Monday, March 04, 2013

Films of Michael Caine: Blue Ice

Cast: Michael Caine (Harry Anders), Sean Young (Stacy Mansdorf), Ian Holm (Sir Hector), Bobby Short (Buddy), Alun Armstrong (Osgood), Sam Kelly (George), Jack Shepherd (Stevens), Philip Davis (Westy), Bob Hoskins (Sam Garcia).

Crew: Russell Mulcahy (director), Martin Bregman and Michael Caine (producers), Ron Hutchinson (writer), Michael Kamen (music), Denis Crossan (cinematography), Seth Flaum (editor), Grant Hicks (production designer).

Synopsis: Harry Anders is a former spy who runs a jazz club. He meets an American woman, Stacy Mansdorf. They become friends and then lovers. Harry discovers Stacy is married to the American ambassador. She asks Anders to find her ex-lover, Kyle. Harry enlists the aid of Osgood, a detective at New Scotland Yard. They trace Kyle to a seedy hotel near London Bridge. But Kyle gets murdered and the killer also slays Osgood. Next morning Kyle’s body is removed from the morgue by American soldiers. Anders is approached by his former boss, Sir Hector, who warns him to be careful. Stacy reveals Kyle worked for US military intelligence, tracing illegal weapons shipments from the docks of London. Harry arrives as the latest shipment is being loaded. Sir Hector is the mastermind. Harry kills his old boss in a shootout. Stacy returns to America with her husband…


In 1992 Michael Caine and American film producer Martin Bregman formed M & M Productions, a company dedicated to making mainstream movies in Britain. Financing help for the venture came from US cable channel HBO. ‘The idea was to start a new commercial cinema, make smaller British action movies,’ Caine told Empire magazine. ‘HBO knew that Marty was a friend of mine, and they said to him, “You what we’d like to see? Michael Caine with a gun in his hand again, and a woman in the other arm.” That was the whole premise. So we bought these really hard, seedy, gritty detective books and made an incredible tough film, all action. This is a bit of a Dirty Harry Palmer.’

The character of Harry Anders had been created by a former British spy, Ted Allbeury. In 1992 Bregman told Time Out he hoped to make a series of Harry Anders movies. ‘I wanted to develop something where I could use Michael’s abilities. He’s a touch weathered, which most women find extremely attractive. You never see a romantic man on screen who’s over 40.’ Bregman had strong credentials as a producer, including several of Al Pacino’s best films – Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Scarface (1983) and Sea of Love (1989). He also produced Sweet Liberty (1986), starring Caine and Bob Hoskins.

The director on Blue Ice was Russell Mulcahy, best known for helming the action-packed Highlander films. Caine wooed Sharon Stone for the part of Stacy, but the sudden success of Basic Instinct (1992) meant she became unavailable. Instead the role went to Sean Young, an actress much mentioned in Hollywood rumours. ‘Everybody cringed with horror,’ Caine told Empire, ‘and said “She’ll be sending things through the post and leaving dead rats on your doorstep.” But I don’t believe everything I read in the press ... she wasn’t an ounce of trouble, she charmed everyone on set, down to the last technician.’

The $7 million film was shot on location around London and at Ealing Studios. Joining the cast for a cameo was Bob Hoskins, returning the favour Caine did for Mona Lisa (1986). Other familiar faces included Alun Armstrong, who made his film debut with Caine in Get Carter (1971), and US jazz pianist Bobby Short, who had a cameo in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).

Caine told the Sunday Times there was a market for nice little thrillers. ‘There’s no money for huge crowd scenes or incredible jumbo jets crashing through hotels or something. So what we lack in money, we have had to make up in style, wit and invention.’ HBO retained the right to veto a cinema release, but Caine hoped that wouldn’t happen. ‘We’re not making a television movie, we’re making a cinema movie with television money. When we’re finished, they will look at it and decide whether it is worth releasing as a picture that can hold up at the box office against the big ones.’

Blue Ice was released in the UK during October 1992 with a 15 rating. The picture grossed just over $350,000 and received mediocre reviews. HBO decided against a cinema release in the US, premiering the movie on cable instead. The film was released on video in both territories during 1993, receiving an R rating in America. The US tape is still available but has been deleted in Britain. A Region 1 DVD version was issued in 2005, but the film remains unavailable in Region 2 format.

Reviews: ‘Michael Caine re-dons spycatcher duds in Blue Ice, a determinedly old-fashioned actioner that’s terminally light on real thrills.’ - Variety
‘It is a testament to Michael Caine’s screen presence and sheer professionalism that … he almost single-handedly carries this routine British thriller.’ – Time Out

Verdict: Casting Caine as a retired British spy was always going to invite comparison with The Ipcress File – a comparison Blue Ice will never win. Aside from a hallucination sequence in the middle of the movie, Mulcahy abandons his usual flashy directing for something duller and drearier. It’s a bad sign when a British movie shows Londoners explaining Cockney rhyming slang - to each other. Caine tries his best, but the dialogue lurches from cliché to cringe-inducing. Put simply, Blue Ice is a poor film with few distinguishing features.

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