|(c) Ian Derry
The piece, written by Caine, talks about some of his struggles in the middle part of his career when great characters started to dry up and his career was at a crossroads ... which his decision to film On Deadly Ground with martial arts champion Steven Seagal in 1994 did little to address.
The year after, during this career slump, he talks about revisiting an old friend - his character of Harry Palmer, which he'd made internationally famous in the sixties with The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion-Dollar Brain.
Interestingly, Caine says his decision to go back over old ground "almost finished me off". Some interesting experiences with the local Russian Mafia and the Russian security forces had Caine questioning quite what he was doing:
"The filming itself was a joke. The final blow came when we were shooting in the Lenfilm studio itself. I wanted to go to the toilet and they directed me to it. I could smell it 50 yards away and it was the filthiest lavatory I have ever seen."That seems an appropriate reference. Both Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in St. Petersburg are pretty poor films, and not a great legacy in light of the earlier masterpieces which put Deighton's unnamed spy on a cinematic par with Bond.
Though billed as Len Deighton's Bullet to Beijing, the film script was written by Peter Wellbeck and, of the two movies, this is the better, though both are dragged down by Jason Connery's wooden acting (his performance giving the lie to the idea that star quality passes down in the genes).