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Colonel Mostyn is the chief of a section of the British Security Services when they are embarrassed by the number of spies and defections. The Chief tells him to do something about it so he hires Boys Oaks as Agent L - The Liquidator, to assassinate people about to cause trouble. Although Boys likes the cars and the girls that his new position attracts he's not any good at it. He's also got a phobia about flying that makes jetting off to exotic places a bit of an embarrassment.Written by
Steve Crook <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Where Are All the Good Assassins When You Need Them?
MASTER PLAN: Assassinations. More assassinations. There was only one Liquidator film, unlike the duo of 'Flint' films and the Matt Helm film series, but it preceded both of them in jumping on the super spy spoof trend of the sixties - a trend instigated by none other than James Bond. This one even has the familiar teaser, a quirky origin skit for the hero, followed by a bombastic song over the titles which is quite evocative of the standard Bond style - and well it should be, for the song is belted out by Shirley Bassey, she who did sing the famous "Goldfinger" song. The plot sort of re-imagines the way Bond might have started in the spy/license-to-kill business: the title character (Taylor) sort of stumbles into the killing trade at the end of the war (the Big One, in Paris), making a long-lasting impression on his future boss (Howard). Despite this supervisor's long experience in espionage, reading people and so on, his assessment of the soldier, womanizing Boysie, is completely off-base. He's convinced that the man is a killing machine when, in fact, the soon-to-be code-named L hates even the thought of killing anyone. The whole thing's a more direct satirical jab at the secret agent genre than the later spoofs because the central 'hero' is a total fraud, unlike, say, Matt Helm, who may indulge in too much booze, but can still kill effectively and even effortlessly. Unfortunately for the relatively harmless Boysie/soon-to-be-known-as-L, the head of British Intelligence, years later, abruptly decides on a new policy: dispense with the standard bureaucracy and simply eliminate enemies of the state (Queen & Country) behind-the-scenes, without the usual rules. Such a new radical procedure needs the skills of a particular individual, someone in the blunt instrument/James Bond-mold. They couldn't have selected a more inappropriate fellow.
Now, the actor Rod Taylor is actually better suited for straight action roles; he comes across as genuinely rough-&-tumble and I remember him from quite a few effective tough-guy roles in the sixties. Even here, though he's a nice, inoffensive guy, he can still beat up bad guys if he has to. But, he also projects a likable if slightly-dopey persona and you find yourself buying into this clumsy, somewhat goofy character he creates here. After the groundwork is laid out, as far the hero's new digs and requisite, if brief, training, the story really diverts into outrageous territory when the supposedly lethal L gets the idea to subcontract his assignments to a real assassin (who doesn't look nearly as heroic). Though this may be a sly commentary on the overly-involved nature of shadow operations in government, the story also slows down to a crawl, with much of the focus on L's attempts to make time with his boss's secretary (Jill St.John). Things pick up when the new couple go away to Monte Carlo for R&R and still get involved in spy intrigue. There's an amusing sequence after L is captured & locked up, and then the villains are forced to let him escape, but one of the henchmen isn't in on this change of plan. The comedy is also gallows in nature, pretty dark, since intense espionage usually involves death. The climactic action also features a revelation about who a criminal mastermind really is, though the finale also lacks any grand set-pieces, further diverting from the expected over-the-top fantastic endings of such thrillers. I admit I was disappointed when I saw this many years ago, probably because it was such a sharp deviation from an expected formula, but this film has grown on me and I thoroughly enjoy much of it now, mostly Taylor's and Howard's performances, as well as Tomlinson as a sneaky villain. Hero:8 Villain:7 Femme Fatales:6 Henchmen:7 Fights:6 Stunts/Chases:6 Gadgets:4 Auto:6 Locations:6 Pace:6 overall:6+
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