Saturday, March 13, 2010

"NOTHING WILL GO WRONG!!!" FFOLKES is a kind of action movie about a group of terrorists who hijack a North Sea oil rig and hold the British government for ransom. And the name of the movie IS "FFOLKES"; not "NORTH SEA HIJACK" or whatever other stupid retitle they slap on it. The film is based on Jack Davies' novel "Esther, Ruth & Jennifer" and he also wrote the screenplay. These three names represent the three boats/oil rigs the baddies hold for ransom. Roger Moore stars as the bewhiskered Rufus Excalibur ffolkes: a sort of commando/anti-terror ninja warrior who likes cats and hate women (not necessarily in that order). He also drinks scotch the way it was meant to be drunk: neat! Oh and he does needlepoint. I believe Roger Moore has commented that he thought he was miscast in the role but I strongly disagree. In fact, this is probably my favourite Roger Moore film (I never quite fancied him as 007). Roger Moore's ffolkes is cranky, surly, opinionated and downright rude. The actor pulls it off much more successfully than he did James Bond, I think.
The plot goes like this: ffolkes and his ffusilliers are hired by the boss to come up with a plan to thwart any attempt to hijack a North Sea oil rig. ffolkes does so. Coincidentally, about a month later a group of terrorists (headed by the twitchy Anthony Perkins still trying to shake off his Norman Bates character) actually DO hijack a Norwegian oil rig planting explosives on the rig and on the boat they're using as Hijack HQ. The Prime Minister (Faith Brook) -- a female -- how's THAT going to go over with ffolkes -- charges our adorable commando to defeat the terrorists before the ransom must be paid. Roger Moore is ably (?) assisted by James Mason (as a slightly dotty admiral), Jeremy Clyde as the Lord Privy Seal Tipping and David Hedison (the Fly no more). Moore is a treat to watch throughout the whole movie (and how often does one say THAT?!?) as he barks and growls at everyone in the vicinity and sneers out some priceless one-liners with an absolutely straight face. James Mason is also a joy as he seems to be having fun going along for the ride. While the proceedings are meant to be taken seriously, there is a nice, lightness provided by occasional comic exchanges. For example: James Mason's slightly annoyed admiral tells ffolkes "I suppose you're one of those fellows who does the Times crossword in ten minutes?" and Roger Moore scowls back "I have NEVER taken TEN minutes!" Another instance occurs when James Mason is going to accompany Roger Moore over to the hijackers' boat to make the money exchange. When asked if he wants his wife to be informed that the admiral volunteered to go over to meet the hijackers, James Mason scoffs "No I don't! My wife would kill me if she thought I volunteered for anything!" At another point, Roger Moore gives a brief personal history of ffolkes by saying that both his parents died tragically in childbirth. Anthony Perkins as the head hijacker Lou Kramer is, as mentioned, still doing his kinda-crazy Norman Bates routine; however, he also is surprisingly adept with throwing out occasionally funny lines. At one point while leaving the bridge of the boat he tells his accomplise "I'm going to go to the bathroom." After a pregnant pause, he then muses "I'm going to TRY to go to the bathroom." The expert touch of these actors while speaking their lines make them actually funnier than they appear written down here. The only female member of the hijacked Norwegian boat is Sanna (Lea Brodie) who also does a nice job in her role. However, most of the actors playing the minor hijackers and the minor members of the Norwegian crew seem woefully amateur; as if director Andrew V. McLaglen picked up passersby on the street and said "You wanna be in a movie?"
Nice location shooting abounds. The coastal castle in which ffolkes trains his ffusilliers is beautiful and there is a lot of footage shot on actual boats at sea. There is one particularly good explosive effect as well. While the film probably didn't have a monumental budget, it certainly doesn't look like a shoestring production and comes off looking quite respectable. For modern audiences (the film was made in 1979), the action might not start quite soon enough for the attention-deficit generation. However, that's not the whole point of the movie as characterization is given equal time. Ditto the setting up of the plot and situation. The unfolding of the hijackers' plot and it's implementation is painstakingly shown as if we were watching a police procedural in reverse. There is also plenty of screen time devoted to the appropriately cat and mouse game between sly old ffolkes and slimy old Kramer. There are also one or two surprises along the way and a very cute (without being saccharine) final scene. FFOLKES isn't a hold-on-to-your-seat thrill ride but it is a solid action film with good performances (mostly) that I think is well worth your time.
"A wetsuit in vermillion?!?! Just what one needs at night!!!"

6 comments:

Weaverman said...

While I totally agree with your estimation of this under-rated fun movie I have to protest your bid to hijack (couldn't resist that) the title of this film. It is an English production and therefore whether you like it or not the title is NORTH SEA HIJACK. Just because you yanks decided to call it FFOLKES does not make it so. We made it so we named. Having said that, I think FFOLKES is the better title of the two/

Unknown said...

Roger Moore; everything he touches turns to eyebrow raising toe curling entertainment.double oh no

Cerpts said...

It's name is ffolkes. Go and sin no more.

Cerpts said...

And if you don't agree with us Yanks we'll just invade you!

Weaverman said...

The only oil we've got is in sardine cans!

Cerpts said...

I'll take it!!!