Film Review – THE BLACK WINDMILL (1974)

THE BLACK WINDMILL (1974, UK/France, 106m, 12) ***
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Don Siegel; w. Leigh Vance (based on the novel “Seven Days to a Killing” by Clive Egleton); pr. Don Siegel; ph. Ousama Rawi (Technicolor | 2.35:1); m. Roy Budd; ed. Antony Gibbs; ad. Peter Murton.
cast: Michael Caine (Maj. John Tarrant), Donald Pleasence (Cedric Harper), Delphine Seyrig (Ceil Burrows), Clive Revill (Alf Chestermann), John Vernon (McKee), Joss Ackland (Chief Supt. Wray), Janet Suzman (Alex Tarrant), Catherine Schell (Lady Melissa Julyan), Joseph O’Conor (Sir Edward Julyan), Denis Quilley (Bateson), Derek Newark (Monitoring Policeman), Edward Hardwicke (Mike McCarthy), Maureen Pryor (Jane Harper), Joyce Carey (Miss Monley), Preston Lockwood (Ilkeston), Molly Urquhart (Margaret), David Daker (MI5 Man), Hermione Baddeley (Hetty), Patrick Barr (Gen. St. John).
A perfectly competent spy thriller vehicle for Caine who plays a British agent whose son is kidnapped and held for a ransom of diamonds. Caine discovers he can’t even count on the people he thought were on his side to help him, so he decides to track down the kidnappers himself. Siegel directs with his usual economy, but the story never really pulls the viewer in. The shadowy nature of Caine’s world means there is little investment in character and motivation. This means the kidnap element of the plot lacks the tension that it deserves. That said the cast is solid and Pleasence has fun inventing fussy mannerisms as Caine’s immediate superior. Vernon is as reliable as ever in the chief villain role as are some familiar British actors and the finale, in the titular windmill, is excitingly staged. A professional job, but one lacking an emotional heart.

Film Review – CALLAN (1974)

CallanCALLAN (UK, 1974) ***½
      Distributor: EMI Distribution; Production Company: Magnum Films / Syn-Frank Enterprises; Release Date: 23 May 1974; Filming Dates: began 29 October 1973; Running Time: 106m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Dolby (Dolby System®) | Mono (RCA Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Don Sharp; Writer: James Mitchell (based on the novel “A Red File for Callan” by James Mitchell); Producer: Derek Horne; Associate Producer: Harry Benn; Director of Photography: Ernest Steward; Music Composer: Wilfred Josephs; Film Editor: Teddy Darvas; Casting Director: Lesley De Pettit; Art Director: John Clark; Set Decorator: Simon Holland; Costumes: Ray Beck; Make-up: Freddie Williamson; Sound: Derek Ball, Charles Crafford, John Poyner; Special Effects: John Richardson.
      Cast: Edward Woodward (David Callan), Eric Porter (Hunter), Carl Möhner (Schneider), Catherine Schell (Jenny), Peter Egan (Toby Meres), Russell Hunter (Lonely), Kenneth Griffith (Waterman), Michael Da Costa (The Greek), Veronica Lang (Liz, Hunter’s Secretary), Clifford Rose (Dr. Snell), David Prowse (Arthur), Don Henderson (George), Nadim Sawalha (Padilla), David Graham (Wireless operator), Yuri Borienko (Security porter), Peter Symonds (Smart security man), Raymond Bowers (Shabby security man), Joe Dunlop (Policeman), Mollie Maureen (Old lady in the Strand).
      Synopsis: David Callan, secret agent, is called back to the service after his retirement, to handle the assassination of a German businessman, but Callan refuses to co-operate until he finds out why this man is marked for death.
      Comment: Big screen adaptation on a low budget of James Mitchell’s assassin creation who wrestles with his own conscience. The story was originally written as an hour-long TV play entitled A Magnum for Schneider (1967), which later led to the TV series Callan (1967-72). Woodward reprises his role and delivers a believable performance in this anti-glamourous approach to the genre. Mitchell’s script is strong, padding out his original story initially into a novel and then a screenplay. There’s little in the way of action, save for a wonderful cat-and-mouse car chase. This is a spy thriller that plays on the main character’s self-conflictions as he gets to know his mark. Whilst largely downbeat there are occasional flashes of black humour. Fans of the series will find much to enjoy, whilst others may see this as an antidote to the proliferation of over-the-top spy movies.