A while back I watched the Alistair MacLean adaptation WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL (1971) and loved it. This prompted me to seek out more films crafted from MacLean novels so I watched PUPPET ON A CHAIN (1971) which was very good and BEAR ISLAND (1979) which was solid as well.
Of the two POAC is better, but I was more intrigued by
The film has an amazing cast - Donald Sutherland, Vanessa Redgrave, Lloyd
Bridges, Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee - and is set in a snowbound locale
that appeals directly to my love of isolated settings. I clicked 'play' with
the memory of this film being a regular offering on HBO in the early 80's but I
couldn't be sure if I had ever seen it. Well, ten minutes in I was not only
sure I had watched this movie before but I remembered a BEAR ISLAND LOT
of the plot. I remembered so much, in fact, that I recalled the solution to the
mystery as well as the identity of the surprise villain! Oh well. I still
enjoyed catching this one again because its a fine story with some good
performances and a fun series of action scenes in the snow. The stuff done with
motorized snow sleds is incredible! And I love that Sutherland is such a
taciturn bastard for most the film and that we only become sympathetic to him
because he is the one unraveling the reason people are turning up dead.
Much like the MacLean film adaptation BREAKHEART PASS (1975) this film feels chopped down from a longer length. There are several scenes that we seem to join when they are already in progress and edit away from before they are done. This doesn't disrupt the plot but it does make the film often feel like we should have more context for character motivations. I can recommend this to folks in the mood for a good adventure story with some nice twists. Now if it were only available on DVD!