The British Secret Service has a shipment of diamonds en route to Sheikh Abu Tahir (Clive Revill). The agent that was responsible for its safe passage is killed. The Service chief Sir Gerald Tarant (Harry Andrews) hires the notorious thief Modesty Blaise (Monica Vitti) to protect the shipment. Modesty has her trusty sidekick Willie Garvin (Terence Stamp) assist her.
The diamonds represent periodic payments make to the Sheikh and in return Britain gets oil. Modesty is tapped for the assignment because she is the adopted son of the Sheikh. Modesty has terms that must be followed. The main one is that the government not lie to her. If they do she will feel no obligation to protect the diamonds and just might steal them for herself. Her other conditions are that she be able to deliver the diamonds any way she sees fit and that she is to get immunity from the British government.
The diamonds also attract the attention of a mastermind by the name of Gabriel (Dirk Bogarde). Among his assorted henchmen are his accountant McWhirter (Clive Revill) and his bodyguard Mrs. Fothergill (Rossella Falk). Everyone thinks that Gabriel is dead, however, he is alive and well and living on his own Mediterranean island.
While Sir Gerald tries to keep tabs on Modesty, Gabriel tries to interfere. A buffet of thugs and minions try to kill, or kidnap Modesty and or Willie at various times. Modesty and Willie use various tools of the trade as well as specially designed accoutrements to thwart the thugs and minions all while singing a song or two along the way.
“Modesty Blaise” was released in 1966 and was directed by Joseph Losey. It is based on the comic strip character created by Peter O’Donnell. It is a quasi spy/comedy done in the sixties style of pop art and go-go boots. It is mostly suppose to be a spoof on the spy film. It’s a little more like a farce. Fans of campy spy romps liked it. Fans of the Modesty Blaise comic strip did not. O’Donnell did not like it either. According to O’Donnell nothing was left of the screenplay he wrote other than one line.
There were some creative issues between director Losey and creator O’Donnell. Losey wanted the pop art and O’Donnell wanted something a little less flamboyant. Losey got his way. O’Donnell agreed to do the novelization of the film and did it his way. The novel was a hit and spawned a series of Modesty Blaise books. There were three "Modesty Blaise" movies. The other two were “Modesty Blaise” 1982 and “My Name Is Modesty: A Modesty Blaise Adventure” 2004.
As far as the comic strip or the books are concerned, I couldn’t tell you. The movie, however, doesn’t meet the hype. Modesty Blaise is supposed to be a part time spy and thief. She has no special skills other than a few judo moves and being a quick change artist. When you compare her to Honey West or Emma Peel there is no contest. Suffice it to say, I’m not a fan of the movie.