Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966)

AKA: Operation Lady Chaplin
Country: Spain / Italy / France
Director: Alberto De Martino
Starring: Ken Clark, Daniella Bianchi, Jacques Bergerac, Phillipe Hersent, Evelyn Stewart, Mabel Karr, Helga Liné
Music: Bruno Nicolai
Song, ‘Lady Chaplin’, sung by Bobby Solo

What is it that attracts the worlds spy story tellers to scorpions? Just of the top of my head I know there are two Bond films with scorpions – Diamonds Are Forever and Die Another Day, coincidentally both made after this flick. Then there’s The Scorpio Letters and Scorpio – okay no actual scorpions but playing on the image of the scorpion. Modesty Blaise has a giant scorpion tattoo on her leg in Joseph Losey’s 1966 film. If you look at books, John Gardner had a Bond continuation novel called Scorpius (can’t remember the story but I don’t think there were any scorpions – I seem to recall a lot of snakes though); and Anthony Horrowitz, in this Alex Rider series had Scorpia – lots and lots of scorpions, yeah! Why is the scorpion such a potent espionage symbol? I don’t know really, but I thought that was a good way to kick off the review for Special Mission Lady Chaplin which features a madman who keeps pet scorpions.

The film is actually the third film in the Ken Clark 077 films, and as I would have mentioned previously, despite the large amount of films marketed with 077 in their title, there are only actually three films in the series. This entry opens with a nun driving a Citroen delivery van up a winding mountain road to a monastery. Two monks greet her as she brings in a basket of fresh linen. She places the basket on a table and removes some of the items. Underneath she has hidden a machine gun, which she grabs, turns and fires, mowing down the monks. She then searches the monastery until she finds a cabinet with a large radio transmitter. She blasts the radio to hell and then, her mission complete, leaves the scene. Unbeknownst to the machine gun wielding nun, there was actually a third monk, who was outside when she arrived. He survives her onslaught and slips away safely.

The surviving monk makes his way to the US Embassy in Madrid and bargains for immunity with a dog tag from a US Naval Officer. As you may have guessed, this man is not really a monk, and you’re probably wondering why would a dog tag be important. It just so happens that it belonged to an officer on the US Thresher, which was a submarine that sank twelve months previously. It went down in water so deep that it could not be salvaged. The Thresher also happened to be carrying sixteen Polaris missiles. Now if the sub was too deep to be salvaged, then how did the officers dog tag reach the surface? And that’s just exactly the question that Heston (Phillipe Hersent), the Head of the CIA wants answered. To get answers he turns to his top man, Dick Malloy, Agent 077.

Malloy is immediately shunted off to make contact with the surviving monk and retrieve the dog tag. As soon as he makes contact, a man in a black turtle neck pops up with a gun and tries to kill the monk. Malloy intervenes and the first of many chases takes place.

The nun who performed the hit at the monastery happens to be Arabel Chaplin (Daniella Bianchi), who is a master of disguise. She works for a slimy fellow called Kobra Zoltan (Jacques Bergerac). Zoltan just happens to run the world’s largest salvage company and is the only person who could have possibly reached the Thresher. He immediately becomes a prime suspect in Malloy’s investigations.

The third and in some ways finest of the 077 series is buoyed by the addition of Daniela Bianchi to the cast as the mysterious Lady Chaplin. Is she a good girl or a bad girl? Well it doesn’t really matter – during her scenes she is fine clothes horse, outfitted by some lurid creations by Casa d’Alta Moda. While this film clearly has a larger budget than the first two films in the series, the money appears to have gone solely to the very splashy wardrobes of the female stars. But sadly for poor old Ken Clark, the star of the series, he gets lumped with a set of trousers that are clearly too short for his lanky frame.

As with most Eurospy films, Special Mission Lady Chaplin benefits greatly from the location shooting for the outdoor action sequences. Rest assured that the interiors were filmed in Italy, but this story visits locations as diverse as New York, the Costa Del Sol, Madrid, London, Paris and finally Morocco. All in all, Special Mission Lady Chaplin is a pretty tight little thriller. As you’d expect from a film of this vintage, some of the ideas are a bit outlandish, but this film certainly isn’t as silly as many of it’s contemporaries.

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