We're on the Western Front in 1917 and the Germans have nearly finished work on a breakthrough secret weapon. This fiendish device emits high pitched, powerful sound waves that...I'd better keep this simple...destroy the sub-cleotic structure of an object's crone base, causing crystatin failure with subsequent nektonic surt degradation on a massive scale. This results in catastrophic softening of human flesh and brittle crumbling of metal structures and objects. At least that's how I think it works.
If the Hun uses this weapon, it could change the course of history as we know it. There's only one man who can stop this madness...British Captain James Bigglesworth, "Biggles" to those who know him, adventurer, warrior, always there when things are the diciest, and yet driven by resolute honor. Biggles is the sort of man that schoolboys would look up to and who would devour the stories of his adventures. In fact, between the end of WWI and the start of WWII, British schoolboys did just that in tale after tale written by W.E. Johns.
In this movie we discover something Johns apparently was unaware of. Some people, it seems, have time twins. When one of the time twins is in danger, his twin will be sent instantly through time and space to help. That's the pickle young American marketing hotshot Jim Ferguson (Alex Hyde-White), head of Celebrity Dinners, finds himself in. One moment he's worrying about whether the creamed corn looks like a dog's breakfast and the next he's running toward a downed British bi-plane in the middle of a blasted battlefield, with whiz bangs falling around. He rescues the pilot...who is Biggles (Neil Dickson). Only when Jim lands back to his own time does he get an explanation, from no other than Peter Cushing in his last screen role as the aged Air Commodore William Raymond, Special Air Force (Retired) who has quarters in 1A, Tower Bridge, London. Raymond was Biggles commander back then. He explains to Jim the phenomenon of time twins, something modern scientists still are only beginning to understand. More importantly, he explains the vital importance of Biggles' effort to locate and destroy this new German monstrosity. Biggles is aided only his loyal team made up of Ginger, Algy and Bertie. Facing Biggles is the might of the Hun, led by German fighter ace Eric Von Stalheim. Even though Jim's fiancée, Debbie, thinks he's crazy, Jim prepares himself to aid Biggles. Of course, before long, Debbie finds herself back in time, too.
The movie is absolute nonsense, but good nonsense in my opinion. There's no nudge-nudge by the director or the actors to let us know they're in on the joke. They play it straight, which makes things all the more enjoyable. Neil Dickson is just fine as the strong-chinned, resolute, resourceful, brave, honorable, dashing Biggles. "I'll not put a bullet in your head, old boy," he says at one point to Von Stalheim, "because that's not how we do business!" Alex Hyde-White holds his own as the baby-faced but resolute Jim Ferguson, very much a creature of the 1980's who now finds himself bouncing in and out of WWI. "It looks like this town's been nuked," he says to Biggles when they find themselves in the middle of a ruined town square. "Nuked? What's that?" Biggles asks. "It's an American slang term. It means to overreact." And Peter Cushing, looking even more skeletal than usual at 73 but still a commanding actor and reasonably spry, brings the same kind of utterly believable delivery to his lines that he gave to mummies, vampires and werewolves. It was good to see him again.
Biggles was unfortunate in being released a year after Back to the Future came out. As a time-travel adventure it didn't compare and quickly faded. Still, it's a fine example, in my view, of an affectionate, stiff-upper-lip boy's own adventure. Biggles isn't a great movie or even a memorable one, but it's competently made and it's fun. That's not a bad epitaph for a movie.
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