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High Road to China


We all know that Pierce Brosnan was passed over in the 80’s for the role of OO7 due to his TV role as Remington Steele, but he eventually gained the role after Timothy Dalton’s two films as Bond.

In the early 80’s, Tom Selleck was chosen by Spielberg and Lucas for the role of Indiana Jones, but due to his commitment to Magnum PI, the role went to Harrison Ford. You can see a lot of efforts to channel Indiana in Selleck’s role in 1984’s HIGH ROAD TO CHINA.

Selleck plays alcoholic, devil-may-care American pilot Patrick O’Malley. Soaring his biplanes all over Europe in WWI, O’Malley’s biggest enemies are hangovers and a lack of ambition.

Bess Armstrong plays wealthy American heiress Eve, who must find her father within a couple of weeks or his business partner back in the US will proclaim him dead and steal the company, along with her inheritance.

Eve finds O’Malley and flashes enough money to peak his interest, along with the pilot’s right hand man Struts, played for fun by a very game Jack Weston.

Eve’s father was last seen in the mountains of Tibet and across China, giving Director Brian G. Hutton the opportunity for plenty of beautiful shots of bi-planes soaring across massive snowy mountains. Hutton directed “Where Eagles Dare” and any fan of that film knows that Hutton can stage great actions scenes across on a grand scale.

The problem with “High Road” is that is feels like a rather low-road budget was in play. There are a couple decent battle scenes with a cast of hundreds that never quite feel of any consequence. Aerial dogfights provide the best sequences and composer John Barry (Goldfinger, Out of Africa) delivers another great score that soars with them.

Selleck is a lot of fun and after a steady dose of his weekly role in “Blue Bloods”, it’s great to see the MUCH younger version of the action hero here. He’s up for anything, towers over everyone else on screen and holds his own. Armstrong on the other hand is weak and grating beyond belief. She made this and “Jaws 3D” the same year. I think she owes moviegoers a refund. She and Penelope Ann Miller are two actresses from the era that win my “most annoying” award.

Wilford Brimley perks everything up as her dad, Bradley Tozer. Between this, “The Thing”, “The Natural” and “Cocoon”. Brimley had a hell of a big screen run ’83-’85.

Mildly enjoyable, mostly thanks to Selleck, Weston and John Barry’s score, HIGH ROAD TO CHINA plods along to a C.

When first announced, the film was going to star Roger Moore and Bo Derek. Hmmmm….casting choices are fascinating to consider…..

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