Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brief Thoughts - WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL (1971)

When I was a teenager I read several of Alistair MacLean's thrillers and enjoyed them quite a lot. I don't remember if I was very aware of the film adaptations of his work that had been done except tangentially because, at the time, they weren't of much interest to me. I had seen the fantastic GUNS OF NAVERONE (1962) and the amazing WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968) but until recently I didn't realize that MacLean adapted his own novel for the screen for Eagles - a task he repeated three more times over the next decade turning his books When Eight Bells Toll, Puppet On A Chain and Breakheart Pass into scripts. I haven't read a MacLean novel in years but I am becoming interested in doing so now that I have been reminded of his skill in telling well plotted, suspenseful tales. Last month I watched the excellent but (to my eyes) chopped down BREAKHEART PASS (1975) and now I have seen the remarkable film version of WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL and color me stunned.

Without a doubt WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL (1971) is one of the best and most underappreciated spy thrillers of the 1970's. The fact that this movie is not better known is a damned crime against cinema! I have never read anyone singling it out for praise or even drawing attention to it as a superior thriller and that is crazy. This is a great film ripe for discovery and deserving of consideration for a Blu-Ray release complete with serious extras. I want to hear Sir Anthony Hopkins' memories of making this film as well as Nathalie Delon's. Sadly, the wonderful Robert Morley and the great Jack Hawkings have long since passed away but several bit players are still around and active in the film industry - get them on the record about this movie! Now!

I may be the only person wishing for this film to be noticed and lauded but I honestly suspect that if more people saw it they would be impressed. It's a serious spy story with real wit and humor that doesn't treat the dangerous aspects of the story as jokes. It has the feel of the early Bond films before the degeneration into self-parody that made the Moore films so increasingly silly. Seek this one out, folks - it's an undiscovered classic.


Nick Rentz said...

What's the best way to view this movie?

Rod Barnett said...

There is a good Region 2 DVD.