WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL. J. Arthur Rank, UK, 1971. Cinerama Releasing Corp., US, 1971. Anthony Hopkins (Philip Calvert), Robert Morley (‘Uncle Arthur’), Nathalie Delon, Jack Hawkins, Corin Redgrave, Derek Bond. Screenplay: Alistair MacLean, based on his own novel. Director: Etienne Périer.

   From what I’ve read about it, this one was produced with the idea of creating a film franchise to compete with the James Bond films. The hero was to be a young and rather fit-looking Anthony Hopkins as a secret agent named Philip Calvert. (The book was his only print edition appearance.)

   But the resulting product turned out so badly, and apparently the box office receipts as well, than any thoughts of further adventures of Hopkins as Calvert disappeared very quickly. The story is confusing, to begin with, and even worse, it’s dull. It’s not clear on a first viewing, but it has something to do with a series of hijackings of cargo ships in the Irish Sea, the most recent one carrying a fortune in gold bullion.

   The trail leads Calvert to the port town of Torbay somewhere along the coast of Scotland, where he snoops around a lot, gets into trouble a lot more, and after the grand finale (with a bit of surprise for anyone still awake), the movie’s over.

   Only the presence of Calvert’s boss, Sir Arthur Arnford-Jones, also known as “Uncle Arthur” (Robert Morley), livens up the proceedings. He’s his usual prim and proper (prissy?) self, humorously so, but he shows he can still do what he needs to do in a pinch.