(director: Basil Dearden; screenwriters: novel by Jack London and Robert Fish/Micheal Relph/Wolf Mankiewicz; cinematographer: Geoffrey Unsworth; editor: Teddy Darvas; music: Ron Grainer; cast: Patrick Allen (Narrator), Diana Rigg (Sonya Winter), Oliver Reed (Ivan Dragomiloff), Telly Savalas (Lord Bostwick), Curt Jurgens (Gen. von Pinck), Philippe Noiret (Lucoville), Warren Mitchell (Weiss), Beryl Reid (Madame Otero); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Micheal Relph/Basil Dearden; Paramount; 1969-UK)

A not as clever a black comedy as it might think.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A not as clever a black comedy as it might think. The period piece is loosely based on the unfinished turn of the 20th century novel by Jack London that was finished by Robert Fish, and is written by Micheal Relph and Wolf Mankiewicz. Brit director Basil Dearden(“The Secret Partner”/”Khartoum”/”Sapphire”) tries to pump glee into this lightweight vehicle by giving the odd assortment of characters freedom to do their shtick, by moving around to multiple sites in Europe and by stylishly enhancing it with great production values.

In 1906, during the Victorian period, the liberated lady journalist, Sonya Winter (Diana Rigg), breaks up an ethical secret international murder for profit gang, who choose only vics who deserve to die. They are dubbed as The Assassination Bureau. Sonya targets their debonair leader, Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed), on the eve of World War I, by taking out a contract with the Bureau to take out their leader. But then Sonya falls in love with him, and Ivan must turn the tables on the gang in a game of cat-and-mouse all across Europe. The conniving aristocratic newspaper publisher Lord Bostwick (Telly Savalas) makes things more complicated.

The silly story is not much, but Reed is malevolently funny, Rigg is an eyeful and Geoffrey Unsworth’s period photography is artful in case your mind wanders before the zippy zeppelin conclusion.