The Riddle of the Sands
- Simon MacCorkindale as Arthur Davies
- Michael York as Charles Carruthers
- Jenny Agutter as Clara Dollmann
- Alan Badel as Dollmann
A ripping adventure/spy thriller, The Riddle of the Sands is delightfully old-fashioned and brimming with just the right amount of charm and excitement.
It is the very early years of the 20th Century and the adventurous Arthur Davies is on a boating holiday in the Frisian Islands. He comes into contact with a German man by the name of Dollmann, who seems very curious to know where he is going. Davies is more interested in his daughter Clara, who is sweet and wistful. Yet things take an unexpected turn for Davies when it appears that during a storm when he was trying to reach one of the islands, Dollmann tries to crash his boat into his. Wondering why this fatality nearly occurred, Davies writes to his old college friend Charles Carruthers, who works as a clerk for the Foreign Office, and asks him to join him. Carruthers himself has been bored so decides to join his friend. Initially, the cramped conditions on the boat are a bit much for the posh and privileged Carruthers to handle, but he eventually gets the hang of things. Both men become very curious about intentions of Dollmann for hiding the island, his inquisitive nature of their plans and what he could be planning himself. The smart Carruthers believes that is hiding something to do with the German fleet as he is always seen with officers. But as the duo do some more digging, what they uncover is something entirely different. They stumble onto a plot by Germany to invade Great Britain, with the help of boats that they can heavily disguise and passages in the sea that aren’t that well guarded to the east of England. Shocked by what they have unearthed both men know they must put a stop to the nefarious and dastardly plan. But can either of them foil it?
Right from the start, The Riddle of the Sands sets up a real sense of atmosphere and adventure that can’t be faulted. Director Tony Maylam keeps the pace remarkably engaging yet languid, taking in the scenery and uncovering that both Davies and Carruthers finds themselves coming across. Modern viewers may be surprised at how leisurely the film’s pace is done, and there are times when it meanders, but winning verve and old-fashioned enthusiasm make sure the movie isn’t swept away by it. I mean while The Riddle of the Sands is a thriller in one respect, it is just as much an adventure too which audiences should remember. And speaking of scenery and visuals, the hues of gold, brown and misty white compliments this adventure with danger and a lot of excitement. Whoever did the location work for this movie was a really talented person because all of the locations add something to the story and bring airs of mystery. A splendid score, filled with a repeating motif of intrigue, further compliments this treat of a movie.
The Riddle of the Sands contains a very well assembled cast. As the two dashing heroes of the narrative, Simon MacCorkindale and Michael York are brilliant. They have a natural way with one another and it is good to see them work together, even though the characters are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Davies is adventurous and eccentric, whereas Carruthers is disdainful and entitled. Both actors bring out these necessary characteristics to their roles and do it with charm and style. The duo emerge as both likable and amusing as their adventures takes them into something that never saw coming. Jenny Agutter is beautiful and innocent as the daughter of one of the men suspected of being involved in the elaborate invasion and who captures the attention of Davies. Alan Badel makes the most of his role as the mysterious Dollmann, who is heavily involved in the huge plan.
So despite some shortcomings in terms of the pace and a longer than required running time, The Riddle of the Sands is jolly good fun for everyone.