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Archive for November 15th, 2010

Modesty Blaise started life as a British comic strip in the London Evening Standard in 1963, written by Peter O’Donnell with art by Jim Holdaway. Featuring the character Modesty Blaise, a young woman with extraordinary talents and a shady criminal past, think of a female cross between James Bond and Simon Templar. As well as the comic strip her story has been adapted into a series of thirteen novels/short story collections and various comic books/graphic novels. With all this in mind it would be amazing if it hadn’t been made into a movie, what is truly amazing is that it has actually been filmed three times, they just aren’t that memorable.

Modesty Blaise (1966) was a comedy thriller (light on the thriller part and not very funny) directed by Joseph Losey and staring Monica Vitti as Modesty. Terence Stamp played her sidekick Willie Garvin, and Dirk Bogarde as the arch villain Gabriel. Hamstrung by script rewrites and a lack of cohesive vision the movie looks more like an Austin Powers movie than a James Bond one (and not as funny as either). Imagine looking back at Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels if Casino Royale (1966) was the only James Bond film to be made! Unsurprisingly the film was financially unsuccessful and a suggested film series never happened.

Modesty Blaise (1982): the next incarnation of the story was a one-hour pilot for a TV show that never got picked up. Set in America the characters and the actors who played them were American not British with TV regular Ann Turkel playing Modesty Blaise and Lewis Van Bergen as Willie Garvin. Slightly more serious and less camp than the 60’s version, I saw it many years ago and remember enjoying it but looking back now at clips online it looks typically cheep and cheesy like other 80’s TV.

My Name Is Modesty: A Modesty Blaise Adventure (2004) Miramax owned the rights to Modesty Blaise but they were about to expire. In order to retain them they decided to throw together a direct to video movie. Shot in just two and half weeks on a modest budget the movie acts as a sort of prequel to other Modesty stories; set before she ran the criminal organisation “The Network” and before her time with British Intelligence and before she met Willie Garvin. Typical B movie action, the movie is worth a look when it comes on TV but I wouldn’t bother buying/renting the DVD. With British actress Alexandra Staden taking the title role the cast is virtually unknown, the DVD box does feature a famous name, above the movie title it reads “Quentin Tarantino presents”. From what I understand Tarantino did no more than lend his name to the movie, he has however suggested on many occasions that he would like to direct a Modest Blaise movie. For those who haven’t spotted it, the book Vincent Vega is seen reading a copy of Modesty Blaise (the novel based on the first movie).

Has Quentin Tarantino got Modesty Blaise out of his system by making Kill Bill (2003-04) or is it still there in the background? When you consider he has been talking about Inglourious Basterds (2009) since around the time of Pulp Fiction (1994) I would suggest Tarantino isn’t one to let things go. The big question, who do you cast in a movie like this? As Uma Thurman proved in The Avengers (1998) and Charlize Theron in Æon Flux (2005) looking good (and they did look really good) isn’t enough, the movies were terrible.

 

Interestingly both these actresses have been suggested as a potential Modesty along with Kate Beckinsale and Jennifer Connely. Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lopez also expressed an interest around the time of the Miramax movie that never materialised after My Name is Modesty. If I can throw a few more names into the hat; Modesty should be in her late twenties or early thirties, tall, slender, drop dead gorgeous, very tenacious and slightly aloof; two actresses that fit the bill and have been brilliant in everything they have done recently: Anna Hathaway and Eva Green.

And if QT doesn’t make the movie someone else will sooner or later, who else can direct an intelligent action movie but retain a deeply cutting sense of humour? The one man who springs to mind: Joss Whedon! I would like to see the movie made as a period piece set in the mid sixties but accept the fact it will probably be undated to the modern day. The setting should include England (particularly swinging London of the mid to late 60’s) as well as more exotic locations around the world. Whatever happens Modesty Blaise is a character who deserves a big screen outing to rival Bond and Bourne.

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