New York Calling Superdragon

Director: Calvin Jackson Padget
Starring: Ray Danton, Margaret Lee, Marisa Mell, Carlo D’Angelo, Jess Hahn, Carlo Hinterman
Music: Benedetto Ghiglia

Rembrandt 13: “So you’re the famous Superdragon?”
Superdragon: “That’s right. Would you like an autograph?”
Rembrandt 13: “If that’s all you can offer a lady…”
Superdragon: “Well in public, yes! But in private I try to be more generous!”

New York Calling Superdragon is an extremely entertaining Eurospy film starring Ray Danton as the Brian Cooper – the aforementioned ‘Superdragon’. While many Eurospy films tend to be blatant ripoffs on the James Bond series, Superdragon is a slightly different in that seems to have been influenced by Our Man Flint. When we first meet our hero, he is practicing some weird yoga technique, which to all intents and purposes seems like suspended animation or death. While Superdragon is …er, resting a metronome beats beside him, only to awaken him once it has finished its cycle. This is extremely reminiscent of when Derek Flint (James Coburn) would stop his heart for relaxation, only to be awoken by a tiny pivot on his watch that would start his heart again, in Our Man Flint. Given both Coburn’s and Danton’s easy way with a smile, it is not surprising that Danton would take over from Coburn in the role of Derek Flint for the TV movie, Our Man Flint: Dead On Target which was made almost a decade later.

Let’s have a quick look at the plot. Strange things are afoot in Freemont, Michigan, a college town in the United States. Two students have died from heart failure, another four have collapsed from an unknown nervous disorder, and fights are breaking out amongst the student population for no known reason.

Coleman (Carlo Hinterman), head of an un-named secret organization has sent two agents in to investigate. The first, Wilson, was found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft. The second, Jackson, lost control of his car on Canyon Road and crashed into a river. Coleman’s third choice is Brian Cooper. He has retired and needs a little coaxing to return to duty. The coaxing is provided by ‘Comfort’ Fulton (Margaret Lee), a fellow agent, who turns up at Cooper’s home, poolside, dressed in hot pink.

Cooper agrees to look into the matter. His first stop is at the police station in Freemont. From the local police chief, Cooper gleans that Jackson had been travelling with a beautiful girl named Christine Brewder. She was a visitor from Amsterdam, who was friends with Mr. Ross, the owner of the local Bowling Alley. Strangely, Brewder’s body was not found in the wreckage. It was presumed it had been swept upstream. Cooper isn’t so convinced.

Cooper’s next stop is at Jackson’s apartment, There he finds some documents hidden in the cuckoo clock. They are import documents from Amsterdam for five Chinese vases. They are made out to Christine Brewder. There is also an analysis request for a piece of chewing gum from Ross’ bowling alley. Cooper takes the lead and makes the bowling alley his next port of call.

At the alley, Cooper witnesses Ross, working the concession stand. He is handing out free packs of chewing gum to the teenagers. The teenagers are all hyped up, singing, dancing and clapping along to the jukebox. One girl in particular is shaking up a storm. Cooper then approaches Ross, and tries to buy some gum. He is given a different brand to the kids, but doesn’t protest. It just raises his suspicions.

Continuing his investigation Cooper visits the local university to talk to the Dean about the events in the town, and to be shown the establishment. The Dean assures Cooper that nothing is wrong. But as they watch the gym class go about their activities, a fight breaks out between two girls. One of the girls was the young lady who had been dancing up a storm the night before. The fight soon escalates into a full-scale brawl. After calm has been restored, the dancing girl is lying on the floor in the throes of a convulsive fit. She is quickly sent to hospital but no sign of drugs are found in her system.

Cooper’s not happy about events. He returns to the bowling alley as Ross is locking up. Accompanied by a couple a persuasive backhands to the jaw, Cooper asks Ross a few questions. As Ross is about to talk a car whizzes past, and Ross receives a .38 calibre hole in his forehead. No answers there.

After retrieving the key, Cooper heads to Ross’ apartment and starts to snoop around. He is examining a Ming vase when an assassin bursts through the door. His shot misses, but Cooper’s return fire collects the assailant in the shoulder. The assassin runs into the bathroom and locks the door. By the time Cooper has kicked in the bathroom door it is too late. The assassin has taken his own life. That’s it for Freemont.

Cooper returns to headquarters and debriefs Coleman. Coleman says that the tests on the chewing gum have come back negative. There only hope is to follow up on Christine Brewder. A trip to Amsterdam is planned. Cooper says he will only continue with the mission if he can get some help. The man he wants is called ‘Babyface’ (Jess Hahn). He is a gangster who happens to be in Sing Sing Prison. Coleman pulls some strings and ‘Babyface’ is released.

‘Babyface’, apart from being a thief, happens to be a technology expert. He is essentially the ‘Q’ character. He equips Cooper with a communicator watch and a bulletproof vest, plus a few other little devices that come into play as the movie progresses. It is a refreshing change to see the ‘Q’ character not played as a stuffy buffoon as so often happens. ‘Babyface’ is still comic relief and seems to get in the way more than he helps out, but at least he isn’t a cut price Desmond Llewellyn.

Back to Amsterdam. Cooper and ‘Babyface’ meet with their agent in Holland – Agent Rembrandt 13, Charity Farrell (Marissa Mell). Farrell says that nobody has seen Christine Brewder in over a year, but she did have one special man in her life. A millionaire named Fernand Lamas (Carlo d’Angelo). Farrell arranges a meeting between Cooper and Lamas.

With all the jumping about, shooting and deaths, you’d think we’d be almost to the end of the movie. It may surprise you to know, that the scenes I have described above only make up the first twenty minutes of the film. As you can see it is all smartly paced with a far amount of action. The print I viewed, from Shocking Videos, while being far from perfect, was still featured vibrant colours – I am guessing a pristine print would positively shine, or glow in the dark with it’s sensational mod colour schemes.

Dear reader, I am not going to outline any more of the plot for you. Not because I am lazy, but I think I have given you a fair taster of what this movie has to offer There are a couple of set pieces that I enjoyed that I will bring to your attention though. The first is where Cooper’s neck is wired to the rails of a dry dock in a shipping yard. It’s like him being tied to a railroad track, but rather than a train coming to remove his head from his body, a ship is set in motion and sliding down the rails.

Another interesting set piece happens after Cooper has been knocked out in a fist fight with four thugs. They put his body in a coffin, screw down the lid, and then drill some large holes in the side of the coffin. The holes are not to let air in, but to let water in as the hoods dump the coffin in a canal. It’s all good corny fun, and five years before Mister Connery got trapped inside a coffin in Diamonds Are Forever.

So that’s what you have in store if you choose to watch New York Calling Superdragon. And why wouldn’t you. It has everything you’d expect from a swinging sixties spy film – action colour, humour and some beautiful girls. The real glue that holds it all together though, is Ray Danton’s performance. It’s cheeky, charming and extremely entertaining. And it isn’t the up front womanising or beating up of suspects that make the character endearing. It’s the little things that have nothing to do with the plot. For example in one scene he stops at a souvenir stall to ask for directions. The seller gives him his directions, but asks that he buy a small souvenir. He does out of politeness, but as he walks off, in the background you can see that he passes the gift off to a little girl as she walks by. As I said, it has no bearing on the plot, but it is simple and charming. It’s touches like this that lift New York Calling Superdragon above Danton’s two other Eurospy efforts, Codename: Jaguar, and Lucky The Inscrutable.

I know Eurospy films aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but if you are interested, this film is one of the easier titles to track down, and one of the better examples of the genre.

This review is based on the Shocking Videos USA DVD.

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