Avenger X (1967)

AKA: Mister X
Country: Italy / Spain
Director: Piero Vivarelli
Starring: Norman Clark (Pier Paolo Capponi ), Gaia Germani, Joe Atlanta, Franco Fantasia, Helga Liné, Umberto Raho, Renato Baldini, Armando Calvo
Music: Manuel Parada

Avenger X is a film that I had heard good things about. Quite a few people compared it to Danger: Diabolik. The truth is it is rather dreary, and if it must be compared to a Costumed Adventurer film from the 60s, I’d say it is closer to Kriminal – but nowhere near as enjoyable. The biggest crime that this film commits is that it steadfastly refuses to allow our masked avenger to do any avenging. He doesn’t even put on his costume until the forty-two minute mark in the film, and even then it’s in the dark, so we can’t see him in all his glory. After all this is Costumed Adventurer week, and if we are going to look at Avenger X, we want to see him in his costume!

The film gets off to a good start with an animated title sequence, that immediately made me recall Kriminal – which is good because I enjoyed Kriminal. Next we land in London at the Headquarters of the True Chemical Corporation. The boss, LeMaar (Armando Calvo) is involved in a discussion with a girl named Veronica Stenberg. Veronica is actually a courier for the company, which apart from it’s legitimate enterprises, actually specializes in drug trafficking. The insulin they ship out is really morphine, and the talcum powder is heroine. Veronica is haggling for a better deal (marriage and a large cut of the profits), and LeMaar agrees. Her next job is to collect samples of a shipment of heroine from behind the iron curtain.

As with all greedy minions, Veronica’s days on this planet are numbered, and at the meeting, the deal goes bad. She is arrested by the police and taken away. Well, they weren’t really police at all, and Veronica is killed and her body dumped by a statue with a ‘X’ on her forehead. Inspector Roux (Franco Fantasia) of Interpol believes that the killing is the work of an arch criminal known as Mister X, and holds a press conference announcing his intentions to bring X to justice.

Retired super criminal – Mister X (Pier Paolo Capponi – credited as Norman Clark) is watching the broadcast, and is dismayed that he has been implicated in a crime he did not commit. Naturally he seeks justice by taking things into his own hands, utilizing his talents as a master of disguise.

He starts out by impersonating the coroner. This gives him the skinny on Veronica Stenberg and who she worked for. Next ‘X’ pays a visit to the True Chemical Corporation. This time he impersonates a window washer and hoists himself up to LeMaar’s window. From his vantage point he overhears LeMaar talking about his next enterprise, which is a project called Black Dragon. Black Dragon is an elaborate opium distribution scheme, and to make it succeed, he needs the financial backing of two other underworld figures. These men are Joe Caruso (Renato Baldini), an American gangster and womaniser; and MacDougall, a psycopathic British gangster. LeMaar plans to present his business proposal to the gangsters in Capri.

Naturally, Mister X follows them to Italy. As all masked avengers do, ‘X’ has a female companion who is privy to his real identity. In Diabolik it was Eva, in Avenger X it is Timmy (Gaia Germani). Timmy gets to wear a range of outrageous high fashion and some truly large hats. With her help, ‘X’ starts to ruin LeMaar’s drug empire building scheme.

There are quite a few things wrong with Avenger X. Firstly, the film is too much of a travelogue. I like seeing images of people living the high life in exotic locations, but as background – not a main feature of the story. The next flaw is the story itself. The film is overly plotted to the point where we spend more time with three boring hoods than our titular hero. And most of the time, our hero isn’t being heroic – he appears to be soaking up the luxurious jetset atmosphere and not doing anything. After all, if there’s one thing you want to see a costumed hero (or villain for that matter) do, it is hit people. Mister X just doesn’t hit enough people, and when he does, it is poorly choreographed.

The film does have one saving grace – it is the score by Manuel Parada. It’s a groovy slice of organ driven pop that kicks in whenever the story slows down. Yep, it kicks in a lot. Apart from that, I can see no reason to recommend this film to you. Stick to Diabolik, Kriminal, Argoman – anything but ‘X’.

C.O.B.R.A.S DISCUSS COSTUMES ALL THIS MONTH!

The Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies have teamed up this month to explore the fun and flair of Spy Costumes. Double O Section kicked off the month with an excellent series on costumed heroes. In the second week Spy Vibe followed with a series of articles and video clips: Mods To Moongirls. Next week, the coalition series will wrap up with Armstrong Sabian at Mister 8.

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