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  High Road to China Maybe Tom Should Have Tried The Beard And No Moustache Look?
Year: 1983
Director: Brian G. Hutton
Stars: Tom Selleck, Bess Armstrong, Jack Weston, Wilford Brimley, Robert Morley, Brian Blessed, Cassandra Gava, Michael Sheard, Lynda La Plante, Timothy Carlton, Shayur Mehta, Terry Richards, Jeremy Child, Anthony Chinn, Ric Young, Timothy Bateson
Genre: Drama, Action, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Eve Tozer (Bess Armstrong) is a flapper in nineteen-twenties Europe, today dancing the Charleston in a posh hotel without a care in the world because she knows her rich father will pay for everything she needs, when something happens which pulls her up short. An old family colleague, Charlie (Michael Sheard), shows up and delivers bad news: her father's business partner is planning to take the entire fortune because nobody can prove that her father is actually still alive. Since there's a clause in their contract which means this man, Bentik (Robert Morley), is entitled to all her money, Eve must find her father - and fast.

Is this the one with Christopher Reeve? Nope, that was The Aviator, not far off but a different eighties vintage pilot movie, this was High Road to China which was the Tom Selleck one. He played an alcoholic pilot named Patrick O'Malley who happens to be the only one who can fly Eve to Afghanistan where she hopes to meet her dear old dad, though there's no guarantee of that because if there was this movie would be over a lot quicker. It was drawn from an adventure novel by Jon Cleary, a fairly well thought of one at that, which passed through many hands in the seventies, including John Huston's, until it landed with this production team.

One which was headed by the Hong Kong outfit Golden Harvest, which might lead you to expect a bunch of outrageous stunts and martial arts sequences: well, you'd be sort of half right, as there were stunts. Mostly this was a film for aviation enthusiasts, for there was many a sequence where you were treated to a World War One biplane soaring into the sky accompanied by John Barry's curiously reserved strings, all very easy to watch but in contrast to the rest of the movie which was attempting an old-fashioned yarn of derring-do, much as Raiders of the Lost Ark had done, which led many observers to compare the two and find this one coming up wanting.

Actually it wasn't really too much like an Indiana Jones film, it was more like some creaky old B-movie dusted off with an eighties A-movie budget, and as far as that went it was a modest success, only there were darn few who fondly remembered it if they remembered it at all. Part of the problem was the two leads, fine actors and in Selleck's case enjoying a certain classic leading man charisma he had put to good use on television, but squandered when asked to indulge in someone's idea of Howard Hawks verbal sparring which merely came off as testy and argumentative instead of amusing and endearing. When yet another scene came up with Eve and O'Malley yelling at each other, it was monotonous and irritating.

Therefore on being asked to accept that they were truly in love by the end, it was hard to get over the fact they'd been fighting like cat and dog throughout, even coming to blows at one point. Oh well, back to the flying shots, that will sustain the narrative, surely? But even they grew samey, in spite of the attractive Yugoslav scenery the planes travelled over, and when they were used for violence as in a dog fight or strafing enemies with bullets, then dropping bombs, it may have been noisy but it wasn't especially exciting. With a cast of many a Brit, including a roaring Brian Blessed as a tribal leader, future TV thriller writer Lynda La Plante as the woman who hooks Eve up with O'Malley, and Robert Morley in scenes inserted later as the duplicitous business partner who sticks out like a sore thumb as not having any reason to be there other than a welcome paycheque, there was a Sunday night serial air to High Road to China, stunts or no stunts. It would be nice to say a degree of fun survived, but when you know director Brian G. Hutton left the profession to become a plumber after this, well...
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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