Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Assassination Bureau...Limited

A few days ago I watched The Assassination Bureau again, this time on DVD. For those of you who don't know, The Assassination Bureau was one of those offbeat comedies released in the late Sixties. It was directed by Basil Dearden, whose best known movie (besides The Assassination Bureau) here in the United States may have been 1966's Khartoum. Its screenplay was written by Michael Relph, who also Man in the Moon and The League of Gentleman. It was based on an unfinished novel by Jack London, later finished by Robert Fish.

The Assassination Bureau centres on Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed), the suave, educated head of the Assassination Bureau Limited, an organisaition of killers who will take the job of assassinating anyone--provided there is a moral basis for doing so. The plot is put in motion when reproter Miss Winter (Diana Rigg) makes an offer that Ivan cannot refuse--a contract put out on himself! Ivan concludes that this will help rid the organisation of any incompetents and as a result finds himself on the run from his own Assassination Bureau.

The Assassination Bureau is set in the Edwardian Era, at a time when women's suffrage and European politics were still hot issues of the day. The movie makes maximum use of the period, with sumptuous sets and very well done costumes. Both Reed and Rigg give fine performances. Indeed, it looks like they had a very good time making the picture. As to the plot, it is fairly well thought out, save for one thing. I still have to wonder at Miss Winter's motivation for putting a hit out on Ivan. Granted, it would be the story of the decade, but then it seems to me that it would also be illegal... Regardless, The Assassination Bureau is a good deal of fun. The film possesses that wry, British sense of humour found in many films of the decade. Some of the most hilarious scenes even venture into the area of black comedy. The action scenes are also well done, with some solid fight scenes. Indeed, the climax aboard a zeppelin is priceless.

The Assassination Bureau is hardly a well known film and I assume most people have never heard of it. Regardless, I highly recommend it. Don't simply rent the DVD, but go out and buy it. This is a movie one will want to keep.

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