Michael Caine, it would seem, spent the eighties trolling Kim Philby. THE FOURTH PROTOCOL opens with Philby being shot in the head (shortly before he died for real). But in THE JIGSAW MAN, Caine plays “Philip Kimberley,” a former head of British Intelligence who defected to the USSR — but now, by crikey, he’s back!

Confusingly, characters keep talking about Burgess, MacLean, and the actual Kim Philby, as if this Phyllis Crumbly wasn’t a fictional analogue. True, in CITIZEN KANE there is a fleeting reference to Hearst, of which I suppose somebody would complain “It took me right out of the film!”, but Charles Foster Kane was called Charles Foster Kane, not Hilford Random Wurst.

This is a true late film — Terence Young (DR. NO) only made one more, screenwriter Jo Eisinger (THE SLEEPING CITY) made none. Susan George’s movie career was prematurely winding down and the promising new field of horse homeopathy was opening up for her. Laurence Olivier managed three more features, but is looking his age, and though Charles Gray would be with us for quite a while, he didn’t make many more movies either. Freddie Francis shot it.

So it’s a shame it’s such a terrible film. I mean, wow.

Frill Quimby gets plastic surgery that turns him into Michael Caine, who returns to Blighty in search of some boring documents. Supposedly working for the Russkis, Crim Filbski de-defects and goes rogue, hunted by both sides.

This man is about to become Michael Caine.

The opening scene, in which Clem Fably isn’t Michael Caine yet, but has Michael Caine’s completely distinctive voice, is an immediate lost opportunity — instead of teasing us with the (quite good) dub-job, the movie has Film Kimby talking rapidly in two-shot from the off, as if we’re not even supposed to notice something is up.

Olivier swears a lot through a scraggly beard that makes him look more like the late Don Henderson — not as dapper as we’d like — and seems to be having trouble with his breathing, and hence with his terrible lines. I think someone thought that having Sir Larry say “Arse” was going to be great value for money. There’s fantastic amounts of exposition, none of which we care about or need. Susan George tells Caine about how she once wrote to him telling him she was learning Russian, and he says yes, he knows, he got the letter. Marvelous.

Caine is required to do only things he’s not good at: fighting, running, accents. His Russian accent, which is meant to be fake but convincing, keeps veering into Mexican. When Phlegm Killerbee apologises to Susan George for killing her publican friend with one mighty chop, he says, “I’m sorry about your friend. War is bad.” “It doesn’t matter,” she assures him. It would have been good if she’d amplified the point: “I never liked my publican friend anyway.”

The Criminologist plays bald!

The climax is a shoot-out in the baboon enclosure of Royal Windsor Safari Park. The monkeys all have hidden their typewriters.

2001 tribute?

THE JIGSAW MAN stars Harry Palmer; Maxim De Winter; Dirty Mary Coombs; Jesus of Nazareth; Joseph Goebbels; Ernst Stavros Blofeld; and Ernst Stavros Blofeld again.

Or do I mean Parry Hammer; Waxim De Minter; Mirty Cary Dooms; Nesus of Jazzareth; Goseph Joebbels; Stan Blovros Airfield; and Blornst Avros Sternfeld?

10 Responses to “Intelligence”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

  2. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Here’s the best rendition of Philby and Company from the great Alan Bennett and the sometimes great John Schlesinger

  3. Yes, I love Bennett’s spy plays.

    This one was shot in Dundee — Fiona recalls the intense excitement! Though the suggestion that your city resembles the less distinguished parts of Soviet-era Moscow isn’t entirely a flattering one.

  4. Tony Williams Says:

    David E, Oh yes, I remember that well! One of the last good TV dramas I saw on BBC TV before relocating “Over here”. David C. What do you think of Sir Laurence performance as “Big Mac” (General MacArthur? in INCHON? And Fiona, where is your proleatrian Willie Gallagher spirit? I speak metaphorically and I know the difference between Dundee and the Clyde.

    Anyway, wishing you both a Merry Christmas and happy New Year as well as providing this stimulating Forum.

  5. Marry Christmas, Tony!

    I’ve still not seen Inchon, but I simply must, since I’m a Rex Reed completist.

  6. Tony Williams Says:

    Unless you have seen INCHON you’ve never lived. Funded by the Reverend Moon himself it contains every cliche in Hollywood melodrama plus depicting the enemy in the objective way THE GREEN BERETS does. Had the Duke lived, he would have been cast in the role of Big Mac.

  7. chris schneider Says:

    Marvelous. There have been periods when I looked in the mirror and asked “What Would Susan George Do?”

    By the way … war is bad.

  8. The Jigsaw Man (1984) – the 80s British film at its skankiest despite having both Sir Michael Caine and Lord Olivier, it has all the charm and style of an episode of Dempsey and Makepeace, with a sub-LeCarre espionage plot involving doubles, the points of interest include Susan George’s flat full of product placeement for Fairy liquid, Perrier water and a David Hockney calendar, and David Kelly using a funny accent.

  9. Beautifully put! Perhaps if it had been made by Bryan Forbes, then he could have cast Nanette Newman and the Fairy Liquid would have made sense…

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