Operation Counterspy (1966)
Original Title: Asso di picche operazione controspionaggio
Country: Italy / Spain / France
Director: Nick Nostro
Starring: George Ardisson, Hélène Chanel, Lena von Martens, Joaquín Díaz, Francisco Sanz, Manuel Quintana, Emilio Messina, Umberto Raho
Music: Franco Pisano

Operation Counterspy is a fun addition to the Eurospy genre. Like most Eurospy films it has it’s deficiencies – like a decent budget for set and costume design. But at least the film-makers have tried to save up their pennies for the climax, and present a memorable ending for their film. Unfortunately, this means at the beginning of the film, the production is bare-bones. There is very little in the way of location or travelogue shots to set scene and location. Most of the scenes are indoors and studio bound. But if you have the patience to sit through this small patch of rigidness at the beginning, you’ll find a whole lot to enjoy in Operation Counterspy.

In this flick Georgio (George) Ardisson plays Lord George Morriston (although IMDb calls the character Bond Callaghan – which indicates their might be quite a few different versions floating around), a suave sophisticated spy, and ladies man. When we meet Morriston he is in a French casino – I presume on the Cote d’Azure, but as I mentioned, there is very little expense spared on setup shots – and he is doing very well for himself. His winning streak is interrupted when is called outside into the cold night air for a mission briefing with his boss. I told you the start was cheap – I mean they can’t even afford an office set! Morriston is briefed on a Dutch safe cracked called Van Bliss – known as the ‘Velvet Paw’. Van Bliss has been commissioned to break into the safe of a Russian spy in Turkey. It is important that Morriston gets to the safe first.

So with little to tells us that we’re in another country – no, not even some stock footage of a plane landing – Morriston is in Turkey with a mute assistant named Franco. Franco is big and strong and likes to hit people – just the type of offsider you need! I presume they’re in Istanbul, because, quite simply a lot of Eurospy films are set in Istanbul. Morriston finds Van Bliss, and has Franco hold him hostage, while Morriston takes his place.

As Van Bliss, Morriston meets the next link in the chain, which is a pinch faced woman called Alina. Alina happens to be wearing a necklace with a golden spider pendant. She hands over half off his fee, and accompanies him on his mission to break into the safe at the Russian villa. It doesn’t take long to find the safe, and he quickly opens it, only to have Alina pull a gun and try to shoot him. Naturally, he doesn’t get shot and turns the tables. After some gentle persuasion he convinces her to share the secrets of the safe. Inside she retrieves a canister of film negatives. Before she can explain what it’s all about, she is shot through the window. As clumsy as that expression is, I mean that she was shot by a bullet passing through a window and then entering her body. Morriston escapes the gunfire by leaping out of the opposite window into the pool below.

Morriston, from the negatives gets a set of photo prints made up. They display six cities. Before he, or us poor viewers can make head or tale of it all, three hoods turn up to beat and torture Morriston. But he’s pretty tough and doesn’t tell them where the photos are. When it appears he cannot take any more, he says that the photos have been returned to the safe. The chief goon opens the safe, but it has been booby-trapped with a gas canister. Morriston uses the diversion to snatch a machine gun and fire at the goons, then flee. Two goons drop dead, but the head guy only receives a wound to the arm. He rushes outside to his car and drives off.

But who should be hiding in the boot (that’s ‘trunk’ to you American readers) but George. Once the car comes to a halt, Morriston climbs out and finds himself in the basement of a swinging nightclub. Naturally he makes his way upstairs and watches the performance, which features a svelte blonde girl belly dancing and writhing on the floor. It’s a pretty erotic spectacle (or maybe I should get out more often). The dancer also is sporting a ‘golden spider’ necklace. Putting two and two together, Morriston decides that this scantily clad woman is worth investigating so he meets her backstage after the performance. She isn’t so keen on visitors, so she presses a secret button under her dresser. It’s a silent alarm and an army of goons come to beat up on Morriston (once more).

These goons belong to the nightclub owner, whose name is Karatis. You can tell he’s the villain of the piece because he has slicked back hair and a neatly trimmed black goatee beard. Hmmm. Evil! But before Karatis’ goons can do too much damage to our hero, he is rescued by another blonde (they’re everywhere in this nightclub) – but this one is wearing a black plastic raincoat. Her name is Lena, and she just happens to be the sister of Alina. She wants to find out who is responsible for her sisters death. Of course, this paves the way for a partnership between Morriston and Lena.

Now, this all is steering us towards the climax, which as I alluded to earlier isn’t too bad. Karatis is your average type of evil villain who wants to take over the world, and to do this he needs two things. Firstly a nuclear arsenal, and secondly an underground lair from which to fire them at the world. Well tick both of those boxes because that just what he has, and further more he has his minions dress up in quasi-space age silver suits with a spider emblem on the chest. It doesn’t get much better than this!

I’ll tell you folks, limitations aside, this film is not too bad at all. George Ardisson cut a nice little niche for himself as a secret agent in a few good Eurospy films and Operation Counterspy displays all the hallmarks of the sub-genre. The film is fast paced and action packed, and I must admit I found the English dub to be kind of ‘fun’, with it’s more English than the English attitude. This is a film I am happy to recommend to Eurospy fans.

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