At long last I’ve caught up with the final film of Peter Cushing. While he doesn’t go out on a horror note, it is a very good role for the aging Peter who had been looking frail for a number of years on screen. As for the Biggles character, it’s new to me. I don’t think I was aware that it was a fairly popular character in print for a number of years from author W.E. Johns.
“Props” Peter plays the connecting figure in this tale of time travel that sees a young man (Alex Hyde-White) from the contemporary United States finding himself thrown back in time to the days of World War One where he will meet British Flying Ace, James “Biggles” Bigglesworth played by Neil Dickson. Giving the young Alex a scare, a gaunt looking Peter will appear at his apartment door wondering if “it” has happened yet. The youngster quickly dismisses the old man and shuts the door. Moments later the “it” will happen as he finds himself zapped back in time to the battlefields of 1914 where he’ll connect with Biggles and leave him his business card before finding himself thrust back to his own time and place.
Upon a second meeting with the iconic Cushing, the young man will have the card returned to him with a good seventy years of wear and tear attached to it. Now he isn’t so sure but after another trip back in time for a brief skirmish with Biggles and the German war machine, he heeds Peter’s advice upon his return and heads to London to Peter’s living quarters looking for answers. Following after him is girlfriend Fiona Hutchinson worried about her boyfriend’s sanity.
Another trip backwards will bring the young man into the battle zones with Biggles and his British buddies as they fight the Germans led by the main villain and Ace flyer Marcus Gilbert who will have various skirmishes with the stars over the course of the film. Injecting a bit of comedy onto the film Alex will return to the present in a nun’s outfit causing Fiona to have her serious doubts as to his mental stability. That is until she is present during the next electrical storm and latches on to Alex finding herself in the trenches of WW1.
Plenty more adventures follow both in the past and the present with Biggles, Alex and Fiona. During these time trips, you’ll find out what Cushing’s connection is to the past and considering there is a series of stories in book form, we shouldn’t be surprised that the film leaves itself wide open for more adventures. Adventures that didn’t materialize. Geared towards a younger audience, it could have worked but on this side of the pond, I’m pretty sure this wound up as a direct to video release. If it did see the inside of theaters, I can’t recall which tells me that if it did, it must have been a short run in select cities.
Cushing was reunited in Biggles with John Hough as director. Hough had helmed the totally wild and thoroughly entertaining Hammer flick Twins of Evil that saw Peter portraying a stern task master by day and evil witch hunter by night. Hough would also direct the 1973 Richard Matheson classic, The Legend of Hell House. Calling it quits following this production, Peter Cushing would pass away 8 years later in 1994. Miraculously, he was raised from the dead via CGI for the most recent Star Wars film which leads me to wonder if we may some day see a new John Wayne western in theaters worldwide as I predict every now and then.
Included in Biggles aside from a comic styled adventure are some fine aerial dog fights minus the CGI of today (sorry can’t help myself) and slightly titled camera angles that work well for the film, time travelling and it’s top secret weapons. Thankfully this has turned up on blu ray via the Kino Lorber label giving me a chance to finally see this one after passing on it years ago though I’m not sure why as I’m as big a fan of Peter Cushing as the next Hammer aficionado.
Worth a look if you get a chance and even more so if you’ve got a youngster to sit in and watch alongside.