Film Four & Film Four +1 31-05-08.

Astra 2D at 28.2E 10729 V SYM:22000 FEC 5/6

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FILM4 31 May 2008

The Riddle of the Sands
(1979) While out sailing in the North Sea, Arthur Davies has a run-in with a local German captain, Dollmann.Two British yachtsman uncover a secret German plot to invade the English east coast. First World War drama starring Michael York, Simon MacCorkindale and Jenny Agutter
Nothing suggests 1970s and 1980s cheese quite like the triumvirate of Michael York, Simon MacCorkindale and Jenny Agutter. Okay, so the Logan's Run co-stars did make the occasional decent film in amongst all the shlock - although Logan's Run itself isn't one of them. But the very mention of Mr Susan George conjures up images of disasters like Jaws 3D and The Quatermass Conclusion, not to mention shonky TV shows such as 'Falcon Crest' and the rightly maligned 'Manimal'. A veritable movie cheeseboard, The Riddle Of The Sands pits our plucky trio against the might of 1910s Germany. York and MacCorkindale play two yachtsman who discover that the Hun is planning to invade England using a fleet of special barges. All that stands behind Kaiser Wilhelm and ultimate victory are Harry Harper from 'Casualty', the guy who played D'Artagnan in Richard Lester's Musketeer movie and the woman who got her stuff out in Walkabout.
Overseen by Tony Maylam - whose eccentric CV includes a Genesis concert movie and Hero: The Official FIFA Film Of The 1986 World Cup - The Riddle Of The Sands is entertaining even when it doesn't mean to be. Key sources of fun include the overwrought script and a typically rich turn from Michael Sheard. A dab hand at playing Hitler, the man who was Mr Bronson in 'Grange Hill' was probably a bit miffed to miss out on the role of the Kaiser - that role went to a man lucky enough to be called Wolf Kahler. Still, watching Sheard at work, it's clear someone was willing to give more to the picture than it really deserved.

That Riviera Touch
(1966) Morecambe and Wise star in this continental comic caper.Two traffic wardens find themselves caught up in a complicated plot involving the Royal Family, the South of France and stolen booty. Comedy starring Morecambe and Wise
Long before they started sleeping together and recorded those smash-hit Christmas specials, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise made three motion pictures, The Intelligence Men, The Magnificent Two and That Riviera Touch. Those who love Eric and Ernie for the way they interact with guest stars and prattle on about Ernie's short, fat, hairy legs and the plays what he wrote will be disappointed to find that these elements are missing from this, the second and best of their so-so big-screen outings.n fact, very little of the Morecambe and Wise we know and love is on show here. Eric and Ernie star as traffic wardens who, thanks to a muddle up with British royalty, find themselves holidaying in the south of France. There, they become involved with Le Pirate (Sassin), a Gallic thief who intends to use the hapless pair to smuggle his goods overseas. Of course, it's not long before pandemonium reigns as our comic heroes cross swords with all sorts of villains and almost come to blows over the comely thiefette Claudette (Lloyd).
Directed by Cliff Owen (who became something of a specialist at introducing small screen acts to the cinema), That Riviera Touch is a pedestrian effort sorely lacking Eric and Ernie's trademark energy and cheek. By far the biggest problem is the screenplay which creaks where the duo's TV scripts crackled. But Eric and Ernie are also below par - then primarily a stage act, their larger than life comedy is completely lost on film. Fortunately, for both them and us, the pair would hook up with writer Eddie Braben before the decade was out. With small-screen immortality just around the corner, it wouldn't be long before memories of That Riviera Touch and those other misbegotten movies gave way to great song and dance numbers and the wholesale destruction of Des O'Connor's career.

The Tall Men
(1955) Rousing action Western starring Clark Gable and Cameron Mitchell.By the time he made this spectacular western Walsh had been making movies for well over 50 years and presented a superficially no-nonsense cattle-drive adventure. But the period is just after the Civil War and the Allinsons (Gable, Mitchell) are from the defeated South, now determined to make a new life. They join Stark (Ryan) a Northern businessman on a cattle drive. The further complication is a rivalry over a woman (Russell). The blend of superbly handled action - including a stampede - with some sharp dialogue (especially between Gable and Russell) is complimented by the underlying tension and a complicated resolution when neither side 'wins'.

Thunderbird 6
(1968) International Rescue's second big screen outing.

We Were Soldiers
(2002) Mel Gibson stars in this dramatisation of a key battle in the Vietnam war from the writer of Braveheart and Pearl Harbor.Mel Gibson gets to play soldier boy again in this dramatisation of a key battle in the Vietnam war from right-wing hack Randall Wallace, writer of Braveheart and Pearl Harbor
We Were Soldiers Mel Gibson plays real life soldier Lt Col Hal Moore, a man whose credentials, and by extension those of the America he represents, are presented in the laboured 45 minute first act of We Were Soldiers, a film based on the book co-written by Moore and war reporter Joseph Galloway. Moore is as a conservative catholic family man (his kids call him "sir") and Korea vet. But he's also liberal enough to have a Methodist wife (Stowe) and embrace, in stirring speeches, the multiculturalism of the cavalry battalion ("the 7th - the same regiment as Custer") under his command. The war is still young when Moore, his right-hand man - the indestructible Sgt-Maj Plumley (played wonderfully by Elliot) - and their patriotic charges head off to Vietnam. Four hundred men are helicoptered into "The Valley Of Death". Unknowingly, they find themselves on the doorstep of the "base camp of a whole division" - 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers.

John Carpenter's Vampires
(1998) Master of horror John Carpenter turns his attention to the vampire myth, with James Woods as the leader of a gang of mercenary vampire killers.Macho but moderately inventive contemporary take on vampire mythology. James Woods play a tough-as-nails vampire hunter who goes up against "the first vampire"
John Carpenter's Vampires With proprietary credit firmly in place, Carpenter delivers a rowdy, bloody B-movie starring a typically sardonic Woods as leader of a nomadic band of vampire hunters. The defiantly male-skewed adventure has its Hawksian charm, but Carpenter rouses himself only for the action set pieces (which include a terrific opening).

(1999) This cult flick sees the small Texan town of Gallup threatened by mutant bats, created (for no obvious reason) by loopy scientist Bob Gunton.Lou Diamond Phillips and Dina Meyer star in a low budget, B-movie inspired eco-horror. In a small Texan town mutant killer bats are feasting on human flesh, all thanks to the actions of an evil genetic scientist
The first release by independent studio Destination Films is a cheerfully cheesy animals-go-mad flick in the spirit of the late night drive-in. Though there's nothing startlingly new in the plot, director Morneau (Quake, Carnosaur 2) does assemble an enjoyably daft ecological disaster movie complete with fabulously ropey dialogue and special effects. For no obvious reason, mad scientist Dr McCabe (Gunton) has created a strain of super-intelligent, over-sized killer bats, and pretty soon the critters are hungry for human blood. Enter Sheriff Kimsey (Phillips) and beautiful bat expert Dr Sheila Caspar (Meyer). However, it's not just malicious winged mammals (and their extensive excrement) with which the duo must contend: the authorities have got wind of the bat invasion and plan to stop it by bombing the Texan town to smithereens.

As the man who subsequently penned Gladiator, Star Trek: Nemesis and Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas and writer John Logan has a fairly mainstream track record. Here however his principle influence is Roger Corman and he clearly revels in all the conventions of B-grade schlock. Philips and Meyer play it straight but such is Morneau's direction that it's hard to tell whether the comic touches are intentional or not. Either way, the result is a riot of late night battiness - not big and not clever but unexpectedly entertaining.