Movie Review: The Assassination Bureau (1969, Directed by Basil Dearden, Starring Oliver Reed and Diana Rigg)
When neophyte journalist and suffragette Miss Sonya Winter (Rigg) discovers The Assassination Bureau, an undercover organization linked to a string of recent murders, she develops a plan to destroy it and publish the story of the decade in the process. After a small amount of research, she is able to contact the bureau and arranges a meeting with its charmain, Ivan Dragomiloff (Reed), in order to commission a new execution... that of Ivan himself. Rather than being shocked, Dragomiloff is amused and intrigued by the proposition, and upon being paid a hefty sum of 20,000 pounds, agrees, eager to put the other bureau members to the test. He announces at the next bureau meeting that the other bureau members must kill him... before he kills them. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse hunt through continental Europe, beginning in a bordello in Paris and coming to an explosive end in a German zeppelin, with Miss Winter following every step of the way... and falling in love with Ivan.
The first half-hour of the movie is doubtless the most entertaining, introducing the infinitely intriguing character of Ivan Dragomiloff, a character with a blend of arrogance and humor that surprisingly comes off as more endearing than irritating and capable of the strangest logic, which leads him not only to agree to his own assassination, but also to fall in love with the client paying for said murder. It also introduces the interesting notion of a group of killers being hired to kill their own leader, with his consent and encouragement, no less. That isn't to say of course, that the latter part of the movie isn't enjoyable. Throughout the film, Ivan defies the odds, killing off colleague after colleague (and all their henchmen) with an almost playful ease. And you really can't feel sorry for any of his victims considering the lives they lead and how willing they are to kill him. From the French representative, a Puritanical statesman by day and brothel owner by night, to the German one, a mad sword wielding sadistic former general, each of them deserves exactly what they get. And how many movies can boast an ending like this one, including a fencing match, an exploding zeppelin, and last of all, knighthood bestowed on the most unlikely of recipients? The Assassination Bureau isn't just extremely overlooked and underrated; it's a must-see.