(US - 1974)
Directed by Don Siegel. Written by Leigh Vance. Cast: Michael Caine, Donald Pleasence, Delphine Seyrig, Clive Revill, Janet Suzman, John Vernon, Joss Ackland, Catherine Schell, Joseph O'Conor, Denis Quilley, Derek Newark, Edward Hardwicke, Maureen Pryor, Molly Urquhart, Hermione Baddeley, Paul Moss, John Rhys-Davies. (PG, 106 mins)
"If there are things about me that you hate, Alex...be grateful for them now."
After setting up shop at Universal in the early 1970s, the producing team of Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown immediately knocked it out of the park by shepherding the Oscar-winning 1973 hit THE STING. The same year, they also produced the cult horror film SSSSSSS, and in 1974, gave the green light to Steven Spielberg's big-screen directing debut THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS. Impressed with the young director, they also produced his next film, JAWS, which set new standards for nationwide release strategies and defined the concept of the "summer blockbuster." In the midst of all this massive success for the Zanuck/Brown duo was 1974's THE BLACK WINDMILL, a kidnapping thriller that completely bombed with critics and audiences. Directed by the great Don Siegel (best known for the original 1956 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and 1971's DIRTY HARRY), THE BLACK WINDMILL was based on Clive Egleton's 1973 novel Seven Days to a Killing, and was adapted by Leigh Vance, a veteran TV writer and producer whose credits included THE SAINT, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, MANNIX, CANNON, BARETTA, FANTASY ISLAND, and HART TO HART.
JANUARY MAN of its day, and "quirky" is not a word you'd imagine using to describe an ostensibly gritty early 1970s kidnapping thriller directed by Don Siegel and starring Michael Caine. It's not difficult to see why it tanked and is largely forgotten today, and while it's a minor footnote in the storied careers of Siegel, Caine, and Zanuck/Brown, it has its moments and is worth seeing for completists. And if you're a Donald Pleasence fan, well, you've definitely been deprived of something special with his work here.