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Daft spy spoof wears rather thin
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
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Album cover copyright (c) 1966 Turner Entertainment Co.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
A long-forgotten (by the sounds of it, not without reason) spy spoof starring Rod Taylor as a kind of anti-James Bond, The Liquidator also stars Eric Sykes as a professional hitman. Taylor plays Boysie Oakes, and finds himself under instructions to assassinate the Duke of Edinburgh, but can't be bothered. Such is the way of films that even those involved probably can't particularly remember, this one now finds its soundtrack available on CD, primarily because it was a very early work by a composer who would go on to produce some wonderful music, Lalo Schifrin.
Of course, these days when Bond is spoofed, one of the first things that people spoof is John Barry's music, but strangely, at the time none of this type of film (see also Our Man Flint and its sequel) did much apeing of Barry, and Schifrin says he deliberately avoided the style. Instead, his score consists mostly of light jazz, described in the liner notes as "quasi-source" music - I like to call it "scorce", since it's very light music which happens to be in the background but isn't really doing much apart from offering a pleasant accompaniment to the film.
Its easy-going nature is easy to like, but frankly after a few minutes of hearing an airy flute solo over electric guitar and maracas, it's easy to consider that enough for a lifetime, and after an hour of it you're ready to hire Eric Sykes himself to go and kill the nearest maracas player he can find. To make matters worse, when the music isn't doing that light thing, it's silly parody music like the opening "Arc de Triomphe" which apes a French march, or the one concession to the Bond sound, the main title song "The Liquidator" sung by Shirley Bassey, which is so absurdly ridiculous is becomes truly priceless. The lyrics are easily the finest comic creation I have ever encountered (I'm not entirely convinced whether they're meant to be funny or not) and Bassey belts them out with a ludicrously straight face, treating them as if they are penned by the poet laureate. (In fact they were penned by Peter Callander and include such treats as "The liquidator will soon be coming around / You won't feel safer until you get out of town / He's an eraser who'll rub you out like a light / And for a chaser he'll kiss your woman good night" and, better still, "With the snapping of his fingertips / He'll take your life away / And a whisper from his smiling lips / Will take your wife away." Bassey delivers all this with admirable sincerity.)
The first serious music doesn't appear until the sixteenth track, with "The Sea, the Sky and the Spies" offering some gritty suspense and the cue which follows allowing Schifrin to flex his muscles and write some thrilling, brassy action music. All of a sudden the album has changed direction completely and in comes some funky, fantastic action music which is vintage Schifrin ("Riviera Chase / Fight on Cliff"). Sadly, I suspect that very few people will make it far enough through the album to actually enjoy the fantastic few minutes which appear out of nowhere towards its conclusion.
Apart from those few minutes, this is, dare I say, a piece of the most disposable fluff you could imagine. Light, insubstantial, and completely inoffensive, it's the sort of thing that I'm sure will find an appreciative audience somewhere - but for me, 55 minutes of it is simply far too much alongside the 10 minutes or so of more serious stuff. Schifrin did some wonderful scores both before and after The Liquidator but this is closer in both style and quality to the Johnny Williams comedy scores of the day than it is to Schifrin's fine work of the period. A curiosity, but hardly an essential.