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Film Review: Fortress
Fortress (Nicholson, 1985)
Not to be mixed up with 1992’s Fortress (Gordon) starring Christopher Lambert, this little known Australian movie is about the kidnapping of a teacher and her students in the rural Outback. Sally Jones (Rachel Ward) teaches a one room schoolhouse whose students range from kindergartener to preteen. She boards at the house of two of her students Sid (Sean Garlick) and Tommy (Marc Gray) who are both tired of being treated like children. It isn’t soon that they, as well as Sally are tested. The creepy kidnapers, wearing playful masks, take Sally and the students to a cave in the middle of nowhere, trapping them until a ransom is paid. Following the more adventurous Sid and Tommy’s lead, Sally attempts to escape while keeping seven other, younger kids from panicking. That’s where the cat and mouse adventure begins, but at what point does the predator become the prey?
The action is nicely paced and the characters, even the minor characters, are well rounded and adequately fleshed out. It helps that these very young actors and actresses do a pretty good job conveying their emotions. They look scared and you can’t help but be frightened for them.
This is a fun and scary ride that never loses sight of what is pushing the story along: the hunter stalks the hunted. This thriller forces the hunted past their limit, past their boundaries where children are forced to tap into their primal instincts and the lone adult must decide whether to run, hide or fight.
- This movie was loosely based off of the 1972 Faraday School kidnapping by Edwin John Eastwood and Robert Clyde Boland. In 1977, Eastwood escaped from prison and tried to replicate the kidnapping again. Not being an original criminal, Eastwood actually based his kidnappings on the Dirty Harry (Siegel, 1971) scene where the Scorpio Killer holds a bus filled with schoolchildren hostage.
- Rachel Ward also stared in Against All Odds (Hackford, 1984), playing the emotionally conflicted Jessie.
- The movie did pretty well in the cinema in its native Australia, but was only released on cable TV in the US.
- They filmed the movie in Bairnsdale and Victoria, Australia.
- Rebecca Rigg (Norelle) is married to Simon Baker (The Mentalist) and two of her three children have very famous godmother’s: Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts.
- Vernon Wells (Dabby Duck) has made a career of playing a bad guy in such films as Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (Miller, 1981) and Commando (Lester, 1985).