We’re back. Yes the Four Horseman of the Video Store Apocalypse, better known to our followers as the Video Store Action Heroes are taking on the popular topic of Planes, Trains and Auto …. back the $%&^* up. Just which one of my fellow heroes picked this topic? Planes, Trains and … Boats? I can just imagine Steve Martin breaking a banjo string and John Candy looking down on us with a raised eyebrow once word reaches them of our automobile snub.
Which brings us to my selection using the Planes theme of our choices that stars the legendary Clint Eastwood directing himself for the 7th time. No it’s not a Dirty Harry film that sees Callahan taking on a group of hijackers utilizing snakes to hold their hostages at bay. We’ll leave that for Samuel L. Jackson in the not too distant future. No this is more Concorde ’79 than it is the streets of San Francisco.
“We need you Major. You’re the best we got.”
No he isn’t a hitman coming out of retirement. Not this time at least. No sir, Clint is a retired Airforce pilot who was indeed one of their best. Following the Vietnam war that saw him captured after ejecting from his damaged plane, he saw first hand the horrors of war on the ground as opposed to the skies and has never been able to get past the images of war. Now he’s a recluse living in Alaska. His country is about to come calling when intel unveils that the Russians have a new state of the art fighter pilot called the Firefox.
What makes Clint the best man for the job of entering Russia as a civilian and connecting to the underground? Simple. He speaks Russian and with his flying skills, he’s the perfect patsy to infiltrate a Russian military compound and steal the Firefox from it’s hangar and fly it to England where Professor Freddie Jones will be eagerly awaiting it’s arrival. Of course if Clint were to be captured, he’s a lame duck who is acting purely on his own.
While we all know Clint is quite the tough guy on camera, this time out he’s closer to a pacifist thanks to his emotional wartime scars. He’s far from an espionage expert and though he agrees to the operation, he’s going to be coddled by Warren Clarke who is his Russian contact once entering the Soviet Union. One who thinks very little of Clint’s success rate early on. Clint may be a pacifist but when he’s cornered by a KGB officer at a train depot, he’ll become the Clint we are all familiar with as he uses deadly force to remain at large.
At a running time of two hours and sixteen minutes, there really isn’t much going on other than the straight goods. Clint gets recruited to go to Russia. Clint hangs with the underground and avoids all KGB officers with the blank expressions and the one line we expect to hear them say, “Your papers.” Clint gets his orders on just how the operation is to be successfully carried out with the help of Nigel Hawthorn and of course Clint steals the Firefox and now must evade it’s twin piloted by Colonel Voskov (Kai Wulff). While all of these plot points are circling, the Russians led by Stefan Schnabel and Klaus Lowitsch are doing their best to save face at the Kremlin, track Clint and return the Firefox to it’s hangar.
When all seems lost the order is given, “Obliterate it. Completely.” Yes Clint and the Firefox, much like the Concorde ’79 coupled with the lousy F/X to match are going to have to evade capture or worse still, destruction.
Yeah this one’s totally watchable but then that’s the Eastwood factor taking hold. Truthfully if one wanted to tear this one apart, it’s relatively easy to do but then that’s never been my style. I’d rather poke fun than intentionally cut up a film. Which brings us to the F/X that are employed here and if you’ve seen Airport : Concorde ’79 then you’ll understand why I’ve been tossing that one at you like a grenade. The effects of that film were pure camp and Clint’s nearly hitting the same mark. As a matter of fact for a minute or two I thought maybe he had hired Eiji Tsuburaya away from the Godzilla productions at Toho to take over some arctic sequences employed here. Then there is the Star Wars like fight between the two Firefox aircraft that uses mountain canyons like you’re in a tunnel of the Death Star. To top it off there’s just no excitement in the final battle for the skies accompanied by a Maurice Jarre score that sounds if it’s been lifted from an Indiana Jones adventure.
So now that I’ve got that paragraph out of the way let’s take a breather and remind one and all that this was another Eastwood hit at the box office. And no I don’t think it had anything to do with Ronald Lacey and Wolf Kahler reuniting on camera just one year after their world wide box office smash, Raiders of The Lost Ark. Seriously? You don’t know these guys? Well neither did I but I sure recognized their faces and why wouldn’t I. Lacey played Toht and Kahler played Dietrich. Both slated to melt alongside Paul Freeman’s Belloq after opening the Ark of the Covenant at the film’s fiery climax. Jeez, I hope I didn’t give anything away there.
No, I think this Firefox brought in viewers due to the legendary Mr. Eastwood. As a matter of fact, I was just telling Brando that Clint’s the reason I’ve kept this poor conditioned one sheet after all these years.
Now it’s time to follow those links to my action hero pals to see just what films they’ve dug up from the past to revisit and enjoy once again as we all turn the clock back to the days of the VHS rental. See you next time.