A pop-art explosion that makes Austin Powers look demure, Modesty Blaise is a bizarre relic from the heyday of Swinging London. Based on a comic book, the movie is strong on psychedelic art direction, long on camp (especia... more »lly Dirk Bogarde's aristocratic, white-haired villain), and thin on plot--and what plot there is cannot possibly be deciphered. Italian actress Monica Vitti, the ennui-weary star of many Antonioni classics, makes an odd choice for stylish spy Modesty Blaise (a female 007 without portfolio), especially given her uncertain command of English. The gifted director Joseph Losey, not noted for his humor, apes various New Wave techniques in his approach, even allowing Vitti and costar Terence Stamp to warble an off-key song. But the most coherent contribution is the jazzy swing of John Dankworth's score, which you won't be able to get out of your head, even if you want to. --Robert Horton« less
Larry N. from BEALETON, VA Reviewed on 6/14/2015...
A convoluted plot that is hard to follow at times. Sometimes it seems to be serious, sometimes it seems to be a spoof, and at other times it seems to be a musical. Perhaps it tried to be too many things and failed at all of them. The movie is OK, but I understand the books that it was based on are much better. Monica Vitti reminds me of Barbara Streisand.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Skip the film, GET THE BOOKS!
Naomi Johnson | Columbus, Ohio USA | 10/12/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I actually saw this film when it came out in the theaters, way WAY back when. I must have been perhaps 11 years old. Terrible movie, totally confusing, and a script that was most likely contrived over numerous doses of LSD. However, I was quite taken by two things: (1) Terence Stamp and (2) the scene where Modesty peels the false skin off Willie Garvin's back to reveal all those tools and gadgets. When I discovered there was actually a book to read that might explain all I had seen, I jumped on it. The book, unlike the film, was wonderful, and Peter O'Donnell's stories only improved from the first novel right up until the final Modesty Blaise book was published 6 or 7 years ago. I cannot recommend this movie but I can and do urge you to go to your library (the most likely place you will find a Modesty Blaise book) and get the books, particularly the ones called "I, Lucifer" and "A Taste for Death." Great fun reading, the Modesty of the books quite outdoes James Bond for sheer interest."
Johann Cat | 02/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Though this is not a knee-slapper as satire, and certainly no thrill-giver as an action flick, this film has aged better than Bond films like Thunderball, generically speaking the ground of this satire. Modesty Blaise is loosely based on a comic-book super-heroine and played by Monica Vitti. The humor is very droll, yet needle-sharp in its mockery of the amorality of empire and espionage, and in its parody of the conventions of the action-hero movie, its mad-camp villain, its tools, its blue waters. It hits its dry humorous notes and jazzy visual chords without pedantry, seeming very British and looking very Italian, a nice trick. Stoned in a rather stately way, and head-scratchingly complex in places, this movie is shrewd enough to avoid the utter silliness of many 60s movies. The film is visually beautiful and engaging, with grand colors and compositions with lots of space and depth: the toughest thing about Modesty Blaise is that it moves at a pace more like an Italian sex-and-class study than an action movie or typical spoof; indeed, the film freely recalls Antonioni's L'Aventura, (which also starred Vitti), especially in its Mediterranean location shots. And after all else is said, Monica Vitti remains an absolute stunner here, a true movie star, with a face of a thousand shades of tenderness and cunning. She also has great hair that changes about every five minutes. (Her hair itself is a better actress than Madonna.) Vitti and her sidekick, Terence Stamp, a mod Adonis, have a cool chemistry, and even sing in one pleasantly bizarre scene. Dirk Bogarde, the villain, is in a role unlike any other he ever played, but he may steal the movie. This is an anomaly: a rocknroll movie--droll, nonconformist, and hip--with almost no rocknroll in the soundtrack."
Not Even a Touch of Modesty
Charles S. Tashiro | Agoura Hills, CA USA | 07/27/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Were it not for the success of Austin Powers, Modesty Blaise would almost certainly never have been released on DVD. People buying it expecting something like Mike Meyers's film will either be disappointed or pleasantly surprised, depending on taste. Both films are parodies of spy movies, but that's about where the similarities end. Powers is star-centered low comedy; Modesty is a humorless director's vision of cartoon action. The film is genuinely funny, but in a way that may not be everyone's cup of tea. As just one of the more over the top examples, a joke late in the film depends on Dirk Bogarde's reaction to a strangled body hanging limply behind him. The moment *is* funny, but I suspect that more than a few viewers will find it anything but. The pace too is leisurely, not at all in the fist-in-the-face mode of even the early Bonds, much less more recent films in the series. In other words, expect neither childish jokes à la Powers nor fast-paced action à la Bond.Instead, there is a lot of what pretentious critics call the "gestural," which might best be described as mannerisms so showy that even academics notice. There isn't an ounce of subtlety in any of it, which seems to be the point. From Losey's overly elaborate camerawork (take a moment to figure out how the shot in the credit sequence was taken without the camera crew becoming pretzels, for example), to Richard Macdonald's eye-popping Op Art inspired production design, to Dirk Bogarde's camped up Gabriel, everyone seems to be trying to out-outrage one another.If you are familiar with Losey's more serious work, this loud declaiming might seem out of character, but the results are as obscure and opaque as his collaborations with Harold Pinter. Still, if you normally enjoy his films, you will probably get a kick out of seeing Losey's claustrophobia turned inside out and made into a joke."
One of the better Bond spoofs...
Photoscribe | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA | 07/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is so CHIC, I haven't got the exact words to describe it. The cast is sort of chi-chi: Monica Vitti, Terence Stamp, Harry Andrews, Dirk Boarde and Clive Revill, with Jospeh Losey directing, (Joseph Losey??) A hoi-polloi audience was almost assured! I saw this film in 1966 when it came out and was immediately struck by how different it was from the other Bond spoofs, such as "Our Man Flint" and those awful Matt Helm movies. "Modesty" is avant garde in that notoriously sanitized, late sixties style that made psychedelia palatable for the masses, with op art wallpaper everywhere and decadence celebrated by way of the villains portrayed by Bogarde and "Mrs. Fathergill".The jazzy score is very reminiscent of the one for "The Tenth Victim", though the lyricked theme song used in the opening credits should do WITHOUT the words, since they're just a WEE bit too arch! The instrumental side, however, is done beautifully, and adds to the "chic" feel of the movie.The fact that Monica Vitti has an accent so thick, you could choke on it, only adds to this flavor, as does Terence Stamp's prophetic "Alex the Droog" portrayal of her sidekick, Willie Garvin. The casual use of Ferraris, Rolls Royces, Citroens and multi-colored cigarettes make this a fashion-mongerer's wet dream. It's been stated that this film had no plot....oh, it's got a plot, alright, but there's so much OTHER business going on while it's unraveling, you can miss it! Modesty and Willie's briefs are to make sure fifty million pounds of foreign aid, in the form of diamonds, are delivered to an arab sheikh without the inimitable Gabriel, (Bogarde,) getting his superciliously foppish hands on them. Revill plays his fawning sidekick, accountant and condifante, McWhorter.Everybody involved seems to be having the time of their lives being in this flick, especially Stamp and Vitti.Chic, funny, and unique, a DEFINITE change of pace for the classic Hollywood director who helmed it, (if he indeed ever existed)....this movie joins "Help!", "Lord Love A Duck" and a few other zany flicks as icons of sixties aesthetics and cinematic philosophy.A museum piece of late sixties culture....(Why ...does she have to be called "Modesty Blaise"?? How about "Modesty Ace" or "Modesty Aqua"?)"
Fun If You Simply Take It for What It Is
Stephen Kaczmarek | Columbus, Ohio United States | 11/16/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As breezy and formless as a good vacation or a life of shameless self-indulgence, "Modesty Blaise" is likely to drive anyone expecting a standard Hollywood plot nuts. In a way, that's what makes it most appealing. With director Joseph Losey's eclectic mix of old-fashioned studio and handheld verite styles, set to a swinging 60s Eurotrash soundtrack, there's enough happening in each scene to dazzle the senses--if not the brain--provided you see the letterboxed version, of course. Sultry Monica Vitti is Modesty Blaise, an international thief recruited by the British government to interfere with a diamond payoff involving an old arch-enemy (Dirk Bogarde), presumed dead all these years. Along for the ride is the often-creepy Terrance Stamp, cast here perfectly as a Cockney ally handy with a knife. There's not much in "Modesty Blaise" that makes sense conventionally, but viewing it as something of a time capsule--not for its camp or art direction, but for the many crisply photographed scenes of locations like London and Amsterdam-makes for a fascinating experience. And though much is made of Vitti's heavily accented command of English, listening to her is a more pleasant experience than to so many other actors challenged by speaking the language, such as Sylvester Stallone, Rosie Perez, Arnold Swarzenegger, Anna Nicole Smith, or Snoop Dog. You might even notice scenes that may have inspired similar ones in "Arabesque," "Casino Royale" and the "Charlie's Angels" redux. Like the much overhyped "Barbarella" a few years later, "Modesty Blaise" is a product of its time, no "Blow Up" but a curiosity to be experienced."