It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
On or about Sept. 21, according to the estimates of the finest financial minds at Universal Studios, "Jaws" will pass "The Godfather" and become the most successful motion picture of all time. "Jaws" was produced by the team of Richard Zanuck and David Brown, and you'd think that with a million dollars a day coming in at the box office, they'd be content. But no. Movie producers are never content, and when Zanuck and Brown visited Chicago not long ago to beat the drums for "Jaws," they were recalling failures as well as successes.
"We made a picture called 'The Black Windmill,' " Brown sighed. "It was a total flop," said Zanuck. "How did we go wrong?" asked Brown. "It had everything," Zanuck said. "It was a spy movie with a kidnaping angle, and it starred Michael Caine, and we had Don Siegel as our director." They stared into their coffee cups. "How in the world," Brown said at last, "can you have a thriller starring Michael Caine, directed by Don Siegel, and not make money?"
The conversation then turned to the untold millions about to be made by a thriller starring a shark and directed by Steven Spielberg. But for all things there is a season, and the end of summer is the season for dogs as well as sharks; "The Black Windmill" opened in neighborhood theaters last Friday. I went to see it because I, too, didn't see how a movie made by Don Siegel (who is Clint Eastwood's favorite director, and directed "Dirty Harry" and "Magnum Force," among others) could be a total loss. Especially not with Michael Caine, that cool, sardonic actor with the Cockney elegance, in the lead.
But it is pretty much a total loss; "The Black Windmill" commits the one crime no thriller can be pardoned for. It's not thrilling. It's also terribly passive and static, and Siegel directs Caine almost to a standstill. The problem is partly with the screenplay which gives us a labyrinthine tangle of motives and then explains things almost perfunctorily and partly with Caine in the leading role.