Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Thriller > Assassination Bureau (1969/Paramount DVD)

The Assassination Bureau


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: D     Film: B-



It is always an interesting event when Basil Dearden’s The Assassination Bureau (1969) surfaces in conversation.  Most people are disappointed because they are disappointed by what they expected.  Some want more of what female lead Diana Rigg offered in her TV classic The Avengers, while others want to see a yesteryear James Bond film ala Rigg’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service from the same year as this film.  The presence of Telly Savalas as a villain in both only pushes that desire further.  When that fails, many then expect a Sherlock Holmes-type mystery.


Instead, the Michael Relph screenplay (from some “ideas” out of the Jack London/Robert Fish book of the same name) is trying something different.  The film is trying to make witty, classic observations about murder and maintain that approach throughout.  That job ultimately falls to British gentlemen director Basil Dearden, who has produced some fine films in his time.


The picture opens with Rigg’s character talking about how murder was always a way problems were solved in even the earliest of times, though many attempts were laughable and badly botched.  Thus, in high society during the early 20th century, The Assassination Bureau Limited (the full name of the book and film in British release) is the first organization to solve that problem.  They take the guesswork out of killing others by doing it for you with great accuracy.  Instead of turning into a dark thriller, the film turns into a witty, adult and British diatribe about murder in society.  Rigg’s Miss Winter is a reporter who is going to do a story about the organization who will kill for the right price.  This brings her to the head of it, Ivan Dragonoff (Oliver Reed), for whom she has a killing job of her own to perform.  She wants him killed!


As you can see, this is trying to be witty in ways that might at first seem childish, but it turns out to be cleverer than that.  Wolf Mankowitz supplied addition dialogue to keep the conversations sharp.  The way Savalas’ Lord Bostwick figures into this is that he is an even bigger killer and as joined by General Von Pinck (Curt Jurgens, a future lead Bond villain himself), both loyal to the Germans who want to rule the world.  Of course, the film is then addressing international politics and tries to make a few grand statements while being class entertainment.  Though the film does not always work, its ambitions to work on a higher level and ambitiously attempt something different work more often than they do not.  Rigg is key here, injecting comedy and wit with great timing.  Phillippe Noiret, Warren Mitchell, Clive Revill, George Coulouris, and Peter Bowles are among the supporting cats that also up the film’s ante.


Also making the film interesting is the cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth, B.S.C., fresh off of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey the year before.  He also adds dimension to the film, so all this adds up to a very unique viewing experience.  The 1.66 X 1 image is anamorphically enhanced and was originally issued in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor.  Occasionally, this transfer offers how good that looks, but has some softness problems and grain issues that hold the image back.  The Dolby digital 2.0 Mono is a bit smaller than we’d have liked it to be, but Ron Grainer’s score is very interesting.  There are remarkably no extras, not even a trailer.


I love the story that at one point, the soda pop Tab was going to do a tie-in with the film because its’ spelling had the same initials as the film, but that was dropped.  The film has a following and this DVD is certain to get people talking about it again.  The Assassination Bureau might not be what you are expecting, but if you go in armed expecting something different, it has its rewards.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com