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Unpretentious and entertaining
Vaughan Birbeck13 June 2005
I saw this at the cinema when it was first released. I was nine at the time and I notice the DVD has now been released with a '15' certificate. Oh, well. I suppose there are some scenes (helpless men shot from a boat as 'payback' for a dead colleague, a very graphic harpooning) that are best not seen by children. In 1971 it just seemed very exciting (and had an 'A' certificate).

I enjoyed the film when I first saw it and while it seems rather dated now, I think it's still worth viewing. It sets out to provide escapist entertainment and on that level it succeeds. My memories of seeing the film 34 years ago (help!) was of the waves crashing against huge black cliffs and *feeling* the cold dampness of North-West Scotland on the edge of the Atlantic. The locations are very well used indeed, the viewer gets a real sense of place.

The cast perform their roles well, Anthony Hopkins and Robert Morley particularly playing mutual antagonism with some nice comic touches.

One reviewer mentioned that Charles Gray's dubbing of Jack Hawkins's voice seemed a bit slapdash. When Charles Gray was interviewed about dubbing Hawkins (which he did quite regularly after the mid-60's) he said that Hawkins insisted on *speaking* his lines even after his voice was gone. The result was to make his delivery very erratic and therefore difficult to voice-over. Jack Hawkins was one of the best actors we've had (Cruel Sea, Bridge on the River Kwai, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, etc., etc.) and these supporting roles made a rather sad postscript to his career.
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a rather likable piece of work
gbenskin19 November 2006
It seems that the whole world and their dogs know of Commander Bond, who takes his martinis shaken and not stirred, has his dalliances with the ladies, and manages to save the world before dawn.

Agent Calvert (played most suitably by Anthony Hopkins) is how I believe Bond should have been. Both are Commanders of the British Navy I believe, both educated 'working class' and with both, you get a sense of being slight sociopaths. Don't get me wrong, I really am a fan of the Bond genre, but this performance by Hopkins seems gritty and more realistic a character and compares quite favourably to the Bond character played by other actors.

There is some great dialogue between the upper middle class boss of Agent Calvert (Uncle Arthur played by Robert Morley) and Agent Calvert, which helps keep interest in the film between the action scenes. Compared to many of the scenes produced by action heroes of the last 10 years, some are a little dated, although there were still enough to keep me interested.

Nathalie Delon was a great choice as the leading lady requiring rescue from the sea (were her intentions good or bad?), and its a pity that most outside of her native country did not see much more of her in other things.

One of my personal favourite pieces of work by Anthony Hopkins.

If you're an action fan, I still think this is worth a look. Long overdue a worthy remake I think.
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Eight Bells still strikes the right tone
FilmFlaneur1 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
In 1971 Diamonds Are Forever was released, marking the end of Connery in the role of the world's favourite secret agent. A two-year hiatus would ensure before Roger Moore assumed the mantle, and to a mixed response from fans. In the meantime When Eight Bells Toll was released, scripted by Alistair MacLean from his own novel, and gave audiences a chance to see a different actor in a similarly adventurous role. Whether or not it was intended as an action 'calling card' for the young star (whose fourth film it was) Eight Bells certainly owes a lot of its inspiration to the 007 series, not least in that its hero Philip Calvert (Anthony Hopkins) is tough, naval officer, a "professional bastard," used to killing in the course of duty, working undercover against some widespread criminal combine. "Under conditions of extreme pressure" we are told, the surly Calvert is "unique". His adventures however, are less so. From Russia With Love (1963) is one visual influence: the helicopter which brings Calvert to his initial briefing drops him off before a building with a distinctive white façade which echoes Rosa Klebb's landing to inspect assassin Robert Shaw, while both films feature the shooting down of one of the same vehicles with a rifle. Elsewhere Calvert's white boat recalls that of Emilio Largo in Thunderball (1965), while the presence of large quantities of bullion at risk brings to mind the acquisitive obsession of Auric Goldfinger.

Eight Bells even has its very own 'M' in the form of Robert Morley, whose crusty 'Uncle Arthur' is a cross between the part famously personified by Bernard Lee and rotund 'Mother' from British TV's The Avengers. The present film also features a memorable sub-Barry score by John Stott, who also worked on Peeping Tom (1960) as well as TV's Dallas and Dynasty. Stott's swaggering larger-than-life theme perfectly suits the matter in hand, and is one of the most striking elements in the opening sequence, the dramatic position of which reminds one of those standalone openings which head up so many Bond movies.

That's not to say that When Eight Bells Toll is so derivative as to be un-enjoyable. Director Etienne Périer made this film, then Zeppelin (1971), in quick succession before disappearing back to France where he is still active, mainly in TV. This is the better of his two British productions: a brisk, no nonsense affair that benefits greatly from a strong cast and some excellent location work. It differs too in that, unlike most of the Bond series, its hero has no gimmicks to fall back on to save his skin. As Calvert punches and struggles against a range of adversaries, he does so without the benefit of the ejector seats and rocket belts which larger budgeted agents found so essential. Bond is a public schoolboy, who is by profession a lucky, sexually rapacious thug. Calvert has no such privileged background, and is viewed by his superior with some disdain as a "bloody fellow... north of England grammar school, working his way through life..." Of course the central irony of the film is that the main villain of the piece is exactly the sort of person that Uncle Arthur welcomes onto the wine committee of his club with open arms, while the insubordinate and independent Calvert proves an essential part of the operation's success.

Calvert's closest friend - and the only genuine relationship he maintains during the film, is Hunslett (Corin Redgrave), a bespectacled intelligence man whose faces a somewhat predictable demise. There's an interesting tone to his early scenes with the hero and friend of over 10 years, as they share onboard accommodation. Codenamed 'Caroline' by London control, Hunslett and Calvert are almost like a married couple, making each other drinks or dressing wounds - a warmth of companionship in contrast to the suspiciously hostile relationship exhibited by Sir Anthony Skouras and his young wife Charlotte. The discovery of Hunslett's body, unexpectedly pulled up with the boat's anchor, provides one of the film's most striking moments, while his disappearance from the scene allows the reassuring display of Calvert's sexuality as he somewhat peremptorily beds Charlotte.

Eight Bells hardly wastes a scene and apparently reflects the dramatic efficiency of the original book. The frequently adapted MacLean was on a roll at this time, having seen his work made into such successful projects as the early Guns Of Navarone (1961), then Ice Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare (both 1968). The year before had come a near disaster with the problem-beset Puppet On A Chain (1970), but the present film makes a return to a standard of excitement that admirers of the novelist had come to expect. The film shows some sign of tightening up: once or twice Morley's scenes start rather abruptly as if dialogue has been excised, and some of the villainous minor characters are strangely silent throughout (it is odd, for instance, that such a fine supporting actor such as Peter Arne should appear without speaking). Jack Hawkins, struggling with the throat cancer that eventual killed him three years later, makes for a rather pasty-faced Greek millionaire, and Charles Grey may well have dubbed his lines. The only element of glamour in the film comes in the form of Nathalie Delon, who does a game enough job in a role that at one point requires her to take a dip in the freezing waters off Torbay. Her scenes with Hopkins are adequate, but this is a film that has little time for the sexual shenanigans of Bond, (in fact she has to directly proposition the hero while there is no bedroom scene) saving Charlotte's best scene for that at the very end of the film. The sexiest images in the film are stuck on the walls in the shark fisherman's hut, balefully eyed by Calvert, and even the eventual appearance of Charlotte in long white socks and shirt does little to raise the temperature.

With some fine airborne photography as Calvert searches the Scottish coastline for ships as well as some effective settings in and around Torbay harbor, Eight Bells is a film which manages to be very atmospheric on what must have been a modest budget. The cold realism such an approach brings to the story helps it immensely. Hopkins turns in a fine performance as the single-minded Calvert, made even more resonant when one remembers the notoriously hard living the actor was famous for at the time. Those who have only seen Hopkins in later years as the most famous celluloid serial killer will be in interested in this unmannered early role.

Among other highlights is Morley's fussily upper-crusted Uncle Arthur, whose eventual, grudging acceptance of his wayward officer is convincing - and he even makes a fair pass at waving a gun and defending the boat with a timely use of an open hatch. Seen today, the film remains very entertaining while the lack of self-parody and cynicism, common to contemporary action cinema is refreshing.
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Nostalgia being what it used to be...
Tony Bush8 March 2010
Hopkins could have been Bond and I think he'd have made a good one. In fact, a review at the time of his performance in When Eight Bells Toll proclaimed he played his character Calvert in a way that "made James Bond look like a lounge lizard." The film is a fondly remembered actioner from my childhood (well, early teens). Although there's no way in which the pyrotechnics on show could bear realistic comparison with the CGI-dominated eye-candy extravagance of today's equivalents (witness the studio bound finale in the boat house if you really need convincing), it remains a brisk, fun way to idle away the best part of two hours.

The script is sharp, the dialogue cynical, the action belts along nicely - and Robert Morely's Whitehall mandarin thrust into the field is an eccentric delight. Nathalie Delon (whatever happened to her?) is an icy femme fatale who couldn't act to save her life (or anyone elses) and Jack Hawkins, who had throat cancer, is voiced by Charles Gray. Jack's lip-synching is well-duff to say the least. He's almost a good five minutes behind. Add Old Vic stalwart Corin Redgrave as Calvert's pragmatism-challenged sidekick and you have a recipe for some top fun.

The plot (McGuffin) is some nonsense about missing bullion ships, but it's no more than a hook to hang the action on. For me, this is a case of nostalgia most certainly being what it used to be. I just love it.

For anyone who likes the early seventies Bond movies, it's almost an essential accoutrement.

Right, next stops on the Alistair MacLean '70s movie DVD trail - Fear Is The Key, Caravan To Vaccares and the sublime Puppet On A Chain.
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When Eight Bells Toll 1971
NOORKOIVA7 October 2005
It's important that films such as this be recognised as breaking away from the 60's bond fayre, and that they introduced a gritty reality all of their own. Bond indeed could never say 'bastard'. Even though he really was. Bond films strayed from the books,which as period literature remains quite good. Where as EBT was reasonably similar to what the author wanted to get across. A man in a dangerous situation, dealing with ruthless adversaries,who kills without hesitation. Very military, very straight to the point. Bound to upset the Vicars wife at the local tea party. But he wouldn't care, he would sooner be elsewhere, Pursuing the enemy, where ever they hide in the class system, tap, tap, he's slotted, move on. A perpetually restless individual, as Mr Hopkins no doubt was at that point in his life. Drowning his frustrations in alcohol when off duty (as does every professional?) I am off to Scotland this month, to the Kyle of Lochalsh. To me as a teenager this was a significant film in my development, as well as the book. In a politically correct world, where cynical reality can only be found in 'spin', a world in which the late author could only bemoan; I find solace in this film. Where people actually disprove of my children playing with their toy guns and reading Commando magazine; in the comfortable cities which refuse to recognise the reality of living and surviving in the Hebridies; Please take me back to 1971!. These old values are as strong as ever and this films principles and values remain the same to this day.

Alan David Noorkoiv.
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Bond on a low budget
winner5519 May 2007
Recently, I've been commenting on films I haven't seen for years. At my age, It just seems about right to remark films that left decided impressions on me, many years ago.

As one reviewer remarked, this film was released shortly after Sean Connery's last appearance in the original James Bond series, with "Diamonds Are forever". I know of more than one friend who finds "DAF" an entertaining film. I was appalled when I first saw it and I am still appalled, a truly wretched film, and prophetic of the dip in class in the Bond films represented by Roger Moore.

So I was utterly delighted when I saw this film in an old movie-house in my home town a short while later. The experience was so pleasurable, I still remember that it was a snowy night, but not too cold; I remember the original poster advertising the film; and I remember that I felt personally disappointed that so few others were in the audience - the film disappeared within a week.

Hopkins' performance especially made the film memorable. I can still see his walk, how he carried a machine-gun, and his wry, somewhat jaded smile.

Everything about the film is "Bond on a low budget"; and the fact that MacLean actually wrote the script tells me that this was probably intentional - the Bond films, after all, had borrowed heavily from earlier films based on Maclean novels, while at the same time effectively burying them - "The Guns of Navarone" is well-remembered, but only brought out of mothballs for the Turner Movie Channel every now and again, but everyone owns a copy of "Goldfinger".

Yet it is this quality - which I recognized at once on initial viewing - that endeared the film for me forever - Producer Albert Brocolli had turned Bond into a clown; MacLean returned my hero to me as I always imagined him.

I think that says something positive about this one.
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when eight bells toll - a superb Hopkins vehicle
zn1-58-1477663 June 2011
watching this film for the first time, I'm enjoying this flick enormously, Philip Calvert as a hard man who gets the job the done, isn't afraid to disobey orders and with the wonderful Robert Morley as his boss.

as i write it its all very James bond, Hopkins handling the job very well, Morley hamming it up as only he can.

like all Alastair McLean films - I'm finding it very watchable, a pity no more films about Calvert's exploits have been made, as he is everything James bond is, without the gimmicks, and its all home based, no flash locations - just a man with a job to do and he ain't afraid to bend the rules to do it.

I'm half way in to the film - i don't want it to end ..
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Not bad, not bad, not good enough.
doire31 January 2002
A not bad interpretation of an interesting book by thriller writer Alistair Maclean, who has also written the screenplay in this instance. If this adaptation has anything going for it, it must surely be that it at least attempts to keep to the essential essence of the original novel, which was quite a page-turner. So many adaptations based on books by Maclean have been apparently destroyed in the writing or re-writing stage that little sense remains of the original concept. The thrill is often removed from the thriller. The essence of these books have often been hacked to pieces in an attempt to transform them into something cinematic. When things go wrong, it´s Maclean´s name that gets dragged through the mud!. Were this film to be made today, I believe it could be made much better, but still, it is an enjoyable romp made more enjoyable by the pairing of Anthony Hopkins with the luscious Nathalie Delon. Recommended.
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Boat… James Boat. For all your underwater espionage!
Coventry31 July 2011
Meet Alistair MacLean's Philip Calvert. He's the Scottish response to Ian Fleming's James Bond and particularly specializes in secret agent assignments at the Irish sea and off the Scottish East coast. Apart from their areas of expertise, Calvert and Bond have quite a few things in common. They're both reckless adventurers with an attitude problem and an aversion towards authority. They're both good with the ladies and don't mind randomly killing a handful of nameless bad guys. Calvert is send out to investigate the disappearances of entire vessels carrying gold bullion. It seems like there's a well-organized crime network active in area, run by an international shipping magnate and relentless enough to kill whoever tries to interfere. "When Eight Bells Toll" is a very decent and entertaining action/adventure movie, just don't expect the same dazzling tempo, ingenious gimmicks or impressive stunts as you would in an actual James Bond film. This is a totally unpretentious action flick with a strong lead performance from Anthony Hopkins (even though he doesn't really have the action hero allures) and various terrific choices of location. The film benefices from excellent photography, courtesy of Arthur Ibbetson, and several of the extended suspense sequences keep you literally on the edge of your seat, like for example the drowning helicopter and the finale inside a watery cave.
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Anthony Hopkins deals out death in the Scottish Highlands and foils a ruthless plot in this scenic, slightly confusing thriller
Terrell-427 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Even at 34 Anthony Hopkins made an unlikely hero for a rousing adventure thriller such as When Eight Bells Toll, based on the book by Alistair Maclean. Hopkins face looks so young, with even a hint of cherubic baby fat. His height and build are only average. And 36 years later it's hard to erase the knowledge of the future Hannibal Lecter, James Stevens, Henry Wilcox and Titus Andronicus, or for that matter much of the dreck he's been appearing in these last few years.

Still, Hopkins carries off the role of Commander Philip Calvert, an agent for British Naval Intelligence, with aplomb. First, Hopkins can act. He's completely assured in a role which sometimes calls for the suspension of belief. His voice is quick and confident. He knows how to underplay. Second, he's physically quick. The role calls for a lot of clambering up and down cliffs, running up staircases and along paths, swimming in a scuba outfit and engaging bad guys in fistfights. There are enough medium shots to see that Hopkins is doing a great deal of the action himself. Third, he's intelligent and gives an intelligent performance.

Why is Calvert doing all this stuff? Because gold bullion is being pirated from ships off the coast of Scotland's western highlands. Calvert, tough, disrespectful of authority, as unintimidated by Naval bureaucracy as he is by killers, is sent in undercover to investigate. What he finds, aided by a young Naval helper (and we know the fate that always awaits young helpers), involves Sir Anthony Skouras (Jack Hawkins), a very rich tycoon on a plush yacht anchored in a stormy loch, Charlotte (Nathalie Delon), introduced as Sir Anthony's young wife, and Lord Charnley (Derek Bond), who appears to be Sir Anthony's great and good friend. Occasionally checking in with Calvert is his boss in London, a fat and seemingly complaisant spymaster called Uncle Albert (Robert Morley). When Calvert, suspicions aroused, requests that Sir Anthony be vetted, Uncle Albert is deeply offended. "He's a member of my club! He's on the wine committee!" In an amusing plot development, Uncle Albert winds up coming to the loch to find out what's really going on. Since by now Calvert's young sidekick (played by a young Corin Redgrave) is no longer with us, Uncle Albert winds up doing a bit of careful violence. Considering Morley's corpulence and often officious roles he usually played, it was a pleasure witnessing his cautious but ready steadfastness.

The search for the gold and for the mastermind takes Philip Calvert through some of Scotland's mistiest, coldest-looking and rockiest sea-swept scenery, from a desolate cemetery and a desperate fight with two goons to deep under water in a scuba outfit and into the bowels of a deliberately sunken ship and another desperate fight, this time with a goon in a diving suit. There's even a flaming helicopter crash into the cold, murky loch waters. Calvert eventually puzzles out the murderous scheme, but not before there are plot twists, turns and roundabouts. Along the way, Calvert deals out death by shooting and knifing, by throwing overboard, by neck cracking, by underwater acetylene torch and even by crossbow. Calvert is not a man to find yourself between him and his objective.

When Eight Bells Toll isn't a great adventure thriller, but within its own limits it's entertaining. Those limits are the same as in most of the many other adventure thrillers by Maclean...headlong plots that don't stop for anything, regular intervals of vivid violence and escapes, unexpected betrayals, loose ends that stay loose, a certain level of confusion about what exactly is happening, minimal significant female involvement and no sex. He wrote the screenplay for this one and often worked on the screenplays for the movies made from his books. Think Ice Station Zebra, The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare and quite a few others. Personally, I still like his first, HMS Ulysses, published in 1955. He cranked out nearly a book a year until he died in 1987. The last 20 or so, in my opinion, were little more than recycled quickies, predictable and uninteresting.

The one disquieting and poignant note is watching Jack Hawkins, a first-rate actor, as Sir Anthony Skouras. Hawkins was a beefy man with a distinctive, raspy voice. He smoked 60 cigarettes a day at one time. In 1965 surgeons removed his larynx because of cancer. He no longer could speak. Hawkins continued to act until his death in 1973. Charles Gray, a character actor and friend of Hawkins, usually dubbed his voice. Gray provides Hawkins' voice in When Eight Bells Toll.
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Likable and entertaining
TheLittleSongbird17 August 2010
While When Eight Bells Toll is not a masterpiece in my eyes, I myself would hardly call it a dud. Perhaps a little too short, and I do agree that some of the fight scenes leave you wanting more and some scenes such as the wooden boat exploding do make you raise your eyebrows as if to say "just why did they do that?", however there is a huge amount to redeem it.

I have to say When Eight Bells Toll is likable and entertaining for what it is. It has superb location shooting and a rousing score. It has an interesting and exciting plot, brisk pacing, decent direction and sharp and cynical dialogue. It also has the great Anthony Hopkins playing a role atypical to any other he's played. No-nonsense and a hero in a sense, Calvert as a character is very entertaining and likable and Hopkins is exactly that too. Even better is Robert Morley who provides a deliciously comic turn as Calvert's spy-master, while Nathalie Delon is beautiful and luscious as the lovely Charlotte.

Overall, an entertaining film. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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When Bond takes a vacation.
Shawn Watson15 May 2009
Between OHMSS in 1969 and Diamonds are Forever in 1971 there was a chance that Bond would be retiring for good. The Rank Film Corporation figured that Alistair MacLean's maverick secret agent Philip Calvert would be the best to take his place.

Obviously that didn't work out. Bond continued to prosper while Calvert faded into obscurity. You shouldn't count him out completely though as there is plenty of rugged and gritty thrills here in the vain of cold war thrillers that the high-key and glossy Bond films lack.

However, a cold war villain or a madman wishing to take over the world ain't the antagonists here. A bunch of thugs hijacking ships and hiding out in a lonely port in the highlands are Calvert's enemies. Though I don't really care about such low-octane crimes and I failed to connect with the plot.

Despite a touch of humour, some unusual scenery and the occasional tough guy moment there's just not enough of W8BT to get into. The film is over in 90 minutes and feels a bit rushed. I think it would have befitted considerably from a slower pace and an extra twenty minutes.

Still, it's fun to see a young Anthony Hopkins doing the action hero thing, even if I have do damn clue what the title means.
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Hopkins shines in an atypical actioner role.
geedee24228 June 2004
I first saw this as young teenager not long after it was released. Even as a callow youth I recognised something in the early Anthony Hopkins as marking him as an out-of the ordinary actor. The film is actually a pretty good bit of action hokum, but it's Hopkins that makes it memorable. Even in this lightweight role, you can see he's always thinking himself into the role, giving little touches to make it convincing. For example, the film starts with a sequence of his character hauling himself up the anchor chain of a ship, and moving along the deck. He takes cover, and pauses, eyes alert and searching for signs of danger. Okay, fairly routine, but note Hopkin's breathing in this set-up - the actor has remembered the context of the shot, and is clearly breathing hard from his supposedly recent exertions. It's such touches and attention to detail that makes Hopkins so watchable in everything he does. In all, well worth a watch for the Hopkins, a delicious Robert Morley, good location work, and a brisk plot.
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A great story, a bad film - great candidate for a remake!
Tord S Eriksson5 May 2007
While adaptation of Alistair MacLean's books been popular few have been successful, and this is one of the less successful.

Even with a great script (screenplay by MacLean) the film just doesn't take off, not least due to the fights and in various dark surroundings, where you really can't tell what is supposed to happen.

Anthony Hopkins as the undercover man, and Corin Redgrave as his clumsy pal, works great, less sure about the bad guys. Robert Morley, as Hopkin's boss, is marvelous, and Leon Collins, as the shark fisherman, not bad at all.

So great script, nice scenes from around Skye & Torbay, from the water, from the air and from land, buy much of the lighting and cinematography stinks! A film perfect for a remake!
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tapau1-114 April 2008
Seen this for the first time as a kid and I guess it just clicked. The fight scenes are pretty dated looking, but the fantastically atmospheric locations, plot, and score more than compensate. Hopkins rocks as the no no nonsense Calvert and gives a very convincing performance, and the rest of the cast don't disappoint either.

Seen this for the first time as a kid and I guess it just clicked. The fight scenes are pretty dated looking, but the fantastically atmospheric locations, plot, and score more than compensate. Hopkins rocks as the no nonsense Calvert and gives a very convincing performance, and the rest of the cast don't disappoint either.
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Hard to fault, but this film just did not click
L. Denis Brown12 August 2004
During the period since long distance travel became much more widespread in the 1950's, paperback thriller novels have become an increasingly important part of newly published friction. Before any long journey, we go into the bookstall in the airport, railway station or bus station from which we are departing and choose a paperback to keep us occupied during our journey. In many cases the choice is a thriller which is discarded on our return home. But before this how often have we seen a page at the end saying something like "Now to become a major motion picture starring.........." The coupling of paperback and movie versions of new thrillers has become increasingly important during recent decades. Over the years old writers have retired and new writers have built big reputations, but the process is ongoing. As soon as a successful new thriller appears in the bookstalls, movie studios compete to buy up the film rights. Not all the books for which film rights have been purchased actually finish up as movies but many of them do; so we now have movies, readily available for home viewing, which are based on novels from such highly respected writers of thrillers as Hammond Innes, Alistair MacLean, Tom Clancy and many others. In total these constitute a significant portion of the new movies that are now released each year. Alistair MacLean is credited by IMDb with 17 novels which have been filmed for either the cinema or television. It is reported that he was unhappy with the screenplay written for the earlier movies made from his novels and insisted on participating in writing the screenplay for all the later ones. "When Eight Bells Toll" was one of the movies for which he receives credits as both the author of the book and the writer of the screenplay. It is very interesting to find that several IMDb users have still been sharply critical of this film on the basis that much of it is too slow and spends too long in character development, leaving the action sequences too short and too far apart for the viewers interest to be fully maintained. In general I am not an enthusiast for movies made from thriller novels, which are usually a hybrid of who-dun-it and action sequences - the latter generally seem to involve gun battles or more basic hand to hand combats that are usually unpleasantly noisy, digitally enhanced to the point where they appear highly improbable, and far too lengthy in duration. I find that the prominence given to the shoot-out action sequences in such movies usually means that there is no time for gradually revealing the complexities of character that made the original novel interesting. In contrast to most of the other IMDb users who have commented on this film, this would be my chief criticism of "When Eight Bells Toll"; so my comments, or rating, would appear to be of little value to readers who have a different appreciation for this type of film.

For me the most enjoyable parts of this film were the splendid photography of the Scottish west coast scenery, and some evocative sequences involving small craft handling which brought back many memories. Somehow the story never clicked although this film has a great cast and some very taut dialogue. I particularly enjoyed the interplay of character between Anthony Hopkins playing a very dour investigator, Corin Redgrave playing his sidekick, and Robert Morley who gives a great performance as their superior officer. Aided by its sharp, realistic and down to earth dialogue, most of the film was quite readily believable but unfortunately I did not find the final shootout in a concealed rocky inlet very convincing. As a film I would rate it somewhere in the middle of the scale, as a reasonably competent pot-boiler but no more. I am a great fan of Alastair MacLean's novels, but will not be rushing out to buy a videotape or DVD of any of the others that I have read, even if he was responsible for the screenplay himself.
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" You can't be a real Bastard? It's what I do best! "
thinker169125 December 2013
The surprising writer who wrote this stirring action film is none other than Alstair Maclean and was later directed by Etienne Perier. What will be surprising is the selected star of the movie, Anthony Hopkins. That's right, SIR Anthony Hopkins. He plays Philip Calvert, a Royal Navy Officer who fits right in every element selected. For instance, he's at home underwater, in Scuba tanks, flying about in Helicopters, steering yachts or confront thugs with guns, knives or harpoons. His commanding officer is Robert Morley who'd like more respect from his rebellious underling, but receives little. The Maclean story has him trailing a group of vicious modern day pirates who will stop at nothing to secure a stolen shipment of Gold Bullion. The movie is fraught with exciting gunfire scenes, high explosions, physical confrontations, shootings, and innocent killings, many stem from the novel. In almost a Bond type film, Sir Calvert does encourage the audience to think of our hero as a spy. Unusual for Hopkin, but nevertheless, he performs convincingly and is insured by his cast members which include Jack Hawkins and Robert Morley. All in all, this is one film which should allow audiences to believe that young Hopkins could and did establish himself as a man of action. Recommended to all his fans. ****
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Another film up to the McLean action standard
bkoganbing19 April 2013
With only a couple of exceptions I've never been disappointed in film adaptions of Alastair McLean's work. As some authors are difficult to translate to the screen, McLean's action novels seem to be ready made for adaption. Just look at some of his work, The Guns Of Navarone, Breakheart Pass, Where Eagles Dare, Ice Station Zebra. I've loved all of them and When Eight Bells Toll came out it joins the list albeit in a more minor vein.

This film gave a young Anthony Hopkins a chance to be an action hero. His character has more of a rebellious streak than James Bond ever did, but he gets results. His assignment is to get to the bottom of a series of ship hijackings, the last one was a freighter carrying a fortune in gold bullion. He's teamed with Corin Redgrave who takes a more cerebral approach to crime fighting.

That however leaves Redgrave dead and Hopkins looking to take down who did it. He himself is almost killed when a helicopter he was in was shot down. All the action takes place in and around the islands of Northern Scotland where the locals seem to be helping the bad guys. And in McLean tradition, just who are the bad guys.

In most of McLean's work there is always a twist or two and which side the players are on is a mystery through much of the film. When Eight Bells Toll is no exception.

Robert Morley plays the spymaster supervisor of Hopkins and is less avuncular than usual. Jack Hawkins is a Greek shipping tycoon with a young trophy wife. As we know Hawkins had lost his voice box to cancer and his last eight or so years he was dubbed. Whoever dubbed him sounded to me remarkably like Alec Guinness.

When Eight Bells Toll is not as good as some of the other McLean inspired films I mentioned before. But it's still a pretty good action film.
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James Bond for a more thoughtful audience
filmalamosa5 October 2012
James Bond like action thriller with evil villain. A young handsome Anthony Hopkins is sent to investigate the pirating of ships transporting gold.

A Scottish Island has been taken over by a villain using hostages. Gold containing boats are sunk and the gold removed later--it is thus stored 14 fathoms under water until transport can be arranged.

The scenery is beautiful. To me it was a more suspenseful intelligent story than Bond movies which after all are all about gizmos exploding fountain pens and so forth and always end in tiresome raids involving hundreds of men.

Hopkins is a much more human Bond character --- Moorely the head spy you are unable to take too seriously. Both persona differences some how work against this genre? The genre as I see it in the original Bond movies is meant to be so outrageous (there can be zero hint of intentional comedy) as to be funny.

Still I highly recommend this--Bond? for a more thoughtful audience?

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Excellent British entrant in the spy thriller mould
Sjhm25 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, it is now a little dated, but back in 1971 it was more realistic than the James Bond films with their themes of madmen seeking world domination. However, for all that, the story of greed, theft, murder, and hostage taking is timeless. Anthony Hopkins makes a credible man of action, more than ably supported by Corin Redgrave as his intelligence officer sidekick. Robert Morley provides a deft turn as Sir Arthur Arnford-Jones the Whitehall Mandarin sitting behind his immaculately polished antique desk. The pace is a little frenetic at times, and you can't help feeling that perhaps a little more development time was needed between "Uncle Arthur's" arrival in Scotland and the final denouement. There are some interesting and well known goofs to spot along the way, but all things considered this is a gripping, well put together, and gritty thriller which is certainly worth watching.
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Good yarn
ulysess196623 May 2002
I love this film, because I think it is pretty true to McClean's book and Calvert is suitably downmarket to be a more believable agent than James Bond ever could be. The scenery is fantastic and the diving scenes are good too. I also have to say that I love the theme music and wish I could get it on CD!
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In deep waters across dangerous waters of Scotland with dangerous people around especially of the female kind.
clanciai30 September 2017
This is a very hard-boiled thriller taking place around Scotland's wildest isles of the west coast and the Hebrides, which setting adds to the particularly sinister character of this tale of greed. Anthony Hopkins is perfect as the hero avenging his best friend's death (Corin Redgrave) with a vengeance, gunning people down without hesitation whenever necessary or when he feels like it, and you don't object, since in MacLean's actually very realistic thrillers you generally feel the executions taking place as justified. Anthony Hopkins was best in his early films, and this was one of them – as a possible James Bond he would have landed somewhere between Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton, the two best. But MacLean for his realism, intelligent plots and great characterization is much better than Ian Fleming and his heroes much more interesting than Bond, since they always have to go a very hard way to get out alive in the end – James Bond is a snug playboy in comparison. Here, as so often in MacLean's stories, the hero Anthony Hopkins has to take everything on himself, as he gets very little help from his boss, the ridiculous peacock Robert Morley, who only thinks of his dissatisfaction with what he has to eat under the circumstances, but in all his exaggerated pedantry he always caps all his films by his splendid diction and eloquence – he is ridiculous, but very eloquently so.

This MacLean thriller differs from his normal intrigues by adding a very spicy romance to it, as the lady comes swimming across cold waters a long distance just to get to Anthony Hopkins, but he does well in not feeling flattered or jumping at the opportunity but rather, as the experienced veteran he is, regard the invitation with some misgivings.

It's a small but great adventure film and you get to see a great deal of the Scottish wildest archipelago.
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A Young Anthony Hopkins Kicking Arse
zardoz-1323 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Alistair Maclean wrote dozens of international bestsellers, and "When Eight Bells Toll" was one of several screenplays that the Scottish novelist penned. Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins was slim and trim back in 1971 when producer Elliott Kastner cast him as Royal Navy scuba diving expert Commander Philip Calvert for this ocean-going opus about five hijacked British bullion ships in the Irish Sea. At one point, the grim but indestructible Calvert informs his peremptory superior that he doesn't have guests and friends, just enemies. Of course, that's an overstatement. He does have friends, but they seem to die at the hands of his enemies. Indeed, those enemies keep Calvert jumping through metaphorical flaming hoops in this straightforward saga. Calvert isn't a man to quibble when it comes to enemies, particularly if they have killed some of his friends. He rams two armed thugs in a boat with his yacht, knocking them overboard so they lose their assault rifles and then swim desperately to shore. Does this keep Calvert from shooting them as they swim away from him in the back? No, it doesn't, and you know that you're watching a gritty, above-average thriller when he guns those guys down without a qualm. Interestingly enough, "When Eight Bells Toll" was Hopkins' first role as the leading man. He knocks the bottom out of the role, and it would have been a recurring character for him to play, except this S 7-million Maclean thriller floundereed at the box office. Nevertheless, "The Day the Hot Line Got Hot" helmer Etienne Périer, who also directed "Zeppelin," maintains momentum throughout all the action and intrigue and never deviates from his destination. Maclean and he see to it that nothing Calvert does is without peril. Meaning, this don't give our hero a break. During one sequence, Calvert goes aloft courtesy of the Royal Navy to fly around the area in search of places where the villains might hide the bullion ships. Naturally, the trigger-happy villains complicate his life by shooting down the helicopter. The helicopter pilot, Lieutenant Williams (Maurice Roëves of "The Eagle Has Landed") takes enough bullets through the chest to die at the control stick, and the helicopter not only crashes but also sinks to the bottom of the bay near the coast. Calvert conceals himself with the help of a respirator just beneath the villains as they survey the waters for him. When they weren't shooting this item at Pinewood in England, the filmmakers were doing exteriors in Scotland in Fingal's Cave, Staffa, Argyll, and Bute. "Where Eagles Dare" lenser Arthur Ibbetson's widescreen cinematography captures all the grit and the beauty of the rugged Scots locations. As Sir Arthur Artford Jones ('Uncle Arthur'), Robert Morley is good as Calvert's supercilious superior. Uncle Arthur and Calvert don't immediately get off on the right foot, and Arthur considers Calvert both insolent and insubordinate. These two wind up working together to thwart the villains. "When Eight Bells Toll" contains all the ingredients of a sturdy Maclean thriller: mystery, surprises, a hero competent on land, sea, and beneath water, and a sterling cast that includes Jack Hawkins and Ferdy Mayne. This movie is worth watching!
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Very bond-ish and a proper biscuit from 1971
OJT15 July 2013
Having trouble in engaging myself in the start of this movie, being a dramatization of the Alistair MacLean novel, it soon grew on me. The funny understatements back at the headquarters I immediately started loving.

On the cover of this Norwegian edition DVD it's stated that MacLean has had18 of his novels made into films. I think this a successful adaption, though over shone by "The guns of Navarone" and "Where eagles dare". That said, it's a pity that his most exiting novel "Night without end" from 1959. Shurely it would be a great film to make even today.

This is very like an 70'ies James Bond-film, where we meet Anthony Hopkins as an agent, not very unlike James Bond. There's even a Bond-girl. He is sent up to a rural part of coastal Scotland, MacLeans native country, to investigate why there are so many ships getting lost up there. He gets to find himself not very well welcome.

I think Robert Morley is magnificent in his role as Uncle Arthur, and so is Anthony Hopkins as agent Philip Calvert, which have naturally bad manners, according to his boss, being born to a lesser class. Uncle Arthur's Lines are hilarious, and much wittier than his equals in James Bond-movies.

Agent Calvert kills off bad guys like puppets on a chain (!), and the film keeps the mystery for a long time, making the ride an interesting one. This tells me Hopkins could have been a great Bond.

The film is very time typical of early 70'ies, and it's a lovely coast and salty water film. You literary smell the salty sea water. It gets more entertaining and exciting as the film proceeds, and I think that it's a great period piece to watch.

Recommended for those enjoying classics!
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Hopkins star in an average Alistair Maclean thriller
Enchorde13 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Recap: At the northern coast of Scotland ships transporting large amounts of gold start to disappear. The Royal Navy and send for men to investigate. They place two men aboard the ship, and the other two to follow the ship. When the two men aboard is murdered, along with the rest of the crew, Calvert, a military commando and Hunslett, naval intelligence, continues to investigate and find themselves continuously harassed by henchmen to a wealthy skipper, Sir Skouras. To Calvert, this is just incentive to intensify his search within or outside regulations. It all comes to a violent end when Calvert must storm a castle to rescue a hostage and stop Skouras. But in the middle of the operation he gets aware of that he has been set up, and gotten most wrong.

Comments: A spy thriller based on the novel by Alistair Maclean, with the same title. Made in the early seventies it shares many elements with the Bond movies of the same era. Calvert is an agent not very concerned with rules or regulations, but highly efficient in undercover assignments. As such it got a good story with new developments all along, some more surprising twists than others, but some twists nonetheless.

It good some action too, even though some fight scenes and shoot outs leave a little more to wish for. Special effects have developed a lot since, but even judged by its own standards a few scenes feel a little too low budget or lack of means or effort. Mostly it is quite OK, though. But sometimes it just get silly, for example when a wooden small boat explodes upon crashing on some rocks.

Starring in this movie is Anthony Hopkins in a very early role. It is almost hard to recognize him but his characteristic voice gives him away. I'm not sure I could say his performance speaks of the great star he was about to become, but it was fun to see him in a role of action hero, a role I've never seen him play before.

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