Moore Not Less - North
North Sea Hijack (also known as
Ffolkes and Assault Force outside of Britain) saw Roger Moore try to
shake off his now firmly established James Bond image and play a very
different type of character. This was probably too late as he'd been
typecast since his Simon Templar days but North Sea Hijack is an
enjoyable little action/suspense yarn and Roger seems to be having fun.
He plays an eccentric, grumpy
and bearded marine counter-terrorist expert named Rufus Excalibur
ffolkes (the small - and double - 'f' is no typo, it's an ancient
English name apparently) who has a fondness for woolly jumpers, bobble
hats, knitting, crossword puzzles and cats. He lives in a castle and
drinks whisky from the bottle at a time when most of us are waking up
with a mug of PG Tips.
The film reunited Roger with
Wild Geese director Andrew V McLaglen and the pair would soon work
together again on The Sea Wolves. This is a slightly gentler affair
than The Wild Geese but the villains are quite nasty and there are
harpoon guns etc. It's not Mary Poppins.
Roger has spoken of North Sea
Hijack with some fondness. In his view he might have been somewhat
miscast but he enjoyed playing the part of ffolkes. It made for a nice
break from James Bond, especially after the long shoot on Moonraker.
A strong cast was assembled
around Moore for the film with James Mason as Admiral Brindsen and
Anthony Perkins and Michael Parks as the villains. Look out for George
Baker and David Hedison too. Baker had appeared in On Her Majesty's
Secret Service while Hedison played Felix Leiter in Live and Let Die
alongside Roger several years previously. There was no escaping those
In North Sea Hijack, a gang of
villains led by nutty Lou Kramer (Anthony Perkins) and Harold Shulman
(Michael Parks) pose as reporters to gain access to an oil production
platform in the North Sea. They hijack the supply ship and place mines
on the platform and its oil drilling rig. The ambitious crooks then
demand a hefty ransom from the British government or else they'll blow
these expensive rigs to smithereens. Not to mention that they have
"I am the temporary captain of
this tub and you're going to be taking your orders from me for the time
being. And the quicker you get that straight, the shorter that time is
gonna be, so let's just play patty-cake together and get this over
with. Remember, luck favours the man with the most limpet mines and
I've got a bundle of them. Two stuck to the underside of the drilling
rig Ruth, and four planted right under your ass." That's telling them.
The government (led by Faith
Brook - a nod to the fact that Britain had a female Prime Minister at
the time) is reluctant to fork out the ransom cash to these terrorists
and turn to Rufus Excalibur ffolkes (Roger) - a counter-terrorist
expert who has been training to deal with situations exactly like this.
Admiral Sir Francis Brindsen (James Mason) is ordered to work with
ffolkes. Can they save the rigs and hostages?
Despite the synopsis, North Sea
Hijack is relatively light on action but this doesn't really matter in
the end and manages to make the film more interesting than it might
have been as a more straight forward action/hostage caper with
gunfights and explosions aplenty. A lot of the film revolves around the
painstaking preparations of ffolkes and his team as they plan their
assault on the ship with Admiral Brindsen to be used as part of the
Moore barks at his men and gets
a few amusing insults to dispense. There is a touch of James
Robertson-Justice about ffolkes. That booming voiced bombast. Someone
who doesn't suffer fools.
James Mason nicely underplays
his part here and his dry exasperation makes a nice contrast with
ffolkes. Mason's soothing voice makes these two chalk and cheese. The
main enjoyment in the ffolkes character comes from the fact that's he
incredibly rude to everyone and has no sense of tact. When he does show
a softer side at the resolution of the film it's quite touching.
Rufus is a terrible misogynist
and the explanation for this is as eccentric as Roger's beard. "You
see, I, together with my five elder sisters, was raised by a maiden
aunt. Both my parents died tragically in childbirth. Until the age of
ten, I was forced to wear my sister's hand-me-downs. Then when I
married, I discovered to my horror that my wife also had five sisters,
all unmarried, and all expecting my support. I find cats a far superior
breed. Just on the off chance, I have made a will. I've left everything
to my cats. I want it testified that I am sound of body and mind."
It's a nice joke to have Rog a
million miles away from his playboy 007 image. Here, with his unkempt
beard and lack of social graces, he doesn't even like women in the
There is a subplot where the
hostages try to turn the tables on the terrorists and this is
reasonably tense and helps to pad the film out. We get a lot of stuff
in control rooms and places on the ship but the cast are good and there
is a balance between the events at sea and the preparations of ffolkes
- plus all the political wrangling.
Given the lack of spectacle and
action capers North Sea Hijack is impressive in the way that it still
manages to hold your attention. The training sequences are
entertaining, as is the location work at sea. Dunguaire Castle was used
as the home of ffolkes.
Anthony Perkins is especially
bonkers as the villain Kramer and even manages to outbonkers Michael
Parks as his assistant baddie. Despite the synopsis (which makes it
sound like Under Siege 5) there is something rather cosy and
old-fashioned about North Sea Hijack. This is a world where
psychopathic terrorists are no match for a British eccentric who likes
The climax is not the most
spectacular but it works fairly well and you'll certainly be rooting
for Rufus and his team to take out Perkins and his gang by the end. I
liked the line they give Roger too when he has to go into action. "A
wet suit in vermilion. Just what one needs at night."
North Sea Hijack is no
masterpiece but it's a solid fun adventure yarn from yesteryear that is
worth a look if you stumble across it on television or see it for sale
at a can't resist price. And Roger was far too modest when he said he
was miscast. He's always great fun as Rufus Excalibur ffolkes.