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Deadfall (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000139205
Added by: David Beckett
Added on: 31/1/2011 13:38
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    2 / 10

    It is hard to think of some actors or filmmakers as anything other than the great and respected industry figures they are today or the trailblazing directors, cinematographers, screenwriters or producers who have revolutionised cinema. One of these is Michael Caine; it is almost impossible to think of him as a virtually unknown actor but, given that his 'proper' film debut was The Ipcress File in 1965 which he followed a year later with Alfie, he has long been a movie star and great actor and there will be few who can remember the time when he was just a bit part actor.

    Based on the novel by Desmond Cory and written for the screen and directed by Bryan Forbes, Deadfall (1968) begins in Spain at a sanitarium for recovering alcoholics and where Henry Clarke, a professional conman and cat burglar, is approached by a beautiful woman called Fé who has a proposition on behalf of her husband, Richard. He knows of a mansion where there is a safe containing a fortune in diamonds and is desperate to take them all, cleaning the owner out completely.

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    In order to carry out this heist, he needs a cat burglar who is smart enough to plan the robbery and skilled enough to know the right entry point and how to get into the building, leading the way for Richard to follow him, crack the safe and get out before the owners return. It is all set for one evening where all of the society people will be at a concert and the house should be empty apart from the hired help and the guard dogs patrolling the perimeter.

    Richard has some slides of the building and, once Henry has chosen the window he wants to use to enter the building, Richard and Fé have to do some more scouting in order to get close-up photographs to make sure their cat burglar is as prepared as possible. They also need sedatives for the guard dogs and to know exactly when to make every single move so that the robbery goes like clockwork and they can be out of the building and away before the owners know what has happened.

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    Henry prides himself on being able to read people and thinks he has Richard and Fé's relationship all figured out, with Richard being a homosexual (or, to use the phrase from the film, "bent") and Fé only with him for his money. However, once the heist is over, tensions between the three escalate with Henry and Fé spending more and more time together and Richard, who they think has been kept in the dark, trying to find a way of keeping as much money for himself as possible.

    As this begins with a song by Shirley Bassey and introduces Michael Caine's character, Henry, as a playboy who likes a drink, you think you are in James Bond territory, especially with Giovanna Ralli's Fé as a beautiful femme fatale who you know will be all wrong for Henry but someone he will be unable to resist. In Richard, played by Eric Portman, the film has a mysterious central character who certainly has contacts all over Europe and you never quite sure whether he is going to be true to his word with Henry or pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute.

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    Deadfall should be an exciting and suave heist movie with plenty of knowing humour and sexual chemistry between Michael Caine and Giovanna Ralli which makes it all the more disappointing that the movie is just so flat and tedious with practically no tension, even during the long heist sequence which intercuts between the robbery and the concert with all of the loud moments occurring when the orchestra is playing at peak volume or when the applause is at its most fervent.

    The actors all do a fairly good job with the material that they were given so the blame must be laid at Bryan Forbes' door as the screenplay is leaden and the direction uninspired. I imagine that the same material in the hands of a much more skilled writer and someone with a pedigree of making tense espionage thrillers would be far more involving, suspenseful and engrossing.

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    The Disc

    Extra Features
    Just a lonely trailer which does a terrific selling job for the film -- I wouldn't expect anything less -- but nothing else in the way of retrospective featurettes or interviews.

    The Picture
    In general, the image quality is very good with very little heavy grain and almost no print damage. The colours aren't as vibrant as they perhaps should be and the picture can be a little soft although the skin tones and contrast levels are very good for a DVD of a film that is now 43 years old.

    The location shooting in Spain gives this an exotic feeling at times that really should be more of a feature that it is and this is one of the faults of Bryan Forbes' direction.

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    The Sound
    The soundtrack, as expected, is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono one which presents the dialogue, atmospherics and ambient sounds very well. During the heist sequence when the orchestra is in full flow, it is amazing how clear the sound is when other soundtracks may suffer from distortion at this point.

    John Barry, who had for Bond films under his belt at the time, avoid simply replicating the same themes and motifs here and provides a decent composition to heighten the tension and sexual chemistry. He also has a small cameo playing the orchestra conductor.

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    Final Thoughts
    Deadfall has all the right ingredients to be a top drawer thriller but it fails to thrill or even keep you absorbed for the running time which doesn't even top two hours. Michael Caine gives one of the assured performances that has made him such a star and is fairly well supported by Eric Portman and Giovanna Ralli but the whole project is let down by Bryan Forbes' screenplay and direction.

    If you have seen and enjoyed this film then you may want to pick it up to enjoy it again but, with only a trailer as the solitary special feature, it might worth considering how much you like the film before parting with your money.

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