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Tony Roberts

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The Guns Of Navarone [DVD]
The Guns Of Navarone [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gregory Peck

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep and Entertaining at the same time, 23 Oct. 2009
This review is from: The Guns Of Navarone [DVD] (DVD)
This film shows how far off the track many modern films have gone, when they sacrifice characters for special effects. All too often films of the 21st century use great CGI and film wizardry to paper over the shallowness of a storyline or the paper-thin characters that take part.

Guns of Navarone is a war film that has great characters and a depth that is sadly missing today. The leaders have to wrestle with their consciences in making decisions that will affect the lives of those under them. There is none of this mock-heroic insulting rubbish we see all too often today. Here are people demonstrating genuine fears and emotions without making it ludicrous or false.

Set on fictitious Greek islands, a small group of Allied commandos have to destroy two huge guns that block the way for a rescue fleet of British destroyers who are trying to get 2,000 Allied troops off an island targeted for a massive German invasion.

Ironically this film actually won a best special effects award in 1961, but to me what stands out here is the believeable storyline and the sympathy I feel towards the characters. They are tough but at the same tiem vulnerable, none more so than the tired and worn out Brown, the knife expert, who tells Captain Mallory that he's been 'killing Germans since 1937. There's no end to them.' As a result Mallory gives him the cold shoulder until Brown, desperate to feel part of the team again, is reduced to pleading his usefulness to Mallory.

Mallory himself is seemingly two men; on one hand, he's the cold-hearted, insensitive robot who has to get the job done, but on the other hand his doubts are shown in one telling scene with the traumatised Greek resistance fighter Anna (portrayed in the book as Panayis, a man), when he asks her if his choices are moral.

Great storyline, plenty of action, and real characters to empathise with. And yes, I agree with others, they don't make them like this anymore, sadly.


Golgotha
Golgotha
by John Gardner
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting spy thriller in the 'what if' category, 13 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Golgotha (Hardcover)
Imagine at the height of the cold war the Soviets suddenly invaded West Germany and achieved their political-military aims, and in addition forced the UK to surrender and join the Warsaw Pact?

This is the premise of this novel, set in the late 70s/early 80s, and picks up just after the arrival of Soviet 'advisors' and military personnel to oversee the transition from a democratic to a marxist-leninist autocracy. The hero of the story is a British MI6 agent who was in Washington DC at the time and is sent back on a seemingly improbable mission to force the Soviets out of the UK and return it to a western-style government.

His mission, then, is to contact 'sleepers' throughout the UK who have been hypnotically programmed by the CIA over the past decade or so, and all of them hide inside their subconscious three things; two other names of sleepers and a clue to the next stage of the mission, half disguised in code.

The hero has to avoid detection from the KGB who have by now exerted control over the police and also to find his way through a labyrinth to find the location of a secret installation which will bring down the Soviet apparatus in Britain. The danger is of course that any of the sleepers might have been turned by the Soviets (this has happened in fact to one of them) but activation of a code phrase sends the 'sleeper' in to a hypnotic trance where they relay the information completely without their knowledge - they wake up after an hour or so.

The Soviets eventually pick up the trail and begin to pursue him. I won't give any of the essential bits away and will leave it to the potential reader here to get the book and read what happens for themselves.

All in all a very entertaining tale in the 'what if' category of alternative history.


Vulcan 607
Vulcan 607
by Rowland White
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrilling tale, 21 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Vulcan 607 (Paperback)
Rarely for a factual piece of recent history does the story read like a novel, yet Rowland White has pulled this off wonderfully. His hours taken researching the events of Spring 1982, interviewing not only those on the UK side but also some on the Argentinian and even some Falkland Islanders, has brought a story that reads like an action adventure novel.

Although the final outcome is known, the way the sequence of events unfolded kept me enthralled. I had little idea of what exactly went on to get the single Vulcan bomber to the Falklands, and having now read this story, I'm frankly amazed the RAF pulled it off. It says a lot for their flexibility, innovative ideas and stubborn refusal to let the odds stacked against them deter them.

Yes, the end result of just one bomb hitting the target seems a poor return, but it must be viewed in the overall context of a war that not only relied on military might; morale and will power - from civilians as well as servicemen - had just as vital a part to contribute to the outcome of the war. And the Vulcan attack was a massive morale boost to the UK population and military, and come to that, political figures, just when they all needed it. Also it displayed to the Argentinians that they were vulnerable and liable to be attacked anywhere at any time. That one bomb disabled the only airstrip the Argentinian air force could use in the combat zone, and tipped the balance in favour of the UK.

I firmly believe this should be made into a film. It has all the ingredients of a tense, nail-biting thriller.


Legion of the Damned (Sven Hassel War Classics)
Legion of the Damned (Sven Hassel War Classics)
by Sven Hassel
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £7.99

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A window into brutality, 5 Sept. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As a teenager I read virtually all Sven Hassel's novels and enjoyed them as good old war stories. But over the years my perception of things, as many of us find, changed and I recently wanted to re-read those books, so bought Legion of the Damned and went through the story once more, but with an extra 30 years of life behind me.

My recall of the sadness of it all was not misplaced. This story ultimately is a tragedy; not merely of the loss of many of the close friends and comrades of Sven as he struggles to retain some humanity throughout the madness of what he experienced, but also of the futility and waste of societies, human life and animals.

In many ways Legion is a two-parter. The first part concerns the processing through heartless camps designed to slaughter opponents of the fascist system, or even those unfortunate to evoke the wrath, envy or other slight, imagined or real, of those running the fascist apparatus. Hassel is a deserter who is caught and ends up in an 'extermination camp',to quote the commandant. He survives only to be put into a penal regiment, a force made up of criminals and outcasts, expendable individuals not wanted in the Nazi society.

Its almost impossible to comprehend the brutality displayed within these pages, almost a fictional scene its that alien to our ways and morals. But it happened. And as a social history it should never be forgotten lest it occurs again. Hassel's description of the treatment he and others received is not gratuitous or indifferent of prose - he witnessed and experienced it and this comes through the pages. It can only have come from the pen of someone who did.

Then the story switches to life in the penal regiment. Sven finds the comradeship of all those rejects of society warm, genuine and a saviour to his soul. Even though these men fought in the wehrmacht, I find I'm rooting for them to survive. Hated by their own political system and faced with death from an implacable enemy, Hassel and his friends battle to survive the slaughter of the Eastern Front. Their exploits are hilarious at times, frightening on other occasions. Of course, they begin to die one by one, and even when allowed home on leave, tragedy is never far away and two women he loves die - one by Nazi thugs, the other by allied air raid - and his circle of friends shrinks.

The book would appear to cover the years 1940 to 1944, and ends rather in the air. It doesn't end with the war's end, and with Hassel's own capture by the Soviets in Berlin in 1945 which happened for real. No, it ends on a train with Hassel and his commander shaking hands after a harrowing incident in 1944. I would have preferred Hassel to complete his story which would have closed the chapter on it all, yet somehow I feel slightly cheated by the ending. And in addition, the last couple of chapters appear rushed and compressed in comparison with what came before. I do know that Hassel was switched from Russian to American, British and Danish prisons in the 1950s when he wrote this story, so maybe this affected him.

Overall, a 4-star rating for a book that stands out in the series he wrote as being the most authentic and realistic. The rest would seem to be more of fictional novel type of stories and not as real as this one, which is why this stands out as the best in my opinion of the entire set Hassel wrote.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 23, 2012 3:56 AM GMT


Conan The Destroyer [DVD] [1984]
Conan The Destroyer [DVD] [1984]
Dvd ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £8.44

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ruined by bad scripting, 7 July 2009
After the classic Conan the Barbarian I would have thought Hollywood capable of presenting something better than this. There is even no apology for making it deliberatly light hearted. For what purpose? To appeal to children? If that was the case why not make the original as silly too?

I'm sorry but this is a poor offering, and thankfully no more were made after this, if this was the route this series was going to take. The film badly missed Gerry Lopez from the first film, and who was the guy who took his place? So out of place and badly cast, it was an embarrassment. The storyline itself was ok, and some of the magical effects good, but it was too restrained. I dearly wanted the mayhem and wildness of the first one to be repeated here, sadly this was never to be.

Schwarzenegger went on to better things (if you forget Red Sonja) and it seemed he was waiting for the film to end at times and going through the motions. He is the type of actor who shouldn't try to be light hearted or funny. Get in there and slaughter. That's what he's made for. That's why Terminator was a resounding success.

God knows why they wanted this made this way; it was a failure and saw the end of the Conan films. It was another potential good series ruined by low quality scriptwriting. It all too often happens in Hollywood.


Conan The Destroyer (Collector's Edition) [DVD]
Conan The Destroyer (Collector's Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
Offered by westworld-
Price: £14.88

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ruined by poor script, 7 July 2009
After the classic Conan the Barbarian I would have thought Hollywood capable of presenting something better than this. There is even no apology for making it deliberatly light hearted. For what purpose? To appeal to children? If that was the case why not make the original as silly too?

I'm sorry but this is a poor offering, and thankfully no more were made after this, if this was the route this series was going to take. The film badly missed Gerry Lopez from the first film, and who was the guy who took his place? So out of place and badly cast, it was an embarrassment. The storyline itself was ok, and some of the magical effects good, but it was too restrained. I dearly wanted the mayhem and wildness of the first one to be repeated here, sadly this was never to be.

Schwarzenegger went on to better things (if you forget Red Sonja) and it seemed he was waiting for the film to end at times and going through the motions. He is the type of actor who shouldn't try to be light hearted or funny. Get in there and slaughter. That's what he's made for. That's why Terminator was a resounding success.

God knows why they wanted this made this way; it was a failure and saw the end of the Conan films. It was another potential good series ruined by low quality scriptwriting. It all too often happens in Hollywood.


Where Eagles Dare
Where Eagles Dare
by Alistair Maclean
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best, 6 July 2009
This review is from: Where Eagles Dare (Paperback)
Alastair MacLean novels were what I grew up with, along with a few other novelists. But MacLean was my favourite. There are many, many stories he wrote that I can give 5 stars to, but only amongst his first 15 or so novels. Thereafter he began to wither in his originality and inspiration, much as down to his alcoholism as his aging.

Where Eagles Dare is one of those 5-star books. The film is just as good (an unusual feature as Hollywood usually ruins a good book). I still have my entire collection of MacLeans, bought in those long lost days of the 1970s. A good war story always grabbed my attention and this one is no different. A tension filled tale of British commandos and one American 'guest' parachute deep into the Alps to rescue an American prisoner of the gestapo. But this isn't what its really about - there is a hidden agenda, and the redoubtable Major Smith has to contend with a murderer within his own ranks as well as trying to pull off the rescue.

The film is just as enjoyable, and has one of my all-time fave lines in it. When Smith explains to Mary Ellison, one of his squad, that she has to collaborate alongside a German girl who is wearing a low-cut top, showing her charms, he says :"Heidi is one of our top agents in Germany, and....... what a disguise!"

The action never lets up (although I have an issue with the schmeisser MP38s that never seem to run out of bullets). Whenever someone says "Broadsword calling Danny Boy" I know they're referring to the scene where Smith is trying to contact base in England while the Germans are being kept at bay in the passageway by Schaeffer (the American). The corridor walls are plastered with bullet holes and all hell is breaking loose.

A great tale, a great film.


Force 10 From Navarone [DVD]
Force 10 From Navarone [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert Shaw

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Force 10 runs of breath, 6 July 2009
This review is from: Force 10 From Navarone [DVD] (DVD)
Irrespective of whether it was intended to be a sequel to the excellent 'Guns of Navarone' or not, the fact it uses Navarone in the title inevitably forces a comparison, to which this film falls dreadfully short. Additionally, if one reads the book this film is taken from, again it falls short by a long margin.

One of the many problems was the miscasting of Mallory. Gregory Peck brought a competent, ruthless and reliable character to the screen with his portrayal of the commando leader, yet Robert Shaw, in the twilight of his career (he was to die shortly afterwards), was a baffling and mystifying choice. Why him? He was over the hill and too old (the unsubtle scripting of having him carrying an injury was to accommodate his physical infirmity).

The book had Andrea Stavrou and 3 British commandos join Mallory and Miller, yet the scriptwriters here decided to omit Andrea totally and change the 3 Brits to a whole platoon of Americans - of which all but 2 were killed before they actually set down on Yugoslav soil. The plot was thin and haphazard, and could have been written by a half competent schoolboy. The holes in the story could have accommodated a bus being driven through it.

Richard Keil was one believeable actor suited to the role he was given, but many of the actors were miscast. Edward Fox was so-so, but then David Niven was always going to be a hard act to follow. But why I ask if this was meant to be a standalone story, parachute two old has-beens into Yugoslav territory? For a start, their characters weren't old as we were meant to believe, and they were far more competent and adept at survival than the American soldiers who really ought to have been wearing Star Trek red shirts as they obviously were there to die cheaply.

A loose excuse in identifying a rogue German agent disguised as a Yugoslav partisan was given, but anyone could have gone over and done it with the perfect photo Mallory and Miller were given before setting out. It just didn't work as a believeable story.

The film was shot on location in Yugoslavia, which is I suppose why they filmed that book (it was cheap to film behind the Iron Curtain in those days) but it was a confused mish-mash of loosely linked scenes where the heros escape, return to rescue their comrades, then somehow manage to stumble across getting explosives. The traitor gave the excuse of coming along as none of the others spoke German. Yet in Guns the character of Mallory spoke perfect German. If the same character is used then please get the character right, not completely reinvent him.

Poor script and poor casting ruined what might have been a decent film.


Kingdom of Heaven [DVD] [2005]
Kingdom of Heaven [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Orlando Bloom
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £2.81

4.0 out of 5 stars Far better than most recent sword and sandal efforts, 2 Mar. 2009
I don't think that this was as bad a film as some have depicted, and to my mind far better than the appalling 'Troy' or even 'Gladiator', a film that began superbly but fell away dramatically and ended in a muddle of ignorance and confusion.

I didn't like the way a simple blacksmith could be suddenly picked up from his profession and carted off to Jerusalem and become a strategic and tactical genius and woo a princess and become as proficient in combat as he was shown to be. I also found the shipwreck part too implausable to swallow and it would have been better to cut that bit out altogether and have him land at Tyre or Acre or Jaffa, ports that served the Kingdom of Jerusalem perfectly well in those days.

Having said that, the other parts were well done. The fight in the woods of France as good a battle scene as I've seen, and the politics of the Holy Land dealt with brilliantly. One surprisingly pleasant acting role was that of Alexander Siddig, someone who has blossomed from the wimpish role in Deep Space Nine to a competent period actor. His character as Saladin's right hand man was perfect for him.

I liked the guy who played Saladin. We in the west have always regarded him as a chivalric, honourable man and this came across fairly well. The bad guy of Reynauld de Chatillon was perhaps too bad a character in the style of a comic book, but if one researches that man and how he came to hate the Muslims so much (imprisonment and a wife dying) then maybe he was like that.

I was disappointed they passed over the Battle of Hattin. I would have liked to see that one done, but we were instead treated to the seige of Jerusalem, reminiscent of the siege of Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings. I expected to see the Nazgul streaking out of the sky at one point and Orlando Bloom suddenly picking up a bow and shooting at them.

Bloom wasn't the best lead for the film but he did a competent enough job, better than Pitt's character in Troy. I found the leper king Baldwin a very sympathetic and sad character and one wonders what would have happened in true life if he had survived.

As a spectacle it was a five-star film but some of the scenes too unbelievable and so I dock it one point for that.


Sharpe's Peril (DVD)
Sharpe's Peril (DVD)
Dvd ~ Sean Bean
Price: £3.70

23 of 38 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pale Shadow of Former glory, 10 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Sharpe's Peril (DVD) (DVD)
Having just watched the 2-parter of Sharpe's Peril on TV, I felt that the series has just gone on too far. Its a typical feature of TV execs and others who stand to gain financially by milking the cash cow. Personally I felt the script writers have done a fine hatchet job on what was once an entertaining and enthralling series, and have produced for us a story with action sequences linked loosely with some sort of limp plot.

It sort of follows on from Sharpe's Challenge, the made-for-TV story that was an amalgam of two Bernard Cornwell books originally set before the well-known Sharpe series, but portrayed on TV as set afterwards. Sharpe and Harper are returning home when they are asked to accompany a young French woman who wishes to be with her fiance at some remote British fort in the hills (oddly, this is a Frenchman and you would have thought he'd be persona non grata in light of the recently finished war with the French).

Additionally there's this supposed warlord rampaging in the hills slaughtering innocent villagers etc and he's stepped up the campaign by attacking hapless soldiers on the roads in between Calcutta and the place where Sharpe and Harper happen to be. Already the plot is so thin you could march a battalion through it.

Of course things are not what they seem and the usual fights break out as the small group make their way to the fort, and when they get there they find the entire garrison massacred except for an old adversary, Sir Henry Simmerson (what he's doing here is not explained properly, its just a convenient place to introduce him). He's been left for dead and his mind is addled. He does tell his rescuers that it was Joubert, the French soldier-fiance of the woman, who was responsible, along with a cavalry officer called Dragomirov.

It all turns out to be linked to Opium, so we have a drug-runner theme which links nicely into today's world. Cue a long walk to Calcutta where Dragomirov and Joubert attack frequently although not with much enthusiasm and of course no success until the final fight at a village where all the baddies die and Sharpe endures multiple wounds (in the same place and he heals rather too quickly).

Its not well written, poorly put together and is just a sequence of fights with little intelligent writing in between (for example Joubert is shot by the woman and nobody hears it). Dragomirov spends most of his time riding round the country with his henchmen happening to find the pathetic column at convenient moments but never managing to actually do anything, demonstrating a tactical ability akin to the hapless ability of the writer to write anything realistic.

Of course we have the classic Sharpe ingredients; a beautiful woman in distress, incompetent officers, surly and mutinous soldiers, Sharpe getting injured but managing to avoid serious hurt, and evil bad guys similar to early Bond movies. Muwhahahaha.

Without the interplay of the former riflemen to flesh out the characters, and without a definite campaign, this lacked drive, direction and depth. Weak and anaemic.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 18, 2010 11:55 AM GMT


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