TV Cream

Films: I is for...

Ipcress File, The

We read Michael Caine’s autobiography years ago when it came out and was big enough news to get him a spot on The Late Late Show (alright, our Mum got it for Christmas) and it was pretty poor consisting mostly of stories that finished in the manner of “…and I never stayed at a YMCA/fought in an international conflict/ate at Danny Kaye’s House/drank Nescafe ever again” as if any of these things mattered to anyone. We’ve always had a problem with Caine, of course, as he is one of that tribe that likes to complain that he doesn’t get enough recognition in Britain and is going to America instead. Millions of pounds an army of fans and a knighthood? Yes, unpopularity is a heavy burden to bear. And we recall as well how in, oooooh, about 1990 there was a TV show called The Trouble With Michael Caine and in that he said, in front of an invited audience of fans, friends and sycophants, that being a struggling actor is so hard that no-one else could begin to understand that level of frustration. Not the homeless or handicapped or anyone, seemingly. None of this has anything to do with why we asked you here, of course, but you know what this Harry Palmer ‘working class spy’ bobbins is about by now, surely?



  1. Sidney Balmoral James

    May 2, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Glad I’m not the only one to remember that Trouble with Michael Caine programme, which was very strange scheduling in 1990, or whenever, as Caine’s career was arguably down the toilet, despite his Oscar, and it was some years before his career resurgence with The Cider House Rules and then every bloody Christopher Nolan film. It included a live spitting image sketch of Caine and Bob Hoskins, the premise of which was that Maurice would take any role he was offered (which I’d have thought was something of a given for all but the wealthiest / fussiest actors – never turn down work!). Hoskins turned up at the event with a beard, which he’d not had before, so they had to improvise with a hastily stuck on beard on the puppet. I can’t remember any other similar tributes from this era, apart from the disastrous 1988 Bafta tribute to Dirk Bogarde – who, in a far from gracious mood, sat on stage throughout and made snide comments, so it had to be cut severely for showing on television.

    • Glenn Aylett

      May 2, 2021 at 4:14 pm

      OK, he appeared in some stinkers when he went into tax exile, but as he needed the money and Hollywood were willing to cough up the millions, you can’t blame Caine for taking the money. Yet amid Jaws 3 and Bullseye, he still managed to make Educating Rita, The Fourth Protocol and Escape to Victory, so all wasn’t lost, but I will admit the period the late seventies to the early nineties weren’t his best. Certainly after his golden era from Zulu to A Bridge Too Far, Caine did go into a period of making films that were hit and miss.

      • Sidney Balmoral James

        May 2, 2021 at 7:26 pm

        He was at rock bottom in 1990 – Shock to the System, Mr. Destiny, and Bullseye, probably as poor a trio of films as any actor of his stature could appear in. In fact, it’s a very odd filmography all told, mainly due to his astonishing work rate – about sixty films between 1968 and say 1995 (for comparison, Warren Beatty made all of twelve films in that time, Robert Redford about twenty three)! Was any star actor busier? – perhaps Gerard Depardieu, another one who has appeared in a huge number of films, and has accordingly, got a lot of dross on his CV.

        • THX 1139

          May 2, 2021 at 10:19 pm

          Strongly disagree on A Shock to the System, he’s fantastic in that, his flair for playing complete bastards was not as utilised as often as it should have been, and he’s fascinatingly vile in it. Maybe too much – it was a total flop, now a cult movie (among the few who remember it). Bibbity bobbity boom!

  2. Richardpd

    May 2, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    Blame It on Rio is another awkward to watch film he was in.

    • THX 1139

      May 2, 2021 at 10:23 pm

      Apparently the idea was to update The Graduate for the 80s with a gender swapped version. But even Class, which was a rip-off of The Graduate from the same time, looked icky. Some ideas just have their window of opportunity, and then they’re well out of fashion. Does anyone like the Stifler’s Mom joke from American Pie anymore (the plot’s last gasp in the mainstream, I think)?

  3. Sidney Balmoral James

    May 3, 2021 at 9:07 am

    Blame it on Rio is a remake of Un momnent d’egarement – one of a number of charmless American remakes of French films (see also The Woman in Red, Cousins). Surprised they didn’t make a US version of Le Genou de Claire, call it ‘Nice Legs’, and have Walter Mattheau in the Jean-Claude Brialy role.

    • Richardpd

      May 3, 2021 at 10:53 am

      Three Men & a Baby was a remake of a French film that worked out well.

  4. Glenn Aylett

    May 3, 2021 at 10:38 am

    What does everyone think of The Swarm, Caine’s first film he made in tax exile? I think it’s better than the critics made out and the concept of killer bees terrorising parts of America isn’t too far from the truth, as there are bees like this in Texas and hornets in parts of Asia that kill hundreds every year. Always find the scene very scary where the boy has to hide in the Ford Mustang that is being swarmed by hundreds of angry bees.

    • THX 1139

      May 3, 2021 at 10:49 am

      As far as I know, bees have never derailed a train or blown up a nuclear power station, though. It was a laughing stock in 1978, but it’s more enjoyable than Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, I suppose. There are plenty of funny lines: “There is no bee in this room”, “Smells like bananas!”, “How lucky I am!”, “I never thought it would be the bees, they’ve always been our friends”, etc.

      “Bees, millions of bees, agh”

      • Sidney Balmoral James

        May 3, 2021 at 12:12 pm

        The Swarm is rubbish, although it looks like a masterpiece next to When Time Ran Out, which Paul Newman should have been ashamed to have been in. Are there any truly great disaster movies? Even Towering Inferno is pretty dire (and rather horrifying, with people falling out of windows, or burning to death – great family entertainment). I suppose Poseidon Adventure has its fans, but again, it’s a pretty depressing watch in which almost the entire cast dies in arbitrary fashion, although Gene Hackman is very good.

        • THX 1139

          May 3, 2021 at 12:53 pm

          Disaster movies are like horror movies, you watch them for the scary situations and to see who will survive. There’s no way of explaining the appeal of either to those who can only see sadism when they look at them.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    May 3, 2021 at 8:28 pm

    @ Sidney, Earthquake is quite good about an Earthquake that destroys LA, maybe prophecising the Californian earthquake of 1994 by twenty years. Then you have from the same era the aforementioned Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure and The Cassandra Crossing about a plague on a train.
    Also killer bees destroying a train, I think what happens in The Swarm is the bees get into the driver’s cab and kill the driver, causing the train to crash, same as the power station is invaded by the bees and the engineers are all killed. Far fetched, but you assume they nest at certain places and get disturbed and swarm.

  6. Richardpd

    May 3, 2021 at 10:15 pm

    The 1970s disaster movies seemed to get more & more far fetched as the decade went on.

    The Airport ones are a good indicator of this, Airport 79 (aka Airport 80: The Concorde)is laughably bad.

    Luckily Airplane! managed to send up the genre up so well it was impossible to take them seriously for years after.

    • Sidney Balmoral James

      May 5, 2021 at 7:29 pm

      The Concorde they used for filming Airport 80 was unfortunately the very one which crashed in 2000. I was excluding Juggernaut from the genre, perhaps that was cheating, because it’s ace. I also have a soft spot for Rollercoaster (like Earthquake, originally shown in Sensurround), which includes an appearance by Sparks of all people – not alas in their Kimono My House prime but when trying – vainly – to make it in the States.

  7. Droogie

    May 4, 2021 at 12:43 am

    Juggernaut is a wonderful disaster movie. Maybe because it swaps Hollywood schmaltz for downbeat British 70’s cynicism, but it’s still a cracking taut thriller ( and Roy Kinnear should’ve won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as the ship’s entertainment officer.)
    The Swarm is trash, but entertaining trash. Watching Caine parade around in a safari suit saying lines like ““We’ve been fighting a losing battle against the insects for fifteen years, but I never thought I’d see the final face-off in my lifetime. And I never dreamed, that it would turn out to be the bees. They’ve always been our friend!” is a lot more fun than watching Hannah And Her Sisters.

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