Warner Bros. // 1965 // 105 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // August 29th, 2012
His lips are on fire.
His gun is not for hire.
He fills girls with desire.
...What a man!
Things aren't going well for the British secret service. A number of high-level assassinations that were supposed to be clandestine have been found out, leaving the agency fraught with scandal.
The head of the agency (Wilfred Hyde-White, My Fair Lady) determines that they need a skilled killer. Second-in-Command Mostyn (Trevor Howard, The Third Man), thinks he knows one: a fellow named Boysie Oakes (Rod Taylor, The Birds), who during the war had saved Mostyn from being assassinated himself. What Mostyn didn't realize is that Oakes' rescue had more to do with bumbling than heroism: the soldier tripped, discharging his gun and killing the would-be killers.
Mostyn finds the American Oakes living in England and makes him an offer he can't refuse: a lavish apartment, a hot car, and a steady stream of beautiful women. His Code Name: "L" -- for Liquidator. All Oakes has to do is carry out the occasional murder.
Oakes loves the fringe benefits, but he just doesn't have the stomach for killing, so he subcontracts an actual murderer (Eric Sykes, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) to do the jobs for him. Of course, this is against policy, but so is getting personally involved with anyone at the agency...and Oakes can't help himself gettting involved with Mostyn's beautiful assistant, Iris (Jill St. John, Diamonds Are Forever).
What's a reluctant Liquidator to do?
With the success of Sean Connery's James Bond films in the early '60s, a rash of spy movies was to be expected. Some were serious, some not so much. The Liquidator definitely falls into the latter category, and while it might have just been one of a number in 1965, it's a real pleasure to see it now.
Directed by Jack Cardiff (Young Cassidy), The Liquidator is a lot of fun. Breezy and sexy, with a good dose of dry British wit, the film has enough action and plot twists to make it more than just a simple knock off. The amusing, animated opening credits, complete with a theme song performed by Shirley Bassey ("Goldfinger"), serve as a perfect set-up for a film that's part Bond take-off and part spy story in and of itself.
Taylor is just right as fumbling but resourceful Oakes. He's got the leading man looks, and he has the talent to successfully play the comedy with an easy charm and assured timing. Howard is excellent as the harried Mostyn, and future Bond Girl Jill St. John is well cast as Oakes' sexy object of desire.
The Liquidator was adapted from the novel by John Gardner, the first of a series of books about Oakes. The film ends with a set-up for a sequel; unfortunately, none of Gardner's other Oakes books was made into a film.
This release of The Liquidator is from Warner Archives, which means no frills: decent letterboxed image, decent audio, a trailer as the only supplement.
A well-done early send up of a genre that's since been spoofed nearly into oblivion, The Liquidator is worth a look.
Review content copyright © 2012 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1965
MPAA Rating: Not Rated