Dick Smart 2.007 / Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die

Here’s a quick look at two soundtracks to Eurospy films from the sixties, composed by Mario Nascimbene. Both movies are set in Rio, so their soundtracks feature a lot of Latin American bossa nova lounge grooves.

First up, Dick Smart 2.007
Composed and arranged by Mario Nascimbene.
Orchestra conducted by Roberto Pregadio.
Released by Hexacord.

Dick Smart is a pretty wild Eurospy production directed by Franco Prosperi. It features Richard Wyler as swinging sixties dilettante, womaniser, and part-time spy, Dick Smart. Smart is hired by the CIA, for a fee of one million dollars, after five atomic scientists go missing from around the world.

Nascimbene’s score is very good, and the hook will get stuck in your head for days, even weeks perhaps. You will find yourself humming the theme after you’ve finished listening to the album. As the film is primarily set in and around Rio, the soundtrack features a lot of Latin beats, like Sambas and Bossa Novas. Each track gives away it’s musical style in it’s title ‘Samba For Dick’, ‘Bossa For Dick’ etc… There are no vocals until the end track. The male vocal is quite flat – it almost seems spoken. But the instrumentals are quite good, although slightly repetitive, but it is a soundtrack, so you’d expect that a few musical motif’s are repeated.

If the album has a weakness, it is that sometimes the instrumentals tend toward ‘elevator music’ with weird sixties electronic sound effects over the top. At the end of the CD, there are some musical cues and control room dialogue from Nascimbene. It is an interesting curio – but doesn’t add much. But still it isn’t a bad album. If you’re a fan of Eurospy Soundtracks, I’d buy this one. I wasn’t disappointed.

Track listing:

01 Main Titles Theme
02 Dick Smart Investigates
03 The Amazing World Of Dick Smart
04 The Chase #1
05 Discotheque Party
06 Dick Smart In Action
07 Swimming Pool Bossa Party
08 The Chase #2
09 My Name Is Smart…Dick Smart
10 Samba For Dick
11 The Chase #3
12 The DS 2.007 Shake
13 Kiss Kiss, Girl Girl
14 Bossa For Dick
15 Background Exotica
16 The DS 2.007 Shake #2
17 Finale
18 Il Tuo Sguardo Atomico – End title Song

Next, Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die
Composed and arranged by Mario Nascimbene.
Released by Avanz Records

Firstly, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die, so it’s difficult to place the music in context with the film, but as a stand alone listening experience, this is great. It is better than the Dick Smart soundtrack, but is similar in so many ways. Once again, the film is set in Rio, so the soundtrack has a Latin American feel to it. Although there is a lot more variety on the Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die soundtrack. The closing title song, although not listed on the album, is performed by Lydia Macdonald (I think. Please correct me if you know otherwise). Macdonald, while hardly a household name these days, was a very busy girl in the 1960’s especially singing title songs to Eurospy films. She can be found singing ‘Don’t Ever Let Me Go’ on the soundtrack to Requiem For A Secret Agent; ‘Nothing To Fear’ from MMM Missione Morte Molo 83, and the title track to From The Orient With Fury.

As with the Dick Smart, Kiss The Girls also has a few weird sci-fi electronic soundscapes. No doubt, if I had seen the film I’d know what these are. Most likely they are from scenes in the film, where the chief villain is test firing his latest hi-tech weapon. These call be a little bit grating. They aren’t really ‘lounge’ tunes, and as such aren’t really easy listening. But on the whole, this is a pretty good soundtrack album. It’s a bit harder to track down than Dick Smart, but once again, if you are a fan of this type of soundtrack, this is worth hunting down.

Track listing:

01 Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die (Main Titles)
02 Kelly Captured
03 Carnival In Rio
04 Scientist’s Laboratory
05 Love Scene
06 Susanne’s Revelation And Arrest – Escape
07 Car Chase
08 Kelly’s Pursuit – Frozing The Girls
09 Kelly Captured (Alternate Version)
10 Frozing The Scientist
11 Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die (With Harps)
12 Susanne And Kelly
13 Guaracha (Version 1)
14 Guaracha (Version 2)
15 Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die (Finale)

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Project: Kill (1976)

Director: William Girdler
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Gary Lockwood, Nancy Kwan, Vic Silayan, Vic Diaz, Galen Thompson, Maurice Downs)
Music: Robert O. Ragland
Song: ‘The Lonely World’ performed by Pilita Corrales

On numerous occasions I have said that I watch all the crap films, so you guys don’t have to. Well get out a big black texta colour and cross Project: Kill off your list. It is absolutely dreadful. Project: Kill is one of a myriad of craps film that Leslie Nielsen made before he found an audience as a comedic actor. Here he stars as John Trevor who works for a covert intelligence group, much like the C.I.A. He used to be one of their best field agents, but now he works as a trainer. The films begins with a group of new recruits watching a training film presented by Trevor. The footage shows an assassination attempt being foiled by an ‘interdiction’ agent. When I heard this in the film, I didn’t know what ‘interdiction’ meant, so I looked it up in the dictionary. The word seems to have a few meanings, but the one that made the most sense to me was : authoritative prohibition. So I’d guess, relating it to the training film, an interdiction agent has the power and authority to stop an assassination attempt. Let’s move on shall we?

Trevor goes on to state:

’The only effective method of combating political assassination – by the interception and destruction of the assassin himself.’

So the so-called ‘authoritive prohibition’ actually means ‘killing’. These agents are killers. You could say, theses agents have ‘Permission To Kill’ (sorry about that!) Next Trevor goes on to explain how these new recruits will become highly trained killing machines. He says:

”YOU will be given vitamins to increase your stamina – chemical injections to expand your mental capabilities – injections to assist you in both physical and mental control. You’ll be programmed to respond instantaneously to any hidden stimulus. YOU will become a reflex – a highly directed unit of force. YOU will be taught how to use everyday objects as weapons – everything from a toe nail clipping to a briefcase…”

I don’t know about you, but if these guys were being trained to protect me, I’d hope they were armed with more than a nail clipping!

After the briefing Trevor and his number two man, Frank Lassiter (Gary Lockwood) head into an office. Trevor has a headache. He has had enough of the drugs, and enough of the mind control. He wants to quit. He expresses this to Lassiter. Lassiter responds by picking up the phone and ordering a medical detail to come and assess Trevor. Trevor doesn’t want to be assessed – he want’s out! So he clocks Lassiter over the head while his back is turned, and then breaks out of the facility and goes on the lam.

When we next meet Trevor, he has arrived in Manilla in the Philippines. This provides an opportunity for some piss-poor travelogue footage. Next, he makes his way to a villa owned by to friends from the old days. One of the men is Wagner (Galen Thompson); the other is Hook (Maurice Downs). Both men used to work for the ‘agency’, but Wagner lost his legs in an operation. Wagner and Hook provide shelter for the night, and provide money and transport for Trevor to move on.

Meanwhile, a rival oriental agency, headed by Alok Lee (Vic Diaz) know that Trevor is in the Philippines. As Trevor has been a part of the program for so long, they figure he is carrying a lot of valuable information around inside of his head. Lee orders his henchmen to capture Trevor alive. Complicating matters further, the agency that Trevor worked for has sent Frank Lassiter to also bring him in before the headaches and other withdrawal symptoms cause him to become too violent. The film does have it’s violent moments courtesy of some poorly choreography martial arts sequences. These scenes are accompanied by equally poor sound effects.

These days, it is hard to take Nielsen seriously, even when watching an older film before his comedy turns. As a comedian, his delivery is usually dry and straight faced. So when he gets lumbered with some ridiculous dialogue, like in Project: Kill it is almost instinctive to think that this is a joke. But it isn’t – mores the pity.

The music by Robert O. Ragland is, in places, overly melodramatic, but generally it is better than this production deserves. The song, ‘The Lonely World’ is a pretty forgettable lounge number with flute accompaniment.

It’s a shame this film is such a stinker, because there may be a good idea hiding under all the crap. When you think about the plot, of chemically controlled assassins, who work for covert agencies controlled by the government, it’s hard not to compare it to the recent film The Bourne Ultimatum. Obviously The Bourne Ultimatum was good, whereas this is crap, but there is an interesting seed at the centre of this film. But one good idea, does not make a good film. You can safely skip over Project: Kill.

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The Avengers: Lobster Quadrille (1964)

Directed by Kim Mills
Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman, Burt Kwouk, Jennie Linden, Leslie Sands, Gary Watson, Corin Redgrave, Norman Scace
Music by Johnny Danworth

Lobster Quadrille is one of the most popular episodes of The Avengers for a couple of reasons. The first is that is the episode where we bid a fond farewell to the character Cathy Gale. The second reason is that Honor Blackman, who played Gale, left the show to film the James Bond film Goldfinger with Sean Connery. To reflect this, at the end of the episode, their are a few subtle in-jokes, which suggest she will go ‘pussy’-footing around on the sun soaked shores of the Bahamas. For those who don’t ‘get it’, the character that Blackman played in Goldfinger was Pussy Galore. So this episode is really one for the hard-core fans. Not that the story is inaccessible to ‘regular’ people. Far from it, it is simply the bigger fan that you are, the more you’d get from this episode.

The episode starts with a man waiting in a fishing shack. At his feet is a dead man. The body is John Williams. He was an agent for the Ministry, who operated out of France. Recently he had been working on breaking a narcotics smuggling ring, but his investigative days are over. A second man, named Bush (Gary Watson) enters the fishing hut. The first guy explains what happened, then smashes a kerosene lamp. The two men leave as the hut goes up in flames.
Two of the Ministries top agents are assigned to find out what happened. Enter John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman). Their first port of call is the morgue. Among Williams personal effects, Cathy finds a very rare and valuable chess piece. She decides to follow that lead and find out more about chess. But Steed heads to the scene of the crime.

At the hut, he meets the pathologist, Dr Stannage (Norman Scace). He has ascertained that Williams was shot and is now looking for the bullet. He doesn’t find it and moves on. This leaves Steed to his own devices. He starts poking around the hut, examining some charred pots of lobsters, when he is interrupted by Bush. Bush enquires as to Steed’s purpose at the hut. Steed says he is working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and is looking into the case. Steed also arranges a time to interview Bush in more formal surroundings, along with his boss, Captain Slim. Slim runs a fishing fleet that specialises in catching lobster, which it then sends all over the world.

Meanwhile, Cathy arrives at the aptly named ‘The Chess Shop’, an establishment run by an oriental gentleman called Mason (Burt Kwouk). Cathy asks about acquiring a chess set in the same style as the piece she has acquired from Williams. Mason doesn’t have one in stock, but says to call back in a few days.

Steed interviews Captain Slim and Bush, and both men assure him that they had never met Williams before and had no idea how a fire could have started in one of the fishing huts. Soon after, as the interview winds up, the Captain’s daughter in law, Katie Miles (Jennie Linden) arrives at the house. She was married to the Captain’s son, who tragically died in a boating accident a year ago. Now she works as an entertainer at a nightclub in London. Naturally Steed takes a shine to her, and arranges to meet her after work.

I won’t outline any more of the plot, because the astute among you will have already pieced together this puzzle. It is exactly as you’d expect.

Lobster Quadrille features chess motifs throughout the show. Black and white chequered floors abound, whether it be in the morgue, Steeds apartment or in Katie’s nightclub. Equally, on the walls, there are images of knights, kings and queens. It’s the kind of surreal environment that would become a feature of The Avengers in future episodes, and would dominate the shows with Cathy Gales successor, Emma Peel.

Lobster Quadrille, like all the earlier episodes, doesn’t have the polish of the Emma Peel or Tara King era episodes, but it still is a good example of the show. These days, because Diana Rigg was so popular and successful as Emma Peel, she sort of overshadows Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale. But let’s not forget, in her time Cathy Gale was quite groundbreaking for a female lead in a television show. She wasn’t simply an appendage to Steed. She was an equal. In this particular episode, in fact Steed fails to rescue her. But that doesn’t matter, because Cathy is smart, tough and resourceful, and can get out of any trouble that she gets into.

Lobster Quadrille is one of the core episodes of The Avengers. If you are a fan of The Avengers and haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to track it down. If, on the other hand, you’re just a casual observer who likes the colourful costumes and offbeat stories, well then, I suggest that you skip forward to the episodes from 1967. That’s the year when The Avengers went ‘colour’ and by this time the formulation of outlandish plots had been honed to perfection.

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Return Of The Saint: The Debt Collectors (1978)

Directed by Les Norman
Ian Ogilvy, Anton Rodgers, Mary Tamm, Geoffry Keen, Diane Keen

As with The Saint television series it can be argued that Simon Templar isn’t a secret agent. That’s true, but even more so than it’s predecessor, The Return Of The Saint’ has many espionage episodes.

The blurbs from several episodes on the Umbrella DVD release read like this:

The Judas Game
British Intelligence send THE SAINT to rescue Selma Morell who has been kidnapped by the Albanian Secret Police…

One Black September
THE SAINT teams with a lovely Israeli agent to track down a defecting top member of the Black September terrorist movement….

Murder Cartel
An assassination attempt on a powerful oil sheik precipitates THE SAINT’s undercover work for the CIA.

You get the idea. By the mid seventies, international globe trotting wasn’t enough for The Saint. He had become more than a loveable rogue. He was a tool. Sometimes even a killer. With television shows like The Sweeney in England, and The Six Million Dollar Man in America, the Saint couldn’t remain an overgrown boy scout. The producers had the choice of toughening up The Saint, by showing his more criminal activities, or exaggerating his good deeds. The chose the latter. Ian Ogilvy was the man who replaced Roger Moore and the man who toughened up The Saint’s image.

For me, The Debt Collectors is one of the highlights of the Return Of The Saint series. It has all the elements we expect in a Saint story plus it has a few very interesting additions, which to a spy enthusiast give it an extra dimension.

The episode starts with Simon Templar (Ian Ogilvy) going for a leisurely horse ride. Another rider, Gerri Hanson (Mary Tamm) loses control of her horse and it gallops away. Naturally, Templar rides to the rescue, and reaching across at full gallop brings the horse under control. Afterwards he drives Gerri home. Inside, waiting for her is her blind father, Paul Hanson (Esmond Knight). He is impatiently waiting for the mail, because he is expecting a letter from his other daughter, Christine, who is studying in the USA. Here, Simon witnesses a strange event. Gerri picks up a bill from the pile of letters and reads it, improvised, as if it were a letter from her sister.

It seems that Gerri has been protecting her father from the truth. Christine isn’t in the USA. In fact she is in prison. She was sent there five years ago after being caught red handed passing on military secrets. Gerri, reading the fictitious letter says that Christine will be returning to the UK soon. In fact, this is because she is eligible for parole. She is due to be released on the next day.

But as with only twenty four hours till her release, Christine does the unthinkable – she breaks out of prison. Waiting on the other side of the wall is her boyfriend. He is an American racing car driver and just the man to spirit Christine away, before the authorities cordon off the area.

Meanwhile, The Saint himself is attracting a bit of unwanted attention. Two thugs who have been following Gerri, turn up on Templar’s doorstep. At gunpoint, they attempt to warn him against seeing Gerri anymore. Of course, the thugs threats do not dissuade Templar. The next time he sees Gerri, she engages him to help her find Christine.

There are two reasons why I particularly like this particular episode of The Return Of The Saint. The first is the plot. Sure, it starts out as another ‘knight in shining armour’ episode, with Templar coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress. But from these beginnings it moves quickly into ‘spy’ territory. The story revolves around a mole in M.I.5 who has been selling secrets, and many of the seemingly innocent events that occur, are in fact ploys to force the traitor to reveal himself.

The second reason why I like The Debt Collectors is that it stars Geoffrey Keen as Sir Charles Meadley, the head of M.I.5. Bond fans will recognise Keen as the character Frederick Gray (Minister Of Defense) from The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights. But it is not seeing a familiar face that makes it intriguing; it’s the dialogue between Sir Charles and Templar that give the story that extra punch. At the end of the episode, Sir Charles asks Templar to join M.I.5. Yep, The Saint is asked to become a professional spy. Needless to say, he turns down the offer. The Saint gives his reasons why he doesn’t want the job (I won’t reveal them here), but it is an interesting insight into Templar’s character and how he is different from the spies of the world.

The Debt Collectors is a good example of why I keep posting reviews of the adventures of Simon Templar; gentleman, Thief, Soldier Of Fortune. He may not be a spy himself (well, he had the chance), but his adventures certainly bring him into contact with some shady characters from the espionage community.

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Agente Speciale LK (1967)

Bruno Nicolai
1999, Dagored CD Re-issue

Agente Speciale LK, or Lucky The Inscrutable as I call it, is a strange little film that was directed by Jess Franco, and released in 1967. Just mentioning Franco’s name either conjures up fear or perverse delight. But generally, Franco’s films, despite what you may think of their content, usually had pretty good soundtracks. This one is composed by Bruno Nicolai.

The film itself is a weird hybrid of comic book and spy movies. It stars Ray Danton as ‘Lucky The Inscrutable’, a super hero – spy who wears superman style costume with a large ‘L’ on his chest. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the soundtrack is light hearted and pop oriented – albeit sixties Italian pop, rather than cool spy jazz. It includes some sixties choral singing – Light ‘Bub-adubba-das’ lilt over the top during action sequences – and deep ‘Bum, Bums’ resonate in the title song. The style is more like Hugo Montenegro (Matt Helm phase) than Nicolai’s sometimes partner, Ennio Morricone.

I must admit when I saw the film, I didn’t think the music was that bad at all (hence, why I bought the album), but as a listening experience on it’s own without visuals, I was fairly disappointed. It is quite cheesy in places. But it does take the smorgasbord approach. Unlike some soundtracks which keep repeating the same theme over and over again, here each track is very different. If you don’t like one, you may like the next.

The standout track for me, is ‘Lopagan Island’ which is a jaunty calypso style number with Edda Dell’Orso’s soprano voice warbling over the top. The CD is almost worth it, for this track alone (only it is too short). Who is Edda Dell’Orso I hear you ask? Thanks to her collaborations with Ennio Morricone, on the soundtracks to Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, she is often referred to as ‘The Voice Of Italian Cinema’. You might not know her name, but anyone who has listened to The Good, the Bad & The Ugly or Once Upon A Time In The West soundtracks, will recognise her voice.

The tracks are:
1. Lucky Theme Song
2. Carnival Fanfare & Party
3. Group Therapy
4. Lucky & Cleopatra/Circus Fight
5. Secret Reunion “Lucky Theme”
6. Lucky In Rome
7. Lovely, But Dangerous
8. Spy Chase
9. Parachute Down/Mission Danger/Patrol Pursuit
10. Funny Trains
11. Lucky & Yaka Love Theme
12. Escape & Last Goodbye
13. Lopagan Island
14. Bossa For Lucky/Showgirl Dance
15. Lucky Tango/Lucky & Madame Linda
16. L.K. Shake
17. Gold Glasses/Escape From The Base/Death Of Goldglasses
18. End Titles Lucky Theme Song
19. The Lucky Suite

As each track is so different it is hard to classify or compare this album to something else. On the whole, I find it a bit abrasive. It isn’t smooth ‘lounge music’. If you are a fan of Eurospy soundtracks (and you’ve got spare cash to throw away) if you see it, buy it. It’s worth a listen, and I am sure one of the tracks will grab your attention, but I wouldn’t spend hours searching the net for a seller.

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Mata Hari (1931)

Director: George Fitzmaurice
Starring: Greta Garbo, Ramon Navarro, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, C. Henry Gordon, Karen Morley

“In 1917, war-ridden France
Dealt summarily with
Traitors and spies”

I am far from an expert when it comes to the film Mata Hari. Sure, when reviewing a film, I try to do a little bit of research, but generally when watching a mainstream film, I presume that I am watching a full-length, uncut version. After all, what kind of shocks could a film from 1931 hold for modern audiences? Not too many, but when the film was re-released in 1938/39, some scenes were cut out to satisfy the Hays Code. And unfortunately, these scenes have never been reinstated. So the current DVD version of Mata Hari is cut. But who knows, the complete version may turn up one day?

But here’s a quick overview of the current DVD version: In a field three traitors a tied to stakes. A firing squad shoots the first traitor, then the second. Before shooting the third, two officials walk up to the young gent tied to the stake. One of the officials, Dubois (C. Henry Gordon) asks the young man about a woman. The man, who is clearly scared, refuses to answer. Dubois says, “It’s Mata Hari isn’t it?” There is still no answer. The officials walk away in disgust, and the traitor is shot.

Overhead, a biplane flies over the killing field to a nearby landing field. The plane is Russian and the pilot is Alexis Rosanoff (Ramon Navarro) of the Russian Imperial Airforce. He is carrying important documents which have to be passed on to the heads of the Russian Embassy in Paris. Waiting to greet Rosanoff is General Shubin (Lionel Barrymore), a high ranking Russian officer stationed in Paris. Shubin takes Rosanoff to the Embassy where he hands over the despatches. The documents he has handed over demand a reply, but the information is in code and will take twelve hours to decipher. So in the meantime. Rosanoff has a few hours to kill in Paris. Shubin invites Rosanoff to dinner, and afterwards to a performance by Mata Hari.

At the show, Mata Hari (Greta Garbo) does a provocative dance in front of a giant statue of Shiva. Apparently this is one of the sequences that was cut. It appears that Garbo’s dance was a little too steamy. At the end of the performance the crowd goes wild. Especially Rosanoff, who after witnessing one performance is completely infatuated with Mata Hari.

But Rosanoff isn’t the only one infatuated with Mata Hari. General Shubin meets her back stage. He wants a relationship (or a least a quick leg-over) with Mata Hari. But she is not interested at this time. She is more enamoured with the other younger men who throw themselves at her. But Shubin knows a few ‘dirty secrets’ about Mata Hari, and threatens to reveal them all. She calls his bluff. Shubin backs down and leaves with his desires un-satiated.

Afterwards, Mata Hari and an entourage of young men make then way to a gambling den called The Pavillion. The Pavillion is actually a front for the German spymaster Andriani (Lewis Stone), and Mata Hari is one of his agents. Mata Hari and Andriani meet in a back room. Her next mission is to find out about the papers that were flown in from Russia earlier in the day. To acquire the information she is sent to seduce Shubin once again. But there may be a another way to get the information. Rosanoff has followed Mata Hari to the casino, and offers to chauffeur her home. She accepts the offer, and the couple return to her abode.

More recent Mata Hari films have asked the question, was Mata Hari really a German Agent? Or was she a French double-agent? Or was she a courtesan who’s allegiances fluctuated with whoever was paying her the most? In this film there is no conflict. She is definitely a spy for the Germans. The conflict in this film comes from her relationship with Rosanoff. It is her love for him that is her eventual undoing.

Early in the film Andriani kills one of his agents. Her name was Carlotta (Karen Morley), and she worked in a very similar fashion to Mata Hari; seducing the information from men of influence. But she falls in love. As Andriani has her killed, he says to Mata Hari, ”A spy in love is a tool that has lost it’s usefulness.” It’s a lesson that Mata Hari should have heeded.

This film makes virtually no attempt to tell the truth about Mata Hari’s life. The only things that are true are: she called herself Mata Hari, she danced, she fell in love with a Russian pilot, and was shot as a traitor. Apart from that, all the characters and situations have been made up.

But if you look at this film as entertainment, and not as a history lesson, then I guess it isn’t to bad. The last twenty minutes or so are a bit long and overly melodramatic, but that was the style at the time. Despite this film’s flaws it is worth noting that much of the myth and notoriety surrounding Mata Hari was created by the success of this motion picture, rather than any factual retelling of the Mata Hari story.

The acting is a film of this era isn’t really worth talking about too much. It was made long before ‘method acting’ so nobody really inhabits their character. In some of the scenes it is almost like watching a bad soap opera. Ramon Navarro is particularly guilty of over-acting. Garbo, on the other hand doesn’t have to act until the end of the film. Generally her lurid costumes do the talking for her.

Time has caught up with this film a bit, but if you are a hard core fan of spy movies, you must see this film (at least once). The Mata Hari legend begins here.

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The Man With One Red Shoe (1985)

Director: Stan Dragotti
Starring: Tom Hanks, Lori Singer, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Carrie Fisher, James Belushi, Edward Herrmann
Original Music: Michael Masser (love theme) Thomas Newman
Non-Original Music: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (from “Scheherazade”)
Based on the French film ‘Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire’ (The Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe).

The Man With One Red Shoe is a comedy spy film from the 1980’s based on a French film from the 1970’s. It is pleasant enough, but there aren’t any real belly laughs.

The film opens on the docks in Morocco and a CIA agent is having his car lifted onto a boat for transportation to the USA. Secreted in the tyres of the car is a large amount of cocaine. Watching off to the side, as events unfold is Cooper (Dabney Coleman). Cooper is also a CIA agent, but he is not on the same side as the agent on the dock. I guess that doesn’t really make sense – how can they both be in the CIA, but be on different sides? It appears that there are two factions in the CIA. One is under the control of the Director, Ross (Charles Durning), and the other is controlled by Cooper. Cooper wants Ross’ job and will stoop to any means to get it. In Morocco he arranges for the cocaine carrying car to be released from the crane as it is being swung towards the ship. The car falls down onto the dock, and the tyres pop, sending a cloud of cocaine powder into the air.

The mission is a failure and an embarrassment to the United States. Everybody is after Ross’ head. A Senate enquiry is set up to hear the evidence against Ross.

Ross knows it is Cooper who has set him up and plans to retaliate. But rather than stoop to dirty tricks, he knows Cooper has his home bugged and will act on any information he overhears. Ross tells his aide, Brown (Edward Hermann) that a special witness is flying in to Washington to testify at the Senate hearing. This is a load of bunk, of course. But Cooper doesn’t know that and sends a team of operatives to the airport to await the arrival of the mysterious ‘secret witness’.

At Ross’ behest, Brown goes to the airport. He has to select a person at random to be the ‘special witness’. It doesn’t matter who, just as long as Cooper believes. Brown chooses Richard Drew (Tom Hanks), simply because he is wearing odd shoes. One of them happens to be red. It so happens that one of Drew’s friends, Morris (James Belushi) has played a practical joke on him and stolen the opposing pairs of two sets of shoes, leaving Drew with only the odd couple.

Brown approaches Drew and briefly talks to him. Nothing special, but enough for Cooper’s agents who are watching to suspect that Drew is the witness. Cooper’s men then instigate a vigorous and compressive surveillance regime. Every movement, Drew makes is analysed. In fact, Drew is a talented violin player, who travels around the world with a symphony orchestra. His globe trotting, in the eyes of the espionage fraternity, only makes him seem more suspicious.

Cooper’s number one agent is Maddy (Lori Singer). Maddy, apart from being a competent field operative is Cooper’s ‘honey pot trap’. She is sent to seduce Drew and find out all his secrets. It is interesting to notice the differences between the French and American film in their attitudes towards sex and spying. Here’s a snippet of a syndicated article that appeared in The Video Age, June, 1986. In it, Richard Harrington talks to Pete Emmett, the publicist from The Man With One Red Shoe.

Red Shoe follows the basic spy jinks of Black Shoe in having a gorgeous femme fatale (Lori Singer) dog the hero. “The character is a female CIA agent in the French film also,” say Pete Emmett, the film’s publicist. The bad guys, led by Dabney Coleman, “tell her to go to bed with (Hanks) to get information and she does. French audiences expect that. American audience demand that she fall in love with him first. It’s a love story now, where there was none of that in the original.”

I must admit, reading that quote makes me cringe. It is a spy film after all, and we expect a bit of naughtiness. We knew that James Bond didn’t love Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, and I doubt that Matt Helm wanted to sincerely get to know The Slaygirls either. But here, the writers and producers felt that audiences couldn’t handle a relationship, where intimacy was just ‘part of the job’.

Other supporting cast members include James Belushi as Morris, and Carrie Fisher as Paula. They play a married couple, who are also fellow musicians in the orchestra with Drew. But to complicate things, Paula has had an extra marital affair with Drew, and now Morris is starting to get suspicious.

I really wanted to like The Man With One Red Shoe, but it just isn’t that funny. Maybe it’s a translation thing. The original French humour may not have translated well. Or maybe it was just a sense of timing. The original The Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe was made in the early 70’s. By the mid 80’s, audiences were used to more throw away one-line gags, by the likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase. Whatever the reason, The Man With One Red Shoe fails as a comedy, and as a spy films there’s not much here that we haven’t seen before. But having said that, Tom Hanks is a very personable actor with a large fan base, and those fans may find this a pleasant way to pass 104 minutes.

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Where Rodents Dare (1996)

Directed by Greg Reyna & Dave Marshall
Voice actors: Maurice La Marche, Rob Paulsen

Forget Blofeld, Dr Evil or Fu Manchu; when it comes to evil geniuses who plan to take over the world, the is only one true master – he is the Brain. The Brain is a laboratory mouse, who through ghastly experimentation has developed phenomenal intelligence. By day, he is trapped in his cage in the laboratory, with Pinky, a dimwitted rodent. Each night, this pair escape from their cage and attempt to take over the world.

Where Rodents Dare is one of the episodes from the Pinky And The Brain television series, and as no doubt you’ve guessed from the title, it is a pastiche of Where Eagles Dare.

The episode opens with the janitor coming to the ACME laboratories to clean the rodent’s cages. But waiting for him are Pinky and the Brain. Pinky is holding a test tube over his shoulder like a bazooka. Inside the test tube, Brain has concocted a freezing agent that he calls his ‘catalytic immobiliser’. It freezes it’s victim for 24 hours. As the janitor opens the door to the cage, Pinky ‘fires’ the test tube. The janitor is frozen and Pinky and the Brain escape.

Brain’s plan for world domination on this evening involves a summit of World Leaders who are meeting in a chalet, called Schloss Dunkershein, on top of the Swiss Alps. Brain reasons that whoever controls the summit, controls the world. And he intends to do this, by freezing the world leaders, just as he did the janitor.

By hiding in a parcel being posted to Switzerland, Pinky and the Brain move via delivery van and aeroplane to Switzerland. Like Where Eagles Dare, the soundtrack features military style snare drums on the soundtrack. But in Where Rodents Dare it is revealed that Pinky is in fact playing the drums as the action unfurls, much to the chagrin of Brain – ’…please stop that or I shall be forced to hurt you.’

Pinky and the Brain parachute from the mail delivery plane, down to their target. Upon landing, they slide off the ice covered roof, into a drain pipe, and ultimately off the mountain. Now Pinky and the Brain have to make their way back up to the summit again. This time they ride up on cable car. This doesn’t go to plan either, and our rodent heroes end up caught up in the cogs and thrown down to the bottom of the mountain again.

Next, they decide to scale the mountain in the style of The Guns Of Navarone. This isn’t without incident, but eventually the furry white duo make it to the top, and into the meeting room with the world leaders. In the room are the Queen, Mikail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, Bill Clinton, Yassah Arrafat and a myriad of other world leaders. Pinky attempts to fire Brain’s ‘catalytic immobiliser’, but as always, the plan goes wrong.

Of course, Pinky And The Brain is aimed at kids, but like the best animated shows, there is another layer that adults can enjoy. The whole Pinky And The Brain series is littered with film injokes (especially from the Warner Bros. back catalogue). While the injokes will go over most children’s heads, any adult with evern a cursory knowledge of film history will get the references to Where Eagles Dare or The Guns Of Navarone, or in other episodes Godzilla or even Da Boot. But regardless, if you are a film boffin or not, there is a lot to enjoy in Pinky And The Brain.

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Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Director: Brian G. Hutton
Starring: Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mary Ure, Ingrid Pitt, Derren Nesbitt, Patrick Wymark, Michael Hordern, Anton Differing, Robert Beatty, Donald Houston, Peter Barkworth, William Squire, Neil McCarthy, Brook Williams
Music: Ron Goodwin
Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean

It is often a fine line between some war films and some spy films, but generally the nature of the mission helps to separate the films into their correct categories. There is no mistaking that Saving Private Ryan is a war film. Whereas Where Eagles Dare, I believe is a spy film. At no time are the characters referred to as ‘soldiers’ – they are always referred to as ‘agents’. Also they are dressed in enemy uniform which makes them spies. So Where Eagles Dare is one of the great spy films. It is also one of the great ‘Boys Own Adventures’.

Sure, if you analyse the story carefully, you’ll realise that it is biggest load of nonsense ever contrived. But it was never meant to be art. It was meant to provide thrill-a-minute action, and a plot full of twists and turns. And on that level, Where Eagles Dare succeeds admirably.

The film opens with a German warplane flying over the Austrian Alps. Although it looks German, it is English and it is transporting seven men on a dangerous mission. As the plane moves towards it’s destination, the film flashes back to the mission briefing. They are told that an American General, Carnaby (Robert Beatty), who was travelling by plane to meet his opposite number in Russia, has been shot down. He has been captured and taken to a Nazi fortress called the Schloss Adler in Bavaria. Carnaby holds the key to the Allieds next major offensive and time is of the essence. They must rescue him, before the German’s get any information out of him. The mission is to parachute in, infiltrate the Nazi fortress, rescue the General and get out. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Some of the men on the mission are Major Smith (Richard Burton). He is the leader of the group. Next on board is Lieutenant Schaffer (Clint Eastwood). Schaffer is a walking arsenal. Then there’s Capt. James Christiansen (Donald Houston), Edward Berkeley (Peter Barkworth), Capt. Philip Thomas (William Squire), Sgt. Harrod (Brook Williams), and Sgt. Jock MacPherson (Neil McCarthy), who are all M.I.5 operatives.

After the briefing the film cuts back to the mission at hand, and the men parachute out of the plane and into the snow. There’s no point outlining too much of the plot as it would take as long as Alistair MacLean’s novel, on which the film is based. But there are double crosses, triple crosses, and convoluted twists and turns throughout, that will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat..

You cannot talk about Where Eagles Dare without mentioning the cable car sequence. Two German spies are trying to make their escape down the mountain in a cable car when Smith attempts to stop them by leaping onto the roof of the car as it starts down. On the roof top, he attempts to plant a bomb, but the two spies inside the car, crawl out the windows and onto the roof. It’s a staggeringly suspenseful and well staged action scene, and one that was almost replicated in the James Bond film Moonraker, made eleven years later.

Hardly any of the characters in Where Eagles Dare are who or what they seem and certainly cannot be trusted – with the exception of good old Lt. Schaffer. Eastwood as Schaffer is pretty wooden, but it doesn’t really detract from the film. Eastwood’s acting is really limited to blowing things up or shooting people. It doesn’t require much emoting.

The real star of the movie is Richard Burton as Major Smith, the mission leader. Smith is the only character who really knows what the hell is going on. Even though it’s an action film, Burton still gives a commanding performance. His voice is so authorative, and in places threatening, it’s easy to believe the contrivances the script forces upon his character.

The film also feature’s a couple of beauties. After all this film was made in the sixties, and even a war film still has to adhere to the swinging sixties ethos. Mary Ure stars as Mary Elison, another spy who is working with Smith. And Ingrid Pitt has a small role as the buxom bar wench, Heidi.

Also worth mentioning is Derren Nesbitt as Major Von Harpen. He is the Gestapo Officer at Schloss Adler, and although Nesbitt’s role is fairly small, his presence and threatening persona dominate the middle of the film.

The music by Ron Goodwin is exceptional. It is deliberately melodramatic, and follows the plot twists well. It also makes great use of staccato – almost machine gun style – military drums.

Where Eagles Dare is one of the best films of it’s kind, and despite it’s age, it holds up incredibly well today. Highly recommended.

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Les Patterson Saves The World (1987)

Country: Australia
Director: George Miller
Starring: Barry Humphries, Pamela Stephenson, Thaao Penghlis, Andrew Clarke, Henri Szeps, Joan Rivers, Graham Kennedy, John Clarke, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Garth Meade, Paul Jennings
Music: Tim Finn

Let’s get this straight, Les Patteron Saves The World is not a good film. But it moves at a fair clip, so you wont have time to be bored with it, if you have the courage to watch it. The film is a comedy and the jokes fly thick and fast, but most miss their targets by a long shot. Most of the joke setups are rather transparent too. For example Henri Szeps character is Dr, Charles Herpes. Now you know that somewhere in the picture, somebody is going to say “I want Herpes”, or “What was his name? It’s on the tip of my tongue!” Yep, they’re both included, but it takes a while for the payoff. You know it’s coming, but when?

If you have never encountered Sir Les Patterson before, well he’s a sight to behold. The one time, Australian Minster for the Yarts, is a lecherous, drunken, chainsmoking, unkempt slob. His complexion is ruddy, his teeth are yellow, and his hair is wild. In Les Patterson Saves The World, Les has received a promotion. He is now Australia’s ambassador to the United Nations.

The film opens in New York. A limousine, sporting a boxing kangaroo flag, weaves it’s way through the traffic. In the back seat is Sir Les Patterson (Barry Humphries). He is on his way to the U.N. Building to deliver a speech, but on route he stops off at a restaurant for some nosh, with a couple of dolly birds. After his liquid lunch, Les pays with his credit card. Printed on the card is: ‘Bill to: The Australian Taxpayer’. Another insight into the type of the humour in this film is the card number: RU4 692 – yep, we’re talkin’ low brow all the way.

Already plastered, Les stops at his office to pick up his speech, but rather than study it, he ducks into the men’s room and into a cubicle where he has hidden a bottle of vodka in the cistern. Les downs a sizeable amount and replaces the bottle. His staff aren’t too impressed with the shambolic mess that stands before them, and make a futile attempt to sober him up before his speech. They attempt this by shoveling some food into him. Unfortunately the only food on hand is a couple of tins of ‘baked beans’. Now, dear reader, you know where this is going don’t you? Okay, I’ll spell out a little more.

At the United Nation building, with his suit covered in baked bean stains, Les addresses the assembly. During his speech, he burps, farts and scratches his nuts. After describing Australia as having ‘more culture than a penicillin factory’, he drops his notes. He bends over to pick them up. Seated behind Les, another delegate attempts to light a cigarette with his lighter. Les lets fly with an enormous fart which is ignited by the flame from the lighter. A giant wall of flame shoots back for three rows. Mustafa Toul (Garth Meade), the president of Abu Niviah, a fictitious Middle Eastern country, in his jellaba, is engulfed in the flames. Mustafa Toul is a human torch, and Les is in deep trouble.

Not surprisingly, Les is called back to Australia. His meeting with the Prime Minister doesn’t go well. It looks as if Les is out of a job, when the President of the United States (Joan Rivers) calls on the phone. It looks like an international crisis can be diverted if Les is sent to Abu Niviah as an Ambassor. So Les is given a promotion and packed off to the middle East.

Naturally this is just an opportunity for Mustafa Toul to extract his vengeance. He has a few things planned for Les, including scorpions on the testicles, and covering him in dung beetles. But before Mustafa Toul can carry out his evil plan, he is overthrown by Colonel Richard Godowni (Thaao Panghlis). With a new leader in Abu Niviah, Les is once again in the good books and the world is at peace again.

But all is not as it seems. Godowni is in league with the Russians, and intends to infect the Western world with a deadly, plague like virus called H.E.L.P. Once contracted, this virus instantly makes your face bubble, and green pus filled blisters appear. Godowni’s plan is to infect the U.S. with the virus sprayed onto a shipment of toilet seats.

Barry Humphries most popular character is Dame Edna Everage, and she pops up in this film too, as Agent Wisteria One. In the second half of this film, she gets as much screen time as Les, and it could be argued, that despite this film’s title, it is in fact Dame Edna who saves the world, not Les. As a cover, Dame Edna is leading the ‘Possums of Peace’, a Greenpeace style organisation, populated exclusively by Australian housewives, on a world tour.

The cast is interesting, but most are wasted, particularly Pamela Stephenson. Graham Kennedy, John Clarke, and Joan Rivers roles are little more than cameo appearances. Andrew Clarke, who appeared as The Saint, in The Saint In Manhattan plays Neville Thonge, Les’ assistant in the Middle East. He shares a bizarre Village People style scene in a hotel room with Hugh Keays-Byrne. Keays-Byrne is most famous for his role as ‘The Toecutter’ in the original Mad Max. Speaking of Mad Max, George Miller who directed this film is not the one who directed Mad Max and Babe, but the one who directed The Man From Snowy River and The Last Outlaw.

Les Patterson Saves The World is hard to categorise as a film. Sure it’s a comedy, but there are so many styles of comedy on display, from slapstick to gross out toilet humour, and many more in between. It has to be considered a failure, and the rumours are that it was pulled from distribution in the U.S. After just a few days. I don’t think it is quite that bad, and I’d suggest fans of Barry Humphries work, may even get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it. But for most people, ‘Beware’.

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