The Hostage Tower (1980 TV Movie)
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Master criminal Mr Smith (Keir Dullea) is about to launch his latest lucrative and outrageous crime. He recruits a number of criminal experts to assist him in his plan among them, fearless cat burglar CW Whitlock (Billy Dee Williams); compulsive thief Sabrina Carver (Maud Adams); and weapons expert Mike Graham (Peter Fonda). After training the team at his French château, Smith eventually reveals to them the finer details of his plan. It seems that the master crook wants to seize the Eiffel Tower and ransom the French government for $30 million in order to return it undamaged. His plot coincides with a visit to the tower by Mrs Wheeler (Celia Johnson), mother of the American President no less! In order to prevent an attempt by the authorities to regain control of the tower, Smith positions a quartet of stolen high tech lasers around the tower that automatically seek and destroy unfamiliar objects entering a designated perimeter area. The only hope that Smith's plan might be thwarted is the fact that Sabrina and CW are actually undercover agents in the employ of a crime-fighting organisation called UNACO. As the clock ticks towards a terrifying deadline, these undercover agents must somehow overpower the hijackers, rescue the President's mother, and save the tower . before one of the most famous landmarks in the world is reduced to a pile of metallic rubble!
The film has a typical made-for-TV feeling about it, what with its cheesy music (courtesy of John Scott) and lacklustre camera work. The performances are solid without being special. This is hardly surprising, as most of the characters are lifted from stock. Dullea tries to lift his villainous mastermind out of the ordinary, but is never truly as menacing and cool as he'd like us to believe, but credit should be given for his efforts. The older performers Celia Johnson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Rachel Roberts are saddled with glorified guest appearances that do them few favours. What is impressive is that some of the dangerous-looking climbing on the Eiffel Tower seems very convincing it almost seems that the real actors are doing their own stunt work in some scenes. The plot is enjoyable, with the requisite twists and turns thrown in at regular intervals to keep the audience interested. The film is briskly paced too and never taxes the patience. On the whole The Hostage Tower is a passable slice of escapism that is easy enough to watch, even though it offers little that will make it stick in the memory.
What a cast! Such an atypical plot! Groovy soundtrack! But alas those good intentions equal something that's mostly a lacklustre caper film with numerous fluff. Plenty of time is spent toiling and waiting around for things to happen, as the calculated situation is set-up, but never does it fully capture the danger and suspense until the last few minutes. It can be off-putting with its talky script and when things do occur the action is light-weight. Sometimes its comic nature feels oddly placed. Then again this was a made for TV enterprise. Gladly it's the performances that add colour. So did the infallible lasers. Watch it go to work on a soccer ball! Peter Fonda, Maud Adams, Keir Dullea, Billy Dee Williams, Britt Ekland, Celia Johnson, Jack Lenoir, Rachel Roberts and Douglas Fairbanks Jr all have their moments. Fonda and Adams worked off each other nicely so did Dullea and Ekland. Interesting combinations. Although Dullea suave manner was sometimes laughable. Holding a city to ransom might just sound textbook, but the choice of location is inspired. However I wished they did a little more with the idea, then with the approach they took. Still it does get better as it goes along, even if it plays out in very contrived circumstances.