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Who Dares Wins (1982)

On 5th May 1980, the six day siege at the Iranian Embassy in London was ended when special forces soldiers of the SAS stormed the embassy building, released the hostages, killed 5 terrorists and captured the sixth. The terrorists had already killed one hostage, and were threatening to slaughter the rest at half-hour intervals, when the go ahead was given for the rescue mission, codenamed Operation Nimrod.

Not only was the operation a stunning success but, crucially, it took place under the gaze of the world's news media. Television news crews were camped outside the embassy awaiting the latest developments, with their cameras trained on the building. The rescue mission was captured on camera and streamed on live television around the world, causing a media sensation.

The Special Air Service (SAS) was one of several British special forces units formed in the desert campaign in North Africa during WWII. Unusually, it was also one that had survived into the Cold War era, being refor…
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2019: The Year in Review

As it's almost the beginning of a new year and a new decade, I thought I'd do a round-up of what's been happening at Cinema Essentials over the past 12 months.

Cinema Essentials is 2 (and a bit) years old

It's hard to believe, but this website is now more than 2 years old. Fortunately, it's now past the crawling and dribbling stage (well, mostly) and is managing to totter along without too much adult supervision.

Cinema Essentials actually celebrated its 2nd birthday back in July. But I decided not to make a big thing of it, as I wasn't sure if I wanted the inevitable street parties and rounds of media interviews. Actually, I didn't think anyone would really care, which is sad I know, but probably true.

This is me, dictating this post to my secretary.  And yes, it's amazing how much I look like James Mason.


I signed up for the Large Association of Movie Blogs in October this year. It takes time for membership to go through, but assuming it…

8 of the Best Christmas Films

It's Christmas, the time of year when we get together with loved ones we've been neglecting all year, eat and drink too much, give people presents they don't really want, and have to endure the office Christmas party.

One of the most familiar elements of a modern Christmas is slumping in an armchair and watching some schmaltzy Christmas garbage on the TV. But hey, I want to spare you that fate, because here are eight Christmas films that are actually good.

Alien (1979)

In its genre, Alien has rarely, if ever, been bettered. It's a very simple story of a terrifying monster let loose in a confined space, killing off the crew of a space ship one by one. Its greatness lies in its superb handling and in its extraordinary art direction.

The film begins with the mining ship Nostromo returning to Earth with a cargo of 20,000,000 tons of mineral ore. The ship is still a long way from home when its computer picks up a distress signal from a nearby planet. The ship's crew are automatically awakened from suspended animation and directed to the planet to investigate.

The ship has a crew of seven. There is the businesslike captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), curious and incautious Kane (John Hurt), nervy Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), suspicious science officer Ash (Ian Holm), tough but brittle Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and two grumbling mechanics from below decks, Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton).

Dallas, Kane and Lambert investigate the …

Top 10 Film and TV Spies

There was a time when TV and cinema screens were mostly devoid of spy heroes. You might get the ordinary, innocent person caught up in a spy plot by accident, especially in Alfred Hitchcock's films, like The 39 Steps(1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938) and North by Northwest (1959). You might also see some wartime era spy work in the likes of O. S. S. (1946), or true life stories of undercover agents in Nazi-occupied Europe, as in Odette (1950) and Carve Her Name with Pride (1958).

But the spy as action-adventure hero didn't really take off on screen until the 1960s, a decade that saw the big and small screens flooded with fictional spies. Although spy mania reached its peak in this era, aided by the prominence of real life spies in the Cold War, secret agents have never completely gone out of fashion. In fact, with series like the Jason Bourne films, Mission Impossible and Kingsman, they're probably more popular now than they were in the previous couple of decades.

Here then…

The Monster Club (1980)

In this horror anthology, John Carradine plays horror author R. Chetwynd-Hayes, who is admiring a display of his works in the window of a bookshop one night, when he is suddenly accosted by an emaciated vampire, Eramus (Vincent Price). When the author tells the poor unfortunate that he's happy to do anything to help him out, Eramus helps himself to a drop of Chetwynd-Hayes's blood to quench his vampiric thirst. In repayment, Eramus offers to aid the author's research and introduce him to The Monster Club, a place where ghouls, monsters and vampires hang out, drink blood and get groovy to 1980s rock music.

The Matrix (1999)

In The Matrix, Keanu Reeves plays Thomas Anderson, an average guy living an average, unfulfilling life in an average and anonymous American city, somewhere at the end of the 20th Century.

Anderson works in a dull job as a computer programmer by day, while by night he is a computer hacker who goes by the name of Neo. Neo is looking for something. Specifically, he is looking for Morpheus, a shadowy figure wanted by the government for unspecified crimes.

When Neo is contacted over his computer by another hacker, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), she tells him that he is in great danger. But she also tells him that, just as he has been seeking Morpheus, so has Morpheus been seeking him.

When Neo and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) finally meet, Morpheus reveals to him the startling and uncomfortable truth about the world in which he is living.