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.