Film: Modesty Blaise

Modesty Blaise is a 1966 comedy action/Spy Fiction film directed by Joseph Losey. It stars Monica Vitti as Modesty Blaise, Terence Stamp as Willie Garvin, and Dirk Bogarde as the villain, Gabriel.

The film is loosely based on the Modesty Blaise comic strip created and written by Peter O'Donnell. O'Donnell wrote the scenario for the movie, but the screenplay went through multiple rewrites and the end result differs significantly from the original. Changes range from the relatively trivial, such as hair colour, to a change that horrified the comic strip's fanbase: Platonic Life Partners Modesty and Willie falling in love and deciding to get married.

The storyline is as follows: Modesty, a secret agent whose hair color, hair style, and mod clothing change at a snap of her fingers, is being used by the British government as a decoy in an effort to thwart a diamond heist. She is being set up by the feds but is wise to the plot and calls in sidekick Willie and a few other friends to outsmart them. Meanwhile, at his island hideaway, Gabriel, the diamond thief, has his own plans for Blaise and Garvin.

O'Donnell wrote a novel based on his version of the screenplay, which (unlike the film) was successful and led to many sequels.

Quentin Tarantino is a fan of both the comic strip and this movie (in the case of the latter, the look of Modesty influenced the look of the DIVAS in Kill Bill). He also gave his name ("Quentin Tarantino Presents...") to a Modesty Blaise movie released in 2004.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Modesty is blonde and Willie isn't, the reverse of their hair colours in the comic strip. She does change it to her original colour in a couple of scenes, perhaps as a form of lampshading.
  • A Glass of Chianti: Gabriel lounges with a glass of blue wine while dispensing his evil orders.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Abu Tahir, who adopted Modesty as his "son".
  • Camp: The high type.
  • The Cavalry: The charge at the end done by Abu Tahir and his troops.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: This exchange:
    Gabriel: I am the villain of the piece. I have to condemn you.
    Modesty Blaise: But I am the heroine. Don't I get away?
    Gabriel: Perhaps.
  • Psycho for Hire: Mrs. Fothergill. She likes to submit her "minions" to physical exercise and enjoys killing a mime and throwing him off a cliff (it doesn't make much sense in context, anyway).
  • Relationship Upgrade: Modesty and Willie. And the action comes to a halt while they do a song and dance number about it.
  • Sissy Villain: Gabriel. So much.
  • Volleying Insults: During the period of "truce" between Modesty and Gabriel:
    Gabriel: Suffragette!
    Modesty Blaise: Psychopath!