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Posts Tagged ‘Jenny Agutter’

The Survivor (1981) Blu-Ray Review

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

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Stars – Robert Powell, Jenny Agutter, Joseph Cotten, Peter Sumner, and Lorna Lesley
Director – David Hemmings

Released by Severin

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

James Herbert wrote some of the best and most fun horror novels that came out during the mid seventies through the eighties. He had a tremendous knack for writing books that read like great B movies, only the budgets were huge. He was one of the first that indulged in scenes of graphic violence. Herbert also wrote well. He kept you turning the pages at a relentless pace but gave readers strong characters. Anyone who looked for a horror paperback to read during that time will instantly recall the distinctive covers that drew you to them. Titles like The Rats, The Fog, The Spear, Lair, The Jonah and The Survivor were terrific reads for genre fans. His stories however have not fared all that well when made into movies which is a crying shame. The Rats which was filmed as Deadly Eyes is well known for its shoddy use of small dogs running around with fur vests and coats on. Fluke which is a rather tender story from a dog’s point of view also made it to the screen. David Hemmings who was a highly respected actor working in films as varied as Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup and Barbarella directed this adaptation.

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A plane crash lands in Australia. Shortly after hitting the ground it explodes in spectacular fashion. Large balls of fire fill the screen and erupt into the dark sky. What is strange is that the pilot is able to walk away from the crash seemingly unscathed. He is the lone survivor. The first half hour of the film has barely any dialogue and what is there is hard to follow due to poor recording, low levels and mumbled dialogue. We get a few glimpses of the lovely Jenny Agutter (Walkabout, American Werewolf in London) but she does not really appear in the film till the last half hour. Joseph Cotton (The Third Man) has a small role as a priest. A little while later in the story the apparent ghosts of children killed in the crash takes the lives of a few locals. These scenes have very little impact with no suspense of shock to them. Eventually we learn that Agutter’s character is a psychic. She helps the pilot to unravel the mystery of his guilt and survival. The revelation as shown in the film is not as strong as many episodes of The Twilight Zone would have played it though it is definitely in that realm.

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Portions of the photography have a style that recalls the Euro horror films done in Italy by directors like Dario Argento. However there is a real inconsistency in the narrative and the basic development of the characters. Director Hemmings at least here has a plodding style. His lack of pace just kills any momentum of suspense. There is enough in this film to entice you to give it a look. The draw of the actors involved and the source novel will call out to quite a few. As someone who has enjoyed Herbert’s books immensely this was a another let down. There is a bit of creepiness to the proceedings but not quite enough to engage you the way it should. Still if you‘ve seen The Deadly Eyes and Fluke you may as well view this one.

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Video – 2.39:1
The film is given a nice presentation by Severin. Even though there are a lot of scenes in the dark black levels never exhibit any harsh noise or distortion. We get some very nice compositions at times from DP John Seal. Hemmings looks to have elected to keep a lot of scenes more on the darker side. The fireballs in the beginning are the best looking part of the whole film.

Audio – 2.0 PCM track with subtitles offered in English
The first half hour, for me had dialogue that was difficult to follow. Levels were low, actors mumbled and there was hardly any separation in the track at all. Throughout the film there was an uneasy balance between the dialogue, the odd sound effects and the ultra dynamics of Brian May’s score. Many portions of the film just felt flat and dull. Locations often had no background sound to define them.

Extras – Not Quite Hollywood – Extended Interviews with Producer Antony I. Ginnane and Cinematographer John Seale
The Legacy of James Herbert
Robert Powell on James Herbert
Archive TV Special on Location – Featuring Interviews with Stars Joseph Cotten and Peter Sumner
Archive TV Interviews with David Hemmings and Robert Powell Antony I Ginnane Trailer Reel
TV Spot

The appreciation of James Herbert’s work by two fellows was very enjoyable. They caught what appealed to his fans and gave a nice run down of his books and how some of them fared as movies. David Hemmings comes off wonderfully in the vintage TV talk show. He’s very entertaining.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic :

Blu-Ray – Good / Excellent

Movie – Fair

The Eagle Has Landed (1976) Blu-Ray Review

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Stars: Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland, Jenny Agutter, Donald Pleasence, Larry Hagman, Anthony Quayle, Judy Geeson, Treat Williams
Director: John Sturges
Released by Shout Factory

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Jack Higgins had a runaway bestseller published in September of 1975. The film adaptation bearing the same name followed very closely at its heels. Director John Sturges was chosen to helm the project. Sturges’ most popular films include Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), and Joe Kidd (1972). This was his last feature. He specialized in strong action films populated by tough men with lots of character. The plot centers around an idea to somehow kidnap Winston Churchill toward the end of World War II to demoralize the Allies. High ranking commanders of the Third Reich assign an officer played by Robert Duvall to do a feasibility study. Duvall discovers intelligence that Churchill will be at a remote seaside village and he knows just the crack paratrooper who could lead his men in for the job. Encouraged by the ever-distrustful Himmler (Donald Pleasance) he puts the plan into action. The men will parachute in and then disguised as Polish soldiers they’ll blend right in on maneuvers until Winston is within range. It’s a crackerjack set up with a daring plan that just might work. The challenge is that the protagonists are Germans. They are the Nazis. That’s a difficult group to get the audience behind.

There is a very pivotal scene early on. It’s the introduction of Michael Caine’s character, Colonel Steiner. We see and his men take a break at a train station. Also at the station is a train car full of Jews being sent to the concentration camps. A young girl makes a break for it running across the train yard. Just as the soldiers aim at her with their rifles, Caine scoops her up into his arms. His own men draw there weapons and there is a momentary stand off. Caine tosses the girl into the open car of another passing train. He tells her good luck. For his actions he and his men are court marshaled and thrown in to prison. There is a gallantry about him. He’s a committed solider alright, even a deadly one but he draws the line at harming women and children. War is to be fought by soldiers. When Duvall gets him and his men released from the jail for the mission he reinstates their ranks and offers to expunge their records. Caine says he and his men to not need any of that, they are fine with their actions. It works. In the extras screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz talks about this scene and how important it was to get the audience willing to take Colonel Steiner’s side. He wrote several Bond Films – Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).

 

The suspenseful intrigue of the men sneaking into the village and maintaining their cover is very well done. Donald Sutherland (MASH) plays a roguish Irish mercenary who falls for the local town girl Jenny Agutter (Walkabout). When we get to the few skirmish and later full blown actions scenes they are all handled well and executed with a sure hand by director Sturges. The only false note is played by Larry Hagman as US Colonel Pitts. He is a bumbling and inept officer who leads his men into a foolhardy confrontation. The humor in his part goes just a bit too far overboard. With seriously played war films there is a very delicate balance with that sort of thing. Too far to one side and you have Kelly’s Heroes (1970) which was a fun film but one whose comedic leanings were obvious from the start and fit the film. Sturges struck just the right pitch with some of the prisoners’ antics in The Great Escape. Even though Steve McQueen and others pushed their humorous bravado at not time were the threats and punishments of the German officers presented as anything but real.

 

The Eagle Has Landed sports an exceptional cast. They carry the narrative admirably. Many of the supporting actors in this are recognizable. You’ll spot Treat Williams (Hair) and Judy Geeson (To Sir with Love). This is a wartime thriller with some historical overtones. It’s played straight and works quite well. While not quite in the top tier of John Sturges’ work, this is still a very enjoyable movie.

Video – 2.35:1 The elements used for this Blu-ray must have been in excellent shape. There is nary a scratch or errant speck of dirt to be found. Detail is strong and colors are all well defined. The English countryside locations look wonderful and very realistic. The military uniforms look as sharp as the villagers clothes look worn in. Fans of the film will be very satisfied with this presentation.

 

Audio – DTS English Mono with subtitles offered in English All dialogue is clear. There is a plethora of accents here. Some are real and many are affected by the actors for their roles here. Lalo Schifrin’s score has the all the expected suspenseful cues and military braggadocio to suit the material. It’s got a pleasant familiar feel to it and is presented clearly here.

 

Extras – The Eagle Has Landed: Revisited, Tom Mankiewicz Looking Back, • Film Night Location Report, On Location In Norfolk, ATV Today On Location. The revisiting location reports are pretty dull however the pieces with writer Tom Mankiewicz and director John Sturges are very good. Each is articulate with good recall. There is a fun bit with the interviewer throwing titles at Sturges as he makes quick off the cuff comments the films he directed. Mankiewicz who wrote a number of the James Bond films offers good insight into his scripting and character decisions for the film. A DVD version is included in the combo pack.

 

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic

 

Movie – Good

Blu-Ray – Excellent