Double Agent (1987)

Directed by Mike Vejar
Michael McKean, John Putch, Susan Walden, Christopher Burton, Judith Jones, Lloyd Bochner, Alexa Hamilton
Music by Alf Clausen

Double Agent was a Disney Television movie, and while it is enjoyable in it’s way, it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.

The film starts with confident, cool secret agent Jason Star (Michael McKean) pulling up in his red sports car, outside a dockside warehouse. Looking every bit the secret agent, he is dressed in a white dinner jacket with a bow tie. Inside he has an appointment with one of his contacts, Gerlinde Krueger (Alexa Hamilton). Upon meeting her, Star opines that he has a “nose for trouble and an eye for beauty”. Star and Krueger and there to exchange some top secret overlays (known as the Pinocchio overlays – and feature a cartoon of Disney’s animated character). But Star hasn’t acquired his overlay yet. It will be another two days before the exchange can take place. Krueger disappears into the night. But Star isn’t alone for long. An enemy agent, known as Igor (former wrestler, Big John Stud) is prowling about outside on the roof. Because Star is confident, he doesn’t try to avoid Igor, instead he approaches him and engages in a glib conversation. Igor doesn’t say much and comes at Star with a knife that ‘pops out’ of his glove (a low tech gadget). Igor’s wild swing doesn’t skewer Star, but does puncture a petrol tank. As the two men continue to fight a pool of petrol is gathering at their feet. Igor is forced through a rooftop skylight and falls down into the warehouse below. But somehow he manages to survive. Jason, on the other hand, is standing in a pool of petrol with sparks flying everywhere. The sparks ignite the petrol. Star leaps off the building into the sea as the warehouse explodes in a giant orange ball of flame.

The film then cuts to Jason’s identical twin brother, Warren Starbinder (also McKean). Warren’s life is in stark contrast to his brother’s. He lives a simple domestic life with his wife, Sharon (Susan Walden), and two children, Russell (Christopher Burton) and Meredith (Judith Jones). After the families morning breakfast, Warren heads to work. He works as a veterinarian.

At the end of Warren’s working day, Special Agent Vaughn (Lloyd Bochner) enters the clinic. He tells Warren that his brother is missing, then he takes him to Jason’s apartment. It’s here that he explains that Jason was not in the import / export business but a top flight secret agent. And here’s the bomb shell, they want Warren to replace Jason at the exchange of the Pinocchio overlays. Warren agrees and is soon kitted out in new clothes and behind the wheel of Jason’s red sports car.

Of course, the exchange, which should only take a few minutes, goes horribly wrong. From that moment on, Warren is the fish out of water who’s drawn into this tale of espionage.

For me, the most interesting thing about the movie was the subtle spy references. In fact, they are so subtle, I almost wonder if they are deliberate or just coincidences. At the start, Krueger refers to Star as ‘Jason, love!’, which I take as a nod to James Leasor’s secret agent (portrayed by David Niven in Where the Spies Are). Then there’s Bochner’s character: Special Agent Vaughn, which I’d suggest is a reference to Robert Vaughn from The Man From UNCLE. And there’s a ceramic white cat that sits on one of Jason’s tables in his apartment. Could this be Blofeld’s cat?

Granted, this is a kid’s movie, and it may entertain fourteen year old boys, but there is nothing new in this production. It doesn’t have a large enough budget to engage an audience with large scale action set pieces. So it stands or falls or the light comedy performance by Michael McKean. And McKean is quite okay. I wouldn’t go seeking this film out, but if it happened to be on TV late at night, it’s worth a few minutes of your time. Passable entertainment.

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