Double Agent 73 (1974)

Country: United States
Doris Wishman
Starring: Chesty Morgan, Frank Silvano, Saul Meth, Jill Harris, Luois Burdi
Music: Cine Tops

Director Doris Wishman has a reputation for cult nudist and sexploitation films, and Double Agent 73 unashamedly falls fair and squarely into the latter category. It is simply poor quality smut! The Double Agent 73 of the title is Chesty Morgan, whose ridiculously large 73 inch breasts are the star of this low-budget exploitation film. In you’re into films that are so bad that they are good, then this may appeal, but I doubt it.

I’ll attempt to detail the plot, but it basically non-existent and simply an excuse to hang a few titty-jokes on. I use the word ‘jokes’ loosely as there are few laugh out loud moments.

Firstly, Chesty Morgan is a secret agent named Jane Tennay. Her mission is to track down ‘Toplar’ (Frank Silvano), who is a dirty heroin smuggler. To aid Tennay in her mission she has a camera implanted in her left breast. As her mission progresses, she has to photograph evidence and everyone she kills along the way. That in itself could have been a nice little plot device – cheesy yes – but we are talking about a film which stars a giant set of boobies. But instead of presenting this goofy setup in a fun way, it is presented in the most dreary and repetitive fashion. We are treated to scenes where Tennay enters the rooms of the individual suspects, then disrobes to photograph evidence. Next, the suspects burst into their room, and find Chesty going through their belongings. Chesty then has to defend herself by throwing around her enormous mammaries. Sounds fun. It isn’t. After you’ve seen this played out twice, it wears very thin.

If this sounds like your cup-of-tea, let me assure you, you’d be far better off watching a Russ Meyer movie, or if you want to stick with the spy genre, maybe look at Zeta One, which is equally as smutty but provides a great deal more fun along the way. A curious note to end with, the titles state that this movie was made in 1980, but in fact it was released in 1974.

This review is based on the Something Weird DVD

1 Comment Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged , ,
Lucky The Incrutable (1967)

AKA: Speciale Agente LK – Operazione Re Mida
Director: Jess Franco
Starring: Ray Danton, Dante Posani, Barbara Bolt, Rosalba Neri, Beba Loncar
Music: Bruno Nicolai

Lucky: “You want my autograph don’t you? You recognised me without my disguise on. Oh, all right, I will sign it for you. But don’t tell anyone I’m here – it’s supposed to be a secret.”

Jess Franco. For fans of Eurospy films, the name either conjures up fear or perverse delight. And Lucky The Inscrutable should be no exception. It is a weird hybrid of comic book and spy movies. If you enjoy (maybe ‘enjoy’ isn’t the word!) Jess Franco’s films, you may find this film has a great deal to offer. In some ways it may be Franco’s most accessible film, as it at least has a sense of humour.

The film opens in London with your standard espionage style sequence. A man is shot down in his hotel room because of the contents of his suitcase. What does his suitcase contain? A large amount of money, that’s what. But the killer doesn’t want the money. He sets the suitcase and the room on fire.

Then we move into a weird title sequence. A girl in a mirrored bikini dances in front of a bank of mirrors. (Think Enter the Dragon but with less martial arts, and more bikinis). Our hero pops up too, as sort of a animated statue. Ray Danton, is ‘Lucky The Inscrutable’, a masked super hero – spy who wears superman style costume with a large yellow ‘L’ on his chest. Naturally for a man of his stature, he is surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women.

It’s carnival time. Decorated floats parade down the street and everyone is wearing costumes and masks. In the evening there is a masquerade ball. Naturally enough, Lucky attends. With his costume and mask he doesn’t even have to dress up. Lucky watches as Beba Loncar weaves through the crowd. On a balcony overlooking the dance floor, she moves to a seat. She is expecting company, but Lucky ingratiates himself upon her. She is not impressed, because she is waiting for Julius Caesar (it is fancy dress). Lucky moves on, but Caesar is then skewered by a trident thrown by a gladiator. His dying words to Beba are: “Find Lucky at once. Take him to Archangel.” Beba doesn’t have to look to find Lucky. A murder at a masquerade ball causes quite a bit of commotion and he soon finds himself at the scene. A little too close perhaps, as he is blamed for the killing. Lucky and Beba are forced to flee.

During a brief respite in the chase, Beba asks Lucky to accompany her to America. Before he can respond the villains of the piece, catch up. Lucky is attacked by a clown and then netted by the murderous gladiator. The three costumed men slug it out. Meanwhile an assassin named Hans catches up with Beba and shoots her. Lucky dispatches his attackers and makes it to Beba’s side before she expires. She hands him a pendant with the emblem for Archangel. Who or what is Archangel. They are the Financiers Secret Society, which appears to be run more like a church, with members dressed in black silk robes. (At this point I do expect to see Charles Grey pop out with a knife. The setting does seem somewhat like one of those adaptations of Dennis Wheatley’s ‘Devil’ novels in the early 70’s.

So Lucky is now in American and he is addressing the members of Archangel. For some strange reason he adopts a hybrid Italian / Shakespearian accent. It’s not exactly Merchant Of Venice, more like your favourite character out of The Godfather playing Hamlet.

Are you finding this review weird? Let me assure you the film is! Recapping we have a super hero wannabe, wearing a black leotard impersonating an American gangster while addressing a council of financiers who are dressed like a coven of devil worshippers (maybe that bit isn’t weird). And Lucky’s motivation is the word of a woman who was dating Julius Caesar, Caesar not dying at the hand of Brutus, but on the end of a trident by someone who looks like Woody Strode’s understudy from Spartacus. Got that? As I said earlier – it’s a Jess Franco film.

Remember at the start I mentioned a fellow who was killed in London and had his suitcase full of money burnt. Well it seems he was a paper chemical specialist who was on the trail of Albanian counterfeiters. The money that was torched was fake. Lucky has to go to Albania and pick up the trail. How does Lucky learn all this? Get ready for more weirdness. During the council, a Jewish Nazi in a wheel chair, who happens to be wearing a white bridal veil, tells him. That simple.

That’s enough synopsis. You’re aware of Lucky’s mission. You should have some idea how offbeat this film is. It’s now up to you if you choose to ride along with him.

While I was watching this film, I was reminded of a film we ‘Aussies’ call Flying High. Funny enough, before I posted this, I quickly flicked through The Eurospy Guide to see if there was anything obvious that I missed. In David Deal’s review in the Guide, he compares Lucky to Airplane. Yep, Flying High and Airplane are the same film. So from the mouths of two different sources, the point being that this is a very broad comedy. That’s not to negate it. Some of it’s quite funny, and for it’s genre (the really, really stupid, comedy spy film) it is pound for pound (laugh for laugh) a whole lot better than the Abraham’s, Zucker Brother’s foray into spy films, Top Secret.

Bruno Nicolai’s soundtrack, by today’s standards, is pretty cheesy. The standout track is ‘Lopagan Island’ which is a jaunty calypso style number with Edda Dell’Orso’s soprano voice warbling over the top. The music lives better in the context of the film, than as a standalone piece of music.

That’s the film (well, a taster anyway). It’s very different to New York Calling Super Dragon, but if you are in the mood for a bit of silliness, then Lucky The Inscrutable is another winner from Rampaging Ray Danton.

This review is based on the Shocking Videos USA DVD

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged , , ,
The Spook Who Sat By The Door (1973)

Country: United States
Director: Ivan Dixon
Starring: Lawrence Cook, Paula Kelly, Janet League, J.A. Preston
Music: Herbie Hancock
Based on the novel by Sam Greenlee

Today’s audiences may see this The Spook Who Sat By The Door as a low budget blaxploitation film from the early seventies that has little to offer the genre. But that isn’t quite so.

The film opens with a white politician checking the polls and his numbers to see if he will be re-elected. His numbers are down. The black vote in particular is a source of concern. To swing numbers in his favour, his assistant suggests that he accuse the C.I.A. of being racist and elitist because they have no Negroes in their ranks.

This sets the ball rolling. The C.I.A. begin an integration program for black Americans. Hundreds are interviewed, police checked and tested. Slowly their numbers are whittled down to forty, then ten.

One of the final candidates is Dan Freeman (Lawrence Cook), who is diligent in his studies and doesn’t go out on the town with the other candidates. This causes friction between the applicants and they accuse him of being a ‘puppet for the white man’. But as the evaluation process continues, Freeman proceeds through to the final round. He does all the right things. When he does venture out of the training camp, he goes to a prostitute. In this day and age, you may think that this indicates that he has low moral fibre. But no, this is the early seventies, and to the powers that be, this indicates that Freeman is not a homosexual. And anyone who has watched alot of spy films from the sixties and seventies knows that homosexuality was viewed as a weakness, or an illness, which often lead to communism. 9Not my view – simply an observation.

Finally Freeman makes it through the selection process. He alone, will be the first black American to join the C.I.A. Despite this honour, his worth to the C.I.A. is illustrated by the position he is entrusted with. Is he to become a covert agent out in the field performing daring missions? No way! He becomes the Top Secret Reproduction Section Chief…that is, he is in charge of the photocopier. But he does his job enthusiastically. Soon his professionalism and amiable manner are noticed, and he almost becomes a propaganda tool for the C.I.A. Whenever a dignitary or politician visits C.I.A. headquarters, it is Freeman who shows them around the facility. He is on show as much as the building and the technology.

But after five years of duty, Freeman decides to leave the agency to become a youth worker in Chicago. As an important role model for black America, he is given a hearty handshake and wished the best of luck.

This is where the film hots up. Freeman heads back to Chicago and does become a youth worker by day, but by night he moulds gangs of ghetto kids into a highly trained guerilla army. He teaches them all the tricks he has learned during his time at the C.I.A. And I am not going to ruin the film for you by telling you what happens next. It is fairly predictable, but the action set pieces and violence aren’t the point of the film. It is the message that’s the important bit. And it’s a simple message of equality…not really an equality of rights…but an equality in skills and the ability to think and to act for oneself without handouts and welfare from the state. It’s about being your own man, or woman.

It’s important to remember that before the film came out, there was a book of The Spook Who Sat By The Door, by Sam Greenlee, which was released in 1966. Obviously the title is a play on The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, and like LeCarré’s novel both are works of fiction. The comparisons end there. Greenlee’s book, while containing many espionage elements, had an underlying message for black America. I talked about the message in the above paragraph. It seems harmless enough, doesn’t it: the ability to think and to act for oneself without handouts and welfare from the state. But in 1973, when the film was released, it still was a message that many white American communities didn’t want to hear. While I am hardly an expert on Black Civil Rights, it seems that a fictive story with espionage genre trappings should barely raise a ripple. But for Black population that didn’t have the right to a voice, seeing the militant stylization in the movie was a powerful statement. So powerful in fact that the movie was rumoured to be pulled from distribution. For many years the only way to see it was underground screenings or on bootleg video.

The Spook Who Sat At The Door is a fascinating film. It is a low budget production, so don’t expect to be blown away by the visuals. At the heart, is it’s story and a subversive little story at that. If you are after slam-bam action, this will not be your film, but if you are after a spy film with a voice, or are simply interested in the times, then this movie is highly recommended.

This review is based on the Obsidian Home Entertainment / Monarch Home Video USA DVD

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Ring Around The World (1966)

Directors: Georges Combret, Luigi Scattini
Starring: Richard Harrison, Hélène Chanel, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Dominique Boschero, Bernard Blier
Music: Piero Umiliani
Songs: ‘I Told Her’ and ‘Mary Lou’ performed by The Bumpers.

Ring Around The World is a very good Eurospy production. If you can find a good print, it is well worth checking out. The story goes like this: An unnamed Killer (Jack Stuart / Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) takes the components of a snipers pistol from a case and assembles it. Into the chamber he inserts an ice bullet. As the credits roll, he goes on a global killing spree. First he guns down a man seated in an outdoor café in Italy. Next he shoots a man on a beach in Rio. Then he moves to a temple in Thailand where his target is on holiday.

After all this carnage, we meet out hero. His name is Fred Lester (Richard Harrison), and he is an investigator for an insurance company. He has been called to London by colleague John Wild. Wild has been investigating the deaths of the three men in the title sequence. It seems that each of the three men had substantial insurance policies, and have listed financial institutions as their beneficiaries, rather than their families. And they all died rather suspiciously from heart attacks.

As Lester enters the insurance company’s headquarters, there is an ear piercing scream, and a man falls to his death in the elevator shaft. No prizes for guessing that this is John Wild. Next, Lester is called into a meeting with the heads of the insurance firm. The men seated around the table are Mr. Sanders, Viscount Berry, Sir Joseph Ashley, and Sir Anthony Queen. They assign Lester to continue the Wild’s work.

Lester starts his investigation at Wild’s apartment at South Eaton Place. On the desk he sees a flyer for the Le Macabre Nightclub. As he examines it, the phone rings. Lester answers it, pretending to be Wild. On the other end of the line is an elderly gent called MacMurray.

He says, ‘They’ve got Yo-Yo. They’re looking for me. I can’t stay here. I’ll give back all the money, you’re right, they don’t want it. They want to kill me.’ Once MacMurray realises it isn’t Wild on the phone, he panics and hangs up.
Lester returns to headquarters and digs up MacMurray’s insurance policy. Sure enough, it is for one hundred thousand pounds. Lester gleans the address and makes his way there, only to find that MacMurray doesn’t live there anymore. It appears that MacMurray is a bit of a rapscallion. He has abandoned his wife, who he only married for money in the first place, and has now run off with a nightclub singer called Yo-Yo.

Lester puts two and two together and works out that Yo-Yo must perform at Le Macabre, so he makes that his next port of call. Le Macabre is a swingin’ sixties go-go pad, and Lester’s job is made incredibly easy when Yo-Yo (Dominique Boschero) approaches him on entry. She wants to dance. He wants information. They go to her room backstage.

After a bit of gentle intimidation, Yo-Yo gives Lester MacMurray’s address at Embankment Gardens. Lester is on the move again, but this time he is being tailed by the Killer. As Lester steps into the elevator at MacMurray’s apartment, the Killer steps in also. Lester is a pretty smart cookie and knows he has been followed. “We’re looking for the same person,” he says. At MacMurray’s apartment, both men are ushered in by a servant. But all is not as it seems as the servant is working with the Killer. He bids the men to sit down and wait, and offers to make them a cup of tea. Naturally, Lester’s has poison in it. Lester chooses not to partake in the tea ritual and pulls a gun, but as the Killer distract Lester, the servant sneaks up on Lester from behind. Lester is clubbed unconscious.

Lester remains unconscious as the Killer and his henchman drive out of town until they come to a railway crossing. The plan is to leave Lester in the car, in the middle of the tracks and, well you can guess the rest… As the train approaches, Lester awakens and with a well placed kung-fu chop knocks out the henchman. Then he leaps from the car as the train collides with it. The Killer is nowhere to be seen.

Upset by his experience, Lester returns to Le Macabre to find Yo-Yo. Not surprisingly, she has packed up her things and scarpered. But after a bit of biffo with two burley bouncers, he discovers her address and heads around to her apartment. She isn’t home, so he waits in the dark for her to arrive. Upon arrival, Lester asks her once again about MacMurray’s whereabouts, but this time at gunpoint. He isn’t too happy. He is told that MacMurray has fled to Rio, and staying with a man called Hernandez, who has a store in the Old Bazaar section.

Lester lands in Rio and makes his way around to Hernandez’s store. Hernandez says that another man (The Killer) has already been to see him regarding MacMurray’s location. Lester thinks he is too late. MacMurray is hiding out in the Hotel Americano, in the village of Gabia. The village is one hundred miles from Rio and only accessible by airplane. Luckily, Hernandez knows a pilot with a small plane who can get him there quickly. So Lester is off once again. It is dizzying keeping up with him.

At the back of the shop MacMurray is held at gunpoint by The Killer. And the man Lester thought was Hernandez is really another of The Killer’s minions, and at the airfield another plot is being put in place to eliminate Lester. A bomb is fixed to the engine of the plane, with a timer set to go off at two o’clock. Lester arrives at the airfield, boards the plane. Once they are in the air, he finds it strange that the pilot is already wearing a crash helmet and a parachute. The pilot explains that it is ‘company policy’. As two o’clock approaches, the pilot tries to leap from the plane, but as he jumps, Lester latches onto him and free-falls with him. Once the parachute has been deployed, Lester strangles the pilot mid air, and then glides down safely.

On the ground, Lester continues on to the Hotel Americano in Gabia, but it is deserted. The caretaker explains that it went out of business a year ago. Lester’s next move is to phone Hernandez. This time he gets the real one, who says that MacMurray was at the Hotel Americano in Brasilia. You guessed it. Lester’s on the move once more. In Brasilia, the local police explain that MacMurray is dead. They found him in the hotel swimming pool, cramped up. They say it must have been an accident, but Lester knows better.

That’s the end of the race to save MacMurray, but back in England there’s another policy holder who has gone missing. His name is Brightford and his daughter Mary (Sherrill Morgan) is worried about him. Lester is assigned to find Brightford, and naturally Mary tags along. I’ll leave the synopsis there, but let me asure you, there’s plenty more to come, and it is well worth your time.

With a title like Ring Around The World, you’d expect the film to feature some impressive locations. And the film doesn’t let us down. The first of note is the city of Brasilia. For those interested, the city was designed by Brazilian architect and urban planner, Lucio Costa. Major buildings were designed by Oscar Niemeyer and landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx planned the layout. The movie features the uniquely shaped buildings, art and sculpture and wide streets as a backdrop, particularly during a car chase sequence. For those who’d like to see a bit more of the city will strangely have to go to Rio (746 miles away). Or more precisely watch That Man from Rio (L’Homme de Rio) with Jean Paul Belmondo or The Girl From Rio (The Seven Secrets Of Sumuru) with Shirley Eaton.

The other noteworthy location is used in the denouement. The final shootout takes place in the Tiger Balm Gardens, also known as Aw Boon Haw Gardens, a popular tourist attraction in Hong Kong. The gardens were created by Aw Boon Haw, who made his fortune from the sale of Tiger Balm. It’s a great setting and visually gives the movie and organic yet slightly surreal feeling.

A quick word about the soundtrack by Piero Umiliani. It is an absolute knockout. It is pounding, it’s jazzy, it’s swinging sixties. It’s almost worth watching the film for the soundtrack alone.

This review is based on the Retromedia Entertainment Inc DVD. This is part of a Richard Harrison double feature which also includes the movie Terminal Force

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged ,
Tip Not Included (1966)

AKA: A Cold-Blooded Affair
Director: Helmuth Ashley
Starring: George Nader, Yvonne Monlaur, Heinz Weiss, Horst Tappert, Christian Doermer, Ullrich Haupt, Richard Münch
Music: Peter Thomas

Tip Not Included is the fourth film in the West German series of Jerry Cotton films. As with most entries in the series it plays more like a detective story than a spy film. Jerry deals more with your garden variety hoodlum and scum, than your megalomaniac with plans to take over the world. The series, while being action packed, suffered from minuscule budgets. The films are chock full of American stock footage and most of the big set pieces are done using rear projection with varying degrees of success. Before I begin the review, I would like to say Tip Not Included, has some of the sloppiest, laugh inducing rear projection I have ever seen.

The film! We launch into some seriously swinging titles, with a montage of Jerry’s red E-type Jaguar, shots being fired from a pistol and neon lights, all accompanied by Peter Thomas jazzy score. It gets the film off on the right foot. Jerry (George Nader) emerges from the titles and swaggers into a nightclub, checks out some booty as it wiggles past, and then orders a double scotch.

Also sitting at the bar is Thomas Wheeler (Christian Doermer). Wheeler is a chemist who has been out of work for quite a while but has stumbled onto a scheme that might help him out of his predicament…but more on that later. At the moment Wheeler is at the club to see Phylis Vernon (Yvonne Monlaur) who is a singer at the club. As Phylis warbles out a pleasing torch song, two thugs enter the club and forcibly remove Wheeler from his barstool. Outside the hoodlums start to give Wheeler a good pounding, but of course, Jerry has tailed them outside and intervenes. Jerry overpowers the brutes and has them handcuffed for the police, but in the commotion Wheeler has disappeared. Not even a thank you! Jerry consoles Phylis and gives her his card.

Wheeler stumbles back to his apartment and finds a man, bathed in shadow waiting for him. Whatever Wheeler’s money-making scheme is it seems as if there is another interested party. Wheeler is offered a deal. ‘50-50 or you a dead man!’ Wheeler naturally accepts. And he accept a miniature radio, so he can communicate with his new silent partner.

What is Wheeler’s scheme I hear you ask? Wheeler is working for a gang headed by Charles Anderson (Horst Tappert), another of New York’s leading mobsters. Anderson’s gang, who’s secret base is a wrestling arena, are planning to hold up an armoured car that leaves from the Treasury Clearing House on Wall Street every day. It is Wheeler’s job to come up with the smokepots that will be used in the robbery.

On the next morning the Treasury Clearing House is preparing for it’s usual delivery. The Head Of The Treasury, Mr Clark, is waiting for his Chief Controller, George Davis (Ullrich Haupt) to arrive, before sending his shipment off. But Davis had been mugged the night before and was now in the Riverside Hospital. The money shipment is postponed.

It’s time for the F.B.I.’s best man, Jerry Cotton to go to work. Mr High, Jerry’s boss contacts him on his car phone. High suspects the mugging is related to the money transfer but cannot be sure. Jerry goes to the hospital to interview Davis. Davis is of little help to Jerry. In fact his responses border on antagonistic. Next Jerry interviews, Mr Clark, the Head of the Treasury. Jerry suggests that the days money shipment should go ahead, but with an unladen van. That way if a robbery attempt was made, the cash wouldn’t be at risk. Clark agrees and the armoured van is sent off.

Through a set of binoculars, perched high on the penthouse floor of a high rise building, Anderson watches as the armoured vans unload their precious cargo. Anderson realises that the van being sent out is just a rouse. Even though his men are is position, he postpones the robbery.

Using the radio given to him, by his silent partner, Wheeler tries to make contact, but is discovered by one of Anderson’s men. Wheeler flees and a highway chases ensues. Wheeler ends up driving his car into a ditch and it explodes in a ball of flame. But Anderson doesn’t know who Wheeler was working for. He formulates a plan to capture Phylis and pry the information from her.

Meanwhile at the Treasury Department, Jerry advises Mr. Clark not to ship any money until all the loose ends regarding Davis’ mugging are tied up. Clark ignores Jerry and loads armoured van with a total of thirteen million dollars worth of bank notes and diamonds. From his hi-rise position Anderson watches as the van is loaded and alerts his gang that the heist is going ahead.

The van follows its regular route out of the city. Anderson’s men are ready and as the van drives under an overpass a magnetic bomb drops down, first to the road, and then attaches itself to the underside of the van as it passes over it. The bomb is detonated by remote control by Anderson and the van crumples like an aluminium beer can under foot.

A circular necklace of smokepots are set off around the wreck and Anderson’s goons, wearing smokemasks steal the contents of the armoured van and load it into the back of an ambulance. As the police arrive on the scene, the gang simply drive off in the ambulance under the nose of the constabulary.

As head of the Treasury, Clark doesn’t take news of the heist well. He blames himself for not listening to Jerry Cotton’s advice. Like a circling pack of vultures, the Press are outside his office and want his head on a platter. Despondently, he pulls a gun from his desk drawer and is about to blow his brains out, when Jerry bursts into the room and stops him. To relieve the pressure from Clark, Jerry announces to the Press that it was his idea that the armoured shipment proceed. But Jerry’s act of kindness backfires, as Clark has a heart attack and dies. And now, the true facts are buried, and the public is baying for Jerry’s blood.

In the aftermath, F.B.I. chief, Mr High, has no option but to suspend Jerry from active duty. Jerry’s occasional partner, Phil Decker takes over Jerry’s case load. As a piece of parting advice, Jerry’s suggests to check the morgue. After a robbery of this size, there usually is strife between the perpetrators, often resulting in murder. He tells Phil to check for hints of the smoke used in the robbery.

After the robbery, Anderson’s gang still has unfinished business with Phylis Vernon. She is kidnapped and locked in an office at a rail yard. Luckily for her, the phone is still connected and she calls Jerry Cotton (with the details on the card that he gave her at the start of the film). She gives Jerry directions to where she is being held. But it is all a trap. Anderson has tapped the phone.

When Jerry arrives, he drives into a veritable shower of bullets. Taking deliberate aim, Jerry shoots at a rail petrol tanker. The tanker explodes in a giant mushroom of flame. Anderson and his hoods flee the scene. Jerry rescues Phylis, but is promptly arrested for blowing up the tanker, after all, he isn’t an F.B.I. agent any more.

Phil Decker is called to the rescue and bails Jerry and Phylis out of trouble. Afterwards, Jerry takes Phylis back to her home. Inside, he stumbles on a program from a wrestling match. Upon enquiry, Phylis says it was Wheelers. He went there occasionally. Jerry believes it is a clue, and that evening Phylis and Jerry attend the wrestling. Observing from his office above the bleachers, Anderson plans a trap for Jerry and Phylis. After a regulation bit of biffo, Anderson’s men capture Jerry and the girl and lock them a supply room.

Anderson decides it’s time to bug out and retrieves the stolen money from his hiding place at the arena. As the suitcases are brought out, Anderson is jumped by the mysterious other party who was after the cash. Yes, we finally meet the man who was Wheeler’s silent partner. It is George Davis, the Treasury controller. It appears he knew that Anderson was planning something. And he even faked his own mugging, so a double shipment would be transported and the take would increase. Davis and Anderson agree to split the loot.

While this is all happening, Jerry isn’t sitting on his hands. First he cuts the ropes around his wrists by rubbing them against an oil heater. Then he crawls into a ventilation duct and snakes his way out of the building, towards the roof. The roof just happens to be a hive of activity, as Davis and Anderson are about to board a helicopter with the money.

Naturally enough though, Davis becomes greedy and as Anderson is about to board the helicopter he receives a bullet in the belly. The helicopter lifts off and begins to move away from the building. But you cannot escape from Jerry Cotton that easily. Jerry takes a running jump, flying through the air he grabs the helicopter’s landing strut. The rear projection is these scenes, where Jerry is seen dangling from a helicopter while the New york skyline whizzes past is extremely poor. Actually poor, is probably a kind description. I think ‘laughable’ is a more apt description.

As with most of the reviews found on this blogsite, I try not to give the ending away. So I’ll leave you, dear reader, and Jerry hanging…but Jerry Cotton will return.

Tip Not Included, is a small step down from the last installment in the Jerry Cotton series (3-2-1 Countdown For Manhattan) but still reasonable entertainment, if you can get over the technical deficiencies. One strong point in it’s favour is George Nader. He grounds the films and gives them a sense of continuity. The fact he appears in all the films in the series creates an almost familial ambiance. After all, most Eurospy films feature different actors in each installment (OSS 117, Coplan etc.).

This review is based on the JSV / Giantox Entertainment Holland DVD

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged , ,
Naked Weapon (2002)

Country: Hong Kong
Director: Siu Tung Ching
Starring: Maggie Q, Anya, Daniel Wu, Jewel Lee, Almen Wong
Music: Ken Chan, Kwong Wing Chan

With a title like Naked Weapon and dubious packaging which depicts knife wielding lesbian soldiers, I wasn’t expecting much from this Hong Kong Production. But much to my surprise (or should that be embarrassment) this film turned out to be a compact little thriller with some well choreographed set pieces. Sure, it does have some sleazy moments, like an unnecessary triple rape sequence, but for a film featuring dozens of scantily clad female bodies; it doesn’t leer at its subject matter.

On to the story. The film opens with a CIA stakeout going horribly wrong when a female assassin (pretending to be a hooker, of course) kills the suspect and most of the guards surrounding him in spectacular fashion. However, before she can make her escape she meets her own demise courtesy of a bazooka (yep, that’d do it!) The ex-assassin’s controller, Madame M (Almen Wong) then has the task of replacing her dearly departed protégé. She does so by kidnapping forty young teenage girls who are gifted in athletics and martial arts. The girls are spirited away to a secret island where they spend the next six years being brutalized and trained to be the world’s most deadly assassins.

At the end of the training, the remaining girls enter a ‘cage of death’ where the usual type of violent, choreographed mayhem takes place. At the end of the bloodfest, three girls are left standing. These three become the ‘China Dolls’ – a team of attractive, but lethal assassins under the control of Madame M.

Meanwhile a young, determined CIA Agent, Jack Chen (Daniel Wu) who was working on the disappearance of the young girls all those years ago has discovered a link between one of the China Dolls, Charlene (Maggie Q) and a girl taken from Hong Kong. (DNA testing has obviously come a long way, fast!) Agent Chan watches Charlene’s mother and eventually catches up with Charlene and the China Dolls.

Considering the circumstances and the short time frame, a contrived romance blossoms between Agent Chen and Maggie. Chen is then drawn into a revenge plot against the girls, but as a garden variety CIA agent, rather than a trained killer, he doesn’t have the skills to assist in the final showdown.

The final scene is a glorious confrontation on the Hong Kong docks where Charlene faces her nemesis (The other two China Dolls have been knocked off by this stage).

Throughout the film are the usual Hong Kong stylings; such as plenty of hand to hand combat, hand to machete combat, and wire work.

Okay, Naked Weapon won’t replace The Bourne Identity in your DVD collection but if you are looking for 93 minutes of mindless action, you could do a lot worse. Oh, and the dialogue was filmed in English so the lip movements match the words.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged ,
New York Calling Superdragon

Director: Calvin Jackson Padget
Starring: Ray Danton, Margaret Lee, Marisa Mell, Carlo D’Angelo, Jess Hahn, Carlo Hinterman
Music: Benedetto Ghiglia

Rembrandt 13: “So you’re the famous Superdragon?”
Superdragon: “That’s right. Would you like an autograph?”
Rembrandt 13: “If that’s all you can offer a lady…”
Superdragon: “Well in public, yes! But in private I try to be more generous!”

New York Calling Superdragon is an extremely entertaining Eurospy film starring Ray Danton as the Brian Cooper – the aforementioned ‘Superdragon’. While many Eurospy films tend to be blatant ripoffs on the James Bond series, Superdragon is a slightly different in that seems to have been influenced by Our Man Flint. When we first meet our hero, he is practicing some weird yoga technique, which to all intents and purposes seems like suspended animation or death. While Superdragon is …er, resting a metronome beats beside him, only to awaken him once it has finished its cycle. This is extremely reminiscent of when Derek Flint (James Coburn) would stop his heart for relaxation, only to be awoken by a tiny pivot on his watch that would start his heart again, in Our Man Flint. Given both Coburn’s and Danton’s easy way with a smile, it is not surprising that Danton would take over from Coburn in the role of Derek Flint for the TV movie, Our Man Flint: Dead On Target which was made almost a decade later.

Let’s have a quick look at the plot. Strange things are afoot in Freemont, Michigan, a college town in the United States. Two students have died from heart failure, another four have collapsed from an unknown nervous disorder, and fights are breaking out amongst the student population for no known reason.

Coleman (Carlo Hinterman), head of an un-named secret organization has sent two agents in to investigate. The first, Wilson, was found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft. The second, Jackson, lost control of his car on Canyon Road and crashed into a river. Coleman’s third choice is Brian Cooper. He has retired and needs a little coaxing to return to duty. The coaxing is provided by ‘Comfort’ Fulton (Margaret Lee), a fellow agent, who turns up at Cooper’s home, poolside, dressed in hot pink.

Cooper agrees to look into the matter. His first stop is at the police station in Freemont. From the local police chief, Cooper gleans that Jackson had been travelling with a beautiful girl named Christine Brewder. She was a visitor from Amsterdam, who was friends with Mr. Ross, the owner of the local Bowling Alley. Strangely, Brewder’s body was not found in the wreckage. It was presumed it had been swept upstream. Cooper isn’t so convinced.

Cooper’s next stop is at Jackson’s apartment, There he finds some documents hidden in the cuckoo clock. They are import documents from Amsterdam for five Chinese vases. They are made out to Christine Brewder. There is also an analysis request for a piece of chewing gum from Ross’ bowling alley. Cooper takes the lead and makes the bowling alley his next port of call.

At the alley, Cooper witnesses Ross, working the concession stand. He is handing out free packs of chewing gum to the teenagers. The teenagers are all hyped up, singing, dancing and clapping along to the jukebox. One girl in particular is shaking up a storm. Cooper then approaches Ross, and tries to buy some gum. He is given a different brand to the kids, but doesn’t protest. It just raises his suspicions.

Continuing his investigation Cooper visits the local university to talk to the Dean about the events in the town, and to be shown the establishment. The Dean assures Cooper that nothing is wrong. But as they watch the gym class go about their activities, a fight breaks out between two girls. One of the girls was the young lady who had been dancing up a storm the night before. The fight soon escalates into a full-scale brawl. After calm has been restored, the dancing girl is lying on the floor in the throes of a convulsive fit. She is quickly sent to hospital but no sign of drugs are found in her system.

Cooper’s not happy about events. He returns to the bowling alley as Ross is locking up. Accompanied by a couple a persuasive backhands to the jaw, Cooper asks Ross a few questions. As Ross is about to talk a car whizzes past, and Ross receives a .38 calibre hole in his forehead. No answers there.

After retrieving the key, Cooper heads to Ross’ apartment and starts to snoop around. He is examining a Ming vase when an assassin bursts through the door. His shot misses, but Cooper’s return fire collects the assailant in the shoulder. The assassin runs into the bathroom and locks the door. By the time Cooper has kicked in the bathroom door it is too late. The assassin has taken his own life. That’s it for Freemont.

Cooper returns to headquarters and debriefs Coleman. Coleman says that the tests on the chewing gum have come back negative. There only hope is to follow up on Christine Brewder. A trip to Amsterdam is planned. Cooper says he will only continue with the mission if he can get some help. The man he wants is called ‘Babyface’ (Jess Hahn). He is a gangster who happens to be in Sing Sing Prison. Coleman pulls some strings and ‘Babyface’ is released.

‘Babyface’, apart from being a thief, happens to be a technology expert. He is essentially the ‘Q’ character. He equips Cooper with a communicator watch and a bulletproof vest, plus a few other little devices that come into play as the movie progresses. It is a refreshing change to see the ‘Q’ character not played as a stuffy buffoon as so often happens. ‘Babyface’ is still comic relief and seems to get in the way more than he helps out, but at least he isn’t a cut price Desmond Llewellyn.

Back to Amsterdam. Cooper and ‘Babyface’ meet with their agent in Holland – Agent Rembrandt 13, Charity Farrell (Marissa Mell). Farrell says that nobody has seen Christine Brewder in over a year, but she did have one special man in her life. A millionaire named Fernand Lamas (Carlo d’Angelo). Farrell arranges a meeting between Cooper and Lamas.

With all the jumping about, shooting and deaths, you’d think we’d be almost to the end of the movie. It may surprise you to know, that the scenes I have described above only make up the first twenty minutes of the film. As you can see it is all smartly paced with a far amount of action. The print I viewed, from Shocking Videos, while being far from perfect, was still featured vibrant colours – I am guessing a pristine print would positively shine, or glow in the dark with it’s sensational mod colour schemes.

Dear reader, I am not going to outline any more of the plot for you. Not because I am lazy, but I think I have given you a fair taster of what this movie has to offer There are a couple of set pieces that I enjoyed that I will bring to your attention though. The first is where Cooper’s neck is wired to the rails of a dry dock in a shipping yard. It’s like him being tied to a railroad track, but rather than a train coming to remove his head from his body, a ship is set in motion and sliding down the rails.

Another interesting set piece happens after Cooper has been knocked out in a fist fight with four thugs. They put his body in a coffin, screw down the lid, and then drill some large holes in the side of the coffin. The holes are not to let air in, but to let water in as the hoods dump the coffin in a canal. It’s all good corny fun, and five years before Mister Connery got trapped inside a coffin in Diamonds Are Forever.

So that’s what you have in store if you choose to watch New York Calling Superdragon. And why wouldn’t you. It has everything you’d expect from a swinging sixties spy film – action colour, humour and some beautiful girls. The real glue that holds it all together though, is Ray Danton’s performance. It’s cheeky, charming and extremely entertaining. And it isn’t the up front womanising or beating up of suspects that make the character endearing. It’s the little things that have nothing to do with the plot. For example in one scene he stops at a souvenir stall to ask for directions. The seller gives him his directions, but asks that he buy a small souvenir. He does out of politeness, but as he walks off, in the background you can see that he passes the gift off to a little girl as she walks by. As I said, it has no bearing on the plot, but it is simple and charming. It’s touches like this that lift New York Calling Superdragon above Danton’s two other Eurospy efforts, Codename: Jaguar, and Lucky The Inscrutable.

I know Eurospy films aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but if you are interested, this film is one of the easier titles to track down, and one of the better examples of the genre.

This review is based on the Shocking Videos USA DVD.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged , , ,
The Petrov Affair (1987)

Director: Michael Carson
Starring: Alex Menglet, Eva Sitta, Swawomir Wabik, Simon Chilvers
Composer: Paul Grabowsky
Musical Producer: Red Symons
Writers: Cliff Green, Mac Gudgeon

The Petrov Affair is a strange bird indeed. The titles are presented over a series of watercolour images, giving it a classic feel, rather than an action feel. It seems to have allusions of being a BBC drama. But despite this genteel approach and some pedestrian pacing, The Petrov Affair is a very Australian series in (possibly) the worst sense of the word.

This mini-series opens at Mascot Airport in Sydney. Three MVD (Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del) agents are escorting Edvokia Petrov to a plane that will take her back to the USSR. Surrounded by a horde of reporters, with flash bulbs going off, she is clearly distressed. Before we can make sense of this, we flash forward to a Royal Commission. An A.S.I.O. (Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation) Officer makes the following statement:

“…in 1951 we were studying Soviet personnel with a view to penetrating the embassy and identifying members of the embassy staff who were engaged in intelligence gathering and potential espionage…The activities of the Petrov’s suggested they may be KGB officers.”

And before we can make any sense of the Commission the series flashes back to an even earlier time. It’s now 1951, and we are at the Russian Social Club in Sydney.

I’ll pull apart these opening two minutes to illustrate how sloppily put together this series is. All these flash-forwards and flashbacks are extremely confusing and are only there to make the opening of this series seem more interesting than it is. Believe me – this series is a slow starter. And unless you are familiar with the events being depicted, there is no way you can follow the story. In my description above, I have been very generous in background detail to help unravel the plot. To the uninitiated the series could play as an unknown woman is shuffled through a crowd of reporters at Sydney Airport. Where is she going and why is she upset? Next the Royal Commission. Timewise, we (the viewers) aren’t even told that this is a flash-forward. It could be a flashback or simply the next day. And they don’t even have the courtesy to tell us that this is a Royal Commission investigation. And finally, we flashback to the Russian Social Club. Again, we are not told where we are and in what context. (On initial viewing I thought it was the Russian Embassy in Canberra). Granted, that these events will make more sense as the story progresses, but when you are telling a story, based on ‘true events’, surely establishing time and place is a key element in the film-makers / story-tellers tool-kit.

Back to the synopsis. At the Russian Social Club in Sydney, the Oktoker Revolution is being celebrated. Pictures of Stalin line the walls; vodka is flowing, and everybody is having a good time. Among the revellers are diplomats Vladimir Petrov (Alex Menglet) and his wife Evdokia (Eva Sitta). Vladimir holds many positions at the Russian Embassy. He is the third secretary of the Embassy, a cultural attaché and it is rumoured that he is the head of the KGB. Despite his position, Petrov is not portrayed as a hard line communist. During the evening, as the Soviet Anthem is being sung, his dog attacks the Soviet flag. Not everyone is amused, but Petrov is falling over in fits of hysterical laughter.

During the evening Vladimir meets Michael Bialoguski (Swawomir Wabik). Bialoguski is a doctor, and also a violinist with the Sydney Orchestra. In general, he is a well respected gentleman in Sydney society – the perfect target for Vladimir to recruit as an agent.

In the following weeks, the two men are spending quality time getting drunk and visiting Sydney’s seedy strip clubs. I’ll digress here to explain a bit of Australian culture, particularly in the 50’s and 60’s. Despite Oz’s reputation as a nation of booze swilling yobs (thank you Barry McKenzie), until the 1970’s all the pubs and clubs had a 6:00pm curfew on selling alcohol. This curfew gave rise to what was called THE SIX O’CLOCK SWILL. Which is probably as debauched as it sounds. Basically all the workers would finish their shifts at 5:00pm and flood to the nearest pub and in the hour till 6:00pm they would drink as much as humanly possible. You will notice, that bars in Australia are quite long. This is so as many patrons can be served, as quickly as possible. A few of the older hotels (that haven’t been renovated and turned into delicatessens) still have tiles half way up the walls from where the publican has to ‘hose’ out the pub after closing.

I have explained all that, because Australia was basically dry after 6:00pm (except for take-away alcohol purchased before 6:00pm). And that is how Petrov would ingratiate himself on the people around him (or recruit agents). Wherever he was, in a club or restaurant, he would have a case of whiskey under his table. He would give away bottles to his friends and colleagues, in essence buying a lot of goodwill. Maybe in other countries with freer licensing laws, Petrov’s impact may have been lessened. But in Australia, he was a provider – what we’d call a ‘top bloke’. At the Russian Club in Sydney, people would mill around him and he’d be the centre of attention and activity.

It is very difficult to review this series withount giving away all the key events, so at the risk of seeming vague, I’ll try to discreetly outline events. The key to the rest of the events that follow, is Joseph Stalin’s death in March 1953. In the aftermath, Vladimir and Edvokia Petrov are recalled back to Russia. But Vladimir believes that if he returns to the Soviet Union he will be killed.

Through Vladimir’s drinking companion, Bialoguski, who had been working for ASIO all along, Petrov arranges to defect to Australia. A part of the deal includes, Vladimir supplying information about Soviet espionage activity in Australia. But as Vladimir makes plans to defect, he does not make plans for Evdokia. Seizing the opportunity, the MVD send two couriers to Australia to transport her back to mother Russia.

I have mentioned alcohol in almost every paragraph in this review. That in it self says a lot about this miniseries. Is it a spy drama, or a study in alcoholism with espionage overtones? Your guess is as good as mine. At the risk of being flippant, the amount of booze that is consumed in the first forty minutes of The Petrov Affair, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had stumbled upon a politicised version of The Adventures Of Barry McKenzie – hang on, that’s been done – Les Patterson Saves The World. Back to the synopsis and the series.

Is The Petrov Affair at least accurate? It’s hard to say. This series was made thirty years after the events portrayed, and the ‘print the legend’ ethos may have been applied to this production. The Petrov Affair has evolved into a bit of a ‘conspiracy theory’ in Australia and as such, there are many points of view, not all of them accurate. I preparing for this review, I thought it only fair to glean a bit more background information. There are quite a few books out there (whether you can find them is another matter). The Petrov’s themselves had a book written (well, ghost written by one of their ASIO minders: Empire of Fear) outlining their point of view, and Bialoguski has written a book revealing his side of the story . The only book I could find was Nest Of Traitors: The Petrov Affair, (1974, The Jacaranda Press) by Nicholas Whitlam and John Stubbs. It is in no way connected with this mini-series, and is a highly entertaining read. It suggests that Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, may have used the incident to bolster his ‘governments dwindling popularity’ before the 1954 federal election. Menzies was the leader of the Liberal Party (in Australia, the Liberals are the conservative party) and he was not expected to win. It may be true that Menzies manipulated events to his advantage (far be it from me to speculate). But unfortunately one the writers of the book happen to be Nicolas Whitlam, the son of Gough Whitlam, who at the time of this book’s publication was the incumbent Prime Minister. In fact Whitlam was the first Labour Party Prime Minister, Australia had had, since the The Petrov Affair. The co-author is John Stubbs, a former journalist, turned press-secretary for the minister of labour and immigration. So both writers are linked with the Labour party and present a ‘leftist’ view of events.

At the end of the day, The Petrov Affair is an interesting piece of Australian history. Unfortunately the mini-series about it is rather flat and lacks cohesion. The filmmakers have tried to be too fancy with their telling – too many points of view – a simple linear telling of the tale, with tighter editing at the beginning, and a few titles telling us where and when events are happening would have improved this production immensely. (I make it sound simple, don’t I?)

This review is based on the Umbrella Entertainment Australia DVD

No Comments Posted in Television
Tagged , ,
Bad Company

Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Anthony Hopkins. Chris Rock, Gabriel Macht, Peter Stormare, John Slattery, Kerry Washington, Garcelle Beavais-Nilon, Matthew Marsh
Music: Trevor Rabin

Bad Company is a Jerry Bruckheimer production so you know exactly what to expect. It is big, it is loud and it is glossy. Personally I enjoy Mr Bruckheimer’s productions. I think they are great popcorn fare, but they don’t trouble your brains cells too often. The director, Joel Schumacher has had some success in recent years too, with Batman Forever and Falling Down. But regardless on the men behind the scenes, your enjoyment of this film will depend on if you like Chris Rock’s brand of comedy mixed with a modern hi-tech espionage story. If you don’t like Chris Rock’s motor mouthed urban style than this movie is not for you.

The film opens in Antique shop in Prague. Sophisticated C.I.A. Agent Kevin Pope (Chris Rock) is undercover. He is pretending to be a buyer called Michael Turner. What is he buying? A portable nuclear bomb that conveniently fits into a suitcase. The seller is Adrik Vas (Peter Stormare). Agent Pope isn’t working alone though. He has a money man coming to pay for the weapon. Enter fellow agent Oakes (Anthony Hopkins). Oakes hands over a million-dollar deposit on the weapon (against a cool twenty million total). Vas hands Pope a cell phone and tells him that he will call in ten days with the final details for the exchange of the weapon.

So the first meeting has gone well. Both Pope and Oakes go their separate ways. Unfortunately, another buyer cannot compete with the C.I.A. to buy the weapon. But this group want it anyway. Their solution is to kill the buyer – Pope. This evil organization is called The Black Hand, and their leader is Dragan Adjanic (Matthew Marsh). As Pope walks back to his hotel several of Adjanic’s men start tailing Pope. Well it is not so much tailing; it is chasing him in their BMW. Pope runs for his life. But his days are number as The Black Hand has agents everywhere. Pope is shot in the back and killed.

This poses a problem for the C.I.A. How are they going to complete the purchase without Pope. Vas doesn’t trust Oakes, or anyone else for that matter. Their only pipeline in was through Pope.

That brings us to Jake Hayes (also played by Chris Rock). Jake lives in New York and is a no-good hustler and ticket scalper, who sells tickets to sports events, Broadway shows, and everything and anything he can get his hands on. It is not a good time for Jake in his life, as his girlfriend Julie (Kerry Washington) is dumping him and moving to Seattle because he has no prospects. But things are about to change for Jake as the C.I.A. is watching him.

Oakes arranges a meeting with Jake and tells him a few truths about the way he was brought into this world. When he was born, he was one of a pair of twins. His mother died two days after childbirth and his father had long since vanished. Soon after birth, Jake developed a severe chest infection and had to be hospitalised. The doctor at the time thought it was better to separate the twins – improving the healthy one (Kevin)’s chance of adoption. And so it was. Kevin was adopted by the wealthy Pope family, went to college and became a Navy seal before joining the intelligence community. Jake on the other hand went to a foster home, which he shared with eight other foster children. But enough of the sob story. Oakes asks Jake to impersonate his brother. Jake agrees for a fee. Ten Thousand in advance and ninety after the job is done. Oakes agrees. They have eight days to get Jake in shape – turning a rough diamond into a gentleman spy.

This is the premise of the whole film. It is a classic fish out of water story. In this case taking the urban street hustler with the smart mouth and putting him in a tailored suit and placing him in some glorious surroundings. But strangely, Rock isn’t that outrageous when he is placed in this unusual setting. It is usually the contrivances of the story that upset the apple cart, rather than Rock’s mouth. Oh well, back to the story.

Oakes and his team start training Jake to take over from his brother. First he has to learn to speak like his brother and then Czech. Next he has to learn to recognise all the faces of the players in this deception. He also has to train his brain to be alert at all times.

Jake comes through all the preliminary tests with flying colours, so Oakes superiors decide on a more thorough test. They send Jake to Kevin’s apartment. If he can convince Kevin’s neighbours and friends that he is actually Kevin, he will be good to go.

There is also a second more cynical reason to send Jake to Kevin’s apartment. It is likely that The Black Hand are not convinced that Kevin is dead, and if they see Jake, it may force them to make a move.

Naturally enough that is exactly what happens. An assassin sneaks into the apartment and tries to kill Jake. Jake escapes by walking along a narrow window ledge and then fleeing into the streets. The C.I.A. team watching Jake take care of the assassin, but Jake has scarpered and is nowhere to be found. He doesn’t want to be a part of this life where people are trying to kill him.

Oakes tracks him down at his foster mother’s home and gives him a father to son chat which convinces Jake to go on with the mission. There’s plenty more to come once Jake and the team hit Prague. There are double crosses, triple crosses and as there’s a nuclear bomb involved, there’s a beat the clock ending. All of these elements add up to a fairly decent spy story. But it isn’t without it’s flaws. The biggest being the casting of Anthony Hopkins. Don’t get me wrong I like Hopkins work, and he does a good job in this film, but he was simply too old for this role. He, as the experience agent, in essence is the action man of the film. There is something not quite believable about a pudgy silver haired old man shooting it out with a gang of mean spirited terrorists and winning. Hopkins nearly sells it, but not quite. The scenes where he is running through the train station at the end are almost laughable.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged , ,
The Accidental Spy (2001-2002)

The_Accidental_SpyDirector: Teddy Chen
Starring: Jackie Chan, Eric Tsang, Vivian Hsu, Kim Min Jeong, Wu Hsing Kuo
Music: Peter Kam (Hong Kong), Michael Wandmacher (U.S. re-edit)

The Accidental Spy is a hybrid spy / martial arts film in the usual Jackie Chan style. This film divides many people due to the fact that there appears to be quite a few versions floating around. There is the original Hong Kong version. A Hong Kong version that has been dubbed into English. And finally a version by Dimension Films, which is an American re-dub that has also been re-edited. It seems that the story changes quite substantially in the differing versions too. This review relates to the Dimension Films version.

The film opens on an ancient rural landscape in Turkey. A convoy of 4WD vehicles wind their way through the village to a hi-tech farming centre, where bio chemists are trying to create new ways of farming the land. In the convoy is an English news crew who are doing a story on the farm. But it seems that someone isn’t happy with the project. As the interview unfolds, a squad of terrorists, armed with machine guns interrupt proceedings and mow everybody down: farmers, chemists and newscrew.

Next we have the title sequence which shows us snippets from the film that is to come, and features a techo theme by Michael Wandmacher which pounds over the top. Wandmacher’s theme has just enough Bond-style brass cues to re-enforce that you are watching a spy film, but not enough to warrant a lawsuit.

After the cow-catcher and titles we land in Hong Kong and Jackie Chan (that’s his character name, played by er.., Jackie Chan) is preparing for another day at work. He works as a sales assistant at a Weider Fitness store, selling workout equipment. After he bungles a sale, Jackie takes a break at the local shopping mall. His timing is impeccable because a bank robbery is taking place. As the bandits flee, they take hostages, but Jackie intervenes by clobbering the assailants with a pram (don’t worry – the tot wasn’t occupying the pram at the time). The crooks drop their bundle of loot and Jackie quickly scoops it up and then scarpers. Naturally the bandits want the money back, so they pursue Jackie through the complex, conducting a running battle as they go. As with most Jackie Chan movies the choreography is excellent (arranged and performed by Tung Wai and the JC Stuntmen Team). The mayhem moves to the roof, high above the city and Jackie makes his escape by leaping onto a large industrial crane.

At the end of the day, Jackie is a hero and order is restored…so how does Jackie become The Accidental Spy? The press make a feature story out of Jackie’s daring heroics and he comes to the attention of a second rate gumshoe, Manny Liu (Eric Tsang). Liu is working for an elderly Korean, living in Seoul, who is trying to find his son. You see, in the television interview, Jackie’s whole life story came out. He grew up in an orphanage, after he was abandoned at the age of four months old, in 1958. All he can remember is a dangling necklace with a Catholic cross. Liu thinks Jackie fits the bill perfectly.

So Jackie is sent off to Seoul to meet the man who may (or may not) be his father. Park Won-Jung (the father) is on his deathbed at a Defence Department Hospital. As Jackie enters the room he notices the catholic cross around the old man’s neck. It appears that Park Won-Jung is Jackie’s father. And not only that, but in the espionage world he was also the most notorious double agent Korea has ever known.

Later after Jackie has left the hospital some opposition agents assault Park Won-Jung in his room. He dies, but leaves behind a carved wooden box with a Holy medal on the front – and inside is the cross necklace and a key. What does the key unlock? Nobody knows. But through the key, and a little game that his father cooked up before his death, Jackie is about to enter the world of espionage. A world that leads him to the rooftops, bath-houses and markets of Istanbul.

The McGuffin in this film is a super drug called Opium Maxa, which you may have guessed, was being manufactured by the bio-chemists who were slaughtered at the beginning of the film. Unbeknownst to Jackie, his inheritance is to track down this drug and not get killed in the process. Along the way there are Turkish thugs, Korean Agents, the C.I.A. and a nosey journalist, all of whom have an interest in getting their hands on the drug. For those interested, in the original Hong Kong version, the McGuffin was an ultra-lethal, weaponized pathogen called Anthrax II. But The Accidental Spy’s American release co-incided with the big Anthrax scare, after September 11. So it had to be changed.

The Accidental Spy was made when Jackie Chan was at the peak of his Western popularity, with hit films like Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour 1 & 2. But Jackie still received a lot of criticism that his films didn’t have the same charm and style that his earlier Hong Kong work did. The Accidental Spy seems like an attempt to address that. Even though this re-edited version is produced by Harvey and Max Weinstein (Miramax), this is still very much a Hong Kong film. Despite going back to his roots, this film isn’t one of Chan’s success’s. Sure it’s entertaining in it’s way, and as I mentioned earlier the stunts and fight scenes are choreographed very well, albeit with Jackie’s habit of verging into silly slapstick (the kids love it). The real problems is the script which appears to be written around the stunts rather than fitting the stunts to the story. The ending, which takes place on a tanker truck, while be a fairly entertaining set piece is really quite unrealistic…As my ten year old son said when he saw it ‘why didn’t they hit the breaks and get out of the truck?’ Well yeah –that would have worked too, but wouldn’t be as exciting.

Having said all that, as I have mentioned there are numerous versions of the film. Maybe in other versions the plot is fleshed out more and the ending is more believable – but I can’t see my self scouring the world for the alternative versions to check. In the end, this version of The Accidental Spy is a pleasant enough time killer if you are a fan of Jackie Chan, but as a spy film it is a trifle clumsy.

This review is based on the Miramax Dimension Home Entertainment / Buena Vista Entertainment (Australasia) DVD

Visit the official website

No Comments Posted in Film, Film and Cinema
Tagged , , , ,