I've never read the Modesty Blaise comics. What inspired me to rent this DVD was a love of 60's kitsch fashions, and an immense respect for Monica Vitti. And while I was baffled by the events in the film -- it didn't seem to make a DAMN bit of sense the first time around -- I still found myself loving it. And on repeated viewings I love it even more.
What's to love? Primarily, the quirkiness of EVERYTHING in the film: the direction is off-kilter (so many things happen in parts of the screen that you're not looking at, and the pacing is bizarre to say the least: a constant string of anticlimaxes that I found refreshing), the acting is deadpan and weird (Bogarde's shifty, psychopathic, and slightly flaky villain...Stamp's disgruntled but cheerful anti-hero...Rosella Falk's twitchy, wide-eyed, barely-restrained violence -- she is a stand-out highlight in the movie...and Monica Vitti, expressing herself mostly through strangely-timed gestures and facial expressions...just check out her "How do you get this off?" routine), the sets are gorgeously dressed (Gabriel's atmospheric island, and the fantastic cell with the spiral staircase), and the plotting is all over the place. Who's double-crossing who? Why are they doing that? WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON? On first impression, I felt the film was just "winging it," making it up as it went along. But far from it...it's elaborately plotted, just strangely presented.
Really, I love this film, and I'm so glad it's seen re-release. It's sloppy, crazy, irreverent, and fun. If you view it as a weird little film -- not as a spoof, or an adaptation of the comic, or a reflection of the times, or as an attempt to be hip or strange -- I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
And yes, the clothes ARE fantastic.