Welcome to Missed Connections, a weekly column where I get to highlight films that are little known and/or unfairly maligned.
I’ll be shining a light in two directions — I hope to introduce you to movies you’ve never seen and possibly never heard of, and I’ll attempt to defend films that history, critical consensus, and maybe even your own memories haven’t been very kind to.
This week’s entry is a fun little action yarn starring Roger Moore as a grumpy, cat-loving misanthrope who’s the only one standing between a group of terrorists and the integrity of the British government. It’s known to some by the more generic-sounding title North Sea Hijack, but I’ve always loved and remembered it as… ffolkes.
Rufus Excaliber ffolkes — small ‘f’ — is a freelance anti-terrorism expert who runs a strict training camp populated by a small group of ex-military men. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy, as evidenced by his Where’s Waldo? cap and love of cross-stitching, and he’s the man tasked with formulating plans against hypothetical terror situations. One such scenario becomes very real when several men posing as members of the press (a move that Air Force One would copy seventeen years later) instead take violent control of a supply boat, an oil rig, and a drilling platform. They’ve planted bombs on those last two and are demanding $25 million in exchange for not detonating the explosives which would kill dozens, pollute the waters for years to come, and devastate the British economy.
The government can’t pay the ransom and be seen as easy marks, but the location of the rigs in the North Sea make it difficult to approach without being seen. What to do?
They call ffolkes. With just twenty four hours before the ransom is due ffolkes convinces the Prime Minister and the military man in charge, Admiral Brinsden (James Mason), to put his plan into motion promising a deadly confrontation and guaranteed resolution. The bad guys are no pushovers as their leader, Kramer (Anthony Perkins), isn’t adverse to shooting trouble-making hostages and tossing their bodies into the sea. Together with his partner in crime, Schulman (Michael Parks), they’ve got every contingency covered. Well, every contingency but one.
Director Andrew V. McLaglen‘s second of three collaborations with Moore (including The Wild Geese and The Sea Wolves) is an effortlessly fun little thriller that succeeds in large part due to its star’s willingness to play against his most famous role. Sandwiched between Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only, ffolkes was produced while Moore was deep into his turn as James Bond, and while it once again features him as a capable but eccentric man fighting a master villain and his henchmen the characters are worlds apart.
ffolkes dislikes people in general, but he’s especially disinterested in women to the point that he cancelled his membership at his favorite club because they began accepting female members. He doesn’t berate them on sight, he typically ignores them, and when pressed on his dislike for the fairer sex he explains it with a story that begins “Both of my parents died tragically in childbirth…” He’s displeased to see women working aboard the rigs, and when an opportunity to evacuate a few people arises he shoots down the idea of choosing them strictly for their sex. “If women want equality in life,” he says, “they must also accept equality in death.” The secretary he’s referring to simply rolls her eyes in response.
The film is written by Jack Davies who adapts his own novel, Esther, Ruth and Jennifer, and it feels like a perfect opportunity for an actor best known for playing a goofy yet suave ladies man. Moore’s Bond was always quick to hit the sheets and did so through his charm and wit (unlike the more, uh, forceful Connery), but here Moore is playing a man with literally zero interest in women. Davies and Moore have fun with that contrast throughout — the boat and rigs all have feminine names, ffolkes threatens his men’s balls, he brags to others that his team knows their way around a man’s anatomy, he loves cats and dislikes people who don’t — leading to a scene where a short-haired female sailor saves his life and he mistakes her for a “boy.” She protests, but he ignores her, and when he finds her freezing from exposure he strips her pants off, takes her into the hot shower, and begins vigorously rubbing her back. When he spins her around to do the same for her chest he’s shocked to see the wet shirt accentuating what’s beneath — and he hands her a towel instead.
He’s an odd duck this ffolkes.
The film entertains even beyond Moore’s dryly serious humor with Perkins and Parks playing memorable villains, and while it’s far from a big-budget affair the action satisfies. It also makes great use of miniatures — a lost art in today’s CG world — to bring some shots of the boat, rigs, and helicopters to life. Very little of what’s pictured in the wonderful yet ridiculous poster below actually occurs in ffolkes, but while there are no bikini-clad ladies there is a terrifically charming Moore standing tall above the chaos. Fans of the recently deceased actor owe it to themselves to check out his anti-Bond adventure which in a perfect world would have jump-started a whole new franchise.
Buy ffolkes on DVD from Amazon.
Check out some of our previous Missed Connections.
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