Thursday, August 27, 2015

The London Connection ( 1979 )

Before there was Agent Cody Banks there was Luther Starling. Nearly thirty years prior to when the whiz kid spy hit the big screen Disney released The London Connection, the first adventure to feature Agent Starling. He wasn't your average juvenile spy either - he was a handsome college-aged man with several government missions under his belt. Whenever the CIA had a particularly delicate - and difficult - task that needed to be done they called on Luther. 

After completing a dangerous mission to retrieve top-secret documents, Luther tells his superiors that he is off on a six-week holiday in Europe. His first stop is London, England to visit his pal Roger, but before he can even leave Heathrow Airport he finds himself caught in a web of espionage too tempting to resist. Dragging his friend Roger along for the ride, Luther sets out to capture the head of "Omega", a spy ring that has kidnapped a professor for his scientific formula. The British Secret Service keep a watchful eye on Luther and Roger's movements as they attempt to rescue the professor. 

The London Connection, was released as a feature film a part of a double bill with The Aristocats on December 29, 1979. Later, it was aired on television on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color as The Omega Connection. The film was an exciting blend of action, comedy and espionage, introducing all the best elements of the James Bond series to children. 

A peppy score by John Cameron accompanied our heroes as they traveled throughout London in various modes of transportation, including a Morgan three-wheeler, air balloon, speed boat, and motorcycle. 

Uncle Sam keeps Luther well-equipped with loads of clever gadgets disguised as everyday toiletries, such as a razor dart gun, wire shooting belt, shaving cream motorized grappling hook, and a hairbrush telescope. "Q" could take a tip or two from Luther's outfitters. 

The London Connection was filmed, appropriately, in London, showing audiences views of downtown London, the new Scotland Yard, and Heathrow-Airport. Binfield Manor in Berkshire stood in as Omega's headquarters where, like SPECTRE, the members of this nefarious organization plotted their crimes. The manor house appeared in numerous television films of the 1970s and 1980s, including Murder is Easy ( 1981 ). 

Jeffrey Byron is excellent as Luther, as is Larry Cedar as his trusty friend Roger, bringing just the right amount of youthful zest to the parts. Also cast is a slew of recognizable British faces including Nigel Davenport as Omega's ringleader; David Kossoff as Professor Buchinski; Roy Kinnear and Frank Windsor as two bumbling British agents; and Mona Washbourne as Roger's absent-minded Aunt Lydia. 

The London Connection has an amusing script and is enjoyable fare for young and old alike. Its colorful, fun, and the pace never slackens. The characters are so appealing that one would hope there was a sequel. Indeed, the screenwriters hinted that a sequel may well have been planned for Luther to continue his espionage adventures in France. Whatever did become of The Paris Connection?

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