A Week In Film #442: Line ‘em up

No, not the greatest movie ever made, but certainly a diverting confection – apparently a cheap consolation star vehicle for John Wayne after the success of Dirty Harry, whose eponymous antihero he turned down.

Here he is a Chicago cop on a Red Heat-style trip to London to pick up a mobster (John Vernon) for extradition; stuff happens to prevent this. Along the way he teams up with aristocratic British copper Richard Attenborough and a female detective sergeant (Judy Geeson) for some chalk-and-cheese police work. Throw into the mix James Booth (Hooky in Zulu, Vic Labbett in The Sweeney), Don Henderson and Brian Glover as colourful cockney criminals, as well as a mysterious assassin (Daniel Pilot), great locations (St. Thomas’ Hospital doubling for Scotland Yard, Beckton gas works not pretending to be Hué, and, err, Heathrow: “London’s changed a lot, but it’s basically the same, it’s still a very beautiful city,” claims Geeson, unconvincingly), and some really jazzy direction from Douglas Hickox.

Ah, yes, Hickox – he who did another great London-set crime thriller with Moving Target, which also featured car chases and long lens crane shots and hard boiled violence. Here though it’s more a buddy-cop type vibe, with more humour (though the slapstick Western-ish bar fight is very out of place). He also did Theatre Of Blood, which shares a similar vein of black humour as here.

Not great, but definitely not terrible. And Dickie is definitely having fun.

The Land That Time Forgot
Shlocky Amicus fantasy adventure, starring DOUG MCCLURE, based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, in which a WWI U-boat crew and the survivors of a merchantman it sank find themselves stranded on a hidden island where dinosaurs and cave men still roam. Absolutely terrible effects, but with a nice Planet Of The Apes-influenced framing device, and the submarine scenes are taut. Directed by Kevin Connor, who previously tackled the portmanteau horror film From Beyond The Grave, and would go on to make the bonkers Trial By Combat, about a chivalric order of motorcycle vigilantes.

The Illusionist
So-so mystery thriller with a hint of romance, about a Victorian stage magician (Edward Norton) in late 19th century Austria-Hungary, and the aristocratic (Jennifer Biel) with whom he is in love. Rufus Sewell is rather decent as the Crown Prince with anger issues, but Paul Giamatti does not measure up so well as his petit bourgeois chief detective and all round factotum. Not exemplary from director Neil Burger, but neither is it offensively bad.

The Fourth War
End-of-the-Cold-War drama, which was doing okay when it was just Roy Schneider and Jürgen Prochnow as dinosaurs on opposite sides of the West German-Czechoslovak border; but then director John Frankenheimer had to throw in some pointless intrigue involving a refugee woman.

Paper Mask
Compelling minor thriller from the pen of doctor-turned-screenwriter John Collee, with Paul McGann as a hospital porter who finds himself in at the deep end when he assumes the identity of a dead doctor and secures a job at a Bristol hospital. Amanda Donohoe is excellent as the nurse who sees a fellow traveller in him, as is Tom Wilkinson as a suspicious senior medic. The recently deceased Christopher Morahan (Clockwise, The Jewel In The Crown) directs.

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