The Black Windmill

It’s the first of July, so allow me to welcome myself to the net once again. Avenue Kurtodrome returns for your eyes only and hope to write at least ten updates in this very month. Ambitious? We’ll see…

First up, The Black Windmill, an overlooked film starring Michael Caine and directed by Don Siegel in 1974. Don Siegel is famous for directing Dirty Harry, Caine starred in Get Carter. I’m well aware that both gentlemen did a lot more than just that, but these two films are essential for this mini review.
As is – evidently – a short synopsis. For that, let’s just refer you to the DVD text for this one occasion.

“Michael Caine stars as an espionage agent whose young son is kidnapped. Complicating matters is the fact that the kidnappers (John Vernon and Delphine Seyrig) are Caine’s own colleagues. They want to secure Caine’s aid in rounding up a diamond smuggling ring, and they don’t care who they have to hurt to do so. He agrees to go along, all the while searching for his missing son. Janet Suzman co-stars as Caine’s estranged wife, who is compelled to join him in his search.”

This Region 2 DVD release was long awaited. Not only because the film wasn’t even available in a lot of countries… I managed to get my hands on a Dutch VHS release: the VHS market was caving in and video stores tried to get rid of their stock to make room for the smaller and more popular DVD. At the time I bought this ex-rental, The Black Windmill didn’t even have signs of becoming available on DVD. Sadly, that doesn’t mean I can say I own the film… I own half of the film. The videotape offered the movie in glorious pan and scan whereas the original format is 2.35:1. Highlights of this marvellous idea include a scene where Caine and Seyrig are chatting on a terrass. You can still see Caine’s nose and arm, but Seyrig is minimalised to only her voice. For about half a minute, you’re staring at a table. Enjoy!

Hence, I can only offer you half a review for a movie I decided to give half of the possible points. Maybe I would’ve given this film more than 5/10 if I’d seen it in its original ratio, we’ll never know. However, I can tell you that I found some scenes devoid of suspense: the film dragged itself to the next scenes on a couple of occasions and some scenes which should’ve been more compelling, fall flat on their arse. At one point, Caine disguises his voice and makes a call to a bank, pretending to be his boss. I literally felt nothing during this scene: no suspense, no cheering for the clever hero.

Possibly the best thing about this film is the cast. Apart from Caine, you can also look at Delphine Seyrig (Daughters of Darkness) and Donald Pleasance (Halloween).  A good director and a great cast, yet I felt empty-handed at the end of the film. Maybe all the quality was hidden in the half of the film I couldn’t see.

The Region 2 release has several audio options (English, Spanish, German, French, Italian and Russian) as well as many optional subtitles (English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish). You can still obtain the film at Xploited Cinema (link).


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