The Uranium Conspiracy (1978)

Directors: Gianfranco Baldanello, Menahem Golan
Starring: Fabio Testi, Assaf Dayan, Janet Agren, Sigfried Rauch, Oded Kotler
Music: Coriolano Gori, Dov Seltzer

Knowing that this film was produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, the two men behind Cannon Films didn’t fill me with hope that this would be a quality production. Added to that, the film has now passed into public domain, so I figured this film is the bastard child that nobody wanted. But all that aside, while The Uranium Conspiracy isn’t a top tier spy film, it is certainly better than a lot of the rubbish I sit through. This is mainly due to the charismatic lead actors, Fabio Testi and Assaf Davan. Their energy keep you watching this film, when by all rights you should have turned it off.

Renzo (Fabio Testi) is a ‘soldier of fortune’; a mercenary if you will. For the last two years his employers have been Mossad, and he has been working undercover at a uranium mine in Zaire. Renzo watches everything and takes notes. He knows that something big is about to happen because a large shipment is going out, and they have received twice the usual price and it has been paid for in advance.

That evening at the Black Sheep Night Club, where topless African dancers writhe around, Renzo is engaged in a ‘stress relief’ session upstairs. He is interrupted, much to his chagrin, by his Mossad contoller, Dan (Assaf Dayan). Renzo passes on the information. Well most of it anyway. He doesn’t give names because he hasn’t been paid yet.

Dan scurries off and relays the information to his chiefs. They agree to pay the money, so Dan and Renzo meet once again, but this time in Venice. Renzo is paid and he says the buyer is a company called Asmara. They have a chemical processing plant in Salzburg, Austria.

This film can’t be faulted for it’s globe trotting quotient. In the first ten minutes we have skipped from Zaire to Venice, and now to Austria. The duo find Asmara’s headquarters, and stakeout the plant all day, seated in their car. Not a single person has entered or left the plant all day till Helga (Janet Agren) finishes her shift. As she is their only lead, Renzo decides to make contact with her (in more ways than one).

Renzo follows her and contrives to talk to her (the answers to a German crossword puzzle). But he is a fast worker, and is soon back at her place and probing her for information. She doesn’t know that much. She works alone, and takes her instructions either by telephone or fax. Her boss is a man called the Baron.

Meanwhile, Dan sneaks into the chemical plant and photographs a few documents. He finds out very little, except the signature on the bottom of the companies documents belongs to the Baron. Ultimately, Renzo and Dan have found out the same thing through different methods. But I’d guess Renzo enjoyed acquiring his information more than Dan.

Using the system that Helga described, Dan and Renzo make an appointment to meet the Baron, but Renzo pretends to be a Saudi Arabian Prince. Their ruse works, and they get into the Baron’s chateau. Once inside, they clobber a few guards and break into the safe. Inside they find the details of the yellow cake shipment. Here the trail branches into two sections. One is a paint factory in Milan, which Dan chooses to investigate. The other is a ship in Amsterdam, which is where Renzo heads.

Unfortunately for Renzo and Dan, because their investigation at the Baron’s chateau was so invasive, the Baron and his men now know that someone is investigating them and there is a information leak. They trace this back to Helga. She tells them about Renzo. Figuring that he will turn up sooner or later in Amsterdam, they drag Helga with them so that she can identify Renzo again, should their paths cross.

Naturally, their paths do cross, and this leads to a pretty good rooftop fight scene. This in turn is followed by a better motor boat chase through the canals of Amsterdam. Sure it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in movies like Live And Let Die or Puppet On A Chain but it is still well staged.

The last third of the film is set on board a freighter carrying the yellow cake. Renzo has managed to get himself captured, and Dan has taken it upon himself to rescue him. Adding to the drama, mines have been planted along the hull of the freighter by Mossad, and they are set to blow.

The Uranium Conspiracy is by no means a classic, but it is vastly better than I expected. The locations are the real star of the show. The travelogue feel of this film is perfect for a Euro-spy film. Scenes are shot against a swag of fantastic European locations, but it never feels like ‘hey we’re in Venice – let’s get as much background footage as we can.’ It’s more a case, of this is where the action happens to take place.

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