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
- 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)