Modesty Blaise (1968)

Article 3518 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-9-2011
Posting Date: 4-2-2011
Directed by Joseph Losey
Featuring Monica Vitti, Terence Stamp, Dirk Bogarde
Country: UK
What it is: Swinging sixties superspy/supervillain movie

British Intelligence hires a female secret agent to prevent the theft of a large shipment of diamonds. However, neither side trusts the other, and the female secret agent may want the diamonds for herself…

I’ve encountered Joseph Losey enough in this series to have considered him a rather odd choice to helm this variation on the superspy/supervillain trend so popular during the sixties. Upon having seen the movie now, I’ll extend that to saying that he was definitely the wrong choice for this type of movie. Though I’m a little impressed with the cast, the movie seems distracted, arty, and self-indulgent; there are times where it seems to be trying for humor and only succeeds in making me wonder what he was trying to do. Having the lead characters break into a badly-warbled romantic song while they’re being shot at doesn’t make sense on any level. It occasionally shows some flashes of wit, mostly thanks to Harry Andrews, whose clearly-delineated spy character is the only one who is consistently funny. Most surprisingly, the action sequences are singularly lame, which seems almost unforgivable in this type of movie. From what I read, the movie bombed at the box office, playing to nearly empty houses, but a novelization of the original version of the screenplay (not the one used) sold so well that it spawned a whole series of sequels.

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