Friday, 21 August 2015

The Assassination Bureau (1969)

"Human life is so expendable. So easily replaced, and pleasurable."

This film gets a rough ride from critics, I feel, many of whom just don't get the understated black humour that gives the film its charm. I won't deny that the tone is at times uneven and the premise, great on paper, begins to drag a bit with the monotony of Oliver Reed's Ivan Dragomilovitch having to assassinate his colleagues one by one. But a delightfully urbane and witty Reed, a sexy, unflappable and Emma Peel-sequel Diana Rigg (I love her wardrobe!) and the hugely witty and quotable dialogue make this film a pleasure to watch in spite of its flaws. Hopefully a DVD release in Europe is not too far away; I had to rely on Netflix.

The casting of Telly Savalas to play Lord Bostwick with a blatantly North American accent is often disparaged by critics who miss the fact that the character is clearly based on Lord Beaverbrook. And there are plenty of enjoyable cameos from the likes of Beryl Reid, Roger Delgado, Warren Mitchell and George Coulouris.I thought Vernon Dobtcheff was bogey amusing as a stereotypically lugubrious Russian.

This is a gloriously cynical film, appropriate for one set in an age when war loomed, life was cheaper and it was important, if you had the means, to enjoy life as much as you could while maintaining a raised eyebrow at all times.

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