Golden Rendezvous (the filmmakers dropped the word "The" from the book title) is an extreme example of the highs and lows of converting an Alistair MacLean thriller to the big screen. The cast, featuring a few well-known actors and a lot of relative nobodies, turns in strikingly uneven performances. Even less calming is the script, which follows MacLean's story for much of the way but occasionally takes some wild swings. Viewers of this ship-borne adventure get the sensation of being on a posh cruise ship that is sometimes buffeted by large waves, leaving them mildly seasick.

This was only a middling book, with vintage MacLean writing but a somewhat hackneyed plot (see my review here). Hence, I didn't mind the plot alterations, and I even liked some. There's no mention of the stereotypical third-world "generalissimo" who was behind the book's shenanigans. The ship, a converted freighter with luxury cabins in the book, is now a floating casino. The tangential and weak story about a stolen American nuclear device has been skipped. Many new characters are introduced (so quickly that it is difficult to keep them all straight). And the leading lady, Susan Beresford, has changed from the available daughter of the ship's owners to some mysterious femme fatale with a "Mrs." before her name.

Despite all those initial changes, the plot proceeds directly along the book's lines. Crew members start to turn up missing or dead, especially in and around the ship's wireless office. Just when protagonist John Carter has captured the leading bad guys, a team of machine-gun-wielding guerrillas takes over the ship. (The outcome of this invasion differs greatly, though, as the ship's captain is killed rather then merely wounded, and some passengers are also gunned down.) With the aid of the ship's doctor (an amalgam of MacLean's doctor and McDonald-the-Scottish-bosun), Susan, and a couple of added characters of mixed loyalties, the wounded Carter rises from his sick-bay bed and sets out to wreck the evildoers' plans.

Golden Rendezous Alistair Mcleans

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