Wednesday, August 29, 2012
70's Bonanza: Sky Riders
On a quiet morning, American diplomat Robert Culp leaves his wife (York) and two children at home. Soon after, a group of hockey masked terrorists break into the guarded compound and kidnap the family, whisking them away high atop a mountain in Greece. Ex husband James Coburn becomes involved with the rescue process and tracks the kidnappers to their abandoned monastery in the mountain, eliciting the help of a group of professional hang gliders in attacking the compound. Forget that Coburn only needs a day or two to learn hang gliding and that the assault involves daringly guiding oneself through impending, jagged mountain cliffs. This is James Coburn, and he does it all with flair.
Directed by Douglas Hickox, "Sky Riders" best asset, besides the wide grin that Coburn flashes every few minutes or Susannah York's (again) bra-less performance, is the majestic Greek landscape anchoring the narrative. The point of view shots as the hang gliders are in flight, or the terrific night-time raid set piece towards the final half of the film are outstanding examples of mise-en-scene. Hickox, a director best known for "Zulu Dawn" or my personal favorite piece of 70's nihilism "Sitting Target", probably should have gotten more chances at directing large action films instead of the TV series work he was relegated to later in his career. The final shoot-out between the terrorists, the police and Coburn's crew igniting mayhem in the skies turns into a "Wild Bunch" scenario of machine guns, grenades and falling bodies. Even if one doesn't buy the exagerrated scenario, "Sky Riders" wins you over through sheer gusto.