[box cover]

Modesty Blaise

When the swinging 1966 picture Modesty Blaise came out, some critics thought director Joseph Losey had lost his nut. The director of, among many films, The Boy with the Green Hair, The Prowler, and the scary The Damned, Losey has been considered one of the greatest practitioners in cinema, a serious aesthetician and Brechtian/Kafkaesque interpreter of hostile societies. He was also an unfortunate victim to the '50s witch-hunts of the HUAC and refused to testify before the committee, becoming a British exile — hence, the midwestern American directed many European films (and sometimes didn't get credit for them). It was with dismay then that Modesty Blaise, a cheeky, sexy spy spoof that seemed unlike anything the director had ever done, was one of his most successful box-office hits. But for Losey admirers and fans of the '60s spy spoof genre, Modesty Blaise has remained a cult favorite — an interesting undertaking for the multi-talented director. Following his masterful, gritty and dark Kingdom Country starring a very impressive Dirk Bogarde, Modesty was, in stark contrast, bright and silly, making one almost wonder if Losey just wanted to have some fun. And fun he has, as Modesty is, for the most part, likable and wonderfully campy. The costumes alone will keep viewers glued to the screen, especially when sheathed on the very beautiful Monica Vitti and Terrence Stamp. Based on the comic-strip heroine, Modesty Blaise (Vitti) is the female James Bond, a gal who can change her hair color in a snap and drive cars that poof out colorful, psychedelic smoke bombs. Modesty is hired by the government to block a heist involving diamonds (of course), so she recruits her sidekick Willie (Stamp) to help her out. Running through a series of exotic lands, hang-outs, and houses, and getting into a mean street-fight (one of the film's most absurdly funny moments), the picture jumps from one wacky scenario to another, all with a sometimes lazy, but sometimes keen satire. Dirk Bogarde is delightful as the over-the-top arch villain to Modesty, and need we say more about the gifts of Vitti and Stamp? Well, yes — particularly Vitti, whose clothes alone are a major part of the film. Pop-art designs, terrific hairdos (from bee-hives to simple Marianne Faithful-like blonde mod manes), and shoes, boots, belts, and guns galore. A '60s fashionista's dream. No, this isn't Losey at his best, but in the crop of so many '60s spy spoofs, this is one of the better ones, the kind of film that just rolls along fast enough for us to be entertained. And Vitti, Stamp and Bogarde are so up for the fun, it's easy to enjoy watching their winking performances. Be happy Losey made all that money from this movie. Fox's DVD release of Modesty Blaise presents a gorgeous anamorphic transfer (1:85:1) highlighting all the colorful costumes and even the explosions, which sometimes emit a bright orange hue. The English audio comes in both Dolby Stereo (2.0) and mono, along with French and German mono tracks. Trailers for Modesty Blaise, Fathom, Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. Keep-case.
—Kim Morgan

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