It doesn't really work, does it? But in the mid 1960s everyone was trying to cash in on the James Bond craze. Rival spy series included Matt Helm, Harry Palmer, Bulldog Drummond and Derek Flint. MGM's hopes for a Bond rival were pinned on Rod Taylor as Boysie Oakes in The Liquidator.
Taylor's character is an ex-army sergeant who is inducted into the British secret service by spy master Colonel Mostyn (Trevor Howard). Mostyn has been tasked by his boss (Wilfrid Hyde-White) to recruit an agent to carry out unofficial assassinations off the books. Mostyn recalls an incident in wartime Paris, shown in a black and white flashback sequence, when he was rescued by Oakes from two would-be assassins. Unbeknown to him, Oakes's heroics were mostly accidental. Oakes goes along with the plan, smitten as he is with the money he's paid, the E-Type Jaguar he's given, the swanky '60s bachelor pad apartment and the endless parade of beautiful women that come with it.
The Liquidator is a pretty mild spoof, with some unexpectedly dark elements, including the various assassinations and surprise character deaths, and it doesn't always blend the comedy and the action as well as it could. It's main innovation is that Taylor's character is only semi-competent at best, and enjoys the secret agent lifestyle but not the actual spying bit. Other than that, it often covers similar territory to other spy films and TV series of the time. There's plenty of 1960s lifestyle porn, trips to the French Riviera, stolen jet planes and beautiful women who can't be trusted.
But there's quite a bit to enjoy for fans of sixties British cinema and spy films in particular, starting with a bold title sequence by Richard Williams and a pseudo-Bond title song (by Lalo Schifrin) belted out by none other than Bond regular Shirley Bassey. Trevor Howard is on good form as Boysie's no-nonsense boss, who convinces himself that Boysie is a cold-blooded killer and takes every denial as further confirmation of his ruthlessness. As Howard's secretary and Taylor's love interest, future Bond girl Jill St. John gets a little more to do than in Diamonds are Forever, including attempting a remarkably plummy on-again off-again English accent. There's also a strong cadre of British comic character actors in the supporting ranks, including Sykes, Wilfrid Hyde-White, David Tomlinson, John Le Mesurier, Derek Nimmo, Colin Gordon and Richard Wattis.
The LiquidatorYear: 1965
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, Spies
Director: Jack Cardiff
Cast Rod Taylor (Boysie Oakes), Trevor Howard (Colonel Mostyn), Jill St. John (Iris), Wilfrid Hyde White (Chief), David Tomlinson (Quadrant), Akim Tamiroff (Sheriek), Eric Sykes (Griffen), Gabriella Licudi (Corale), John Le Mesurier (Chekhov), Derek Nimmo (Fly), Jeremy Lloyd (young man), Jennifer Jayne (Janice Benedict), Heller Toren (assistant), Betty McDowall (Frances Anne), Jo Rowbottom (Betty), Colin Gordon (vicar), Louise Dunn (Jessie), Henri Cogan (Yakov), Daniel Emilfork (Gregory), Scot Finch (operations officer), Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Mac), Richard Wattis (flying instructor), David Langton (station commander), Tony Wright (flying control), Suzy Kendall (Judith)
Screenplay Peter Yeldham based on the novel by John Gardner Producer Jon Penington Cinematography Ted Scaife Art director John Blezard Editor Ernest Walter Music Lalo Schifrin Costumes Elizabeth Haffenden, Joan Bridge
Running time 105 mins Colour Metrocolor Widescreen Panavision
Production company MGM British Studios Distributor MGM