License to Kill (1964)

Article 2072 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-16-2006
Posting Date: 4-15-2007
Directed by Henri Decoin
Featuring Eddie Constantine, Daphne Dayle, Paul Frankeur

A scientist hires Nick Carter to protect his invention (a machine that uses a small flying saucer to destroy things) from Chinese spies.

Don’t let the title fool you; this movie is not one of the rash of James Bond clones that appeared in the mid-to-late sixties. No, this movie owes much more to detective B movies, mysteries, and yellow peril movies from the thirties and forties. The only time I’ve really had a chance to encounter Eddie Constantine before this was in ALPHAVILLE, and I suspect that that movie (having been dominated by director Jean Luc-Godard) didn’t really represent his oeuvre very well. In this one he is thoroughly charming. Part of it may be that this is the first time I’ve heard him use his own voice for the English dubbing, which is wonderful for the part. The movie has a naive don’t-take-it-too-seriously charm about it, and is filled with fun elements from old mystery and detective movies; Nick Carter has a jealous secretary and a dim-witted assistant, the plot involves a locked door mystery at one point, there’s lots of gadgetry (Carter’s watch dial is able to burn through ropes), and it even can’t resist ending the movie with a parting joke reminiscent of movies from an earlier era. Best of all are the fights; they’re hardly convincing, but they’re hilarious, as Nick Carter dispatches gangs of assailants with unflappable ease. My favorite moment in the latter is where he encounters a series of killers with machine guns who, despite the fact that their weapons are spurting out lead at an incredible rate, never hit a target and are dispatched with one shot of Carter’s pistol. Taken seriously, the movie is hard to swallow; take it as a comedy, and it’s great fun. Recommended.


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