Which films featuring Series Land Rovers are worthy of your time? LRO hunts down some forgotten gems.
We all know about Lara Croft’s Defender 110, Judge Dredd’s Forward Control 101, Timothy Dalton’s entrance as 007 clinging to the side of a soft top Series III 88” and Daniel Craig’s Land Rover exploits in Skyfall and Spectre. But what about all those hidden gems where the director used Series Land Rovers at the centre of the stunt action? Back when Series vehicles were ten-a-penny. Back when Space Hoppers were a genuine terror. Back when John Thaw could call someone a ‘slag’ without being taken to HR.
We’ve delved into the film archives, and after much debate about which beer to drink, found five motion pictures worth getting your teeth into for some solid Series action.
Whoever would have imagined Christopher Lee and O.J Simpson sharing the cabin of a Series II? Or Peter Fonda using his Series II 109” to drive through the front of a building in search of Maud Adams? Welcome to 1976’s ‘Killer Force’ – a film so 70’s that you may inadvertently find your living room wall paper turning orange and your trousers growing bell-bottoms as you witness the tale unfold on screen.
Besides the wah-wah music and blatant sexism, we’ve got Telly Savalas as the villain and a dominant white male South African diamond mine setting. Naturally, this is a hot bed for Land Rover activity – with more Series II and IIA’s than you can shake a spindle gear stick at.
The action is truly bonkers – it’s like Wacky Races sponsored by Solihull – with Landies tackling stairs, barriers, sand dunes, helicopters and cliff tops. Just like every 1970s-action movie, almost everything explodes and we get some epic facial reaction shots – but unlike most creations from the decade of 8-track tape and Lava Lamps, there is no back projection here and Peter Fonda seems to do a huge dollop of stunt driving. Mind you, who would turn down the chance to drive like this and get paid for it?
You can purchase Killer Force on Bluray disc from Amazon.
Sticking with the ‘decade that taste forgot’, John Hough’s Eyewitness focuses around Ziggy, a boy of twelve, who accidentally witnesses a political assassination and finds himself on the run throughout Malta. With help from his grandfather (who you may recognise from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), Ziggy (who you may recognise from Oliver!) ends up in the boot of a Triumph Herald as the twisted police chief outruns them in a Series IIA 109” (which you may recognise as largely impossible).
Playing a game of ‘kill everyone’, the chase between Triumph and police Land Rover darts across the cliff tops, forcing lesser motorists to their death swerving to avoid the oncoming mechanical carnage, before engaging a wall and flipping the Herald upside down.
It all strangely goes wrong for the demented and corrupt police chief from here on out, resulting in his Series IIA performing a spectacular somersault off the Maltese cliffs. An ocean dive you may recognise after having been recycled into various TV shows from the time – programmes such as Gerry Anderson’s ‘The Protectors’.
Banned on release by several countries claiming it to be racist, the intense workload giving the director a heart attack, actors not getting paid properly, an instant smash on the midnight movie circuit, the largest grossing non-USA release of its time, running for 532 consecutive days at the Oak Theatre in California before the reels caught fire – this certainly doesn’t sound like the release of a South African comedy, yet that’s exactly what it is.
Telling the story of Xi and his journey across the wilds of Africa after a coke bottle falls from a plane into his village, Xi is determined to give the bottle back to the gods. Along the way we meet Andrew Steyn – and his Series I Land Rover. This is as close to personification of a Land Rover as you’ll get, with Steyn’s Series I being the constant cause of issue in a live action-cartoonish sort of way. However, at the climax of the film, despite its bad behaviour the Landy saves the day. A must watch film for Land Rover fans – even if just for the scene where the Series winches itself up a tree…
Telling a largely fictionalised series of events surrounding the disappearance of the world-famous studhorse, Shergar features Mickey Rourke as the head of the IRA (Yes, really) and a fleet of Series Land Rovers as the kidnapper’s weapon of choice. There is even a Series I from 1948 brought in on thug duty.
The finale ends on a cliff top (definitely a trend going on here), but it’s not the Land Rovers that end up over the edge. In a pincer movement, what seems like 30 Series vehicles attack from all sides, ploughing up fields and jumping over walls in the process, trying to capture the elusive racehorse.
Strange thing is, the next scene shows them all walking back in a deflated manner. Not because of the horse, but probably because they all broke down.
Tanya Roberts in skimpy clothing? The ex-Charlies Angel using a waterfall to wash her smooth body? Control yourself – we are here for the Landies! And there are a good few of them in here.
With her parents killed in a tunnel collapse, baby Sheena is adopted by an African tribe and raised to communicate with animals, being at one with nature. The peace and tranquillity is destroyed after some conniving political types decide to pillage the land in search of its ‘healing qualities’. This happens to tie in with some American journalists arriving to cover the action. Real life stuff, this.
The journalistic heroes employ a two-door Range Rover to fend off the bad guys and rescue Sheena’s animals (clearly trying to get into her loin cloth), while the nasties run about in long wheelbase Series IIIs – one of which is outpaced by a Zebra. As you can watch below, ignoring how the YouTube uploader calls it a ‘jeep scene’. Someone set the lions on them…
Sheena: Queen of the Jungle is available for digital download on Amazon.