Movie review: ‘ffolkes’

Balance is a motion picture is best when just the right amount of everything comes together to elevate what could have been a mediocre film to become a good or even great one. In the rather superficial “ffolkes,” that balance merely assures that a horrible film rises to become just an inadequate one. I cannot come up with even one argument why you should go out of your way to watch this stinker, even if you are a fan of Roger Moore. It more of an embarrassment for him than part of his resume.

‘ffolkes’
(1980; 95 minutes; rated PG; directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and starring Roger Moore, Anthony Perkins and James Mason)

ROGER MOORE IS NO 007 IN THIS ONE

(NOTE: I expanded this review with the explanation of the two titles of the film, the correction of the year the film was released, some additional opinion and trivia and the updating of links on Aug. 13, 2017.)

While Roger Moore as the lead in both “ffolkes” and as 007, each role shares the ability to get the job done. At that point, the comparison ends. Moore as “Rufus Excalibur ffolkes” (and spelled with two lover-case Fs except in the ending credits where it oddly enough is “Ffolkes”) has absolutely no use for women, likes cats and, while not enjoying it, does needlepoint.

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ffolkes” is a rather awful film from 1980 that isn’t just bad, but it can’t figure out its title. Research online shows references to both “ffolkes” and “North Sea Hijack” as the original name of the film. The former was for its release in the United States (and why I’m using that title in this review) and the latter for release in the UK. It had a third name – “Assault Force” – when it was released in 1983 on television, according to Wiki.

So, since this a review, I guess I have to describe the plot: “ffolkes” is about the criminal take-over of an oil rig supply ship in the North Atlantic. Today they’d be labeled terrorists, but there’s no political subplots here and these are just garden variety criminals. The gang threatens to blow up the $2,000 million oil rig unless they are paid a ransom (I guess in 1979 they didn’t believe anyone would know what a “billion” meant).

Enter Moore and his crack mercenaries, who were already working on a plan to thwart potential terrorism at the request of the insurance company. Actually the team looks a bit middle-aged and you can use “so-called” for most of the action sequences.

The balance comes in the form of a script that offers an efficient plot and a couple of nice twists. The plot moves quickly and doesn’t try to take too much time to do too little or vice versa. Plus, Anthony Perkins as terrorist mastermind “Lou Kramer” salvages the film with good acting amid … well, mediocre acting. Whatever passes for “action” here isn’t very good and Moore in a wetsuit is a just a visual disgrace.

Still, quite expectedly, everything is tied up with a bow on top at the end, although “ffolkes” still doesn’t like women but shows a soft side (as if anyone really cares after seeing this one).

Here’s a look at some of the principal cast:

  • Moore does an acceptable job in either his misogynistic rants or, at his best moments, making sure he tells someone how much smarter he is than anyone else, but that’s damning with faint praise in this one. Of course Moore is one of the most popular “James Bond” actors (second in my book after Sean Connery) and I liked him best in “Live and Let Die” (click here for my review) and “The Man with the Golden Gun” (click here for my review). He also spoofed his iconic 007 character in the big-cast comedy “The Cannonball Run” with Burt Reynolds (click here for my review). Moore died of cancer at 89 on May 23, 2017.
  • As I wrote, Oscar nominee (not for this one) Perkins is the actual actor here. He is brash, loud and confident in his scheme. Perkins, best known as “Norman Bates” in “Psycho,” does all the right things as an actor and even has some physical acting at the end that isn’t as shabby as some of the feeble attempts by other actors. He received his nomination for “Friendly Persuasion” (thought it was “Psycho,” didn’t you?) and died in 1992 at 60 from pneumonia as a complication of AIDS, according to IMDb.com.
  • Also good in his typically British role is the elegant and three-time Oscar nominee (not for this one) James Mason. He could have played a homeless person and still have been elegant. Mason plays “Adm. Brinsden,” the Royal Navy liaison on the mission, and it isn’t the biggest role, but he does his usual solid work. Mason is best known for roles such as “North by Northwest,” “The Blue Max,” “Heaven Can Wait,” Sam Peckinpah’s “Cross of Iron” (click here for my review) and as a former Nazi officer in “The Boys from Brazil” (click here for my review). He also played “Strayker” in the ultra-chilling TV movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “’Salem’s Lot” (click here for my review). He was nominated for “Georgy Girl,” “The Verdict” with Paul Newman and the original “A Star is Born.” He died in 1984 of a heart attack at the age of 75.
  • Kind of lost in the shuffle is another decent performance by a journeyman actor named David Hedison, who is known for his work in TV’s “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” “The Fly” and with Moore in the 007 adventure “Live and Let Die” (he was one of several actors who portrayed CIA agent “Feilix Leitier”). Hedison is efficient and crisp in his delivery and does a good job.
  • Jack Watson, who plays “Olafsen” the supply ship’s burly captain, offers a rather stoic performance here. He had an extensive career in TV and also worked with Moore in “The Wild Geese” the year before – click here for my review of that grand stinkbomb.

Everyone else is either a stereotype or just does a bad job, from the captain to the crew to the terrorists. Faith Brooke, who plays the “Prime Minister” in a vain attempt to be Thatcher-esque just as the “Iron Lady” was starting her term as the real prime minister.

Still, the silliest scene (yes, there is a silliest amid a sea of silly ones) is when Moore has been helped by a female crew member (he still think she’s a boy due to a short haircut) and he shoves her into a shower to warm up that he doesn’t notice until he’s scrubbing her chest (of course he didn’t question why a North Sea crewman would be wearing panties, but don’t expect anything better from this one).

Also, I’d say that when you read some references to “ffolkes” that the first “f” is capitalized not because of base stupidity of the writer, but for two reasons: First, the capital “F” in the ending credits and, second and most likely, that typing “Ffolkes” in a Word document automatically capitalizes the “F” and writers wouldn’t be clever enough to be able to correct this fault.

ffolkes” made only $2.9 million at the box office in the United States and was the 96th ranked film, according to Box Office Mojo. Obviously it trailed far behind the year’s No. 1 film, the instant sci-fi classic “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” with $209.3 million. It came in right behind one of Hollywood’s biggest flops – “Heaven’s Gate” with $3.48 million. Here are the other films from 1980 that I’ve reviewed for my blog:

Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Both Robert Mitchum and Donald Sutherland were reportedly asked to play the villain, but the job finally went to Perkins. Mitchum? Either filmmakers were hallucinating on drugs, schizophrenic in the type of villain or the internet information is wrong. I’d say the last is the real explanation.
  • In one interview, Moore is reported to have said this is his favorite film and liked it over his 007 efforts. I’d say this is another internet myth. In my opinion, Moore absolutely could never have said this. Unless he was being sarcastic and the interviewer dense or plain stupid.
  • Also, Moore is said to say he believes he was miscast here. I’d say this is accurate and could only be more accurate by removing the “believ”
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “The “Scottish” castle seen in the movie was not in Scotland. It was Dunguaire Castle, which is near the village of Kinvara, County Galway, Ireland.”
  • Hedison is the only actor in the main cast to have done a guest spot on “The Love Boat.” Too bad, several others including Mason would have been excellent – click here for my look at that wonderful TV series.
  • Lea Brodie, who plays the female crew member “Sanna” that Moore at first thought was a boy, had only nine acting credits before leaving acting after her last credit in 1982.
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “Roger Moore once said of this movie: ‘I’ve known [writer] Jack Davies a long time. He gave us the proofs of his novel to read and we instantly saw there was a film in it. It was my wife [Luisa Mattioli] who convinced me that I could and should play ffolkes.;”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014, 2017.
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