by Joseph Losey
Country: UK
Year: 1966
Duration: 112'

Exotic sets, chase scenes, fisticuffs for the thief Modesty Blaise and her accomplice Willie, secret agents for Her Majesty in order to recover a cache of diamonds. Inspired by a famous comic book, Losey waxes ironic over 007 fashions and legends, with a wild Monica Vitti, a cool Terence Stamp and a mean, platinum blond Bogarde. People snubbed it when it first came out, but over the years it has become a minor cult film.


film director

Joseph Losey

Joseph Losey
(La Crosse, WI, USA, 1909 - London, UK, 1984)

The scion of a wealthy family, Losey studied medicine and English literature at Dartmouth and Harvard before abandoning his studies and moving to New York to follow his passion for theater. The ’29 stock market crash helped develop his left-wing political and social vision, which led to his embrace of Communism. In 1935 he moved to Russia, where he continued his studies and came into contact with the major theatrical exponents of the time, Meyerhold, Jay Leyda, Dovzhenko and Eisenstein. After returning to the United States, he began working on Broadway and made his first shorts for MGM, before moving on to RKO shortly thereafter. In 1946, he directed Charles Laughten in a stage version of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo (he also filmed it for the silver screen), collaborating with the author himself. The next year, he directed his first feature film, The Boy with Green Hair, an offbeat, pseudo-science fiction parabola about racism and conformism. It was followed by The Lawless, The Prowler and M, a remake of Lang’s M (1931), which revealed Losey’s interest in political, socially-motivated films. But in 1951, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee for his sympathies for the radical left-wing and it basically become impossible for him to work in Hollywood. Thus, Losey left America and moved first to Italy and then to England, where the second and more important part of his career began. Using a pseudonym, he made a number of commercial movies, including The Sleeping Tiger, which marked the beginning of a profitable collaboration with Dirk Bogarde, and in 1957 he shot the crude and violent detective movie Time Without Pity, which was followed by the melodrama Eva. In 1963, Losey met the playwright and future Nobel prize winner Harold Pinter, with whom he made important films such as The Servant and Accident, both of which star a superlative Bogarde, and The Go-Between, Palme d’or in Cannes in 1971, all of which depict British society as classist, oppressive and riddled with irreconcilable, hidden conflicts. His projects were often hampered by miscomprehension and hostility with his producers (the list of his projects that were never realized is longer than that of his completed films), and Losey’s career continued to swing between excellent results (that were sometimes underrated), such as Secret Ceremony and Figures in a Landscape, with commissioned movies or wrong films. In the 1970s, he directed a number of dramatic films with existential overtones centered on the theme of identity, such as The Assassination of Trotsky, the Kafkaesque Mr. Klein, and Roads to the South, all three of which were shot in France, where in the meantime Losey had moved for tax purposes. At the same time, he returned to his old passion for theater with A Doll’s House, based on Ibsen, and in 1975, Galileo, a screen transposition of Brecht’s drama, which he had taken on twenty-five years before. While working on the project of a movie based on Proust’s Recherche, whose screenplay by Harold Pinter was published in 1978, Losey was in Italy, shooting in 1980 the film-opera Don Giovanni in Palladian villas in the Veneto region. He later returned to live in England where, in 1984, he directed his last film, Steaming, which was released posthumously and stars Vanessa Redgrave, Diana Dors and Sarah Miles in an all-female cast.


Pete Roleum and His Cousins (cm, 1939), A Child Went Forth (cm, doc., 1941), Youth Gets a Break (cm, doc., 1941), Crime Does Not Pay No. 46 (ep. A Gun in His Hand, cm, 1945), Leben des Galilei (coregia/codirector Ruth Berlau, cm, doc., 1947), The Boy with Green Hair (Il ragazzo dai capelli verdi, 1948), The Lawless (Linciaggio, 1950), The Prowler (Sciacalli nell’ombra, 1951), M (id., 1951), The Big Night (La grande notte, 1951), Imbarco a mezzanotte/Stranger on the Prowl (come/as Andrea Forzano, 1952), The Sleeping Tiger (come/as Victor Hanbury, La tigre nell’ombra, 1954), A Man on the Beach (cm, 1955), Fingers of Guilt/The Intimate Stranger (come/as Joseph Walton, coregia/codiretor Alec C. Snowden, L’amante misteriosa, 1956), Time Without Pity (L’alibi dell’ultima ora, 1957), The Gypsy and the Gentleman (La zingara rossa, 1958), Blind Date (L’inchiesta dell’ispettore Morgan, 1959), First on the Road (cm, doc., 1959), The Criminal (Giungla d’asfalto, 1960), Eva (1962), The Damned (Hallucination, 1963), The Servant (Il servo, 1963), King & Country (Per il re e per la patria, 1964), Modesty Blaise (Modesty Blaise. La bellissima che uccide, 1966), Accident (L’incidente, 1967), Boom! (La scogliera dei desideri, 1968), Secret Ceremony (Cerimonia segreta, 1968), Figures in a Landscape (Caccia sadica, 1970), The Go-Between (Messaggero d’amore, 1970), The Assassination of Trotsky (L’assassinio di Trotsky, 1972), A Doll’s House (Casa di bambola, 1973), Galileo (id., 1974), The Romantic Englishwoman (Una romantica donna inglese, 1975), Monsieur Klein (Mr Klein, 1976), Les routes du Sud (Le strade del sud, 1978), Don Giovanni (id., 1979), Boris Godunov (1980), La truite (1982), Steaming (Steaming - Al bagno turco, 1985)


& Credits

regia/director Joseph Losey
soggetto/story Stanley Dubens, dall’omonimo fumetto di/from the comic book of the same title by Peter O’Donnell e/and Jim Holdaway
sceneggiatura/screenplay Evan Jones, Peter O’Donnell, Harold Pinter (non accreditati/uncredited)
fotografia/cinematography Jack Hildyard
interpreti e personaggi/cast and characters Monica Vitti (Modesty Blaise), Terence Stamp (Willie Garvin), Dirk Bogarde (Gabriel), Rossella Falk (Mrs Fothergill)
produttore/producer Joseph Janni
produzione/production Modesty Blaise Ltd., 20th Century Fox Productions
distribuzione/distribution 20th Century Fox Company