A prisoner of war working at a zoo gets the chance to escape from the Germans, so he does and he takes with him the elephant that he's been caring for. Together they head for the Swiss border and freedom.
Michael J. Pollard
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>
When the heads of state gather at the castle, the Deutschlandlied plays for the German emperor. However, Deutschlandlied only became the national anthem of Germany in 1922. While Germany had no official national anthem before that, Heil Dir im Siegerkranz would have been the anthem used in the emperor's presence. See more »
To enjoy and even admire this period piece, set just before the industrial revolution of the 20th century, one has to understand what it is. It's certainly not a parody of James Bond or some off cue thriller; it's high comedy, a farce of magnificent proportions, aided & abetted by fine action. You have to get in on the joke with Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas and the rest, all obviously enjoying themselves, but not at our expense. Let them amuse you and bemuse you, and you'll have a grand time. By this point, over 35 years after this was filmed, it may be difficult for younger viewers to follow along with Reed and realize when he is winking at them during one of his outrageous pronouncements. He's the head of the organization of the title - it is what you think it is, no pretensions there - its business is killing people, for money. But that is about the only thing which is up front in this picture. Everyone is not who they seem to be, usually having a decent public face and the secret hidden one - the one catering to the less moral side of all of us.
This is probably my favorite Oliver Reed performance. He grabs the role of the debonair gentleman assassin and turns it into uniquely his own. Some of his dry line delivery, particularly when sparring with Rigg, is priceless; my favorite is when they meet and she informs him who she wants killed; he soon demands her reasons, yelling "Is That it? Is That It!?!" Later in the film, she calls him annoying. "I have been told that," he replies, but never have we heard the line spoken that way. He needs to carry the picture, outsmarting and fooling all the other sneaky assassins out for his blood with disguises, role-playing and careless bravado. This is where the picture really shifts into high gear, turning into a duel among a group of master killers who, luckily, do not yet have the advantages of 20th century weaponry. The supporting cast are all terrific, including Savalas as Reed's main nemesis, Jurgens as a German general and Noiret who, besides being an assassin, also runs a brothel (no limits to the French).
The script and dialog are continually witty throughout, many of the lines classic and too numerous to mention here. Again, some of this may be lost on anyone under 30 years old; in a way, this brand of humor can now be termed sophisticated - no gross bodily function joking. It does revolve around death, so a kind of dark farce results, of course - yet it's not morbid. That's probably because most of the victims deserve their ends as presented here; they made their beds, as it were. The dialog is complemented by inventive turns in the plot; there's actually quite a bit of suspense as the story turns & twists here and there, especially during the sequence in Venice, where the order of characters being killed is not as expected. The finale is also suspenseful - you may wonder how Reed will pull it off, stopping an entire zeppelin and its crew. And please keep in mind the special FX are over 35 years old, as well. Just glorious stuff.
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