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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars satisfyingly taut thriller
This was one of the later film versions of an Alister Maclean novel, and is a tidy little thriller with little time wasted.
Anthony Hopkins plays a secret service agent tasked with solving the pirating of millions of pounds of gold bullion in the North Sea. This search takes him to remote locations in the Hebrides, unravelling the secrets of a small town where...
Published on 23 Feb. 2006 by Mr. Stephen Kennedy

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars A young Anthony Hopkins in a quasi action thriller
A turkey. Does not hit the mark in any category, starting with a dreadful script. Anthony Hopkins is always worth watching, but even he can't save this movie's story from drowning in its own dark water and bright studio interiors.
Published 1 month ago by Bruce M. Kerner


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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars satisfyingly taut thriller, 23 Feb. 2006
By 
Mr. Stephen Kennedy "skenn1701a" (Doha, Qatar) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
This was one of the later film versions of an Alister Maclean novel, and is a tidy little thriller with little time wasted.
Anthony Hopkins plays a secret service agent tasked with solving the pirating of millions of pounds of gold bullion in the North Sea. This search takes him to remote locations in the Hebrides, unravelling the secrets of a small town where people and yachts have been disappearing. Being an Alister Maclean novel, nothing and nobody is what they at first appear – the usual ingredients are present and correct – the femme fatale, the damsel in distress, the double crossing, the dour and unstoppable agent… even Maclean’s dry sense of humour, which often gets lost in the translation to the big screen, comes through – probably as a result of Maclean writing the screenplay from his novel.
The pace of the film is perfect, with a running time of 90 minutes not leaving you feel the film has outstayed its welcome. The actions scenes are fine, if a little outdated.. the scenes skulking around the castle even reminded me of possibly my favourite Maclean movie – Where Eagles Dare (the actor who played the castle Kommandant, General Rosemeyer, is also in this movie, making another link). Music is pretty good for a 70’s score, with a brash theme that crops up anytime our hero is running or flying around – which is a significant part of the time.. it’s the sort of music which would not have been out of place in an episode of ‘The Professionals’. Another piece of inter-movie trivia – the stunts for the movie were done by Vic Armstrong and Bob Simmons, both Bond movie veterans. Watching this movie, one can almost imagine Hopkins playing Bond.
Hopkins plays the cynical Maclean hero well, with the right does of dry humour – and is ably backed up by a great character actor cast – Robert Morley basically plays a more comic version of ‘M’ from the earlier Bond movies, Jack Hawkins has little screen time as Sir Anthony Skouros, and is even voiced over (by Charles Gray, who also appeared in two Bond movies – ‘Diamonds are forever’ and ‘You only live twice’) as he had a voice box owing to his throat cancer. Nathalie Delon plays the femme fatale role adequately – as far as I can tell, this was one of the few times she appeared in an English speaking role.
All in all, a refreshingly taut little thriller which hits the right notes, and has not dated too badly. A cut above other thrillers of its time, recommended for any fans of Maclean or 70’s thrillers in general, but not one of his best movie adaptations.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best all-around MacLean book makes a great movie, 15 Dec. 2004
By 
Darren Harrison "DVD collector and reviewer" (Washington D.C.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
Ask your standard movie fan which Alistair MacLean adaptation they prefer and the vote would most likely be split between THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and WHERE EAGLES DARE, but, whilst I absolutely love the latter of those two, my personal favorite has been for many years WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL - a spy thriller penned by MacLean in the late 1960s and filmed with Anthony Hopkins in the lead role in 1971.
I saw the movie many years ago on British television and always longed to see it once more. My prayers were answered when it was finally announced for DVD release in Region 2. Armed with a new region-free DVD player, I ordered it and anxiously checked my Maryland mailbox every day until its arrival.
Watching it once again after all these years my passion for this action adventure is unfailing, I consider this to be the best spy thriller that [Bond producers] EON Productions NEVER made.
With a simply superb cast that sees Hopkins joined by Robert Morley (as a rather snobbish boss) and Jack Hawkins (as a suspicious millionaire) this movie is simply brimming over with "Bondian" elements that include beautiful girls (bad and good), thrilling action, underwater battles, building suspense and a roaring soundtrack. It's the most entertaining couple of hours of spy thriller action that I have had the opportunity to enjoy in almost two decades.
Hopkins plays secret agent Calvert who travels to the coast of Scotland disguised as a marine biologist to investigate the disappearance of bullion ships in the Irish Sea. There he encounters a colorful array of characters, both friend and foe before a climactic battle in an underground boathouse.
This DVD sports a fine transfer with only the theatrical trailer as a special feature. Still it is very entertaining and well worth putting your hard earned cash for. A simply cannot recommend it strongly enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Calvert...Philip Calvert!", 9 July 2011
By 
Mr. Sc Allen "Sam Studios" (Winchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
James Bond fan? Seen all the 007 movies? And you have `em all on DVD? Not quite. The chances are that most of you will have missed this unofficial entry into the Bond series. In fact, in its covert desire to sneak beneath the radar - it changed Bond's name to Philip Calvert and is now played by a young and virile Anthony Hopkins. His passing resemblance to Daniel Craig aside, When Eight Bells Toll is the Bond movie that, both stylistically and chronologically (aside from its diminished budget), should have followed On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Shot in the Pinewood Studios home of Bond and utilising some well known Bond personnel, including legendary stuntman Vic Armstrong, Alistair Maclean's book becomes celluloid Bond by proxy. Eschewing the pre-credit foreplay of the traditional 007 teaser, W8BT arrives mid-plot with Calvert stealing aboard a suspect boat and discovering two dead colleagues. A brief flashback to Calvert's briefing scene rings at least one of the eight bells, signalling its Bondian ambition. Almost note for note, Bond fans will recognise Calvert's chopper arriving in the lush gardens of Heatherden Hall as being virtually identical to the chopper arriving on Spectre Island in From Russia With Love. It lands and out steps Calvert in naval uniform - yet again - pure 007! An administrator teases Calvert about being the first underwater spy. Calvert smirks as if to say Well Yes! If Thunderball hadn't beaten us to it.
Hopkins plays his role as he would James Bond - Rogueish, a little insubordinate with a cut-glass English accent. Pretty close to Fleming's literary 007. In an effort to divert from such libellous suggestion, Calvert's boss Uncle Arthur (reminiscent of `Mother' in The Avengers) does refer to our hero as coming from a northern grammar school. You would never guess. Eton more like! Robert Morley plays his role like all his others - avuncular, pompous, camp and bitchy. Like M, Uncle Arthur suffers the same irritation at his best man's devil-may-care attitude. Unlike the manly and stoic Bernard Lee however, Uncle Arthur's codename for Calvert isn't Wolf or Seeker or something like that. No. It's Buttercup! How very daring!
The other notable difference occurs with the geography. Unlike the exotic and far-flung locales of Eon's enterprise W8BT is set and shot in the less-than-temperate waters of the West Highlands.
A clifftop fistfight between Calvert and two thugs is notable for some spookily Bondian serendipity. Calvert is clearly a James Bond clone (W8BT originally being mooted to be the first in a series of Bond-beating Calvert movies following the hiatus going on in the aftermath of Lazenby's departure from the official Bond series). Martin Grace and Bob Simmons play the uncredited thugs in the sequence. Martin Grace was Roger Moore's 007 stunt double and Bob Simmons was Sean Connery's(Simmons famously had the honour of being the first actor to `play' Bond in Dr. No's gunbarrel sequence). Hence, we have 3 proxy Bonds in a scrap: Two official doubles beating the crap out of a young upstart pretender. Now that doesn't happen every day!
Calvert's first encounter with the real nominated villain of the piece aboard his ostentatious luxury yacht is pure, triple-malt Fleming. Jack Hawkins plays the Greek shipping magnate Skouras and is introduced in an overtly vulgar dinner jacket wearing weird silent movie make-up and spouting pointed dialogue like "There's always peril in these waters!" Uncle Arthur expresses outrage when Calvert suggests that Skouras might be implicated in the slightly fuzzy, gold bullion shenanigans: A recurring motif in several Bond films where the philanthropist billionaire is accused much to his superior's disbelief. To add to its double - oh deja Vu, his glamorous but dour trophy wife, Charlotte looks like Ursula Andress and amusingly bemoans not being in the South of France (a sentiment no doubt echoed by the entire production!).
The climax in a secret boathouse beneath a castle is like a no-budget precursor to the oil tanker climax in The Spy Who Loved me. Similarly Calvert's underwater recce is a strong precursor to the underwater scene in For Your Eyes Only. With a cracking helicopter sequence, some shootouts and some good punch-ups, it's a shame this was to be Calvert's only mission.
Still, he did return a year later in Diamonds are Forever.
Ah! Sorry! That really was Bond!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underrated, 28 Nov. 2008
By 
G. R. Donaldson (Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
This is a cracking little thriller.Anthony Hopkins makes for a somewhat muted and distant hero. However he utterly convinces in the action department. One fight scene set in a cemetary although clumsily staged looks authentic. For me the real highlight is Robert Morley's turn as Hopkins Whitehall spy chief. What a wonderful actor he was and this semi comedic role is a fitting memory of him.
Other attributes of this film, the scottish locations. The helicopter sequence when Hopkins is searching the coastline almost has a documentary feel to it. Also Sir Anthony looks like he could handle himself if push came to shove. Well worth a look and at an attracive price.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific "boys own" adventure, 26 July 2004
By 
Richard (Axminster, Devon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
Saw this at the cinema when first released and it has lost none of its excitement and adventure. Nicely plotted story with a few twists at the end to help it on it's way. A gang of international gold smugglers are sinking ships carrying gold bullion off the Scottish Highlands. A young Anthony Hopkins with a rebellious nature is sent packing off with Corin Redgrave to investigate and report. He finds more than he bargains for and decided to go further than he has been ordered to. His boss played by a marvellous Robert Morley flies up to the location complaining about the food and weather and joins in the hunt.
Full of corny but apt one liners and good character actors including Jack Hawkins who used a voice box as by then he had lost his voice due to illness.
Robust and tight direction make this a thoroughly enjoyable film which is enhanced by the atmospheric and beautiful Western Scottish Isle locations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Alistair Maclean thriller in the James Bond mould, 19 Aug. 2013
By 
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
This 1971 movie, directed by Etienne Périer is based on a novel by Alistair Maclean, who also wrote the screenplay. It is an exciting, action-packed story about a cargo ship full of gold bullion that disappears off the coast of Scotland near the town of Torbay: and it is not the first. Naval Commander Philip Calvert (Anthony Hopkins) together with intelligence expert Hunslett (Corin Redgrave) concoct a plan to try to locate exactly where the vessels go missing. They place two agents under the direction of a senior official known only as `Uncle Arthur' (Robert Morley) undercover on one of the bullion ships so that they can radio back information. However, when Calvert drops in to investigate their radio silence, he discovers that they are both dead. Suspicion falls on a vessel in the area under the ownership of a Greek shipping magnate called Skouras (Jack Hawkins) who claims to have a lovely young second wife Charlotte (Nathalie Delon). But Skouras and Charlotte are clearly under the control of Lavorski (Ferdy Maine). A number of people have disappeared locally over the preceding months and this adds to the mystery that Calvert must investigate. The drama of the film is enhanced considerably by the incidental music composed by English bandleader Wally Stott.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A gritty adventure that stands the test of time, 27 Jan. 2014
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Steven - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
This cracking "boys own" adventure story delivers a decent enough tale with plenty of action thrown in. Ships are going missing in the Irish sea and tough as nails Philip Calvert is sent to find out why. Hopkins (as Calvert) is on fine form as the resourceful and determined Naval officer; as a leading character he's like Bond but with less swarthy charm and a bit more grit. I first saw this years ago and can see why it was touted to take over as a franchise when Connery was going to move over. From Scottish castles to luxury yachts, Calvert uncovers the mystery whilst dealing with shipping tycoons, fighting hired thugs and getting close to femme fatales. Robert Morely plays Calvert's superior at the Admiralty and I find his slightly comedic character doesn't sit well with the darker tone of the movie, but Morely's fun to watch so he doesn't spoil things entirely. This was adapted from an Alistair Mclean novel of the same name althought the ending was changed to give a more action packed finale when Calvert and co storm the concealled docks to take out the bad guys. I watched this again recently and I thought it had aged rather well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It tolls for thee..., 2 Feb. 2013
This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
Anthony Hopkins in an early role as the spy who came in from the 'low-budget' arena. Filmed in the era of 'James Bond' this is a really decent stab at a book by Alistair McLean. Great action scenes in terms of the budget allowed and great use of the location in Scotland and thereabouts. Hopkins was surprisingly athletic in his youth and swallows every scene he's in despite his youthful good looks. He manages to steal every scene in the film and it comes as no surprise that he eventually became a household name as an actor... The soundtrack is good too and delightfully early 70's!
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5.0 out of 5 stars when eight bells toll., 17 Jan. 2015
This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
I remember been on holiday in Blackpool in 1973. And seeing a double bill poster of this film. Along with puppet on a chain. Which lead me to go and see the films at the ABC Blackpool. Apart from the James bond films that I had seen on double bills. I have to say that these two are just as good as 007. Now on DVD in widesreen every one can enjoy when eight bells toll. Anthony Hopkins is great as our hero and Robert Morley as his boss. Looking forward to seeing this on blu ray one day.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, 1 July 2012
By 
Philip B. Davison (California, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] (DVD)
Loved this movie, remember it so much form my childhood. Produced by Harry Saltzman (James Bond fame he co-produced the Sean Connery movies with Cubby Broccoli and he also made the Harry Palmer films with Michael Caine) Very well made, directed and not bad acted but lets be honest there must have been some better actors than little Anthony Hopkins. Bought this like many as I am a Brit living in the states, thank god for multi regional dvd players.
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When Eight Bells Toll [DVD]
When Eight Bells Toll [DVD] by Etienne Périer (DVD - 2004)
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