Requiem For A Secret Agent (1967)

Directed by Sergio Sollima
Stewart Granger, Daniela Bianchi, Peter Van Eyck, Giulio Bosetti, Maria Granada, Gianni Rizzo, Georgia Moll
Music is credited to Antonio Perez Olea, but in fact was composed by Piero Uniliani
The song, ‘Don’t Ever Let Me Go’, is performed by Lydia McDonald

Requiem For A Secret Agent is a pretty good Eurospy production, which stars Stewart Granger as John ‘Bingo’ Merrill, an agent for hire. The film is good, but it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. You see, ‘Bingo’ is a cold-hearted bastard, and as such it’s hard to cheer for a character you don’t like. But he is human and does make mistakes. It’s one of these mistakes, involving Evelyn Bressart (Daniela Bianchi) that will turn some people off his character and ultimately off the movie. Sean Connery never acted this way!

The film opens in Tangiers, and Agent A139, John O’Brien is whizzing through the streets in a sporty blue convertible. His car is being tailed by a group of thugs in a red and white saloon. O’Brien stops, gets out of his car and walks to the crowded city square. Along the way, he purchases a rug form a street vendor, which he folds over his arm, and discreetly, hides his pistol underneath it. Then he joins a crowd of people who are watching a musical troupe performing. One of the thugs has followed O’Brien and sneaks up behind him. As the music reaches a crescendo, O’Brien fires his discreetly hidden firearm, and the thug slumps to the ground dead. In the commotion, O’Brien disappears into the crowd.

Next we cut to Betty Lou (Maria Granada), who is a strip tease artist. She is performing in front of a projected image of a bullfight. As she removes each layer of clothing, more of the projected image is revealed (as well as her body).

At this point, only a few minutes into the film, I can’t help but thinking I have seen these scenes before. Maybe slightly different, but similar none-the-less. The death of the thug as the musical troupe performed, reminded me of the death of Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) in Thunderball. And the projected images (for a spy movie, at least), look no further than Robert Brownjohn’s title sequences for From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. But I’ll talk more about this later.

But back to the synopsis. As the stripper retires backstage, a middle aged man, Felix Bressart (Luis Induni) is waiting for her in her dressing room. Felix showers Betty Lou, who is obviously a lover, with jewellery, before telling her that he has to go away. It appears that Felix has gotten himself into a spot of bother.

But before Felix leaves, he has arranged to meet agent O’Brien back at his house. O’Brien turns up at the designated time, but finds the door to the house open, and Felix dead. Before O’Brien can act, the lights go out. An unknown assailant stalks O’Brien as he tries to make it out alive, and as he tries to escape through a window, the assailant guns him down.

Moran, the Section Chief for Intelligence in this part of the world needs a replacement for O’Brien. For his trouble he is assigned a free-lance S.O.B., John Merrill, also known as ‘Bingo’.

When we first meet ‘Bingo’ he is in Berlin helping a Professor and his family over ‘the wall’ and into the West. It’s here that Moran meets ‘Bingo’, pays him off, and sends him to Tangiers.

After his flight, as he passes through customs, he meets Evelyn (Daniela Bianchi). Foolishly, she is trying to smuggle a pistol into the country. Ever the professional, ‘Bingo’ smuggles it through for her – albeit without her even releasing that he has removed the gun from her. Little does he know that Evelyn is Felix Bressart’s ex-wife, and she has arrived in town to track down his murderer. Naturally enough, their paths cross again later in the film; – the cold-hearted professional, and the naïve amateur – it can’t end well!

I liked Requiem For A Secret Agent and I think it is well worth seeking out, but only if you are prepared to watch a spy film, where the hero is not suave and sophisticated, and on occasion treats the female characters quite disrespectfully. But that a reflection on real life, I’m afraid. I am sure you have met people who don’t treat women right, or at least have read about them in the newspapers. Then again, maybe that’s why you wouldn’t want to see this film. There’s enough degradation of women in real life, without it being served up to the viewing public as entertainment. But I am please to say, the film does not glorify the misogyny it depicts. The other characters in this film, who are privy to ‘Bingo’s actions are all equally appalled as the viewer is.

Earlier in the review I mentioned how I thought some of the opening scenes appeared to be very similar to scenes in a few Bond movies. The spy film genre is a strange beast that seems at times to feed upon it self. For the projected image sequence, I could have easily mentioned Operation Kid Brother (O.K. Connery) and for the killing of the thug I could have mentioned A Shot In The Dark (although it’s not really a spy film). But what I am clumsily saying is a lot of set pieces in spy movies get repeated again and again. There’s a scene towards the end of Requiem For A Secret Agent that fans of the new Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale may find familiar. One of the characters, Rubech (Peter Van Eyck) walks into his office. Hiding in the shadows is ‘Bingo’ Merrill. He surprises Rubech. Rubech then makes his way to his desk and sits down, all the while keeping ‘Bingo’ talking. As the conversation continues, Rubech discreetly open his desk drawer and retrieves his pistol. He then levels the gun at ‘Bingo’ and then fires. Nothing. ‘Bingo’ then shows Rubech the clip he had removed from the gun earlier. Once upon a time, the knock-offs imitated the Bond films, now days, the Bond films imitate the knock-offs. It has all come full circle.

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