This dry period comedy has ardent feminist and would-be journalist Miss Winter (Diana Rigg) infiltrating a gang of killers whose members only accept contracts on those who “deserve” to die.
Rigg persuades the gang’s leader Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed) to allow himself to become a target as a challenge to his professionalism. But events are complicated by a conniving aristocratic newspaper publisher Lord Bostwick (Telly Savalas).
It’s a clever premise but the numerous attempts by the bureau to kill Dragomiloff do not provide the laughs they promise – They are too numerous and make the movie repetitious.
It’s also hard to laugh at these goons trying to assassinate each other when various innocent bystanders get blown up in the process. Still, the look on Clive Revill’s face when he’s poisoned is priceless.
The film does wake itself up in time for a fairly exciting finale, but by that time the clever plot has been too bogged down by a heavy-handed production, missing the light, daffy touch it so sorely needed.
It’s a real shame because the ingredients are there for a colourful adventure.
Loosely based on a madcap unfinished novel by Jack London later completed by Robert L Fish (with additional material by producer Michael Relph and Wolf Mankowitz), the movie is a long chase across Europe through chocolate-box Victoriana with a lot of traps, bombs and disguises.
Diana Rigg’s appearances disguised as everything from a Victorian prude to a femme fatale to a nun, are delicious. This is a movie that cries out for a remake.
Miss Sonya Winter
General von Pinck