Around Christmas, I decided to watch a bunch of Michael Caine movies. He kept sneaking into conversation and I grew curious about his earlier films. Jeremy, Nate, and Dean have been real troopers and caught most of these with me. We’re near the end of our selective little list now, just Sleuth and Dressed to Kill to go!
The Man Who Would Be King
A Kipling story about two ex-British soldiers who have finished their tour of India and are living as con men. Peachy (Caine) and Daniel (Sean Connery) buy lots of guns, sign a contract to become kings in Kafiristan, and meet Masons everywhere they go. Peachy’s closing narration blew my mind: “The mountains, they tried to fall on ol’ Peachy but he was quite safe because Daniel walked before him, and Daniel never let go of Peachy’s hand, and Peachy never let go of Daniel’s head.”
Jack Carter is a psychopath who is determined to prove his brother was murdered and kill whoever is responsible. This movie is magnificently violent with plenty of memorable scenes and lines but the main thing I want to say is JOHN OSBOURNE, yes- John Osborne the playwright of Look Back in Anger, plays Cyril, the head of a porn ring operation. Holy cow!
This is the only one I’d seen before. Supposedly it’s a comedy but, overall, I find it depressing as all hell. Alfie is a selfish and shallow misogynist who drifts through life and ladies. He’s most charming when he addresses the audience with his life philosophies (Don’t buy a woman flowers unless she’s in the hospital) but most interesting when he hits rough patches (he loses parenting rights to his son, he’s diagnosed with dark spots on his lungs, he’s faced with his aborted child, he’s ditched by Shelley Winters). It’s after his misfortunes that Alfie’s plucky quips and womanizing seem especially sad.
Rita (Julie Walters) is a young, working class hairdresser who decides to better herself by enrolling in an Open University course. Here she meets Frank (Caine), an alcoholic professor. There are moments where I was completely frustrated by the characters’ stubbornness and limitations but, in the end, their friendship was genuinely touching.
Two small notes: First, Rita’s husband was a real piece of shit. I know, it’s the 1980s and people expected different things in marriage but this grown man throws a hissy fit and burns his wife’s books- grrr! Second, there is a brief scene where Michael Caine dances drunkenly at a disco. It’s a real treat and I highly recommend watching from 6:15 in this video: