An inspector and an insurance investigator both have a major stake in revealing the identity of an audacious jewel thief.
In 1973, Roger Moore made his debut as Ian Fleming's famous super spy, James Bond 007, in the thrilling adventure 'Live and Let Die'. That same year, another important figure in the Bond franchise was working on his film debut: Martin Campbell, director of two seminal entries in the series, 'Goldeneye' and 'Casino Royale'. However, unlike Moore, who made was busy making an impact on audiences the world over, Campbell's beginnings were far less auspicious, starting off with the dull sex farce 'The Sex Thief.'
A dashing jewel thief, Grant Henry (David Warbeck), has a brilliant plan. He sneaks into the houses of rich couples to steal their jewels, but he waits till the husbands have left their wives at home. He seduces them and then gets them to cover for him after the theft, giving wildly inaccurate descriptions of his physical appearance to throw off the police. Scotland Yard is utterly stumped by this tactic, assuming that a gang of thieves is at work, and have no leads to go off of because the women, now devoted to Grant, have helped cover his tracks. Only the creative thinking of an insurance investigator (Diane Keen) offers any hope of stopping the crime spree.
'The Sex Thief' rests on a fun, if wholly sexist premise. The idea that women are so desperate for a good romp in the sack that they will then fall completely for the first man that gives it to them is ridiculous. If you accept the idea, though, it does lend itself to some good comedy. Unfortunately, most of the humor is too broad, obvious, and crude to have much of an impact, and Campbell has not yet learned the art of timing to pull off the best bits. There are a few good moments, mainly through a bit of good juxtaposition in the editing, but hardly enough to justify actually watching the movie.
Of course, there is another reason to watch: Full nudity. In that regard, the movie delivers in spades, although all scenes of nudity and sex are wholly devoid of anything that might be regarded as sensuality, either played for laughs or coming off as so leaden that they fail to provide even the merest hint of titillation. That being said, there are many beautiful girls on display and they are all refreshingly free of surgical enhancement.
David Warbeck does have some natural charisma that he brings to the role, coming off like a less mannered Moore. Their voices are practically identical, especially when Warbeck is trying to seduce a lady, or about 90% of the picture (he even hits on a homely meter maid at one point). However, he's not terribly talented as an actor, and the script does him no favors. Diane Keen is attractive and convincing enough to play Warbeck's nemesis, and as the film belabors in a scene that goes on for far too long, is also more than a physical match for him. The two have something approaching chemistry, although neither they, nor Campbell, nor the infantile script can really pull off the third act switcheroo that the film hinges on.
Much of the movie attempts to send up the British upper class, with scenes of upper class twits droning on in front of Grant and inadvertently giving him everything he needs to burgle their homes and seduce their wives. The satire is too obvious, though, so over the top as to miss the mark completely. And that is the ultimate fate of the film, too ham-fisted to be funny, too leaden to be sexy, too bland to be enjoyable.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber, under its Jezebel label, presents 'The Sex Thief' in a standard Blu-ray case. The synopsis loudly trumpets Campbell's connection to Bond.
Kino Presents 'The Sex Thief' in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 in a 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer. The case advertises that the transfer was mastered from original 35mm material, which I can only assume to mean that they found a musty print from 1974 and threw it into a telecine without a second glance. The source print is scratched up, dirty, and ragged all around. No loving care was taken in restoring this movie, although given its pedigree that's hardly a surprise. However, this is a true HD transfer, meaning that at the very least, while the image may look dirty, it looks detailed. Now, this is still a low budget British film from the 70's, so the detail isn't off the charts, but it's more than any previous home video release would ever have been able to display.
Blacks can be problematic. Dark scenes become impenetrable, and contrast takes a hit in many scenes as the darks overpower the lights. Colors appear to be accurately reproduced, albeit for a film with a drab color scheme to begin with. On the plus side, there appears to be no edge enhancement or artifacting evident in the transfer. This is not a disc you would want to use to impress your friends.
The image may be rough, but it's crystal clear compared to the DTS-HD Master Audio mono track on the disc. Source damage is evident through much of the movie, with frequent hissing, buzzing, and other issues. One scene sounds like it may have been taken from secondary sources, as it sounds far away and tinny. Dialogue is mainly clear enough to be understood, although it never really sounds good. Dynamic range is small, and being mono there's no sense of directionality. However the ragged nature of the sound seems appropriate to the film's funky porn-light score.
'The Sex Thief' comes with no bonus material whatsoever. I guess getting Martin Campbell into a studio to record a commentary wasn't going to work out.
Kino Lorber has gone to great pains to stress the connection between 'The Sex Thief' and James Bond, but don't be fooled. While Martin Campbell is responsible for helming two of the best pictures in the Bond series, this rough, unformed debut reveals no clues as to how Campbell became so proficient behind the camera. The film's humor is too broad, obvious, and crude to be effective, and the actors aren't of the caliber to elevate the material. There is some good nudity on display, but really, if you're reading your film reviews online, surely you know of easier and cheaper ways to find nudity than buying this cheap, garish movie. Skip it.