Bob West (Christopher Neil) is a trainee private eye. He’s also a bit of a mug, the kind of guy who claims to be so much more observant than the average but who nevertheless is immediately recognised as an easy mark by a passing pickpocket and, more importantly, the femme fatale type Laura (Suzy Kendall) who comes into the office when his boss Judd Blake (Jon Pertwee) is on holiday.
Bob can’t resist taking on the case, which involves her deceased husband and someone blackmailing her over some ‘artistic’ photographs taken during days as a model. Soon he is completely and utterly out of his depth, with a body in a trunk to dispose of so that Laura can secure her inheritance...
Producer, director and co-writer Stanley Long later felt Adventures of a Private Eye was the weakest of his three Adventures films on the grounds that his target audience found it more difficult to identify with its ‘glamorous’ protagonist compared to Adventures of a Taxi Driver and Adventures of a Plumber’s Mate.
While there is maybe a bit more laughing at Joe and less empathising with his situation – in part because often as not it is his own fault, rather than that of anyone else – the film really doesn’t depart from formula too much.
Sin in the suburbs
It is, after all, still a sex comedy in which the sex is strictly softcore and the rapid-fire, hit-and-miss comedy based largely around misunderstanding. misidentification and a steady flow of double meanings, from Pertwee’s “You stick with me and you’ll soon become a successful bugger” in reference to contemporary surveillance techniques, to a police inspector’s remark of “What a big Willy I’ve got” with regard to his son.
The cast is the same mix of up and coming and established actors, of varying degrees of talent but undoubtedly equally glad of the chance of some work. Amongst the up and comers there are the likes of Neil, Adrienne Posta, Robin Stewart and Nicholas Young, whilst amongst the established performers Diana Dors, Irene Handl and Harry Corbett showed up for a scene or two.
Here we may also note that Long was presumably satisfied with Neil’s performance – Taxi Driver’s Barry Evans had been offered the role, but declined it – in that the actor again played the lead in Plumber’s Mate.
'Moroni with an I, and not with an E, because Morone would be stupid'
The film also has its own strong points, most notably Posta’s Lisa Moroni character, with her note-perfect impersonation of Liza Minelli’s Sally Bowles from Cabaret.
Note Milton Reid as the leftmost heavy
For the fan of British genre cinema there’s also a nice touch when the Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General cue that introduces Hopkins is played as the blackmailer makes his entrance. Given that Long had worked as a cinematographer on Michael Reeves’ The Sorcerers and that co-writer Michael Armstrong made the Witchfinder General-inspired Mark of the Devil, this seems more than coincidental on someone's part.