Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brief Thoughts -BEAR ISLAND (1979)

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 BEAR ISLAND. 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 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!


Marty McKee said...

You should check out FEAR IS THE KEY. Outside of a phenomenal car chase, the film follows the book rather closely.

Rod Barnett said...

How do you feel about reading the book before seeing the film?

Marty McKee said...

I can't remember which I saw first: the book or the film. Either way, it doesn't really bother me. Just because I know the basic plot in advance doesn't prevent me from enjoying the journey.