Been going through Michael Caine’s filmography and watching some of the lesser known films on his CV. Like The Magus, an odd reworking of the Orpheus myth based on a novel by John Fowles; a sort of what’s it all about Orphee? James Clavell’s The Last Valley (1971) which puts the differing factions in the 30 Years War in one small town and works as an allegory for all the other periods of religious based conflict. Peeper (1976, Peter Hyams), with Caine as a 40’s private eye in Los Angeles, Harry and Walter Go to New York (76, Mark Rydell) which wastes not only Caine but the talents of Elliot Gould and James Caan. The two Harry Palmer movies Caine made in the 90’s which I’ve always pretended don’t exist. What struck me most was not just the varied career Caine has had but the number of interesting film directors Caine has worked with. People give him stick for some lazy work in the 80’s and 90’s, usually Jaws: The Revenge (Joseph Sargent) but Caine has worked with some of the best around. Just look at the list below.
Cy Endfield, the American émigré who settled in Britain after fleeing the McCarthy witch hunts and directed one of the great British cult movies Hell Drivers (1957) gave Caine his first major role cast against type as a posh army major. Caine then worked with Otto Preminger in Hurry Sundown (1967), made a wordless appearance in Vittorio De Sica’s portmanteau film Woman Times Seven (67), and persuaded the producers of the third Harry Palmer movie Billion Dollar Brain (67) to hire Ken Russell as director. Too Late the Hero (70) for Robert Aldrich. At his best for Mike Hodges in the classic Get Carter (71), and in the underrated Pulp (73). Squaring off against Laurence Olivier in Sleuth (1972) for Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Don Siegel, that most American of directors out of place in a British milieu for the odd thriller The Black Windmill (1974). For another émigré Joseph Losey in The Romantic Englishwoman (1975). Teaming up with Sean Connery in John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King (75). In John Sturges guilty pleasure The Eagle Has Landed (76). As a castaway captured by buccaneers in the Michael Ritchie oddity The Island (1980), surely an influence on the TV series Lost (2004-10). Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill)I can take or leave but he has his admirers. Oliver Stone nabbed Caine for his first proper feature The Hand (1980). Sidney Lumet, Death Trap (1982). John Mackenzie made a decent fist of Graham Greene’s The Honorary Consul (1983). Stanley Donen and John Frankenheimer for Blame it on Rio (1984) and The Holcroft Covenant (85) respectively and both past their best.
Winning an Oscar for Woody Allen’s Hannah and her Sisters (1986). Splendidly nasty as a sleazy gangster in Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa (1986). Peter Bogdanovich, Noises Off. Russell Mulcahy is admittedly an acquired taste and he has made better films than Blue Ice (1991). After a lean period Caine found himself back in fashion during the ‘Cool’ Brittaina era. Matching Jack Nicholson in Bob Rafelson’s Blood and Wine (1997). A menacing villain in Philip Kaufman’s Marquis de Sade movie Quills (2000). Another Grahame Greene adaptation The Quiet American this timefor the gifted but erratic Philip Noyce. A dignified presence in several Christopher Nolan movies. Truly great in Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men.
Not a bad career for a guy who’s often accused of doing any old crap provided the money is right.