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Hot Enough For June
cast: Dirk Bogarde Sylva Koscina, Robert Morley, Leo McKern, and Roger Delgado

director: Ralph Thomas

98 minutes (PG) 1964
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Network DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Coming in-between the American release of From Russia With Love and the release of Goldfinger, Hot Enough For June plays with the already burgeoning James Bond mythos in its opening sequence, as John Le Mesurier drops off a deceased agent's equipment with clerk John Junkin who puts it in a locker marked 007.

Spymaster Robert Morley and Le Mesurier are seen discussing recruiting a new agent, whereupon the action switches to the bohemian lifestyle of unemployed writer Nicholas Whistler (Dirk Bogarde), playing cards and swigging beer with his mates (including Derek Nimmo) and his leggy but rather mannish girlfriend. Next day at the labour exchange Whistler is disturbed to hear that they may have a job for him. Attending at interview Whistler, a Czech speaker, is recruited on a trade mission to Czechoslovakia, seduced by the prospect of �2,000 a year (imagine!). He is to attend at a glass factory and have some information slipped inside a guide book he will be carrying. He will identify his contact by observing that the weather is 'hot enough for June' while his opposite number will observe that it is actually September.

Once in Prague, Whistler is contacted by his official driver, the lovely Vlasta Simoneva, played by Sylva Koscina who was to play one of the female assassins in Ralph Thomas' Bulldog Drummond adventure Deadlier Than The Male (1967), as well as the Countess opposite Paul Newman in The Secret War Of Harry Frigg (1968). They soon take a shine to each other but Vlasta is employed by state security and jealously observed by her colleague Plakov (Richard Pasco), while her father Simoneva (Leo McKern) is head of the secret service.

Once in possession of the secret information, and having belatedly become aware that he is operating as a spy, Whistler is handed over to State Security by his hotel porter Josef (Roger Delgado, Doctor Who's original Master). Escaping, and on the run, Whistler is helped by the lovely Vlasta and the final third of the film is given over to his attempts to keep ahead of Czech security and make it back to the British embassy.

Filmed in Italy and relatively low-budget, this comedy-thriller depends for much of its unpretentious charm on the attractiveness of the two leads, and the solid supporting cast of stalwarts of British TV and cinema, Noel Harrison, Eric Pohlmann, Richard Vernon and John Standing are all present in supporting roles.

Dirk Bogarde once declared that he was not an actor, he was 'a star', and his career certainly occupied that terrain where cinema-goers went to see their current idol notwithstanding the vehicle for the performance. Bogarde's good looks, his carefully sculpted disarranged hair, his sensitive but wise persona, marked him out as the consummate matinee idol. Of course there was more to him than that and he took risks with his image relatively early on. Playing a blackmailed lawyer in Victim (1961), a film credited with helping to overturn Britain's restrictive laws on homosexuality, as well as ambiguous characters in collaborations with Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter. His later reputation is founded on his work in Europe on Visconti's The Damned (1969), and Death In Venice (1971), in Liliani Cavani's The Night Porter, and with Fassbinder in Despair (1978). Oblique as it is, I was able to watch all of Despair; I have never got past the opening sequence of Death In Venice.

There was much speculation about Bogarde's sexuality and some of his film choices seemed to tease his audience, playing on this ambiguity. The strong homoerotic content of a relatively minor work like The Singer Not The Song (1961) is a trumpet blast even amongst the discord of a British-made Mexican-set 'western'. Despite being launched as the 'British Rock Hudson', Bogarde didn't go down the route of a marriage of convenience, instead lived with his manager, and adopted the Cliff Richard stance of 'why should this be of interest to anyone' with regard to his sexuality. Coming from an era when homosexuality was a criminal offence, and having a strong female following, perhaps locked Bogarde into a public face he found difficult to discard.

There is a wonderful little scene in Hot Enough For June where Whistler anxious to swap his incriminating clothes visits a bathing spa. He throws himself down next to Derek Fowlds' sunbather, for-all-the-world as if attempting a pick-up. Having lit a cigarette and burned the unsuspecting Fowlds' hand to obtain his cloakroom tag, he then rubs sun-oil into the wound to make it better. Fowlds watches Bogarde the whole time as if waiting for his cue to say 'do you want to go back to mine?'

A diverting enough period piece before 1960s' spy movies took off into sex, violence, and weirdness. It's not hilarious as a comedy and not particularly gripping as a thriller; and while the ending is never in doubt we care enough to watch until we get there. The only DVD extras are a selection of stills galleries.
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