I’ve got a fondness of James Bond riffs from the sixties, knock-offs and spoofs both, so I have an affection for The Liquidator (Warner Archive), starring Rod Taylor as Boysie Oakes, a would-be military wash-out who stumbles into heroism and is drafted by British Intelligence to be their house assassin. The lifestyle suits Boysie — money, girls, a groovy London bachelor pad, and all the accessories a man of artificial means could want — except for the pesky assignments. So he outsources his jobs to a professional and pockets the balance. At least until things get complicated.
The 1965 production is based on a novel by John Gardner, the first in a series Gardner himself described as “a complete piss-take of J. Bond,” and has a fun cast, including Trevor Howard as the film’s pro-active answer to M and Akim Tamiroff as the hearty Bond-ish villain. And give it credit for anticipating a pair of Bond girls: Jill St. John, who plays Boysie’s main squeeze (she went on to play Tiffany Case in “Diamonds Are Forever”) and Gabriella Licudi (of the 1967 pseudo-Bond spoof “Casino Royale”). But legendary cinematographer turned middling director Jack Cardiff is a bad fit for this spy parody, exhibiting little innate humor and failing to reel in Taylor’s broad playing. Howard fares significantly better as career agent who finds loves his work (even when it’s all about putting hits out on his own traitorous agents) and David Tomlinson brings a disarming, oblivious chipperness to a fastidiously professional operative named Quadrant.