Spy in Rome (1968)

Country: India
Director: B.K. Adarsh
Starring: Hercules, Rajendra Nath, Jaymala, Carolene King, Brahm Bhardwaj, K.N. Singh, Lata Sinha
Music: Laxmikant Shantaram Kudalkar, Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma

Once again I travel to the mysterious sub-continent and look at another cheap-jack spy production. Yes, despite this film’s title, it is not a Eurospy flick, but another film from India. I really wish someone would come up with a nickname for these films, like Basmati-spy or Hindi-spy, just so I would have to trot out the same information every-time I review one of these things.

This one starts with an Indian scientist, Dr. Sharma (Brahm Bhardwaj) creating a process for rejuvenating people, taking up to sixty years off their age. I am not sure what the process is, even though I witnessed the film. On the screen, there are newspaper clippings suggesting it is surgery – others say it is an elixir – but pictured on screen, the good doctor shines a light on the old people as they are cocooned in plaster. For simplicity sake, let’s just say that it is a very complicated procedure, which has multiple phases – that is so much nicer than saying that the film is a prime example of ‘dodgy science’ in a motion picture. As the film titles roll, we witness Dr. Sharma taking a decrepit old couple, and turning them into beautiful, vital young people once again.

Dr. Sharma’s success is heralded around the world, and one group in particular who take notice are an evil organisation that operates out of a lair that looks like a candy-coloured version of the radio-toppling set from Dr. No, in Rome. Also like the aforementioned Dr. No, the evil minions wear colourful radiation suits. As these minions go about their business, a big red speaker box above them announces that Dr. Sharma is required in Rome. Immediately a minion radios the Indian branch of the operation, and contacts Agent 65, who is a fat slob with a walking stick. It’s no ordinary stick however, it shoots bullets. Agent 65 is ordered to kidnap the Dr. Sharma, which he does ruthlessly and efficiently with the inside help of Sharma’s servant.

Meanwhile, frolicking on a beach with two women, is Agent XX7 (Hercules). A radio signal, beamed directly to his sunglasses, indicates he is wanted at headquarters immediately. A quick cut away and XX7 is meeting with Indian M, and Indian Q. Q appears to give our hero a truck load of gadgets, none of which appear to be particularly clever or dangerous – but of course, as the film plays out, each one has a use. Can you imagine Q saying ‘Here 007, take this stick and a piece of string, you may never know when they’ll come in handy!’

The mission starts with – musically, a needle drop from Goldfinger – and XX7 paying a visit to Sharma’s servant. XX7 just knows that the servant is bad and beats seven shades of shit out of the poor guy. Then when the perp still refuses to co-operate, he threatens the poor guy’s wife. Okay, we know the servant is crooked, but really, you don’t have to go after the guy’s wife. That’s just mean spirited – and definitely not classy. But it works. The suspect breaks, and tells XX7 that Agent 65 is hiding out at some hotel.

XX7 heads to the hotel, and is met in the foyer by a young women (Agent 311) who seems to be ill. XX7 helps out and takes her back to her room. Of course, this is all a ruse, to give Agent 65 time to escape. Once XX7 realises this, he brutalizes 311, going so far as to dangle her from the balcony by her ankles. Eventually she talks, and reveals that Agent 65 has sped away in his car. She gives XX7 the licence plate number.

Within moments, XX7 is behind the wheel and giving chase. The footage is undercranked to make it look super-speedy, and the car tyres squeal, even on gravel. When the roadway is blocked by an earth-mover, the chase continues on foot; then on a flying-fox over a raging river. This leads then to speedboats. XX7 is stupid enough to fall out of his boat, and at that moment, more evil minions arrive in other boats and attempt to run him down. Agent 65 returns to shore, while the others attempt to grind XX7 up with their propellers, but somehow XX7 duck-dives to safety and crawls up on shore and continues his pursuit of Agent 65.

The next part of the chase is on some kind of aerial log transport system – it’s a bit like a chairlift, but designed to carry lumber. Agent 65 grabs one of the ropes and is carried off, but not before XX7 grabs hold of his legs. Both men are propelled along the wire, but their combined weight (which must be more than a log – or the whole scene wouldn’t make sense) causes the rope to begin to fray. XX7 somersaults a leg over the guide cable just as the rope snaps. With his hands, he reaches out and grabs Agent 65 before he falls to his death. But XX7 cannot hold on for long, and 65 falls, while XX7 is left clutching his jacket. Which is fortuitous, because inside one of the pockets is a clue. There is a plane ticket with instructions to meet Miss Karmini in Rome.

The thing is, is Miss Karmini a contact, and therefore an enemy agent, or is she the next target? XX7, is despatched to Rome to find out. Accompanying him is his loyal sidekick, and slight comic relief, Agent 505 (Rajenda Nath).

Meanwhile Dr. Sharma has been brought to the evil organisation’s lair, where he meets the Number One bad guy, Dr. Chang (K.N. Singh), who is working on some experiments to create a master race to rule the earth – yeah, you know, the same old madman’s dream. Of course, Sharma refuses to co-operate, and Chang is forced to use other methods of coercion to get Sharma’s co-operation. It’s here that we find out the Miss Karmini, is actually Karmini Sharma, the good doctor’s daughter, and of course, as the plot plays out Karmini and XX7 are going to hook up.

The attractive female Agent 294 is sent by Dr. Chang to intercept XX7 upon arrival in Rome. She greets him at the airport and convinces him that she has been instructed to chauffeur him from the airport. He accepts the lift, and follows her to her car which is a white station wagon. They get in and drive off in a white saloon. Don’t worry, the car will turn into a station wagon again later. So much for continuity. At least they got the colour right! As they travel, XX7 gets suspicious and asks her some questions which she doesn’t know the answers to. He pulls his gun on her, and she swerves the car all over the road until they come to a stop. Then he jams her head out the open window, and slowly begins to wind up the glass until it is cutting off her air. XX7’s way with the ladies wins through again and she reveals the next lead.

It is almost strange that this film should open with XX7 on the beach with two women, because this would indicate he is a womaniser, but as the film plays out, he is revealed to be not only a ruthless bastard, but a violent misogynist. This guy really gives the girls in the film a rough time – okay some of them are ‘baddies’ and deserve to be punished, but really, this guy is just a brute. It’s strange looking back on the early Bond films, and seeing what the imitators took from them. Those that played up the womanising and the misogyny, are interesting time capsules (not to be lauded and admired) showing how different cultures treated women – no let me clarify that – how they treated good and bad women. Good women are always treated well, but bad girls are often given a very rough time for their impure ways.

In the end XX7 is such a jerk and treats women so badly, I wanted the bad guys to win. There’s one fight scene in particular, where there’s about five bad guys against him. I thought the odds were right, and finally they’d teach him a lesson. But not to be, I’m afraid.

Unless you’re particularly undemanding, and enjoy cheap-jack spy thrills – oh, and it would help if you spoke Hindi, because I don’t think there’s a subtitled version available – then I’d steer clear of Spy in Rome. It isn’t exactly a bad film, but a slightly misguided film – and those scenes take away from all the things that the film does right.

4 Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
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  1. Nice review, David, even if I did enjoy this one a little more than it seems you did. What? Do you have standards or something?

    I have no idea why Hercules gets such prominent play on the VCD sleeve, but the man playing our loathesome, woman battering hero is actually Dev Kumar, an actor who often played heavies and goons in “A” level Bollywood films — parts to which he was much better suited.

  2. Thanks Todd.

    As always, I bow to your superior knowledge (of the unknown)

    Standards! What, me – No!

    I actually enjoyed the sets and the snappy paced action scenes – and even the musical interludes weren’t too intrusive.

    But the ‘smack my bitch up’ bits did grate on me.

  3. Hindispy! Hindispy! I vote for Hindispy! And I’m going to use that word the first chance I get on the Double O Section to help spread its usage.

    Thanks for these Bollywood reviews, David. Love to hear about these movies!

  4. Okay – then it’s settled. ‘Hindispy’ it is!


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