Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

MODESTY BLAISE


MODESTY BLAISE (UK/1966). Director: Josey Losey.

It's hard to figure out what Losey and company were thinking when they cobbled together this adaptation of the novels and comic strip by Peter O'Donnell about a shapely thief who goes on assignment for the British Empire. The movie isn't funny or satirical enough to work as a parody, and it is completely devoid of thrills, suspense, and a sense of danger – and hasn't even that much action – so it certainly hasn't the entertainment level of a Bond film. Blaise (Monica Vitti) employs the aid of cockney lover boy Willie Garvin (Terence Stamp) to fight villainous Gabriel (Dirk Bogarde) over some jewels. Bogarde affects such “camp” mannerisms at times that it may be that his character is meant to be stereotypically gay (although a heterosexual Arab has two hunks paint his toenails at one point!), but sometimes Bogarde acts in a more “normal” fashion, so who can tell – or care? Vitti and Bogarde banter well together during a breakfast scene, but the movie boasts not one outstanding sequence. There's an interesting moment when Gabriel's hit-woman Mrs. Fothergill (Rosella Falk) breaks a mime's neck with her knees, but her karate "cat-fight" with Modesty is brief and disappointing. This isn't even as good as an average episode of the British spy parody The Avengers of the 60's. At times it has a Batman TV show (also of the 60's) kind of sensibility but without the amusing aspects. You can miss the moment when Vitti and Stamp break out into song.
Verdict: Nice scenery. *.

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