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The Holcroft Covenant takes its cue from a bestseller by the prolific Robert
Ludlum. I've read the book and it's pretty good, with lots of globe trotting
adventures and some startling twists and turns. It also takes upwards of 600
pages to tell its complex tale. The film version misses out most of the
events from the book, yet tries in vain to remain faithful to the key plot
points.... however, any film which tries to tell a 600 page story in less
than two hours is doomed before it even begins. There's no surprise that
this film is a muddled, intractable, poorly developed misfire.
The story involves an inheritance in Nazi money which falls into the hands
of several German descendants in the 1980s. The money is supposed to be a
sort of compensation payment for the suffering and misery caused by WWII,
but some of the inheritors are evil people and intend to use the money for
nefarious purposes. Michael Caine plays one of the inheritors, Noel Holcroft
(hence the title), and he sets out to ensure that it is used for good
causes, but he finds that various others will kill to keep him from getting
his hands on his rightful share.
The film is a terrible mess, and it's only too apparent that those involved were in it for the money. Every single performance is lazy. Frankenheimer once made great movies like The Manchurian Cnadidate and The French Connection 2, but here he is guilty of directing a listless hodge-podge that bears no trace of originality or flair. Caine has made too many bad movies, but this ranks amongst the very worst. No questions about it: this is a surefire low point for just about everyone involved.
The Holcroft Covenant have as far I know only received bad reviews...
Knowing that, I nonetheless bought the film on DVD out of curiosity. I've
fondness for bad movies and I have an affection for the espionage genre.
The Holcroft Covenant is based on the novel by Robert Ludlum . I've read a couple of his novels and they can be, if one is in the right sort of mood, exciting.
The thing one has to remember is that Ludlum's novels is about conspiracies and complicated plots and not about characters. They are plot driven. And that more than often does not make for a compelling movie experience. Somehow that was not taken into account when the transition from novel to screenplay was made.
When you go to the movies you want to care about the people in it. That's basically a film's measure of success. And thus The Holcroft Covenant fails.
But John Frankenheimer is not the one to blame. Based on the material he was given, he made a fairly interesting movie which showcases his talent as an action director. At times excellent, but not overwrought like most of the action movies are today. But apart form the scenery and the action-sequences, the films weak point lies in its characters.
They are neither very believable nor interesting enough to hold your attention. Even the star of the movie Michael Caine, a seasoned heavyweight in the espionage genre, seems out of sync in this one.
If you don't expect too much , you'll be moderately entertained. But knowing that the film is made by veteran craftsmen like John Frankenheimer and George Axelrod, one tends to be a bit disappointed.
All in all I gave The Holcroft Covenant 6 out 10
Kind regards, paul
As an avowed life-long fan of Mr. Caine, and a true fanatic for The
Manchurian Candidate, I was willing to give this whole miserable mess a
bit of slack, until I got about twenty minutes into another scene w/
Mr. Caine as Mr. Holcroft loudly reminding us of his character's
seemingly endless stupidity. (Michael Caine as a noisy simpleton? Give
me a big, fat Nazi break! Not even Michael Caine is that good of an
The idea that life in a Nazi thriller unfolds like a Pink Panther sequel without punchlines is too difficult to swallow. Some of the scenes actually seem to me as if they were outtakes or lighting checks that ended up in the final edit by accident. I don't think I would care so much except that it is my beloved Michael Caine I am talking about here. The screenwriter should have been shot instead of this movie. The whole thing would have been more successful and excusable as a light comedy starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Holcroft, neatly missing numerous assassination attempts while managing to solve the entire mystery purely by accident.
The queasy merger of bad 80's costumes and completely uninspired cinematography is the only conspiracy worth noting in this absurd waste of talent and money. I think the whole awful eighties cocaine craze was rampant on this movie set, and that no-one could tell a terrible script from a silver spoon by the time the whole thing got into production. I agree with the earlier reviewer - save this for a Worst Films Night with some good friends after a few stiff drinks are had by all, and hope no friendships are ruined in the process.
The movie's opening title card read "Berlin 1945" , these opening
scenes, set during the end of World War II, were shot in
black-and-white, unlike the rest of the movie which was filmed in color
; the black-and-white opener reflected newsreels of the era . The
picture is set approximately exactly forty years after the end of the
Second World War. It's second after the film's opener read "New York
1985". There , the son named Noel Holcroft (Michael Caine replaced
James Caan ; Caan walked off the production the day before filming
started) of a German General becomes part of a mysterious conspiracy to
gain hidden Nazi funds . As the amount of secret money in Noel
Holcroft's inheritance was US $4 billion . Under the terms of the
covenant Noel have to locate the sons (Anthony Andrews , Victoria
Tennat , Mario Adorf) of his father's two associates so they can
jointly activate their fathers' account. As the movie's MacGuffin was a
World War II era large heavy metal case, embossed with Nazi insignia,
and containing the The Holcroft Covenant . Noel efforts attempting to
release the hidden fund that his father humanly set up to relieve the
future sufferings of Holocausto survivors .
This exciting picture packs noisy action , confuse intrigue , thrills , plot twists and enjoyable outdoors from London , Zurich, Berlin , N.Y . among others ; being appropriately photographed by Gerry Fisher . Interesting and nail-biting screenplay written by the notorious George Axelrod and Edward Anhalt ; however resulting to be confusing and slow-moving . The film was made and released about seven years after its source novel of the same name by Robert Ludlum had been first published in 1978. This is second ever feature film adaptation of a Robert Ludlum novel and the third Ludlum adaption overall for any filmed production, as Clave: omega had debuted in theaters in 1983 whilst Rhinemann exchange (1977) had been made for television in 1977. The picture was the second of three 1980s features based on Ludlum novels, the decade ended with a tele-movie titled The Bourne Identity . This was one of a number of action-thrillers of the 1980s which featured a neo-Nazi story twist element ; others included Alistair MacLean's Bear Island (1979) and River of death (1989).
The cast is frankly excellent such as Michael Caine as Holcroft , and other heirs as Anthony Andrews playing Jonathan Tennyson and Victoria Tennant as his sister Helden Tennyson . Agreeable as well as experimented support cast such as the veteran as Lilli Palmer as Althene Holcroft , Mario Adorf as Erich Kessler and Bernard Hepton as Commander Leighton . Furthermore , second and final of two movies that actor Richard Münch made with director John Frankenheimer , as the first film had been The Train (1964) . And first of three movies that actor Michael Lonsdale made with director John Frankenheimer , the later films were Ronin (1998) and Riviera (1987).
Holcroft Covenant was middlingly directed by John Frankenheimer . At the beginning he worked for TV and turned to the cinema industry with The Young Stranger (1957) . Disappointed his with first feature film experience he came back to his successful television career directing a total of 152 live television shows in the 50s . He took another opportunity to change to the big screen , collaborating with Burt Lancaster in The Young Savages (1961) and Birdman of Alcatraz (62) ending up becoming a successful director well-known by his skills with actors and expressing on movies his views on important social deeds and philosophical events and film-making some classics as ¨The Manchurian candidate¨, ¨Seven days of May¨ and ¨The Train¨ and , in addition , ¨Grand Prix¨ including great car races . Holcroft covenant rating : Mediocre film and sometime embarrassing .
Michael Caine as a German-American? Gimme a break! This whole project is so desperately flawed that even Lilli Palmer cannot save it, though her performance as Caine's mother is the best in the film. You know something is wrong when you see the opening credits: there are just too many screenwriters, and even Edward Anhalt is in there. How many rewrites can a succession of people do to save a doomed script? Clearly not enough. This is an excellent yarn, taken from a Robert Ludlum book which must have been a gripping story. But what a mess they have made of it. John Frankenheimer was an excellent director who was what one could call 'uneven'. In other words, he did not always deliver an acceptable result, and here he fails. He tries and tries, but it is no use. Anthony Andrews gives a better than expected performance, manages to avoid being arch, and with his blonde appearance convinces us that he is a German with an Iron Cross for a heart. Victoria Tennant, such an under-valued actress, does a fine job. Michael Lonsdale is wholly convincing as a quietly dominant Swiss banker who never needs to raise his voice because money speaks for him. It all could have been so good, but when you decide to cast a London cockney as an American architect whose father was a Nazi general, well please ... Michael Caine has never been anything other than Michael Caine. You could call that being true to himself or you could call it lack of talent. Certainly when he is called upon in this film to cry, you know it is glycerine drops, and the idea of a barrow boy crying, come on. The trouble was that in the 1970s Michael Caine was the only 'bankable' British star, which certainly gave too much power to his agent, Dennis Sellinger. And I guess this carried over into the eighties. But by then he was a shadow of the chirpy cricket of the East End that rode the wave of the revolution in class consciousness right to the top. Talk about perfect timing, Caine became the icon of a social movement. But somebody forgot to tell him how to act. Later in life, Caine finally picked up the skills along the way, and dozens of movies were his RADA, so he ended up a good actor in the end. But this was 1985, when he was still hopeless at being anyone but the same Michael Caine we saw last time, and the time before, and the time before. And that is a bore. Yes, tis a pity.
This muddled movie offers another insight into what happens when rather
good film makers overstay their talents.
The well known director, writers, and actors, all disappoint in a film that's terrible from start to finish. When a feature offers up the names of several writers (known for far better work) you could be forgiven for assuming that one of them, has been brought in to attempt to fix the mess of another - and here, it shows painfully. For a film from the mid eighties, it has the look of something made a decade earlier.
Michael Cain playing Michael Cain, at times looks as if he's not sure if he is working on the right set (or understands the script). Other main leads are equally unconvincing. The only notable performance comes from the always reliable Lilli Palmer, who's simply wasted in her role as Cains mother. In one sequence the terrible script (and director) has her hysterically crying about her poor 'shop window' after a car has plowed into it...leaving several innocent by-standers lying tragically 'crushed to death ' in front of her! James Cann, did himself a huge favor when he walked out on this one.
A marginally interesting original idea lurches from one unbelievable situation to the next within an unintentionally laughable screenplay adaptation. For those who don't want to take its serious plot seriously, it might pass with a push, but it'll be a big push. Sorry, but not this time. Local telecaster Gem Australia, who often run marvellous vintage classics put this to air as a very blotchy telecine transfer (as they unfortunately often do with some of their classics). It's poor when a HD Digital channel uses sub standard transfers. Looks like they just don't care. KenR.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A sprawling and lengthy Robert Ludlum novel was filtered down into this two-hour adaptation. Caine plays a foreign-born American (something that is repeated throughout in order to explain his accent!) architect who discovers that he has been placed in charge of a couple of billion dollars, set aside by his late Nazi father and two other officers, as a way of making latter day reparations to the Jewish family decimated by the Holocaust. In order to activate the funds, he must track down the sons of the other two men who were part of the covenant and gather them at the Swiss bank where they will sign their names and release the money. Caine has barely been informed of the situation before assassins have begun trying to kill him and when they fail in their attempts, his mother Palmer starts to feel the heat as well. He meets up with various mysterious types such as Munch and Hepton as he tries to unravel what's happening. Caine teams up with Andrews, one of the sons, and Andrews' sister Tennant and they seek out the third child, with danger lurking at practically every turn. Eventually, Caine discovers that, not only can he not be sure of whom to trust, but also that the money may not even have been intended for the purpose specified! Caine is, of course, miscast in a role intended for James Caan, but he makes the best of it. He had played in many espionage and spy films during his career. One of his strongest scenes occurs at the very end as he is reacting to an occurrence. Tennant gives a typically bland and uninvolving performance with only an occasional kink in the storyline to keep her from practically vanishing. Andrews brings a welcome touch of flair to his haughty character. Palmer lends some dignity to her role (her last), though she has to contend with some big hair and some even bigger eyeglasses. Though there is a certain degree of interest in the premise and some of the action sequences are captivating, overall this is a sub-par film. It has a fairly tacky look to it, despite the location shooting and it's overlaid with an overbearing and dated-sounding synthesized score. Attempts to inject sex into the story only come off as desperate (though the one big "shocker" was indeed contained in the novel, albeit in a slightly different context than what's shown here.) Beyond that, the plot, as distilled from the larger novel, makes precious little sense and relies on contrivance and an unbelievable amount of convenient globe-trotting. It's disheartening to hear director Frankenheimer, the man behind "The Birdman of Alcatraz," "The Manchurian Candidate" and "The Train" among others, singing the praises of this below average movie on the DVD commentary, though it's understandable that he, if anyone, should like it. It's not completely uninteresting. It's just not particularly good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Holcroft covenant is from a period when Robert Ludlum still wrote very readable thrillers. And the book is actually one of his better efforts. The movie however is terrible. It's so full of clichés that some scenes are actually funny although I'm sure they weren't meant to be. For instance, at some point Caine sits in an almost empty church. In comes a woman with a scarf over her head and giant sunglasses, Places herself right behind him and in a whisper that can be heard miles away says "don't turn around". I almost fell off my seat laughing. They also shaved the plot Down to something thats neither here nor there, and the acting is simply awful with some of the corniest lines ever. "My sister, my lover, my spouse", and she goes "my Brother, my lover, my spouse". Really, are we supposed to take this seriously ? A complete Waste of time and Money. I'll give it one star for Caine crying at the end. So was I.
After reading nothing more than bad reps, I can see why. I find director John Frankenheimer to be a very capable action director, but here he's lost in a sea of murky conspiracies (involving a fourth Reich) and idle performances (Victoria Tennant and Anthony Andrews are unconvincing) in this very lukewarm, but drearily complicated political thriller. The problem mainly was contributed to the confounded screenplay (a Robert Ludlum adaptation), which lacked probability; efficient enough thrills and consisted of one-note characters. For most part it's about globe trotting (some striking international scenery), Michael Caine looking like a fish out of water, meeting up with important figures, those involved reminding each other how much danger they are in and shady scheming being set in motion for this 4.5 billion dollar Nazi fund. Too bad it's not as exciting and gripping, as it might sound. It lumbers along in quite an repetitive manner, even though a committed Frankenheimer tries his best to inject some stylishly, go-for-broke action suspense; when he does (and this few and far between) it shows his great eye for details and precision with the camera (he loved the tilting camera). Nonetheless he can only work what he has and what the source material allows (one or two stirring moments occur). No one really stands out from the cast; but Bernard Hepton has some amusing dialogue exchanges with Caine and Lilly Palmer has a small role. A frustratingly, unsatisfying mystery thriller.
All of the elements for a great thriller are there. An outstanding director, John Frankenheimer, An excellent source author, Robert Ludlum and a great leading man for thrillers, Michael Caine. What went wrong? The biggest problem I had with this film was the cinematography. The film was grainy and the sub-titles were very hard to read when the actors were speaking German. There were plenty of the usual Ludlum plot twists and misdirections, but somehow the feel of this film was not up to the usual standards of Frankenheimer or Caine. A lot of it is just too kinky for most people, but an accurate portrayal of Berlin during the cold war years. It would have faired better had it been released ten years earlier rather than later. It does deserve an E for effort.
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