It’s the start of the working week again, and it’s time once more to reach into the grab bag and pull out something to watch. Perhaps I should have said that “it’s time once Moore” because today’s film stars non other than Sir Roger Moore.
As with any actor who is tasked with playing James Bond, the struggle is always to maintain an identity as an actor apart from your role as the suave agent. All the actors who have come to fame playing the role seem to always have this problem. (Especially George Lazenby, who recalls anything about him other than being the one time Bond.) While Moore had been an established actor for many years playing in many films, The Saint TV series, and even a handful of episodes ofMaverick, he knew this was a trap that he could easily fall into. So in between his 007 romps, he took on many different films. In 1977 he was coming off of the success of The Spy Who Loved Me(perhaps the best outing of Moore’s Bond) when he made The Wild Geese (1978) with Richard Burton, a film about mercenaries in Africa. Then in 1979 he had a banner year with three films being released, Moonraker, the star studded WW II picture Escape to Athena, which I have never seen, but would really love to (I mean Sonny Bono, Moore, Richard Roundtree, and Telly Savalas in one film!), and the film that I want to bring to you…
“ffolkes” (1979) starring Roger Moore, James Mason, and Anthony Perkins. Directed by Andrew V. McLagen.
Rufus Excalibur ffolkes is just your average sort of scotch drinking, cat loving, woman hating, commando training chap. He is approached by his employer to devise a scheme to defend oil platforms in the North Sea from terrorist attacks. Naturally it’s only a few months down the road before such a thing happens.
Lou Kramer (Perkins) and his band of terrorists pose as journalists to get themselves on board Esther, a ship resupplying the oil drilling and production platforms. They soon hijack the ship and place mines on both of the platforms. Kramer then makes his demands known, 25 million pounds in assorted currencies to be delivered within 24 hours.
The prime minister convinces a meeting of her cabinet, and after much debating Admiral Brindsen (Mason) is dispatched to seek the aid of ffolkes. The eccentric commando and his team have been drilling the scenario nonstop, and they have their plan laid down to the last second. Yet with the unpredictable Kramer and the crew of the Esther to account for, seconds slip away and it’s up to ffolkes to think on his feet if he is to save the day.
–The name ffolkes is a play on 007 with the FFO of his name being a kind of distorted mirror image.
–The film was an attempt for Moore to play a broader comical character (as if his turns as Bond were not comical). How ever Moore has stated that he felt he was terribly miscast in the role.
–Andrew V. McLagen’s previous directorial credits include the Jimmy Stewart western Bandolero!, the James Coburn/Charlton Heston film The Last Hard Man,and the 1979 Moore film The Wild Geese.
–“ffolkes” is the North American title for the film. Originally it was entitled the very dull North Sea Hijack.
The Bug Speaks
Now this is one I had never heard of before I picked up the tape at a flea market some time back, and it’s really a shame. While it is not the greatest film of all time by any means, it definitely had more going for it than some of the Moore’s Bond films (I’m looking at you Moonraker andOctopussy). The comedy is played very sharply and many of the performances elevated the film well above the scripted page.
Moore was a real treat in this flick. With ffolkes’ hard line anti-woman stance, it gave Moore an opportunity to lampoon the debonair charm of 007. It also lead to one of the best lines in the film where he reveals the background of his misogynistic ways. ( You can see this exchange in the clip I’m linking below, but if you do want to see this film I recommend you skip it so as not to spoil the laugh you’ll get out of it.) There is also the character’s predisposition to cats. Several of the scenes feature Moore plotting how to overcome the terrorists while happily doing a cross-stitch of his favorite feline. The whole portrayal was well fit to Moore’s typical hammy style, and it made him the man to watch in this film.
James Mason, who I love to see in any role, did not have a wasted moment in his role as the foil to the curmudgeonly ffolkes. As always, Mason lays down his role with great skill, and the dulcet cadence of his voice is always a welcome part to any film he is in. Anthony Perkins is another actor who seems to have had a hard time shaking off a role. He is suitably sadistic as the leader of the terrorists/thieves, and it’s interesting to watch a thinly veiled gay subtext come to light around his character and one of his henchmen. Perkins was still a few years off from reviving his most famous role when this movie was made, and he does a very entertaining job.
The rest of the cast is mostly unmemorable with a few exceptions. Jack Watson who played the captain of the Esther has a face that drove me nuts wondering where I knew him from. Seems the answer was that he had been a bit player in movies from 1951 all the way to 1994 including such films as Hammer’s The Gorgon(1964) and Brit-sploitation flick Schizo(1976). Also of interest is Michael Parks who appeared in both of the Kill Bill films as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw (who also turned up in Grindhouse). Lea Brodie, the pixie cut cutie chef of the Esther, also appeared in the cult film Warlords of Atlantis (1978).
In the end it is the performances of the actors in this film that give it any kind of credibility. The film is shot very standardly and looks like any number of low grade action films that came out in the late ’70’s. Being that I grew up in the early ’80’s I have quite the affection for those kind of films, and I could easily see this as one that TBS most likely played back in the day. For anyone who is looking for a fun film or to see Roger Moore and James Mason chew up their time on screen, this is one I would recommend. Expect nothing from it except an entertaining 90 minutes that never drags, and you’ll come out very happy. That’s about all I have to say about it, and my name is Bug, Lightning Bug.