Jeffrey Armitage (Donald Sinden) is a wealthy chemicals manufacturer with two concerns: he suspects that his luscious Swedish wife Utta (Julie Ege) is being unfaithful and he needs to protect his new chemical formula – for an experimental nerve gas that paralyses from the waist down – from Japanese spies, led by Madame Greenfly (Tsai Chen).
He hires dubious security expert Major Upton (Ronald Fraser) of Upton Rentadick Inc. to address both concerns.
Upton assigns the virginal Hobbs (Richard Beckinsale) to spy on Utta and the more experienced Simon Hamilton (James Booth), to protect the industrial secrets. Unfortunately, Hamilton is a shady character with a sideline in kidnapping girls for shipment to the Middle East by Sheik Hussein (Michael Bentine) and he accepts a bribe from Madame Greenfly to obtain the chemical formula for her.
He is assisted by bumbling agency operatives Owltruss (John Wells) and West (Kenneth Cope). Another agency operative, Miles Gannet (Richard Briers), manages to screw up both problems even more.
The original treatment was titled Rentasleuth and written by Monty Python alumni Graham Chapman and John Cleese. The pair did not get on with producer Ned Sherrin and left the project, removing their names and receiving credit as Jim Viles (Chapman)and Kurt Loggerhead (Cleese).
The film hasn’t aged well – the concept of female sex slaves for the Middle East, for example, and the Japanese and Arab stereotyping – but if you can overlook these issues (the film is of its time) it’s a mildly amusing watch with a superb cast, including an introductory movie role for television’s Richard Beckinsale who enjoyed great success in Porridge before his untimely death.
There’s also a sleuth disguised as a pantomime mouse, a stuffed guard dog, the hijacking of an ice cream van, a go-slow of Arab officials at the airport at Neasden (demanding more wives per hour) and fun and games with a few well-aimed squirts of the nerve gas.