Saturday, August 08, 2015

Movie review - "When Eight Bells Toll" (1971) **1/2

Anthony Hopkins didn't really become a star until Silence of the Lambs but his reputation as a brilliant stage actor meant several attempts were made to turn him into one before then. This was the first real go - Elliott Kastner had a big hit with Alistair MacLean's Where Eagles Dare and wanted to kick off a MacLean "franchise" about salvage expert Phil Calvert starring Hopkins. It didn't really turn out that way but the novelty of seeing Hopkins as an action her is a big plus of this movie.

He's not too bad - intense, great voice - even though you don't quite buy him with the fight scenes. The story is more problematic. I mean, it's not bad - involving deliberate sinking of vessels to pinch bullion - it just feels a bit TV. It starts off impressively with Hopkins discovering some murdered agents, then gets bogged down with him strolling around the islands looking for clues. It feels murky and lacks the full throttled excitement of his better works - it doesn't have the ticking clock of a guys on a mission film.The baddies are robbers but the hero makes a lot of cracks about the worthlessness of rich people. It's more Jamaica Inn or The Hardy Boys than Guns of Navarone at times - it feels too TV.

There are some familiar MacLean tropes: a person close to the hero turns out to be a traitor (Nathalie Delon), the baddy is a decoy (Jack Hawkins using Charles Gray's voice as a millionaire only doing it because his wife is hostage), the death of a friend (Corin Redgrave). Robert Morley is the "M" character, who goes along on the mission.

It's a gloomy looking film - overcast skies, crashing waves, ocean - with some craggily beautiful Scottish photography. The director was someone called Etiene Perier - I don't think he does a very good job with creating suspense or atmosphere - or handling actors (who I had trouble telling apart). There's not much chemistry between Hopkins and Natalie Delon.

Some of the action is okay and at times its enjoyable.

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