The Assassination Bureau….(Limited) (1969)
Black comedy rules the day with Oliver Reed and Diana Rigg. Starting out at odds with each other who knows where they may wind up by the time the final credits roll in this film from director Basil Dearden.
This film kind of reminded me of the tone set forth with the British comedy The Wrong Box where the comedy focuses in a twisted way on killings and murder. Diana Rigg stars here as a woman ahead of her time and wants to be a reporter on a series of assassinations that she has uncovered. Telly Savalas as a rich Hearst type character gives her the chance and promises to print her adventures in his newspapers.
The trail leads her to Oliver Reed. He is the chairman of the film’s title. It’s a position that was handed down by his late Father. Rigg’s request is a simple one to Reed. She wants to hire a killing to help with her story. The mark is none other than Reed himself. Is he willing to take on the contract? She places 20,000 pounds in his hands. In the spirit of good business he accepts.
When he confronts his business associates he explains that they no longer assassinate for the betterment of mankind and have become profiteers with no conscience. Unknown to Rigg, Savalas is the co-chair who yearns for the power that Reed holds. The task is a simple one. Either the bureau does away with Reed or he does away with it’s members including Curt Jurgens as a German General.
From here forward the film becomes a madcap comedy that takes Reed and Rigg from England across Paris, Vienna, Switzerland to Zurich and Russia as Reed goes about dispatching the bureau’s members. While doing so there are plenty of disguises for Reed to partake in. From elderly rich men at a Paris brothel to one of the Queen’s guards, Reed is having a good time. Tongue firmly in cheek with Rigg by his side. As the film moves along she too begins to enjoy the game and might just be falling for Reed’s adventurer.
Things will come full circle for Rigg as it’s Telly who is course the real villain here. But we knew it all along so sit back and enjoy.
Director Dearden had numerous credits to his name over a long career including The Blue Lamp and Dead of Night. He also had a young bit player turn up briefly in the 1960 crime caper The League of Gentleman. It’s none other than a pre stardom Ollie Reed.
Rigg is of course right at home in the spy thriller. The late sixties brought her to us in The Avengers on tv to playing opposite James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This film and the Bond adventure came out in the same year for Miss Rigg giving her plenty of coverage. Both films putting her up against the dastardly Savalas.
Oliver Reed gets his usual chance to scowl although this time smiling behind it for a change. Oliver was about to hit his prime in the early seventies on a global scale with Women in Love and the wonderful Musketeers films. For a great read on Olivers career get a copy of his autobiography Reed all About Me. It’s a hoot and one I fondly recall.
Bureau is a fun film but somehow I find it could have been better. It’s colorful and the casting is well done. But….. I guess I prefer the black comedy of The Wrong Box a wee bit more.