Friday February 17, 2017
There are those films with car chases that thrill and inspire – Bullitt, The Italian Job, Brannigan - but there are also those pictures with such wayward pursuit sequences that the viewer eventually begins to wonder if he/she dreamt them. Here are my five such memorable moments:
5) Dr. No: 1962
Dr. No was not an especially high budget production, even by 1962 standards, so some errors are to be expected; namely six-cylinder Impalas with overdubbed V8 engine notes and Chevrolet Bel Airs with Ford dashboards. The major problem is the sequence between the Sunbeam Alpine Series II and the La Salle Funeral Coach, as the footage of the rented (15 shillings per day) Sunbeam shot on location in Jamaica so badly fails to match the studio sequences in Pinewood Studios. Cars make dramatic tarmac screeching noises on a dirt road and the back projection is on a par with an ITC adventure series but it is still tremendous fun – even if the La Salle magically transforms into a Humber before descending a ravine.
4) Target: 1977 - 1978
Some older readers may remember Target, the BBC police series once brilliantly described as ‘a sort of Alan Partridge re-imagining of The Sweeney’. The hero is one Detective Superintendent Steve Hackett of the ‘13th Regional Crime Squad’, played by Patrick Mower, who shouts virtually all his lines, with his nostrils and trousers equally flared. This clip encapsulates the major elements that made the series so compulsive. Thrill! as the hoods drive a Transit security van into as convenient pile of tyres! Gasp! As stunt ace Eddie Powell performs U-turns in his Cortina S Mk. IV. And Marvel! As Mr. Mower borrows a Dodge 500 lorry and proceeds to drive around Southampton Eastern Docks in a manner not recommended by the Highway Code.
3) The Saint: 1962 - 1969
One of my favourite shows, not least because of its wonderfully inept car chases. One episode that truly stands out is 1967’s Invitation to Danger, directed by Roger Moore himself and commencing with a fight in that ever-popular location of the Elstree Studio underground car park. A short time later, we cut to Simon Templar’s Volvo P1800 speeding through Hertfordshire as it does battle with a Humber Super Snipe travelling at approximately 150 mph. Over the next 50 minutes, our hero breaks down some balsa wood doors and encounters this week’s four-wheeled guest star - a white Vauxhall PR fleet PC Cresta De Luxe that, due to an interesting approach to continuity, apparently has the cabin of a Ford Corsair. All in all, eyebrow raisingly good television.
2) George & Mildred – The Film: 1980
Back in December 1980, I was most excited to learn that the feature length George & Mildred would be screened on Christmas Day immediately after The Queen’s Speech. Afterwards, I was so disappointed that I sat uncomplainingly through 3-2-1, such was my despond. The problem was the charm of the original series was almost entirely absent in the film and the chase between the Ropers’ Morris Minor Tourer and two rival gangs of hoods (in a Mercedes-Benz 240D and a ’72 Chevrolet Impala) was clearly shot on a military test track. However, the scene with Dudley Sutton’s middle-aged bike gang leader ‘Mr. Jacko’ almost made the film worthwhile. Almost.
1) The Boys in Blue: 1982
Cannon & Ball, a double act in the great music hall tradition, deserved so much better for their only big screen vehicle than a tired remake of Will Hay’s Ask a Policeman. British Leyland provided their Mini Metro Panda Car plus a fleet of SD1s for the senior officers but, alas, the entire production looks as though it was shot in a wet October afternoon for about £1.45. By the point, we reach the final reel chase, the entire cast looks as though they just want to go home, not assisted by the fact that the Metro appears to be trundling along at a less than gripping 25 mph. Small wonder that a Betamax copy of this ‘masterpiece’ slowly gathered dust in a corner of my local video library throughout the 1980s.