Lewis Collins Was Not James Bond - Who Dares Wins Review

who dares wins  poster collins

In Who Dares Wins, a preposterously ludicrous 1982 action film directed by Ian Sharp, a group of lefty middle-class revolutionaries hatch a scheme to hijack the American ambassador's residence and take a group of dining diplomats, including the US Secretary Of State Arthur Currie (Richard Widmark), hostage. These anti-nuclear protestors, led by the twitchy Frankie Leith (Judy Davis), want a nuclear missile to be fired at the Holy Loch Royal Navy submarine base in Scotland to show the world the devastating consequences of nuclear devastation. Yes, let me just repeat that. These anti-nuclear protestors wish to highlight their pacifist cause by firing a nuclear missile at Scotland. Que? as Manuel the waiter used to say to John Cleese in Fawlty Towers. But fear not because these yuppie terrorists have - with the brilliantly cunning help of a bouffant hairstyle and a big blue blazer - been craftily infiltrated by suave SAS hard case Captain Peter Skellen (Lewis Collins)...

If there is one chap who should have played James Bond at least once then that man is surely Lewis Collins. Can't you just picture him in a tuxedo, punching out some craggy Craig-esque henchman before venturing forth a debonair, sardonic quip? Legend has it that Collins met with Cubby Broccoli to discuss Bond in the early eighties but that Broccoli took an instant dislike to him with the meeting lasting about ten minutes. Who Dares Wins seems for all intents and purposes like Lewis Collins auditioning for Bond, begging to be cast as the next 007. The film was made on the back of the publicity the real SAS had received storming the Iranian Embassy in London on television and was supposed to launch Collins as an international action star - sort of like the Jason Statham of his day - but his career fizzled out after a couple of cheapo European actioners. In Who Dares Wins we first meet Bodie, I mean Captain Peter Skellen, high on the Brecon Beacons on an exercise, duffing up a couple of American soldiers training with the SAS. It's just a ruse though so they can pretend to kick him out, allowing him to go undercover.
lewis collins who dares wins

Who Dares Wins seems comically right-wing with anti-nuclear protestor baddies (!) but is (no, honestly) probably not a film to take terribly seriously. Judy Davis, who later carved out a decent career playing icy bohemian types in Woody Allen films, chews the scenery as pinko head honcho Frankie Leith. Frankie's militant group stage protests on the streets of London and have their own headquarters which she runs with Rod Walker, played by John Duttine. John Duttine is one of those strange actors you recognise but from where you have no idea. There are some bizarre scenes of their rallies, which take the form of a surreal cabaret act where Frankie dresses as a nuclear missile! Skellen infiltrates this nutty group by turning up to one of their shows in a blue blazer. As we all know, no woman can resist a blue blazer with gold buttons and he's soon a regular fixture in Frankie's plush dockside flat and openly wandering around their headquarters looking like a prospective Conservative MP. Unsurprisingly, his cover is blown and he ends up in the siege while Frankie wields a machine gun in her evening gown, the group having blagged their way in with disguises.

One thing about Who Dares Wins that is absolutely brilliant is the music by Roy Budd, who also did the famous score for Get Carter. You know how when they made that unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again it seemed a little weird because they couldn't use the James Bond theme? Well they really should have hired Roy Budd because he supplies a funky action score for Who Dares wins that is immediate, exciting and not a little Bondian. A criticism of the film I feel is that it doesn't give Collins enough action on the whole. We have to wait a long time to see the Captain opening a can of whup-ass on these yuppie would be Che Guevaras although it's well staged when we get there and a longish sequence. There are some nice touches like POV shots through the gas-masks of SAS men and the climax is genuinely exciting with Collins finally getting some action as he runs down corridors with a machine gun and shoots people. A decent set-piece earlier in the film where Skellen evades people tailing him in a chase by the Thames is also quite good fun. One of the funniest sequences in the film (unintentional of course) occurs when we visit the secret SAS base and there are constant explosions and people dropping from helicopters in the background like something out of a Naked Gun film.  
who dares wins lewis collins

You have to feel for Richard Widmark and Robert Webber who both add gravitas to the siege portion of the film while Judy Davis manically overacts. "This is being done in the name of peace!" snaps Frankie. You wonder if Widmark and Webber actually know they are in a Lewis Collins action film! Horror icon Ingrid Pitt is also in the film as Helga, sort of like the militant group's version of Rosa Klebb. Who Dares Wins is perhaps a little sadistic at times but eighties action films tended to be pretty violent on the whole for some reason. Another familiar face in the film is the late, great Edward Woodward as Commander Powell. It is Lewis Collins though who is the star of Who Dares Wins and on this evidence it's a shame he didn't to make a few more big screen actioners and a Bond film or two. Collins is not Marlon Brando but he does have a culty appeal and a certain sardonic charm. His outfits, be they combat fatigues, motorcycle leathers or a big old blue blazer are fun too. Who Dares Wins does not hold up under close inspection but any fans of Lewis Collins, Roy Budd or eccentric cinema in general should certainly take a peek. 

- Jake


c 2010 Alternative 007