The Assassination Bureau has existed for decades (perhaps centuries) until Diana Rigg begins to investigate it. The high moral standing of the Bureau (only killing those who deserve it) is ... See full summary »
In 1950s London racial hostility to Commonweath immigrants is openly paraded. A pregnant girl, initially assumed to be white, is murdered. As two detectives start to investigate, and ... See full summary »
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The Assassination Bureau has existed for decades (perhaps centuries) until Diana Rigg begins to investigate it. The high moral standing of the Bureau (only killing those who deserve it) is called into question by her. She puts out a contract for the Bureau to assassinate its leader on the eve of World War I. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
The big selling point of "The Assassination Bureau" is that it was based on an unfinished novel by Jack London -- "Unfinished" being an euphemism for "abandoned". Long after London's death it was finished by a lesser writer and that version is the basis for this movie.
A superb cast, headed by Oliver Reed and Diana Rigg, is underemployed.
Reed plays the chairman of the Assassination Bureau, Ltd. For a price, the bureau will undertake the homicide of deserving victims. Like a Star Chamber court they weigh each case by their own sense of justice.
Rigg, an enterprising journalist, decides to end the bureau by approaching Reed for a hit. Reed accepts, only to discover she wants Reed to assassinate himself. Amused, he accepts. The bureau, he thinks, has become too mercenary, killing whether they've carefully weighed the justice of the murder or not.
Bringing it before the Bureau, Reed suggests they clean house -- either they kill the chairman, or he kills all of them.
And this is just in the first fifteen minutes.
What follows is an episodic cat-and-mouse game and, like all episodic features, some episodes work better than others. The scenes in Switzerland and Vienna, for example, are remarkably uninteresting, while the scenes in Venice show flashes of brilliance. Best scene: Diana Rigg, swathed in only a towel, trying to discover whether there is a bomb in her room, whether it's just a clock, or whether it's altogether her imagination. The most embarrassing is an extended foray in a French bordello.
Scrumptuous turn-of-the-century sets, far better than anything in similar period features like "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", make for great eye-candy. The whole feature plays light-handedly, so its treatment of death never comes off even as black-comedic, as with the superior "The Wrong Box". To accentuate the joking element is the addition of a wacky late-sixties type song about love that makes the Carpenters sound profound.
Silly as it is, and dull as it can be in spots, its high spirit is infectious. How much of it is Jack London, I don't know, but it's a far cry from "The Sea Wolf"
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