Some good Mod craft amid random chaos.
By Tym Stevens | October 16, 2016
If Bond was the antecedent, Blaise was his antidote.
Hot on the heels of ’The Avengers’ TV series (1961) and the film debut of James Bond in Dr. No (1962), writer Peter O’Donnell and artist Jim Holdaway blazed onto the spy craze with their own counter-agent in 1963. The "Modesty Blaise" comic strip re-ciphered the codebook with a complex and powerful female lead and her platonic partner as independent mercenaries threading world intrigue and witty fun. She was essentially Jane Bond in secret service to no one but her own desires. The stories were surprisingly sophisticated fare with intricate plots, the widely-admired Holdaway’s sleek art, and even controversial flashes of nudity (causing censorship outside of the UK).
O’Donnell wrote a screenplay, but it was ungratefully ignored here in favor of a Bond spoof with ’Batman’ camp so loose that Modesty seems like a random sidekick in her own film. Yet flashing through the rambling romp are actual moments of brilliance with Op Art decor, the graphic cinematography by Jack Hildyard, and unexpectedly sharp lines. Italian singer Monica Vitti does well enough in the lead, and Terence Stamp is his street self having fun.
Modesty should live twice. To offset the recent Casino Royale and Kingsmen, a new film should faithfully adapt the fine mid-’60s source material, taking style cues from the tight espionage of From Russia with Love (1963), the hardboiled realism of The Ipcress File (1965), and the outrageous Mod flair of La Decima Vittima/The 10th Victim (1965).