Director: Brian G Hutton
Stars: Tom Selleck, Bess Armstrong, Jack Weston, Wilfred Brimley, Brian Blessed, Robert Morley
Imagine Indiana Jones with a big old moustache, flying goggles and a drink problem. In fact, imagine Tom Selleck in the role. Because that’s what we nearly got, until they realised that Selleck’s commitments to shooting Magnum PI got in the way. Harrison Ford picked up the role, and the rest is history.
History sometimes shows us what we missed out on though, and this is where High Road To China comes in. Some people say that this movie was given to Selleck as consolation for missing out before, and in the way he plays Patrick O’Malley, you can kind of see how his Indy would have turned out.
The basic story is as follows: it’s the early part of the 20th Century. and there’s these two businessmen, one an inventing genius (Bradley Tozer) and one a big money man (Bentik). Tozer goes missing when out in the Far East, and Bentik sees an opportunity to grab their company and all the cash by having his partner declared legally dead. To prevent this, Tozer’s society-girl daughter Evie needs to find him and get him before a British court before the end of the month. The only way she can get there is by hiring O’Malley, a former Air Force pilot and current flying instructor whose skills are legendary with plane and with the ladies – when he can stay sober, that is.
As Evie, O’Malley and engineer Struts journey from Paris to China, they have to battle natives, German fighter pilots, and chinese warlords on the long journey, where hopefully they will find Evie’s father still alive and willing to help them.
Selleck is actually pretty good in the role of the drunken Irish-American hero, and his growing relationship with Evie as they fly along works well due to his obstinance and her feisty attitude. The supporting actors are a key part of the charm, with Robert Morley as the slimy Bentik, and Brian Blessed as the native chief Suleman Khan the stand outs.
There were a number of Indy impersonators around at the time, and this one is the best of the bunch. Probably because only the hawaiian shirt and Ferrari kept him away from the fedora in the first place.