North Sea Hijack 1980 ***


For a man with effortless charisma, Roger Moore was rarely satisfied with just exerting his easy-going charm, and is cast somewhat against type in North Sea Hijack, also known by the name of his character Ffolkes. With an odd distaste for women and a penchant for kittens, Ffolkes is called into service when Kramer (Anthony Perkins) leads a terrorist assault on a North Sea oil rig, with James Mason stepping aside to let Ffolkes do his thing. Adapted by Jack Davies from his novel Esther, Ruth and Jennifer (the names of three oil platforms), North Sea Hijack marks another fresh collaboration between Moore and director Andrew V McLaglen, son of Victor, with The Wild Geese and The Sea Wolves also on his CV. A precursor to the Die Hard era for situation-based action, the combination of star and director makes for an enjoyable time-passer for action fans, even if the terrorism on offer is lamentably lo-fi.

Catch 22 1970 ****


Joseph Heller’s classic anti-war novel has a wealth of incident that makes it hard to imagine as a film, but The Graduate’s team of Mike Nichols and Buck Henry capture much of the anarchic flavor of the book. Set in a US base in the Mediterranean durung WWI, Catch 22 stars Alan Arkin as Yossarian, a bombardier who dares to question the war effort, and the top brass features a wealth of talent, including Orson Welles, Anthony Perkins, plus Jon Voight as Milo Minderbinder. Nichols handles the comedy well, mixing farces with some shocking violence, including a graphic slicing in two by plane; if the final effect is overwhelming, that’s not a million miles from Heller’s original intent.

Psycho II 1983 ***


One of the few sequels that merit comparison with the original, Richard Franklin’s 1983 thriller returns to the Bates Motel with Anthony Perkins returning after 22 years in a mental institution and Vera Miles returning as Lila Loomis, and Meg Tilly as her daughter. Norman’s troubled mind is immediately disturbed by the surroundings, but Tom Holland’s script ingenuously reworks many of the tropes of the original Hitchcock film, with the local people keen to knock Norman off his stride by driving him mad. Jerry Goldsmith contributes an excellent score, and Psycho II’s twists and turns make for a stylish entry in the series, strong on suspense and light on gore.

The Black Hole 1980 ***


Disney’s first contribution to the post-Star Wars sci-fi boom is a curious mismatch of styles; the plot marries the kind of rollicking adventure of 20,000 League Beneath The Sea to the kind of mysticism of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, with cute robots (VINCENT and Old Bob) for the kids.

Maximillian Schell plays Dr Hans Reinhart, whose spaceship The Cygnus is boarded by an intrepid crew including Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Forster and Yvette Mimieux. The secret of what lies beyond the black hole turns out to be something of a damp squib, but director Gary Nelson handles a beautiful production design with great skill, with dazzling visuals including a ball of flame demolishing the innards of the craft. Too slow for kids, and too silly for adults, The Black Hole is still a handsome production for sci-fi addicts.