The Liquidator & The Cool Ones DVDs return you to the Swingin’ Sixties
Mod fashions and swinging bachelor pads make a comeback in a pair of new DVD releases from the Warner Archive Collection.
If you’re a fan of movie musicals and secret agent flicks, have I got a pair of doozies for you! The folks at the Warner Archive Collection have dug deep into the vault to bring some (rightfully?) forgotten films from the 1960s back to glorious life through their Manufacture on Demand DVD program. The Liquidator stars Rod Taylor as kind of a James Bond knock-off, and The Cool Ones is a 60s rock-and-roll musical that seems to be anything but rock-and-roll. Neither film was a success upon their initial theatrical releases, but one of them fares much better today as an entertaining curio than the other.
The Liquidator (1966) is the lesser of the two titles. Aussie Rod Taylor stars as a US soldier who accidentally saves Colonel Mostyn (Trevor Howard) of British Intelligence from an attack in Paris during World War II. Twenty-some years later, a spy scandal rocks Britain so Mostyn and his superior (Wilfred Hyde White) come up with a plan to eliminate the known double agents … in an unofficial capacity. Mostyn remembers his savior, Boysie Oakes, tracks him down in a small country cafe, and offers him a well-paying government job that comes with a swinging bachelor pad. Oakes accepts the offer and the training that comes with it, but is appalled when he learns he is on the payroll as an assassin. Not having the stomach to actually kill people, but not wanting to give up his new digs and all the “birds” that come with it, Boysie hires a real killer to do his dirty work while he tries to put the moves on Mostyn’s assistant, Iris (Jill St. John), something that is strictly forbidden in the employee handbook. Boysie and Iris slip away to the Cote d’Azur, but get entangled in some other confusing caper that totally derails the entire movie with its confusing who is double-crossing whom plot.
The Liquidator was obviously an attempt by MGM to launch another spy movie franchise, particularly as this came about around the time Sean Connery was making his (first) exit from the Bond franchise. Like the Bond films, The Liquidator is also based on a series of books featuring the Boysie Oakes character, but the books nor the film ever reached the same kind of popularity as the Bond novels and films. One of the biggest problems with the film is its star, Rod Taylor. Oakes is supposed to be British, Taylor is Australian, but by that time he’d been working in American films using an American accent, so he insisted on changing the character to an American soldier so he didn’t have to revert to his natural accent (while Jill St. John adopts a Brit accent). This probably did not sit well with the British fans of the books. Another problem is that the film gets pretty convoluted (although it apparently follows the first novel very closely) once Boysie and Iris head to France and more spies than you can shake a stick at are introduced into the story, talking about some major mission that never becomes clear until the last 15 minutes or so of the movie. There was one surprising reveal of a double agent working in the midst of British Intelligence, but at that point it seemed rather nonsensical, and only made the rest of the film even more baffling. In the end, Boysie Oakes is no James Bond, and a legal dispute over the novels and film rights scuttled any further films. If nothing else, the movie is worth a look for some of the surprisingly risque humor and Oakes’ smashing residence. Warner’s DVD looks and sounds just fine, but like most Archive releases this is a bare-bones affair with only a trailer (which gives away most of the movie’s major deaths) as an extra.