The Assassination Bureau

The Assassination Bureau Limited (a.k.a. The Assassination Bureau in the United States) is a 1969 UK Technicolor black comedy adventure film, produced by Michael Relph, directed by Basil Dearden, that stars Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, and Curd Jürgens. It is based on an unfinished novel, The Assassination Bureau, Ltd by Jack London. Unlike London's novel, which is set in the United States, the film is set in Europe. It was released in the U.S. by Paramount Pictures.

The Assassination Bureau Limited
Directed byBasil Dearden
Produced byMichael Relph
Written byMichael Relph
Wolf Mankowitz (screenplay)
Based onThe Assassination Bureau, Ltd.
1963 novel
by Jack London
Robert L. Fish
StarringOliver Reed
Diana Rigg
Telly Savalas
Curd Jürgens
Music byRon Grainer
CinematographyGeoffrey Unsworth
Edited byTeddy Darvas
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
10 March 1969
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Assassination Bureau Limited was the penultimate film of Basil Dearden.[1]


In London, during the early 1900s, aspiring journalist and women's rights campaigner Sonia Winter (Diana Rigg) uncovers an organisation that specialises in killing for money, the Assassination Bureau, Limited. To bring about its destruction, she commissions the assassination of the bureau's own chairman, Ivan Dragomiroff (Oliver Reed).

Far from being outraged or angry, Dragomiroff is amused and delighted and decides to put it to his own advantage. The guiding principle of his bureau, founded by his father, has always been that there was a moral reason why their victims should be killed – these have included despots and tyrants. More recently though, his elder colleagues have tended to kill more for financial gain than for moral reasons. Dragomiroff, therefore, decides to accept the commission of his own death and challenge the other board members: Kill him or he will kill them!

With Miss Winter in tow, Dragomiroff sets off on a tour of Edwardian Europe, challenging and systematically purging the bureau's senior members. Little do they realise that this is a plot by Miss Winter's sponsor, newspaper publisher Lord Bostwick (Telly Savalas), to take over the bureau {Bostwick is the bureau's vice-chairman and is bitter for having been passed over in favour of the founder's son}. Bostwick and the other members of the Bureau plan to get rich quick by the "biggest killing" of them all — buying stocks in arms factories and then propelling Europe into war by assassinating all the heads of state of Europe while they attend a secret peace conference where the kings, emperors and prime Ministers of Europe are trying to avoid a possible war caused by a Balkan prince who was killed by a bomb intended for Dragomiroff

Dragomiroff and Miss Winter uncover the plot — dropping a bomb from a hijacked Zeppelin airship onto the castle in Ruthenia where the peace conference is held. Dragomiroff steals aboard the airship and destroys it, killing the remaining members of his board of directors. He is then decorated by the heads of state he has saved. It is implied that Dragomiroff may wed Miss Winter as well.


Main cast

Supporting cast

Cameo cast

  • John Abineri as Police Inspector
  • Jonathan Adams as French President
  • Patrick Allen as Narrator
  • Neal Arden as "La Belle Amie" Client
  • Sydney Arnold as "La Belle Amie" Client
  • Pauline Barker as Nursemaid
  • Jane Bates as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Victor Beaumont as von Pinck's Aide
  • Mona Chong as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • John Crocker as "La Belle Amie" Client
  • Bill Cummings as Bureau Member
  • Anthony Dawes as Assistant Editor
  • Alicia Deane as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Roy Degay as Tsar
  • Jim Delaney as Undertaker
  • Carmen Dene as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Dominique Don as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Sally Douglas as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Steve Emerson as Bureau Member
  • Fred Emney as Elevator Victim
  • Felix Felton as Beer Cellar Proprietor
  • Harry Fielder as Soldier
  • Ray Ford as Bureau Member
  • Michael Gover as Venice Hotel Manager
  • Angela Grant as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Peter Graves as Dragomiloff's Butler
  • Dianne Greaves as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Olive Gregg as Eleanora Spado (voice)
  • John Hallam as Bureau Member
  • Maurice Hedley as Military Man at Lowe's
  • John G. Heller as von Pinck's Aide
  • Arthur Hewlett as Counterman at Lowe's
  • Hubert Hill as Kaiser
  • Katharine Holden as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Stephen Hubay as Bureau Member
  • Malcolm Johns as Piero
  • Elizabeth Knight as Nursemaid
  • Nita Lorraine as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Philip Madoc as Officer
  • Terence Maidment as Bureau Member
  • Michael Mellinger as Venice Police Sergeant
  • Georgina Moon as Nursemaid
  • Jim O'Brady as Henchman
  • Robert Rietti as Police Officer with Eleanora
  • Kevin Stoney as Blind Beggar
  • Dermot Tuohy as Archduke Ferdinand
  • Colin Vancao as "La Belle Amie" Client
  • Sue Vaughan as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Desmond Walter-Ellis as Equerry
  • Chris Webb as Undertaker
  • Sheree Winton as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Karen Young as "La Belle Amie" Girl
  • Raymond Young as Police Officer with Sonya

Original novel

The film was based on the Jack London novel, The Assassination Bureau. London purchased a storyline from Sinclair Lewis in 1910 and used it as the basis of two stories and a novel. He was two-thirds of the way through finishing the novel (having written 40,000 words) when he died in 1916. The novel was later completed by Robert Fish and published in 1963.[2] The New York Times called it "delightfully ridiculous".[3]


Film rights were bought and in May 1966. United Artists announced that Burt Lancaster would star in a film.[4] Lancaster, however, pulled out and film rights reverted to Paramount, where it was made by the team of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph; it was their 25th film together.[5]


Filming took place in April 1968.[6]

Michael Flint of Paramount later said the film wound up costing a lot of money "because it was decided that it must be a locomotive", namely, a sort of film which "would really carry weight with exhibitors and eventually television networks buying batches of our films, by virtue of stars or production value". He added that in the case of Assassination Bureau "we laboured under the delusion that this could be ensured by spending more on 'production value'."[7]

By February 1969, the film had not been released. According to Diana Rigg, "the film company is stuck with the rather awkward - for America - title and hasn't made up its mind what to do".[8]

Home video

This film was issued on LaserDisc in the mid-1990s. It was also released on VHS at the same time and later on a Region 1 DVD.

See also


  1. Basil Dearden The Guardian 25 Mar 1971: 5
  2. Books Authors New York Times 29 Oct 1963: 32.
  3. Ethical Killers By ANTHONY BOUCHER. New York Times 8 Dec 1963: 451.
  4. 'Assassination Bureau' Dossier: More About Movie Matters By A.H. WEILER. New York Times 1 May 1966: 133.
  5. The survival bureau Malcolm, Derek. The Guardian 19 Mar 1969: 8.
  6. GOOD-BY MRS. PEEL. HELLO, UH. MARY POPPINS?: The transition may be painful for her fans--but let's let Diana Rigg tell it. Rohrbach, Ed. Chicago Tribune 14 Apr 1968: h48.
  7. Backing Britain Taylor, John Russell. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 38, Iss. 3, (Summer 1969): 112.
  8. Will Diana Ever Get Together? By MARK SHIVAS. New York Times 2 Feb 1969: D19.
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