WolfmanOz at the Movies #64

Not a lot of people know that

Is the catchphrase that many impersonators use in mimicking Michael Caine which came from his habit of informing people of obscure facts that he had remembered.

Celebrating his 90th birthday only a couple of weeks ago, Michael Caine has not only appeared in over 160 movies that has spanned over seven decades but he is also a beloved British cultural and film icon.

Born Maurice Micklewhite in 1933, he started acting in school plays as a child and in 1952 was called up to do his national service where he saw active service in the Korean War.

He resumed his acting career after his national service but it barely took off until by chance he landed the part of a foppish officer in the 1964 film Zulu after he had initially shown interest in the part of a Cockney private. Initial expectations were low for Caine but he confounded everyone with his excellent performance which he followed up with two of his best known roles – the rough-edged petty-crook-turned-spy Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File (1965) and the womanising young Cockney in Alfie (1966).

Re-watching Alfie a few weeks ago I thought it hasn’t aged well although Caine is splendid in his first Oscar-nominated role; but The Ipcress File, for me, still stands as one of the best spy thrillers from the 1960s. Every time it features on Fox Classics I always catch it (and I even have my own digital copy of it as well).

With Alfie, Caine now became a big name in America and roles beckoned over there, but one thing that has always marked Caine’s career over the years is that he has appeared in quite a number of turkeys over the years. If anyone can explain The Magus (1968) please comment !

Caine had a huge hit with the 1969 comedy caper The Italian Job where he plays the leader of a Cockney criminal gang released from prison with the intention of doing a “big job” in Italy to steal gold bullion from an armoured security truck. It is one of the most celebrated roles of his career.

In 1971 another iconic role was as the violent and vicious gangster Jack Carter in Get Carter. It’s a pity Caine didn’t explore more of the dark side in the roles he played over the years, as he’s particularly menacing in this film.

Caine continued with successes including Sleuth (1972) starring opposite Laurence Olivier and The Man Who Would Be King (1975) co-starring his good friend Sean Connery, in which both films received widespread acclaim.

In the later 70s he continued his knack for appearing in some awful films with The Swarm, Ashanti and Beyond The Poseidon Adventure.

He was cast against type in the psychological thriller Dressed To Kill (1980) and in 1983 was superb as the alcoholic and jaded teacher in Educating Rita. He finally won his first Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his part in Woody Allen’s ensemble comedy Hannah And Her Sisters.

He continued his list of turkeys with Jaws: The Revenge. However, Caine said “I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

Caine also played a suave English conman, opposite a grifting American played by Steve Martin, in the comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) – a far superior remake to the original Bedtime Story (1964), where Caine showed his gift for comedy timing.

Parts came harder to come by in the 1990s and in 1993 he wrote his the first of his three volumes of memoirs, What’s It All About? in 1992, The Elephant to Hollywood in 2010, and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life in 2018. All three are terrific reads.

Caine has continued to work extensively this century particularly featuring in almost every one of Christopher Nolan’s films including The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar etc. And it looks like he will continue to act so long as directors and audiences want him too.

So what makes Michael Caine so special ? For me he has been personifying British cool since the 1960s. He has brought some of British cinema’s most iconic characters to life and introduced his very own laid-back Cockney gangster into pop culture. He has doggedly retained a regional accent where his accent has become his calling card. There’s just something about him that I just like as a person, someone you could easily have a beer or wine with to pass the day away.

I’ve only detailed a handful of his films and performances, I’m sure Cats will have their own special memories of a true legend of cinema.


and the tease for next weeks post . . . Follow the money.

Who would you fight for?

Farewell of Hector and Andromache, Sergey Postnikov, 1863

Recently I had a casual exchange with contributor Bruce of Newcastle on the OT. 

The guts of our remarks was the number of wars fought by Russia and how this had shaped their national psyche.  Further, that Western attitudes and policy towards Russia will continue to be largely ineffective, if not counterproductive, until the West at least accepts that Russians don’t think like us.  Their beliefs have been baked-in over hundreds of years and formed their protective stance towards Mother Russia.

This led me off on the tangent of wondering about loyalty.  The Russian populace in Australia is relatively small and certainly by comparison to the Chinese, Indian and Jewish communities and of course, those from the assorted Middle Eastern and Asian nations.

Therefore, I wondered, if push really came to shove, who would leave the relative safety of Australia to fight for their birthplace?  The question is predicated on the person being born overseas and armed conflict between their birthplace and another nation was either commencing, or imminent.   Moreover, any reasonable assessment concludes that the military forces of your birthplace are very likely to be overwhelmed.

Imagine it is all but certain that your birthplace will cease to exist as the nation you were born to.

And if you were to leave to fight, would you do so only as a member of the regular military forces or, would you engage as a guerrilla?  Or, if incapable of bearing arms, would you instead act in a direct support role?

Those thoughts naturally lead to a question about an Australian born person living overseas.  There are several Cats living overseas or who travel overseas extensively for their work.  Would you return to Australia to defend her if necessary, or remain in the relative safety of the country you were in at the time?

Rightly or wrongly, I don’t have any China born friends of whom I could ask the question.  Overwhelmingly my friends are Russian born and for several, I could reasonably guess their  response without even asking.   But, I do have a couple of Indian born friends and rang them to test my question. 

Both said they thought it was extremely unlikely (impossible) that India would be militarily overwhelmed and thus their services would not be required.  Fair enough and almost certainly true.  But when pressed, one of the two said that yes, despite being an Australian citizen of some 26 years (slightly more than half his life), he would take whatever steps he could to protect his birthplace even if that meant leaving his wife and children in Australia.   He did, after all, still have some extended family in that country but if nothing else, would be ashamed of himself if his birth country was effectively destroyed and he had done nothing.

So, what say you Cats?   If your birth nation was facing almost certain annihilation from an aggressor, would you depart (or return to) these shores to defend your birthright? 

The times are bad not Minns

Chris Minns replacing Dominic Perrottet fazes me not at all. Apparently, Minns is on the right side of things within the Labor Party. Those on the right in the Labor Party are generally pragmatists. I think of Hawke and Keating on the federal stage and Neville Wran in NSW. I have done no thoroughgoing analysis but my instinctive view is that it is better to have a right-centred Labor person in power than a wishy-washy Liberal like Malcom Turnbull or a Liberal like Perrottet who, to my way of thinking, is all hat and no cattle.

It’s all very well to be a social conservative in your private life, but if you bring none of it into parliament and executive government what use is it? Did Perrottet root out the sexualisation of children in the classroom or prevent children from being propagandised about climate change. I must have missed it, if he did. Certainly, listening to Mark Latham would suggest that the problem, and problem it is, remains rampant in public schools.

The real disappointment is not in Minns himself but in the times in which he comes into office. They will cripple his performance whatever he does. He will inherit the mad climate polices of the Perrottet-cum-Matt Kean regime without ever having opposed them. He will pursue the destruction of NSW’s reliable energy system because that is part and parcel of the zeitgeist systematically created over the past forty years and more by the UN, the IPCC, and Western governments. Scott Morrison reluctantly bowed to its strictures. Minns can’t afford to show any reluctance.

Then he’s beholden to unions which apparently tipped in a lot of campaign funding. Good luck taking on the teachers’ union in order to improve and clean up schooling. Climate hysteria and wokeness are not something Neville Wran had to face or any pragmatic Labor leaders of yore had to face. It’s a whole new ballgame. Bear in mind that on a range of major issues of the day – climate change, recently Covid, Aboriginal entitlement, victimhood, transgenderism, DEI, ESG, and so on – political parties are on close enough to a unity ticket. In other circumstances in other times, Minns may have shined. As it is, he is bound to leave NSW worse than he found it. But, likely, in no worse state than would have been engineered by Perrottet and Kean. Tweedledee or Tweedledum.

WolfmanOz at the Movies #63

Tom, Dick and Harry

Were the names given to the three tunnels that were used in the mass escape by British and Commonwealth POWs from the German POW camp Stalag Luft III. The film of course is The Great Escape (released in 1963) which depicts a heavily fictionalised version of the escape, with numerous compromises made for its commercial appeal, for example, focusing more on the American involvement in the escape, but regardless, the film stands as one of the great entertainments in movie history that is beloved by so many.

At the film’s beginning, the Germans move the most troublesome Allied POWs to a new, maximum security camp supervised and run by the Luftwaffe.  The prisoners establish an escape committee, the “X” Organisation, led by “Big X”, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (played by Richard Attenborough) and based on the real-life mastermind of the escape, Roger Bushell. Bartlett proposes an audacious plan: to tunnel below the fence of the camp into the forest, to break out 250 men. 

While the characters are fictitious, they were based on real men, in most cases being composites of several people; but the one thing the film does stick relatively close to the known facts is how the tunnels were planned and dug including how the escape was finally discovered by the Germans.

The Great Escape also saw a re-teaming of many who were involved in the classic 1960 western The Magnificent Seven – Director: John Sturges, Composer: Elmer Bernstein, Editor: Ferris Webster and Actors: Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.

The large, international cast is superb, but the standout is Steve McQueen; it’s easy to see why this movie cemented his status as a major movie star. This film established McQueen’s box-office clout and superstar status.

Of the 76 men who originally escaped from the camp, 3 managed to finally make it back home. However, 50 were “shot” aka murdered by the Nazis on the direct orders of Adolf Hitler. The film depicts this as three truckloads of recaptured POWs splitting off in three directions. One truck containing a number of the prisoners are invited to stretch their legs in a field, whereupon they are all machine gunned in a single massacre, with the implication that the other two are also done in the same manner. In reality, most of the POWs were shot individually or in pairs. Therefore, although not accurate in terms of the specifics, the film’s depiction still captures the appalling nature of this horrendous war crime.

But as an intended mass entertainment, ending the film on such a downbeat manner would probably have been disastrous for its box-office success so the film-makers had the last scene with a re-captured Hilts (McQueen) returning to the POW camp and being placed in the cooler defiantly with his baseball glove and ball all to the sound of Elmer Bernstein’s magnificent music. It certainly never happened but really who cares, it’s simply a wonderful coda with its final “this picture is dedicated to the fifty” as a fitting tribute. For me it’s one of the most perfectly realised endings in film history.

The film’s enduring appeal lies in a number of factors – the bravery and defiance of a group of men placed together in incredibly trying circumstances;  the viewer marvelling at the ingenuity and seemingly unbreakable spirit of the imprisoned soldiers; a cast to die for; a terrific music score that perfectly captures the mood of the film; and, finally, there is no sermonising, no soul probing: simply the film is great escapism.

I’ll always remember when I first saw this movie on re-release in the mid-1970s. It was at a suburban cinema in Auckland where the seating was benches, and an extremely large Maori sat in front of us and the whole family (all 4 of us) had to get up and move along to the right.


and the tease for next weeks post . . . Not a lot of people know that.

Compare the pair

NATO in 1990
NATO in 2023

Millions of words have been written about the creeping encroachment of NATO eastward towards the border of the Russian Federation.

Recent media reports suggest the Turkey will soon drop its objections to Finland joining the bloc with only Hungary’s objections yet to be overcome.  One can only imagine the pressure Hungarian politicians will endure as the sole ‘hold-out’ but those tribulations will almost certainly be soothed by assorted inducement.  

It is well established that the raison d’etre of NATO was largely to contain Russia but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO’s purpose of existence has not changed significantly.  In fact, NATO over the ensuing years has been very accommodating to those former Soviet bloc nations that wished to join.        

But didn’t the Americans agree not to expand NATO eastward?

The answer to that question is mired in assorted recollections but there was never any formal agreement.  After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a treaty signed in 1990 extended NATO into East Germany, which had been zoned to the Soviet Union.  

James Baker, former Secretary of State told CNN during a 2009 interview “there was a discussion about whether the unified Germany would be a member of NATO, and that was the only discussion we ever had. There was never any discussion of anything but East Germany.”

But others have said that assurances were made, including Jack Matlock, the last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, and Robert Gates, the deputy national security adviser at the time.  Gates said the Soviets “were led to believe” NATO would not expand eastward.

Even Gorbachev seemed confused.  He once insisted he was promised NATO would not “move one centimetre further east” but in 2014, he said the question never came up, yet added that NATO’s eventual expansion was “a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made in 1990.”

In any event, it’s now moot.  Historians may continue to debate what, if any, comments were made by the negotiating parties during that 1989-90 period but NATO made no written pledge.  There was ‘possibly’ a tacit understanding, but no more than that. 

Which brings us to Georgia.

Hands up all those that think the American CIA fermented the recent disturbances in Georgia.  Yeah, me too. 

Georgia is a small and comparatively insignificant country on Russia’s southern flank but it jumped into world news following several days of protests that were triggered by a bill on the ‘Transparency of Foreign Influence’, that had been initially adopted by the Georgian parliament. 

The bill proposed a national register of “foreign influence agents.”  The register would have listed all non-profit legal entities and media organizations which receive 20% or more of their funding from overseas. 

The reaction to something relatively innocuous may be surprising until you realise the sheer numbers of foreign NGO/NPOs active in Georgia.  In 2020, a report by the Asian Development Bank indicated that of the 12,800 organizations registered in Georgia, the vast majority rely on foreign funding and 7,972 of those operated with foreign founders.  For a nation with a population of only 3.7 million, that equates to around 300 people per foreign NPO/NGO.  

Perhaps not so surprising that many of the foreign (and influential) NGOs immediately understood the potential existential threat of the legislation and acted accordingly.  Their cloak of anonymity would be gone.

Now we get to the guts of the matter.  For the past 30 years, Georgia has become a recipient of US aid receiving an average of (officially) ~$US120m per annum through the US State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

However, the annual budgets of the most influential Georgian NGOs are comparable to the turnover of medium-sized commercial entities.  The Soros Foundation alone invested more than $10 million and the CIA-linked National Endowment for Democracy distributed $1.2 million in grants in one year among a handful of Georgian NGOs.  The main areas of their work were ‘media support’, election monitoring and civil influence over the activities of the executive branch, among others things. 

So, we have influence, money and now threats.

During the recent unrest, the US and the EU warned Georgian authorities that the successful adoption of the law would likely “deprive the country of the chance to acquire EU candidate status and join NATO”.  The bill was dropped although the protests continued for a few more days.

Georgia’s eventual joining with NATO would serve the alliance by creating a border link with Turkey to access Russia via the south.  Covering an area almost identical to Tasmania, Georgia has the right to self-determination but needs to be mindful of the lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  The voices of some NGOs do not necessarily have Georgia’s best interests at heart.  Beware those offering trinkets and promises of gold – there is a much larger geopolitical game afoot.

Kiev, Ukraine, November 2014
Tbilisi, Georgia, March 2023

Its the wind droughts, stupid.

Comment on this post.

This demonstrates the outcome of the Iron Triangle of Power Supply and the corollary, that wind and solar will not work with existing technology. There must be continuous input to the grid, wind droughts and especially windless nights wreck the continuity and there is no feasible storage to bridge the gaps.
To coin a phrase, “Its about the wind droughts, stupid!”

Imagine irrigation projects proceeding without attention to the record of droughts and the capacity of dams to make up the shortfall in dry seasons. What happened to the due diligence in Australia and everywhere else?

In Australia it seems that the authorities used average wind speed as the metric for wind resources, with hourly records aggregated for weeks, months and years. There should be a major inquiry into the reason why that information in raw form was not processed to issue wind drought warnings. It was left to others, notably Paul Miskelly and Anton Lang, to record wind droughts, long before the responsible or irresponsible authorities took any notice.


Climate and energy realists around the world need to demand investigations in their own jurisdictions to find why no wind drought warnings were issued, or heeded.

The Dunkelflauts in Europe must have been common knowledge among sailors for hundreds of years, and windmills in Holland pumped water, while windmills everywhere milled grain. So how come the shock in recent years?

In Australia when the next coal power station closes, every wind drought will threaten the power supply and prolonged wind droughts will be potentially catastrophic.

That is the way things are going everywhere, it is just a matter of running down conventional power to the point where wind input starts to matter.

Pride cometh before the fall into dissolution

I read today (20 March) in the UK Telegraph that an 81-year-old Tory councillor of Witham town council in Essex England, Angela Kilmartin, has been stood down for a Facebook post. This what she wrote: “I don’t want Pride sex flags along my high street. I don’t even want heterosexual flags along my high street. Sex is for the bedroom and private life, not for displaying preferences in public.” Apparently ‘Pride month’ is coming up in June.

The town council Tory leader Michael Lager, clearly a ponce of the first order, reportedly told the BBC: “We dissociate ourselves totally from the reported remarks of this particular member…We do not tolerate discrimination between people of different faiths, beliefs and all the proactive characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010, that we respect and promote.”

Incidentally, all of the Telegraph readers that I read were totally on the side of Ms Kilmartin.

Leave aside a couple of things like why any 81-year-old is on Facebook and why Mr Lager has trouble with the English language. This LBTQ+ is getting way out of hand.

When I first saw the gaily-coloured painted roads on and adjacent to George Street Sydney I wondered what was going on. Only later did I twig. Ratepayers, unasked, forked out $150,000, apparently, to paint roads to celebrate Sydney WorldPride, whatever the heck that is.

I assume it’s like the UK’s pride month, referred to above. I don’t know and don’t care. Like Ms Kilmartin I don’t appreciate having atypical sexual preferences thrust in front of me as I’m walking through town.

Like most of us, I have had well-regarded colleagues and have a loved relative who are same-sex attracted. I don’t judge. I’m in no position to judge. I think as a Christian that what same-sex couples do for intimate entertainment is sinful. Join the party of all of humanity. I think it is good thing that societies have become tolerant. Unless someone is harmed, leave judgment to our Lord Jesus Christ.

But tolerance is a long way from celebration. Am I really obliged to celebrate two men marrying and engaging in sodomy. Well I won’t unless they, whoever they are, put a gun to my head. Which the way things are going they might well do. I don’t want my taxes paid to celebrate atypical sexual preferences or, in fact, as Ms Kilmartin argues, any sexual preferences.

Gay Pride is a nonsensical proposition. I found it funny that Ms Kilmartin didn’t want heterosexual flags flying either. Are there any such ridiculous flags. I doubt it and, like the lady, wouldn’t want to see them fluttering in the breeze.

People take pride in all kinds of strange things these days. A proud Aboriginal man or woman we hear all the time; and often from people who have much more European in them than Aboriginality. People who have recovered from alcoholism or drug addiction are often told how proud they must be; what, for causing distress to loved ones for years beforehand? Let me make it clear, I would find it embarrassing to say that I’m proudly heterosexual or a proud Liverpudlian or a proud recoveree from some self-imposed addiction. Give us all a break. Feel self-indulgently proud, if you must, for some personal achievement of note, but even then keep it to yourself.

As C S Lewis put it, pride is the greatest of sins. And he said that in a much more self-effacing age than the one in which we now live. I don’t know what he would have made of gay pride.