At home with Seth Meyers and Steven Colbert circa March 2020…

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“Give us your politics, Elvis!’ demanded a voice at an Elvis Costello concert circa 1989. ‘Why, have you none of your own?’ caustically replied the beloved entertainer. This blog isn’t about politics, it’s about entertainment; no political party, in this writer’s view, has a monopoly on common sense.

In the early months of 2016, I was living in Manhattan’s First Avenue, buying scallops in the local supermarket and frying them up while watching the nightly news as the Trump vs Clinton combatants crystallised. It seemed obvious that Trump would win, despite panel after panel of expects denying the notion, or perhaps because of it; speaking without notes, for hours at a time, he projected underdog, fighter spirit that belied his reputation as a reality tv host/real estate entrepreneur and somehow suggested that he, rather than his opponent, was a man of the people.

As president, Trump’s every move is subject to analysis, and there’s a legion of chat-show hosts and commentators to pick apart his every move. Some, like Jimmy Fallon, mix commentary with party host duties, amusing singing and improv games with gags thrown in, But the big two are Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert, the former a graduate of SNL, the latter of The Daily Show, and both reaching an audience of millions with their fragmented YouTube shows alone. Meyers sits at a desk, as he did on Weekend Update, while Colbert has an old-school stand-up technique, complete with a house band led by the jovial Jon Baptiste. Meyers leans into the comedy of repetition that made SNL’s Stefan such a hit; the same intros, plus topical gags, regular furniture of lists, writer contributions and the admirable Closer Look, where he dissects a political topic of the day, sometimes, but not always Trump. Meanwhile Colbert dances and pirouettes around his stage with a veterans timing, whipping up his audience with lengthy, skilfully delivered monologues; both men enjoy high calibre guests, usually with something pressing to promote.

The arrival of the pandemic has sent both men home; sporting previously unimaginable informal outfits, Colbert initially appeared in his own garden, then his barbecue, and now retreats into a spare room where he tussles with his dog on the floor. Meyers, who candidly admitted that he’s now in awe of how well YouTubers record their microphone sound, seemed bedevilled with technical difficulties as he recorded from his own hallway, but seems to have found a regular gig in his library, where his copy of The Thorn Birds seems to be an object of some family pride.

The show, for both men, must go on; with Trump giving nightly state-of-the-nation addresses, there’s a wealth of material to consider, even if the grim times make comedy an uphill struggle. But does their commentary make any difference, or does it only preach to the converted? Both have a weakness for falling back on flubs; here’s Trump mispronouncing a name for the umpteenth time! Look, he’s slurred some words! Look, here’s Trump dropping an umbrella for the hundredth time! Trump exists in the now, his movements and speech are constantly filmed, and such mistakes are just trimmings. Given that Meyers and Colbert’s shows are carefully edited, it seems to miss the point of critique to focus on such crowd-pleasing but meaningless groaners rather than the crucial policy decisions that the nation currently hangs on. Some of these clips need retired.

With the 2020 election set to be held in unprecedented circumstances, Meyers and Colbert will need to sharpen up their game if their goal is going to make a difference in the political world rather than just entertainment. In Britain, the daily virus briefings are populated by unknowns, sombre-minded, discussed and dissected by no-one. There is no mechanism to analyse to discuss the foibles of leaders, and America leads the way in this kind of cultural commentatary. The eyes of the world are on this great nation in peril; this is the time for great men to step up to the plate. Twitter may be obsessed with Andrew Cuomo’s nipples, but we don’t have to be; in 2020, there are lives at stake, and the trivial is yesterday’s news, fish and chip paper as well call in in the UK.

 

 

 

Downhill 2020 ***

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Swimming against the tide is one thing, but I’ve not found many takers for my opinion of Force Majeure, critical darling and Golden Globe nominee; I hated it. A humourless, one-note, sneering portrait of an unsympathetic couple of a skiing holiday, Ruben Osland’s film struck me as a load of pretentious, self-satisfied twaddle with only cinematography to commend it.

So it’s fair to say that I wasn’t champing at the bit for an American remake, but here it comes, directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, and starring two comedy greats in Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Ferrell’s cinematic work is a mixed bag, for every Anchorman, there’s a Get Hard, but he’s shown signs of the dramatic chops required to make a restrained comedy drama like this work; Louis-Dreyfus is a US national treasure on the back of Seinfeld, but while her filmography is far more selective, her excellent performance in Enough Said demonstrated that she could create a complex and empathetic character on the big screen. The downside of casting these two beloved performers as unsympathetic twonks is something of a dissonance that led Downhill to slide off the piste at the box office, but it’s far from the catastrophe that many critics suggested.

Billie and Peter arrive in Austria with their two kids, and immediately get into a drama when an unexpected wave of snow engulfs the open-air seating area at their resort. Sitting on one side of the table, Billie hugs the kids until the dangers has passed, but Peter disgraces himself by grabbing his phone and stepping away; because he drops behind the camera position, we’re left to imagine how far this might be. This was something of a flaw in the original film, and isn’t resolved here; it’s not physically possible for Peter to protect his children, and the consequent judgemental ramifications feel schematic and contrived in both versions. Billie is disillusioned in her husband, humiliates him in front of their kids and his friends, and has an illicit tryst with a hunky ski-instructor. Meanwhile Peter nurses his damaged self-image with some abortive flirting, a drunken scuffle with an alpha male, and some self-pitying monologues. Neither of their plotlines could be described as feel-good, and the chipper finale doesn’t quite alleviate the sour, cynical feel of the original film.

But as an upgrade on American abroad comedy, Downhill offers some laughs that the original doesn’t, a National Lampoon’s Skiing Vacation with trash-talking sexed-up locals, toilet mishaps, and enough low-shots to offer some entertainment value. These antics punctuate the pretentions of Force Majeure, and render the story watchable; if anything, it’s an improvement that offers a little more humanity and self-deprecating soul than the self-regarding film it imitates.

 

Frightmare 1974 ***

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More Tony Tenser movies on Flick Vault, the HD You Tube channel for off-the-wall movies; this one is from Pete Walker, the British film-maker who single-handedly created his own distinct horror imprint in the 1970’s. Frightmare has probably never looked as good as this; a tricky little tale of cannibals at work in the SW10 area of London, Frightmare is worth a look for genre aficionados by dint of a patient script and a remarkably over-qualified cast.

A mom-and–pop cannibal couple go to jail in 1957 for unspeakable acts; in 1974, Edmund (Rupert Davies) and Dorothy (Sheila Keith) may well be up to their old tricks now that they’ve done their time. Edmund’s daughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) suspects that her dad isn’t keeping to a strict vegan diet and smuggles animal brains to them, pretending to be feeding their cannibal impulse. Jackie’s step-sister Debbie (Kim Butcher) is a rebellious teen pushing to get out from under her wing, while psychologist Graham (Paul Greenwood) in romantically interested in Jackie, but realises that there’s something strange in her family life.

For British movie fans, there’s more than a few attractive names here; Rupert Davies was known for his Inspector Maigret, while Paul Greenwood was a household name in the early eighties for his portrayal of whimsical copper Rosie. Keith was also a regular in Walker’s films, and the level of acting seen here is impressive, particularly given the potential for low-brow sleaze in the subject matter. There’s a couple of excellent scenes, notably a tense tarot card reading during which Graham’s attempt to deceive the suspicious Dorothy begins to fragment under pressure. Oscar nominee Leo Genn also has a role, although the square stylings of Graham’s old man specs and retro sports–jacket combination are the real stars here.

Walker’s films have been somewhat neglected by tv programmers, but have gained a cult following, and Frightmare is a prime facie example of why is work is worth exhuming. Sure, some of the detail is rather nasty, but this kind of realistic horror was non-recurring phenomenon, and horror completists will want to seek out and savour this pungent sample of British kitchen-sink gruesomeness.

The Trials of Oscar Wilde 1961 ****

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…is a neat title, because we’re not just talking about one trial here, but several, and these court-room appearances are indeed a trial to Oscar Wilde himself, so exhausting that the great man is a somewhat broken figure by the end. Still, Ken Hughes’s 1961 film is pretty much a success in terms of bring the story of Oscar Wilde to the big screen in the most direct fashion, demonstrating ably how a failed libel on Wilde’s part led him into a trap laid by the authorities.

The Trails of Oscar Wilde is more than watchable fare today, largely because it carries forward a certain theatrical strength derived from source play The Stringed Lute by John Furnell. Also elevating the action is the casting; Peter Finch is one of the acting greats, and although Network saw him pull out all the stops to ground-breaking effect, he absolutely submerges himself in Wilde, bringing the bon mots into play with great skill, and always making Wilde more than just a quote machine.

John Fraser is a pretty fine Alfred Douglas, and the scandal around their relationship is all the more dramatic because the ‘love that dare not speak it’s name’ is never defined by any action; this is 1961 after all. That evasive quality, missing from Stephen Fry’s Wilde or Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, both excellent films, is centre stage here, and adds greatly to the effect; much as the lack of overt homosexuality pervades Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, it makes sense in Hughes’s film that because Wilde’s sexuality is not defined, it makes him vulnerable, a decidedly modern way of seeing it given that Wilde is the clear and unmistakable hero here.

If the lengthy running time is a little too much, it’s hard to know what to cut; Finch dispensing Wildean words is a pure pleasure, and seeing him grandstand in the courtroom opposite James Mason is something of a joy in terms of old-school performances; as Sir Edward Carson, Mason gives a great rendition of a sharp mind of sense blood in the water. Bond duo Albert R Broccoli and production designer Ken Adam do a great job of creating wide-active frames for old-world London, and the whole production is sharp as a tack. Wilde is a great subject for a film, and there’s quite a few notable entries, but The Trials of Oscar Wilde is worth casting to see Finch in full flow, bringing a character to life in a way that reminds you how life knocked the stuffing out of Oscar Wilde.

 

Aria 1987 ***

ariaCritics both loved and hated Don Boyd’s portmanteau film which pitches ten major directors (Robert Altman, Ken Russell, Nicolas Roeg, Jean Luc-Godard) against ten classic operas and invites them to use their imagination. What that means, when the directors chosen are mainly white, male and slightly past their best, is a whole lot of undraped female breasts and bums; this didn’t raise much comment at the time, but looking back on Aria, it doesn’t reflect well on the kind of product created via the male domination of directing as recently as the 1980’s.

With a different talent taking up the baton every ten minutes, Aria isn’t a dull film to watch, and there’s some striking moments. Charles Sturridge offers a short MTV-style segment which matches Verdi to a massive close-up of newsreader Alistair Burnett, then fragments to show London kids stealing a car and watching a news-report about themselves. Altman riffs on Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade with an opera being premiered for the inmates of a mental asylum circa 1734; Julie Hagerty from Airplane appears here. Roeg throws himself into the assassination of King Zog of Albania circa 1931, with the king played in a gender-bending casting coup by his wife Theresa Russell. And Bill Bryden’s framing story has John Hurt miming to an ancient recording in full clown costume.

But this is an early film from the Miramax brand, and most of the directors interpret opera on annoyingly limited terms. Jean-Luc Godard imagines naked women in a gym, Bruce Beresford hears Wagner and imagines a naked Elizabeth Hurley, Franc Roddam’s take on the same composer involves Bridget Fonda stripping in a Las Vegas hotel room for her lover before their slash their wrists, Ken Russell imagined the naked body of a woman mutilated in a car crash but festooned with gems. What these visions have in common is an objectification of women, and that’s what makes Aria feel more than a little distasteful in 2020.

There is a gem here, and it comes from Julien Temple. Buck Henry, avuncular writer of The Graduate, appears as a frustrated husband who takes a hit of ecstasy to clear his mind to cheat on his wife (Beverly D’Angelo from the National Lampoon’s Vacation films). What he doesn’t imagine is that she has a lover too, and it’s only when their sex-tapes get mixed up after a tryst that he realises the error of his ways. (Henry is seen negotiating with “Woody’ over the phone about directing a segment of the film, but Allen declined to take part in Boyd’s project, as did Orson Welles and Fellini for different reasons.) It’s a funny little bit of storytelling, but notable because it subverts the notion of men being in control of women, and reveals male fantasy as pitiful, empty machismo.

Aria is a sporadically interesting project, but what it shows clearly in 2020 is that diversity is something that cannot be ignored. If all films are directed by elderly white men, then self-indulgence and juvenilia result. It’s understandable that many complaints are made about shoe-horning diversity into projects, but the supposedly inclusive and global vision of Aria feels like being locked in a cell with a collection of dog-eared soft-core VHS tapes. One good thing about the MeToo era will be that films like this will, surely, not longer be made.

Nomads 1986 ****

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Did you know that John McTiernan made a film before his Predator/Die Hard double-bill that made him one of Hollywood’s biggest action directors? McTiernan’s work on 1986’s Nomads prompted Arnold Schwarzenegger to give him the initial Predator gig, and blowing the dust of Nomads, it’s obvious that the Austrian muscle-man had a good eye for talent. Nomads was a disaster on release, but looks pretty good now, with muscular direction and an unconventional urban horror-story that’s hard to pigeonhole.

Nomads also marked a first lead role for Pierce Brosnan, somewhat irrationally cast here as a bearded French anthropologist Jean Charles-Pommier. Poor Pommier dies in the opening moments of Nomads, but Eileen Flax (Lesley-Anne Down), the LA hospital medic who tries to save him, starts to experience key moments from Pommier’s life in flashback form. If that sounds odd, things get stranger still as Pommier tangles with a group of leather-clad ‘nomads’ led by a wordless Adam Ant who may, or may not, be Eskimo shape-shifting spirits who want to use his house as a place of worship for a dead serial killer.

If Nomad’s already sounds completely barking, we’re not even halfway done. How about a score from Rocky’s Bill Conti? B Movie queen Mary Wonorov as Dancing Mary? Nina Foch as an estate agent? And the whole style of Nomads is truly bizarre; McTiernan is clearly working out a few moves, and the famous Rickman fall from Die Hard is road-tested here. Yet the editing looks like it was completed by Nicolas Roeg’s janitor, skipping backwards and forwards in time in a way that dislodges and unsettles.

Nomads, written by McTiernan, is more in the vein of The Hunger, Cat People or Wolfen in that it belongs to an early 80’s sub-genre of finding supernatural interlopers in a collapsing modern society. It’s a baffling, yet hugely entertaining film that works its way to a strange yet unforgettable trick-ending. I honestly didn’t know this film existed until a couple of days ago, but having seen it, I’d absolutely love to hear from anyone that’s familiar with it. Do you know Nomads? Have you seen it? I’m here with a trained team of therapists ready to hear your experiences of this astonishingly odd film…

Horror Hospital 1973 NA (No Award)

horrorhospital25To cap off the busiest week to date on this blog, it’s customary to try and separate the sheep from the goats and weed out the fair-weather friends by reviewing something awful. And 1973’s Horror Hospital is truly awful, a grotty pot-boiler obsessed with crude medical procedures and resistible sexual scenes. And yet any film that features that emblem of Britishness, a Rolls Royce, kitted out with retractable decapitation blades can only have some kind of satirical nous, and so Horror Hospital is today’s film under review.

Once, viewing a HD print of Horror Hospital would be the preserve of millionaires or madmen; the internet, You Tube and specifically online library FlickVault are responsible for putting this obscure film within a click of your viewing pleasure. Confessions star Robin Asquith plays pop-star Jason Jones, who is so exhausted by his twin vices of music and cocaine that he signs up for a break with the Hairy Holidays company; ‘Maybe there’ll be some birds there,’ Jones muses distantly in a moment that displays a dismaying lack of wokeness. On the train to his vacation, Jones meets the attractive Judy (Vanessa Shaw), and the two of them quickly check into the one remaining room at the Horror Hospital, which looks more like a Horror Gymnasium, or possible Horror Country Estate, since it’s recognisably Knebworth House. Within these walls, Dr Christian Storm (Michael Gough) is conducting experiments, with his dictatorial role enforced by zombie motorcyclists Storm 1 and Storm 2, as well as the weaponised motor mentioned above.

Directed by Anthony Balch and produced by horror specialist Richard Gordon, Horror Hospital has never looked so sharp, with crisp, clean images replacing the murk that made it un-viewable. But now that the veil is lifted, there sights are hardly cherishable, including Dennis Price as a lavacious travel agent and an opening psychedelic wig-out from the band Mystic. There’s some vague sense of morality in that Horror Hospital rejects the Doctor’s obscene brand of human experimentation, although the endorsement of 1970’s youth culture seems like a less-than-palatable alternative.

A number of films in the FlickVault archive have been removed for copyright reasons, but Horror Hospital seems to be finding an audience, no doubt attracted by garish clothes, hideous attitudes and childish glee in horror. Those seeking non-PC entertainment may well find nuggets of interest, but those feeling nostalgia for such arcane entries in the horror canon may well find their enthusiasm misplaced. This film is also known as Computer Killers, but makes no more sense under that title.

Not Now Darling 1973 NA (no award)

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Without fail, the least poplar items on this blog are the assessments of withered 1970’s sexless British sex comedies; no matter how many customers show on the previous day, my readership can be reduced to a trickle by writing about some tatty, end-of-the-pier innuendo-laden sexist tat, from That’s My Funeral to The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins. What can I say in my defence? These films used to be part of the BBC’s film package when I was growing up, and were as much a part of a daily diet of cinema as Truffaut or Peckinpah. And now, viewed from the opposite end of the time-telescope, they still exert a certain power to horrify and yet amuse by their wrong-headed presumption.

Not Now, Darling was adapted by playwright Ray Cooney from his own hugely popular farce, and must have seemed like something of a sure-fire hit. Co-written by John Champman, another graduate of the august ‘Whoops Vicar, where’s my trousers?’ school of comic confusion, Not Now Darling is primarily a vehicle for the robust talents of Leslie Phillips, who went on to co-star with Angelina Jolie in the Tomb Raider films. Phillips plays Gilbert Bodley, a lothario-about-town who concocts a confusing scheme in which he sells a fur coat to his mistress’s husband Harry (Derren Nisbet) to make some easy cash. The story unfolds almost entirely on one stagey-set, the shop of Arnold Crouch (Cooney himself), where moll Janine (Julie Ege) is caught in various stages of undress.

Sex is an odd thing in British comedies; to be desired, certainly, but also a prospect which makes men go weak at the knees and generally collapse into some kind of moral panic. There’s more nudity in a perfume advert that 90 minutes of Not Now Darling, but there are occasional glimpses of the quick-fire verbal gags which must have wowed stage audiences. Barbara Windsor appears to double-down on the ditz, while old stagers Cicely Courtneidge and Jack Hulbert wander around the set in a reasonably spry fashion. They were pretty much the Kardashians ie celebrity couple of the 1930’s, and at least are treated with some dignity here.

As a sex-comedy, Not Now Darling is something of a farce, remarkable for it’s tameness and a dry, interior quality. A sequel, Not Now Comrade, followed in 1976, but by then, sex had found more direct routes onto the screen, and the idea of a woman hiding in a closet wearing nothing but a fur coat was no longer considered the ultimate in outre behaviour. Guilty of reflecting sexist, out-of-date tropes, films like Not Now Darling have gained in interest over the decades by becoming museum pieces of what audiences once found funny, but is now more peculiar than ha-ha.

 

The Collection 1976 ****

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Harold Pinter’s 1962 play is one of his best, a subtle yet dramatic slice of adultery in the upper-middle classes, observed with the playwright’s usual ear of language and fascination for discomfort. This 1976 filming was part of ITV’s big push to rival the BBC, and was created under the grand-sounding label Laurence Olivier Presents for Granada television. The Beeb’s Play for Today was something of an institution at the time, but The Collection was a heavy-hitter, bringing together top talent for a run-through of one of Pinter’s tightest efforts, with Michael Apted directing.

Harry (Olivier) and Bill (Malcolm McDowell) live together in an ambiguous relationship; Bill is something of a ladies man, and may or may not have had a hotel-room tryst with Stella (Helen Mirren), much to the chagrin of her husband James (Alan Bates). But when James confronts Bill, the accusation doesn’t land easily, and Bill seems defiant. Is there an attraction between the two men, or is Bill just deliberately confusing the issue? And did anything actually happen at all? (this is Pinter, after all, so don’t expect a big reveal).

The Collection is firmly made for TV; despite the big names, the canvas is small. But as a record of some great acting, Apted’s adaptation really works, with Olivier enjoying a small but weighty role, and McDowell really laying it on thick as the preening, aggressive Bill, taunting James and forcing him into a confrontation without the information he needs to be confident.

The Collection has been released as part of a boxed-set on DVD, but isn’t one that’s been repeated on tv, and remains something of a collector’s item. But at 63 minutes in length, it gives a flavour of Pinter in a darkly playful mode, without the slick gimmick of Betrayal, but with the same relentless probing of the characters and their motives. And yes, there are silences; Pinter says more with a suppressed line than most writers can do with a twenty page monologue.

Who Dares Wins 1982 ****

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What better film to watch on Brexit day, or indeed any other day, than Ian Sharp’s Who Dares Wins? A low-budget British thriller that somehow cracked the annual top ten movies at the box office, Sharp’s film did Dunkirk numbers back in 1982, and yet is unknown in most territories world-wide, even under an alternative title, The Final Option. Producer Euan Lloyd noted that it had become unfashionable to fly the flag by the early eighties, but Who Dares Wins caught the kind of rare jingo-istic wave of enthusiasm that a muddled retreat via Brexit has failed to engender. Whatever ones makes of the film’s politics, which range from quite right-wing to rabidly right-wing, Who Dares Wins was and still is a British movie worth getting nostalgic about.

Of course, it’s not for everyone. As a kid, I was mystified by Leonard Maltin’s tv guide and his one-star reviews of Clint Eastwood films; the author wasn’t a fan of the star’s politics, and therefore was churlish about such robust crowd-pleasers as Magnum Force. To this critic, cinema is a broad church, and many opinions can be housed within four-walls; we’re reviewing films, not the political views of the makers. Most action films are fantasy, right or left wing is just the flavour you choose. Lloyd made all kinds of blood-and-bullets action movies, notably 1978’s The Wild Geese, but the siege of the Iranian Embassy in 1980 inspired him to tackle the SAS, the Special Air Service that successfully liberated the embassy. The SAS play themselves in the brief, exciting action scenes that climax the film after a long, slow burn.

Of course, it wasn’t enough just to kick the asses of some random foreigners on-screen. Lloyd ramped things up by casting around for his villains; not only are they foreign terrorists, but they’re in league with the  CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and other beardie-weirdy liberals, and they enjoy something called ‘the arts’, so there’s simply no redeeming these people and death can only be a relief. A surprisingly large part of the film features arty-farty performance-musical critiques of American foreign policy, including a live-set by musicians identified only as Metamorphosis, the kind of avant-garde band who use their brand of incendiery rock to warm up for a sermon from a bishop from the Church of England (Kenneth Griffith) who is, in turn, interrupted by unruly skin-heads out to create a riot.

Truly, the unholy stew of Britian in the eighties is a pestilent place, but there’s one man to sort this mess out, and what a man he is. Peter Skellern was the name of a rather old-fashioned British crooner of sincere power-ballads, but it’s also the name of the SAS captain played by Lewis Collins in this film and he’s the epitome of colour-supplement cool. Swaggering through street-markets in a black polo neck and pure white raincoat, affecting quilted blouson jackets; there’s no end to the sartorial style offered by Collins, who was already a household name due to his work on ITV espionage series The Professionals. Re-united with director Sharp from that show, Collins was clearly auditioning for James Bond here, and got his audition, only to fall out with the producers at the final hurdle. If the Bond movies had doubled-down on seriousness post-Moonraker, Collins would have been a strong Bond in the Daniel Craig mode, but twenty years earlier.

Any film that opens with a cross-bow through a throat sets out a stall, and Who Dares Wins also has a pungent, transgressive narrative, which sees Skellern seducing a CND activist Frankie (Judy Davis). Frankie is also a terrorist sympathiser because, in Lloyd’s book, they’re pretty much the same thing. Undercover investigators sleeping with suspects is a hot-button topic today, and it’s interesting to see the subject covered with so little thought here; casually bedding Frankie is all part of Skellern’s macho humble-brag. Frankie is so impressed with Skellern that she somehow brings him along as a support animal when her pals take over the US Embassy, taking hostages including imported US stars Richard Widmark and Robert Webber. Their plan is to blackmail the UK government into firing a nuclear weapon at Scotland, something that most UK governments would not require much persuasion to do. Of course, the cavalry arrive in the form of the SAS who chopper their way in, blow the corners off the doors and sort it all out in time for scones and tea. As one character notes; ‘When the SAS is called upon to do what we’re trained to do, we have been likened to a surgeon cutting out a cancer. It’s a filthy and difficult job. We don’t like doing it, but it’s our duty…’

There’s tonnes of non-PC content here, from Hammer Horror star Ingrid Pitt’s Helga, a thin-lipped trainer of the bad guys to Skellern’s mountain-range yomping expidition that seems like a thin justification for personally-motivated torture. Randoms caught up in the melee include top cop Edward Woodward, wine expect Oz Clarke, Anna Ford reading the news and a final scene involving Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Paul Freeman; a quick look at the fantasy of Who Dares Wins would stir the patriot in even the most lily-livered, church-loving, arts-affiliated liberal.