© 1966 Modesty Blaise Ltd.

Modesty Blaise (1966)

I had never heard of this film until a friend of mine in Beijing, who is a big Monica Vitti fan, asked me if I might be able to track down a copy for him. I found a used one and decided to give it a watch before sending it on.

This odd film falls into two genres: the stylish comic book adaptations of the ’60s, such as Danger: Diabolik, and spy spoof exemplified by the Peter Sellers/Woody Allen version of Casino Royale (1966). Disappointingly, the film never seems to make up its mind about which it most wants to be. It is hard for a viewer to care about characters and story when the director doesn’t seem to. The plot meanders aimlessly, Monica Vitti as Modesty Blaise changes her wig so often it is sometimes hard to actually follow who she is on the screen, and the duets between Vitti and Blaise’s sidekick Willie Garvin (Terence Stamp) seem painfully misplaced. Yet, there is plenty of eye candy here. The futurist sets, especially Modesty’s revolving bedroom in the opening scene, are well done, and it is fun to watch Vitti and Stamp strut around in mod couture. The movies starts out in kitsch mode, and with the appearance of arch-enemy Gabriel (Dirk Bogarde) the camp value goes into overdrive.

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