Orion’s Belt (1985) Norwegian Cold War

Orion's Belt (1985) Poster film artwork photo dvd movie cinemaMuch like last month’s Ground Zero took a real life story and mixed it with a batch of fiction to amp up the drama.

Orion’s Belt is based on factual happenings in the Svalbard regions of Norway where the games of Cold War were being played out between Russia, America and the UK. Real brinkmanship shenanigans, with Norway, and their scandinavian friends, sat right in the middle like the stars in Orion’s Belt.

Orion's Belt (1985) opening title screen shot movie film

The story is an adaptation from a 1977 Nordic crime thriller novel written by Jon Michelet. It’s adventure starts with a three Norwegian salty sea dogs, wheeler and dealer fisherman who are always looking for a way to make a few krone. This involves doing a dodgy little insurance scam with a bulldozer. With orders to dump the machinery into the sea to claim the insurance money by pretending they are hit by a storm losing the bulldozer overboard. Then they decide to sell it, doubling their money.

Orion's Belt (1985) Tom Jansen - Lars and Sverre - skipper the dogOrion's Belt (1985) fisherman russian bucket

This leads them to ship further out in the Norwegian Sea where they hit a real storm forcing them to go ashore on a small island to find supplies. Now this is where it all goes tits up, when they find a large cable running across the land into a cave system. With money signs flashing around their eyes with the thought of selling the wire cable as scrap they follow it’s path till they hit their problem. It’s a manned secret Russian listening post……..

Orion's Belt (1985) russian helicopter attack norway film

And these Russians aren’t too happy to have their secret listening base discovered! Coming after them on helicopters as the guys make their frantic escape, all hell breaks loose.

Tagline – What can one man do against the most lethal army on Earth?… Live to tell the truth!

The three fishermen are Tom Jansen (Helge Jordal), Lars (Sverre Anker Ousdal) and Sverre (Hans Ola Sørlie). Oh and how can I forget! Skipper the sea dog. Can they survive the Russian army and evade capture? Can they outrun the helicopter on their trusty boat? Can this incident be covered up before Cold War tensions get too high?

Orion's Belt (1985) fisherman dingy boat bunker listening post

I thoroughly enjoyed this film, which when the action pieces hit the screen, you will be on the edge of your seat. It thrilling and exciting and the Svalbard settings are absolutely fantastic. Definitely one for your “watch list” notepad. Or have you seen it? What did you think?

Fascinating Fact –  This film was filmed twice in dual-language by two different directors, Ola Solum and Tristan DeVere Cole. Solum filmed in Norwegian and then after each scene Cole resumed the same scenes but this time the actors spoke English. I was expecting a dubbed version when I sat down to watch it. For a few minutes I was convinced it was some of the best dubbing ever lol.

Orion's Belt (1985) cold war action drama film movie

Further Reading

Orion’s Belt (1985) Wiki Info

Cold War Sites Of Norway

Telefon (1977) – The Russian Manchurian Candidates

Telefon (1977) - Charles Bronson Movie poster artwork film

Donald is gonna think I’m stalking him! This is the third film in a row with the versatile, dependable Mr Pleasence and this time it was purely by chance as I didn’t know he was in it. What a great surprise.  Cul-De-Sac was first then Ground Zero.

Was ticking this one off the list mainly because of Charles Bronson and second being that it’s a Don Siegel movie I knew about but wondered if I had actually seen it. I hadn’t and I can report that it’s a fine piece of 70’s drama.

Telefon (1977) - Charles Bronson explosion

Russian saboteurs within the United States had been placed as sleeper cells at strategic positions around America during the height of the Cold War. Without really knowing it they were hypnotised to go on a suicide mission by a command signal setting them off like the Manchurian Candidate. This message is sent by telephone and consists of a phrase from a poem by Robert Frost called ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’.

Tagline – They’ll do anything to stop Telefon. The operation that can trigger 51 human time bombs.

Telefon (1977) - Charles Bronson russian cia agent

Suddenly they are set off one by one blowing stuff up left right and centre. One minute casually fixing a car as a mechanic the next minute you’re plowing through barriers to decommissioned army barracks and blowing up the building. And they just keep coming, hitting targets all over the place. What’s scary is the fact that theres 51 sleepers ready to be activated!

Telefon (1977) - Donald Pleasence telephone bad guy russian agent 3

Who could be doing this? really there can only be one person so dastardly, so ruthless, that it has to be Donald Pleasence playing a disgruntled rogue KGB agent called Nicolai Dalchimsky who has acquired a little black book filled with all the agents addresses and most importantly to him, their phone numbers.

Telefon (1977) - Donald Pleasence telephone bad guy russian agent

Tagline – Your next phone call may be your last!

Who can stop this madman who could actually start world war 3? Well step up Mr Charles Bronson as Russian Major Grigori Borzov, an experienced officer within the KGB with photographic memory superpower. He gets to memorise a copy of the black book before he is sent to the USA to track down and stop Nicolai.

Telefon (1977) - Charles Bronson gun car chase

What name does this Russian super agent go by?  “Gary“! Gary meets up with a sassy CIA agent Barbara played by Lee Remick and she is greeted with the line.

“For an American agent you’re not entirely repulsive!”

There’s lots of great banter and sly spy work chemistry between Gary and Barbara as they try to figure each other out whilst tracking down Nicolai Dalchimsky. Can these two agents work together to bring down this rogue agent on a destructive path trying to start a world war? You have to get this on the watch list to find out if you haven’t seen it already.

Telefon (1977) - Charles Bronson Lee Remick KGB CIA AgentsTelefon (1977) - Charles Bronson Lee Remick KGB CIA Agents car

On a side note – Criminally under used in a wonderful little part, is Tyne Daly from Cagney and Lacey fame playing a super brained boffin, CIA computer expert called Dorothy Putterman. Would liked to see more of her used. She was never better than Kate Moore in The Enforcer annoying Harry Callahan.

Telefon (1977) - Tyne Daly computer geek cia agentTelefon (1977) - Tyne Daly computer geek cia agent 2

Ground Zero (1987) – Cold War In The Outback

Ground Zero (1987) Vickers Valiant bomberGround Zero (1987) Vickers Valiant bomber scientists nuclear radiation

One way to write a good screenplay is to use historical facts for your plot and then jazz it up with some fiction. Ground Zero really doesn’t need “jazzing up” as the original source material is horrific in it’s own right but with a tweak here and there this 80’s Australian film casts a thrilling story. It also scores big points for a collection of amazing imagery which give the outback set pieces a science fiction movie feel.

Ground Zero (1987) Prosper Gaffney Donald Pleasence voice box

And guess what after yesterday’s Cul-de-Sac this is the third film within in a month with the truly wonderful Donald Pleasence. The other film was the exceptional Wake In Fright.

Ground Zero (1987) Harvey Denton (Colin Friels) film editing

Cameraman and film editor, Harvey Denton (Colin Friels) works for a news organisation in the city and freelances from his apartment. In his spare time he converts and edits old family video footage his father took in the 50’s. Also a cameraman, his father was a documentary film-maker working with the army during the secret testing of nuclear explosions in Maralinga in outback South Australia, which he then just vanished.

Ground Zero (1987) Harvey Denton (Colin Friels) gun capture held upGround Zero (1987) Royal Commission Trebilcock Jack Thompson

With the Royal Commission investigating the historical events with the excavation of a radioactive Vickers Valiant bomber which surprisingly contained the skeletal remains of what looks like a murder victim. Could this body be Harvey Dentons missing father? And why are different organisation interested in getting their hands on his family home movies? Motivated to find out what the blue blazes is going on he starts to investigate.

Ground Zero (1987) Harvey Denton film archive vault reel moviesGround Zero (1987) Harvey Denton (ed hearse car van

This leads to encounters with the head of the Royal Commission, Trebilcock (Jack Thompson) who is desperately looking for a lost reel of 35mm camera film. This links to a very eccentric old army veteran called Prosper Gaffney.  Who could that be played by you may ask? Hehe of course it’s Donald Pleasence.

Ground Zero (1987) Charlie (Burnham Burnham)

Now Prosper Gaffney lives out in the outback right near to the quarantine zone at Maralinga. He is now wheelchair bound and relies on the help of his Aboriginal friend Charlie (Burnham Burnham) who is blind, so they both help each other in different ways. 

Ground Zero (1987) Harvey Denton film archive vault reel moviesGround Zero (1987) burning sun outback aussie film oz

Does Prosper Gaffney know anything that can help Harvey Denton out on his quest? Can he find this film reel and give it to the right people to help bring justice to the Indigenous people of Maralinga who had their land, homes, family life and generations of health problems dropped on them from the British nuclear tests allowed through the Australian government.

Ground Zero (1987) burning sun outback aussie film oz Aboriginal stones

Like I said at the top, this story has been enhanced but a lot is very true and just as horrific. As Britain raced to become one of the “nuclear” superpowers during the Cold War they needed somewhere to do their tests. Did they know the exact damage these appalling tests would cause, it’s had to say at the time but it now seems they did and they blamed it on the severe weather change.

Ground Zero (1987)Aboriginal Indigenous people of Maralinga court case

Lots of the characters are loosely based on real people and if it is of interest then please read the links I have added at the bottom of this post to see the awful truth of the horrors of humanity.

It’s an excellent taunt fast paced action mystery film and what with two good performances from Colin Friels and Jack Thompson there’s also that whacked out psychedelic performance from Donald Pleasence who lights up his screen time. It has it’s problems but mainly it’s very enjoyable movie with it’s heart in the right place. Check it out. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

It’s on youtube in full at the moment if you fancied it. All the best… Mikey Wolfman

Further Reading Links

British nuclear tests at Maralinga
An article entitled 60’s years after the Maralinga bomb tests
Ground Zero (1987) Wiki
Ground Zero (1987) Oz Movies Site
Ground Zero (1987)

Ice Station Zebra (1968)

ice-station-zebra-poster-1

There was only one person whom I wished to sit and watch this film with, my good buddy and cuddle machine, Kevin the Yeti. Just managing to squeeze his humongous hairy butt next to me on the sofa, we snuggled in with a few gallons of beer and a mountain of popcorn, I knew there was no chance of getting cold whilst watching this icy adventure.

kevin-the-yeti
Kevin The Yeti, usually found annoying a certain Doctor!

 

This film hits all the right buzzwords for me, Cold War espionage, spies, a submarine, secret mission and a bunch of shifty geezers.

But however much I love this film, we did both agree that an edit could cut at least half an hour from the run time. Clocking in at nearly 2 and half hours I believe it would be more punchy if it was chopped in size. Just an observation, as I know this film is much loved by many people, It’s just a personal view.

Anyway what is this about?

It starts when a satellite crash lands in the Arctic with sensitive highly classified documents of which all the superpowers are after. In comes the top brass who start recruiting for a team to reach the impossibly bleak weather station outpost called Ice Station Zebra.

ice-station-zebra-meet-up
Commander Ferraday, Mr Jones and Boris Vaslov.

First up is the submarine Commander James Ferraday (Rock Hudson) who is to pick up a platoon of Marines and a rather dodgy looking British Intelligence agent with cat like reflexes called Mr Jones (Played by the ever brilliant Patrick Mcgoohan and basically just reliving his role from Danger Man, The Prisoner). Next to turn up for the sub trip is the lovable but shifty Russian defector and spy, Boris Vaslov (hilariously played by Ernest Borgnine). Then last but not least you have the bubbling intensity of badass Captain Anders (Jim Brown) who takes control of the marines.

Tagline – It’s a race for the secret … or TOTAL DESTRUCTION

This is a film of two parts, first part getting the gang together on the Submarine and their voyage to the Arctic. Then part two is set within the compound of the ice station and where the espionage starts to reveal itself.

Now throw in some brinkmanship with the incoming Russians wanting to retrieve their fallen capsule and everyone of the submarine crew looking deceptive and cagey as they all race to Ice Station Zebra. It’s all good fun if not dragged out some, perfect film fodder for a Saturday Matinee.

The fictional USS Tigerfish nuclear submarine sets are very impressive and actually filmed on USS Ronquil (SS-396) a soon to be decommissioned WWII sub.

ice-station-zebra-sub

The film is directed by John Sturges who made incredible films like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and Bad Day at Black Rock (which I need to see).  Adapted from a book of the same name by Alistair MacLean

ice-station-zebra-book

Here’s the trailer and an alternative poster, which amps up the cold war tension in it’s artwork.

ice_station_zebra_1968_-orson-welles
Poster from Orson & Welles

Further Reading Links

Breaking Bad – Ice Station Zebra References

Ice Station Zebra IMDB

Ronquil played the part of the fictional USS Tigerfish

Michel Legrand – Ice Station Zebra OST