Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 19th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1966
Director: Joseph Losey
Writers: Evan Jones, Harold Pinter, Stanley Dubens, Peter O’Donnell
Comic Strip Created By: Peter O’Donnell, Jim Holdaway
Cast: Monica Vitti, Terence Stamp, Dirk Bogarde, Harry Andrews, Clive Revill, Alexander Knox, Rossella Falk, Saro Urzì, Tina Aumont
BluRay released: August 23rd, 2016
Approximate running times: 119 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
BluRay Release: Kino Lorber
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
Modesty Blaise was directed by Joseph Losey, who’s other notable films include, The Servant, King & Country, Accident, The Go-Between and Mr. Klein. Key collaborators on Modesty Blaise include, screenwriter Evan Jones (Eva, Funeral in Berlin), cinematographer Jack Hildyard (Mafia Junction, The Beast Must Die) and composer John Dankworth (“The Avengers”, Darling). The screenplay for the film was adapted from the comic strip of the same named created by writer Peter O’Donnell and illustrator Jim Holdaway.
Modesty Blaise was unleashed on unsuspecting audiences during a time when Spy films were at the height of their popularity. And though the film’s is filled with tongue & cheek references to Spy films, the end result is something that far transcends your run of the mill satire.
First and foremost, the key to ultimately enjoying Modesty Blaise comes down knowing and understanding is numerous references to other films. Many of which have nothing to do with Spy film genre and in many instances said references are director Joseph Losey referencing his own films.
Another way this film excels and this is in regards to its humor. Is that many of the objects in the film change is size and characters hair / appearance changes without any explanation. And not to be overlooked is how this film has its two leads Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp on a few occasions burst into song. These moments are further driven home by the fact that both of their voices are actually used despite their inability to carry a note.
Locations and set design also plays a large role in this film which is knee deep in the 1960’s pop art movement. Inside the actually locations the explosion of colors does not end there as the majority of rooms are filled with everyday objects that have been transformed into something grander.
From a visual stand point, there is not an inch of real state that is not used for maximum effect. With a few stand out moments visually like, a scene Modesty Blaise and Dirk Gabriel are at a table and while they are eating objects change in size and their hair / clothes change while the scene progresses. Another standout moment is a scene where Modesty Blaise is locked in a room that screams isolation and the only things in this empty room is a spiral staircase. This scene is clear nod filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni (L’Eclisse, Blow-Up).
All around the entire cast are a superb in their respective roles. With this films two standout performances coming from Monica Vitti (L’Avventura, La Notte) in the role of Modesty Blaise and Dirk Bogarde (The Woman in Question, The Damned) in the role of Gabriel. Bot deliver delirious performances that if firmly rooted in camp. Other notable performances include, Rossella Falk (Black Belly of the Tarantula, The Fifth Cord) in the of Mrs. Fothergill, Gabriel’s sadistic wife and Terence Stamp (The Collector, Spirits of the Dead) in the role of Willie Garvin, he is Modesty’s right hand man.
Modesty Blaise comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Much has been made about this transfer around the internet and though it appears this transfer is from a dated source. The end result is a transfer that is by far and away better then all of this film’s previous home video releases. Areas of marked improvement include, colors look more vibrant, shadow detail and image clarity. There are no problems with compression and though grain is present throughout this transfer. It should be noted that there appears to be some digital enhancing of the image, most notably the film’s opening scene / credits.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono in English. The audio is in good shape and free of any background noise or distortion. Range and depth wise this audio mix leaves room for improvement. Dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. The films score sounds appropriately robust and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack fare well.
Extras for this release include, a trailers for Modesty Blaise (3 minutes 35 seconds), Fathom (2 minutes 45 seconds and Boccaccio ’70 (2 minutes 20 seconds), an animated image gallery (4 minutes 25 seconds), three interviews – the first interview is with first assistant director Gavrik Losey (13 minutes 18 seconds), the second interview is with screenwriter Evan Jones (8 minutes 26 seconds) and the third interview is with assistant art director Norman Dorme (3 minutes 56 seconds) and an audio commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle and filmmaker Armand Mastroianni.
Topics discussed in the interview with Gavrik Losey include, why he was brought in to replace the original 1st AD, the cast & his thoughts about their performances, Joseph Losey, how he liked to use mirrors in his films and his father’s legacy as a filmmaker.
Topics discussed in the interview with Evan Jones include, Joseph Losey, Modesty Blaise adapting the comic source into a feature film and how they differ, his thoughts about Monica Vitti & Terence Stamp’s performances, producer Joseph Janni and his thoughts about how the film turned out
Topics discussed in the interview with Norman Dorme include, Shepperton Studios and his thoughts about Modesty Blaise.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, how film only scrapes the surface in regards to the Modesty Blaise character and those who are interested in the character should check out the Modesty Blaise comics & books, Sidney Gilliatt was the film’s original director, how this was Monica Vitti’s 1st English language film, the cast & info about them, Spy films and his this is a satire of those films, the numerous self-referential moments throughout this film, differences between the comic & the film, Joseph Losey, the look of the film & his cinema influences, the score and problems that occurred during production.
Overall Modesty Blaise gets a strong release from Kino Lorber, highly recommended.