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CAPRICE
DVD. Second Sight.

Caprice1966 spy comedy Caprice is something of an oddity – a film very much of its time that involves some top line talent, none of whom are firing on all cylinders. Overly convoluted and not quite sure what it wants to be, the film ends up as a bit of a disappointment, albeit one that is fairly entertaining if you don’t try to work out what is going on.

After a James Bond-like opening with someone being gunned down on a ski slope, the film settles into a comedy-thriller routine, with Doris Day as Patricia Fowler, hired by the head of one cosmetics company to infiltrate a rival firm who have invented a water repellent hairspray. She also has her own mystery to solve – it turns out that it was her CIA agent husband who was shot in the pre-credits sequence – and is both helped and hindered by smooth English spy Christopher White (Richard Harris), who seems to be working for all sides.

While Caprice has much of director Frank Tashlin’s trademark visual flair and slapstick humour, the film doesn’t quite grab you. Part of the problem is the overly complicated plot for what is ostensibly a lightweight spy spoof – it’s increasingly hard to figure out what is going on, as characters turn out to be double or triple agents, and plot twists occur that make little sense – when Day apparently has everything figured out at the end, you have to assume that a lot has gone on unseen by the viewer. In the end, the film feels as messy as the opening titles, a chaotic mix of fonts and styles.

What’s more, Harris is pretty unconvincing as a romantic lead – you can accept him as a conniving bastard playing all sides against each other, but there’s little in his character or performance to show why Day would fall for him. As fine an actor as he was, romantic comedy was definitely not his forte, and there is none of the chemistry found in films co-starring Day with Rock Hudson or James Garner.

As a satire both of Sixties spy films and consumerism, the film is not without its moments – and if you are content to allow the storyline to wash over you, there are several set-pieces that are genuinely amusing - particularly the scenes where Day is trying to get a sample of sexy model Irene Tsu's hair. What’s more, Austin Powers fans will adore the wonderfully kitsch imagery. But there are better films out there for fans of both Day and Tashlin (their other spy comedy, The Glass Bottom Boat, is much better), and its uneven mix of action, espionage, romance and comedy never quite gels convincingly.

DAVID FLINT

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