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‘…a perpetual headache to watch…’

What is the worst film ever made? Just being poor in conception and execution only goes so far; writer, director, producer and editor Michael Winner was someone who tirelessly went further than most in pushing the envelope in making truly terrible films, and 1990’s Bullseye! is still a game-changing milestone in the developing history of cinematic excrement. A true master of lousy films can take a series of elements that would make a good film, and somehow curdle them to create a work of art that feels like a vent from hell has opened up behind you even at the mention of it. Such a film is Michael Winner’s Bullseye, a film like no other; I’ve watched it so you never have to…

‘Everyone has someone who looks like him…’ begins Michael Caine’s narration, and in the confusing universe of Bullseye!, he’s right. Caine plays Sidney Lipton, a small-time con-man who happens to look exactly like nuclear scientist Dr Daniel Hinklar, also played by Caine. Hinklar is planning to auction off British nuclear fission secrets to dubious ‘foreigners’, so the good old British government get Lipton and his friend Gerald Bradley Smith (Roger Moore) to impersonate Hinklar and his best friend Sir John Bavistock (also Roger Moore) for a series of auctions. The last of these takes place at Inveraray Castle in Bonnie Scootland, and it’s a long way to Inveraray in this company…

If Michael Caine’s in a film, it must be good… is one of the tried and tested mantras of this blog, but when Michael Caine’s in a film and it’s not good, beware. In a story with two pairs of identical twins on the loose, Winner never bothers once with a split-screen or process shot to create the illusion of Caine and Moore having actual dopple-gangers, resulting in a film that’s a perpetual headache to watch. It’s also horribly racist, sexist, lowest common denominator stuff that defies synopsis; this film has everything including exterior shots of the Inveraray Woollen Company, homophobia, leg-ogling, comedy gropings, an exploding haggis, several scenes of dogs humping dogs and that thing where a dog humping a dog on a lorry is compared to Rob Lowe (“It’s like leading Rob Lowe around on a leash!” quips Caine), extended burping and farting scenes, the worst stunt dummy ever seen in film, a giant kettle, a Jim Bowen cameo, nose surgery, Michael Caine being delighted by his own nose, slurs on Michael Jackson, Michael Caine falling off a bus, there’s no end to the horrors of watching Bullseye!

‘He gets Kim Basinger, I get Nightmare on Elm Street,’ is another of Caine’s quotably witty lines here; those who laugh at his work on Jaws 4 will have to admit that his phoned-in performance in that shark sequel is a portrait of an actor’s immersion in cinema compared to his awful performance here, with Moore a close second. With the big high-tech action sequence involving the memorising of a six digit digital code, thrills are few and far between, and you’ll spend more time looking at the boom mike than John Cleese’s miniscule cameo. At least we finish on a note of reflective honesty when Caine ends proceedings on the following note, addressing the audience with a message that seems both heartfelt and genuine in the context of this tatty, ridiculous film’; ‘You can’t have your money back, we’ve already spent it!’


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    • Sure, I’d like a good dozen other Winner movies to be taken into consideration. But this takes the biscuit…

      Winner does the doppleganger trick on the cheap by filming body-doubles for caine and Moore with their backs to the camera. It doesn’t sell the central idea of the film in any way. But I’d have to day, while Moore is predictably self-regarding, Caine’s two performances here must be amongst his very worse…

  1. Oh dear, I totally forgot about the Scottish connection. But on the bright side I do have “It’s a long way to Inverary” singing away in half of my head… And I am puzzled in the other half of what the original song was.

  2. “Caine plays Sidney Lipton, a small-time con-man who happens to look exactly like nuclear scientist Dr Daniel Hinklar, also played by Caine.”

    Oh boy. You’re always playing with fire when you cast a famous actor to play twins.

    • A fire which burns this film down in seconds. You can’t tell who is playing who, it’s completely confusing…

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