A classic British Black Comedy film from 1969, directed by Basil Dearden and adapted from the novel The Assassination Bureau, Ltd (which was started by Jack London in 1910, left unfinished, and completed by Robert L. Fish in 1963).
Oliver Reed plays Ivan Dragomiloff, the head of a Murder, Inc. gang in Edwardian London. While he is quite proud of his accomplishments, he feels that his subordinates have lost track of the high moral standard on which his father founded the association: No killing unless it can be determined that murder is the best solution. To that end, he accepts an offer from journalist Sonia Winter (Diana Rigg): If they can't kill him, he will kill them.
Of course, he also has reason to believe that his 2IC (Telly Savalas) has reasons of his own for wanting him dead.
This movie has examples of
- Contract on the Hitman: What gets the whole plot moving. Incredibly, Ivan is the leader of the Bureau and he could be perfectly capable of refusing the order — he just decides it's a good idea to bring out other corrupt members of the Bureau out into the open.
- Faking the Dead: A particularly lucky example.
- Historical In-Joke: A bomb intended for Dragomiloff accidentally kills Franz Ferdinand (in reality, he was killed during a parade)
- Hitman with a Heart: Dragomiloff has one very important rule as the leader of the Assassination Bureau: that those that are killed by the Bureau must be people that deserve it. The antagonists of the film are people who wish to take over the Bureau to use it for their own purposes (mostly changing politics as they see fit).
- Latex Perfection: One of the many methods that the Bureau has perfected to assassinate people are full-face masks. Unfortunately for the Master of Disguise that tries this on Ivan, Dragomiloff exposes a great weakness to the technology: the masks catch fire very easily.
- Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Dragomiloff sees the chalice being poisoned, and notes that the table has the ability to rotate. He then notes which chalice has the poison, rotates the table, and drinks to fake his own death. Fortunately for him, the would-be murderer senses that the tables are being turned, and refuses to drink from the actual poisoned chalice.
- Suicide by Assassin: Sonia Winter manages to order a Contract on the Hitman and Ivan, even if as the leader of the Bureau is capable of refusing it, decides to take it in order to do some "house cleaning" of potentially corrupt assassins.
- Widow's Weeds: Due to Faking the Dead, Miss Winter and a female antagonist have a montage showing them dressing in competitively glamourous mourning - both are rather too fashionable by the end of it for the intended sentiment to apply, but it's a very ironic movie overall.