Modesty Blaise (1966)

Joseph Losey was blacklisted, which is no surprise, as he directed The Boy with the Green Hair. He took his career to Europe, where he made movies like Boom! and Don Giovanni.

This film is based on the popular comic strip Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell, who co-wrote the original story. There was a major battle between Losey and O’Donnell on this film, with the director wanting to create a pop art Eurospy spoof while the comic is serious. The avant garde-inspired editing and production design, musical numbers and deliberate continuity errors drove O’Donnell insane. He hated that Willie and Modesty had any romance at all.

Losey also had problems with leading lady Monica Vitti, as she would be joined on the set by director Michelangelo Antonioni, who would whisper suggestions to her, and she would take direction from him rather than the actual director of the film.

Ever notice how many spy movies start with another spy getting killed to set the events in motion? This is no different, with British Secret Service chief Sir Gerald Tarrant recruiting former criminal mastermind Modesty Blaise to protect a shipment of diamonds after their agent is offed.

Terence Stamp is in this as Willie Garvin, Modesty’s loyal sidekick and Dirk Bogarde is Gabriel, the criminal mastermind who is, for some reason, sensitive to violence.

Originally, Barbara Steele was going to play Modesty with Michael Caine as Willie. In a strange twist, Caine would ultimately star in Alfie, a role intended for his friend and former roommate Stamp.

I bought this for $3 at a Dollar General this year after wanting a copy for a long time. Inside it, there was a coupon for buying three Eurospy films — Fathom or the two Flint movies — and getting one free. I was really excited until I realized that the offer ended 17 years ago. That’s what you get for still buying DVDs.

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