North Sea Hijack
|North Sea Hijack|
Original UK film poster
|Directed by||Andrew V. McLaglen|
|Produced by||Elliott Kastner|
|Written by||Jack Davies|
|Music by||Michael J. Lewis|
|Editing by||Alan Strachan|
|Studio||Cinema Seven Productions|
|Release dates||Autumn 1979 (UK),
18 April 1980 (US)
|Running time||100 min|
|Box office||$2,993,772 (US only)|
North Sea Hijack (released as Ffolkes outside the UK and as Assault Force on US TV) is a British action film from 1979 starring Roger Moore, James Mason, Anthony Perkins, and Michael Parks. It was directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and adapted by Jack Davies from his novel Esther, Ruth and Jennifer.
This film was a vehicle for both Moore and Perkins to try to escape typecasting. Previously Moore had been practically typecast as a womanising, happy-go-lucky playboy in such series as The Saint, The Persuaders! and James Bond. In contrast to those parts, he is shown here as a bearded, eccentric, arrogant cat-loving, misogynist showing heroic qualities as a master strategist. Moore once said in an interview that he preferred this film to all the James Bond movies he had starred in while acknowledging that he had been miscast in the lead role.
Misogynist freelance marine counter-terrorism consultant Rufus Excalibur ffolkes (Roger Moore) is asked by Lloyd's of London to develop a contingency plan should any of the North Sea oil installations they insure be threatened.
Months later, "Esther", a North Sea supply ship, takes on board a group of men posing as reporters who are visiting the oil production platform "Jennifer". The leader of this group, Lou Kramer (Anthony Perkins), along with his second-in-command, Harold Shulman (Michael Parks), hijack the ship, and two scuba diving henchmen attach limpet mines to the legs of "Jennifer" and its oil drilling rig, "Ruth". From the bridge of "Esther", Kramer issues a ransom demand for GBP 25 million or he will blow up "Ruth"; then, if the ransom is still not paid, he will destroy "Jennifer". For good measure, he rigs "Esther" with explosives and has all the charges wired to a control panel that never leaves his side.
Lord Privy Seal Dennis Tipping (Jeremy Clyde) informs the British Prime Minister (Faith Brook) of the situation. The British government is opposed to conceding to terrorist blackmail, but Tipping suggests that, as a compromise, Lloyd's could pay the ransom. After Lloyd's is consulted, the Prime Minister is shown a video of ffolkes practising a rescue mission aboard a mock-up ship. He anticipated terrorists might hijack a supply ship and has worked out a plan. Flying out to "Jennifer", ffolkes first proposes that, to buy time, a large explosion lights up the night sky, fooling Kramer into thinking "Ruth" has exploded by accident so he won't push the button at the deadline. Ffolkes and Admiral Sir Francis Brindsen (James Mason) are to meet with Kramer onboard "Esther". Ffolkes makes Brindsen practice accidentally dropping cigarettes on the floor, the idea being that the admiral distracts Kramer, giving ffolkes the opportunity to kill him before he sets off the bombs; his team of commandos will in the meantime take out the guards posted on the vessel.
A sub-plot involves the imprisoned crew trying to poison their captors using the ship's medicine supply. A reporter who came with Kramer's men offers to do this, but the crew quickly suspects him to be a plant, so they tie him up. Unfortunately, Kramer has been spying on them, and when the food is delivered he forces one of the 'conspirators' to drink the poisoned coffee; Sanna (Lea Brodie), the other main participant and the only woman on board, flees and allegedly falls overboard.
Later, Kramer demands that Brinston and King (David Hedison), "Jennifer's" manager, join him on "Esther", unintentionally going along with ffolkes' plan. However, Kramer doesn't trust ffolkes when he meets him and orders him to leave the ship. The reporter who had got the blackmailers onto the ship gets cold feet and wants to leave, so Kramer agrees to release him. At the last moment, Kramer shoots him in the back as he is being winched aboard the helicopter.
With time running out, the Prime Minister considers paying the ransom, but ffolkes replies angrily that that would send a message that "anyone with a rowing boat and a stick of dynamite could hold this country to ransom." Ffolkes still thinks he can rescue the hostages. However, to save the lives of the 1,200 men and women aboard "Jennifer", ffolkes urges to obliterate "Esther" with a bomb if his team cannot rescue the hostages in time.
Ffolkes' men storm "Esther", bringing down the guards. Ffolkes joins them wearing a borrowed vermilion scuba suit, but is forced to throw his second-in-command overboard who has mistaken him for a terrorist; Sanna, who had been hiding in a lifeboat, manages to take out one of the terrorists who tries to take a shot at ffolkes. Ffolkes races for the bridge as the helicopter carrying the bomb approaches. At the allotted time, Brindsen offers a cigarette to Kramer, drops them on the floor and bends down to pick them up. Ffolkes appears at the window and shoots the distracted Kramer with a spear gun, pinning him to his seat. Seeing armed men running by, Schulman races for the detonator switch, but he gets impaled at the controls with a spear in each side. Just as the Royal Navy helicopter drops the bomb down its rear loading-ramp, ffolkes fires his signal flare into the sky and the helicopter pilot pulls away just in time so that the bomb falls down away from "Esther".
However, Kramer isn't quite dead, and he slowly reaches for the detonator. Ffolkes pulls the wires out and watches Kramer die. "I ... still ... don't ... like ... your ... face" are his last words.
A ceremony is held at ffolkes' castle to celebrate the end of the hijack. Among those present are the former hostages, the oil rig staff and the commandos. Ffolkes has expressed his disdain for medals, so the Prime Minister presents the cat-loving eccentric with a new litter of kittens, named Esther, Ruth, and Jennifer. For once moved, and a little lost for words, ffolkes leaves amidst a round of applause to give his new kittens a saucer of milk.
- Roger Moore as Rufus Excalibur ffolkes
- James Mason as Admiral Brindsen
- Anthony Perkins as Lou Kramer
- Michael Parks as Harold Shulman
- David Hedison as Robert King
- Jack Watson as Captain Olafsen
- Lea Brodie as Sanna
- George Baker as Fletcher
- Jeremy Clyde as Lord Privy Seal Dennis Tipping
- David Wood as Herring
- Faith Brook as British Prime Minister (The choice of a female Prime Minister character is likely to have been prompted by the fact that Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister when the film was released)
- John Westbrook as Dawnay
- Jennifer Hilary as Sarah
Main character's name
ffolkes is an old English name that is correctly written with two small f's. In the book, he corrects other people several times on this point (See ffolkes baronets).
Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, Co. Galway, Ireland was used as a filming location for the Scottish castle home of ffolkes. Many of the outdoor scenes of the movie were filmed in Galway City & County, Ireland.
The film was released as North Sea Hijack in the United Kingdom, but as Ffolkes in the United States and other English-speaking territories. In the US it was renamed Assault Force when released on TV in 1983.