Archive for the ‘Michael Caine’ Tag

The Swarm (1978)   5 comments

french swarm

Mile by mile, city by city it moves leaving in its wake a path of destruction.

The Pentagon calls Major General Slater (Richard Widmark) and Major Baker (Bradford Dillman) to investigate the invasion of a secret ICBM site in Texas. They arrive at the base to find the entire crew dead except for Dr. Brad Crane (Michael Caine). Crane explains that the men died, not from enemy fire or poison gas dropped by the Soviets, but from bee stings. Crane sends for Dr. Walter Krim (Henry Fonda), beeologist, who claims the war they’ve been expecting has arrived and sets to work doing autopsies and testing venom.

And you thought ants could spoil your picnic.

In this man vs. nature film, the military refuse to believe the scientists or do very much until some picnickers die violently at the hands of bees. Do bees even have hands? Then bees overrun a Mayberry-like town filled with old Hollywood stars which puts a damper on Olivia de Havilland’s annual flower festival. She and her suitors Fred MacMurray and Ben Johnson along with the rest of the town board a train to look for a town without bees. Cue Gene Pitney.

Meanwhile, back in the lab, Dr. Krim experiments with his bee venom antidote and we meet Richard Chamberlain and José Ferrer for some reason.

Yeah, probably not.

Scientists and airmen make plans, bees foil those plans, and things blow up…a lot. No one knows what to do until Dr. Crane stops ogling Katharine Ross for a second. Oh, she’s in this film too. Crane has a weird and brilliant idea ‘that just might work’. More stuff happens. The end.

Irwin Allen, directed The Swarm and directed and/or produced many of the best disaster films of the 1970s. He produced The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, The Night the Bridge Fell (?), and The Swarm with big budgets and big, star-studded casts.

From Errol Flynn to this?

Along with the actors I mentioned, The Swarm also stars Lee Grant, Slim Pickens, Patty Duke, Cameron Mitchell, and Alejandro Rey. I enjoy seeing so many A-listers all in one place, but I have to wonder if the Screen Actors’ Guild had a 2-for-1 sale or something. Jerry Goldsmith wrote the music and Stirling Silliphant and Arthur Herzog wrote the screen play based on Herzog’s novel.

I like The Swarm. It has a 70s dream cast, decent bee effects, and fun dialogue. At one point a helicopter pilot screams “Bees, bees, millions of bees!” right before crashing into a mountain. Dr. Crane remarks after a failed attempt to destroy the bees that “They seem to sense it’s something that will kill them.” Really, Brad? Later Richard Chamberlain says, “They’re brighter than we thought.” Henry Fonda replies, “They always are.” Wise words, Hank.

The film also boasts Bradford Dillman as an Air Force major trying desperately to decide what sort of accent he should use. He tries several so it becomes sort of a game to predict how he’ll sound next. A bunch of guys get covered in bees then catch fire and fall off buildings which is always fun. People who are stung also see other people as giant bees. Maybe the bees ate the brown acid.

four bee
Second word. Sounds like me?

Anyway, if you like 1970s stars, flame throwers, or bees, you’re in luck. The Swarm has all those and Michael Caine emoting all over the place and saying “Four minutes to flaming.” It’s a lot of fun.

I watched a making of segment on the DVD and apparently Irwin Allen took care of the actors and stunt people. He spends a lot of production time making sure they have the proper equipment and checking their condition after each shot. Fire and live bees, after all.

Oh I almost forgot the disclaimer.

I had to take a screenshot of this.

Some of my best friends are bees.

Get Carter (1971)   Leave a comment

Get Carter 1971 movie poster

Jack Carter (Michael Caine) hears of his brother’s death and heads up to Newcastle from London where he works as a mob hit man. As he speaks to his brother’s friends and coworkers, Carter suspects the car accident that killed his brother Frank was no accident at all. Inconsistencies in people’s stories along with their unwillingness to talk about Frank’s last day convince him to look deeper. As Carter digs we see how much the local gang wants him to stop looking and go home to London. We also see how ruthless he is. He doesn’t care who gets hurt in his quest for answers about a brother he hasn’t seen in years.

We also get some idea of why Carter left for London in the first place. He rose above this second-tier town. Seedy and low-rent, Newcastle’s bars, betting parlors, and rooming houses serve as the perfect backdrop for the story of a pretty serious bastard picking through the low-lifes to find the lowest one. You don’t love Carter, but he’s fun to watch. He maneuvers around the local thugs like a sort of hoodlum James Bond. Violent and single-minded, Carter has no qualms about using his friends to get the answers he wants. An interesting scene in a local bar gives some insight into Carter’s personality and the atmosphere in Newcastle. A pub singer kisses a male customer as part of her act and a jealous woman attacks her. The two women roll on the floor fighting as the patrons look on, cheering. It’s one of the few times in the film when Carter smiles.

The character of Carter and the story “Jack’s Return Home” by Ted Lewis appealed to Michael Caine and his business partner, Michael Klinger, so they bought the rights to it and chose Mike Hodges (Terminal Man, Croupier) to direct. Caine had been searching for a vehicle since he found his last few films disappointing. He had to be happy with this one. Get Carter showcases Caine’s assets spectacularly. He gets to be crafty, sardonic, and even cruel as he muscles his way toward the real story behind his brother’s death. This is Caine at his best. He outsmarts the goons hired to rough him up while throwing out great lines. After going to the wrong man’s house, he attempts to leave quietly. The man starts to fight with Caine/Carter who says, “You’re a big man, but you’re out of shape. With me it’s a full-time job. Behave yourself.” Carter slugs him and leaves. Even while chasing a man in order to kill him, Carter has some great lines. As the man falters trying to escape Carter says, “You couldn’t win an egg and spoon race, [name*].”

I loved Get Carter. It had a strong story and an incredible performance by Caine. The direction was no-nonsense and very Don Siegel-like which suited the material perfectly. I haven’t read the story so I don’t know how much material Mike Hodges added when he wrote the screenplay, but choice bits abound. During one scene, Carter has phone sex with his mistress Britt Ekland while staring at his landlady. The camera stays on Carter in the background on the phone and the landlady in the foreground in a rocking chair. As the conversation gets more heated, the rocking quickens. Later, Carter has sex with the landlady under a sampler that reads ‘What Would Jesus Say’. Priceless.   BAFTA nominated Ian Hendry for best supporting actor, but skipped Michael Caine entirely. Since he dominates the film, his omission stuns me. Caine acts in every scene and I couldn’t take my eyes off him for a second. The plot, atmosphere, supporting cast, and especially Michael Caine’s performance makes Get Carter one of the best crime-related films I’ve seen.
*including the name would be a spoiler

get carter still
“Alfie who?”



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