The Black Windmill

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The Black Windmill is a 1974 British spy thriller film directed by Don Siegel and starring Michael Caine, John Vernon, Janet Suzman and Donald Pleasence. It was produced by Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown.

A British agent’s son is kidnapped and held for a ransom of diamonds. The agent finds out that he can’t even count on the people he thought were on his side to help him, so he decides to track down the kidnappers himself.

In London a British intelligence officer, Major Tarrant, is engaged in an undercover operation to try to infiltrate a gang of arms smugglers – who are selling weapons to terrorists in Northern Ireland. He makes an initial approach with Celia Burrows, a member of the organisation. He arranges to come back the next week to meet her boss. He then heads to a large country house, where the head of MI6 Sir Edward Julyan lives, and makes a report about his operation to Julyan and his direct superior, Cedric Harper. While he is there he receives a telephone call from his wife – who tells him their son David has been taken and she has received a strange phone call. Tarrant reacts calmly, revealing to his superiors only that he has a family problem, and is given permission to leave.

A review in the New York Times gave the film a mixed reaction describing it as a “thoroughly professional job” but criticising its lack of invention and the failure of Caine’s character to demonstrate any emotion about his son’s kidnapping. Donald Pleasence’s performance as the fastidious Harper was praised. It concluded “in the age of Watergate, we need nimbler or more fantastic material to engage us — to grab our attention from wondering what may be on the news tonight.

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