by David L. Vineyard.

   Previously on this blog:

      Part I:   Where the Spies Are (1966).

      Part IIThe Liquidator (1965).

AGENT 8 3/4

AGENT 8 3/4.   J. Arthur Rank, 1964. Originally released in the UK as Hot Enough for June. Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Koscina, Leo McKern, Robert Morley, Roger Delgado, John LeMessurier. Based on the novel Night of Wenceslas by Lionel Davidson. Director: Ralph Thomas.

   The earliest of the Bond spoofs and still one of the best, this bright comedy has a reluctant Bogarde drafted into service in the British Secret Service for a dangerous mission in Soviet occupied Czechoslovakia, where he finds himself seduced, pursued, and never quite sure what he is doing there.

   Unlike the other films I’ve been discussing, this was not a series novel, but one of only a handful written by Lionel Davidson, one of the most critically praised spy novelists, whose books The Rose of Tibet, The Menorah Men, The Sun Chemist, and Kolymsky Heights are among the best thrillers of the 20th century. Davidson is not prolific, but enthusiasts know that every one he pens is a jewel.

   Bogarde is always worth watching when allowed to play to his humorous side, and between the gorgeous Koscina and the droll black humor delivered by McKern and Morley, this film succeeds as a bright and witty charmer. It is a little short on action and perhaps relies more on comedy than the others reviewed here, but it is also well worth finding and viewing.

AGENT 8 3/4

   This is far more comedy than the others, and the satirical barbs are somewhat sharper. In some ways it is closer to an Ealing comedy or even The Mouse That Roared than a Bond spoof, though there are certainly references to Bond beyond the title.

   Davidson’s novel is largely a place for the script to take off from, but some of the humor is still derived from it, and it is hard not to see Bogarde as the personable hero who’s in over his head…

      In conclusion:

   The spy film craze went from the sublime to the ridiculous, and too soon even the Bond films turned to cannibalizing themselves, but it also produced some bright, funny, attractive films like this and the others reviewed here. At their best they hold up better than many more serious films from the era, and they often feature lesser known players or character actors like McKern, Morley, and others in outstanding performances.

   No one is claiming them as great art, but they are a snapshot of an era, and even today, with Bond still around and now competing with Jason Bourne and Mission Impossible franchises and the Austin Powers films (inspired by the American Bond spoof, Our Man Flint), they are a reminder that everything old really is new again — eventually.

AGENT 8 3/4