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  Hot Enough for June Dry spy games
Year: 1964
Director: Ralph Thomas
Stars: Dirk Bogarde, Sylva Koscina, Robert Morley, Leo McKern, Roger Delgado, Derek Fowlds, Amanda Grinling, Noel Harrison, Philo Hauser, John Junkin, Gertan Klauber, John Le Mesurier, Jill Mellford, Derek Nimmo, Richard Pasco, Eric Pohlman, Alan Tilvern
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Struggling novelist Nicholas Whistler (Dirk Bogarde) reluctantly applies for a job with what he thinks is an advertising agency. In fact his employer, Colonel Cunliffe (Robert Morley) is actually head of British Intelligence. On the strength of his grasp of the Czech language, Whistler is sent on a mission to Prague for a spot of unwitting industrial espionage. Once there he is immediately smitten with his beautiful driver, Vlasta Simenova (Sylva Koscina) unaware that she is in turn spying on him on the orders of her father (Leo McKern), chief of the secret police.

Amusingly Cunliffe initially tells his subordinate to hire someone who will be less susceptible to the charms of lovely ladies. That would be Dirk Bogarde then, although the joke is meant to be that Nicholas Whistler is anything but. Hot Enough for June re-teamed Bogarde with Ralph Thomas, the director who brought him his first brush with stardom via the hit comedy Doctor in the House (1954) and its many sequels. By 1964 however, Bogarde had just made The Servant (1963) with Joseph Losey and was unenthused about this lightweight spy spoof. He did the film solely because he needed the money and his disinterest is sadly evident throughout. On the other hand one cannot judge Bogarde too harshly given this overly genteel comedy is decidedly low on laughs.

Adapted from the novel 'Night of Wenceslas' written by Lionel Davidson, Hot Enough for June (which draws its title from a code phrase Whistler exchanges with his Prague-based contact) seemingly cannot decide whether it is a send-up of all that James Bond stuff or a straight spy thriller. One minute Whistler is sneaking around Prague in a silly outfit or trading banter with Morley's avuncular spy chief, the next he is on the run in scenes of mild suspense (not the best sort) closer in tone to Thomas' remake of The 39 Steps (1959). Despite a promising premise (Whistler is the ultimate spy in that he does not know he is one), Thomas does not develop the humour along the lines of, say, The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) and plays the espionage games, romance and character back stories surprisingly straight indulging in only the mildest satire of British foreign policy.

When Ian Fleming's James Bond novels first hit the stands, literary snobs derided them as ridiculous trash. Hot Enough for June comes across like a movie pitched to those same snobs. Told from a public school boy perspective with a very arch sense of humour, lots of digs at socialism and a snarky upper middle-class hero who, for a supposedly ordinary guy, proves surprisingly cool under pressure. Whistler is resourceful, handy with his fists and wastes no time making moves on an attractive woman. Hardly prime comedic material. Did the filmmakers think all public school graduates were like James Bond? Full of picturesque shots of Prague much of the film proves like watching someone amble around in holiday in dull detail. It takes a hell of a long time before Whistler even finds his contact and even that proves largely superfluous to the plot.

Though his adventures involved no gadgets there was glamour in the shapely form of Sylva Koscina. She actually gives a fairly captivating performance as an eye-catching enemy agent acting like she is in a remake of Ninotchka (1939) rather than a comedic misfire. She also supplied discreet nudity and racy bikini shots that likely won her a more memorable role in Thomas' subsequent superior spy spoof, Deadlier Than the Male (1966). As Bogarde cruises on auto-pilot it falls to Robert Morley to inject a little fun through some dry banter with Leo McKern as his affable opposite number. Familiar Brit flick players Noel Harrison, Derek Nimmo, Roger Delgado (future Master on Seventies Doctor Who) and Derek Fowlds (minus Basil Brush, alas) also pop up in supporting roles. It is all hopelessly quaint and lightweight though and makes one long for the crass silliness of a Matt Helm movie. Yes, really.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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