Silver Bears (Mining Movie – 1978)

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Silver Bears is a 1978 comedy thriller film directed by Ivan Passer and starring Michael Caine, Cybill Shepherd, Louis Jourdan and Joss Ackland. Caine portrays mob accountant “Doc” Fletcher who acquires a Swiss bank and a silver mine but must fight a complex struggle in order to keep hold of them.

Plot summary

Financial wizard “Doc” Fletcher (Michael Caine) persuades his boss, American mobster Joe Fiore (Martin Balsam), to buy up a Swiss bank in order to more easily launder their ill-gotten gains. The impoverished Italian Prince Gianfranco di Siracusa (Louis Jourdan) agrees to act as chairman of the board in order to give it an air of respectability.

“Doc” goes to Lugano, a major center of banking activity, along with the Don’s wayward son Albert (Jay Leno), only to find that the best bank that the Prince could get consists of some shabby offices above a pizza restaurant with assets of $900.

To make up for this, the Prince suggests that they invest in a silver mine recently discovered in Iran by his distant cousins, Agha Firdausi (David Warner) and his sister Shireen (Stéphane Audran). The mine contains hundreds of millions of dollars worth of untapped silver. The Firdausis wish to keep it a secret due to the heavy taxes and the threat of the mine being nationalised by the government.

Through a little wheeler-dealing, “Doc” manages to obtain $5 million in Iranian rials from Agha — as security for a loan of $20 million — and uses the money to obtain better banking premises and put on a major show that attracts powerful investors.

Before long the Firdausi silver is flooding the market which leads to a drop in its value at the London Metal Exchange. Charlie Cook (Charles Gray), a leading figure in the silver business and one of the richest men in the world, decides that the best way to stop the downward plunge is to take over the bank responsible and thus close down the mine. He contacts Henry Foreman (Joss Ackland), president of the First National Bank of California, who is keen on branching into Europe.

Foreman sends one of his accountants, Donald Luckman (Tom Smothers), to Lugano where he meets “Doc” and his associates. His questions and evasive attitude makes them suspicious and to find out more “Doc” approaches and seduces Donald’s fun-loving but bored and neglected wife Debbie (Cybill Shepherd).

In the course of their affair, Debbie casually reveals in conversation all about Cook’s interest in the mine and the bank. Donald, unaware of what is going on, returns and offers up to $60 million for the bank (which is really worth only about a sixth of the amount).

“Doc” will have none of it since it means losing everything he has ever worked for, but Albert and Joe Fiore, who actually owns the bank, jump at the opportunity. “Doc” goes to Las Vegas and, through a subtle threat, manages to get Joe to give him time to made a bid of his own.

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