John Hough (director)
Network on Air (studio)
92 min (length)
16 November 2020 (released)
17 November 2020
This high-octane and surprisingly violent 1970’s conspiracy thriller is based on the novel by Mark Hebden (also known under his pen name John Harris) and stars Mark ‘Oliver Twist’ Lester as a young teenager whose overactive imagination invariably gets him into mortal danger.
The action takes place on a fictitious Mediterranean island (the movie itself was filmed in Malta) and right at the start we see young teenager Ziggy (M. Lester) goofing about on the beach – one minute he fancies himself as a PoW executed by firing squad, the next minute he fancies himself as a Spanish bullfighter. In short, his fantasies tend to run away with him, so much so that his Grandpa (Lionel Jeffreys reprising his eccentric Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ‘Grandpa Potts’ thing) doesn’t believe a word his grandson tells him but plays along with him just to humour the lad. Grandpa by the way lives in a lighthouse on said island, together with his twenty-something daughter Pippa (Susan George) and ‘girl for everything’ Madame Robiac (Betty Marsden). When Grandpa doesn’t believe Ziggy’s latest story about a torpedo attack the boy, bored with spinning yarns that no one ever believes anyway, looks forward to driving into town with Pippa to join the spectators when an African head of State arrives for an VIP visit and is chauffeured along the streets in an open car (never a good idea). While Pippa is standing amid the crowd, Ziggy wanders off and observes a young man (who looks like he should be in a glam-rock band) carrying a shopping bag being let into a building by a policeman. Seconds later, the policeman walks through the door and the young man exits again, albeit without his shopping bag. Curiosity gets the better of our Ziggy and he manages to sneak into the building where he, rather unfortunately, witnesses the assassination of the African head of State by the same policeman from just a short time earlier. Obviously the shopping bag contained a rifle and now the trigger-happy copper blasts bullet after bullet from a window. Whilst panic breaks out on the streets below Ziggy is forced to run for his life because the assassin has seen him too. Meanwhile, Pippa is anxious to find her young brother but instead she ‘finds’ charming young tourist Tom Jones (Tony Bonner) who’s obviously set his eyes on the leggy blonde.
Realising how distressed and angry she is over her brother having wandered off, Tom offers to drive her back to the lighthouse as he’s certain the boy will turn up. Indeed, they spot him on the road which takes them out of the city but despite his best attempts to warn them of “police officers hot on his trail because he has seen the killer” it goes without saying Pippa – used to her brothers constant lies – doesn’t believe a word he says.
Inviting Tom into the lighthouse as a thank you for bringing them back safely the young man is scrutinized by Grandpa when it emerges that initially Tom seems to be emotionally neutral towards Pippa, with Gramps asking him: “You’re not one of them poofs are you? Too many around of them these days!” It’s just as well Grandpa doesn’t live in the 21st century then. Of course, this kind of dialogue wouldn’t pass in a million years these days. Meanwhile, Paul Grazzini (Peter Vaughan) who is the killer policeman and his accomplice Victor Grazzini (Peter Bowles playing against type) leave no stone unturned in finding Ziggy and indeed, are they even policemen? Unsympathetic Inspector Galleria (Jeremy Kemp) certainly barks up the wrong tree before the penny finally drops! Until it does we see several more characters bumped off (including a little girl who is Ziggy’s friend) plus wild car chases and an almighty showdown during which Grandpa, Pippa, Ziggy and Tom need to apply their wit and courage if they want to escape alive. That said, Susan George’s character is more irritating scream queen then quick-thinking heroine able to shake off her attackers. What a difference to ‘Halloween’s’ Laurie Strode or ‘Scream’s’ Sidney Prescott!
Peter Vaughan and Peter Bowles are in suitably menacing mode and the film holds some truly nasty surprises in store. That said, the overall result is perhaps almost as fantastic as one of Ziggy’s many yarns. Incidentally the plot bears similarities to the superior 1949 American film noir ‘The Window’.
Oscar-winning writer Ronald Harwood and Bryan Forbes (uncredited) are responsible for the screenplay and Mark Lester just about passes as the mischievous liar who has an awful lot of running to do in this, er, yarn. One can’t help wondering how Jack Wild would have approached such a part?
EYEWITNESS is presented as a HD restoration from original film elements in its original theatrical aspect ration. Special Features include a new interview with Mark Lester, Isolated music track for the main feature, Theatrical trailer and Image gallery.