Rembrandt’s Light @ Dulwich Picture Gallery

This beautiful exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery is celebrating the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death in 1669 by bringing together 35 of his iconic paintings, etchings and drawings, including major international loans including:

  • The Pilgrims at Emmaus, 1648 (Musée du Louvre, Paris)
  • Philemon and Baucis, 1658 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC)
  • Tobit and Anna with the Kid, 1645 and The Dream of Joseph, 1645 (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)

The theme of the exhibition is Light and each of the six exhibition rooms focuses on different ways and different media in which Rembrandt showed his mastery of light and shadow.

Philemon and Baucis (1658) by Rembrandt van Rijn. National Gallery of Art, Washington

Before we look at any of the works in detail the curators introduce us to a couple of key ideas:

1. Theatrical

Apparently a new theatre opened in Amsterdam in the 1640s, and the curators quote its owners as pointing out that all the world’s a stage. There’s no direct link, apparently, between the new theatre and Rembrandt’s work except as a peg to bring out the theatricality of his conception. Once it’s pointed out to you, you realise how obvious it is that so many of Rembrandt’s paintings have been posed and staged and set and lit as if for a stage play or opera; that Rembrandt time after time chooses moments of great human drama to depict.

Hence the centrepiece of the first room is the enormous, square painting showing the moment the cock crows in the story of St Peter denying Christ, a moment of phenomenal psychological and religious drama.

The Denial of St Peter (1660) by Rembrandt van Rijn © The Rijksmuseum

This painting alone would repay hours of study. Suffice to point out the obvious, that most of the picture is in deep shadow or gloom, with the result that where light is portrayed it powerfully draws the eye – towards the mysterious glow behind the woman’s hand and onto Peter’s cloak. It was possible to spend quite a long time in front of it just enjoying the burnish on the soldier’s armour and elaborate helmet.

Reflections and jewels

In fact a kind of sub-theme of the exhibition, for me at any rate, was not only Rembrandt’s use of light so much as his use of reflections, especially off metallic surfaces and jewels. For me an exciting part of the Philemon and Baucis painting is not the light as such, but the way it highlights the gold filigree work on Jupiter’s chest and what looks like a band of pearls around Mercury’s head.

Philemon and Baucis (1658) by Rembrandt van Rijn. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Detail

Similarly, the exhibition includes Rembrandt’s famous Self Portrait with a Flat Hat, but among all the visual and psychological pleasures of this wonderful painting, I was attracted by the light reflected from the pearl necklaces around Rembrandt’s chest, on his gold bracelet, and his cheeky, dangling pearl ear-ring.

Self Portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn, (1642) Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Detail

Light not only has a source and comes from somewhere, but also impacts, illuminates and is reflected back from its targets. What I’m struggling to express is that I didn’t just notice the cunning use of light sources in Rembrandt’s paintings, but the extremely clever, inventive and beautiful ways he uses these often obscure light sources to highlight, burnish and illuminate telling details in the compositions.

A word about reproductions

Back to The Denial of St Peter. What’s a little hard to make out in this little reproduction is that off in the background at the top right is Jesus, a shadowy figure with his hands bound behind him being led away and turning to look at the doleful scene of faithless Peter. Which brings us to a general point:

There’s a good catalogue of the exhibition but flicking through it you realise that all reproductions of Rembrandt are inadequate. No photographic reproduction can do justice to the subtlety and depth, the multiple levels of light and shade and darkness which he manages to achieve with oil painting.

One of the best paintings here is Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt.

Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Rembrandt van Rijn (1647) National Gallery of Ireland

In the flesh it is a marvel, with multiple layers of paint conveying a dark and stormy night, hills in the background and up on a distant hill the silhouette of some kind of building with tiny glowing windows, while down in the foreground the tiny figures of Mary and Joseph and a servant tend a fire which shines out in a darkness which includes multiple shades of grey inflected with the orange of the fire and morphing into a strange preternatural almost purple sky of dusk. But in the catalogue reproduction almost all of this is jet black.

That’s the point of going to art galleries. The real actual art is always, in the flesh, a thousand times more sensual, rich, deep and mysterious than any colour print.

2. Rembrandt’s house

The curators go large on the biographical fact that in 1639 Rembrandt bought a big house in the Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam, where he lived and painted until he went bankrupt in 1656 (today the Museum Het Rembrandthuis). One wall of room two has an architect’s drawing of the building printed on it.

Rembrandt had his studio on the first floor with its big windows. On the floor above were the smaller studios where he supervised his students. Here, we learn, he set his students all kinds of challenges designed to broaden their technique. Draw or paint a composition with a light source above, to the side, beneath the figures. Make an image with two light sources, one outside the frame. Paint a scene at night. Paint a scene at dawn. Thus the exhibition features drawings by a number of Rembrandt’s students showing them working with light, or by the master himself.

The Artist’s Studio (c. 1658) by Rembrandt van Rijn © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford


This brings us to another notable aspect of the exhibition, which is the way it is laid out and staged. The curators have gone to a lot of trouble to make it a dramatic experience, with each room lit and arranged in a different way. But over and above the lighting, in the room where the drawing above is on display, they have recreated the scene by building into the partition wall high, latticed windows that you can see in the drawing, and above the windows a sheet of muslin or cotton has been hung in a kind of billow, while the lower tier of windows has been blocked off, either by fabric of wooden shutters.

The point, for understanding Rembrandt, is to show how carefully he arranged windows and fabrics in order to create light effects in his studios. The point, for visitors to this exhibition, is to be impressed by the trouble the curators have gone to to recreate this aspect of Rembrandt’s studio in the gallery.

Peter Suschitzky, cinematographer

Related to the care taken over the design and layout of the exhibition, is the fact that the two curators – Jennifer Scott and Helen Hillyard – have collaborated with the award-winning cinematographer, Peter Suschitzky, famed for his work on films such as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back to create ‘a unique viewing experience’.

What this means is that, having established which works they were going to display, they collaborated with the lighting guy to really think about how to group them into rooms each of which has its own special lighting design and feel.

The most dramatic example of this is room five which is stripped back to its simplest essence with just one painting hanging in it, Christ and St Mary Magdalen at the Tomb (1638). All kinds of things are going on with light in this painting, as you can see for yourself.

Christ and St Mary Magdalen at the Tomb by Rembrandt van Rijn (1638) Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The thing, the schtick, the gimmick or the stroke of brilliance cooked up by Suschitzky, Scott and Hillyard, was the decision to have one narrow spot light focused on this painting and have it set to very slowly fade away to nothing, and then very slowly come on again till it’s bathing the painting in full light.

As it fades and then returns, something really weird happens: at certain moments in the dimming and fading process, it really as if a ray of light from heaven is falling across the scene. In particular, there’s a certain pint when the face of Mary, the light lower left half, becomes briefly luminescent. And you can simply see why this experience required a whole room to really savour.


The middle rooms contain the etchings and drawings, including ones from his pupils. I have to be honest and say I was underwhelmed by these. His capture of light and shade in the punishingly difficult medium of drypoint etching is marvellous; but his actual draughtsmanship isn’t. In fact sometimes it feels positively wonky.

A good example of this mixed impression is Woman with an Arrow, which is important enough to have an audioguide item devoted to it. Now I can see the dramatic contrast between the whiteness of her naked body and the deep gloom of the background. But.. but if you look at her right arm, at some point I think you realise it isn’t quite in the same picture plane as the rest of her body, has a kind of deformed look. It took me a while to notice there’s a face (presumably of a student drawing her) by her left shoulder. Not very good is it? Crude.

Woman with an Arrow (c. 1661) by Rembrandt van Rijn. The Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam

This kind of rather blodgy wonkiness with the human figure runs throughout Rembrandt’s work. Sometimes he rises effortlessly above it. But other times, I found it distracting. If you scroll back up to the painting at the start of this review – the painting captures the moment from the Greek myth of Philemon and Baucis when the old peasant couple welcome in two wandering strangers and go to the trouble of slaughtering their best goose to make a fitting meal. And at this point, the wanderers reveal themselves to be no other than king of the gods Jupiter and his messenger Mercury.

It is a typically dramatic moment, and the lighting effect is characteristically subtle, with the natural light coming from the little fireplace on the left eclipsed by the golden light now suddenly emanating from the heads of the visiting gods.

But look closely at those godheads and you might be disappointed by their wonkiness. Jupiter’s eyes in particular look uneven, almost making him look like a cranky Cyclops rather than a figure of majesty and awe.

Heartbroken tenderness

So I’m a big fan of very precise draughtsmanship, for me one of the great thrills of art is the way a handful of pencil or brushstrokes can create a world, and so I felt myself being brought up again and again by the apparent wonkiness of many of the images, viewed as pure exercises in draughtsmanship.

BUT, and it is an enormous but, Rembrandt’s paintings (especially) have a quality which supersedes and outweighs any strict concerns about linesmanship, and this is their immense human warmth. The catalogue quotes a letter van Gogh wrote to his brother in which he describes Rembrandt’s tenderness and then goes on to be more precise, praising the heartbreaking tenderness of his images.

Rembrandt in fact made a very large number of images – paintings, drawings and etchings – and you can see why it’s possible to argue – even on the basis of just the 35 works here – that he inhabited a number of different styles.

But the ones we remember, the famous ones, the ones in the anthologies and you were shown at school all share his great and wonderful quality, a sense of almost superhuman sympathy and understanding with the poor weak vulnerable human animal. He liked painting old people because their faces convey the depth and ravages of experience and yet tremendous dignity. His own mature self portraits convey volumes about human experience which no words can match.

Which is why the sixth and final room of this exhibition is worth the price of admission by itself because it brings together half a dozen of Rembrandt’s greatest hits and the impression is overwhelming. There’s the Self Portrait in a Flat Cap, the Girl At a Window, a wonderfully sensuous and intimate portrait of a woman in bed. All of them convey that sense of immense, almost god-like tenderness which van Gogh described.

Maybe most tender of all is the famous painting of the woman wading into a stream, supposed to be a portrait of his mistress.

A Woman bathing in a Stream (1654) by Rembrandt van Rijn, © The National Gallery, London

In line with my narrow (and maybe illiterate and philistine) views about Rembrandt’s abilities as a draughtsman, I don’t think the face bears too much scrutiny. But detail like that is beside the point. By this stage (the end) of the exhibition, we have been tutored to appreciate:

The theatricality of the image

Not a melodramatic moment from the Bible or classical myth, but nonetheless a very telling, precise and revealing moment of domestic intimacy and candour.

The human tenderness

The tremendous feel for the beauty of the exposed, trusting human being in a moment of vulnerability and honesty.

And – to bring us back to the main theme of the exhibition – to the importance of light in creating the overall effect. In a sense, it is only because he is such a master of light that you don’t really notice the importance of the light to the impact of the image until it is specifically pointed out to you, it is so totally subsumed into the overall composition.

The cumulative effect of looking closely at, and having explained to you, Rembrandt’s various ways and techniques with light is eventually to make you realise that rather startling fact that light alone can convey emotion. Light alone can create meaning in a painting. Light alone can shape images which prompt such powerful feelings of human sympathy and compassion.

The promotional video

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More Dulwich Picture Gallery reviews

Puppet on a Chain by Alistair MacLean (1969)

The protagonist is Major Paul Sherman. (How evocative the name is of the bland but manly heroes of 1970s TV series like The Persuaders, The Protectors or The Champions.) He tells his story in a breathless first-person narration.

He has come to Amsterdam to track down the bosses of an international heroin smuggling operation. Within minutes of touching down, the contact (and friend) who is meeting him with important information is shot down before his eyes, and from that moment onwards the tension and the pace rarely slacken as (I think it’s) three nightmarish days and nights unfold in the Dutch capital, packed with incident – beatings, drugs, revelations and numerous murders – as Sherman goes well outside the law to provoke the drugs gang into increasingly grotesque and cruel violence.


Of course our hero is maimed – sometimes it’s psychological (brother, wife and child murdered as in Fear Is the Key), here it is physical: he was burned in a plane crash and the plastic surgery repairs are far from perfect leaving him, quite literally, a marked man.

… and beaten

By the end Sherman has been shot, beaten, half drowned, nearly frozen to death, beaten again – it’s amazing, in fact it’s preposterous that he can still stand let alone think clearly let alone win against all the odds. Although the self-deprecation emphasises his fallibility, the narrative itself enacts a superhuman power of endurance and survival. Like all the MacLean protagonists he is in some sense a superman, an übermensch, albeit a very crumpled post-War one who, despite living in a state of almost continual failure and physical victimhood, just about finally triumphs. But triumphs with that special kind of bitter, ashes-in-the-mouth triumph which is hollow and defeated. Reminds me of Smiley at the end of John Le Carre’s Karla trilogy (Smiley’s People, 1979). Yes, he’s won. But the victory feels like defeat. Us men, eh. We’re just so damn tough.

Pretty sidekicks…

In a variation on the theme – and a concession to late 1960s culture – there are two sidekicks and they are both pretty women. Of course they are Interpol agents, but they also happen to be a blonde, and a black hair, both given to wearing mini-skirts and clutching Major Paul’s arm at moments of danger – or kissing him at moments of relief.

‘Well, well, well,’ she said. ‘What a healthy-looking ghost. May I kiss you?’
‘Certainly not,’ I said with dignity. ‘Relationships between employer and employed are -‘
‘Do be quiet, Paul.’ She kissed me without permission. (Chapter 10)

The element of cheesey wish-fulfilment is right on the surface here. He is casually patronising to both of them in a way, I think, no-one would dream of today. In this respect the novel is as much a period piece as Miss World TV specials.

I made to move past them towards the door, but Maggie barred the way, reached up and kissed me. Only seconds later Belinda did the same. (Ch 9)

OK so you get beaten up, deafened, half drowned, shot and smashed in the face with any blunt instrument to hand: but hey – you get kissed by pretty girls, too!

Belinda kept quiet. She just gave me that devastating smile again, kissed me without any great haste, gave me some more of the same smile and went inside. (Ch 4)

… but No sex, please

However, it is 1969 and it is the Daily Mail-reading class we are appealing to so there is no sex, no impropriety. They may wear mini-skirts and rather sheer nightdresses, but there is only hearty flirting. No mention of the word breast. An attractive figure remains just that, with no detail gone into. Unlike the sado-masochistic sex in Ian Fleming’s novels from the beginning (Casino Royale, 1953).  Is it because MacLean came from a more restrained era (born 1912)? Well, Fleming was born in 1908. Because of his Scottish heritage (he was the son of a Church of Scotland minister)?

Or is it technical? Flirting can come and go, can be dropped in the flash of an eye, or the wave of a .22 automatic. A scared girl clutching your arm is only natural in a scary situation, a swift kiss only takes a second. Whereas full-blown sex would wreck the speed of the story, would slow it right down and then would introduce all kinds of emotional and physical complications. When Sherman tries to save his assistants Maggie or Belinda it is ultimately because they are fellow Interpol agents; if he had an affair with either of them the clarity and simplicity of his actions would be lost.


Prolepsis is, strictly speaking, the raising of an objection in an argued speech or lecture, often in a weak form, in order to dispose of it before your opponent has a chance to raise it, probably in a stronger form. But more generally, it means anticipation of something, and I use it here to mean the ominous reference to something bad which the narrator interrupts the flow of his narration to foreshadow.

‘I’m sorry Maggie… God knows I make more mistakes than you do.’ I did, and I was making one of my biggest then: I should have listened to what the girls were saying. (Ch 6)

I reflected that Marcel must have the most remarkable powers of recuperation. I was to remember this with bitter chagrin on an occasion that was to be a day or so later and very much more inauspicious for me. (Ch 8)

I was glad to be alive. The girls were glad. The jonge Genever was happily chasing the red blood corpuscles in a game of merry-go-round, all the coloured threads were weaving themselves into a beautiful pattern and by day’s end it would be over. I had never felt so good before.
I was never to feel so good again. (Ch 10)

‘George can stay where he is. He’s in no danger.’ I couldn’t remember later whether that statement was the sixth or seventh major mistake I’d made in Amsterdam. (Ch 8)

It has at least three functions:

1. to add to the suspense by hinting that something bad is going to happen – but what?
2. to add to the tone of self-deprecation: all MacLean’s protagonists are fallible and they know it and they make a habit of pointing it out. ‘If only I’d realised X, then more lives would have been saved…’

I had behaved like a moron, with a blundering idiocy for which I would have bawled out anyone else, and it looked very much as if I might pay the moron’s price. (Ch 7)

3. but also to emphasise the seriousness of the issues: ‘Peoples’ lives are at stake here!!’

Heavy-handed humour

I was surprised when I read When Eight Bells Toll by the narrator’s tone of heavy, sardonic humour. Now I realise it’s intrinsic to his style. If Ian Fleming deploys a tone of classy savoir faire, MacLean’s narrators use flippancy and black humour. Why?

  1. It makes the books easier and quicker to read than a straight litany of encounters, attacks and speculation.
  2. Along with the steady self-deprecation, it humanises the protagonist and makes him easier to identify with.
  3. It allows the protagonist to display a kind of jaded satirical weariness with the modern world. All of these books remind me of Daily Mail editorials against the madness of health and safety or trendy vicars or gay marriage or young people these days with their scruffy clothes and spiky haircuts and cacophonous ‘music’! Many of the reviews on the jacket are from the Mail or Express suggesting that was his core demographic – older lower-middle-class men who resent the modern world and fantasise about leading lives of adventure helped by mini-skirted dollybirds.
  4. On another level, it betrays MacLean’s own jokey attitude to his writing, to his own novels. He knew he was writing entertainment, potboilers. They’re very good at their key aim of keeping you turning the pages, but fine writing they ain’t and the protagonists’ jokiness flags that.

But the jokiness is mostly very heavy-handed. This novel has a running joke in the first half that outside his Amsterdam hotel is a blind tramp playing a barrel-organ which murders the music of classical composers. Each time Sherman encounters him he is torturing the music of a different composer. Takes Sherman some time to realise he is spying on his movements and the bored youths who hang around him are actually spies set to track his movements. The composers are, of course, top five Classic FM ones that even Daily Mail readers have heard of and recognise as Culture.

It was classical night that night at the Hotel Rembrandt with the barrel-organ giving forth a rendition of an excerpt from Beethoven’s Fifth that would have had the old composer down on his knees giving thanks for his almost total deafness. (Ch 3)


As part of the general jokiness of tone and the superior levity the narrator brings to his role – even when he’s being beaten up or tortured – the text features numerous quotes: Shakespeare is quoted on pages 71, 170 and 198. Possibly this is to flatter the middle-brow audience who are gratified to recognise them (they are, after all, a Classic FM level of literary reference). But at some level it’s as if the text wants to subvert itself and its pretensions. It is a very self-aware text.

This is true of the most spectacular quote, when he uses a line from Raymond Chandler, from Farewell My Lovely: She was ‘a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.’ (Chapter 4) I think the use of quotes indicates MacLean’s anxiety about being an author, his knowledge that – as he freely acknowledged in interviews – he wasn’t much of a writer, but a very talented creator of fast-paced adventure thrillers.

This anxiety, the sense he’s walking in the shadow of giants, comes out in another exchange.

‘Brown stain?’ De Graaf blinked at me, then smiled widely. ‘Oh no, Major Sherman! Disguise! In this day and age? Sherlock Holmes has been dead these many years.’
‘If I’d half the brains Sherlock Holmes had,’ I said heavily. ‘I wouldn’t be needing any disguise.’ (Ch 5)


Heavy is the word. Clunk clunk clunk go MacLean’s sentences. If Raymond Chandler’s books are a marvel, wrought by a true artist of the language, and on every page containing phrases which amaze and enrich, MacLean’s novels have on every page real clunkers of sentences which you want to help him rewrite into fluent English.

That some of the adjacent buildings had been in even greater danger of collapse was evidenced by the fact that a large area of building on the canal side beyond the church had already been demolished: a giant crane, with the most enormous boom I had ever seen almost lost in the darkness above, stood in the middle of this cleared lot where rebuilding had already reached the stage of the completion of the reinforced foundations. (Ch 5)

I see the scene, and it’s important for the plot: but I feel I’ve had to work hard against the tide of the clunky phrasing.

The First Reformed Church, I had to admit, had certainly done their level and eminently successful best to comply with the exhortations of the avant-garde clergy of today that it was the Church’s duty to keep abreast with and participate in the technological age in which we live. Conceivably, they might have been expected to be taken a degree less literally, but then unspecified exhortation, when translated into practice, is always liable to a certain amount of executive misdirection, which appeared to be what had happened in this case: this room, which took up nearly half the basement area of the church was, in fact, a superbly equipped machine shop. (Ch 7)

The taste for laboured periphrasis and deliberate formality of language is perhaps intended to be humorous and often is. But what a heavy touch!

The priest was shaking his fist at me in a fashion that didn’t say much for his concept of brotherly love and appeared to be delivering himself of some vehement harangue but I couldn’t hear any of it. (Ch 7)

‘Delivering himself of”? Lots of starchy, official language like that.

The entire operation had been performed with the ease and surety which bespoke a considerable familiarity with the technique just employed. (Ch 10) — …’bespoke’?

The grotesque

This strikes me as being the cruelest and most grotesque of the MacLean novels I’ve reread to date. The baddies

  1. try to drive Sherman insane by clamping headphones to his ears and then playing the very amplified tone of lots of clock chimes going off at once
  2. orchestrate the sadistic gruesome murder of his assistant Maggie, who is stabbed to death by a group of Dutch farmer’s wives with pitchforks (!)
  3. kill the girl he’s trying to help, Astrid, piercing her broken neck with a thick hook and suspending her corpse from a chain outside a warehouse loading bay
  4. and, in the climax of the novel, Sherman causes the lead baddie to plunge to his death, skewered by the hook at the end of the cable hanging from the arm of a building crane

There are also number of grotesque characters including:

  • the unctuous Reverend Goodbody, who turns out to be a psychopath
  • the two obese warehouse owners Morgenstern and Muggenthaler
  • the creepy figure of Trudi, the 18 year-old heroin addict who pretends to have a mental age of 8 but turns out to be the demented mistress of the chief baddie

The imagery of the spooky puppets which recur throughout the book, the notion there’s something uncanny about lifesize puppets (let alone a warehouse full of them among which a killer is hiding) reminds me of the terrible Anthony Hopkins film, Magic, which features a demonic ventriloquist’s dummy. And the taste for macabre deaths reminds me of the movie, The Omen where everyone who opposes the little devil is disposed of in increasingly gruesome ways. All part of a very dated taste.


Why, if I am so critical, bother to read this book or any Maclean novel? Because, in the best first fifteen or so, the plot itself ie the pell-mell onrush of incidents, is so imaginative and suspenseful and gripping that your eye and mind skip over the clunky sentences and ‘wry’ humour to find out what happens next. The fundamental psychological pattern of the single man/hero in extremis, battling against overwhelming odds, and just about surviving and prevailing over every threat, plays to something so deep in the psyche that superficial criticism of some elements of style can do nothing to impede it. It’s a cracking good read.


Like most MacLean novels, this was made into a rather poor film, and very soon (1971) after the book’s publication (1969). If the movie of Fear Is the Key is notable for its twenty-minute (!) car chase, Puppet On A Chain features one of the earliest movie speedboat chases (through the canals of Amsterdam).

Related links

Cover of the 1971 Fontana paperback edition of Puppet on a Chain

Cover of the 1971 Fontana paperback edition of Puppet on a Chain

The first 22 Alistair MacLean novels

Third person narrator

1955 HMS Ulysses – war story about a doomed Arctic convoy.
1957 The Guns of Navarone – war story about commandos who blow up superguns on a Greek island.
1957 South by Java Head – a motley crew of soldiers, sailors, nurses and civilians endure a series of terrible ordeals in their bid to escape the pursuing Japanese forces.
1959 The Last Frontier – secret agent Michael Reynolds rescues a British scientist from communists in Hungary.

First person narrator – the classic novels

1959 Night Without End – Arctic scientist Mason saves plane crash survivors from baddies who have stolen a secret missile guidance system.
1961 Fear is the Key – government agent John Talbot defeats a gang seeking treasure in a crashed plane off Florida.
1961 The Dark Crusader – counter-espionage agent John Bentall defeats a gang who plan to hold the world to ransom with a new intercontinental missile.
1962 The Golden Rendezvous – first officer John Carter defeats a gang who hijack his ship with a nuclear weapon.
1962 The Satan Bug – agent Pierre Cavell defeats an attempt to blackmail the government using a new supervirus.
1963 Ice Station Zebra – MI6 agent Dr John Carpenter defeats spies who have secured Russian satellite photos of US missile bases, destroyed the Arctic research base of the title and nearly sink the nuclear sub sent to rescue them.

Third phase

1966 When Eight Bells Toll – British Treasury secret agent Philip Calvert defeats a gang who have been hijacking ships carrying bullion off the Scottish coast.
1967 Where Eagles Dare
1968 Force 10 From Navarone The three heroes from Guns of Navarone parachute into Yugoslavia to blow up a dam and destroy two German armoured divisions.
1969 Puppet on a Chain – Interpol agent Paul Sherman battles a grotesquely sadistic heroin-smuggling gang in Amsterdam.
1970 Caravan to Vaccarès – British agent Neil Bowman foils a gang of gypsies who are smuggling Russian nuclear scientists via the south of France to China.
1971 Bear Island – Doctor Marlowe deals with a spate of murders aboard a ship full of movie stars and crew heading into the Arctic Circle.


1973 The Way to Dusty Death – World number one racing driver Johnny Harlow acts drunk and disgraced in order to foil a gang of heroin smugglers and kidnappers.
1974 Breakheart Pass – The Wild West, 1873. Government agent John Deakin poses as a wanted criminal in order to foil a gang smuggling guns to Injuns in the Rockies and planning to steal government gold in return.
1975 Circus – The CIA ask trapeze genius Bruno Wildermann to travel to an unnamed East European country, along with his circus, and use his skills to break into a secret weapons laboratory.
1976 The Golden Gate – FBI agent Paul Revson is with the President’s convoy when it is hijacked on the Golden Gate bridge by a sophisticated gang of crooks who demand an outrageous ransom. Only he – and the doughty doctor he recruits and the pretty woman journalist -can save the President!
1977 – Seawitch – Oil executives hire an unhinged oil engineer, Cronkite, to wreak havoc on the oil rig of their rival, Lord Worth, who is saved by his beautiful daughter’s boyfriend, an ex-cop and superhero.
1977 – Goodbye California – Deranged muslim fanatic, Morro, kidnaps nuclear physicists and technicians in order to build atomic bombs which he detonates a) in the desert b) off coastal California, in order to demand a huge ransom. Luckily, he has also irritated maverick California cop, Ryder – by kidnapping his wife – so Ryder tracks him down, disarms his gang and kills him.

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