Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Black Windmill

Michael Caine stars as secret service agent John Tarrant in this 1974 British spy thriller from director Don Siegel.

Tarrant's son is kidnapped during his investigation of illegal arms dealing, and through blackmail, cross and double-cross he labours on from London to Paris and finally rural  Sussex to rescue the child. It's not up to the level of the Ipcress File or Get Carter, but Caine freely admits that he's never had issues about lowering standards to get work and keep himself in the manner to which he has become accustomed.

Baddies John Vernon and Delphine Seyrig offer solid performances (Seyrig offers a little more in a brief disrobing sequence). British stalwarts Janet Suzman, Joss Ackland and the redoubtable Donald Pleasence lend a hand.

The workaday plot received a lukewarm reaction from the media upon the film's release. There are certainly better examples of the genre, but perhaps what endears the film to me most is Roy Budd's score. Possibly taking a tip from Lalo Schifrin's soundtrack to Siegel's earlier Dirty Harry, here Budd moves on from his best known work Get Carter and Fear is the Key, mixing straight-up action soundtracks with heavy orchestral riffage and jazzy interludes. Budd was an amazing talent, his career cut short by sudden death at the age of 46, and this OST is a real gem.

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