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When Eight Bells Toll (1971)

Made at an early stage in Anthony Hopkins’s film career, this Alistair MacLean adventure gave him a rare opportunity to play an action hero. Hopkins plays Philip Calvert, a single-minded Royal Navy diving expert who is sent, with his aide, Hunslet (Corin Redgrave), to investigate the piracy of gold-bullion ships in the Irish Sea.

Calvert’s plan is to plant two friendly agents in the crew of the next bullion ship, the Nantesville, to report anything untoward to Calvert and Hunslet, who will shadow the ship disguised as marine biologists.

When the agents aren’t heard from, Calvert slips aboard the ship and finds both men dead. He unravels the mystery by bucking authority, overcoming the shifty, mumbling locals, disobeying orders and generally raising hell, leading to an action climax in the villains’ hideaway.

Overseeing the investigation is Sir Anthony Arnford-Jones (Robert Morley at his most petulant) who sees Calvert as “a terrible fellow . . . from a Northern grammar school”.

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Calvert is intent on doing the job without falling for the high-life distractions that other spies are prone to. Consequently, he comes across as rather charmless and we find ourselves longing for more of Morley’s delicious comic turn as Calvert’s spymaster.

Jack Hawkins plays the red herring villain as well as he can after losing his larynx to cancer a few years before (Charles Gray speaks his lines).

Philip Calvert
Anthony Hopkins
Sir Arthur Arnold-Jones (‘Uncle Arthur’)
Robert Morley
Sir Anthony Skouras
Jack Hawkins
Charles Gray (dubbed voice)
Charlotte Skouras
Nathalie Delon
Hunslet
Corin Redgrave
Lord Charnley
Derek Bond
Lavorski
Ferdy Mayne
Tim Hutchinson
Leon Collins
Sue Kirkside
Wendy Allnutt
Imrie
Peter Arne

Director
Etienne Périer

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