When it comes to kitsch-trash cinema, the late-1960s/early-1970s was a time when the genre was at its zenith, with Jane Fonda’s sexy space vixen Barbarella leading the way, followed closely by her blind angel co-star John Philip Law’s Danger: Diabolik. And let’s not forget the overblown theatrics of Casino Royale featuring a cast of thousands, or Raquel Welch‘s gender-bender Myra Breckinridge. All of them were gloriously camp thanks to some outlandish production designs, cartoon plots and super soundtracks. No wonder they’ve been ripped off by the likes of Mike Myers.
Belonging to this mad, bad cheesy elite is Modesty Blaise, the 1966 spoof thriller, based very loosely on the popular comic strip, and starring Monica Vitti as the world’s deadliest international super spy – a gal who won’t let her male superiors get the better of her.
Pulling on her go-go boots, Modesty and her devoted sidekick Willie Garvin (Terence Stamp in typical mockney mode) become embroiled in a government conspiracy involving stolen diamonds, which soon lands them straight into the immaculately cared-for hands of Dirk Bogarde’s deliciously camp super villain Gabriel.
Joseph Losey, who famously brought the Harold Pinter-scripted films The Servant, Accident and The Go-Between to the big-screen, as well as the underrated Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton flop Boom, weaves his own brand of magic with this psychedelic spoof.
It may not have had a big success at the time of its release, but looking at it now, with its fantastic locations, bright colours, op-art sets (yep, those Victor Vasarely prints are reminicient of Roger Sterling’s office in Mad Men) and John Dankworth’s memorable music score (except the awful Vitti/Stamp ice cream song), it’s definitely of the period and certainly one for repeated viewings.
Pour yourself a cocktail and enjoy…