Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Secret of Boyne Castle ( 1969 )

Walt Disney Studios produced a number of great made-for-television films for their series The Wonderful World of Color...one of which was The Secret of Boyne Castle. This grand little Irish adventure flick was aired on NBC in three one-hour segments between the weeks of February 9-23 in 1969. 
The story is set entirely in Ireland and was based on the 1963 novel "Guns in the Heather" by Lockhart Amerman. Kurt Russell stars as a young student who, along with his Irish friend Sean ( Patrick Dawson ), helps to deliver a secret message to Boyne Castle to aid an Eastern European agent in his defection. These two lads made a great Hardy Boys-like duo.

Rich Evans ( Russell ) is attending school in Ireland as an exchange student while his older brother Tom ( Glenn Corbett ) is working overseas. Since their parents are deceased, Tom takes care of his younger brother. Rich believes Tom to be a salesman for a steel company and has no idea that he is really a CIA agent...until a man arrives at his school and, with his dying breath, gives Rich a secret message to pass onto Tom. 

Rich is kidnapped shortly after hearing the message but manages to escape. He then sets off with his friend Sean to track down his brother - who has since also disappeared - and get the message to Lord Boyne at Boyne Castle before the enemy agents can intercept it. 

The Secret of Boyne Castle, which was retitled Guns in the Heather for its UK theatrical release, was filmed in and around the west coast of Ireland and the beautiful landscapes and villages of the country are wonderful to see. "Boyne Castle" is actually Dunguaire Castle in lovely County Galway. 

Director Robert Butler had a very long career in television directing numerous episodes for shows like The Fugitive, Batman, Mission Impossible and Remington Steele. His work on this telefilm led to him directing five feature films for Walt Disney Studios in the 1970s, three of which also starred Kurt Russell ( The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes; The Barefoot Executive; Now You See Him, Now You Don't ). 
Why Walt Disney never put Kurt Russell in a Hardy Boys series is a mystery in itself, but at least this movie has all of the elements of a great Hardy caper in it: a motorcycle chase, a secluded castle, a glider ride, and a really clever and dangerous spy.

Since the film was released in three episodes spanning several weeks, each episode features an escape, a new bit of information about the "secret" hiding at Boyne Castle, and some clues to the identity of "Kersner", the master criminal. This makes it great as a serial, but when watched in one sitting it plays out rather slowly and three-hours seems like a long stretch for a simple story, so it is best to watch it in parts like it was meant to be shown. 

4 comments:

  1. Wow! This sounds like something I would really enjoy. I'm not surprised I missed it back in 1969 but where has it been the rest of my life?

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    1. It's not that surprising, CW....the movie still hasn't been released from Walt Disney, not on VHS or DVD(!). I don't even think it was available through their Vault streaming service. But there are many collectors who recorded it from when it played on the Disney channel in the 1990s. If you watch the first ten minutes ( link is down below ) you'll get hooked into the story. ;-)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLVt8uvz6mc

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  2. I thought I was pretty familiar with the content of the Disney anthology--but I don't remember this one at all! It sounds like just the kind of three-part series I would enjoy and I see it's on YouTube. Thanks for the recommendation!

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