn), Cyril Luckham (Coroner).
Originally broadcast as “Collision Course” a two-part episode of Return of the Saint (1978-9), this was compiled into a feature film for the home video market as well as receiving a limited theatrical release. Hunnicutt’s husband is killed when his power boat blows up during a race and sets off for the French Riviera to collect ‘The Brave Goose’, a luxury yacht he has left her. She is followed by associates of her husband, who believe she knows the whereabouts of the spoils of a gold bullion robbery, whilst the Saint (Ogilvy) is also on her trail. Although shot on location in France, the film struggles to escape the limitations of its TV budget and whilst the story is passable it rarely catches fire. Ogilvy lacks the charisma Roger Moore brought to the role a decade earlier and Frankel’s direction is a little flat. Some good underwater footage during the finale adds much-needed suspense to an otherwise overly familiar tale.
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