Short Ends and Leader

'Agent 8 3/4' - How the Cold War Made Us Laugh

Colorful, pleasant, and painless cinematic trivia

Agent 8 3/4

Director: Ralph Thomas
Cast: Dirk Bogarde, Sylva Koscina
Distributor: VCI
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1964
USDVD release date: 2011-8-16

Starving writer Nicholas Whistler (Dirk Bogarde) accepts a job as courier to visit Czechoslovakia for an alleged glass company. He doesn't realize he's doing espionage for the British Secret Service. Once across the Iron Curtain, he follows bewildering instructions about passwords and assignations, falls into bed with a hot Communist babe (Sylvia Koscina), and finally gets the hang of it and starts bashing people right and left. The story begins as a pleasant spy spoof and gradually becomes more serious until it really is a spy picture, though always a light-hearted one.

Class distinctions in the spy trade are embodied by Robert Morley and John Le Mesurier as the tea-drinking, old-school-tie-wearing boffins who trade jolly urbanities (like Noel Coward and Ralph Richardson in Our Man in Havana, a more biting satire) while sending a clueless Whistler to possible death. Leo McKern is their opposite number and the heroine's father.

The onscreen title is Hot Enough for June, with "aka Agent 8 3/4" pasted underneath it. That's apparently the American retitling. Whistler is actually never called 8 3/4 or any number, although the opening gag refers to the death of 007. The whole affair makes for colorful, pleasant, painless trivia, essentially a nostalgic relic of how the Cold War made us laugh and provided glamorous postcards of Czechoslovakia.


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