Based on a popular newspaper comic strip by Peter O'Donnell, one which debuted in the London Evening Standard in May 1963, Modesty Blaise is part of a sub genre called a 'spy spoof'' These were made because of the popularity of the early James Bond films but rather than be made as serious spy adventures like the Bond or the Harry Palmer films they were made as a parody, but few of them actually succeeded as a comedy thriller, i.e. they weren’t especially funny and they certainly weren’t thrilling, although I think that Losey’s film could be the exception that proves that rule.
The plot, for what's its worth, has to do with a female agent and her cockney side kick Willie Garvin who get involved with the British secret service, a conspiracy involving diamonds, a bunch of Arabs, some oil, an arch villain called Gabriel and a psychopath called Mrs. Fothergill.
It's a film you can't really judge by ordinary standards. Directed by the great Joseph Losey in 1966, it has since become a cult camp classic. Technically accomplished, with some great colourful production design from Richard MacDonald, its completely insane but it certainly captures the spirit of the times and features some great acting talent who between them brilliantly demonstrate the art of 1960's camp. Italian actress Monica Vitti (Red Desert 1964) plays the female James Bond transcending any problems with the English language with her beauty. Terence Stamp, who slotted this movie between The Collector (1965) and Poor Cow (1967), plays the bed hopping Willie whose cockney accent does him any favours. A grey wigged Dirk Bogarde, who seems to relish the part, plays the decedent villain Gabriel. But the best part goes to another Italian actress Rossella Falk who plays Gabriel's right hand woman Mrs. Fothergill who alleviates her boredom by torturing and killing people.
The soundtrack was composed by Johnny Dankworth with a time warp of a theme song called Modesty by the British pop duo of Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook who went by the name of David and Jonathan. (Just another little quirk of the 1960's). Filmed on location in Amsterdam, London and at the Shepparton Studios its certainly worth another look and the DVD I have has a superbly crisp and bright feel which denies the films age.