Duell in Vaccares (1974)

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Duell in Vaccares: Directed by Geoffrey Reeve. With David Birney, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Lonsdale, Marcel Bozzuffi. American Neil Bowman is traveling through France when he meets British photographer Lila. They are hired by French land owner Duc de Croyter to escort a Hungarian scientist to New York. But they soon realize that the job is not a cushy number, and have to deal with a gang of kidnappers who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the scientist.

“Charlotte Rampling must have been so bored with her character in this production that she went full tilt the next year after this picture was released into one of cinemau0026#39;s most confusing epics, 1975u0026#39;s u0026quot;Zardoz,u0026quot; just for the challenge. Well, at least she got a good tan on location in this movie, and photographs here better than in any other film she has starred in. Alas, poor Charlotte appears to be so much smarter than the material she is given in this hamhanded cat-and-mouse yarn, shot entirely in the quaint environs of Provence, France. She smiles alot, and behind that grin she seems to be saying u0026quot;Please call it a wrap so I can drive over to Marseilles for a wild night on the town.u0026quot;u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eDullness doesnu0026#39;t translate to ineptitude however. The production values for this co-British/French effort are as high as those found on the other Alistair MacLean knock-offs of the u0026#39;70s, like u0026quot;Puppet on a Chain,u0026quot; u0026quot;When Eight Bells Toll,u0026quot; and u0026quot;Fear Is The Key.u0026quot; Like Barry Newman in u0026quot;Fear Is The Key,u0026quot; actor David Birney gets to show his limited emotional range as the stalwart MacLean hero thrown into the middle of a deadly game of international policies and kidnapping. As a wandering American playboy, disenchanted with the Vietnam War and America, he stumbles into the schemes of the Duc, played with continental charm by the wonderfully droll Michael Lonsdale. Birney is coerced into protecting a Hungarian scientist who holds the secret formula to converting solar energy into economical power in his head. Shadowy hitmen, presumably hired by someone who wants that formula, follow their every move. Birney is occasionally forced to wipe his lackluster smirk from his face and perform some chop-socky moves on the villains.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eUnlike the wartime MacLean novels like u0026quot;Ice Station Zebra,u0026quot; u0026quot;The Guns of Navarone,u0026quot; and u0026quot;Where Eagles Dare,u0026quot; u0026quot;Caravan To Vaccaresu0026quot; falls into the same trap as the majority of Alastairu0026#39;s later books displayed, that of simple chases, one curveball u0026quot;twist,u0026quot; and a strong-chin, 2-dimensional hero always able to easily thwart the antagonists. The interesting tidbits to this picture come with the villains. Uncharacteristically (at least these days), this filmu0026#39;s villains speak French, and yet their dialogue is not subtitled into English. Of course, you have no idea what theyu0026#39;re saying if you donu0026#39;t parlez-vous, but in an interesting directorial choice, thatu0026#39;s okay. Their actions and intensity translate their motives, and itu0026#39;s that decision to allow their every words to go unsubtitled that I applaud this element of the production. The producers knew their audience was intelligent enough to figure out what would be occurring on screen without spooning out translated dialogue. Thank you!u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAs for the principals, well, as mentioned, David Birney isnu0026#39;t the most convincing of badasses around. He exuded more testosterone when he got into a tiff with Meredith Baxter on u0026quot;Bridget Loves Bernie.u0026quot; Charlotte Rampling is given very little to do but play the sexy, compliant companion who lets Birney make all the decisions. Her looks, however, betray this simplitude. She has the presence to suggest she could easily outmaneuver Birney on a speed-chess match. Which leaves us with Michael Lonsdale. Here, he exudes more confidence than his put-upon inspector in u0026quot;The Day of the Jackal.u0026quot; He has a comfortable, wise delivery, a sly way of sizing up his minions and adversaries, that is a pleasure to watch. It is a shame Bond producers did not use him to the fullest extent when they cast him as super villain Hugo Drax in u0026quot;Moonraker.u0026quot;u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe plot neatly ties up most of its loose ends by the last reel, and youu0026#39;re rendered the satisfaction that David Birney didnu0026#39;t go on to reprise his role in any sequels. However, any movie that climaxes with him being attacked by rodeo clowns isnu0026#39;t all that bad. My rating: ** out of ****.”

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