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  Licensed to Kill Double Oh Dear
Year: 1965
Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Stars: Tom Adams, Karel Stepanek, Peter Bull, John Arnatt, Francis De Wolff, Felix Felton, Veronica Hurst, Judy Huxtable, Carol Blake, Claire Gordon, Sarah Maddern, Mona Chong, Shelagh Booth, George Pastell, Denis Holmes, Gary Hope, Billy Milton
Genre: Action, Thriller, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The brother of renowned Swedish scientist Henrik Jacobsen (Karel Stepanek) was shot down in Hyde Park while visiting London today, by a machine gun-toting hitwoman disguised as a nanny, complete with a pram carrying two babies - but who was she working for? The Professor, also in the British capital, demands the best security available from the Secret Service there, and though the best agent is otherwise disposed the second best is free to look after him with assurances that Jacobsen won't need a whole battalion of guards when Charles Vine (Tom Adams) is on the case. However, the sinister forces who are after the boffin's top secret plans contained in his head are not going to give up without a fight...

That the sixties spy genre became a genre at all was down to one film franchise, the James Bond series which had a variety of filmmakers from a variety of nations doing their best to capitalise on it with largely cheaper versions. They didn't get much cheaper than the work of Canadian director in the U.K. Lindsay Shonteff, whose endeavours to craft entertainment for the men's men in the potential audience knew no bounds, well, no bounds aside from the lack of funds at his disposal. By this time he had made a handful of efforts, the highest profile being Devil Doll, a copy of the celebrated ventriloquist dummy story from classic British horror Dead of Night.

But Shonteff saw the cash rolling into the Bond producers' pockets and though he was never in the running to direct an official entry, that was not going to hold him back, he was going to make his own variation as if this was part of the franchise, with references to the existing 007 blockbusters crowbarred in to presumably fool somebody, perhaps a small child, that what he was doing had been sanctioned by Cubby Broccoli himself. It wasn't of course, because while Bond would travel to exotic climes to duke it out with international master criminals, Charles Vine preferred to get into gun battles with blokes dressed in borrowed uniforms on anonymous country lanes and empty dockland streets. That said, his novel firearm was often what fans of this took away as the most memorable aspect.

There wasn't much else memorable about it, unless a tiny budget facsimile of a far more successful enterprise was your idea of a great night out, yet you had to admire Shonteff's chutzpah at struggling to keep up with the sharks in the film industry while he was one of the minnows. Bond rip-offs would go on to be his most recognisable output as he released a number down the years, never losing his love for the mega-successes as something to aspire to, and there was something undeniably endearing about that making you want him to have a better career with better chances than he had. Alas, the act of watching Licensed to Kill was not going to change many minds that you'd have been better off with Sean Connery, as Tom Adams was rather lacking the Scot's bruising magnetism, not that the quips offered him were really doing him any favours.

It's mentioned Vine studied mathematics, seemingly as a bit of character interest but when it turns out to be there for a joke about figures, which delivered twice and isn't any funnier the second time around, then it's more an indication that Licensed to Kill is going to grow tiresome before the big finale. Someone somehow secured Sammy Davis Jr to belt out the theme tune in the American release of this, retitled The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wild World there, which is a touch of class the rest of the movie simply cannot live up to since the majority of it was talk, talk being cheap after all. Characters have exchanges in what look like anonymous hotel rooms and at conference tables presumably located at those same hotels for far more of the running time than we actually watch Vine get into fisticuffs or gun battles which considering his status he should be rather better at avoiding (one bloke just marches up behind him and clonks him over the head, simple as that), though to be fair the end chase made up for things, even if it made no sense. Music by Herbert Chappell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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