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  Campbell's Kingdom You Know The Drill
Year: 1957
Director: Ralph Thomas
Stars: Dirk Bogarde, Stanley Baker, Michael Craig, Barbara Murray, James Robertson Justice, Athene Seyler, Robert Brown, John Laurie, Sid James, Mary Merrall, George Murcell, Roland Brand, Finlay Currie, Peter Illing, Maurice Kaufmann, Stanley Maxted
Genre: Drama, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Stewart Campbell was not well liked around this area of the Canadian Rockies as he was believed to have swindled the locals out of a fortune when he persuaded them to look into his oil drilling business. After having seen a spurt of black gold right before a landslide covered it up, he was convinced there was a fortune to be had under their feet, but it was never found, and all the money was lost when his business partner ran off with it, leaving Campbell to face the music. He was imprisoned, and once released he returned to the region to live out his life as a hermit, still owning the land, seeking the oil but lacking the means to drill for it. But now he has been found dead, and the valley has a dam that can be completed now that is so - or is it?

"Bruce Campbell has more guts than the lot of you put together!" Aye to that, but this wasn't the star of The Evil Dead we were talking about, nope, it was that famed he-man Dirk Bogarde. Wait, what? He played the other Campbell in the story, one who is still alive, though only just as he has been diagnosed with a movie illness where he will die in six months, but in the meantime will remain healthy enough to climb rocks and push entire lorries with his bare hands; there is a reason for that, but to say more would be to give away the ending. Before that point, Dirk was seeking the oil his grandfather had lost by way of clearing the family name, though so doing immediately makes an enemy of the dam builder.

He being Stanley Baker, playing Morgan, our villain in intriguing contrast to the physically weak Campbell a strapping and forceful personality who director Ralph Thomas ensured made Bogarde look like the underdog throughout, all the better to present his chances of succeeding in his quest far more unlikely, therefore far more satisfying should he achieve his task. He's not alone, as he makes allies in local barmaid Jean (Barbara Murray) and worker Roy Bladen (Michael Craig) who has somehow carved out a living away from Morgan's influence, but Campbell will need more than that, so lucky for him he convinces actual oil man McDonald to assist as well, bringing in that heavy machinery - lots of huge trucks, for one thing - an entertainment for real men would often feature.

It was worth pointing out McDonald was played by James Robertson Justice with an extraordinary Scottish accent sounding like no Scot you'd ever heard. You'd think with his love of all things Caledonian he'd have perfected the brogue, but obviously not; this was no place to be if you wanted to hear authentic Canadian accents either, nor view authentic Canadian landscape for that matter: those spectacular peaks were in the Dolomites, a continent and an ocean away. Nevertheless, they did their job as rugged backdrop for what for too long in the telling was a rather abstract yarn of working out legalities of continuing to drill, something you imagine read better on the pages of Hammond Innes' source novel than it did listening to the cast chew their way through the explanatory dialogue.

In light of that, the movie could have been rather dry, but sheer force of character established the epic battle of wills early on and carried it through to the explosions and floods that had the audience of the fifties coming away contented they had enjoyed a decent night out at the cinema. Sid James was among the recognisable faces, again labouring under an accent, as was John Laurie, getting to keep his actual Scottish tones, but the curious charisma match of Bogarde and Baker against the striking scenery was the draw, the tension borne from seeing the pale and sickly Campbell outsmart the bullying and brawny Morgan since he is dead set on finding that oil, bringing the fortune his grandfather had promised to the land, and maybe even romancing Jean before his time is up on this Earth. When the plot becomes a race against time as Morgan plans to flood the valley before any oil can be got at, it's undeniably entertaining in a somewhat basic fashion, but as unpretentious adventures go, Campbell's Kingdom was a fair diversion. Music by Clifton Parker.

[Even taking into account the film's age, Network's Blu-ray offers a superbly detailed picture. Extras include the trailer and galleries.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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