Book Review – EIGHTY MILLION EYES (1966) by Ed McBain

EIGHTY MILLION EYES (1966) ***
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Pan Books, 1970, 172pp
First published in 1966
© Ed McBain, 1966
“The Dear Hunter” © Pyramid Publications, 1965
“Eighty Million Eyes” © Popular Publications, 1965
ISBN: 978-0-3300-2462-4
Blurb: When top TV comic Stan Gifford died there were plenty of witnesses – 40 million viewers, plus the studio crew and audience. Detectives Meyer and Carella had never had it so good, but when pretty Cindy Forrest undressed for bed, there was no one to watch – except her attacker.
Comment: The 21st book in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series sees McBain interweaving two separate plotlines – a traditional whodunnit mystery and a psychological thriller. The nature of the book betrays the origins of these plotlines as two separate shorter pieces published in magazines the previous year. The mystery plot, written with a light touch, concerns the poisoning of a TV comic and detectives Carella and Meyer hunt down leads through the questioning of suspects and the forensic evidence. The thriller plot has a darker and more sinister tone with a dangerous stalker menacing Cindy Forrest (who appeared as the daughter of one of the victims in Ten Plus One) and Kling assigned to protect her. Both cases work to simultaneous and satisfying conclusions. The dialogue is breezy and the writing confident, but the stitched-together nature of the stories is evident as there is no linking theme or crossover between the cases. That said this remains an excellent example of McBain’s versatility, even within the same book.

Book Review – DOLL (1965) by Ed McBain

DOLL (1965) ***
by Ed McBain
This paperback edition published by Pan Books, 1970, 158pp
First published in 1965
© Ed McBain, 1965
ISBN: 978-0-3300-24823-5
Blurb: She was a living doll–until she was slashed to death. Detective Steve Carella wants Bert Kling on the case, even though Kling is making enemies of everyone. Then finally even Carella has had it with Kling, and suddenly the detective is missing and suspected dead. The men from the 87th Precinct go full tilt to find the truth. But they really need to find is a little doll–the little doll with all the answers.
Comment: The 20th book in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series finds the author returning to his trademark approach, but with a new twist. Here, he weaves elements of psychological terror into the procedural narrative, with Carella captured and being forced into drug addiction and becoming a sexual plaything by a psychotic woman. The doll of the title is both the key to the mystery and a metaphor for Carella’s incarceration. The tension builds as Kling and Meyer race against time to locate their colleague, whilst investigating the murder of a model. The book can be seen as marking the beginning of a new chapter in the series with McBain pushing further at the boundaries of sensationalism – a theme he would often return to in later books. Whilst the move was bold it somehow seems to slightly cheapen the material and, as a result, the book is not wholly successful.

Film Review – THE CONCORDE…AIRPORT ’79 (1979)

THE CONCORDE … AIRPORT ’79 (1979, USA, 113m, PG)
Action, Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. David Lowell Rich; w. Eric Roth (based on a story by Jenning Lang); pr. Jennings Lang; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (Technicolor | 1.85:1); m. Lalo Schifrin; ed. Dorothy Spencer; pd. Henry Bumstead.
cast: Alain Delon (Capt. Paul Metrand), Susan Blakely (Maggie Whelan), Robert Wagner (Dr. Kevin Harrison), Sylvia Kristel (Isabelle), George Kennedy (Capt. Joe Patroni), Eddie Albert (Eli Sands), Bibi Andersson (Francine), Charo (Margarita), John Davidson (Robert Palmer), Andrea Marcovicci (Alicia Rogov), Martha Raye (Loretta), Cicely Tyson (Elaine), Jimmie Walker (Boisie), David Warner (Peter O’Neill), Mercedes McCambridge (Nelli), Avery Schreiber (Coach Markov), Sybil Danning (Amy), Monica Lewis (Gretchen), Nicolas Coster (Dr. Stone), Robin Gammell (William Halpern).
Based on a story by Jennings Lang read the titles. Lang executive produced the previous films in the series and this is his only writing credit during his long movie career. It would be interesting to know at what point screenplay writer Roth and director Lowell Rich realised they had signed on to such a turkey. Journalist Blakely discovers that her married boyfriend, Wagner, heads a company that is involved in illegal arms sales. To stop her from going public, Wagner decides to bring down the Concorde she is taking from Washington to Moscow via Paris. Pilots Delon and Kennedy, this time in a starring role returning as Joe Patroni, to keep the plane in the air. The preposterous premise plays out even more ludicrously on screen with appalling dialogue and it is hard to determine the unintended from any intended laughs. The earlier entries in the series may have been hokey at times but each had its moments of suspense and drama. This fourth film is poorly assembled and an embarrassment for many of the actors. All this said the film is never boring, as you find yourself laughing at it too much, and therefore not totally wretched. Raye’s final feature film. TV versions run to 132m and incredibly 176m.

Film Review – AIRPORT ’77 (1977)

AIRPORT ’77 (1977, USA, 114m, PG) ***
Action, Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Jerry Jameson; w. Michael Scheff, David Spector (based on a story by H.A.L. Craig and Charles Kuenstle and the novel “Airport” by Arthur Hailey); pr. William Frye; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (Technicolor | 2.35:1); m. John Cacavas; ed. Robert Watts, J. Terry Williams; pd. George C. Webb.
cast: Jack Lemmon (Don Gallagher), Lee Grant (Karen Wallace), Brenda Vaccaro (Eve Clayton), Joseph Cotten (Nicholas St. Downs III), Olivia de Havilland (Emily Livingston), Darren McGavin (Stan Buchek), Christopher Lee (Martin Wallace), Robert Foxworth (Chambers), Robert Hooks (Eddie), George Kennedy (Joe Patroni), James Stewart (Philip Stevens), Monte Markham (Banker), Kathleen Quinlan (Julie), Gil Gerard (Frank Powers), James Booth (Ralph Crawford), Monica Lewis (Anne), Maidie Norman (Dorothy), Pamela Bellwood (Lisa), Arlene Golonka (Mrs. Jane Stern), Tom Sullivan (Steve), M. Emmet Walsh (Dr. Williams), Michael Pataki (Wilson).
The second sequel to AIRPORT also takes its lead from THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE as a botched mid-air hijack of multi-millionaire Stewart’s private 747, carrying a collection of priceless works of art, results in the plane crashing into the sea. As the stricken airliner sinks, its passengers and crew, led by pilot Lemmon, are faced with a nightmare fight for survival. Despite the far-fetched nature of its premise, the film manages to deliver a decent number of thrills. The game cast help to sell the scenario, with Lemmon and McGavin delivering convincing performances. The film does have the usual array of stock characters and their domestic baggage, but the action takes centre stage once the plane hits the water and Jameson keeps the tension high through to the finale. Network TV version added additional footage, including deleted scenes and newly shot footage, and runs 182m. Followed by THE CONCORDE… AIRPORT ’79 (1979).
AAN: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (George C. Webb, Mickey S. Michaels); Best Costume Design (Edith Head, Burton Miller).

Film Review – THE BLACK WINDMILL (1974)

THE BLACK WINDMILL (1974, UK/France, 106m, 12) ***
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Don Siegel; w. Leigh Vance (based on the novel “Seven Days to a Killing” by Clive Egleton); pr. Don Siegel; ph. Ousama Rawi (Technicolor | 2.35:1); m. Roy Budd; ed. Antony Gibbs; ad. Peter Murton.
cast: Michael Caine (Maj. John Tarrant), Donald Pleasence (Cedric Harper), Delphine Seyrig (Ceil Burrows), Clive Revill (Alf Chestermann), John Vernon (McKee), Joss Ackland (Chief Supt. Wray), Janet Suzman (Alex Tarrant), Catherine Schell (Lady Melissa Julyan), Joseph O’Conor (Sir Edward Julyan), Denis Quilley (Bateson), Derek Newark (Monitoring Policeman), Edward Hardwicke (Mike McCarthy), Maureen Pryor (Jane Harper), Joyce Carey (Miss Monley), Preston Lockwood (Ilkeston), Molly Urquhart (Margaret), David Daker (MI5 Man), Hermione Baddeley (Hetty), Patrick Barr (Gen. St. John).
A perfectly competent spy thriller vehicle for Caine who plays a British agent whose son is kidnapped and held for a ransom of diamonds. Caine discovers he can’t even count on the people he thought were on his side to help him, so he decides to track down the kidnappers himself. Siegel directs with his usual economy, but the story never really pulls the viewer in. The shadowy nature of Caine’s world means there is little investment in character and motivation. This means the kidnap element of the plot lacks the tension that it deserves. That said the cast is solid and Pleasence has fun inventing fussy mannerisms as Caine’s immediate superior. Vernon is as reliable as ever in the chief villain role as are some familiar British actors and the finale, in the titular windmill, is excitingly staged. A professional job, but one lacking an emotional heart.

TV Review – THE IPCRESS FILE (2022)

THE IPCRESS FILE (2022, UK, 6 x 45m, 15) **½
Drama, Thriller
dist. ITV (UK); pr co. Altitude Television/Turbine Studios; d. James Watkins; w. John Hodge (based on the novel by Len Deighton); exec pr. Will Clarke, John Hodge, Sanford Lieberson, Andy Mayson, Steven Saltzman, Hilary Saltzman, James Watkins; pr. Paul Ritchie; ph. Tim Maurice-Jones (Colour | 2.00:1); m. Tom Hodge; ed. Karl Rhys; pd. James Price; ad. Holly Morpeth, Ivan Veljaca.
cast: Joe Cole (Harry Palmer), Lucy Boynton (Jean Courtney), Tom Hollander (Major Dalby), Ashley Thomas (Paul Maddox), Paul Higgins (Minister), David Dencik (Col. Gregor Stok), Joshua James (Chico), Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (General Cathcart), Anastasia Hille (Alice), Brian Ferguson (Ian Randall), Matthew Steer (Professor Dawson), Nora-Jane Noone (Dr. Karen Newton), Corey Johnson (Capt. Skip Henderson), Irfan Shamji (Carswell), Anna Geislerová (Dr. Polina Lavotchkin), Urs Rechn (Housemartin), Paul Bazely (Morris), Marko Braic (Murray), Tamla Kari (Deborah), Mark Quartley (Pete), Alexandra Moen (Mrs. Dalby).
An ambitious, stylish, but often impenetrable adaptation of Len Deighton’s 1962 debut novel sees Joe Cole take on the iconic role of ex-smuggler Harry Palmer (played in the 1965 big-screen version by Michael Caine), who is turned into a reluctant spy at the centre of an undercover mission as the Cold War rages around him. When an important British nuclear scientist goes missing, Palmer’s links to the missing man send him on a dangerous mission around the world in a race against time to prevent vital information from falling into the wrong hands and triggering a global catastrophe. The rich period detail is perhaps at times overplayed – Boynton looks like she has wandered in from a Mary Quant photoshoot in every scene she is in – and Watkins’ penchant for using angular framing becomes disorientating and distracting through its persistence. Cole is excellent as Palmer, stamping his own quirky personality on the role, whilst referencing Caine’s iconic look. Where the production falls down is in the muddy complexity of the plot, which is difficult to follow. Individual scenes stand out but as a whole, the series demands a lot of its audience to sustain its interest and comprehension over 6 episodes. In Deighton’s books, Harry Palmer is not named. The character name used in the original movie is carried over here.

Film Review – THE STONE KILLER (1973)

THE STONE KILLER (1973, USA, 95m, 15) ***
Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); pr co. Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica / Produzioni Cinematografiche Inter. Ma. Co. / Rizzoli Film; d. Michael Winner; w. Gerald Wilson (based on the novel “A Complete State of Death” by John Gardner); pr. Michael Winner; ph. Richard Moore (Technicolor | 1.85:1); m. Roy Budd; ed. Frederick Wilson; ad. Ward Preston.
cast: Charles Bronson (Lou Torrey), Martin Balsam (Al Vescari), Jack Colvin (Jumper), Paul Koslo (Langley), Norman Fell (Les Daniels), David Sheiner (Guido Lorenz), Stuart Margolin (Lawrence), Ralph Waite (Mathews), Alfred Ryder (Tony Champion), Walter Burke (J D), Kelley Miles (Geraldine Wexton), Eddie Firestone (Armitage), Charles Tyner (Police Psychiatrist), Byron Morrow (Station Commander), Lisabeth Hush (Dr. Helen Torrey), Frank Campanella (Calabriese), Gene Woodbury (Paul Long), Robert Emhardt (Fussy Man), David Moody (Gus Lipper), John Ritter (Hart).
A decent gritty action thriller vehicle for Bronson as a police detective who learns a 1930s mobster (Martin Balsam) has formed a killer elite to settle an old gangland score. Winner handles the tough and violent action scenes well, but he is less adept with the actors, who give variable performances. The location shifts from New York to Los Angeles are jarringly edited at times and the screenplay lacks clarity of focus. Roy Budd’s energetic score helps to keep things moving and the climactic shootout is well-staged. John Gardner’s 1969 source novel was set in the UK.

Film Review – JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987)

JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987, USA, 89m, 12) **
Adventure, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Joseph Sargent; w. Michael De Guzman (based on characters created by Peter Benchley); pr. Joseph Sargent; ph. John McPherson (DeLuxe | 2.35:1); m. Michael Small; ed. Michael Brown; pd. John J. Lloyd; ad. Donald B. Woodruff.
cast: Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Lance Guest (Michael Brody), Mario Van Peebles (Jake), Karen Young (Carla Brody), Michael Caine (Hoagie), Judith Barsi (Thea), Mitchell Anderson (Sean Brody), Lynn Whitfield (Louisa), Jay Mello (Young Sean Brody), Cedric Scott (Clarence), Charles Bowleg (William), Melvin Van Peebles (Mr. Witherspoon), Mary Smith (Tiffany), Edna Billotto (Polly), Fritzi Jane Courtney (Mrs. Taft), Cyprian R. Dube (Mayor), Lee Fierro (Mrs. Kintner), Moby Griffin (Man in the Boat), Diane Hetfield (Mrs. Ferguson), Daniel J. Manning (Jesus).
Whilst not as bad as its reputation, this third sequel to 1975’s JAWS becomes increasingly preposterous and unravels totally in its final act. The family of widow Ellen Brody (Gary) has long been plagued by shark attacks, and this unfortunate association continues when her youngest son Sean (Anderson) is the victim of a massive great white. In mourning, Ellen goes to visit her other son, Michael (Guest), in the Bahamas, where she meets the charming pilot Hoagie Newcombe (Caine). As Ellen and Hoagie begin a relationship, a huge shark appears off the coast of the island, and Ellen’s trouble with the great whites begins again. The premise presented here through Gary’s paranoia is that the shark is targeting the Brody family. Whilst this is never overtly stated as the reason for the latest attacks, the lack of any logical alternative explanation leaves the film dependant on our willingness to suspend our disbelief. The film is well presented in its early scenes in Amity. When the action moves to the Bahamas, the exotic location makes for some nice photography both above and below the surface. Caine offers up a likeable performance, whilst Gary does her best to persuade us her fears are grounded. Sargent then loses total control of the film in its finale, which is hampered by poor effects work and haphazard editing, which stifle any potential build of tension. Reminders of the masterly original only serve to confirm how low the series had sunk since that classic tale of character and suspense.

Film Review – JAWS 3 (1983)

JAWS 3 (1983, USA, 99m, PG) **
Action, Horror, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures / Alan Landsburg Productions / MCA Theatricals; d. Joe Alves; w. Richard Matheson, Carl Gottlieb (based on a story by Guerdon Trueblood and characters created by Peter Benchley); pr. Rupert Hitzig; ph. James A. Contner (Technicolor | 2.39:1); m. Alan Parker; ed. Corky Ehlers, Randy Roberts; pd. Woods Mackintosh; ad. Paul Eads, Christopher Horner.
cast: Dennis Quaid (Mike Brody), Bess Armstrong (Kathryn Morgan), Simon MacCorkindale (Philip FitzRoyce), Louis Gossett Jr. (Calvin Bouchard), John Putch (Sean Brody), Lea Thompson (Kelly Ann Bukowski), P.H. Moriarty (Jack Tate), Dan Blasko (Dan), Liz Morris (Liz), Lisa Maurer (Ethel), Harry Grant (Shelby Overman), Andy Hansen (Silver Bullet), P.T. Horn (Tunnel Guide), John Edson (Bob Woodbury), Kaye Stevens (Mrs. Kallender), Rich Valliere (Leonard Glass (as Archie Valliere)), Alonzo Ward (Fred), Cathy Cervenka (Sherrie), Jane Horner (Suzie), Kathy Jenkins (Sheila).
This is the second of the increasingly preposterous sequels to 1975’s mega-hit JAWS. The gimmick here is that the film was shot in 3-D and was released as JAWS 3-D. The story here sees a young great white shark finds its way into a sea-themed park managed by Calvin Bouchard (Gossett Jr.), where workers try to capture it. But the facility’s attempt to keep the shark in captivity has dire consequences: A much larger mother shark appears in search of its offspring. Among those who must battle the angry aquatic killing machine are marine biologist Kathryn Morgan (Armstrong), her co-worker Mike Brody (Quaid) and a pair of friendly dolphins. Alves seems more interested in compiling as many 3-D jump scares and depth of field shots than he is in building a compelling story. The result is some decidedly dodgy effects work – the shark footage is often unconvincing – made all the more obvious due to the 3-D process. Quaid and Armstrong do their best to breathe life into their stock characters and situations, whilst Gossett Jr. and McCorkindale see the material for what it is and play with tongue-in-cheek. Followed by JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987).

Film Review – HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016)

HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016, USA, 102m, 15) ****
Crime, Drama
dist. Lionsgate (USA), Studio Canal (UK); pr co. CBS Films / Sidney Kimmel Entertainment / MWM Studios / Film 44 / LBI Productions / Oddlot Entertainment; d. David Mackenzie; w. Taylor Sheridan; pr. Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, Sidney Kimmel, Julie Yorn; ph. Giles Nuttgens (Colour | 2.35:1); m. Nick Cave, Warren Ellis; ed. Jake Roberts; pd. Tom Duffield; ad. Steve Cooper.
cast: Jeff Bridges (Marcus Hamilton), Chris Pine (Toby Howard), Ben Foster (Tanner Howard), Gil Birmingham (Alberto Parker), Marin Ireland (Debbie Howard), John-Paul Howard (Justin Howard), Katy Mixon (Jenny Ann), Kevin Rankin (Billy Rayburn), Ivan Brutsche (Buster), Heidi Sulzman (Ranger Margaret), Christopher W. Garcia (Randy Howard (as Christopher Garcia)), William Sterchi (Mr. Clauson), Dale Dickey (Elsie), Buck Taylor (Old Man), Kristin K. Berg (Olney Teller (as Kristin Berg)), Keith Meriweather (Rancher), Jackamoe Buzzell (Archer City Deputy), Amber Midthunder (Vernon Teller), Joe Berryman (Bank Manager), Taylor Sheridan (Cowboy).
Pine is a divorced father trying to make a better life for his son. His brother (Foster) is a hot-headed ex-convict with a loose trigger finger. Together, they plan a series of heists against the bank that’s about to foreclose on their family ranch. Standing in their way is Bridges, a Texas Ranger who’s only weeks away from retirement. As the siblings plot their final robbery, they must also prepare for a showdown with the crafty lawman who’s not ready to ride off into the sunset. The script adds layers of social commentary and character motivation to this otherwise familiar heist movie. Mackenzie’s sympathetic direction and willingness to develop the characters bring out the best in a strong cast. Bridges has fun essaying his long-in-the-tooth Texas Ranger who spars verbal insults at his half-breed sidekick Birmingham. Peppered with witty dialogue, this is a thoughtful and resonant tale.
AAN: Best Motion Picture of the Year (Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn); Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Jeff Bridges); Best Original Screenplay (Taylor Sheridan); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Jake Roberts)