Black Windmill is a 1974 film directed by Don Siegel. Siegel was usually an absolutely fantastic director, and this film came at what was arguably his career peak—but Black Windmill is pretty bland. In the three years that preceded this, he did Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Beguiled and Dirty Harry, plus Charley Varrick, which was arguably his masterpiece. His original Invasion of the Body Snatchers was also a great film and for my money still the best version – sorry Philip Kaufman! This film, however, was the first that Siegel shot outside the US, so perhaps he was out of his element to some extent—Siegel’s forte was Westerns and crime movies.
Black Windmill is a spy thriller with Michael Caine. Two schoolboys are kidnapped. One of their fathers (Caine) is a British agent, but no one around him really knows that. They are being held for ransom, and he is trying to get them back. The kidnappers specifically want diamonds, and he finds out that the people he would have expected to have his back don’t—and so he has to take matters into his own hands.
It’s a premise that could set up some tension, but unfortunately, It just kind of plods along. You have a director who is normally good with action, but the pace is all over the place, and the script is pretty weak. Caine has certainly done good spy movies—The Ipcress File is as good if not better than most Bond movies. It wouldn’t have been hard to make this a Harry Palmer movie but it’s based on a pre-existing novel unrelated to the Palmer novels. Donald Pleasance is in it, which is another Bond connection, and there’s even a Sean Connery joke, but it’s just not at that level. Siegel isn’t the kind of director who would have made a Bond film, he was a guy from Chicago who was born in 1912, and started out with noirs. He just wasn’t suited for the material, really, which is a shame.
Caine is perfectly fine, as is Pleasance. Delphine Seyrig is in it as well, a big art-house star of the period. But you’ve seen other versions of this story a thousand times, so it’s just not as good as it could be. Even the interviews on the disc don’t sing its praises.
The Blu-Ray comes in a sleeve with reversible artwork, and includes interviews with actor Joss Ackland and cinematographer Ousama Rawi, plus the trailer.