Remembering some retro reels from Caine from the Seventies and Eighties…
Over many, many years in show business Michael Caine has starred with four men who played Bond. These movies are not them.
Since I was a wee girl, Michael Caine has always been there like an avuncular figure to me – not a zany kind of uncle like Bill Nighy – but one I can always depend on being there and giving a solid performance or support. This to his acting contemporaries or those newer to the profession in just over 60 years of films and TV. These are just a handful of Caine’s performances that I grew up with.
Comedies, drama, murder mystery, thriller, romance, disaster movies and spy films he’s done them all. And regulars to this blog know I’ve reviewed more than a few of them…
The Black Windmill (1974)
The Black Windmill Trailer 1974, Video Detective
Everyone (or maybe just me) remembers their first introduction to Michael Caine and The Black Windmill was mine. Although since then I’ve read the book of the film – as it was the film of the book – Seven Days to a Killing (title in wee font, film title in big groovy font).
I basically had the choice of reading this or a Maeve Binchy book on a wee holiday break. This won easily, as was a book blast from the film past I wanted to relive in my head. It also had a natty picture of Caine on the cover (and surprisingly not a windmill. In silhouette.)
I sadly haven’t seen the film since my first viewing way back in the eighties. So I completely forgot that Donald Pleasence and Joss Ackland were in it. And even more surprising this is the second of three films from the seventies that he starred in with Pleasance. The others are The Eagle Has Landed (1976) and Kidnapped (1971).
Tells of a British Intelligence officer, John Tarrant (Caine) whose young son gets kidnapped and Tarrant doesn’t know if he can even trust his MI6 workmates. Especially as the ransom is half a million pounds in uncut diamonds, which “coincidently” is how MI6 is funding his latest operation. Can he really trust his British Intelligence colleagues?
And can they trust him, with his boss, Harper (Pleasence) convinced Tarrant is behind the kidnapping? And what have the windmills to do with the plot? Is that a hovercraft? Did anyone care? Surprisingly, this film was reported to be a flop despite it being directed by Don Siegel of Dirty Harry (1971) fame. Despite having Caine in it. And Pleasence. And it’s not even a guilty pleasure for me (or as far as I know bought Caine a house). Anyway, the scene with his character’s son’s bicycle lying on the ground after the kidnapping with the wheels turning still haunts me. As does the theme, despite their cool credits.
Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979)
Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979) Official Trailer #1 – Michael Caine Movie, Movieclips Trailer Vault
Sweet Liberty (1986)
Sweet Liberty 1986 TV trailer, robatsea2009
Another one from the Eighties, this satirical comedy was written, directed and starred Alan Alda. Also with an all-star eighties cast including Lois Chiles, Michelle Pfeiffer, Bob Hoskins and Lilian Gish. It tells of a professor of history, Michael Burgess who writes a well-researched novel about The American Revolution.
He sells the film rights only to see it turned into a Hollywood bonkbuster production. And nothing like his original book and its history much to his obvious annoyance. His home town is taken over for the filming with Caine playing a womaniser of a leading man, Elliott James and his leading lady Faith (Pfeiffer). This then leads to romantic complications of all sorts for the cast… and also behind the scenes, Burgess has troubles with his elderly mother, the leading lady and his girlfriend.
Educating Rita (1983)
“Educando a Rita” (educating rita) 1983 trailer VO, decine21
Educating Rita (1983) is one of my favourite Willy Russell plays that came to the big screen with Caine and Julie Walters in this almost My Fair Lady (1964) adaptation. Caine stars a jaded, university professor Frank (Caine) with drinking and relationship problems.
He is assigned to work with Rita (Walters), a working-class Liverpudlian hairdresser who wants to improve herself by studying literature. What follows is a lovely platonic relationship between the two, where she feels more distant from her friends and partner who discourages her from wanting to have a baby instead.
However in contrast Frank, through his belief in Rita and giving her the confidence she sorely needs, supports and encourages her in her university course. In turn, Rita encourages him in returning to his poetry writing and she reignites his liking for literature. And gives him a decent haircut from that famous 80s mop.
There are some wonderfully fun comic moments and support from Maureen Lipman and Michael Williams. And Caine and Walters have great fun and supportive chemistry too in this British comedy, Walters’ debut. Both the leads won Golden Globes and Oscar Best Actress and Actor nominations. However, it all could have been so different, it was interesting to learn that this could have had a believable American cast too, with Paul Newman and Dolly Parton as the leads.
Water – Trailer, Umbrella Entertainment
Set on the Caribbean Island of Cascara, a (fictional) British colony complete with flag, salute and governor. It tells how the island lives a quiet and peaceful existence until an oil rig strikes sparkling water with a laxative effect. And then everyone who’s anyone takes an interest in the island including the Cascara Liberation Front, Downing Street and the French, Cubans and Americans.
Michael Caine stars here as the Island Governor – complete with plumed hat – whose previously quiet life is thrown into chaos with Brenda Vaccaro, as his embarrassment of a wife. Both are supported by a who’s who of British comedy including Leonard Rossiter (as a British minister), Fulton McKay (as a constantly drunk reverend) and Billy Connolly (as the constantly singing member of the island’s liberation front). And lovely Valerie Perrine pops up too…
Both Connolly and the film’s writer Dick Clement praise Caine for his support and for his performance in this movie respectively. This also was a parody, as a tongue in cheek satirical reference to the then invasion of the Falkland Islands. And it even has a cameo from Margaret Thatcher, with Maureen Lipman, Michael’s co-star in Educating Rita making an appearance as the then Prime Minister. It really is a treat and one on the to review pile.
And these are just a few of the many, many Michael Caine films I’ve seen back then and there are many, many more.. in fact, you don’t have to be a Sleuth (1972) to find The Swarm (1978) of his movies, but Victory (1981) will be yours if you add Michael Caine to my search engine… where you’ll hit the Bullseye (1990) and find my reviews giving Michael Caine a Hand (1981) in posts from Blame it on Rio (1984) to X, Y and Zee (1972). So Surrender (1987) to your Caine guilty pleasures, and watch and learn how he’s Dressed to
Kill thrill in more than one performance.
This post was added to my 2018 blogathon celebrating the work of Michael Caine. Other reviews with this cast include Michael Caine in The Swarm, Bullseye, X, Y and Zee and The Fourth Protocol. Donald Pleasence starred in I Don’t Want to Be Born, The Eagle Has Landed and Halloween. Telly Savalas in Buona Sera Mrs Campbell, The Cartier Affair and more. Shirley Knight in As Good as it Gets. Sally Field and Peter Boyle star in Surrender with Caine, and Boyle stars in Outland. Michelle Pfeiffer stars in Grease 2, The Witches of Eastwick and more. Lois Chiles in Dallas and Bob Hoskins in Mermaids. Julie Walters stars in One Chance and Billy Connolly stars in Columbo. Brenda Vaccaro in Airport 77. Valerie Perrine’s documentary is Valerie, A Portrait of Valerie Perrine and she also stars in Superman. Maureen Lipman appears in National Lampoons European Vacation.