The return of the 'Dad Movie'

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Bryan Singer's 'Valkyrie' heralds a return to the old-fashioned historical suspense thrillers that were popular in the '70s. Time Out takes a deep look at the stalwarts of the Dad Movie genre

The Cassandra Crossing (1976)

‘Von Ryan’s Express’ meets ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ in this precision-mixed dad cocktail of runaway train/plague outbreak/rusty suspension bridge clichés in which fêted neurosurgeon Richard Harris picks a good time to realise that he’s rather tasty with a machine gun having unknowingly pre-booked a first class ticket to…certain death. There’s a train full of lurgy, and – according to the army – the only way to stop it is to plough all the passengers into a ravine. And just to insure total dad satisfaction, there’s even a ‘tasteful’ subplot about Jews being forced to return to a concentration camp in order to get quarantined. All the while, we’re whisked back to the coolly minimalist (ridiculously antiquated) control station manned by Burt Lancaster and Scando dollybird Ingrid Thulin, and watch on as they bitterly dispute the moral imperatives of their wayward and dangerous scheme (read: explain what the hell’s going on). If the stock derring do doesn’t suffice, then supplementary dad window-dressing arrives in the form of Ava Gardner in a thankless late role as the wife of a major arms dealer who looks like a chalked-up amalgam of a Hoboken glass collector and Divine circa ‘Pink Flamingos’. See also: 'Gold'
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That Lucky Touch (1975)

A romcom is a tough sell in this milieu, even with Susannah York as a feisty journalist investigating shady dealing at the heart of NATO. Thankfully, her neighbour is Roger Moore, a priapic arms dealer and jetset cad who falls for her mildly feminist charms even while she’s out to spoil his fun at the Brussels International Shrapnel and Machine Guns Expo. The mild Sunday afternoon comedy that ensues is spiced up with a little military hardware dirty-talk and some half-hearted handwringing but the reassuring message is that if you’ve got The Suave you can peddle wanton destruction and still get the girl. Nora Ephron, watch and learn.See also: 'Best Defense'
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Caravan to Vaccarès (1974)

Alastair MacLean, a behemoth of dad lit, has bequeathed a vast canon of tail-chasing thrillers to the world’s film producers; 'Caravan to Vacarrès' is a triumphant example of the reverse alchemy some of them suffer. American bum (tramp) David Birney and photographer Charlotte Rampling wander a version of the South of France skimmed from an abandoned Emmanuelle film until an aristocrat offers them the chance to chaperone a cold-war boffin through a series of tension-free escapades. The professor, it transpires, has discovered ‘solar power’. No-one tells him it’s already been discovered. Some gypsies arrive. Charlotte Rampling takes her top off. Fin.
See also: 'The Da Vinci Code'

Zulu Dawn (1979)

Cine-dad controversialists like to argue that this account of British defeat to the same Zulu army seen off in 'Zulu!' is actually the better film but, despite Burt Lancaster bringing gravitas to match the epic scale, there’s nothing here to beat Michael Caine’s flawless take on humbled arrogance or the stirring ‘Men of Harlech’ finale in the earlier film. However, a notable first-feature appearance by Phil Daniels as a self-confessed ‘pimply soldier’ gifts the movie a place in the heart of Weller-generation modfathers, while in KwaZulu-Natal it’s a stone-cold dad’s favourite and frequently plays with an added laugh track.See also: 'They Died With Their Boots On'

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The Day of the Jackal (1973)

The preferred constituents of the quintessential dad movie would be 100 per cent plot and zero per cent character/emotion/subtext (what’s known in the business as ‘The Golden Ratio’). Perhaps more than any other film, Fred Zinnemann’s ‘The Day of the Jackal’ corresponds to this template perfectly, as a blonde-haired, marble-hearted assassin played by Edward Fox casually trudges around Western Europe, silently playing-out his grand scheme to shoot De Gaulle in the head. Dads will be especially interested in the scenes in which an elderly gunsmith delicately fashions a bespoke, lightweight rifle for Fox to carry out the deed.See also: ‘The Odessa File

Ice Station Zebra (1968)

Snowbound tension rules as Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine and Cliff from 'Cheers' race to the North Pole in search of a crashed spy satellite before the Russians (who, to be fair, actually own the thing) can beat them to it. The early submarine high jinks establishes a chill atmosphere of mistrust and double-dealing in which Borgnine and MacGoohan excel, while the vast emptiness of the arctic landscape necessitates a wordy intelligence so often lacking in the genre. With an all-male cast revelling in top-spec machinery, rivalry, and utility clothing, Zebra plays out its icy Great Game in a masculine dreamscape plucked fully formed from the mind of Jeremy Clarkson.
See also: ‘Force 10 from Navarone

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Raise the Titanic! (1980)

From a novel by top notch ‘Dad Author’ Clive Cussler comes the longest, dreariest and most preposterous film on this list. Journeyman director Jerry Jameson slothfully marshals us through an increasingly tedious tour of musty boardrooms, bleak dockyards and yet more boardrooms in which many, many very, very old men stare at indecipherable blueprints, drink milky tea and blather on about an entirely pointless – and possibly wholly criminal – maritime salvage venture to find, repair, inflate and strip the world’s least appropriately monickered cruise liner. It’s all about as exhilarating as experiencing continental shift on a real-time basis.See also: ‘For Your Eyes Only

National Treasure (2004)

It might appear to be little more than an extended and particularly soft-headed episode of precocious-kiddie fave ‘Dora the Explorer’, but this solidly constructed Nicolas Cage vehicle is every inch a dad movie. Not only does it include such genre staples as the Knights Templar, an aircraft carrier and plenty pirate booty, but it has the wherewithal to cast Sean Bean – who, as xenophobic nineteenth-century yobbo Sharpe, has kept the flags of our fathers flying on TV for the last 15 years – as the nominal baddie. It’s also as unnecessarily long and staggeringly unlikely as any of the tried and tested films in the dad canon.See also: ‘Night at the Museum’

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Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Easily confused pair of WWII workhorses that crop up after 'Match of the Day' every two or three weeks. ‘Dare’ sees a permanently puzzled Clint Eastwood and an especially shouty Richard Burton give those damn Nazis a right old runaround during an improbable rescue mission in the Alps. It’s most notable to us as being the film that much-beloved dad-quote ‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy!’ comes from. No less hare-brained but much more boring is ‘Landed’, a Dad’s Own slice of historical frippery about a German plot to kidnap Churchill. An eclectic cast that takes in Donald Sutherland, Jenny Agutter and Larry Hagman is the films only saving grace.See also: ‘Battle of the Bulge

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Fort Apache, the Bronx (1981)

The whole world’s going to hell in a handbasket and superannuated beat-cop Paul Newman is the thin blue line keeping the melting pot of the South Bronx from boiling over. With the trend in cop dramas veering toward the clued-up, turned-on likes of ‘Serpico’ and ‘Prince of the City’, there was little room left for such stodgy fare as John Wayne clunker ‘Brannigan’ or even 'Dirty' Harry Callahan’s later adventures. Although it’s a fairly terrible film by any standards, ‘Fort Apache’ is noteworthy for marking the end of an era in star-driven police procedurals – an era that men of a certain age mourn to this day…See also: ‘Madigan'/'Brannigan

Dads: keep away!

Peter's FriendsBedwetting Oxbridge luvvies flounce around a country manor for a long weekend and are forced to open up to their fellow alumni. Tony Slattery is a stand-out.Spirited AwayJapanese wizard Hayao Miyazaki spins his stories on a whirlwind of colour, tradition, emotion and profound moral musings. So, not really one for Dad after he’s had seven Strongbows and a 'bab.TronGimmicky daylgo cyber-lunacy that's sure to send Pops harrumphing off down the shed to check on the homebrew/peruse his well-thumbed stash of vintage bongo.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Not even the vocal talents of John Rambo's boss, Richard Crenna, can spike any paternal interest in this woefully earnest flower-power allegory about a discontented seagull set to the heartfelt music of Mr Neil Diamond.

Mamma Mia!
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Any 'Dad Movies' that we've forgotten? Let us know your thoughts below...

Author: Adam Lee Davies, Paul Fairclough, David Jenkins


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