Jack Hawkins, Marisa Mell, and Cliff Robertson in Masquerade (1965)


(director: Basil Dearden; screenwriters: Michael Relph/William Goldman/from the novel “Castle Minerva” by Victor Canning; cinematographer: Otto Heller; editor: John Guthridge; music: Philip Green; cast: Cliff Robertson (David Frazer), Jack Hawkins (Colonel Drexel), Marisa Mell (Sophie), Christopher Witty (Prince Jamil), Bill Fraser (Dunwoody), Michel Piccoli (George Sarrassin), Ernest Clark (Minister), Charles Gray (Benson), Jerold Wells (Brindle); Runtime: 102; United Artists; 1965-UK)

“A sometimes funny satire spoof on spy films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A sometimes funny satire spoof on spy films. The British Foreign Office has an unofficial operation put into play by the retired Colonel Drexel (Hawkins). The plan is to kidnap an oil sheik and hold him for two weeks until he turns 14 and can officially sign a treaty after his coronation, which will give a British oil company rights to oil from his country. The kidnapping is for his own protection. Drexel insists on using his friend from the war, the American soldier of fortune David Frazer (Robertson), even though he has a reputation of being unreliable and is going through a difficult time trying to earn money at present.

The kidnapping of Prince Jamin goes well. He’s a snobby and unlikable child, who insists on being called Your Highness. He’s held on a secure seacoast mansion in Spain. But soon a strange group consisting of a dwarf, a guy in a beret (Piccoli), a fierce looking guy, and a sexy redhead called Sophie, make overtures that they want to steal the speed boat at the hideout. The security guard assigned to help David watch the Arab prince is the unimaginative but officious Brindle.

David is fooled into thinking the strange group are smugglers, instead they kidnap the prince and frame David. Benson, the man in charge of the Secret Service branch, takes David off the island and blames him for double crossing the operation. In their exit the unseemly group kidnap David and kill the car driver. This group of traveling circus performers plans to turn the prince over to their contact man who will get ransom money from the oil company for the prince and have David take the blame as their leader.

The plot is filled with double-crosses, adventurous situations, an escape from a mysterious castle, and a dangerous romance between Sophie and David. A mysterious character shows up out of the blue, Dunwoody (Fraser), and becomes part of the intrigue.

Masquerade successfully sets a cynical tone about spies and their governments, but it fails to go deeper than that. The characters were all underdeveloped and more cartoonish than real.