There's a party at the Calvert mansion which is in full swing, and the man of the house, Charles Calvert (James Mason), is trying his hand at darts. One of his sons, Stefane (James Fox) ends up making a wager with him that the person who hits the bullseye closest will lose a sum of money, but given Charles has quite a bit stored away from the business ventures he took over from his two wives, Stefane is the one with more at stake. So it is that they carry out their bet and the son loses big, but not to worry as he and his stepbrother Antony (John Alderton) have a plan...
Which involves someone who doesn't show up until the film is almost a quarter of the way through, the Duffy of the title, not the Welsh songstrel but a roguish American in Tangiers played by James Coburn in another of his caper flicks. In the meantime, we have a lot of plot to establish in England - or do we, for here was a film which truly enjoyed hanging around with its characters with a distinct lack of urgency, perhaps unexpectedly for a heist yarn which it purported to be. There were some interesting names attached to this production, but for cult movie fans it was one of the writers who grabbed the attention more than the cast.
It was a fine cast, of course, but the presence of Donald Cammell was intriguing, the man who would co-direct Performance a year after this also with James Fox; you could imagine if they hadn't met on this effort Fox's life would have been very different in light of the effect that latter film had on him, essentially making him give up acting for years so traumatised was he. Unfortunately for Cammell enthusiasts the script for Duffy was rewritten, or at least heftily tweaked, making it yet another of his projects to suffer at the hands of others, but there were certainly signs of an offbeat sensibility in play during intermittent scenes.
Most blatantly the sequence where the Calvert half-brothers show up at Duffy's pad and spend a good five minutes exploring the pop art nightmare that he stays in, all curious sculptures, peepholes, hooters and pointless contraptions such as a slot machine which gives out the winnings of one live fish: tres outré, surreal even. It's bits and pieces such as that which seemed painfully hip at the time that now offer the film its swinging sixties appeal, and judging by the path it weaves through the narrative, a very languid path at that, this was an experience where you would be better to soak up the scenery more than it would be a pulse-pounding thriller. There is a female involved, and she was Susannah York as Segolene, ostensible girlfriend of Stefane.
Predictably, not long after arriving in Tangiers all set to relieve Mr Calvert of his cash, Segolene falls in love with the rangy, laidback Duffy who takes a degree of persuasion before he agrees to help out with the plan. This is yet more stalling for we can tell that if he doesn't go along with the English conspirators then the movie is headed nowhere fast, though saying that it has the feel of doing so even when the heist gets underway. That takes place on a ship in the Mediterranean, and if nothing else the filmmakers were blessed with sunkissed landscapes and azure skies and water to capitalise on, offering the proceedings a holiday atmosphere as long as that holiday didn't involve anything too strenuous. For Duffy, you could say it did to an extent for it is he who masterminds and carries out the robbery, though we don't feel too badly for anybody here as it draws to a close in a manner suggesting everyone got what was coming to them, big twist finale and all. Groovy music by Ernie Freeman.