The Secret Of Terror Castle ( The Three Investigators #1) by Robert Arthur

First published in the mid 1960’s, this mystery/adventure series of approximately forty books were written for 8-15 years olds and would be hard to beat if you want to find thrilling and original tales that don’t talk down to kids. Some of the plots pertain to ghosts, whispering mummies, talking skulls and other spooky or eerie themes although the stories always climax in some scheme in which a band of thieves, rustlers, con men or other non-supernatural element are attempting to snatch a lost or hidden treasure. I loved reading them as a child, and find that after all these years, they are still entertaining and packed with adventure.  [Read more…]

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The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken)

 

Set in an alternative 1832 where the monarch is James III (implying that the House of Hanover never came to the throne) and wolves have entered England during a bad winter by crossing the Channel Tunnel (not opened in our reality until 1994). Unlike the children’s books of today – this was first published in the early 1960s – the whole thing proceeds at a rip-roaring pace with very little build-up. There are a number of other books in the series, all set in the same alternate history but I don’t know if all the characters are the same in each. [Read more…]

The Assassination Bureau (1969 United Kingdom)

‘The Assassination Bureau Ltd.’ was an incomplete novel by Jack London. The 1969 film version was produced by Michael Relph and directed by Basil Dearden. Crusading journalist Sonya Winter (Diana Rigg) uncovers the existence of a secret society of hired assassins operating at the turn of the 19th century. Their founder is cocksure Russian nobleman Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed). He is hired by Sonya to murder…himself. Feeling the Bureau to have become complacent, he accepts the challenge. Sounds like quite an ominous plot!
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Spectre (2015 United Artists)

The Sam Smith theme tune is s**t, obviously, but the rest of Spectre is quite superior to most other 007 entries in the long and tortuous franchise going back to before most of us were even born. Heck, this may even be my favourite. If you’ve wanted a Bond film that successfully merges Craig’s gritty Casino Royale, with all the old school touches, look no further. Director Sam Mendes tries to create massive story-arcs that span 4 films! Adding to that he attempts to weigh in on Bond’s steely personality, giving him a back-story that almost turns him into Bruce Wayne. (Don’t laugh) In modern parlance, this is some deep s**t. [Read more…]

The Island At The Top Of The World (1974 USA)

A fun and forgettable family adventure film that passes the time amiably enough. There’s nothing here that’s controversial, just one old-fashioned adventure after another, and thankfully it’s not as twee as I’d feared given its Disney pedigree. This is one of the better-regarded of the Disney studio’s live-action efforts, particularly among those made following Walt’s death. It’s a fantasy adventure on Jules Verne lines; actually, the film coincided with the somewhat similar (and equally good) The Land That Time Forgot (1975). [Read more…]

The Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers (2002 New Zealand/USA)

So the journey continued with ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.’ This review will assume you have seen the first film, ‘The Fellowship of the Ring.’ Which is fine because Peter Jackson, at the helm of this massive production, assumes you have seen it as well. Intelligently, Jackson does not begin with a redundant and unnecessary prologue. He dives right into what the filmmakers considered the hardest segment of the trilogy to make.  [Read more…]

The Sword In The Stone (1963 Walt Disney)

A wonderful classic story, told in typical Disney style while Walt was still alive, and filled with great songs and beautiful animation, how could anyone not fall in love with The Sword in the Stone? The 18th animated Disney outing is a very relaxing movie to watch. In any animation, you want humour and emotion, and this film has plenty of both. Most of the humour comes from Sir Ektor (voice of Sebastian Cabot) and Archimedes (voice of Junius Matthews), but Merlin (voice of Karl Swenson) had some truly delicious lines. I just love Archimedes, he is absolutely hilarious, and still manages to be likable, despite being very grumpy.  [Read more…]

Live And Let Die (1973 United Artists)

LALDYou’ll have a rucking good time watching a clown in a tuxedo, I mean Britain’s most famous spy, in his 8th adventure. Buttocks will be kicked and maybe even some names taken in vain. Mix in some racial tension and viola! An above average Bond flick. This time it feels smaller scale and slightly less over the top although it has the action comedy tone which would define the Roger Moore era. Ludicrous yet rooted in the real world and centred on a very real issue rather than the usual world domination or diamond lasers. Director Guy Hamilton manages to get the tone just right. This was a stark change to the usual proceedings: Roger Moore’s debut is about voodoo, the supernatural and the majority of the cast are black people.  [Read more…]

Moonraker (1979 United Artists)

For children in the late 70s Roger Moore was The Man. Suave, sophisticated and debonair. We didn’t care that he was as old as the hills. If you could fashion a man out of a bottle of Old Spice–Rog would be that man. You could smell his classiness from your cinema seat. I don’t think anybody walked out of a Timothy Dalton Bond feeling like they could conquer the world, but with Roger we did. No matter how many actors play the role, he’s the one I remember with most affection. This was 007’s eleventh adventure on the big screen. This was big. Huge! Biggest budget yet. Biggest box office profit. But Moonraker is strangely unloved. “Too unlike the novels, too much like Star Wars, too silly…” say the naysayers. I disagree. [Read more…]

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

George Lucas remade one of the finest works of film master Akira Kurosawa, the Western-themed “Hidden Fortress,” with one scene (the fight in the bar) stolen from Yojimbo. Therefore, Star Wars  has a bit of the jittery discomfort of characters trying to fit into a story that wasn’t quite made for them, like people with past life experiences that intrude into the present. Kurosawa’s hero is split not into two but three heroes in Star Wars (four if you include the princess, who has a more prominent role in Star Wars. It is frankly too bad that Star Wars later fell into the hands of Disney and JJ Abrams, becoming a tool solely for cashing in, and a line item on someone’s accounting ledger, but I guess that is probably the way the wafer crumbles in Hollywood. I simply choose to ignore the boring new films… [Read more…]

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