The Assassination Bureau

The Assassination Bureau (1968)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Diana Rigg, Oliver Reed, Telly Savalas, Philippe Noire, Curt Jürgens

Strange as it may seem, I had never heard of "The Assassination Bureau" before, despite the fact that the film was made as far back as 1968 and I consider myself quite fluent in movies. All the more did I look forward to it when I read the synopsis and finally got this DVD from Paramount on my desk. And indeed, it turned out to be one of those charming late-60s movies that don’t take themselves too seriously and were evidently made purely for enjoyment and entertainment.

A series of assassinations shakes the world, as world leaders, celebrities and simple folks alike are routinely blown to pieces. An aspiring reporter, Miss. Winter (Diana Rigg) picks up the scent and quickly links these assassinations to small classified ads in local newspapers. She cuts a deal to become the first female reporter of a large newspaper if she manages to find out and report on the secret behind these assassinations. She places a similar ad and is soon contacted by an organization, which calls itself "The Assassination Bureau." To her shock she learns that this bureau is a full-fledged company, making money by killing people on order. To help her in her investigation, Miss Winter places an order herself. She wants the man sitting across the table from her killed. Mr. Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed), the head of the bureau. To her surprise, Dragomiloff accepts the order and soon a cat-and-mouse game is on the way in which Dragomiloff is trying to escape his own assassins while also trying to kill them himself for his own safety, while Miss Winter is continuously on his heels, trying to keep up with the events.

Always with a wink, "The Assassination Bureau" is a delightful comedy that is filled with great moments, side-splitting clichés and some unexpected twists. The cast, consisting of luminaries such as Diana Rigg, Oliver Reed, Telly Savalas, Philippe Noire, Curt Jürgens, and many others are putting in splendid performances as the events get increasingly hair-raising and the story races along at breakneck speed towards the end. There is never a dull moment in this film and I found especially Diana Rigg’s on-screen presence magnetic once again.

Paramount Home Entertainment has prepared a presentation of this movie in its original 2.35:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio in a transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> televisions. The transfer is very good with rich colors and a very good level of definition. The quality is almost a bit too good as it makes the special effects shots stand out a bit too much, dating the film incredibly at times. Colors are rich and vibrant throughout, also rendering skin tones very naturally. The black levels are nicely balanced, creating deep shadows that never break up or lose definition. The highlights are never bleeding, giving the presentation a good range of contrast. Some slight edge-enhancement is evident on occasion, though it is never becoming distracting. The compression is without flaws, making for a wonderful viewing.

The audio on the release is presented as the film’s original mono audio track in English. The track has been cleaned up and no hiss or distortion mar the presentation. While a remix would have been desirable, the mono track suffices, especially since it is free of deficiencies and has a frequency response that is natural sounding for the most part. Dynamic range is a bit limited, which adds a bit of authenticity to the film’s age.

To my dismay, Paramount Home Entertainment has not added a single extra to this release. There is nothing… zip… not even a trailer. Given the stature of the cast, the fact that the film had been nominated for a Golden Globe in 1970, and that of the principal cast and only Diana Rigg and Pillippe Noiret are left to tell the story of this production. I always find it a let-down when studios do not seize the opportunity to make sure memories, stories and information by original cast members are preserved.

Overall I found "The Assassintation Bureau" a fun film through and through. Paramount Home Entertainment prepared a wonderful presentation of the film, though the lack of extras hurts a bit. Still, if you’re a sucker of these 60s comedy capers, you just can’t go wrong with "The Assassintation Bureau," so make sure to get your copy soon before someone may blow it to pieces, too.