The Curator of Schlock #386 by Jeff Shuster
The Black Windmill
Michael Caine versus Donald Pleasence’s mustache.
I had blacked out after seeing the denizens of Mooseville devour a roasted kangaroo right in front of me. I came to.
Apparently, Larry was an undercover agent working for the Canadian government. He was trying to uncover an illegal kangaroo slaughterhouse. I panicked.
Then Larry told me the kangaroo I saw was not Edwige and that she was still alive.
— To be continued.
This week’s movie is 1974’s The Black Windmill from director Don Siegel. I think I was waxing nostalgic for the trio of Harry Palmer movies I watched a couple years back. The Black Windmill is not in the Harry Palmer series, but Michael Caine plays a middle class spy in the employ of Her Majesty’s Government, so close enough.
The movie starts with two young English schoolboys exploring an abandoned military base with their toy plane. Two RAF officers grab them and drive them to one of the abandoned buildings, chiding the boys for trespassing. A man named McKee (John Vernon) drugs the boys and has them tossed in the back of a car. Turns out he isn’t really an RAF officer. The whole thing was a ruse to kidnap the son of a prominent British spy.
That spy is a Major Tarrant played by Michael Caine. He’s busy investigating arms smugglers selling weapons to the IRA. He meets a woman named Celia Burrows (Delphine Seyrig) who tells him to stop by next week to meet the big boss. That big boss must be McKee because he’s hiding out in that house and one gets the impression that he and Celia must be ten steps ahead of Tarrant.
Tarrant meets up with his wife, Alex (Janet Suzman), who’s in a panic over a call she’s expecting regarding their son. When the call comes in, it’s McKee. He says he’s kidnapped Tarrant’s son and he’s got some demands, first of which is to talk to Tarrant’s boss, Cedric Harper (Donald Pleasance). McKee will call back at 7 PM and Harper had better answer or else bad things will happen to the boy. Tarrant relays this request to Harper who agrees to take the call.
I don’t like Harper. The man seems more interested in the latest item from Q Branch, a travel bag that can shoot missiles, than the fate of a child. When Harper takes the call from McKee, he keeps fiddling with his mustache the whole time. You’re a grown man. Don’t fiddle with your mustache! It’s revealed that McKee wants a bag of diamonds that Harper has sealed away in a vault. Tarrant is supposed to travel alone to France and deliver them. Harper says no and gives Tarrant his condolences on the fate of his boy.
Tarrant has been surprisingly stoic during this whole affair. His wife is in pieces over the kidnapping, but Tarrant is strangely unaffected. Still, the decision by his boss to leave his son to a horrible fate, motivates Tarrant to steal the diamonds and confront the bad guys. A wine barrel gets blown up and McKee takes a bunch of bullets to his crotch area. Yeah, seeing John Vernon get machine gunned in the crotch almost made the movie for me. Almost.
Jeff Shuster (episode 47, episode 102, episode 124, episode 131, episode 284, episode 441, episode 442, episode 443, episode 444, episode 450, episode 477, episode 491, episode 492, episode 493, episode 495, and episode 496) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.