TV Cream

Films: L is for...

Liquidator, The

Jack Cardiff! The very name sends film buffs in possession of at least one good eye into swooning reveries over his photographic genius, and rightly so. Scott of the Antarctic, Black Narcissus, The African Queen, Matter of Life and Death – endless top hole flicks owe their impeccable good looks to the man. In the director’s chair, however, things get a little bit tricky. His ’50s work was solid if unremarkable melodramatic fare, culminating in Denholm Elliot Spanish Smell-o-Vision intrigue Scent of Mystery. Then came this, a Bond spoof (from the assured comic pen of the writer of The Stone Killer) which on paper should be fantastic. It opens with the ’60s-required Richard Williams cartoon sequence, coupled with a Bassey/Schifrin theme song. Trevor Howard is a secret service colonel who enlists hapless stooge Rod Taylor to murder defecting spies. Taylor isn’t up to the job, so enlists hit man Eric Sykes – that’s hit man Eric Sykes – as a sub-contractor. Throw in Wilfred Hyde-White, David Tomlinson, John Le Mesurier, Derek Nimmo, Richard Wattis and Alexandra Bastedo and you’d expect great things. Well, there are a few, but overall it’s not nearly as much fun as a wet Sunday afternoon in with Casino Royale and a hot toddy. Still, it’s better than the notorious Girl on a Motorcycle, after which Jack came back only for Francesca Annis-starring Windsor-set stamp-related murder mystery Penny Gold and highly unpleasant Donald Pleasence/Tom Baker freaksploitation rubbish The Mutations. Best to remember him lighting Kim Hunter on a giant London Transport Commission escalator, or conjuring a whole airport out of thin air with one spotlight and a stepladder – achievements enough for any career.

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