Tag Archives: Action

A Journey Paved In Blood

So the second movie mentioned at the start of my last rambling post about the Fifties film “Untamed Youth” was a new release. Directed by Brendan Muldowney (“Love Eternal”, “Savage”), “Pilgrimage” is a medieval period action thriller.

Tom Holland

As the film opens we are witness to a bound man being dragged by a group of men onto a beach in Colchis mid-first century AD and, having had a wooden crucifix torn from around his neck, being stoned to death. The time then switches to the time of the Crusades in the early 13th century and the location to the far West of Ireland where a small band of monks reside, including a novice monk named Brother Diarmuid (Tom Holland – “The Lost City Of Z”, “Edge Of Winter”).

Tom Holland & Stanley Weber

A white-robed Cistercian monk, Brother Geraldus (Stanley Weber – “Sword Of Vengeance”, “Not Another Happy Ending”), arrives with a message from the Pope that a religious relic held by the monks should be taken immediately to Rome as the belief is that it’s power will help the church in the crusades. The relic, it transpires, is a rock that was used in the aforementioned stoning of – we now learn – St. Matthias that God used to kill all those responsible.

John Lynch

Geraldus sets off with Diarmuid and a few other monks including Brothers Ciaran (John Lynch – “Alleycats”, “Detour”) and Cathal (Hugh O’Conor – “The Stag”, “Summer Of The Flying Saucer”) as well as an enigmatic mute (Jon Berthnal – “Sicario”, “The Ghost”) and soon meets up with a group of French soldiers led by Baron de Merville (Eric Godon – “In Bruges”, “Nothing Sacred”).

Hugh O’Conor, Stanley Weber, John Berthnal & Tom Holland

The Baron’s son Raymond De Merville (Richard Armitage – “Robin Hood”, “The Hobbit Trilogy”) and his men are to lead the monks to Waterford. On the way, however, a skirmish with native forces results in the monks being temporarily left to fend for themselves. Is everything and everyone what they seem and will the holy men manage to complete their pilgrimage with the relic intact?…

Eric Godon

This was a decent enough action flick. The fight scenes were often rather gruesome but I would imagine fairly authentic for the period and the setting certainly felt convincing enough. I think this was aided by the use of various languages throughout – specific to the background of the particular characters and enhanced by some very atmospheric music and cinematography.

Richard Armitage

I suspect that the historical aspects used are probably a combination of inspirations from actual history and a lot of imagined scenarios and this works really well. Armitage said in an interview that he hopes those watching the film “…are transported into a world and a time that feels very very alien to how we live now, but at the same time they can relate to the passions of these people centuries before, who are ultimately the same as we are now – full of ambition and full of rage and full of devout belief.” Well, for me there are most definitely echoes from this period of Christian history that reverberate all too strongly with current world events with people being tortured and killed for being the wrong religion or resisting that which is being forced upon them.

The Monks On Their Pilgrimage

Leaving such heavy thoughts aside and just looking at the movie as a piece of entertainment it’s generally very good. However, come the conclusion I did feel slightly cheated by the fact that we don’t get to really find out about the mute, we don’t know what happens next and Brother Diarmuid’s final action gives rise to the question “was it all worth it?”. Good question. I think so, but could understand if some viewers felt the opposite to be true…

Evil Awaits

A couple of months ago I watched a film that used the world of courier cycling as a setting, called “Alleycats” that I quite enjoyed. Using a similar idea, I guess, is the latest movie from Chilean writer / director Patricio Valladares that I watched the other night. Categorised as action / horror / sport – something you don’t see often – the film was released at the end of August this year and is titled “Downhill”.poster_01

Bryce Draper
Bryce Draper

At the start of the film, following a scene where a young woman seems to be the victim of some kind of occult-like ritual, we are introduced to mountain bike enthusiast Joe (Bryce Draper – “Muck”, “Bound”) who is preparing to take part in a downhill race with his best friend. The race ends in tragedy when Joe’s friend falls and is killed.

Ariel Levy & Ignacia Allamand
Ariel Levy & Ignacia Allamand

Some time later, having given up the sport, Joe is tempted out of retirement to take part in an exhibition race in the mountains of Chile. He travels there with his girlfriend Stephanie (Natalie Burn – “Nymph”, “Awaken”) and meets up with his old friends Pablo (Ariel Levy – “Aftershock”, “The Green Inferno”) and Magdalena (Ignacia Allamand – “Knock, Knock”, “The Green Inferno”) for a night of drinking and partying before the race.

Luke Massy
Luke Massy

The following morning Joe and Stephanie head out for a practice ride on the course, during which they stumble across a pickup truck with a badly injured man inside. They call for help but before they know what’s happening they find themselves being chased through the terrain by an armed gang led by an Alpha Hunter (Luke Massy – “Hidden In The Woods”, “Knife To A Gunfight”) and things go rapidly downhill (see what I did there?!)

Natalie Burn & Bryce Draper
Natalie Burn & Bryce Draper

Now, when I reviewed the aforementioned “Alleycats” I made mention that I felt that there was too much emphasis on the cycle riding early on in the film. Well, in this case I’d have to say, especially given that the film’s title implies a strong biking link, that there wasn’t enough downhill mountain biking in the film. There is the initial scene where Joe’s friend dies and a bit when he and Stephanie go for their practice ride in Chile but from that point on (less than half way through the movie) the biking theme goes right out of the window.

Zombie Sex?!
Zombie Orgy?!

What we are then left with is a jumbled plot involving a ruthless gang of locals, plastic bags full of some gory looking contents hanging from trees throughout the forest, a strange unidentified virus, and the odd ritualistic elements, a scene that appears to involve some kind of zombie-like orgy – plus plenty of lingering shots of Burn early on..

Natalie Burn
Natalie Burn

Quite what it all adds up to I’m not entirely sure. On one level you could argue that the viewer sees things as central characters Joe and Stephanie do – odd events occurring without explanation that they just have to react to – but equally you could argue that there are a bunch of ideas thrown together that don’t quite fit together and are never fully realised or explained.

Natalie Burn & Bryce Draper
Natalie Burn & Bryce Draper

Both leads do a decent enough job with the material but it’s not enough to make the whole thing work convincingly to be honest. Not a highly recommended film, then, especially if you’re looking forward to the sport element of the film being more apparent, but with a duration of just 82 minutes there are certainly less entertaining ways of spending your time…crybp05wiae0c6x

Tonight We Ride

On Friday night I caught a new movie, the feature-length debut from director Ian Bonhôte, a crime action thriller film titled “Alleycats”.

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The Alleycats
The Alleycats

An independent film, over £55k of additional funding was raised by a Kickstarter campaign that kicked off in January 2015, and filming took place around London between March and May of last year.

Josh Whitehouse
Josh Whitehouse

We start with Chris (Josh Whitehouse – “Northern Soul”), a bike courier in the Capital, who witnesses what looks like the murder of a young woman when he is delivering packages. He runs and manages to get away with the aid of his bike, together with the footage that his helmet-mounted GoPro camera captured of the incident.

The Mysterious Biker & Josh Whitehouse
The Mysterious Biker & Josh Whitehouse

Later, during a mass illegal street race of fellow couriers, Chris finds himself being tailed by a mysterious black-clad figure on a motorbike. Attempting to escape, Chris is knocked from his bike and killed in a hit-and-run collision with a 4×4.

Eleanor Tomlinson
Eleanor Tomlinson

Chris’s sister Danni (Eleanor Tomlinson – “Styria”, “Poldark”), who has been away, returns and is convinced that his death is no accident. However Danni seems to have a troubled past relationship with authority so the police are dismissive of what she has to say, leading her to set off and undertake her own investigation.

Sam Keeley
Sam Keeley

Along the way she has help from ex-boyfriend Jake (Sam Keeley – “Anthropoid”, “In The Heart Of The Sea”, another bike courier, and Redman (John Lynch – “Black Death”, “The Fall”) who is seeking his missing daughter and is sure that Chris knew something about what happened to her.

John Lynch
John Lynch

It’s made clear that there is someone within the courier community that Danni should be wary of, but you’re never quite sure who that is until they are finally unmasked.

John Hannah
John Hannah

It also becomes clear that Chris – together with an unknown accomplice – was blackmailing government minister Yates (John Hannah – “The Last Legion”, “Rebus”), the kind of self-serving corrupt politician that seem to be practically everywhere you look these days! Yates was the man Chris saw bending over the body of the young woman at the start of the film, and he and his deadly fixer Rives (Virgile Bramly – “Opium”, “Kill Me Please”) are determined to retrieve the footage from Chris’s camera and silence anyone who gets in their way…

Virgile Bramly
Virgile Bramly

Early on in the film I wasn’t sure that I was going to stay the course. I was irritated that almost all of the riders in the Alleycats races chose not to wear cycle helmets and were essentially exactly the kind of riders who give cyclists a bad name, and there seemed to be too much focus on the riding and less on the plot. However, it soon picked up and retained my interest and turned out to be a pretty decent thriller. Worth a viewing…ALLEY_CATS_INT_1-SHEET.indd

The Border Is Just Another Line To Cross

The other night my wife and I watched the 2015 crime action / drama / thriller film “Sicario”. The movie was directed by Denis Villeneuve (“Enemy”, “Prisoners”).11202243_ori

Emily Blunt
Emily Blunt

A by-the-book FBI agent, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt – “Wild Target”, “The Adjustment Bureau”), leads a raid on a home in Arizona that is suspected of being used by kidnappers involved with Mexican drug cartels.

Daniel Kaluuya & Emily Blunt
Daniel Kaluuya & Emily Blunt

Although Kate and her partner Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya – “Welcome To The Punch”, “Johnny English Reborn”) do not find the kidnap victims the team do discover dozens of bodies holed up within the walls of the house. An explosive device in an outbuilding kills two local police officers during the search.

Victor Garber
Victor Garber

Called in by their boss Dave Jennings (Victor Garber – “Self/Less”, “Alias”), Kate and Reggie are concerned that they may be in trouble. However, Kate has been recommended to join a Department Of Defense taskforce tracking down members of the Sonara cartel from Mexico.

Josh Brolin
Josh Brolin

The taskforce is headed by CIA man Matt Graver (Josh Brolin – “Jonah Hex”, “No Country For Old Men”) who tells Kate that they are flying to El Paso in Texas but is rather vague and evasive about the actual mission that they are undertaking.

Benicio Del Toro
Benicio Del Toro

On the plane Kate meets mysterious Colombian Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro – “Inherent Vice”, “Snatch”) and discovers that they are in fact going to Ciudad Juárez on the Mexican side of the border, though it is some time before she finally realises the real mission and the aims behind it, with hidden agenda seemingly everywhere you look!

The Border Fence
The Border Fence

I have no actual knowledge of the real Mexico, but I think it’s fair to say that this film won’t have tourists queueing up to visit some parts of the country once they’ve seen the headless corpses and corrupt police officers on show here.

There are some nicely ominous sounds on the soundtrack and fabulous cinematography of the Mexican landscapes, with the miles and miles of border fence being one of the sights that are particularly effective within the context of the movie. With a look at covert operations, we found this to be a thought-provoking and gripping action film with some solid performances from Blunt, Brolin and Del Toro. Well worth watching…btm

The First Casualty Of War Is Truth…

Today I watched an action / drama movie from 2011, directed by Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2”, “The Long Kiss Goodnight”), entitled “5 Days Of War”.

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Following the quote that “the first casualty of war is truth” – attributed to US politician Hiram Johnson in 1918 – the film opens with the statement that five hundred reporters have been killed during the previous decade in war situations.

Rupert Friend & Richard Coyle
Rupert Friend & Richard Coyle

We then head to Iraq during 2007 where we meet freelance reporter Thomas Anders (Rupert Friend – “The Last Legion”, “Hitman : Agent 47”) and his cameraman Sebastian Ganz (Richard Coyle – “Coupling”, “Pusher”) coming under fire. Anders’ colleague and lover  Miriam Eisner (Heather Graham – “From Hell”, “Austin Powers : The Spy Who Shagged Me”) is killed before he and Ganz are rescued by coalition forces from Georgia.

Val Kilmer
Val Kilmer

A year later the pair head to Georgia when a fellow reporter, Dutchman (Val Kilmer – “Top Gun”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”), tells them that he believes a new conflict is brewing between Georgia and Russia.

Waiting to meet Dutchman’s contact who will guide them to the town of Tskhinvali in South Ossetia, Anders and Ganz watch and film a wedding party in a small Georgian village.

Emmanuelle Chriqui
Emmanuelle Chriqui

During the party they are witness as the village is attacked by Russian helicopters, leaving many dead. The reporter and cameraman manage to escape, together with local girl Tatia Meddevi (Emmanuelle Chriqui – “Three Night Stand”, “Entourage”) who – as luck would have it – studied political science in the US and can act as interpreter for them.

Johnathon Schaech & Director Renny Harlin
Johnathon Schaech & Director Renny Harlin

Meeting up again with Captain Rezo Avaliani (Johnathon Schaech – “The Prince”, “The Poker Club”), who had led the forces that saved them in Iraq, the new trio reunite with Meddevi’s father and sister and manage to covertly film some paramilitary forces, hired by the Russians, committing war crimes.

Rade Serbedzija
Rade Serbedzija

Once the leader of these forces, Colonel Alexandr Demidov (Rade Serbedzija – “Mission : Impossible II”, “Middle Men”) and his right-hand man Daniil (Mikko Nousiainen – “Trench Road”, “Under The North Star”) realise this there begins a race for the reporters to get the footage uploaded before the Russian backed forces get their hands on the evidence.

Mikko Nousiainen
Mikko Nousiainen

They find that the US networks aren’t interested in what’s happening in Georgia as the 2008 Olympics are just getting underway – and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (Andy Garcia – “The Untouchables”, “Let’s Be Cops”) is having just as hard a time getting any help to repel the Russian invaders from the US or Europe…

Andy Garcia
Andy Garcia

The film ends with a montage of Georgian people holding pictures of relatives that they lost during the conflict.

This is an interesting film, and all the more engaging for being based on true events and seen through the eyes of reporters but also of civilians – the latter being those that suffer hugely through something that they really haven’t signed up for – rather than the soldiers involved.

Rupert Friend & Richard Coyle
Rupert Friend & Richard Coyle

The movie was apparently financed with funds coming from sources close to Saakashvili, who was at the time still President of Georgia, and one of the film’s producers was listed as Mirza Davitaia who was himself Deputy Minister of Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sports for the Georgian government. It is perhaps no great surprise, then, that the movie’s relationship with historical accuracy seems a bit biased. I am no expert on this conflict or the events leading up to and surrounding it, though I doubt it is as one-sided (the big bad Russians) as depicted in the film.

Emmanuelle Chriqui & Rupert Friend
Emmanuelle Chriqui & Rupert Friend

That said, director Harlin has stated that “…I talked to a lot of refugees. And I met with a lot of foreign journalists that were still there, who had covered the war. All of these stories started to emerge… we really did the research, and we studied reports from the UN, and on the internet, and the news, and the human rights watch. We wanted to get the timeline, and the facts of the war, very real, and very right. It wasn’t easy, because there was a lot of misinformation on the internet. And a lot of news agencies had covered the story from a point of view that wasn’t faithful to reality… the details of this story were things that we directly heard about, or read, or a combination of the two. The characters were either people we’d learned about, or we took traits and combine those…”. So, although some aspects – the inevitable love interest for example – may be pure Hollywood, there is clearly a lot of truth here, even if it is predominantly from one side of the story. Going back to that opening quote I’m not convinced that this movie presents the truth, rather a somewhat biased and over-simplified version of it.

But, having been moved to find out a little more of the story behind the film I can say that despite some of its shortcomings this is still a really quite powerful movie that gives you plenty to think about. Not only in terms of where other countries choose to get involved, or not to (there is a discussion in the film about Rwanda and the reasons for the West not getting involved) but largely around the complete horror of war, and the unnecessary atrocities that so often accompany it…btm

She’d Love To Kill Him – And Kill… To Love Him!

Taking it easy this morning I dug out an old Italian sci-fi / action / comedy film. Released in 1965 and originally titled “La Decima Dittima”, the movie was directed by Elio Petri (“Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion”, “The Assassin”) and re-titled “The 10th Victim”.

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Robert Sheckley - The 10th Victim
Robert Sheckley – The 10th Victim

Set in a not-too-distant future, the film is loosely based upon a 1953 short story by American writer Robert Sheckley called “Seventh Victim”. Following the film adaptation the author used the movie as a basis for a revised and expanded version of is story for a film tie-in novelisation.

The film itself opens with a narrated explanation of “The Big Hunt”. This is an officially sanctioned game that has been developed in order to avoid large-scale warfare by giving people with the wish to kill the opportunity to do so by joining the game. Each participant signs up for ten rounds of the hunt. The must be the hunter in five rounds and the hunted in five. In the unlikely event that they get through the ten rounds a surviving competitor would gain $1 million and be able to retire from the game. To complicate matters the hunter is given complete information about the person that they are tasked with hunting, the victim is given no information on who is pursuing them and must try to survive by outwitting and then killing their hunter.

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress

A man is seen pursuing a dark-haired woman through the streets of New York, shooting at her, eventually following her into a nightclub.

Ursula Andress
Ursula Andress

The woman seems to have disappeared and the man becomes entranced by a blonde dancer wearing an interesting silver outfit and mask. It becomes clear that this is the same woman, Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress – “Dr. No”, “She”), and she dispatches with bullets shot from her bra (no doubt inspiration for the fembots in the “Austin Powers” movie by Mike Myers. We learn that this was Caroline’s ninth hunt, and that she will be the hunter for her tenth hunt.

Marcello Mastroianni
Marcello Mastroianni

Meanwhile, at an equestrian event Marcello Poletti (Marcello Mastroianni – “La Dolce Vita”, “Marriage Italian Style”) is in the role of hunter, killing his victim by concealing explosives in their riding boots.

Ursula Andress & Marcello Mastroianni
Ursula Andress & Marcello Mastroianni

Naturally, Caroline’s victim on her tenth hunt is to be Marcello. She wastes no time in tracking him down and making herself known to him, posing as a TV reporter wanting to interview him for a live TV show. The hunt is big business in the media, providing entertainment for the masses, and so she has secured sponsorship from Ming Tea for the TV show, which is to be broadcast from the Temple of Venus in Rome. Incidentally Ming Tea was also used as a name for a rock group in “Austin Powers”!

Ursula Andress & Marcello Mastroianni
Ursula Andress & Marcello Mastroianni

Marcello is drawn to Caroline despite feeling that she could be his hunter, and Caroline herself is also attracted to Marcello. Nonetheless, the pair continue their cat and mouse manouvering, each trying to gain the upper hand, all leading to an unexpected climax in front of the TV cameras…

An ahead of its time comment on reality TV and the voyeuristic nature of the media, the film also looks at death being reduced to a commodity to promote various corporations’ products. Whether you take on board the social commentary or just view it as a very cool looking, fairly light-hearted (despite the underlying morality issues) sci-fi tale, I would certainly recommend this film for watching.5157WdEZz2L._SL

Saving The World Never Goes Out Of Style

The other evening my wife and I caught the adventure comedy spy movie from director / co-writer Guy Ritchie (“Snatch”, “Sherlock Holmes”) recently released – “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”.

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Henry Cavill
Henry Cavill

In 1963 former thief, now agent working for the CIA, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill – “Man Of Steel”, “Blood Creek”) is tasked with extracting the daughter of an alleged ex-Nazi scientist Udo Teller (Christian Berkel – “Anti-Social”, “Inglourious Basterds”) from East Berlin, from right under the noses of the KGB.

Armie Hammer & Alicia Vikander
Armie Hammer & Alicia Vikander

Having got the daughter, Gaby (Alicia Vikander – “Ex Machina”, “Seventh Son”), out Solo is then informed by his superiors that he must now work with Gaby and a KGB agent named Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer – “The Lone Ranger”, “The Social Network”) to track down Teller and prevent his employers using his knowledge to build a nuclear weapon.

Elizabeth Debicki & Luca Calvani
Elizabeth Debicki & Luca Calvani

The three head off to Rome, with Gaby and Kuryakin posing as an engaged couple, where they attend a racing event being hosted by Teller’s employers , Alexnader and Victoria Vinciguerra (Luca Calvani – “When In Rome”, “The International” and Elizabeth Debicki – “Macbeth”, “Everest”).

Henry Cavill & Elizabeth Debicki
Henry Cavill & Elizabeth Debicki

Naturally it’s not long before the Vinciguerras have their suspicions about Solo and Kuryakin and when Gaby reveals the pair’s true identities to Alexander and Solo falls into the hands of Victoria it looks like their fates may be sealed…

Hugh Grant
Hugh Grant

Hugh Grant (“Love Actually”, “Cloud Atlas”) pops up later in the film as British agent Alexander Waverly and ex-football legend David Beckham scores a minor role as a projectionist in an early scene.

Guy Ritchie & David Beckham
Guy Ritchie & David Beckham

Critical opinion seems to be split on the merits of this movie. For our part, we found it be great fun.

There are some great action sequences, with lots of humour thrown in to those scenes and to the dialogue. That’s not to say that it’s a spoof in the manner of “Get Smart”, more that it uses humour in a similar way to Roger Moore-era Bond movies – we saw parallels with animated TV series “Archer” too.

Elizabeth Debicki, Alicia Vikander, Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer & Hugh Grant
Elizabeth Debicki, Alicia Vikander, Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer & Hugh Grant

A good pairing, Cavill plays Solo in a calm and restrained manner and Hammer impresses as Kuryakin too. We did think that Debicki, whilst being a very cool customer, was rather too thin, but Vikander was bang-on as Gaby and Grant made the most of his time on-screen.

Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander & Henry Cavill
Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander & Henry Cavill

The locations looked good, the jazzy soundtrack fit the mood perfectly and the costume department did a fabulous job. Not as essential as Ritchie’s “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels” to be honest, but this is still a very entertaining film. The ending sets it up perfectly for a sequel too…

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Matt Helm Is Back With More Guns, More Girls, More Dynamite!

Some time ago I watched an instalment of the Matt Helm series of films based on the books of Donald Hamilton, “The Wrecking Crew”. Today I caught the second movie in the series, “Murderers’ Row” from 1966.

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Donald Hamilton - Murderers' Row
Donald Hamilton – Murderers’ Row

The film was directed by Henry Levin (“Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die”, “The Ambushers”) and was based, however loosely, on Hamilton’s 1962 novel, also titled “Murderers’ Row”.

Following some suitably groovy titles featuring lots of red and pink and pictures of young women – kind of like a swinging sixties James Bond meets Austin Powers sequence – the action starts as Washington D.C. is destroyed by a heliobeam. Then the camera pulls away to reveal that it was a model being destroyed in a demonstration to show how the criminal organisation Bureau of International Government and Order (“Big O”) intends to harness the power of the sun within a matter of days.

Karl Malden
Karl Malden

With Intelligence Counter Espionage (“ICE”) having been infiltrated, Big O chief Julian Wall (Karl Malden – “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “Where The Sidewalk Ends”) orders that all ICE agents be killed.

Corinne Cole & Dean Martin
Corinne Cole & Dean Martin

After a number of agents are killed in various explosive ways photographer / agent Matt Helm (Dean Martin – “Who Was That Lady?”, “Kiss Me, Stupid”), busy shooting portraits for a calendar meets his fate at the hands of Miss January (Corinne Cole – “The Party”, “The Swinger”) in a bizarre tipping bed / indoor pool incident!

Matt's Wake
Matt’s Wake

After a wake at Matt’s local bar, which is filled with weeping women wearing black trench coats, hats and fishnets (naturally), we see his boss at ICE, MacDonald (James Gregory – “The Manchurian Candidate”, “The Silencers”), meet the not-so-dead-after-all Matt to discuss the inventor of the heliobeam, one Dr. Norman Solaris (Richard Eastham – “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, “That Darn Cat!”, who has disappeared without trace. Matt’s sent to Monte Carlo to begin investigations under the assumed name Jim Peters, where he is to team up with local contact Dominique.

Ann-Margret
Ann-Margret

When he arrives she is already dead and he meets Suzie (Ann-Margret – “Tommy”, “The Pleasure Seekers”), a friend of Dominique, by the swimming pool. Suzie says that Dominique is missing.

Dean Martin & Ann-Margret
Dean Martin & Ann-Margret

Before you know it she and Matt are cutting a rug on a nightclub dance floor. Well, it’s more a case of Suzie dancing while Matt wisecracks but it’s certainly a productive use of Ann-Margret’s visual talents(!).

Camilla Sparv
Camilla Sparv

Julian is also in Monte Carlo, with Coco Duquette (Camilla Sparv – “The Trouble With Angels”, “Downhill Racer”). They spot Matt coming out of Dominique’s apartment and send a killer, Ironhead (Tom Reese – “Vanishing Point”, “The Outfit”) after him. But police arrive at the nightclub to inform Suzie that Dominique has been murdered, all hell breaks loose and Matt is arrested for Dominique’s murder, with Julian, Coco and Suzie as witnesses!

Ann-Margret
Ann-Margret

Despite Julian’s insistence neither Coco or Suzie manage to identify Matt and he is set free. Meeting up later with a babydoll-clad Suzie, Matt discovers that she is Solaris’s daughter and that she is convinced that Coco is responsible for his disappearance.

Tom Reese
Tom Reese

Matt falls into the clutches of Julian and Coco and discovers that they do, indeed, have Dr. Solaris. Mistaking Matt for an American gangster Lash Petroni, Julian decides to use him to kill MacDonald and get rid of Suzie too. Matt manages to overpower Ironhead and make his escape but will he be able to save Suzie and her father, not to mention Washington D.C.?

Ann-Margret
Ann-Margret

Naturally things can’t be that simple, especially with more than half of the film still to go. Matt and Suzie have to survive any number of scenarios involving lots of bluffs and apparent double crosses – and several more costume changes for Ann-Margret – as Julian attempts to see Washington D.C.’s destruction…

Dean Martin
Dean Martin

When I wrote about “The Wrecking Crew” I said that it was “a light-hearted spy caper… full of gentle humour, action, hip and swinging 60s music, gadgets, explosions and hot chicks.” That is equally true of “Murderers’ Row”.

There’s plenty of opportunities for Martin to indulge in wisecracks and innuendo and lots of shots of Ann-Margret strutting her stuff with close-up shots of her anatomy, the filmmakers using her sexuality to full advantage, just as was the case with Sharon Tate in the aforementioned instalment.

Old fashioned, less than convincing visual effects, sexist etc. etc. Yes, the movie is all of these things, but if you enjoy tongue-in-cheek espionage spoofs from an era when practically all women fell for the hero at first sight it’s also great fun…murderers row 320x240

No Laws. No Limits. No Turning Back

A couple of days ago I watched an action / sci-fi movie, directed by David Hogan (“Most Wanted”). Released nearly twenty tears ago now, in 1996, and not viewed by me for at least a decade, “Barb Wire” is something of a guilty pleasure.

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Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson

The film is set in America during the year 2017, during the Second American Civil War, where the Congressional Directorate have seized control of the entire country, which the notable exception of Steel Harbor. The Congressionals have developed a virus that they are planning to use against entire cities.

Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson

Barb Wire (Pamela Anderson – “Baywatch”, “V.I.P.”) runs a nightclub called The Hammerhead in Steel Harbor, but also supplements her income by working as a bounty hunter and mercenary. As the movie opens she is writhing around on the stage of the nightclub, whilst getting rather wet and having no success whatsoever in keeping her remarkably buoyant breasts within her ill-fitting leather dress.

“Don’t Call Me Babe”

This scene ends when one of the patrons makes the mistake of calling her “babe” – resulting in death-by-stilleto-heel-to-the-forehead and the first uttering of Barb’s catchphrase “Don’t Call Me Babe”.

Xander Berkeley
Xander Berkeley

Before long The Hammerhead is raided by local police chief Alexander Willis (Xander Berkeley – “Terminator 2 : Judgment Day”, “Nikita”), who is looking for a fugitive former government scientist Dr. Corrina Devonshire.

Victoria Rowell
Victoria Rowell

Dr. Devonshire, AKA Cora D (Victoria Rowell – “The Young And The Restless”, “Diagnosis Murder”) has had surgery to alter her appearance and is aiming to reach freedom in Canada to blow the whistle on the Congressionals virus plans. However the authorities have retinal recognition scanners at airports and borders.

As luck would have it, the resistance movement have a pair of special contact lenses that will allow the wearer to pass through the scanners undetected, which end up (naturally) at Barb’s nightclub.

Temuera Morrison & Pamela Anderson
Temuera Morrison & Pamela Anderson

Also turning up at the nightclub are Cora D and her freedom fighter husband Axel Hood (Temuera Morrison – “Vertical Limit”, “Once Were Warriors”). Axel and Barb were lovers at the outbreak of the conflict but became separated during the ongoing civil war.

Steve Railsback Pamela Anderson
Steve Railsback & Pamela Anderson

Cora D needs the contact lenses to get to Canada, Congressional baddie Colonel Pryzer (Steve Railsback – “Follow The Prophet”, “Ed Gein”) is after both the lenses and Cora D, Willis is under direction from Pryzer but has a soft spot for Barb, and Barb plans to use the lenses to make a small fortune and escape to Canada herself…

Pamela Anderson Congressionals
Pamela Anderson & Congressionals

The nasty Congressionals wear uniforms that look remarkably like those from Nazi Germany, some of the sets look exactly like sets and Barb’s hair gets very big at times, even by the standards of the day!

Casablanca
Casablanca

This film is, seemingly, based not-so-loosely on the plot of “Casablanca”, with gender swapping seeing Anderson in the Bogart role, and added violence, guns, explosions, sci-fi and boobs… but it is unlikely to ever be regarded in a similar light as a bona-fide movie classic.

Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson

When this movie hit the cinema screen back in 1996 it was with an 18 certificate. That was most likely due to some nudity rather than anything else. There is violence throughout the film, but really it’s almost cartoonish – presumably as a result of the main character’s comic book origins.

It’s probably fair to say that the main target audience consisted of teenage males – many of whom wouldn’t have been able to get in to see the film, and it’ll be the nostalgic teenager in me that enjoyed watching it again.

Pamela Anderson In Baywatch
Pamela Anderson In Baywatch

In truth, this isn’t a great film. It’s not a particularly good film. The pacing is slow, the plot haphazard and even the sexual scenes oddly unerotic. Anderson acquits herself reasonably well but if this was supposed to move her from TV success to big screen success then it wasn’t likely to work. If you want to see Anderson at her best, projecting some genuine sexuality and involved in better storylines you’d be best off catching re-runs of “Baywatch”, but this is still an entertaining 90 minutes if watched once every ten years or so!…

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Alive And Well And Swinging In Copenhagen…

After making “Valley Of The Dolls” in 1967, Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski married in London during January 1968 leading Tate to take a short break from work. However, by the summer of that year she had started work on what would be her last film to be released (January 1969 in the UK) before her death – “The Wrecking Crew”.

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HELM2copyDirected by Phil Karlson (“The Silencers”, “Kid Galahad”), “The Wrecking Crew” was the fourth, and ultimately final, movie to feature the character of Matt Helm and was loosely based on the 1960 novel of the same name by author Donald Hamilton.

Nigel Green
Nigel Green

As the film opens we are witnessing the robbery of a billion dollars worth of gold from a train in Denmark by a gang working for Count Massimo Contini (Nigel Green – “Deadlier Than The Male”, “The Ipcress File”), who watches the action unfold on monitors in his château and is intent on causing financial chaos throughout the Western world.

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer

Contini is aided in his quest by his glamorous sidekick  and lover Linka Karensky (Elke Sommer – “A Shot In The Dark”, “Lisa And The Devil”), who makes her appearance in a quite show stopping dress.

Dean Martin
Dean Martin

Womanising professional photographer and wisecracking agent Matt Helm (Dean Martin – “Ocean’s 11”, “Bandolero!”) is dispatched by his organisation ICE, under direction from the US President, to Copenhagen with 48 hours to retrieve the gold and save the American economy.

Tina Louise
Tina Louise

Arriving at his hotel Matt is invited to the room of Lola Medina (Tina Louise – “The Stepford Wives”, “The Warrior Empress”), a dancer who was Contini’s lover until Karensky arrived on the scene, who claims to have useful information about the robbery of the gold that will help him, but Medina is killed in an explosion.

Sharon Tate & Dean Martin
Sharon Tate & Dean Martin

Freya Carlson (Sharon Tate – “Don’t Make Waves”, “Valley Of The Dolls”) , a seemingly inept worker from the Danish tourist bureau, is provided to Matt to help him by arranging a photographic shoot at Contini’s château as cover for his investigations. Freya wears glasses and thus Matt fails to see her beauty despite his fondness for chasing the fairer sex.

Nancy Kwan
Nancy Kwan

At the château it becomes apparent that Contini is on to them so Matt and Freya make a hasty exit and find themselves pursued by a variety of characters, including Yu-Rang (Nancy Kwan – “The Peking Medallion”, “Wonder Women”), and others of Contini’s hired hands.

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer

Karensky then invites Matt to her room, claiming that she wants to enter into a partnership with him and get out away from Contini. Their head-to-head is interrupted by Freya’s arrival leading to Matt leaving Karensky with the promise that she has a deal and should call him.

Sharon Tate  Dean Martin
Sharon Tate & Dean Martin

Returning to his hotel, Matt finds Freya has shed her glasses and slipped into a slinky white mini-dress for what is, for me, the best scene of the whole movie as Freya dances slowly around the room whilst handing Matt and cigarette and drink – all for no apparent reason!

John Larch
John Larch

Matt’s boss MacDonald (John Larch – “Dirty Harry”, “The Amityville Horror”) arrives at the hotel and informs a disbelieving Matt that Freya is actually a highly trained British agent.

Sharon Tate & Nancy Kwan
Sharon Tate & Nancy Kwan

From there on in Matt and Freya contend with a number of scenarios involving Yu-Rang, Karensky and Contini in his quest to retrieve the gold for ICE…

Dean Martin
Dean Martin

There was supposed to have been a fifth Matt Helm movie, indeed as with the James Bond films this one ends with the announcement of the title of the next film (“The Ravagers”) during the end credits, but it was cancelled after Dean Martin pulled out.

thirteen-chairs-posterSharon Tate, meanwhile, went on to film “The Thirteen Chairs” (otherwise known as “12 + 1”) with Orson Welles and Terry-Thomas in early 1969, shortly after becoming pregnant. That film is seemingly more or less impossible to find these days, with the exception of an Italian language version on YouTube, unfortunately. Tate was murdered, only weeks before she was due to give birth, before that film’s release.

Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate

In truth, Martin was getting a little long in the tooth for the role of Matt Helm by this point, but plays things with his tongue firmly in his cheek. Tate, however, was great, showed promise on the comedy front and managed to upstage Sommer completely (despite the latter’s variety of plunging dresses) with her performance in the second half of the movie.

Explosion
Explosion

Ultimately this film is a light-hearted spy caper. It’s full of gentle humour, action, hip and swinging 60s music, gadgets, explosions and hot chicks.

Highly recommended!

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