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 – JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987)

JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987, USA, 89m, 12) **
Adventure, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures; d. Joseph Sargent; w. Michael De Guzman (based on characters created by Peter Benchley); pr. Joseph Sargent; ph. John McPherson (DeLuxe | 2.35:1); m. Michael Small; ed. Michael Brown; pd. John J. Lloyd; ad. Donald B. Woodruff.
cast: Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Lance Guest (Michael Brody), Mario Van Peebles (Jake), Karen Young (Carla Brody), Michael Caine (Hoagie), Judith Barsi (Thea), Mitchell Anderson (Sean Brody), Lynn Whitfield (Louisa), Jay Mello (Young Sean Brody), Cedric Scott (Clarence), Charles Bowleg (William), Melvin Van Peebles (Mr. Witherspoon), Mary Smith (Tiffany), Edna Billotto (Polly), Fritzi Jane Courtney (Mrs. Taft), Cyprian R. Dube (Mayor), Lee Fierro (Mrs. Kintner), Moby Griffin (Man in the Boat), Diane Hetfield (Mrs. Ferguson), Daniel J. Manning (Jesus).
Whilst not as bad as its reputation, this third sequel to 1975’s JAWS becomes increasingly preposterous and unravels totally in its final act. The family of widow Ellen Brody (Gary) has long been plagued by shark attacks, and this unfortunate association continues when her youngest son Sean (Anderson) is the victim of a massive great white. In mourning, Ellen goes to visit her other son, Michael (Guest), in the Bahamas, where she meets the charming pilot Hoagie Newcombe (Caine). As Ellen and Hoagie begin a relationship, a huge shark appears off the coast of the island, and Ellen’s trouble with the great whites begins again. The premise presented here through Gary’s paranoia is that the shark is targeting the Brody family. Whilst this is never overtly stated as the reason for the latest attacks, the lack of any logical alternative explanation leaves the film dependant on our willingness to suspend our disbelief. The film is well presented in its early scenes in Amity. When the action moves to the Bahamas, the exotic location makes for some nice photography both above and below the surface. Caine offers up a likeable performance, whilst Gary does her best to persuade us her fears are grounded. Sargent then loses total control of the film in its finale, which is hampered by poor effects work and haphazard editing, which stifle any potential build of tension. Reminders of the masterly original only serve to confirm how low the series had sunk since that classic tale of character and suspense.

Film Review – THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975)

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975, UK/USA) ****
Action, Adventure
dist. Allied Artists Pictures; pr co. Columbia Pictures Corporation / Devon / Persky-Bright; d. John Huston; w. John Huston, Gladys Hill (based on the story by Rudyard Kipling); pr. John Foreman; ph. Oswald Morris (Technicolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Maurice Jarre; ed. Russell Lloyd; pd. Alexandre Trauner; ad. Tony Inglis; rel. 27 November 1975 (Iran), 16 December 1975 (USA), 18 December 1975 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 129m.
cast: Sean Connery (Daniel Dravot), Michael Caine (Peachy Carnehan), Christopher Plummer (Rudyard Kipling), Saeed Jaffrey (Billy Fish), Larbi Doghmi (Ootah), Jack May (District Commissioner), Karroom Ben Bouih (Kafu Selim), Mohammad Shamsi (Babu), Albert Moses (Ghulam), Paul Antrim (Mulvaney), Graham Acres (Officer), The Blue Dancers of Goulamine (Dancers), Shakira Caine (Roxanne).
Two British soldiers in India decide to resign from the Army and set themselves up as deities in Kafiristan–a land where no white man has set foot since Alexander. This critically acclaimed morality piece was a commercial failure at the box office despite the star power and strong chemistry between Connery and Caine. It is only in the passing years that its stature has grown. The two leads are excellent, as is Plummer as the author, then a journalist, Rudyard Kipling. The film’s technical attributes are top-notch from production and costume design to its photography and location. The moral tale is laced with humour and adventure before its downbeat finale issues its warning message. The tone may shift jarringly from time to time, but this remains an impressive production expertly directed by a past master.
AAN: Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Material (John Huston, Gladys Hill); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexandre Trauner, Tony Inglis, Peter James); Best Costume Design (Edith Head); Best Film Editing (Russell Lloyd).

Film Review – THE EAGLE HAS LANDED (1976)

The Eagle Has Landed (1976) | They shoot jerries, don't they?EAGLE HAS LANDED, THE (1976, UK) ***½
Adventure, Drama, War
dist. Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK), Columbia Pictures (USA); pr co. Associated General Films / ITC Entertainment; d. John Sturges; w. Tom Mankiewicz (based on the novel by Jack Higgins); pr. David Niven Jr., Jack Wiener; ph. Anthony B. Richmond (Colour. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.35:1); m. Lalo Schifrin; ed. Anne V. Coates; pd. Peter Murton; ad. Charles Bishop; set d. Peter James; cos. Yvonne Blake; m/up. Eric Allwright, Paul Rabiger, Freddie Williamson, Betty Glasow, Mike Jones; sd. Jonathan Bates, Robin Gregory (Mono (35 mm prints) | 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | 4-Track Stereo (some 35 mm prints) (London premiere print)); sfx. Roy Whybrow; st. Gerry Crampton; rel. 25 December 1976 (Finland/Sweden), 31 March 1977 (UK), 2 April 1977 (USA); cert: PG/15; r/t. 135m.

cast: Michael Caine (Oberst Kurt Steiner), Donald Sutherland (Liam Devlin), Robert Duvall (Colonel Radl), Jenny Agutter (Molly), Donald Pleasence (Himmler), Anthony Quayle (Admiral Canaris), Jean Marsh (Joanna Grey), Sven-Bertil Taube (Captain von Neustadt), John Standing (Father Verecker), Judy Geeson (Pamela), Treat Williams (Captain Clark), Larry Hagman (Colonel Pitts), Alexei Jawdokimov (Corporal Kuniski), Richard Wren (Hans Altmann), Michael Byrne (Karl), Joachim Hansen (SS-Obergruppenführer), Denis Lill (Churchill’s aide), Rick Parsé (E-Boat Commander), Léonie Thelen (Branna), Keith Buckley (Hauptmann Gericke).

This adaptation of Jack Higgins’ bestseller has a fanciful plot of a team of WWII German soldiers and spies out to kidnap Winston Churchill to enable Nazi Germany to bargain a stronger settlement in lieu of their inevitable defeat. That it remains entertaining throughout is largely due to its strong cast. Caine is the sympathetic German commander; Duvall the architect of the scheme and Sutherland the German-Irish spy who infiltrates the English village community. Pleasence is also excellent as the scheming Himmler. Hagman’s bombastic performance, however, is off-key as a gung-ho American commander out to prove his superior’s judgement of him wrong. The love interest between Sutherland and Agutter also feels false and the sleepy locale is at odds with the stakes at play. The battle scenes in the final third of the movie are well edited though, covering up for Sturges’ reported lack of interest in post-production. The result is an enjoyable adventure that could have been better but demonstrates the importance of interesting casting and enthusiastic performances. The US release ran for 123m. An extended cut was released on DVD with 15m additional footage.

Film Review – THE ITALIAN JOB (1969)

THE ITALIAN JOB (UK, 1969) ***½
      Distributor: Paramount British Pictures; Production Company: Oakhurst Productions / Paramount Pictures Corporation; Release Date: 5 June 1969 (UK), 3 September 1969 (USA); Filming Dates: began 24 June 1968; Running Time: 99m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Peter Collinson; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin; Producer: Michael Deeley; Associate Producer: Robert Porter; Director of Photography: Douglas Slocombe; Music Composer: Quincy Jones; Film Editor: John Trumper; Casting Director: Paul Lee Lander; Production Designer: Disley Jones; Art Director: Michael Knight; Costumes: Dinah Greet (uncredited); Make-up: Freddie Williamson; Sound: John Aldred, Gerry Humphreys, Stephen Warwick; Special Effects: Pat Moore.
      Cast: Michael Caine (Charlie Croker), Noël Coward (Mr. Bridger), Benny Hill (Professor Simon Peach), Raf Vallone (Altabani), Tony Beckley (Freddie), Rossano Brazzi (Beckerman), Margaret Blye (Lorna), Irene Handl (Miss Peach), John Le Mesurier (Governor), Fred Emney (Birkinshaw), John Clive (Garage Manager), Graham Payn (Keats), Michael Standing (Arthur), Stanley Caine (Coco), Barry Cox (Chris), Harry Baird (Big William), George Innes (Bill Bailey), John Forgeham (Frank), Robert Powell (Yellow), Derek Ware (Rozzer).
      Synopsis: Comic caper movie about a plan to steal a gold shipment from the streets of Turin by creating a traffic jam.
      Comment: Visually stylish caper comedy that is typical of its time, mixing late-sixties excess and imagery with stunning locations and quirky performances. Caine and Coward are in good form, with the latter making for a memorable imprisoned crime lord who enjoys all the luxuries of life from his cell. Troy Kennedy Martin’s script appears to have been used lightly by director Collinson. The set pieces – notably the heist and the ironic finale – are the main selling points alongside Douglas Slocombe’s gorgeous photography and Quincy Jones’ witty score.
      Notes: Remade in 2003.

Film Review – THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)

Image result for the muppet christmas carolMuppet Christmas Carol, The (1992; USA/UK; Technicolor; 86m) **** d. Brian Henson; w. Jerry Juhl; ph. John Fenner; m. Miles Goodman.  Cast: The Muppets, Michael Caine, Steven Mackintosh, Meredith Braun, Robin Weaver, Donald Austen. The Muppet characters tell their version of the classic tale of an old and bitter miser’s redemption on Christmas Eve. Delightful adaptation with Caine excelling in role which requires him to act largely with puppet characters. Lovely script with gentle humour makes this a warm and heart-lifting seasonal movie. Based on the novel “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. [U]

Film Review – GET CARTER (1971)

Image result for get carter 1971 blu-rayGet Carter (1971; UK; Metrocolor; 112m) ***** d. Mike Hodges; w. Mike Hodges; ph. Wolfgang Suschitzky; m. Roy Budd.  Cast: Michael Caine, Ian Hendry, Britt Ekland, John Osborne, Tony Beckley, George Sewell, Geraldine Moffat, Dorothy White, Rosemarie Dunham, Alun Armstrong, Petra Markham, Bryan Mosley, Terence Rigby, Glynn Edwards, Bernard Hepton. When his brother dies under mysterious circumstances in a car accident, a London gangster travels to Newcastle to investigate. Quintessential British gangster movie with Caine’s iconic performance setting the bar for others to follow. Hodges directs with flair and Suschitzky’s photography evocatively captures the bleakness of the North-East landscape. Budd’s minimalist score adds to the menace. A genre classic. Based on the novel “Jack’s Return Home” by Ted Lewis. Remade as HIT MAN in 1972 and again in 2000. [18]

Film Review – THE IPCRESS FILE (1965)

Image result for the ipcress file 1965 blu-rayIpcress File, The (1965; UK; Technicolor; 109m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Sidney J. Furie; w. W.H. Canaway, James Doran; ph. Otto Heller; m. John Barry.  Cast: Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson, Aubrey Richards, Frank Gatliff, Thomas Baptiste, Oliver MacGreevy, Freda Bamford, Pauline Winter, Anthony Blackshaw, Barry Raymond, David Glover, Stanley Meadows. In London, a counter espionage agent deals with his own bureaucracy while investigating the kidnapping and brainwashing of British scientists. First-rate and gritty spy thriller with a typically complex plot. Caine’s hero is the antithesis of James Bond, with his ordinary lifestyle and lack of glamour. Brainwashing sequence in the final act is effectively shot and acted. John Barry’s moody score adds significantly to the cold atmosphere of espionage and deceit. Based on the book by Len Deighton. Followed by two sequels – FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1966) and BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (1967) – and later two direct to video releases – BULLET TO BEIJING (1995) and MIDNIGHT IN SAINT PETERSBURG (1996). [PG]

Film Review – MONA LISA (1986)

Image result for mona lisa blu-rayMona Lisa (1986; UK; Technicolor; 104m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Neil Jordan; w. Neil Jordan, David Leland; ph. Roger Pratt; m. Michael Kamen.  Cast: Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson, Michael Caine, Robbie Coltrane, Clarke Peters, Kate Hardie, Sammi Davis, Rod Bedall, Zoe Nathenson, Joe Brown, Pauline Melville, Hossein Karimbeik, John Darling, Bryan Coleman, Robert Dorning. An ex-con gets a job as a driver for a beautiful high-priced call girl, with whom he forms an at first grudging, and then real affection. Dark film explores the seedy side of the London underworld. Hoskins is perfect as a man out of his time and Tyson equally as good. Caine is imposing as the boss of the operation. The film twists in a way inspired by the pulp fiction it openly emulates. Hard-hitting and shocking finale. All backed by Nat King Cole’s timeless hit. [18]

Film Review – HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986)

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986; USA; Technicolor; 103m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Carlo Di Palma; m. Puccini.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Michael Caine, Carrie Fisher, Barbara Hershey, Maureen O’Sullivan, Dianne Wiest, Max von Sydow, Lloyd Nolan, Daniel Stern, Julie Kavner, Joanna Gleason, J.T. Walsh, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins. Between two Thanksgivings, Hannah’s husband falls in love with her sister Lee, while her hypochondriac ex-husband rekindles his relationship with her sister Holly. Brilliantly observed portrayal of the lives of three sisters, their relationship with each other and with the men in their lives is amongst Allen’s finest achievements. Sharp and witty script is enhanced by superb performances from the cast. It is a movie that presents its three-dimensional characters in a way that is utterly engaging and believable. Caine, Wiest and Allen (as writer) all won Oscars. [15]