By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Blow up the Queen.
This review will be the first in a month long series analyzing movies from the 70’s that starred Rod Steiger. Steiger was an interesting performer with a long and varied career who always brought a unique intensity to all of his roles. He performed in a wide variety of movies from Hollywood pictures to foreign films and from big productions to the low budget as well as going from the leading man to character actor. Every Friday during the month of January I will select films of his that will hopefully be able to spotlight a little bit of all of these.
Today’s film deals with the story of Niall Hennessy (Steiger) an Irishman with ties to the IRA. When his wife and daughter are killed during a riot in Belfast he plots revenge with a plan to blow up the House of Parliament with the Queen Elizabeth inside.
The movie has a great concept, but the execution is a bit lacking. For one thing the police immediately pinpoint Hennessy as the man they are looking for as well as figuring out his plan. How they were so easily able to do this not only seemed a little farfetched, but also sapped a lot of the intrigue and tension out of the story. Having the police come to this conclusion more slowly would have plotted the suspense out longer and been more interesting.
This also opened the door to a few loopholes the biggest one being that they know Hennessy wants to blow up the Parliament so one would expect that the police would have their men staking out the place and on alert to spot Hennessy if he came near the premises, but instead Hennessy is able to go on a guided tour and able to canvas the building unheeded. Another scene later on has Hennessy trapped in an upstairs apartment by the police who have surrounded the building and yet he is somehow able to escape even though it is never shown how.
The scene showing his family getting killed during a bomb attack is not effective. We see the mother and daughter leave a nearby building and then the film cuts away from them and goes back to the fighting in the street only to go back to the two a few minutes later lying in the street motionless. However, there is neither blood on them nor any type of make-up effects to show injury making it look more like two people lying down with their eyes closed. Seeing them actually hit by the bomb and screaming would have been more jarring for the viewer and allowed them to get more emotionally attached to Hennessy’s plight. Also, when Steiger is shown standing over them I was expecting him to let out another one of his patented primal screams much like he famously did in The Pawnbroker, but here he doesn’t and the sequence is quite brief making me wonder why would they hire an actor known for his onscreen intensity and emotionalism if they aren’t going to allow him to do what he does best especially when the scene calls for it.
Steiger for the most part does well with the part although he is surprisingly restrained during most of it. It is a bit of unusual casting given that he wasn’t Irish or a native of the region however, the accent he uses is alright and I kind of got a kick out of the way he runs especially at the end. His biggest obstacle though was his wig. Rod became bald as he aged and instead of just appearing that way in his roles, which he finally did during his later years, he instead wore a variety of wigs for his parts. Some of them were okay and some weren’t and the one used here definitely wasn’t.
Richard Johnson is quite good playing the relentless Inspector Hollis and I liked seeing him with a moustache. The talented Lee Remick appears as Kate Brooke a lady friend to Hennessy who allows him to hide out at her home and although she has a few good lines she is ultimately wasted. Legendary Trevor Howard is wasted as well and only seen briefly as a police commander.
The best part about the movie and the one thing that gives it distinction is the ending when Hennessy goes into the parliament building with a bomb strapped to his body. Actual footage of the Queen is shown and it looks so authentic that many people thought she had been involved in the production, but she really wasn’t. Their ability to crop this footage in with the action is well done and almost seamless and certainly helps to heighten the tension. Seeing a young Prince Charles looking bored with the proceedings and the elaborately decorated interior of the building as well as its many large and majestic hallways and rooms is fun and interesting.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: July 31, 1975
Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes
Director: Don Sharp
Studio: American International Pictures
Available: Amazon Instant Video