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 »
When John Harris's daughter is badly injured in an boating accident, the hospital tells him that she will need an urgent blood transfusion. Due to his religious beliefs Harris refuses ... See full summary »
Young Jenny heads to the South of England to start a new career as a school teacher. Even before she has had a chance to settle in she meets Patrick, one of the local "lads". Within a short... 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 »
Imprisoned Harry Lomart is a vicious, brute of a man and yet he is prepared to do his long jail term as he is confident that on his release his beautiful wife Pat will be waiting for him, but a visit from Pat brings him his worst nightmare.
Oliver Reed and Michael Crawford play two brothers who are always trying to find some way to succeed with cleverness rather than simple drudgery. Crawford is constantly living in his ... See full summary »
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jack London - An American Original With a "Jules Verne" Problem
Jack London was a phenomenal writer, who came up from poverty and turned out some amazing books. These include (but are not limited to) THE SEA WOLF, WHITE FANG, THE CALL OF THE WILD. London is usually brushed aside today as a "kids" author. The same idiocy that relegates Jules Verne to be a writer for children and ignores his savage comments on politics affects London. After you are encouraged (about eighth grade) to read THE CALL OF THE WILD, you are told that London is always writing about man and animals in Alaska in the Gold Rush of 1898, with an occasional look at an exciting sea story.
Actually he's sharper than that: THE CALL OF THE WILD and WHITE FANG were his attempts to tell a story from an animals' point of view. THE SEA WOLF is his attempt to attack the prevalent socio-economic doctrine of the day (1900): Social Darwinism, as practiced by Captain Wolf Larsen. He wrote one of the first good novels about America under a dictatorship: THE IRON HEEL. He discussed his early life in MARTIN EDEN. He discussed his alcoholism in his book JOHN BARLEYCORN. He was the first American novelist of real international stature to embrace socialism! A reporter as well as writer, his experiences watching the Japanese government prevent him from carrying out his job during the Russo - Japanese War turned him into a perpetually hostile critic of Japan's goals in the Pacific (although, to be fair to the Japanese, London did show some racism here).
Keeping this in mind, one realizes that THE ASSASSINATION BUREAU, LTD. has to be tackled differently from say THE CALL OF THE WILD or the short story TO BUILD A FIRE. London is looking with jaundice eye at the political system that had ruled Europe (and most of the world) since 1815 or so. It was oppressive and uneven, and even in the United States (probably the best major power to live in in terms of opportunity and social mobility) it was still badly flawed.
Assassination had become a serious tool for trying to influence European affairs from 1881 to 1910 (when the novel was begun by London). Tsar Alexander II of Russia was blown to bits in 1881 by a Nihilist group called "The People's Will". Although it was captured and most of its members hanged, others copied it. Assassinations continued in Russia up to 1911 including Interior Grand Duke Serge in 1904,Minister Von Phleve in 1905, and Prime Minister Peter Stolypin in 1911. Elsewhere the other states suffered. Presidents Garfield and McKinley were assassinated in 1881 and 1901 (the latter by a self-proclaimed anarchist). President Sadi Carnot of France was stabbed to death in a public parade in 1894, in the middle of a series of anarchist attacks (including a bombing at the Chambre of Deputies). Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary, King Umberto I of Italy, the Prime Minister of Spain, King Carlos III of Portugal, were all killed. So were Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Burke by Irish nationalists in Phoenix Park in 1882. Many smaller public figures were killed as well. The topic of an "assassination bureau" was timely - especially as some of these victims fit what the bureau decided: were the targets worthy of being assassinated.
Of course not all of them were (Empress Elisabeth for example). But London's vision was not totally flawed. It was just that being a realist he knew that the "pure" idea of the bureau would be corrupted sooner or later. So his plot involves the head of this international bureau being offered a huge reward if he orders his own assassination. Note that Oliver Reed's character is a Russian, as though the author knew who was most likely to be the head of an assassination group.
Probably due to other commitments London never finished the novel. Robert L. Fish, a successful mystery novelist, wrote a completion which was rather amusing. I tend to believe that was an error - London was seldom an amusing writer. The film treats the moral issue as a joke, and uses the characters as caricatures of the nations they represent (the doleful Russian, the gluttonous and sexually active Italian, the pragmatic Frenchmen who runs a bordello too, the English newspaper tycoon). These characters need good performers, and Philippe Noiret is on target as the bordello owner/assassin leader); and (although not Italian) Clive Revill is quite good as the Italian. The Russian (it's not Reed) is doleful, but hardly memorable. As for Lord Bostwick, Telly Savalas is not convincing as an English aristocrat (one can't even imagine him as a Canadian transplant to England, like Spencer Tracy in EDWARD, MY SON). Curt Jurgens' German assassination leader, General Von Pinck (the name suggested, perhaps, by his handiness with a sword) is either sadistically high-spirited or vicious: no other characteristics there.
Diana Rigg, as the budding journalist who's first job is actually as a cats-paw for Savalas (her boss) is pretty good, but her performance as Vincent Price's daughter in THEATRE OF BLOOD was livelier. She seems determined to maintain her suffragette style dignity here no matter what. However it happens to work for the film. As for Reed, his straight villains were usually far better than his heroes. He appears to be too laid back at times. A bit more jittery behavior would have been better.
One final point: One minor character, an Austrian nobleman marked for death, is killed when he cuts into a large knock-wurst (that has a bomb in it). This gag probably is not original but it was reused in the television movie MORE WILD WILD WEST with Jonathan Winters as the victim.
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