The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World (1965)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Starring: Tom Adams, Karel Stepanek, Peter Bull, John Arnott, Felix Felton
Music: Herbert Chappell (as Bertram Chappell)
AKA: Licensed to Kill

The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World is the first of three low budget Bond imitations starring Tom Adams as Charles Vine. The other two films are Where The Bullets Fly and Somebody’s Stolen Our Russian Spy. As the title The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World suggests, Vine is the agent that the British Secret Service turn to when 007 is actively engaged on another mission. The next thing you should know is that this film was directed by Lindsay Shonteff whose cinematic vision and sense of humour parallels that of a sixth grader with a cam-corder. To be fair though, out of all the Shonteff schlock I have seen, this is the most professional and watchable – far better than his later work on The Million Eyes Of Sumuru and No. 1: Licenced To Love And Kill.

It is also my duty to advise you that there are two versions of this film. The original is the English version, which is called Licensed To Kill. The second version, which they repackaged for American audiences is called The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World, and that is the version I am reviewing here. The most obvious difference between the two versions is that the US version had a Sammy Davis Jnr. theme song and new titles.

The film opens with Swedish Professor August Jakobsen enjoying a stroll through South Hill Park in London. The setting is idyllic. As Jakobsen stops to observe some ducks swimming in a pond, he is passed by a lady pushing a pram with her twins in it. She stops to adjust their blanketing, then pulls out a bloody great machine gun that had been nestled between the infants. She mows the Professor down; packs the weapon away and continues her walk through the park.

After a rather static title sequence the story is unveiled. Professor August Jakobsen was working with his brother Henryk on a project they called ‘Re-Grav’. The purpose of ‘Re-Grav’ is to provide technology (at this early stage it is only a blue print) that will reverse the gravitational field. On a low level this could revolutionise transport, with cars and planes able to hover above the land. Applying a military application, ‘Re-Grav’ could make countries safe from nuclear missile attack, as it would repel the missiles.

Now that August is dead, Henryk is to carry on and complete their research which he intends to sell to the British. The official handling the purchase of Jakobsen’s research is Walter Pickering of the Foreign Office. Pickering approaches Rockwell, the head of the British Secret Service and demands protection for the scientist. Due to budget restraints, the Secret Service can only spare one man to babysit Jakobsen. Pickering wants it to be the agent that handled that ‘gold smuggling’ operation (get it?) Rockwell says that he is unavailable, but he has another agent who can do the job, Charles Vine (Tom Adams). Rockwell describes Vine as being ‘tough, discreet and dedicated’.

As the film cuts away to Vine, we find out that he is very dedicated. Dedicated to the moral corruption of swingin’ sixties British dolly birds. He is in bed when he receives a phone call requesting that he returns to headquarters for a mission briefing.

Vine’s mission is to protect Professor Henryk Jakobsen and his research assistant, Julia Linberg as they complete the ‘Re-Grav’ research. This isn’t quite as simple as it may seem, because the Russians are interested in acquiring Jakobsen’s research, as is another secret private organisation. Vines first test is upon his return from the airport with the Professor and his assistant where they are ambushed by a carload of fake police officers. It gives Vine his first opportunity to show off his shooting prowess.

Naturally, over the course of the movie there are numerous attempts on the Professor’s life, but Vine always intervenes. Some of the assassins sent to do their worst include Vladimir She-He. With a name like ‘She-He’ it will come as no surprise that this villain likes to cross dress. Director Shonteff liked the idea and character so much that he would recycle him/her in No. 1: Licenced To Love And Kill, which starred Gareth Hunt as Charles Bind. Vine also has to battle an evil doppelganger, Major Kroptkin, a Russian agent who has had plastic surgery and taken voice lessons to appear as Vine. Finally there is another Russian killer called Sadistokov. He is so tough and loves to kill so much that he moonlights as a supervisor at a slaughterhouse.

Like I mentioned earlier, Shonteff’s work is pretty crude and this film does have a few rough edges. But in spite of that The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World isn’t too bad. This is mainly due to the enthusiasm of the cast. Tom Adams is athletic and throws himself around with suitable vigour. He may not move like a cat-like Connery, but he looks like he could handle himself in a stoush. The other cast members, even though their characters are little more than broad stereotypes, acquit themselves reasonably well too – enough to sell the scenes they are in, despite the non existent set and production design. I guess the fact that this film was received well enough that they followed it up with two sequels, probably indicates that this film punches a little bit above it’s weight. It’s no masterpiece, but as another Bondian knock-off it does the job.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged , , ,
Spy Tunes – No 3

No Comments Posted in Music
Tagged
Ypotron (1966)

AKA: Operation ‘Y’
Country: Italy / Spain / France
Director: George Finley (Giorgio Stegani)
Starring: Louis Davilla, Gaia Germani, Alfredo Mayo, Jesús Puente, Janine Reynaud, Alberto Dalbés
Music: Nico Fidenco

I was struck by a strange feeling of dejavu when I watched the title sequence in Ypotron. The titles feature scenes of our hero, Robby Logan (Louis Davilla) frolicking around in Acapulco. There’s nothing extraordinary in that, but the footage is shown in negative, so the crystal blue waters look orange with black peaks. It almost looks like a fire ball. But that’s when it struck me – I had seen another Eurospy film that had the title sequence shown in negative. Racking my brain I finally came up with Espionage In Tangiers, which also starred Louis Davilla.

Naturally enough, this made me wonder if these two films were a part of a series? A quick glance at the indispensable Eurospy Guide yielded no results – well not on initial inspection. You see in this film Davilla plays Robby Logan. Some foreign film posters indicate that the character is also known as Lemmy Logan (possibly trying to cash in on the popular Lemmy Caution character). Those who take a quick look at the poster above – courtesy of David Deal’s excellent EuroSpy poster gallery – will notice that Davilla’s character was also called Mike Murphy (Agent 077 – no less). Likewise in Espionage In Tangiers, Davilla’s character is lumbered with a few names. One of them happens to be Marc Mato – in some territories the film was known as Marc Mato, agente s.077. But as you may have already guessed, in English versions, the character is Mike Murphy. At this point I am feeling pretty smug that I may have stumbled onto a new spy series for me to investigate – but having said all that – let’s be realistic – these are EuroSpy films and they will latch onto any marketing device they can. As you can already see, both films Ypotron and Espionage In Tangiers are also trying to worm their way into the 077 series, but in reality they aren’t official entries. Equally some marketeer or distributor may have tried to rope these films together to make it seem like a series. The truth is I don’t know, but that doesn’t really matter. You either enjoy EuroSpy films or you don’t. If you don’t then my investigative journey is of little consequence. If you do, then you realise the inconsistencies of the sub-genre, and are happy to ride along with it. But just to confuse you, even though the print I viewed has the lead character called Robby Logan, I am going to call him Murphy…just because I want to.

The film opens with Murphy walking into a darkened room. He flicks over a set of infra-red lens down over the lens of another set of glasses and begins to examine a strange diagram – that looks like a symbolised schematic of the human body. Behind Murphy a secret door opens and the muzzle for a machine gun is aimed at him. A volley of shots are fired, but Logan does not die. But after such an elaborate set-up, we find out the Murph isn’t on a mission, he is at headquarters and he was simply testing out a new bullet proof vest. Then that’s it – he’s on holidays, and what do all good swinging secret agents do, when they’ve got a few weeks leave. Yep, they head to Acapulco.

When we next join Murph, he’s enjoying the surf, and the company of a beautiful brunette – but not for long. He is interrupted by a raven haired beauty that he ditched six months previously (presumably on holiday too). She is not too enamored to see him. Oh, who am I kidding – of course she is glad to see him, but first she has to spend a few minutes making him feel guilty about running out on her.

But then Murph doesn’t even get the chance to enjoy this liaison. His partner – for that read ‘fellow agent’ – Wilson (Jesús Puente) arrives in Acapulco with a new assignment. Murph is naturally reluctant to take it as he is in holiday mode. But Wilson explains that three other agents, Harvey, Stone and Margaret, have all been killed. All three were working on security for a company called Indra. Indra is described as being a ‘big European missile factory’.The target at Indra is the chief scientist on the missile program, Robert Moreau. Now Murph and Moreau share a little bit of history. Back in WW2, Murphy was imprisoned in a concentration camp called Merloc. Merloc was headed by an evil Nazi scientist named Dr. Eichmann, who used to use the prisoners as guinea pigs for his cruel and unusual experiments. Murphy was intended to participate in one of these experiments but at the last minute he was saved by one of Leichmann’s underlings, Robert Moreau. Moreau refused to carry out Eichamnn’s test and was subsequently tortured for his non-compliance. But as you can imagine, Murphy now owes his life and a huge debt of gratitude to Moreau. He readily agrees to accept the assignment. Holiday over, Murph and Wilson head to Europe.

In Spain (I presume), Murph heads to Moreau’s home. The scientist isn’t home, but his daughter Jeanne (Gaia Germani) is. She phones her father at Indra, and he promises to come home straight away. As a precaution though, Murph has Wilson tail Moreau back from Indra, but as the cars wind around a mountain road, Wilson loses Moreau. Embarrassed, Wilson radios in his failure. Murph passes on the bad news to Jeanne who is visibly upset at her father’s disappearance. Murph makes a promise that he’ll find her father and return him safely.

The mission isn’t progressing to well. Murph doesn’t have too many leads to go on. His break comes when Jeanne tries to slip away to Madrid carrying one of her fathers suitcases. As you’d expect, Murph follows her and arranges to be on the same flight. Now this is where the fun really begins.

Many EuroSpy films are currently only available in prints that can only be politely described as diabolical, and with a large proportion of these films that isn’t too big of a hurdle. Most likely you’d only watch them once in your life time. But others have just an ounce of style or even an animal magnetism (if a film can hold such attraction) that makes you want to revisit it – and even more, long for a pristine print so you can see the film as was originally intended. Ypotron, for me, is one such film. I am not going to lie to you and say that it’s a good film, but it does have this strange electricity about it – an animal magnetism that makes me enjoy – nay, even respect this film despite all its goofy flaws. It has a great surf guitar soundtrack which is layered with a hint of cheesy Hammond organ, and the title song by The Sorrows will get stuck in your head for days – even if it makes no sense ‘Yee Po Tron’! Added to this, there’s a great Flamenco musical number that’s coupled with a primal strip-tease act.

If you’re after gadgets, this film has a bargain basement full of them; from cigarette lighter communicators, oil bombs, hidden cameras and tape recorders, listening devices, and of course, as featured in the intro, Murphy’s rose coloured glasses.

Naturally the film has a lunk-headed leading man and sandy haired Davilla fits that bill nicely. The girls are great too, As the good girl we get Gaia Germani who certainly is a looker. For the bad girl , but not too bad, we are presented with Janine Reynaud in bleach blonde hair. Most people recognise Reynaud as the fiery redhead in Jess Franco’s Red Lips films, Two Under Cover Angels and Kiss Me Monster. She also appeared as a femme fatale in Killers are Challenged.

All in all, I think Ypotron is a great little package. I don’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm, but at the end of the day, who are you going to trust – your well thumbed pages of your Leonard Maltin Video Guide or me?

Of course that’s redundant because Ypotron doesn’t appear in the Maltin guide. You have to trust me. Evil maniacal laughter trails into the distance…

Oh, sorry! one last little bit – a small warning for those who may be put off or offended by witnessing a bullfight. Ypotron features a rather graphic one (although the effect is diminished by the quality of the print I acquired). But if you believe that watching such images would upset you, then may I suggest you give this film a miss.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged , , ,
Secret Agent Fireball (1965)

After the long weekend Down Under, I am a bit tardy in preparing my next review for your perusal. But in the meantime, Tanner over at the Double O Section has a fine review of Secret Agent Fireball.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged
Spy Tunes – No 2

No Comments Posted in Music
Tagged
The Tuxedo (2002)

Country: United States
Directed by Kevin Donovan
Jackie Chan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Isaacs, Debi Mazar, Ritchie Coster, Peter Stormare, James Brown
Music by John Debney, Christophe Beck

Jackie Chan’s career can be broken up in to two distinct parts – his Hong Kong work which is pretty good, and his American work which isn’t. The Tuxedo is one of the American productions, and as hard as he tries, poor old Jackie just can’t carry this sort of crap. This film also proves that no matter how hard Jennifer Love Hewitt tries, she’ll never be a comedienne.

The film begins with CSA Agent Wallace in a water bottling plant owned by Banning Industries. He has been working on an operation called ‘Big Drip’ and must have found out something serious, because he urgently puts through a call to CSA headquarters on his mobile. Before he can relay this super-vital piece of information, from above a guy puts a clear plastic bag over Wallace’s head. This isn’t any normal plastic bag. It happens to have a hose attached at the back, and just when you think the poor bloke is going to suffocate a torrent of water rushes in and Wallace ends up drowning. Wallace falls to the ground dead. The evil minion who executed Wallace stands over the dead body and says ‘Aqua La Vista, Baby!’ – I am sure you all get the bad pun, but for younger readers not familiar with the work and immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s a play on the line ‘Hasta La Vista Baby,’ from Terminator 2.

So what have we got so far? A dead CSA agent you was working on ‘Operation Big Drip’ (it’s hardly ‘Thunderball’) and a villain who makes bad puns. From the two minute mark of the movie, you can clearly see the line that this movie is taking – broad comedy – which is a shame, because the villains plan in this film is really quite good. It’s a pity that they wrapped it up in a goofball comedy. But back to the plot. We haven’t even seen Jackie yet!

Jackie plays a love struck, tongue tied taxi driver named Jimmy Tong. When we first meet him, he is standing outside an art gallery, staring at the beautiful girl who works within. As he watches, he practices his introduction line. Finally he works up the courage to go in and ask her to dinner, but he freezes and makes a fool of himself.

He returns to his cab outside and finds that there is a passenger waiting inside. She gives Jimmy an address and says that if he can make it to the destination before she finishes putting on her makeup, she’ll pay him double the amount shown on the meter. Jimmy puts the pedal to the metal and weaves his way through the congested New York streets. He makes it on time, and not only collects a big fare, he also collects a new job. The lady offers him a position as the chauffeur to the mysterious Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs). Devlin is a James Bond like figure. He is suave, witty, a great dancer, and the best agent the CSA have. Men want to be him, and women want to be with him.

Meanwhile back at CSA headquarters, they have discovered Wallace’s body and have performed an autopsy. It looks like an accident – in a bath tub, no less. But one operative, Del Blaine (Jennifer Lover Hewitt) has other ideas. She believes it is murder, and provides evidence to back her theory. Her investigative work gets her a promotion and she is assigned to work with Clark Devlin, following up on Wallace’s work.

Devlin though, is already at work and following up some leads, with Jimmy chauffeuring the limousine. As Devlin and Jimmy stop for a bite to eat, some young punks attach a homing device to the rear of the limo. This homing device attracts a riderless skateboard to which has been taped a large amount of explosive. As the explosive device moves closer and closer, Jimmy once again has a chance to prove his driving prowess, but eventually they are forced into an alleyway and then cut off by a parked vehicle. Both Devlin and Jimmy get out just before the bomb hits, but he explosion throws Devlin into some garbage cans. He gets up with a nasty gash and blood trickling down the side of his face. He collapses. Jimmy, naturally rushes to his aid, and as is the tradition in all these types of films, Devlin whispers some important information. The first, is to contact a man named Walter Stryder. The second is ‘trust no-one’. And finally he hands over his watch. He tells Jimmy to wear it.

Jimmy heads back to Devlin’s mansion and finds that the watch opens a glass booth which houses a pretty nifty tuxedo. Jimmy decides to try on this tuxedo, but as you will have no doubt guessed (because the movie is called The Tuxedo), that this is no ordinary tuxedo. It is the ultimate Q Branch gadget. The Tux – or Tactical Uniform Xperiment (TUX-1) – immediately adjusts to Jimmy’s size, and through the watch, which is like a remote control, the suit can do almost anything. Some of the modes include: Demolition / Assemble Rifle / Anti Grav / Shake Booty.

Now Jimmy, dressed in the ultimate spy weapon takes over from Devlin. Along the way he teams up with Blaine and together they try to take down the malevolent water mogul, Banning.

Of course, this elaborate set up is not really important to the film. What is, is that Jackie Chan is in a suit that makes him do really cool, and sometimes really silly things. The point being that Jackie’s character Jimmy isn’t really doing any of the actions – the suit is – giving Jackie the opportunity to do large amounts of physical comedy using his martial arts skills.

Look I love Jackie, and obviously as we’ve come to expect from his films, the choreography is amazing, but really this is pretty tedious and juvenile stuff. The film is given another kicking when they chose to partner him with Jennifer Love Hewitt who has no flare for this kind of comedy. Not wishing to be mean, I am sure Miss Love Hewitt has her fans and in other productions proves her worth, but in this – and the script writers must take some of the blame – she is so conceited and irritating that I just wanted Jackie to hit her with a chair or something just to make her stop talking. At this juncture, before I get into trouble, I’d just like to say that Permission To Kill does not condone any form of violence towards women – we are talking films here, and I am sure the props department could rig up a chair that would in no way hurt or injure Miss Love Hewitt. It’s a Hollywood chair – it’s an imaginary CGI chair. All I am trying to say that her character was so frustrating to watch, that it began to make the movie a chore to sit through.

Okay with that off my chest, I’d like to say that The Tuxedo is not a great film. Young teenage boys may like it, but beyond that it is far from Jackie’s grandest moment. You’ve been warned.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged ,
Target For Killing (1966)

AKA: The Secret Of The Yellow Monks
Country: Austria / Italy
Director: Manfred R. Kohler
Starring: Stewart Granger, Karin Dor, Rupert Davies, Curt Jurgens, Klaus Kinski, Scilla Gabel, Adolfo Celi, Mollie Peters, Erika Remberg, Luis Induni
Music: Marcello Giombini

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the great actors from the 1960s who were at the forefront of the Spy Boom, Stewart Granger isn’t an actor that comes readily to mind. I guess that’s because his contribution to the spy genre were a few middling Eurospy films. Granger’s career wasn’t going too well at this time and he’d take any job that came along. Amongst his output were Red Dragon, Spy Against The World, Requiem For A Secret Agent and Target For Killing.

Target For Killing is a muddled affair, but reasonably entertaining on a throwaway level. But if you happen to be a Bond fan there are a few compelling reasons to watch the film. All of them are cast members. Let’s start with Thunderball – we have Adolfo Celi (sans eyepatch) and the beautiful Mollie Peters (sans mink glove, but in a bikini and a bath tub). Then we have our leading lady, Karin Dor, who would appear in You Only Live Twice a year later. Incidentally, Dor also appeared in Spy Against The World, but not in the same segment as Stewart Granger. However it did also feature Klaus Kinski, who also appears in Target For Killing. Am I painting a nepetitious little picture? Then finally we have Curt Jurgens who appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me, which is just another one in his long line of contributions to the spy genre.

Target For Killing is not the best Eurospy offering out there, and to be honest the English dubbing is pretty ordinary, but it is far from the worst either. After witnessing Granger’s turn as a hard bastard in Sergio Sollima’s Requiem For A Secret Agent it’s good to see him return to playing a likable, suave and sophisticated gent once again, and if the story is a bit confused, then does that really matter? Well in fact it does. I don’t mind that Eurospy films are occasionally silly and feature climaxes that could only be described as ‘dodgy science’, but if you are going to introduce a weird scientific element, run with it – play it for all it’s worth. Here, they have a premise about a ‘mind weapon’ and telepathy, but it only seems tacked on to the side. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s find out what it’s all about!

The damsel in distress in Target For Killing is Sandra Perkins (Karin Dor), and we meet her on a plane bound for Montenegro. Behind the curtains a sexy stewardess mixes Miss Perkins a drink, adding something a little extra to the concoction. She brings the drink out and walks down the aisle, but as she is about to hand over the drink, a clumsy man in the seat opposite, stretches out and accidentally knocks the tray and sends the glass flying. The clumsy oath is James Vine (Stewart Granger), who, as we all know dear readers, is a secret agent.

Vine’s intervention has caused a bit of a stir in the cockpit. You see, the two pilots – one who happens to be Klaus Kinski – and the stewardess work for a despicable fellow called ‘The Giant’ (Curt Jurgens). The Giant has ordered that Perkins be killed. Without any weapons at their disposal, and knowing that The Giant will not tolerate failure, the flight crew decide to bail out with parachutes and let the plane crash.

Vine notices the crew leaving, but doesn’t think anything of it until he see three parachutes open out of his window (he must have been looking down). Realising that something is wrong, he convinces Perkins to go with him to the cockpit. It may seem like a catastrophe waiting to happen. but it isn’t all doom and gloom, because Vine was once in the airforce. He takes to the pilot’s seat and has Perkins man the radio. It has been a while, be he manages a rough old landing.

Now why would anybody want to kill a nice girl like Sandra Perkins? Well it appears that in three days, on her twenty-fifth birthday she is set to inherit a filthy amount of money. If she is dead, the money will go to other interested parties. Why is The Giant’s interested in Perkins and the redistribution of the money? Well he’s not actually an evil mastermind. He is evil, but he is not the mastermind. He’s more like a branch manger for an un-named evil organisation. From his Montenegro branch office, which happens to be in a monastery, he performs all sorts of illegal activities. And that’s why James Vine has come to Montenegro. He’s not here to protect Perkins, but is here to track down and shut down The Giant. But back to the point at hand, The Giant has been instructed by his superiors to kill Perkins.

The thing with The Giant that stops him from just being another underling is that he has hired some quality underlings of his own. The first is his evil henchwoman, Tiger (Scilla Gabel). She gets around in a pair of tight fitting black leather pants and wields a machine gun with unrivalled expertise. Then there is The Giant’s evil seductress, Vera Stratten (Mollie Peters). She uses her body to get to her targets. And finally there is Dr. Yang (Luis Induni), who is an expert on telepathy and torture. He has a special gift of getting into peoples minds, which causes them to lose all free will. The Giant and his cadre of hench-people are a formidable target for James Vine.

Worth a quick mention is the absolutely fantastic soundtrack by Marcelo Giombini which features a fantastic fuzzy electric guitar. Whenever the story seems to be losing pace and purpose, the guitar kicks in and you just ride with it until the movie finds its feet again.

I want to like Target For Killing and I want to recommend it to everyone, but in all fairness I can’t as a spy film. But if you’re interested in the cast, then go ahead, track a copy down. If you’re interested in swinging spy guitar grooves, track a copy down. If you’re interested in empty lightweight espionage thrills, track a copy down. Oh yeah, and if you’re interested in Scilla Gabel in black leather pants, then track a copy down. If none of those categories appeal to you, then you’re going to have to look elsewhere for espionage thrills.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged , , , , ,
Humsaya (1968)

Once again I find myself short for words and turn to Todd over at Die Danger Die Die Kill (or 4DK as we in the trade say). Here Todd tackles another Bollywood spy film, without the aid of a safety harness, net or even a translator. But barriers like ‘foreign languages’ are just a minor hurdle when you’re prepared to stick on a pair of hobnail boots and kick over a few rocks in the search for the most obscure and neglected spy films in the world.

I feel the world is better off due to the efforts of cinematic explorers like Todd. To read the review click here.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged
Death Is Nimble Death Is Quick (1966)

Country: Germany
Directed by Rudolph Zehatgruber
Tony Kendall, Brad Harris, Ann Smyrner, Dan Vadis, Sigfried Rauch, H. D. Kalatunga
Music by Gino Mariukki
‘I Love You, Jo Walker’ written by Bobby Gutesha, performed by Angela Monti

This, the third entry in the popular Kommissar X series, is set in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka). The over riding reason for the success of the Kommissar X films was the pairing of Tony Kendall as the smarmy detective Joe Walker and Brad Harris as the straight laced police officer Tom Rowland. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable, even when the characters are arguing and bickering at each other.

The film starts in Columbo and a festival called the Parahini is taking place. Through the streets there is a parade of elephants, dancers and musicians. Armed with a film camera is beautiful heiress Babs Lincoln (Ann Smyrner). Accompanying Babs on her tourist jaunt is a US Embassy official named Rogers.

As Rogers checks in at HQ, Babs is kidnapped by a bald slab of beef named King (Dan Vadis) and his cronies. Rogers pursues King and tries to rescue Babs, but is killed by a karate blow by King, who happens to be a martial arts master. But Rogers intervention has provided an opportunity for Babs to escape.

Babs father, Jefferson Lincoln has plenty of money to throw around, and to protect his daughter he hires the best detective in the world, Joe Walker (Tony Kendall). Those who are familiar with the character Joe Walker know that he walks around with a permanent smug grin and an erection. Naturally Walker spends as much time trying to get into Babs pants as he does protecting her.

Meanwhile in Singapore, Captain Tom Rowland is attending a karate convention. It appears that Karate is new to the Western world at this time, and this convention is extolling the virtues of karate as a law enforcement tool. Upon hearing about the death of Rogers, due to a karate blow, Rowland is sent to Ceylon to track down Roger’s killer.

The prime suspect for the kidnap attempt and killing are a criminal organisation called Three Golden Cats. The organisation was originally founded to fight against oppression and colonialism – namely the British – but now, many years later, they have been reformed and are not quite so noble in their pursuits.

Death Is Nimble, Death Is Quick is a small step down from the first two Kommissar X films (Kiss, Kiss, Kill, Kill and So Darling, So Deadly) Plotwise this is not one of the better entries in the series either, but it has a few things going for it. The first is a sequence in the eerie ‘Death Lake’, where Walker and Babs have to escape from an aquatic variation of the fire breathing dragon from Dr. No. The second is the showdown between the two karate masters, Rowland and King at the climax of the film. Actually, in some ways this climax also is a failing in the film, in that it is set up so early in the film that Rowland and King will meet, that the viewer can sit watching and waiting (and waiting) for this inevitable showdown. But once it starts, it was well worth the wait. In fact the choreography in this installment in the Kommissar X series is of an exceptionally high standard. This can be attributed to both Brad Harris and Dan Vadis who worked out all the stunts in the film.

Harris and Vadis were both bodybuilders who made the trip from America to Rome to star in films. Both appeared in various pumped up peplum films. After the sword and sandal movies dried up, Harris would reinvent himself appearing in Eurospy films and westerns. Vadis on the other hand wasn’t quite so successful and eventually ended up back in the United States. Vadis would regain a small level of prominence as a member of Clint Eastwood’s troop of Malpaso stock players appearing in both orang-utan films – Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can – as one of the Black Widow bikie gang. He also appeared in High Plains Drifter, The Gauntlet and Bronco Billy as Chief Big Eagle, a native American Indian snake charmer.

I am quite fond of the Kommissar X series (the films that I have seen), and many people consider this one of the best due to is competent action scenes and stunt sequences. I personally find the plotting rather weak and prefer So Darling, So Deadly. But that in itself should tell you something about the series and it’s longevity – seven films – each entry is extremely enjoyable.

2 Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged
The President’s Analyst (1967)

Country: United States
Directed by Theodore Flicker
James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden, Barry McGuire, Joan Delaney, Walter Burke, William Daniels
Music by Lalo Schifrin

The President’s Analyst is an unusual and amusing spy comedy. It managed the two card trick of not only tapping into the sixties spy boom (like Coburn’s Flint flicks), but it also added something else. Now what the something is, is very hard to describe. It’s almost indefinable, because there are so many ideas scattered throughout this film. There’s everything from ‘freedom of expression’, ‘home security’, ‘privacy’, ‘racism’ and reliable ‘utilities services’. And I am sure that there are quite a few more themes lurking in there somewhere. This heady mixture amounts to one trippy little film, but one that is still very American. The British were no strangers to presenting ‘psyched-out’ swinging spy films – movies like Otley, Sebastian and even The Beatles Help tapped into the growing subculture – but the Americans were a lot slower to embrace the idea. Sure there were quite a few American spy comedies, but most were straight laced comedies – if that makes sense?

Due to the scattershot approach this film takes, it is wildly uneven, but don’t let that deter you from tracking a copy down. This is one film that must be watched if you love sixties spy films. Now having said that, it’s not a film that everyone will enjoy, because it does lack focus – but I think it should be seen because it is a bookend to American spy films. This is so hard to put into words – regular readers will have read some of my reviews for Eurospy films. Generally I describe them as muddled, confused, trippy and a great deal of exuberant fun. I believe that The Presidents Analyst is the most Eurospy of the American spy films of the sixties. It is muddled, confused, trippy and a great deal of exuberant fun.

The film starts with a spy named Don Masters (Godfrey Cambridge) paying a visit to his psychiatrist, Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn). Masters is a CEA agent and he has a lot of issues. During this session he recalls a nightmare he had where he rams a knife into the heart of an Albanian double agent. Schaefer is almost shocked to here the brutality of Masters’ story, but then quickly realises that working as a spy and killing people is a great way to vent feelings of hostility. Masters goes on to reveal that he isn’t just a patient, but he had in fact been assigned to Schaefer, and the sessions between the two men were an evaluation process.

The President of the United States is over-worked, over-burdened ans over-tired and requires a new analyst. Schaefer has been selected to be that man. Initially he loves his responsibility and his role as the man The President turns to in times of stress. But as time goes by, Schaefer becomes a receptacle for all the President’s angst and bitter confusion.

Whenever the President needs Schaefer’s services, any time of the day or night, he summons him with a flashing red light. Schaefer is gradually worn down. Each time he leaves the Oval Office he looks more jaded. His eyes are red and his hair is mussed. He looks like he has gone fifteen rounds with a heavy weight boxer.

Schaefer begins to slowly unravel. He becomes agitated, snappy and aggressive. Soon he adds paranoia to the cocktail. Next he begins to see spies everywhere and they are all after him. Unable to take it any more, he decides to do a runner and escape with a tourist group who are being shown through the Whitehouse.

Now Schaefer’s paranoia is for real. The Chinese, Russians, Cubans, CEA and FBR are all after him because of the secrets that he has inside his head. He takes refuge in the tour bus of a hippy musical troupe.

In some ways this film is the antithesis of Coburn’s successful Flint films. Schaefer stars off smooth and in control, just like Flint, but then he begins to unwind and the nervous twitches and mannerisms kick in. The President’s Analyst is a very flawed film, but I am a big fan of James Coburn and have watched a large chunk of his cinematic legacy, and I would go out on a limb and say this is his best performance. It is even more remarkable when you consider the time that it is made and the films that Coburn chose to make around it. I know Coburn received an Oscar for best supporting actor for his work in Affliction, but that was really for services rendered to the industry over a long period of time. As an actor, this is his crowning glory – unfortunately due to the eneveness throughout the film, it was never recognised.

No Comments Posted in Film and Cinema
Tagged