The British dominate this week's prime time movies. Heading the list is the delightful Assassination Bureau which marked Diana Rigg's feature debut. Then there's Villain, a violent but absorbing 1971 thriller starring Richard Burton (in one of his better recent performances) as a savage psychopath who masterminds a payroll robbery, and Alfred the Great, Clive Donner's ambitious but unsuccessful attempt to recapture the past - 9th century England - and explore the character of a complex monarch, played by a miscast David Hemmings.
A high-style, high comedy pleasure strong on production values, The Assassination Bureau casts Miss Rigg as a turn-of-the-century liberationist bent upon destroying an organization of paid killers headed by Oliver Reed. Made in 1968 but unaccountably left in limbo by Paramount until last year, it was produced and directed , respectively, by the veteran British team of Michael Relph and Basil Dearden, with a script by Dearden from an idea in a Jack London-Robert Fish story. There's an array of sight gags - bomb plots that work (or don't), a nutty chase through a Parisian brothel, murders most inept on the canals of Venice, in Switzerland and even in a zeppelin. Miss Rigg displays a saucy and provocative intelligence and a most marvelous sexiness employing equally the resources of body and wit. Reed has rarely acted with such engaging warmth, and Telly Savalas heads a fine list of supporting villains.