A handsome bearded blonde fellow is seen coming up from the underground public toilets near Clapham Junction train station. He crosses the road, bumping into and eyeing up a couple of girls on the way, and enters the Arding and Hobbs department store.
He walks around amongst the other shoppers before spotting a pretty girl on the perfume counter. As he flirts with her no one sees him kick his small bag out of the way under the bottom of the counter. Telling the girl to wrap his gift he promises to be back in a few minutes leaving her with the words, "You really are very pretty..."
Outside he heads for the phone box opposite, holding one finger to his ear.
The front of the department store explodes. A bobby directing traffic is knocked to the floor by the blast, cars crash as glass and debris fill the space behind the man as he picks up the phone and calmly rings the press to claim responsibility for the bomb.
Rutger Haur was one hell of a terrorist.
The year was 1981 and the film is the otherwise predominantly New York set Nighthawks. It's one of those early Sylvester Stallone movies like Rocky and First Blood that play to the actor's strengths before he fell into self caricature. The supporting cast is great too. He's partnered up with Billy Dee Williams (the guy that used to own the Millennium Falcon) and has Lindsay (Bionic Woman) Wagner as his estranged love interest while the very British Nigel Davenport plays his boss who has a hard time drilling new anti terrorism techniques into his thick streetwise head.
Davenport is of course the father of Coupling and Pirates of the Caribbean's own Jack Davenport whom we'll be talking about a few weeks from now when we turn to Ultraviolet (to hell with This Life. Where were the vampires in that?)
Nighthawks is a film that only features London for a fraction of it's running time, but it's a good place to Beta our regular hunt through the Londonist film archive (a dusty pile of DVDs behind the TV) because a) it's ace and b) Rutger Haur is a god.
Check out his website if you don't believe us. His career is unkillable despite many self inflicted wounds over the years...
Until relatively recently Arding and Hobbs, the landmark store in 'Nappy Valley', was pretty much unchanged from the one filmed in 1981. Some of the fun to be had in watching older films shot in London is just how much has changed, but with this film the fun is in realising just how little the store was updated over the years. In fact there's a webpage devoted to its outdated but operational Lamson pneumatic tube system right here.
It has gone through some changes at long last and is now (or at least it was the last time we looked) covered in horrible Allders signage. That may have already made way for the Debenhams brand as its ownership changed hands again at the beginning of the year. From the outside at least it's hard to ruin thanks to it's cupola while the interior has needed something doing to it for as long as we can remember. We're not sure that a Debenhams interior is an improvement but for the longest time Arding and Hobbs with its shoddy decor and rickety escalators resembled more of an indoor boot sale than a modern shopping centre. It's one of the reasons it's so much fun to watch it explode on DVD.
There's one other scene set in London showing Haur again with the ladies, this time lying low at a student party. His evening is interrupted first by his IRA contact (he plays a German terrorist subcontracting for the Provos) and then by the police. He dispatches both with a few bursts from a machine gun he had cunningly hidden inside his chick-magnet guitar. Told you he was good.
After that the action moves to NYC (via Paris) and you get a great disco shootout that turns into a great subway shootout, lots of hostages in peril, more of Haur the lady-killer (in every sense of the word) and Stallone in drag.
It really is quite a movie and that's without mentioning the sheer volume of hair and cardigans. It frequently turns up on the BBC in a horrible edited format so we really would recommend the DVD.
Next week (once we've decided on the best day to expose you to our favourite films) we'll kick things off properly with the best and... erm... only London Underground set cannibal movie starring Donald Pleasence and Christopher Lee: Deathline.
NOTE: We've wanted to do a regular feature on London movies for a while now and we see that Time Out have the same thought with plans afoot to do a special issue devoted to the subject. Sounds like a great idea to us and it'll be interesting to compare our own idiosyncratic views to theirs. In the meantime feel free to let us know which films (or indeed TV shows) you'd like us to champion either via email or through the comments section. If we have enough interest and can find enough good stuff currently available on DVD we'll set up a couple of competitions...
One last thing. While looking up Davenport junior on the IMDB we were intrigued by something called Deadwood starring hisnibs along with Dexter Fletcher, Angus Deayton and David Soul (!). A little more digging led us to this. If anyone can shed any light on just exactly what this piece of now lost film was/is then we'd be very grateful. Cheers.