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    Hamilton's Lark

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    It’s no wonder that the frisky and shaggy Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins… (1985) somewhat feels like a Mixmaster-blended lark than an iconic rock-hard adventure yarn for the ages if only you looked at the looked at the lively and diverse resumé of its director Guy Hamilton (1922-2016), for whom this proved to be his penultimate big-screen feature. As adapted from The Destroyer series of “man’s man” adventure novels penned by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, its slippery shape does not detract one whit from the sense of fun and macho bravado viewers have derived from it over the past 31 years; consider what Hamilton brings to it from his 30+ years of directing that preceded it. There were suspenseful mysteries from the likes of Edgar Wallace (The Ringer), J.B. Priestley (An Inspector Calls) and Agatha Christie (The Mirror Crack’d, Evil Under the Sun). Add to those the character studies of men at war and postwar, under dramatic pressure and in isolation (The Intruder, The Colditz Story) as well as those who cope with humor, wit and defiance (George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, The Best of Enemies). Cap them with the movies he’s most celebrated for, showcasing the rough-and-tumble espionage pyrotechnics of Harry Palmer (Funeral in Berlin), James Bond (Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun) and brave World War II flyers aloft (Battle of Britain) and suicide commandos below (Force 10 from Navarone). So who would begrudge Hamilton the opportunity to take a deliciously sly, modestly budgeted swing at a “pulp” caper involving a hard-headed NYPD cop (Fred Ward), conscripted into a shadowy government agency fighting corrupt big cats above the law (run by the gruff and endearingly crabby Wilford Brimley) and trained in extraordinarily powerful martial arts by a wizened but wiry Korean “Sinanju” master (Joel Grey), which involves a pip of a confrontation halfway through atop a scaffolding-encased Statue of Liberty? Certainly not the film’s legions of fans who made this box-office disappointment a certified cult favorite in its vibrant home video and cable/syndication afterlife. Certainly not the talented collaborators – production designer Jackson DeGovia, cinematographer Andrew Laszlo and composer Craig Safan – who enormously enhanced the film’s crackerjack blend of conspiratorial mischief, technocratic menace and off-the cuff humor captured in Bond veteran Christopher Wood’s endlessly quotable screenplay. And clearly not Daniel Griffith and his cohorts at Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, who have supplied an appealing smorgasbord of retrospective featurettes (including an extensive Still and Promotional Gallery), or the Cinema Retro team of Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo contributing a muscular, information packed Audio Commentary for the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray edition of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins… The amazing Hamilton-directed escapades of the legendary “blue-collar James Bond,” also starring Kate Mulgrew, J.A. Preston and Charles Cioffi, swoop into sight faster than a bullet September 13. Preorders open tomorrow, Wednesday August 31.