Are YOU looking for daily updates on Arthur Negus? Almost certainly, the answer is no. And yet, I have news of the ancient, long-passed BBC antiques expert, because he drifted across the stream of my Amazon Prime account like the answer to a madman’s prayer during last night’s perusal of Terence Young’s forgotten 1983 thriller The Jigsaw Man.
As a teenager, The Jigsaw Man seemed exactly like the kind of drab espionage fare best avoided, but either the film or my tastes have changed because this critic found himself drawn to such musty charms. But how to persuade others to join me? After an exchange with no less august a figure than Derrick from excellent review site The Ferguson Theater ( http://derricklferguson.wordpress.com/) about films that have merits outside of their conventional values, I came up with this shortlist of ten further reasons to watch The Jigsaw Man, an all-star spy caper very loosely based on the Cambridge Five. Michael Caine plays a Soviet defector who returns to the UK to play a cat and mouse game with British authorities, but no simple summary can capture the many facets of such an enterprise….
- Would you like to see Donald Pleasence’s house? For indeed, it is the Chiswick maison of the British character actor that forms the backdrop to key scenes here.
- There are no cameos from Captain America or the Hulk here, but how about a brief nod and a wink from British household entertainer Max Bygraves to add value?
- While we’re talking cameos, would a brief hello from composer and national treasure Sir William Walton help seal the deal?
- Would you like to see screen titan Sir Laurence Olivier face to face with David Kelly, best remembered as Basil Fawlty’s Irish builder in Fawlty Towers?
- Have you ever hoped to see a car chase through Royal Windsor safari park, with monkey and giraffe action included in the fruit-stand-toppling action?
- What kind of cultural value would you put on seeing James Bond and Rocky Horror star Charles Gray without his wig?
- Talking of Bond, how about reuniting classic Bond director Young with regular stars in his films like Gray, Sabine Sun and Vladek Sheybal, instantly recognisable via From Russia With Love, and his impeccable musical performance in The Apple?
- Speaking about reunions, how about bringing Olivier back in tandem with Michael Caine, years after their brilliant combination in Sleuth?
- Why not have Michael Caine speak, not only in a comedy Russian accent, but a third comedy voice which is supposedly an Oklahoma oilman? Or dress up as a priest?
- And why not throw in any other available British character actors, lets say, Robert Powell, Susan George and Michael Medwin to fill out the cast?
The takeaway is; there are other reasons to watch a film other than because it’s good by some definition. The Jigsaw Man had various, well-documented production problems, and key scenes are rushed and garbled; the flashback seems to have been lifted from another film. If you’re seeking thrills, don’t bother. But is you’re interested in Britain, film-stars, nostalgia or any number of cinematic ephemera, The Jigsaw Man is well worth exhuming from whatever dusty crypt it has lain in since 1983. The link is below…