Review: High Road To China / Cert: PG / Director: Brian G. Hutton / Screenplay: Sandra Weintraub, S. Lee Pogostin / Starring: Tom Selleck, Bess Armstrong, Jack Weston, Wilford Brimley, Robert Morley / Release Date: October 28th
This forgotten but entertaining Indiana Jones-inspired period adventure flick is rescued from Sunday afternoon oblivion thanks to a Blu-ray/DVD release.
Evie Tozer (Armstrong) is informed that her estranged father's business partner Bentik (a bombastic Morley) is looking to have him declared legally dead to take full control of his wealth. She hires boozy ex-US WWI pilot Patrick O'Malley (Selleck) to help her find her old man, and thwart Bentik's plans. Last seen in Afghanistan, it's no surprise given the film's title that Tozer Snr (Brimley) is not there. As they fly across Asia in their biplanes they meet various forces that want to do them harm – some sent by Bentik, some (including a Afghan warlord played with his usual gusto by Brian Blessed) who just see the pair as cannon fodder.
After the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark (in which, let's not forget, Selleck was originally meant to star), the Boy's Own-type adventure became commercial again, and this entry into the action-romance subgenre (done better by Romancing the Stone, in fairness) is surprisingly entertaining. Hutton was a director of some repute, helming such hits as Where Eagles Dare and Kelly's Heroes, and, although this was his last film, his flair for action set pieces wasn't lost. Selleck shows how he would have made the Indiana Jones character work, although his character here, a reluctant mercenary, is more Solo than Jones. He has genuine chemistry with Armstrong, who plays the feisty heiress with “spunk” (the films words, not ours). It's a fairly predictable film, but one that deserves a little more attention. John Barry provides a soaring score, which is fine, but it isn't as air-punchingly triumphant as John Williams' Raiders soundtrack.
MediumRare's HD transfer is perfectly fine, but nothing spectacular, but kudos for releasing such an obscure film on the format.