Caravan to Vaccares (1974)

While not yet available on DVD (and hence unobtainable from the likes of Netflix), some MacLean-based movies are easy to find in VHS format on eBay. That's where I got my copy of 1974's Caravan to Vaccares, which still bears a Blockbuster Video sticker.

I often grouse about plot changes that were made when filming good books. That won't happen here, as the writers and/or producers of Caravan to Vaccares didn't make plot changes — they simply invented an entirely new (and vastly inferior) plot. Oh, sure, protagonist Neil Bowman still works in league with the imperious Duc de Croytor, and a fellow named Czerda and his henchmen try to prevent Bowman from rescuing someone from a gypsy trailer. But the threadbare resemblances end there. Where the book showed intelligence agents scheming to help gypsies and free kidnapped scientists, the movie has a lone-wolf American ex-soldier getting hired by a rich man to aid a runaway. Situations, confrontations, and even romantic matters are completely unlike those in the book (which I reviewed here). There isn't even a "caravan."

The lead actors are an odd pairing. David Birney, best known for the goofy TV romance series "Bridget Loves Bernie," is the rugged and seductive man of action. (This was his first feature film.) His affections are lavished upon Charlotte Rampling, a fine thespian who should have fired her agent after this movie (even without the unnecessary frontal nudity scenes). They were stuck in the type of screenplay where both heroes and bad guys often fail to look behind them in perilous moments, and where the lead couple indulge in ironic chats or bedroom romps when villains could still strike at any moment.

Sample of this movie's scintillating dialogue (from memory, as I don't want to watch it again):

  • Rampling (beautiful woman who was just dumped by the roadside): "You're not another French sex maniac, are you?"
  • Birney (passing motorist Neil Bowman, offering to help her): "No, I'm an American sex maniac."
  • Rampling (smiling and getting into his car): "Ah, that makes all the difference."

Presumably, the producers paid decent money for the rights to use this title and Alistair MacLean's name. Why they would then utterly ignore the author's intentions is beyond me. At least now I understand why nobody has bothered to convert some MacLean-based films to DVD. I initially gave this movie 3 stars, but the more I thought about it, the less I liked it.


(2 out of 10)