The Black Windmill (1974)
By the time director Don Siegel filmed this British production his place was secure in cinema history. He was responsible for giving us gritty gangster flicks like The Line-up, a sci-fi classic in 1956, Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry. This time out he is working with Michael Caine who is cast as an MI-6 agent working under Donald Pleasence’s command. The plot mixes espionage with a diamond smuggling ring led by a very intimdating John Vernon who has kidnapped Cain’s son in order to secure the diamonds. If that’s not bad enough for Caine, it get’s worse when the authorities led by Pleasence won’t cough up the ransom. Leaving Caine little choice he becomes a law unto himself hunting down Vernon and whoever else may be in on the kidnapping as well as those attempting to implicate Caine himself in the crime. As is to be expected from a 1970’s movie of this genre it gets violent at times as Caine goes about his business.
Siegel was on a great run over the past few years from Madigan in 1968 to a quartet of Eastwood films and the solid Charley Varrick the year before this effort. From here he would go on to direct John Wayne’s swan song The Shootist and work with Donald Pleasence once again in Telefon. Michael Caine was in one of his many in demand periods starring in a steady stream of leading roles throughout the 1970’s ranging from violent efforts such as Get Carter to military films like The Eagle Has Landed. He’s never really been out of work since even though he did indeed appear in Jaws The Revenge.
Donald Pleasence is one of those actors that knows how to steal a scene. They are always fiddling with something when not the focal point of the camera. He was a very gifted actor and scored many memorable roles throughout the years and even when the material wasn’t the best he was always fun to watch. Turning up for his first feature film role we have young John Ryhs-Davies as a short lived gang member. As for trivia we get to see Michael Caine outside a movie house playing The Battle of Britain which is a 1969 film he appeared in. This is pretty much a forgotten Siegel film but worth a look if you come across it.