The Assassination Bureau

The Assassination Bureau Limited (also known as The Assassination Bureau in the United States) is a 1969 UK Technicolor black comedy adventure film directed by Basil Dearden and starring Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, and Curd Jürgens. It was produced by Michael Relph. It is based on an unfinished novel, The Assassination Bureau, Ltd by Jack London, posthumously published in 1963. 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
Assassinationbureau poster.jpeg
U.S. theatrical release poster
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 Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed).

Far from being outraged or angry, Dragomiloff 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. Dragomiloff, 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, Dragomiloff 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 surviving members of the Bureau plan to get rich quick by the "biggest killing" of them all — buying stocks in arms companies and then propelling Europe into a world war by assassinating all the European heads of state while they attend a secret peace conference where the kings, emperors and prime ministers of Europe are trying to avoid a possible war over the assassination of a Balkan prince (killed by a bomb intended for Dragomiloff).

Dragomiloff and Miss Winter uncover the plot which is to drop a bomb from a hijacked Zeppelin airship onto the castle in Ruthenia where the peace conference is held. Dragomiloff 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 Dragomiloff may wed Miss Winter as well.


Main castEdit

Supporting castEdit

Cameo castEdit

Original novelEdit

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 L. 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 videoEdit

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 alsoEdit


  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.

External linksEdit