A Man Called Dagger (1967)

Director: Richard Rush
Starring: Paul Mantee, Terry Moore, Jan Murray, Sue Anne Langdon, Richard Kiel, Eileen O’Neil, Maureen Arthur, Leonard Stone, Mimi Dillard
Music: Steve Allen

Imagine one of the Matt Helm films – only without a charismatic leading man – with only a small portion of the budget – and with worse jokes – and then you’re well on your way to envisaging A Man Called Dagger. Dagger is meant to be lightweight, swinging spy entertainment; but it is not entertaining. You know I have watched some shit in my time, but this film even tested my tolerance levels.

In Paris, Secret Agent Richard “Dick” Dagger (Paul Mantee), wearing an eyepatch, posing as a one eyed Frenchman, is given the details of his next assignment by a miniature tape recorder. Before he can finish listening to the message, he is jumped by a group of thugs. In the struggle he loses his eyepatch, but eventually fights his way out of trouble and to freedom, or so he thinks. As Dagger walks off, one final goon on a rooftop, armed with a tranquiliser gun, shoots Dagger in the back.

As the titles roll, Dagger wakes up, he is in a steel lined room. The room is small, and getting smaller. The roof is slowly lowering. Our hero, extracts a cigarette from his cigarette case and breaks it open to reveal a wire. He attaches one end of the wire to the lightsocket and the other end to the steel door. He then bangs on the door yelling that gives up and he’ll do anything his captures want. A guard opens the door and Dagger twists the light globe, sending a current through the wire, electrocuting the guard. Dagger is free. And that is the end of the title sequence, and sadly the end of any creative thought going into this movie.

Dagger’s new mission is in the United States, so he boards the next plane. Also on the plane is Dagger’s target, Dr Karl Rayner (Leonard Stone), who is a Nazi biologist. By ‘target’, I don’t mean that Dagger has to kill him, but simply follow him. The man that his organisation is after is Rudolph Koffman (Jan Murray), who just so happens to be Rayner’s new employer.

In the U.S., Rayner is met at the airport by Koffman’s number one henchman, Otto (Richard Kiel). Dagger too, is met by a contact named Melissa. Melissa is a sprightly female agent who leads Dagger to a hot rod roadster. As inconspicuous as you can be in a hot rod, they tail Rayner and Otto.

Somehow, though, Rayner and Otto must have lost their tail, because we next see Rayner standing before Koffman. Koffman poses as a respectable businessman who runs a meat packing plant. The plant is heavily guarded because they are working on new top secret product lines. But in reality, the plant is used as a base for Koffman’s mind control experiments. Ultimately he plans to take over the world, by brainwashing the world’s leaders. But here, he is perfecting his technique by experimenting on young girls.

A Man Called Dagger is supposed to be a comedy, or at least I think so. But the film just rubbed me the wrong way. Koffman’s solution to disposing of the bodies off his scientific failures, is repellent in the extreme. One minute the film is winking at the audience, the next it is trying to shock it. Maybe with a quality acting ensemble in front of the camera, the film could have pulled off this two card trick, but with the amateurish talent on display here, the film never really stands a chance of winning over any audience.

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