TBT: The Assassination Bureau (1969)

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Just for the dozen of you, or so, who complained that I missed The Assassination Bureau (1969) in my Man Candy Monday post on Oliver Reed, I decided that I should watch it and review it in atonement.

I think this Pinterest user sums it up perfectly:

The book was unfinished, the film was pretty much rubbish, but Diana and Olly were at their most gorgeous…

Olly and Diana definitely get marks for being absolutely stunning in this film, but beyond that…

I know this will likely offend all of you who love the film, but it is pretty much rubbish. The content did not age well over the last 50 years. The film came out during the first wave of feminism hitting its peak, so we are treated to a lot of winks-and-nods to progressive ideas about women taking on the patriarchy, but it’s done with hefty heaping of eye-rolling that I was hoping was going to be used as a foil for Diana Rigg‘s character, the spunky aspiring journalist Sonya Winter, but nope. It pretty much was the overarching theme. And while Oliver Reed’s character, Ivan Dragomiloff, was charmingly one-dimensional, Rigg’s character went from frigid man-hater to dead-weight woman within the first 10 minutes.

I guess you have to take into account the culture in which this film was created, but eh, I’m not going to waste my breath reifying the systemic sexism of the late-1960s. We already know what societal and cultural fuckery we are working with here, and it’s probably best for everyone’s sanity if we just move along.

Where the film is strongest is actually the costumes, which for the late-1960s, is saying a lot. Beatrice Dawson, probably best known for her work on the 1976 version of The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones, demonstrates a competent understanding of pre-World War I fashion re-imagined for a Swinging Sixties audience. The hair is big, but not too big. The men’s suits flirt with an exaggerated lapel, but dial it back just in time. There is a definite 1960s-does-1910s look to everything, but it’s not egregious.

Which is not to say that some choices were made.

I don’t even know how you’d get a corset to do that to breasts without something having gone seriously wrong somewhere along the way.

But for the most part, the costumes were above-average for the era.

Telly Savalas, feeling himself.

Gotta love the purple velvet smoking jacket.

There was too much scenery chewing going on for me to capture a good shot of Madame Otero’s dress, which was really quite good.

Knocked out by an intentionally set gas leak, Miss Winter not only immediately loses consciousness, but also her clothes.

This was the one suit that Ivan wears that I thought looked a tad too 1960s, but then again, it is not completely out of place for the nineteen-teens.

Uh oh, someone has a crush…

And he knows it.

This film had several weird musical numbers inserted into it at random points throughout.

The introduction of Eleanora Spado, the Italian femme fatale, upped the game considerably costume-wise.

Eat your heart out, Barbra.

The butterfly-butt dress was pretty spectacular:

And this little number she wears to the morgue…


As well as this little number under it…

Numbers 1 and 2, in fact.

The sheer black stripe over white is such a classic teens-era combo.

The hat game from this point on in the film is On Point.

Even Sonya ups her game in the costuming department:

My face during the musical interludes.

Would have really appreciated a full-length shot of this dress, because damn, it is stunning.

But then we’re back to practical clothing for the finale:

And here’s just a couple of photos of Oliver Reed being Oliver Reed:

 

How upset are you that I didn’t love The Assassination Bureau as much as you?

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Website

Sarah discovered her dual passion for history and costume right around the age of twelve. Dragged kicking and screaming to her first Renaissance Faire at Black Point, she was convinced she was going to hate it, but to her surprise, she fell head over heels in love with the world of reenactment and dress up immediately. Her undergraduate degree is in Clothing & Textile Design, and she has a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture. When she’s not hauling crap to SCA events and ren faires, Sarah enjoys reading true crime books, writing fiction, and sewing historical clothing from the Middle Ages through the 20th-century. One of these days, she might even start updating her old costuming blog again.

14 Responses

  1. Roxana

    So, one of those movies best enjoyed with the sound off so one can focus on the pretty pictures? And judging by the images the pictures are very pretty indeed.

    Reply
  2. picasso Manu

    Am looking at that corset picture, and seriously think someone missed their calling as a naval engineer: You can do that to a pair of boobies, you can make ANYTHING float!

    Reply
    • Lady Hermina De Pagan

      Ah, the bad garb classic, Tits on a platter. AKA, tortured puppies look. How many women at the local Ren fair have been talked into this look?

      Reply
  3. Stephanie

    Oh my, my senior prom gown (1970) looked very much like the outfit in the photo of Miss Winter knock out by the intentional gas link.

    Reply
  4. Jamie LaMoreaux

    not at all, it’s a fun romp o’ silliness and that’s what I enjoy about it. I don’t think it ever set out to be great “cinema,” as the story is silly in the first place. but the clothes are delish and beautiful, and some of the lines are wicked funny. I’m glad you watched it. I think of this movie as I think of cotton candy; light, air filled fluff that doesn’t aspire to be a great meal. just a fun snack that leaves you feeling sticky. :-D

    Reply
    • MoHub

      Exactly. Not a great film, but a lot of fun. And I think most of us mentioning it were strictly thinking it was an Oliver Reed costume film that you seem to have missed in your rundown.

      Reply
  5. karenbs333

    The other woman in the corset photo looks pretty skeptical about it, too. (Couldn’t be bothered figuring out who she is, sorry.)

    Reply
  6. Andrew.

    I felt the musical number set I the Viennese keller was reasonably accurate. (At least sans blutwurst bomb). I’ve been in places like that. Locals, not tourists. Impromptu singing and dancing, etc. Heck, there used to be a German restaurant here in San Francisco where as the evening wore on the head waitress would occassionally get up on one of the tables and begin dancing and singing.

    Reply
  7. CeridwensCauldron

    Not sure if you meant it ‘The film came out during the first wave of feminism hitting its peak’ or that it takes place then.. because the 1960s is considered second wave ;)
    No snark intended, cant forget all our suffragette ladies out there! :)

    Reply

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