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TERRORISTS, THE (AKA: RANSOM) (director: Caspar Wrede; screenwriter: Paul Wheeler; cinematographer: Sven Nykvist; editors: Eric Boyd-Perkins/Thelma Connell; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Sean Connery (Nils Tahlvik), Ian McShane (Petrie), Norman Bristow (Capt. Denver), James Maxwell (Bernhard), Isabel Dean (Mrs. Palmer), William Fox (Ferris), Jeffry Wickham (Capt. Barnes), John Quentin (Shepherd), Robert Harris (Gerald Palmer), Harry Landis (Lookout Pilot), Knut Wigert (General Polson); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Peter Rawley; 20th Century Fox; 1975-UK)
“A typical action yarn about political terrorism that got waylaid by an intricate plot line that never quite made sense.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A typical action yarn about political terrorism that got waylaid by an intricate plot line that never quite made sense. Caspar Wrede’s listless direction never made any of the characters memorable, while the stilted acting by most of the cast, except for Sean Connery’s commanding presence, added little to the thriller. It was filmed on location in Norway and at London’s Shepperton Studio. Sven Nykvist does a nice job photographing the winter Scandinavian setting.

The film opens to an explosion in London and a number of arrests. The action then swings to the British ambassador Palmer’s (Robert Harris) residence in Scandinavia, where he and two of his servants are being held hostage by the political terrorist Shepherd (John Quentin) and his gang. A hard-nosed head of Scandinavian security, Colonel Tahlvik (Sean Connery), is in charge of the hostage situation. But since the case involves a Brit diplomat, they take charge of the investigation even though it’s not on their home turf. Captain Frank Barnes (Jeffry Wickham) is working the case for the Brits, and his orders are to acquiesce to Shepherd’s demands to free all of his cohorts jailed in London and let the Shepherd gang escape with their assistance. Barnes tells a disappointed Tahlvik, who does not want to bargain with terrorists, that they have info where the drop-off will be and will make the arrest at that time. But Shepherd has to change his plans, as we are told that the police operation has been unmasked. At this time a British passenger plane is hijacked by Petrie (Ian McShane) and three other armed terrorists. It’s never made clear what connection Petrie has with Shepherd at this point (later on we will see the connection), but he hijacked the plane to give Shepherd safe passage.

Most of the film is played out by Oslo’s Fornebu International Airport (now closed), as a battle-of-wills ensues between the two terrorist gangs and the tough-minded law abiding colonel. The colonel has to also put up with his appeasement minded civilian superiors such as the minister of the interior, Bernhard (James Maxwell ), who threatens to fire him if he doesn’t give in to the terrorists’ demands. Tahlvik also must put up with the hysterical ambassador’s wife who pleads with him to give in to the terrorists so that her heart troubled hubby doesn’t die from the stress. But the colonel refuses to and makes plans to capture both gangs despite all the risks.

For those seeing the film post-9/11, the scenes of the terrorists threatening to blow up the plane are eerie. But even though the film builds on tension and has an exciting climax, its plot twist seemed hard to swallow and there was nothing about the film that would make you want to remember it.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”