Ring Around The World (1966)

Directors: Georges Combret, Luigi Scattini
Starring: Richard Harrison, Hélène Chanel, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Dominique Boschero, Bernard Blier
Music: Piero Umiliani
Songs: ‘I Told Her’ and ‘Mary Lou’ performed by The Bumpers.

Ring Around The World is a very good Eurospy production. If you can find a good print, it is well worth checking out. The story goes like this: An unnamed Killer (Jack Stuart / Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) takes the components of a snipers pistol from a case and assembles it. Into the chamber he inserts an ice bullet. As the credits roll, he goes on a global killing spree. First he guns down a man seated in an outdoor café in Italy. Next he shoots a man on a beach in Rio. Then he moves to a temple in Thailand where his target is on holiday.

After all this carnage, we meet out hero. His name is Fred Lester (Richard Harrison), and he is an investigator for an insurance company. He has been called to London by colleague John Wild. Wild has been investigating the deaths of the three men in the title sequence. It seems that each of the three men had substantial insurance policies, and have listed financial institutions as their beneficiaries, rather than their families. And they all died rather suspiciously from heart attacks.

As Lester enters the insurance company’s headquarters, there is an ear piercing scream, and a man falls to his death in the elevator shaft. No prizes for guessing that this is John Wild. Next, Lester is called into a meeting with the heads of the insurance firm. The men seated around the table are Mr. Sanders, Viscount Berry, Sir Joseph Ashley, and Sir Anthony Queen. They assign Lester to continue the Wild’s work.

Lester starts his investigation at Wild’s apartment at South Eaton Place. On the desk he sees a flyer for the Le Macabre Nightclub. As he examines it, the phone rings. Lester answers it, pretending to be Wild. On the other end of the line is an elderly gent called MacMurray.

He says, ‘They’ve got Yo-Yo. They’re looking for me. I can’t stay here. I’ll give back all the money, you’re right, they don’t want it. They want to kill me.’ Once MacMurray realises it isn’t Wild on the phone, he panics and hangs up.
Lester returns to headquarters and digs up MacMurray’s insurance policy. Sure enough, it is for one hundred thousand pounds. Lester gleans the address and makes his way there, only to find that MacMurray doesn’t live there anymore. It appears that MacMurray is a bit of a rapscallion. He has abandoned his wife, who he only married for money in the first place, and has now run off with a nightclub singer called Yo-Yo.

Lester puts two and two together and works out that Yo-Yo must perform at Le Macabre, so he makes that his next port of call. Le Macabre is a swingin’ sixties go-go pad, and Lester’s job is made incredibly easy when Yo-Yo (Dominique Boschero) approaches him on entry. She wants to dance. He wants information. They go to her room backstage.

After a bit of gentle intimidation, Yo-Yo gives Lester MacMurray’s address at Embankment Gardens. Lester is on the move again, but this time he is being tailed by the Killer. As Lester steps into the elevator at MacMurray’s apartment, the Killer steps in also. Lester is a pretty smart cookie and knows he has been followed. “We’re looking for the same person,” he says. At MacMurray’s apartment, both men are ushered in by a servant. But all is not as it seems as the servant is working with the Killer. He bids the men to sit down and wait, and offers to make them a cup of tea. Naturally, Lester’s has poison in it. Lester chooses not to partake in the tea ritual and pulls a gun, but as the Killer distract Lester, the servant sneaks up on Lester from behind. Lester is clubbed unconscious.

Lester remains unconscious as the Killer and his henchman drive out of town until they come to a railway crossing. The plan is to leave Lester in the car, in the middle of the tracks and, well you can guess the rest… As the train approaches, Lester awakens and with a well placed kung-fu chop knocks out the henchman. Then he leaps from the car as the train collides with it. The Killer is nowhere to be seen.

Upset by his experience, Lester returns to Le Macabre to find Yo-Yo. Not surprisingly, she has packed up her things and scarpered. But after a bit of biffo with two burley bouncers, he discovers her address and heads around to her apartment. She isn’t home, so he waits in the dark for her to arrive. Upon arrival, Lester asks her once again about MacMurray’s whereabouts, but this time at gunpoint. He isn’t too happy. He is told that MacMurray has fled to Rio, and staying with a man called Hernandez, who has a store in the Old Bazaar section.

Lester lands in Rio and makes his way around to Hernandez’s store. Hernandez says that another man (The Killer) has already been to see him regarding MacMurray’s location. Lester thinks he is too late. MacMurray is hiding out in the Hotel Americano, in the village of Gabia. The village is one hundred miles from Rio and only accessible by airplane. Luckily, Hernandez knows a pilot with a small plane who can get him there quickly. So Lester is off once again. It is dizzying keeping up with him.

At the back of the shop MacMurray is held at gunpoint by The Killer. And the man Lester thought was Hernandez is really another of The Killer’s minions, and at the airfield another plot is being put in place to eliminate Lester. A bomb is fixed to the engine of the plane, with a timer set to go off at two o’clock. Lester arrives at the airfield, boards the plane. Once they are in the air, he finds it strange that the pilot is already wearing a crash helmet and a parachute. The pilot explains that it is ‘company policy’. As two o’clock approaches, the pilot tries to leap from the plane, but as he jumps, Lester latches onto him and free-falls with him. Once the parachute has been deployed, Lester strangles the pilot mid air, and then glides down safely.

On the ground, Lester continues on to the Hotel Americano in Gabia, but it is deserted. The caretaker explains that it went out of business a year ago. Lester’s next move is to phone Hernandez. This time he gets the real one, who says that MacMurray was at the Hotel Americano in Brasilia. You guessed it. Lester’s on the move once more. In Brasilia, the local police explain that MacMurray is dead. They found him in the hotel swimming pool, cramped up. They say it must have been an accident, but Lester knows better.

That’s the end of the race to save MacMurray, but back in England there’s another policy holder who has gone missing. His name is Brightford and his daughter Mary (Sherrill Morgan) is worried about him. Lester is assigned to find Brightford, and naturally Mary tags along. I’ll leave the synopsis there, but let me asure you, there’s plenty more to come, and it is well worth your time.

With a title like Ring Around The World, you’d expect the film to feature some impressive locations. And the film doesn’t let us down. The first of note is the city of Brasilia. For those interested, the city was designed by Brazilian architect and urban planner, Lucio Costa. Major buildings were designed by Oscar Niemeyer and landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx planned the layout. The movie features the uniquely shaped buildings, art and sculpture and wide streets as a backdrop, particularly during a car chase sequence. For those who’d like to see a bit more of the city will strangely have to go to Rio (746 miles away). Or more precisely watch That Man from Rio (L’Homme de Rio) with Jean Paul Belmondo or The Girl From Rio (The Seven Secrets Of Sumuru) with Shirley Eaton.

The other noteworthy location is used in the denouement. The final shootout takes place in the Tiger Balm Gardens, also known as Aw Boon Haw Gardens, a popular tourist attraction in Hong Kong. The gardens were created by Aw Boon Haw, who made his fortune from the sale of Tiger Balm. It’s a great setting and visually gives the movie and organic yet slightly surreal feeling.

A quick word about the soundtrack by Piero Umiliani. It is an absolute knockout. It is pounding, it’s jazzy, it’s swinging sixties. It’s almost worth watching the film for the soundtrack alone.

This review is based on the Retromedia Entertainment Inc DVD. This is part of a Richard Harrison double feature which also includes the movie Terminal Force

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