The Riddle of the Sands (1979) starring Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Simon MacCorkindale, Alan Badel, Jürgen Andersen, Michael Sheard directed by Tony Maylam Movie Review

The Riddle of the Sands (1979)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Simon MacCorkindale and Michael York The Riddle of the Sands (1979)

Yatchsmen Bosh the Barge Brigade

Reading various reviews of "The Riddle of the Sands" those which are positive generally mention Erskine Childers's novel from which it is adapted and how director Tony Maylam had done a good job of translating the books tone. That maybe true, I have never read the novel and so can't compare it but without the knowledge of the book "The Riddle of the Sands" ends up a dry experience, lacking the excitement I tend to look for from what is essentially an espionage movie. The actual story itself is fine, there is something sort of entertaining about two Englishmen thwarting the Kaiser's attempt to invade England via the unprotected East coast but for me it lacks not only excitement but also a gripping atmosphere.

When sailor Arthur Davies (Simon MacCorkindale - While My Pretty One Sleeps) has a strange encounter with a group of German's after meeting Clara Dollmann (Jenny Agutter - The Eagle Has Landed) he sends a letter to his old friend Charles Carruthers (Michael York - Logan's Run) at the Foreign Office to see if he would like to spend some time aboard his boat off of the coast of Germany. Davies's boat is certainly not what Carruthers was expecting and is on the verge of making a hasty return to England when he starts to sense something is not quite right. As Davies and Carruthers start snooping around they come across what initially seems like a plan to use barges to defend the German coastline but a connection to Clara's father leads them to suspect that it is not a defence plan but an attack plan aimed at the East of England.

Jenny Agutter as Clara Dollmann The Riddle of the Sands (1979)

Ignore the casting and styling for a moment the basic storyline of two Englishman uncovering a plot by the Kaiser to invade England by using barges carrying 1000's of troops is an entertaining one. It is entertaining because these are two regular guys with no military training and so almost haphazardly find themselves in the midst of the plan and becoming a threat to the Kaiser. And whilst you guess a long time before Davies and Carruthers when it comes to what those plans are it is a nice idea which is different to the norm.

But whilst the actual storyline is good the rest of the movie does little for me although to be honest when it comes to the casting it is technically right. What I mean is that we have Simon MacCorkindale and Michael York as Carruthers and Davies and technically their posh voices and mannerisms are probably technically correct for their characters. But at the same time they sound so posh and act like privileged public school educated toffs that they are also annoying. Elsewhere it is better and Jenny Agutter is believable as Clara Dollmann as is Alan Badel who plays her father but far too often it sounds too false when it comes to the behaviour of Davies and Carruthers.

And then there is the atmosphere and with dirty sea banks and heavy fog "The Riddle of the Sands" is a very grey movie but it is also a dull movie. Never does the sense of danger manifest itself and it lacks an element of excitement to draw you in to what is happening. It is because it lacks the tension and atmosphere that when we do get a few short bursts of action they never really deliver any excitement. Now maybe the dryness of this is intentional because we are not talking two action heroes here but even then the lacking atmosphere leaves it too dry.

What this all boils down to is that "The Riddle of the Sands" does have a good storyline but unfortunately the finished product fails to bring that storyline to life making it unfortunately quite a dull movie.