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.

Film Review – BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955)

52 Before 62 – # 2 Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) | The Last Blog Name On  EarthBAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955, USA) ****½
Crime, Drama, Western
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); d. John Sturges; w. Millard Kaufman, Don McGuire (based on a story “Bad Time at Hondo” by Howard Breslin); pr. Dore Schary; assoc pr. Herman Hoffman; ph. William C. Mellor (Eastmancolor. 35mm. CinemaScope. 2.55:1); m. André Previn; ed. Newell P. Kimlin; ad. Malcolm Brown, Cedric Gibbons; set d. Fred M. MacLean, Edwin B. Willis; m/up. John Truwe; sd. Wesley C. Miller (Mono (35mm optical prints) (Western Electric Sound System) | 4-Track Stereo (35mm magnetic prints)); rel. 13 January 1955 (USA), 17 March 1955 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 81m.

cast: Spencer Tracy (John J. Macreedy), Robert Ryan (Reno Smith), Anne Francis (Liz Wirth), Dean Jagger (Tim Horn), Walter Brennan (Doc Velie), John Ericson (Pete Wirth), Ernest Borgnine (Coley Trimble), Lee Marvin (Hector David), Russell Collins (Mr. Hastings), Walter Sande (Sam).

John J. MacReedy (Tracy), is a one-armed stranger who comes to the tiny town of Black Rock one hot summer day in 1945, the first time the train has stopped there in years. He looks for both a hotel room and a local Japanese farmer named Komoko, but his inquiries are greeted at first with open hostility, then with blunt threats and harassment, and finally with escalating violence. MacReedy soon realizes that he will not be allowed to leave Black Rock; town boss Reno Smith (Ryan), who had Komoko killed because of his hatred of the Japanese, has also marked MacReedy for death. MacReedy must battle town thugs, a treacherous local woman (Francis), and finally Smith himself to stay alive. The film has an excellent script that creates an air of mystery and intimidation, which Sturges maximises through his economic shooting. Tracy is superb as the mysterious visitor and is supported by an excellent cast that includes Ryan as the influential rancher; Borgnine and Marvin as Ryan’s muscle; Francis as the only girl in town whose brother played by Ericson proves to be their weak link; and Brennan and Jagger as the town doctor and drunken sheriff ashamed of their past. The confrontation between Tracy and the townsfolk grows as the story plays out to its inevitable and ironic conclusion. Whilst the ending may seem a little hurried and convenient, taken as a whole, the film is a textbook example of building suspense through character and dialogue.

AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Spencer Tracy); Best Director (John Sturges); Best Writing, Screenplay (Millard Kaufman).

Film Review – JOE KIDD (1972)

Image result for joe kidd 1972JOE KIDD (USA, 1972) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal Pictures / The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 19 July 1972 (USA), 24 September 1972 (UK); Filming Dates: November 1971; Running Time: 88m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: John Sturges; Writer: Elmore Leonard; Executive Producer: Robert Daley; Producer: Sidney Beckerman; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Art Director: Henry Bumstead, Alexander Golitzen; Set Decorator: Charles S. Thompson; Sound: James R. Alexander, Waldon O. Watson.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Joe Kidd), Robert Duvall (Frank Harlan), John Saxon (Luis Chama), Don Stroud (Lamarr), Stella Garcia (Helen Sanchez), James Wainwright (Mingo), Paul Koslo (Roy), Gregory Walcott (Mitchell), Dick Van Patten (Hotel Manager), Lynne Marta (Elma), John Carter (Judge), Pepe Hern (Priest), Joaquín Martínez (Manolo (as Joaquin Martinez)), Ron Soble (Ramon), Pepe Callahan (Naco), Clint Ritchie (Calvin), Gil Barreto (Emilio), Ed Deemer (Bartender), Maria Val (Vita), Chuck Hayward (Eljay), Michael R. Horst (Deputy).
      Synopsis: An ex-bounty hunter reluctantly helps a wealthy landowner and his henchmen track down a Mexican revolutionary leader.
      Comment: Eastwood and Duvall add a level of class to this otherwise familiar Western. Leonard’s script is slight with little in terms of character development but is enlivened by moments of humour – including a deliciously over-the-top finale (unscripted and jokingly suggested by producer Daley) involving a train and a saloon. Outdoor sequences are beautifully shot by Surtees near June Lake, east of the Yosemite National Park. Old Tuscon was used for the town scenes.
      Notes: Elmore Leonard’s script, originally called “The Sinola Courthouse Raid”, was inspired by Reies Tijerina, an ardent supporter of Robert F. Kennedy, who stormed a courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico in June 1967, taking hostages and demanding that the Hispanic people have their ancestral lands returned to them.

Film Review – McQ (1974)

Related imageMcQ (1974; USA; Technicolor; 111m) ***  d. John Sturges; w. Lawrence Roman; ph. Harry Stradling Jr.; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Eddie Albert, Diana Muldaur, Colleen Dewhurst, Julie Adams, Clu Gulager, David Huddleston, Al Lettieri, Jim Watkins, Roger E. Mosley. A Police Lieutenant investigates the killing of his best friend and uncovers corrupt elements. Wayne tries his hand at the urban crime thriller genre in this DIRTY HARRY surrogate. Sturges’ direction is lacking in flair and a feel for the genre whilst the script is a little flabby. The result is a routine plot enlivened by a neat finale and Wayne’s presence. Jazzy Bernstein score is also a plus. Good use of Seattle locations. [15]