Sky Riders

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Sky Riders
Assault on the Forbidden Fortress.jpg
Directed by Douglas Hickox
Produced byTerry Morse Jr.
Sandy Howard executive producer
Written by Jack DeWitt
Stanley Mann
Garry Michael White
Screenplay by Jack DeWitt
Greg MacGillivray
Starring James Coburn
Susannah York
Robert Culp
Music by Lalo Schifrin
CinematographyJim Freeman
Greg MacGillivray
Ousama Rawi
Edited byMalcolm Cooke
20th Century Fox
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • March 26, 1976 (1976-03-26)
Running time
91 min
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,730,000 (US/ Canada) [1]

Sky Riders (also known as Assault on the Forbidden Fortress) is a 1976 American action film directed by Douglas Hickox and starring James Coburn, Susannah York and Robert Culp. [2] [3]


The rescue sequences were filmed in Meteora in Greece where the finale of the later James Bond film For Your Eyes Only was also set later in 1981.

On January 17, 2012 the film was released on DVD through Shout! Factory as part of a double feature with The Last Hard Men.

Plot summary

In Greece, the wife and children of American businessman Jonas Bracken are kidnapped by a radical group, the World Activist Revolutionary Army, who demand a ransom of $5 million for their safe return. Bracken raises the ransom money from selling off parts of his business empire, but the kidnappers then make further demands, requiring Bracken to use the money to purchase arms and ammunition for them. Inspector Nikolidis of the Greek police is put in charge of case. Jim McCabe, a smuggler who is Ellen Bracken's ex-husband and father to their son, reads about the kidnapping in the newspapers and meets with Bracken.

Police trace a radio signal used by the kidnappers and close in on the location, only to discover it is a decoy. A booby-trap detonates, killing several officers including Nikolidis's nephew. Nikolidis and McCabe agree that the kidnappers must be stopped, perhaps by any means. The kidnappers send a photograph of Ellen and the children as proof that they are still alive and, without the police knowing, McCabe uses a contact to trace their location based on a painted fresco in the background of the photo. He discovers that they are being held in a remote cliff-top monastery.

McCabe finds a hang glider flying circus and hires them to take part in a rescue mission. When Nikolidis discovers that McCabe has gone to free Bracken's family, the police decide to launch their own rescue plan and move in. McCabe's team use their hang gliders to infiltrate the monastery and free the hostages, but are discovered as they are leaving. While a gun battle ensues between the kidnappers and the police at the monastery, McCabe's team and the hostages are pursued and eventually escape on their hang gliders. The head kidnapper chases them in a helicopter, which McCabe forces to crash land. The head kidnapper then commits suicide rather than be captured and Bracken is reunited with his family.



Coburn's casting was announced in May 1975. [4] The film was part of a slate of productions from Sandy Howard. [5]

After an explosion on the set of Sky Riders in which a Greek electrician died, producer Terry Morse Jr. was arrested and producer Sandy Howard was detained for several weeks. A $250,000 out-of-court settlement was made, [6] which one Variety article called a "bribe" so the crew member responsible would not be imprisoned by the military regime. [7] [8]


The film was a failure at the box office in the US but did better internationally. [9] [10]

Howard hired Jack Hill to write a sequel. He later said "I pitched them my idea, which they thought was good, and I wrote the script. Well, it turned out that the movie was a big flop and no one could understand why. I knew why - it was because they had the theory that it should be wall to wall action and there is nothing more boring." [11] Hill then wrote City of Fire and Death Ship for Howard.

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  1. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN   978-0-8108-4244-1. p233. Please note figures are rentals accruing to distributors and not total gross.
  2. "Sky Riders (1976)". BFI.
  3. SKY RIDERS Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 43, Iss. 504, (Jan 1, 1976): 107.
  4. Murphy, Mary (31 May 1975). "MOVIE CALL SHEET: Bowie: All That Glitters Isn't Rock". Los Angeles Times . p. b7.
  5. Kilday, Gregg (18 January 1976). "Returns of a Man Called Howard". Los Angeles Times . p. m1.
  6. Mack. (24 March 1976). "Sky Riders". Variety .
  7. "Producer Sandy Howard dies at 81". Variety . May 16, 2008.
  8. Sky Riders at AllMovie
  9. ...And It Almost Didn't Get to the Screen By ALJEAN HARMETZ. New York Times 26 May 1977: 66.
  10. FILM CLIPS: Hamlisch, Sager Score Again in 'Starting Over' Kilday, Gregg. Los Angeles Times 29 Nov 1978: g13.
  11. Waddell, Calum (2009). Jack Hill: The Exploitation and Blaxploitation Master, Film by Film. McFarland. p. 180. ISBN   9780786452880.