‘The Puppet Master’ — Modesty Blaise

Modesty Blaise, once the head of an international crime syndicate, had a passion about confronting slavers and drug smugglers, so it is to be expected that one of the men she took down would come back for vengeance. How he would go about it, however, would involve Modesty’s closest confidant, Willie Garvin, in a plot where she is brainwashed into killing him!

Capsule Description: During her career as the head of a top crime syndicate, Modesty Blaise made a lot of enemies, especially with her hatred of drugs and slavery, so when she halts the operations and careers of those engaging in those illegal practices, it is only to be expected that those people would want to take their revenge. Some merely wanted her dead, but at least one would go so far as to brainwash her into killing her best friend and confidant Willie Garvin in order to have her live with the profound regret as a substitute for her death.

Description: Several years ago, Modesty Blaise stopped the illegal slave trade of Mahmoud by kidnapping him from his own boat and selling him to be a slave himself. Now, he’s back, and with his old organization, he kidnaps Modesty and with the help of the sinister Doctor Hans Baum she is subjected to days of drugged unconsciousness. Finally, when she is consciousness, she has forgotten her past and the group combines to feed her false memories and feelings that would encourage her to shoot Willie on sight. Once that it past, though, her true memories will resurface and she would be haunted by her actions for the rest of her life. A fitting punishment, thinks Mahmoud.

Modesty’s abduction was obscured by an accident, making it appear as if she died there, but Willie doesn’t believe it and sets out to search for her, looking up old acquaintances from their criminal days, with no luck. However, during that search, he and M.I.6 agent and friend Maude Tiller spot one of Mahmoud’s people tailing them. While they think they are getting information from her, she is setting them (especially Willie) up for the kill.

The setting is a ski resort: out of season, it is isolated and unoccupied, perfect for the setup. Willie finds Modesty as he was supposed to, and she turns and shoots him automatically. But as he sees her, she says the one name that is the key to their relationship: “Princess”, and that alone is enough for Modesty’s fabled accuracy to be just enough off-target to keep her from killing Willie, much to Doctor Baum’s dismay and Mahmoud’s displeasure, as he stabs the Doctor for his failure. And for Mahmoud and the rest of his gang. they are no match for the angry Modesty and Willie.

Commentary: At least the brainwashing here is fairly low-key and drawn out, mixing misdirection and implanting false memories and feelings through amnesia as opposed to the more stereotypical episodes. Therefore, its a more believable and more interesting way of manipulating her into her actions.

History: “Modesty Blaise” was the creation of British author Peter O’Donnell, who wrote 13 novels and short story collections about the character, and artist Jim Holdaway, although O’Donnell collaborated with other artists in producing a daily comic strip around the character after the death of Holdaway. O’Donnell also wrote a number of historical romances under the pen-name of Madeleine Brent.

Modesty Blaise was also appeared in two movies, a theatrical release “Modesty Blaise” (1966) and a made-for-television pilot “Modesty Blaise” (1982), neither of which really lived up to the promise of the original, plus a ‘prequel’ direct-to-DVD movie “My Name is Modesty” in 2003, about her life before she met Willie.

[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060708/]

[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0347591/]

References:

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