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I met a wild gypsy girl in the heather.

When Eight Bells Toll
(1971)

Made back in the days when Anthony Hopkins was an action hero. He was what? This is a peculiar bit of casting, Hopkins as a little Welsh James Bond in an Alistair MacLean adaptation. Apparently it was even hoped a Philip Calvert franchise could be launched. Before it failed at the box office. 


Director Etienne Perier (who also helmed the same year's Zeppelin) does a competent job showing off the Scottish coastline, which naval officer Calvert is searching in his quest to locate stolen gold bullion. The unglamorous locale is one of the big plus points of this more down to earth take on secret agent fare. The others are the supporting cast, which includes Jack Hawkins as a Greek shipping tycoon and the great Robert Morley as Hopkins' upper crust M figure. Morley's hilarious, obsessing constantly over food and berating Calvert for not having attended the right school. Corin Redgrave is also good value as Hopkins' bespectacled, bookish sidekick, while Natalie Delon provides a bit of glamour (no Bond girl shenanigans here, though). 

The film is more satisfying in the first half, establishing an almost Wicker Man vibe at times with Hopkins' unwelcome visitor intruding upon remote communities. By the climax its become a more standard shoot-and-rescue but as a whole its very likeable.

***



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