A Movie A Day: THE HOLCROFT COVENANT (1985)
Assumption, as they say in my profession, is the mother of fuck-up.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
We follow Victoria Tennant over from yesterday’s BEST SELLER to today’s Robert Ludlum adaptation THE HOLCROFT COVENANT starring Michael Caine and directed by one Mr. John Frankenheimer.
I liked this movie a whole helluva lot more than I thought I would. Reading talkback and checking the IMDB rating put me in the mindset that it was a dull, mildly interesting movie, a paycheck grabbing phone-in from Caine. Maybe it was my low expectations that helped me enjoy this movie a whole lot, but no matter why I didn’t find this movie to be dismissable at all.
I will say that the movie doesn’t make much goddamn sense. I think that’s the point, never to know who is good or bad or neither, but about halfway through I decided to stop trying to figure out which hitman belonged to which character and which belonged to some other and which of those men were the good guys or the bad guys and just concentrated on Michael Caine.
Caine is great in this movie. He’s never less than great, even in JAWS: THE REVENGE. I have fond memories of Hoagie, even if that is one of the most god-awful studio films I’ve ever seen.
But Caine is great here… his character, that of Noel Holcroft, is kind of excellent. He’s an architect whose father was a Nazi, but he never knew him. His mother took him and ran when he was an infant.
When Caine is thrown into this convoluted espionage thriller involving a letter his father had written to him (and a fund he’s to chair inheriting some $4.2 billion dollars) he can’t really handle it. He’s not built for this role. He’s no Jack Ryan, he’s just a city guy. He can’t use a gun, killing isn’t even an option and suddenly he’s surrounded by almost cartoonishly over-the-top mystery characters contradicting each other.
The Holcroft Covenant of the title is what each of three heirs has to sign to get the Nazi booty, with the caveat that they accept this treasure as a committee with a goal to redistribute and try to make-up for the wrong-doing of the Third Reich. But is the covenant a lie? Is it the truth? Some groups wants Caine to sign it, others think it’s a horrible idea, always with a threat of the rising of a Fourth Reich.
Sure, Caine’s casting doesn’t really make much sense (a German born, American citizen), but goddamn it Caine is so likable at his fish-out-of-water schtick that I loved him in this movie. Word has it that James Caan was originally cast in this movie (casting that makes much more sense), but that he walked off the movie just before shooting.
Next to Caine, the other main reason to watch this flick is Bernard Hepton as a character named Leighton, who claims to be an MI5 agent. This dude is awesome. He’s an older gentleman, world-wise and a huge, huge smartass. The subhead comes from him. Every time he’s on the screen I was laughing.
By the time the ending rolls around, everything was clear and anything that was still overly convoluted just didn’t seem to matter much to me.
Frankheimer’s direction I found to be great in terms of framing and the type of coverage he got… he makes real good and sparing use of close-ups, for instance… but the cinematography by Gerry Fisher is just okay, which is a little surprising because I love his work on HIGHLANDER and EXORCIST III. It just seems overly bright and flat… no depth of field… I wish it was a little more cinematic is all.
Final Thoughts: Despite it being a tad untidy, I very much enjoyed this film, mostly for two incredibly likable central performances. But I did have an exceptionally good day today, so maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to hate on this movie, but I doubt it. I think if it had dragged or sucked I would have hated it more because it was putting a downer on my day. So, what the hell? I liked it.
Here’s what we have lined up for the next week:
Thursday, November 20th: BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1962)
Friday, November 21st: WHITE HEAT (1949)
Saturday, November 22nd: MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES (1957)
Sunday, November 23rd: EACH DAWN I DIE (1938)
Monday, November 24th: THE BRIDE CAME C.O.D. (1941)
Tuesday, November 25th: THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936)
Wednesday, November 26th: BULLETS OR BALLOTS (1936)
Tomorrow we follow Frankenheimer back some 20 plus years to BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ starring Burt Lancaster! Should be a good one!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow
October 27th: I, Madman
October 28th: Return to Horror High
October 29th: Die, Monster, Die
October 30th: Epidemic
October 31st: Student Bodies
November 1st: Black Widow
November 2nd: The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
November 3rd: Flying Tigers
November 4th: Executive Action
November 5th: The Busy Body
November 6th: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World
November 7th: Libeled Lady
November 8th: Up The River
November 9th: Doctor Bull
November 10th: Judge Priest
November 11th: Ten Little Indians
November 12th: Murder On The Orient Express
November 13th: Daniel
November 14th: El Dorado
November 15th: The Gambler
November 16th: Once Upon A Time In America
November 17th: Salvador
November 18th: Best Seller
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Nov. 20, 2008, 2:14 a.m. CST
first,I say, first bitches! myeah myeah. Edward G Robinson, see?
Nov. 20, 2008, 2:22 a.m. CST
Glad to know their is someone else out there who found this movie enjoyable.
Nov. 20, 2008, 2:25 a.m. CST
by The Eskimo
...but never bothered to pick it up. I will watch it now. Love Michale Caine. Good review.
Nov. 20, 2008, 2:36 a.m. CST
you just HAVE to see him in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and its sequel Smiley's People. He plays a pretty similar, deliciously smarmy role (which gets flipped on its head by the time Smiley's comes along). Without a doubt, the best spy movies ever made...and they're not even movies!
Nov. 20, 2008, 3:50 a.m. CST
no one should ever have to apologize for liking a movie. It doesn't mattere if everyone else hated a movie or it was the biggest piece of trash on the planet, someone is going to hate it and someone is going to enjoy it. I have friends that can't underestand why I love Evil Dead and I can't understand how they can't love Evil Dead, for example. Everyone has their own tastes and likes and dislikes. you gave a good defense why you liked it, that's all I ask
Nov. 20, 2008, 4:52 a.m. CST
It has one of the greatest performances by Bogart (my favorite actor) EVER. Every little movement the guy does has meaning. I ADORE that movie..fell in love with it and really kind of slapped me in the face and made me track down every movie Bogart ever made.
Nov. 20, 2008, 6:26 a.m. CST
Not a big name writer, but still always interesting and entertaining. At least read "The Beasts of Valhalla" if you get the chance.
Nov. 20, 2008, 7:40 a.m. CST
The Fourth Protoco starring Caine, with Brosnan along for the ride. It's a good suspenseful thriller from a Frederick Forsythe novel I believe. It's a good companion piece to this one.
Nov. 20, 2008, 8:55 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
I've never seen all of The Hand either. There was one he did a few years ago that was practically DTV. It starred him, and Tilda Swinton. I think it was called The List. I could check on IMDB, but bottom line is that was a great flick about an aging Nazi war criminal on the run.
Nov. 20, 2008, 10:32 a.m. CST
You're telling me Penn didn't come up with that? Next I'll find out Travis Dane didn't come up with "chance favors the prepared mind".
Nov. 20, 2008, 3:50 p.m. CST
Saw it a year ago, and I don't remember too much other then it was a little underwhelming. I think I was hoping for something on the level of the Odessa File (love that frickin movie). So expectations may have been an issue.
Nov. 20, 2008, 8:38 p.m. CST
the man could do these kinds of thrillers in his sleep! <p> I admit it's been a while since I saw this but I remember it had no problems fitting into the genre quite nicely - actually, being Ludlum and all it's probably about due for the remake treatment! <p> maybe James Caan will rethink? <p> maybe they'll get Jason Statham?
Nov. 21, 2008, 3:38 a.m. CST
Especially from the early days-are you finding yourself seeing how great guys like Michael Caine, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne really were as actors? Are you finding yourself learning how Ford, Capra, Hawkins and the other directors really told their story well?<P> You are in for some real treats this week. When I was younger, I watched this show called "Matinee at the Bijou." It ran every Saturday afternoon on PBS and recreated the glory days of Hollywood movie going experience. The Shorts, the Ads the Cartoon The Serials and movies.<p> It wasn't the best stuff..some of it was god awful.<p> And because of it, I appreciated James Cagney the other greats that much more.
Nov. 21, 2008, 10:34 a.m. CST
was absolutely the best ever, check it out if you get the chance.
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