Following the success of the Bond franchise, spy films were highly popular in the sixties, and Peter O'Donnell's popular comic strip "Modesty Blaise", which featured the adventures of a glamorous female secret agent, must have seemed like a natural subject for cinematic treatment. This film was the result. The basic plot is a simple one; Modesty is recruited by British Intelligence to foil a plan by gang of jewel thieves to intercept a shipment of diamonds to a Middle Eastern sheikh.
The heroine is played by the Italian actress Monica Vitti in her first English-speaking role- something I have always regarded as an uninspired piece of casting because Vitti's spoken English was not particularly fluent, although she certainly had the looks for the part. O'Donnell's Modesty was always a brunette, but Vitti mostly plays her as a blonde, although her looks, costume hairstyle and hair colour seem to change at random. Male viewers might be disappointed to note that Vitti only spends a short time dressed in the skin-tight leather catsuit which is the hallmark of the Modesty Blaise of the strip cartoon.
Some spy films of the era, such as "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold", took a serious look at intelligence work, but the majority aimed to emulate the relatively light-hearted tone of the Bonds. Indeed, many aimed to go even further in this direction and treated their subject-matter in a comedic way. "Modesty Blaise" falls firmly into this category. Although the plot involves what in real life would be serious crimes, notably robbery and murder, the scriptwriter Evan Jones and the director Joseph Losey refuse to treat the story with any seriousness, instead aiming for something light, camp and at times verging on the surreal. Jones's script was, officially, based upon a story by O'Donnell, but he departed from it so radically that O'Donnell virtually disowned the movie.
I felt that making the film in this way was a mistake. The Bond films, at their best, have always relied upon striking the right balance between tension and humour. This balance has occasionally been upset; some of the Roger Moore Bonds were too jokey and light-hearted, and the Timothy Dalton ones from the eighties tended to be too heavy-handed, but in the Sean Connery era of the sixties the film-makers generally got it right. The makers of "Modesty Blaise" get it very wrong indeed. There is no tension, and we never care about what happens to any of the characters. Moreover, "comedic" does not always equate to "humorous"; the script is supposed to be light-hearted but never produces any actual laughs.
The result is a film which is supposed to be a comedy-thriller, but which might more accurately be regarded as a thriller which does not thrill and a comedy which fails to amuse. There are some well-known stars involved, such as Terence Stamp and Dirk Bogarde, but their talents just seem wasted. It is no surprise that "Modesty Blaise", unlike some of the Bond copycat franchises, such as the "Man from UNCLE" series, did not give rise to a single sequel. 3/10
Action / Adventure / Comedy / Crime
Action / Adventure / Comedy / Crime
Modesty Blaise, a secret agent whose hair color, hair style, and mod clothing change at a snap of her fingers is being used by the British government as a decoy in an effort to thwart a diamond heist. She is being set up by the feds but is wise to the plot and calls in sidekick Willie Garvin and a few other friends to outsmart them. Meanwhile, at his island hideaway, Gabriel, the diamond thief has his own plans for Blaise and Garvin.
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April 05, 2017 at 04:43 AM