Sunday, 16 August 2015


So far this blog has mostly covered horror, and while that's not a bad thing as it is very likely my favourite genre I never intended for this to be a horror only blog.  So that been said the next couple posts I'll be looking at non horror films, starting with a little sci-fi.

Biggles or Biggles: Adventures in Time as it was released in the United States, is a 1986 British adventure film based on the characters from the Biggles series of novels by W.E. Johns, but unlike the original books which were the adventures of a fighter pilot in the World Wars, the film instead incorporated the characters into a time travel story involving an american businessman from the present day. This was mostly done as an attempt at cashing in on the then recent Back To The Future, with mixed success, while the original plan of a straight forward adaptation about the adventures of a World War One flying ace probably would have made for a better and more timeless film I still love the film we got.

So the film starts with a nighttime shot of the Statue Of Liberty, ominous music swells until a flash of lightning reveals our title and the awesomeness of Jon Anderson's 'Do You Wanna Be A Hero' begins to play. Not a word of a lie but this is one of my favourite film theme songs of all time, it's perfect for getting me excited for some eighties movie action.

Our plot starts popper with Jim Ferguson (Alex Hyde-White) arriving home to work on a speech, soon a strange man named William Raymond (Peter Cushing in his final film role) knocks at his door enquiring if anything strange has happened to him recently, surprised that the answer is no he states that 'it should have happened by now'. After Raymond leaves Ferguson is struck by a bolt of lightning coming trough his window and suddenly finds himself standing in a muddy field.  There is an absolutely wonderful look of bafflement on his face, like he's less likely to shout 'what the hell' and more likely to curiously  say 'interesting?'.  He is almost knocked down by a crashing World War One biplane which lands and flips upside down. Helping the trapped pilot out of the aircraft both men run and duck behind some cover just in time as an enemy plain blows up the crashed one. The pilot laments that he 'lost the bloody camera' and then introduces himself as James Bigglesworth, but his friends call him Biggles (Niel Dickson), the introductions are short lived as another bolt of lightning strikes sending Ferguson back to his apartment.

Raymond shows up again the next day and they talk about the event before he says he must return to London and that Ferguson should go there too, though he is reluctant since he has commitments with his job and a large presentation coming up.  But while at said presentation another lightning bolt strikes and Ferguson suddenly finds himself in the gunners chair of Biggles biplane. Arriving Biggles tells Ferguson that the German's have a new super weapon, the one that had shot him down the night before and that he is going up to take another picture of it, taking Ferguson along with him.

This is where we see one of the highlights of this film, the flying sequences and arial battles, a wing mounted camera really helps you feel like you are up there with them, of course this is before CGI and seeing real biplanes fly over the snow covered country side is truly a beautiful sight. Biggles and Ferguson get into a chance with Biggles main enemy, the metal masked Erich Von Stalhein (Marcus Gibert), a red baron type figure who attempt to prevent them reaching the super weapon, he failed and they get the picture, avoiding a shot from the weapon they arrive back to base just in time for Ferguson to get zapped back again, deciding he's had enough he departs fro London right away..

Arriving at Raymond's home in Tower Bridge, or lair as he calls it, and wouldn't you if you had a secret home inside a major London landmark. Raymond explains that he was Biggles commanding officer in World War One and that is was Biggles who left instructions for him to contact Ferguson, as to why this is happening he believes that he and Biggles are time-twins, that for the moment their lives are intertwined.

It isn't long before Ferguson time jumps again, this time arriving in a convent wearing nothing but a towel, soon he meets Algy, Bertie and Ginger, other members of Biggles team, he recognises them from a picture in Raymond's lair.  Soon after Biggles shows up to assure his team that Ferguson is on their side.  In the church tending to the injured along side the nuns is Marie (Francesca Gonshaw), an old flame of Biggles and we get a nice quiet scene between them.  Though soon the church is under siege by german soldiers, forcing Biggles and his team to surrender so the injured in the church don't get caught in the crossfire.  Ferguson, who already was dressed like a nun as they were the only cloths available, avoids the capture and mounts a rescue, saving the team from a firing squad before jumping back to the present.  Arriving back just in time for his girlfriend and a colleague who believes he's having a nervous breakdown to see him in the nuns frock.

After this we see several more jumps to the past as Ferguson helps Biggles find out just what the secret german weapon is and helps him stop it.

And I have to mention one of my all time favourite film lines that shows up in the final scene of the film; "Quick, untie us!  Get us out of here before they start realising you're not a God, you're just an American!"  I just love it!

The film has problems to be sure, while I like the score and soundtrack it doesn’t always mesh with whats on screen, I may love 'Do You Wanna Be A Hero' so its placement over a WW1 dogfight just sounds awesome to me, but even I can't defend John Anderson's other song on the soundtrack 'Chocks Away', it may be a fun song on its own but it sounds way out of place over the WW1 action.  But there are many great pieces in the score, such as the jaunty action theme that plays a few times or the hollowing pice that plays the first time our hero's truly see what he german super weapon can do.  It's a bit of a bummer that Biggles is somewhat side lined in his own film but Ferguson is an enjoyable enough lead and Biggles is so wonderfully written and acted it's always a joy when he returns to the screen. And as time travel stories are often to do there are some logical leaps of faith needed by the audience, such as the whole time-twin thing, and Peter Cushing's character should have been much older than he was, but if you are like me you will be having too much fun to notice or care about these points.

The cast is great, especially Neil Dickson who is perfect as Biggles, he would go on to reprise the role in all but name a year latter in 'It Couldn't Happen Here', and he would also name drop the film in 'She-Wolf of London/Love and Curses', a TV series he would star in in the early 90's.  Alex Hyde-White does a good job as Ferguson, a good actor who has acted in several film's and TV shows, perhaps most famously remembered as Mister Fantastic in the unreleased (but widely available online) 1994 Fantastic Four movie.  Marcus Gilbert is also enjoyably entertaining as the evil Erich Von Stalhein, there is a great scene where he and Biggles talk after the latter has been captured that is just great, also geeks like me will recognise him as Lord Arthur from Army of Darkness and Ancelyn from one of my favourite Doctor Who stories, Battlefield.  And of course Peter Cushing needs no introduction, you already know how fantastic he is!

The film was directed by John Hough, a man who directed many films from the late 80's till the early 2000's, though the ones that stand out the most to me are childhood favourites of mine 'Escape to Witch Mountain' and its sequel 'Return to Which Mountain', he also did 'Howling IV: The Original Nightmare' which was his next film after Biggles.

The film is a fun ride and perfect for all ages (may be the first film I've covered where I can actually say that).  Check it out, even if you don't enjoy the film as much as I do, you gotta agree that this song rocks!

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