I, Spy: Let’s Kill Karlovassi (1967)

Director: Christian Nyby
Starring: Robert Culp, Bill Cosby, Walter Slezak, Ruth Roman, and Peter Wyngarde
Music: Earle Hagen

Forgive me if I am wrong, but I believe that this is the first episode of the third season of I, Spy, and by this time Culp and Cosby have their parts down pat. Verbally they just bounce of each of, almost finishing each others sentences. Earlier I,Spy episodes are fun to watch too, but here the chemistry between the two stars is palpable. And as always, I, Spy is bolstered by a healthy dose of location footage – in this instance the Greek islands, which looks amazing.

The episode begins on the Greek Isle of Hydra, and from a boat in the harbour, a gaggle of tourists are disembarking. Among them are Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) and Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp), but they are not here on holiday – they’re here on business – and slightly more dirty business than usual. They have been sent as assassins to kill Dennis Karlovassi (Walter Slezak), who is the head of espionage on Hydra for the other side.

Before setting off to do a little wet work, Robinson and Scott meet their local contact, Marie Galoney (Ruth Roman). She explains that recently five communist agents have met with Karlovassi and they have disappeared. It is surmised that he has smuggled them to Cyprus where they train as guerrilla fighters.

But Marie has another reason to want to kill Karlovassi. Her lover, George (Peter Wyngarde) is Karlovassi’s number two man. If Karlovassi is bumped off, George will become the new head of section and Marie will be privy to all the secrets in the region.

So Scott and Robinson reluctantly – they are not cold blooded killers – head off to kill Karlovassi. There first plan is to plant a bomb on his boat so they head to the docks and climb aboard. As they snoop around, they are unceremoniously knocked unconscious by a midget with a monkey wrench. When they wake up, they find they are in Karlovassi’s villa, and much to their surprise they find that he is a gracious and charming man. He lives a quiet simple life with his wife and daughter Flora. Added to that, all the locals know he is a communist spy, so he’s not really a threat. He’s just another Greek fisherman with a struggling family, trying to make a bit of extra cash on the side. Now that Scott and Robinson know that their target is a nice bloke, it makes their job all that much harder.

Why I have chosen to review this particular episode is that it features a nice substantial role for Peter Wyngarde prior to him being launched into the stratosphere as Jason King in Department S. Here he isn’t as flamboyant as you’d expect but one of the highlights appears early in the episode when (gasp) he is forced to shave his moustache off. The thing with Peter Wyngarde is that you never know if he is a good guy or a bad guy. His acting style is so flamboyant and his mannerisms so pronounced that he steals every scene he is in.

Despite the fame and success he achieved as Jason King, Wyngarde’s career nosedived in the mid-seventies when he was arrested for an act of gross indecency with a truck driver in the toilets of Gloucester bus station. Although his homosexuality was well known in acting circles, fans were not so forgiving. His most noticeable role since those heady days of the sixties and early seventies, was in the film Flash Gordon, where Wyngarde played Klytus. It must be noted however, that Wyngarde’s face was hidden behind a gold mask in that film.

But back to I, Spy. All in all Let’s Kill Karlovassi is a tight little episode with a few nice twists – nothing shocking – but fun none-the-less. And, of course, it great to see an actor, like Wyngarde, who was a staple of British television (and espionage series), appearing in an American version of the same.

The screencaps used in this post have been taken from Hellfire Hall: A tribute to Peter Wyngarde website.

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