Were it not for the success of Austin Powers, Modesty Blaise would almost certainly never have been released on DVD. People buying it expecting something like Mike Meyers's film will either be disappointed or pleasantly surprised, depending on taste. Both films are parodies of spy movies, but that's about where the similarities end. Powers is star-centered low comedy; Modesty is a humorless director's vision of cartoon action.
The film is genuinely funny, but in a way that may not be everyone's cup of tea. As just one of the more over the top examples, a joke late in the film depends on Dirk Bogarde's reaction to a strangled body hanging limply behind him. The moment *is* funny, but I suspect that more than a few viewers will find it anything but. The pace too is leisurely, not at all in the fist-in-the-face mode of even the early Bonds, much less more recent films in the series. In other words, expect neither childish jokes à la Powers nor fast-paced action à la Bond.
Instead, there is a lot of what pretentious critics call the "gestural," which might best be described as mannerisms so showy that even academics notice. There isn't an ounce of subtlety in any of it, which seems to be the point. From Losey's overly elaborate camerawork (take a moment to figure out how the shot in the credit sequence was taken without the camera crew becoming pretzels, for example), to Richard Macdonald's eye-popping Op Art inspired production design, to Dirk Bogarde's camped up Gabriel, everyone seems to be trying to out-outrage one another.
If you are familiar with Losey's more serious work, this loud declaiming might seem out of character, but the results are as obscure and opaque as his collaborations with Harold Pinter. Still, if you normally enjoy his films, you will probably get a kick out of seeing Losey's claustrophobia turned inside out and made into a joke.