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Modesty Blaise (1966)
24th Sep 10
Thief-turned-spy Modesty Blaise finds herself recruited by British Intelligence to thwart a diamond theft. Whether she does or not it's difficult to tell as any semblance of a plot goes out the window.
Aside from the horror genre EatmyBrains is a big fan of cult movies. Cult movies tend to be of an acquired taste which is why they tend not to have a general following and Modesty Blaise is DEFINITELY of an acquired taste. With James Bond and it's American counterpart Our Man Flint making big bucks in the Sixties it was inevitable that someone would think to turn Peter O'Donnell's popular comic strip Modesty Blaise into a similar kind of movie.
O'Donnell came up with the story for his strip's cinematic transition which is allegedly only loosely based on the source. Their film was intended as a spoof of sorts although it's shambolic framework makes it more frustrating than funny and it's far from the camp, surrealist flick they sought to make. However it's hardly surprising the resulting picture was a mess. It sounds like the production had too many cooks baking this cake with O'Donnell's original screenplay re-written constantly to the point that only one of his lines remained in the finished movie "What do you know about Wilberforce?"
Director Joseph Lacey, who also put Modesty star Dirk Bogarde, playing bad guy Gabriel, through his paces in The Servant, appears to have been absent from the set. Can you believe he even had the nerve to announce at this movie's Cannes screening that this would be the film to end the likes of Fleming's Bond oo7ing up the screen. Errr no! And what an odd thing for someone to say who, by their own admission, at the time had only seen part of a Bond film.
Modesty Blaise is easy enough to follow in its very initial stages but after that you give up. The pacing is non-existent and the plot rambling. Characters come and go with little in the way of explanation or even a point. It seems like the makers were expecting the Sixties crowd it would have drawn in to be off their tits on some substance; with goldfish in one of Dirk Bogarde's drinks and the odd psychedelic flourish in the set design but that's about it. Chances are such folk would have soon come down off whatever they were on and made for the cinema exit.
Modesty Blaise is a movie made in the Sixties for the Sixties and unlike the Bond movies it was trying to cash in on it holds no entertainment value for those approaching it fresh now. Some nifty camera work, courtesy of cinematographer Jack Hildyard, doesn't disguise the fact that the plot is nonsensical; the lead Monica Vitti can't act for toffee and at nearly two hours it overstays it's welcome big time. It's not even camp enough to be fun.
This wasn't so much as directed as left to wander aimlessly. Frustrating and tedious it just doesn't flow and appears to have no idea of what it wants to be. It feels like several different films battling it out within one for supremacy with the cast tired, flat and haggard barely raising a muster in such a convoluted mess and if they can't be arsed to inject any life into it then why the Hell should you spend anytime watching this disaster?
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