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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 <email@example.com>
This picture was one of the first of the major studio's big budget spy spoofs of the James Bond series and pre-dates the Matt Helm and Derek Flint spy spoof franchises. See more »
When Boysie is in the harness shooting at targets, he is using a six-shot revolver, but fires eleven shots without time to reload, or is seen doing so. He then empties the cylinder, is seen reloading two rounds, and then fires off three more shots. See more »
All the elements seem to be in place to make The Liquidator a success: a witty script, a strong cast, an over-the-top Shirley Bassey theme song, crisp cinematography in glorious 1960s Technicolor. But having said that, the whole package doesn't quite come off.
The basic idea is a clever one: to take the familiar secret agent movie premise and subvert it by making the central character a reluctant assassin who "wouldn't hurt a fly". The problem is, Rod Taylor is just too "straight" for the role. Like the Royal Air Force's new top secret spy plane, Taylor often seems to be running on automatic pilot.
The comic elements here should have been exploited for much greater effect. Comparisons with Connery's James Bond are wide of the mark, since this film does not aspire to match the serious thrill quotient of a Bond movie. But it does contain some delicious irony, and a couple of neat twists that even surpass the usual formula at times.
The scene in which Taylor, imprisoned in a cellar with his captor's floozy, is openly encouraged to escape, is neatly handled - until the poor girl is needlessly gunned down by another member of the gang to "silence" her. This provokes a cliff-top chase that culminates in a dangling moment of rare high tension, evoking the original Italian Job.
Younger fans of the Austin Powers series may enjoy seeing what actual swinging '60s films were really like. But where Mike Myers' films take the tiniest germ of a funny idea and magnify it over and over, The Liquidator does the reverse: a potentially promising humorous situation tends just to be left hanging in the air.
For connoisseurs of British pictures of the period, there are little treats on offer too, in the appearance of familiar faces like Trevor Howard, Eric Sykes, Wilfred Hyde White and Richard Wattis - although again, their talent is mostly wasted. The delightful Jill St. John (who would go on to do the "real thing" in Diamonds Are Forever) is eminently watchable throughout, and her performance raises the whole tone; indeed she and Howard are the best things on view here.
Overall then, whilst The Liquidator is certainly an enjoyable film, with the right leading actor, or perhaps a director with a keener eye for comic possibilities, it could have been a much funnier romp through contemporary spy film clichés. So while it must go down as something of a missed opportunity, for me it's better fun than Casino Royale - either the new version or the 1967 one.
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