Fantomas Strikes Back Trailer

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Fantomas Strikes Back (1966)

Country: France / Italy
Director: Andre Hunebelle
Starring: Jean Marais, Louis De Funes, Mylene Demongeot, Jacques Dynam, Christian Toma, Michel Duplaix
Music: Michel Magne

The man with the blue head is back! Fantomas Strikes Back is the second film in Andre Hunebelle’s 1960′s revival of the Fantomas character. The film is more comedic than it’s predessesor, and Louis De Funes pulls out all the stops as he mugs his way through the film. If you don’t enjoy De Funes prat falls then you won’t enjoy this film at all. The film opens with an animated sequence which recounts the events in the first Fantomas movie. For those that don’t remember, Fantomas escaped in a submarine. This film opens with an award ceremony. Inspector Juve (Louis De Funes) is presented with the ‘Knight Of The Legion Of Honour’. The award is in recognition of how he thwarted arch criminal, Fantomas, a year ago. Juve makes a speech suggesting that Fantomsa is gone forever. Almost on cue, Juve then receives a telegram. It is from Fantoms congratulating him on his award – and on the flip side, another message says ‘See you soon!’

But there are reasons why Fantomas (Jean Marais) didn’t attend the ceremony personally. He had other affairs to attend to. These involve Professor Marchand who is working on a telepathic ray at a scientific research centre. Fantomas breaks into the centre and kidnaps the Professor.

Newspaper journalist, Fandor (Jean Marais) reports that the kidnapping is the work of Fantomas. As Fantomas hasn’t been seen in over a year, nobody believes him. Juve believes that Fandor is trying to humiliate him after receiving the award. On a current affairs television program, Juve refutes Fandor’s claims. But during the report, Fantomas cuts in with a pirate TV broadcast. He admits to kidnapping Professor Marchand and with the Professor’s help he has perfected a ghastly new weapon with which he plans to hold the world to ransom.

When the television returns to it’s normal broadcast, it shows Juve and his interviewer bound and gagged in their seats. After the televised humiliation, Juve adopts new methods to catch Fantomas. Taking a leaf from the James Bond textbook, Juve starts utilising a string of silly gadgets.

One of Professor Marchand’s colleagues, Professor Lefevre (also Jean Marais) holds a press conference to explain the experiments that he and Marchand had been working on. It is a hypnotic, telepathic ray, which could control thoughts and send orders remotely. Lefevre suggests the Marchand and Fantomas cannot finish the ray without the work that he has been completing. Lefevre foolishly thinks that this means that Fantomas’ threat is hollow, but when in reality he has just set himself as a target.

But Fandor has an idea. He prepares a disguise to make himself look like Professor Levre. That way, when Fantomas makes an attempt to kidnap Lefevre, he will in fact kidanp the wrong man.

Lefevre is scheduled to attend a scientific conference in Rome and Fandor takes his place on board the train. Juve also believes that Fantomas will attempt to kidnap the Professor, so he also boards the train wearing a silly disguise. But Juve is unaware of Fandor’s plan and the two men continually but heads as the story unfolds.

Gadgets abound in this film, with false arms and legs, and cigars that fire bullets. The piece-de-resistance is Fantomas’ car plane idea would be recycled in the James Bond film, The Man With The Golden Gun, made nine years later. This isn’t the only sequence that recalls a scene in a future Bond film. The climax of the film features a parachute-less free fall from an aircraft. This sequence is re-used in the pre-title sequence in Moonraker. It seems ironic, that a film that is in itself has become a gentle parody of the Bond films, would in turn inspire sequences in the film series it was immitating.

Jean Marais’ performance is somewhat muted in this film, by the multiple characters he has to play. He may have equal screen time as De Funes, but it seems like so much less, because one minute he is Fandor, the next he is Fantomas, and then he is Lefevre (or Fandor pretending to be Lefevre).

Fantomas Strikes Back is a very entertaining film, but the Fantomas character is not as menacing as the first film in the trilogy. Although Fantomas threatens Fandor, Juve and Helene (Fandor’s love interest), you sort of get the feeling that he actually likes them.

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Terror Of The Tongs (1961)

AKA: The Terror Of The Hatchet Men
Director: Anthony Bushell
Starring: Geoffrey Toone, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Monlaur, Brian Worth, Richard Leech, Marne Maitland, Barbara Brown, Marie Burke, Burt Kwouk, Roger Delgado, Milton Reid, Bandana Das Gupta
Music: James Bernard

Burt Kwouk must be one of the most successful jobbing actors of the last half century. Since the late 1950’s, whenever a British film production or television show needed an oriental character, Burt Kwouk was the go-to man. Very often he would re-appear in television shows, like The Saint, The Avengers, Danger Man, and Callan as different characters because he was never a household name and nobody knew who he was. The closest he came to fame and recognition is as Cato Fong, Inspector Clouseau’s manservant in the Pink Panther movies. If you look at a list of movies that he has appeared in, you’ll be staggered by the shear amount of productions he has been in. However, being oriental usually meant that Kwouk had to play evil scheming characters. Some people may say that Dr. Fu Manchu was the epitome of Asian menace, or the so called ‘yellow-peril’. I disagree. Fu Manchu was usually played by a Caucasian actor (like Christopher Lee) with eye-pieces applied. Burt Kwouk was the real thing. Having said all that, The Terror Of The Tongs is unusual in that Burt Kwouk plays a good guy.

In the film, Kwouk plays Mr. Ming, an operative for an un-named organisation that is attempting to stamp out the Red Dragon Tong in Hong Kong. The Red Dragon Tong is a secret society that preys on the the people of Hong Kong. They extort money from shopkeepers and run gambling and opium dens, as well as brothels. Mr. Ming is on a steamer captained by Jackson Sale (Geoffrey Toone) as it sails into Hong Kong Harbour. Ming is carrying a list of all the Red Dragon Tong members. With this information he intends to stop the Tong once and for all. But Ming suspects that the Tong will try and stop him, so he secrets the list into the cover of a book of Chinese verse and gives it to Captain Sale as a gift for his daughter. The Captain gratefully accepts the gift.

Once in port, Ming is right. The Tong are waiting for him, and an assassin armed with a hatchet attacks Ming on the dock. Ming shoots his attacker three times but thins doesn’t stop the assassin who delivers a mortal blow to Ming.

The Tong arrange to claim Ming’s body and possessions but are dismayed to find that the list Ming was supposed to be carrying is nowhere to be found. The leader of the Tong, Chung King (Christopher Lee – with eye-pieces applied) surmises that Ming must have passed the list onto one of the officers on the ship, and orders that anyone who comes into contact with the list must be killed.

Captain Sale returns home to his daughter, Helena (Barabara Brown) and his housekeeper Anna (Bandana Das Gupta). Sale gives his daughter the book with the list hidden inside. Anna, the housekeeper is actually Ming’s contact in Hong Kong, and secretly she retrieves the list. But the Tong follow the trail. They start at Sales Steamer, where they find nothing, and then come to Sale’s home. Sale isn’t in the house at that time, but Helena is. The Tong’s, following their orders to kill anyone who comes in contact with the list, do just that. They kill Helena.

After the death of his daughter, Sale goes on a rampage, determined to expose the secret Tong society and find his daughter’s killer.

The Terror Of The Tongs is a Hammer production written by Jimmy Sangster and provides all the action and intrigue you’d expect from a film of this vintage. It is somewhat studio bound, but this allows the film-makers to control the colour and lighting (and it’s cheaper than filming on location in Hong Kong). Put simply, the film looks fabulous (especially the new widescreen transfers available on DVD). But is it a spy film? Well there are hints of espionage, but they are never really fleshed out. We don’t know who the good guys really are. They could be Interpol, maybe even the police – we never know. If it is a spy film, it’s a cusp spy film and not essential viewing for espionage fans.

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The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969)

Director: Jess Franco
Starring: Christopher Lee, Tsai Chin, Maria Perschy, Howard Marion-Crawford, Gunther Stoll, Rosalba Neri, Jose Manuel Martin, Richard Green
Music: Charles Camilleri
Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer

A bit more mayhem from the ‘most evil man on earth’. The Castle Of Fu Manchu is the fifth, final and weakest of the Harry Alan Towers series of Fu Manchu films. Like the previous film, The Blood Of Fu Manchu, this film is directed by the inimatable Jess Franco. Even with Franco’s skewed imput, this film is thin, and the budgetary restraints are obvious. The film starts with borrowed footage from A Night To Remember, and then recycles footage from The Brides Of Fu Manchu. This results in the sinking of the Titanic again, and the destruction of Fu Manchu’s secret lair once again. But this cobbled together intro is in fact, Fu Manchu’s demonstration of his newest weapon. Here he shows the world he can control the oceans of the world. In fact, it is not meant to be the Titanic. It is another cruise liner sailing the tropical seas of the Carribean. Fu Manchu has created icebergs in the Carribean, and of course, the ship hits the iceberg and sinks. But you guessed that, didn’t you!

Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard (Richard Green) and his old pal Doctor Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford) are holidaying in scotland while Fu Manchu’s evil scheme is played out. But their holiday is cut short when a message from the Home Office orders them back to London at once.

Back in London, Homeland Security have been receiving reoccuring radio messages from Fu Manchu. He says, ‘In the Carribean I gave a demonstration of the new and destructive weapon I possess!’ Fu Manchu threatens to strike again in fourteen days unless the heads of the major powers agree to his demands. In his transmission, Fu doesn’t actually say what his demands are; only that the leaders are to agree to them. But as Fu Manchu has proven himself to have a megalomaniacal streak in the past four films, it’s fair enough to assume his price tag would be steep.

The intro sequence to this film also showed the destruction of Fu Manchu’s secret lair, so he needs a new one. And for his weapon to work he needs two things – large amounts of water – and the other is large quantities of opium. Apparently the opium is somehow transformed into ice crystals and this creates the icebergs, or some other such mumbo-jumbo. To be honest, the ‘science’ in this film is pretty flakey. So ‘water’ and ‘opium’ are Fu’s requirements, and it just so happens that these items are in plentiful supply in Anatolia in Turkey. To make this a reality, Fu Manchu’s evil daughter, Lin Tang (Tsai Chin) meets with a local Turkish ganglord and opium dealer, Omar Pasher. Together thay form an alliance and plot to storm the Govenor of Anatolia’s castle.

The incursion works like clockwork. Pasher’s men kill the guards at the main gates to the castle, and then Fu Manchu’s army of evil minions do the rest. Fu Manchu has a new base of operations, but he needs one man to bring his reign of terror to fruition. He is Professor Herades. Fu Manchu has Herades already held prisoner, but Herades has a terminal heart condition which limits his usefulness.

Meanwhile, back in England, Nayland Smith and petrie begin to nut together the piece’s of Fu Manchu’s scheme and deduce that he must be hiding out in Turkey.

Richard Green is Nayland Smith once again, and thanfully he gets a litle more to do in this film than he did in The Blood Of Fu Manchu. But the Franco films concentrate far more on Fu Manchu than any one of the good guys. Christopher Lee phones through another acceptable performance, but he isn’t really stretching himself. Rosalba Neri has a flashy role as Omar Pasher’s number one minion. In the film, she gets to wear some unusal striped suits and hats.

At the start of the review, I mentioned that this film was directed by Jess Franco. Most fans of B-grade or cult cinema will be familiar with his work. But The Castle Of Fu Manchu, while having a few small Franco touches isn’t really indicative of his work.

This film is pretty bad. Franco tries hard to do what he can to cobble together a decent story but there is way too much padding. There is one sequence which is almost laughable in it’s attempt to create tension with no budget. Fu Manchu and an assortment of characters stare at a room full of bubbling test tubes and beakers ans shout out warnings. But the test tubes look the same from one scene to the next. It doesn’t look like things are heating up. But the scene is well edited – there simply wasn’t an adequate budget to provide some convincing scientific equipment or sets.

The film is really is the nadir of the series. It’s hard to go down further when you’re already beyond the bottom of the barrel. It’s not surprising that no further films were made in the series.

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The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu (1967)

Director: Jeremy Summers
Starring: Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Tsai Chin, Horst Frank, Noel Trevarthen, Tony Ferrer, Maria Rohm, Howard Marion-Crawford, Peter Carsten, Wolfgang Kieling, Susanne Roquette
Music: Malcolm Lockyer
Songs: ‘The Real Me’ and ‘Where Are the Men’ sung by Samantha Jones (Lyrics by Don Black)
Based on characters created by Sax Rohmer

The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu is not a spy film, but it does feature an evil mastermind attempting to take over the world. There’s also a nice subplot about the birth of ‘Interpol’. This is the third in the Harry Alan Towers produced, Fu Manchu series. With each installment, the quality of the series dropped considerably and the film has some long protracted moments where not too much happens.

Douglas Wilmer once again plays Fu Manchu’s Nemesis Nayland Smith, which he did previously in The Brides Of Fu Manchu. Wilmer is adequate in the role, displaying a squared jawed heroic countenance, but he doesn’t have the screen presence of Nigel Greene who played the character in the first film.

Of course, you can’t talk about a Fu Manchu film without talking about horror icon, Christopher Lee. By this film in the series Lee looks quite bored by the role. He isn’t given too much to say. He simply has to glower and nod his his head and his evil minions do the work for him. I guess it is in keeping with the character, but it isn’t particularly a stretch for Lee.

The film begins in the Quang-Su Provence in Northern China, and along a winding mountain track a small caravan of men make there way to a hidden fortress. Riding in comfort in two carriages, carried by their evil minions are the most evil man on earth, Fu Manchu and his equally vicious daughter Lin Tang (Tsai Chin).

Once at the fortress, Fu Manchu has all the paths and roadways dynamited, cutting off the outside world, so he can formulate his his attempt to take over the world in relative peace.

In London, Commissioner Nayland Smith of Scotland yard is planning a trip to Paris. He is meeting with other Police Chiefs in order to set up a new organisation designed to battle International Crime. This new organisation is to be called ‘Interpol’. At this meeting is a young FBI agent, Mark Weston (Noel Trevarthen). He reports that the crime gangs of America have selected a man named Rudolph Moss (Horst Frank) to be their new ambassador and seek out a new ‘Head’ of global crime. You’ve got to remember here, that everybody thinks that Fu Manchu is still dead. he died at the end of the last film. So the FBI and Interpol don’t know who this new ‘Head’ will be. Of course, we viewers know it is going to be Fu.

Meanwhile back in China, Fu Manchu is putting his latest plan into operation. Firstly he kidnaps Dr. Lieberson (Wolfgang Kieling) and his daughter, Maria (Susanne Roquette) from a nearby village. Lieberson initially refuses to work for Fu Manchu, so his daughter is tortured. Soon after the Doctor relents. The Doctor’s mission is to transform one of Fu Manchu’s Asian minions into a Caucasian likeness of Nayland Smith. And Fu instructs that this must be done in forty-eight hours. I think a modern day plastic surgeon would have trouble completing that task, let alone a Doctor in a remote village in Northern China. But who knows, maybe the Doctor is really a ‘Super Doctor’ who really believes in doing humanitarian work, rather than living at the cutting edge of medical science. I know, it’s silly of me to pick on the medical and scientific plot devices in a Fu manchu film. But I cannot help it. Regardless, the Doctor, fearing for his daughter’s life, agrees to transform Fu Manchu’s mindless killer into Nayland Smith.

Interpol are busy tracking down Rudolph Moss. It seems he was bound for Shanghai on a ship called the Orient Star. Interpol wires Inspector Ramos (Tony Ferrer) of the Shanghai police Department. Ramos intercepts the ship but he is too late. Moss has alreadt disembarked and his heading across country to meet Fu Manchu.

Meanwhile, Nayland Smith and his close friend, Dr. Petrie (Howard Marion-Crawford) are off on holiday in Ireland. On a rural track, their car runs out of petrol. luckily a car comes along and Petrie hitches a lift into the nearlest village to fill up a can of fuel. By the time Petrie returns, Nayland Smith has been kidnapped and Doctor lieberson’s psycotic double has been put in his place. The real Nayland Smith is bound and gaged and sealed in a wooden crate bound for Shanghai.

I don’t rate this entry in the Fu Manchu series very highly, but it does have a few points of interest. Firstly, this film was a co-production with Hong Kong’s Shaw Studios, which means it has a slightly different flavour to the other entries in the series. It also stars Tony Ferrer, who plays Inspector Ramos. Ferrer was a big star in the Philippines. One of his higher profile series were the Tony Falcon films made in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s.

In the end though, despite the International intervention in the series, this film is a step down from previous films, and it really should have been the end of the series. But the series kicked on for another two films, each with a diminishing budget, and helmed by Jess Franco. But that’s another story.

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Kilink In Istanbul (1967)

AKA: Kilink Istanbul’da
Country: Turkey
Directed by Yilmaz Atadeniz
Yildiram Gencer, Irfan Atasoy, Pervin Par, Suzan Avci, Muzaffer Tema, Mine Soley
Music by John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith and many others (most likely without permission)

Though not spy films, the Kilink films have quickly risen to the top of the B-grade cult film world. They are wild and crazy and break every law of film-making – in places they are downright amateurish – but their sheer exuberance drives them along and makes them worthwhile and entertaining viewing.

The Kilink films were a popular Turkish film series from the late sixties. There were eleven films in the series, but conservation was never a high priority to the Turkish film industry. Now only three of the films survive, albeit in a beaten and scratched condition. But even is this abused state, these films are worth seeing.

Of the three films that remain, Kilink In Instanbul is the first in the series. The film starts with a funeral cortége traveling to a secruded house in Istanbul. The coffin is taken from the hearse into the house and the lid is removed. Inside is a body wrapped in bandages. A lady in a big hat injects a big needle into the inert body. Slowly the corpse awakens. The minions gathered around begin to unwrap the bandages. Underneath is Kilink. Kilink wears an all-over black body and mask with the visage of a skeleton painted on. He’s much like the Italian character ‘Kriminal’ and with good reason – Kilink is Turkish cinema’s take on the character. Although Turkish film-makers never bothered about little things like obtaining rights or licences for copyrighted properties. The simply took what they wanted and twisted it to their own ends. It was not just characters that they pilfered either. The musical score for Kilink In Istanbul makes liberal use of music from the James Bond series (particularly You Only Live Twice) and assorted ganster and horror films. There’s even a grab from Our Man Flint.

No sooner is Kilink back from the dead and he’s already up to a bit of skulduggery. Professor Houloussi is working on a top secret project that will rid the world of cancer. Somehow this same formula can be used to create a powerful weapon, with which Kilink plans to use to control the world. Kilink sneaks into the Professor’s home and kills one of the staff. Then dressed as the man he has killed, Kilink sneaks into Professor Houloussi’s lab and emands the formula. The Professor refuses to give it up, and for his trouble he is killed. Kilink riffles through the safe and retrieves the formula. Before he leaves, however he scrawls his name in blood beside the dead Professor, so everybody will know who committed the crime.
Kilink returns to his secret lair and orders another chemist to create the formula using Houloussi’s notes. Upon examination it is ascertained that the formula is incomplete. Kilink isn’t happy.

Meanwhile, the son of Professor Houloussi, Orhan is standing at his father’s grave swearing to avenge his father. But he does not know how to go up against somebody as powerful and evil as Kilink. Suddenly in a puff of smoke, a majestic bearded figure appears graveside. He tells Orhan not to fear. He is ‘Shazam Boloum – Protector Of Justice’. Shazam offer to help, and gives Orhan the powers of strength and speed. All Orhan has to do is say “Shazam” He tests out his new powers and says the magic word. He is trnsformed into a super hero called ‘Superhero’. He is part Batman, with a cape and a cowl (but no ears); and he’s part Superman with a large ‘S’ on his chest.

Kilink is still after the magic formula and sends his evil minions back to the Professor’s home and laboratory to find the missing portions of the formula. They kill the guards and beat up the women until Orhan gets home. Upon arrival, Orhan cannot turn into his heroic alter ego, so he is given a right proper kicking. Orhan then leads Kilink’s minions to the laboratory. The minions leave him outside alone, which gives him an opportunity to transform. Superhero then rushes into the laboratory and turns the tables on Kilink’s minions. They run off battered and bloodied back to Kilink.

This film is a lot like an old movie serial with cliff hanging moments every fifteen to twenty minutes. In keeping with this, the film ends on a cliff hanger. But fear not – the story continues with Kilink Vs The Flying Man.

One thing is for sure, this film is not slow paced. The story and the beatings keep rocketing along, refusing to allow any characterisation to get in the way. And who really cares if the story elements and characters have been stolen from other sources (well I guess the copyright holders – but I am sure they had no idea what was happening to their intellectual property in Turkey). I guess that the fact that so few of these films has survived tells a lot about how they were viewed at the time. They were light, throwaway entertainment.

As I’ve mentioned the Kilink films are worth seeking out, but they will not appeal to everybody. They are a cult item. After all scratchy, black and white super hero films from Turkey are a niche item. But if that sounds like your cup of tea, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy.

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A Man Called Dagger Trailer

This Youtube clip was posted by OurManInHavana

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A Man Called Dagger (1967)

Director: Richard Rush
Starring: Paul Mantee, Terry Moore, Jan Murray, Sue Anne Langdon, Richard Kiel, Eileen O’Neil, Maureen Arthur, Leonard Stone, Mimi Dillard
Music: Steve Allen

Imagine one of the Matt Helm films – only without a charismatic leading man – with only a small portion of the budget – and with worse jokes – and then you’re well on your way to envisaging A Man Called Dagger. Dagger is meant to be lightweight, swinging spy entertainment; but it is not entertaining. You know I have watched some shit in my time, but this film even tested my tolerance levels.

In Paris, Secret Agent Richard “Dick” Dagger (Paul Mantee), wearing an eyepatch, posing as a one eyed Frenchman, is given the details of his next assignment by a miniature tape recorder. Before he can finish listening to the message, he is jumped by a group of thugs. In the struggle he loses his eyepatch, but eventually fights his way out of trouble and to freedom, or so he thinks. As Dagger walks off, one final goon on a rooftop, armed with a tranquiliser gun, shoots Dagger in the back.

As the titles roll, Dagger wakes up, he is in a steel lined room. The room is small, and getting smaller. The roof is slowly lowering. Our hero, extracts a cigarette from his cigarette case and breaks it open to reveal a wire. He attaches one end of the wire to the lightsocket and the other end to the steel door. He then bangs on the door yelling that gives up and he’ll do anything his captures want. A guard opens the door and Dagger twists the light globe, sending a current through the wire, electrocuting the guard. Dagger is free. And that is the end of the title sequence, and sadly the end of any creative thought going into this movie.

Dagger’s new mission is in the United States, so he boards the next plane. Also on the plane is Dagger’s target, Dr Karl Rayner (Leonard Stone), who is a Nazi biologist. By ‘target’, I don’t mean that Dagger has to kill him, but simply follow him. The man that his organisation is after is Rudolph Koffman (Jan Murray), who just so happens to be Rayner’s new employer.

In the U.S., Rayner is met at the airport by Koffman’s number one henchman, Otto (Richard Kiel). Dagger too, is met by a contact named Melissa. Melissa is a sprightly female agent who leads Dagger to a hot rod roadster. As inconspicuous as you can be in a hot rod, they tail Rayner and Otto.

Somehow, though, Rayner and Otto must have lost their tail, because we next see Rayner standing before Koffman. Koffman poses as a respectable businessman who runs a meat packing plant. The plant is heavily guarded because they are working on new top secret product lines. But in reality, the plant is used as a base for Koffman’s mind control experiments. Ultimately he plans to take over the world, by brainwashing the world’s leaders. But here, he is perfecting his technique by experimenting on young girls.

A Man Called Dagger is supposed to be a comedy, or at least I think so. But the film just rubbed me the wrong way. Koffman’s solution to disposing of the bodies off his scientific failures, is repellent in the extreme. One minute the film is winking at the audience, the next it is trying to shock it. Maybe with a quality acting ensemble in front of the camera, the film could have pulled off this two card trick, but with the amateurish talent on display here, the film never really stands a chance of winning over any audience.

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Angel Strikes Again (1968)

Director: Lo Wei
Starring: Lily Ho, Tang Ching, Shen Yi, Lo Wei
Music: John Barry, Lalo Schifrin and others (most probably without permission)

If Westerners know the work of Lo Wei at all, it is usually for directing Bruce Lee’s The Big Boss and Fists Of Fury, but prior to this he directed two movies featuring Lilly Ho as Agent 009. The films are The Angel With Iron Fists, made in 1966, and this the follow-up, released two years later. Both films borrow heavily from the James Bond series, but as the star of the films is a woman, then there’s a bit of Modesty Blaise thrown into the mix as well.

A taxi pulls up at Hong Kong airport, and a man rushes into the terminal to catch his flight. Unbeknownst to him, three members of the cleverly titled ‘Bomb Gang’ are watching. One of the three produces a baggage tag with a small circular yellow label on it. He walks over and bumps into the new arrival, who drops his suitcase. The ‘bumper’ picks the suitcase up and discreetly attaches the new tag, then hands it back. The little yellow label is a time bomb, and once the plane is on its way, the bomb detonates. The plane erupts in a fireball.

Next, one of the gang walks into a jewellery store. He asks to see some samples. As the jeweller is distracted, the gang member attaches a little yellow label to one of the jewellery boxes. After he leaves the store, the bomb goes off and the store is reduced to rubble. These scenes are accompanied by music pilfered directly from The Liquidator (by Lalo Schifrin).

After a groovy animated title sequence, we join Agent 009 (Lily Ho) as she dances to the radio, poolside, clad in a metallic white bikini. Ai Si (or Angel as I will call her) is called into headquarters. It appears that the people killed by the ‘Bomb Gang’ were in fact secret agents, and it is Angel’s mission to carry on where they left off.

Her first port of call is a night club where a strong man is performing on stage. After the strong man has bent an iron bar, he calls for volunteers from the audience to step forward to attempt the same feat. One man, Deng Lei, accepts the challenge – but rather than accept a new iron bar to bend, he grabs the strongman’s already bent bar, and bents it back to straight. The performer is not happy about having been made a fool out of in front of an audience, and as Deng leaves the club, he places an explosive tarantula on the back of his jacket. Angel has been watching, and rushes out after Deng. She warns him, and he flicks off his jacket just before the arachnid explodes.

After the incident, Angel meets her Xiang Xiang outside the club. Actually Xiang Xiang is actually a go between. The actual agent that Angel wants to contact is a amn named Paul, Agent 309. Paul is rather reclusive and hard to track down. Maybe that’s why he has stayed alive so long. But now the ‘Bomb Gang’ are onto him and he is lying low.

Eventually Angel and Paul meet in a club. He hands over a coded piece of information, but before he can reveal the code, he is poisoned and dies. Angels investigations lead her to ‘The Specialist’ who is the leader of the ‘Bomb Gang’. Angel manages to plant a homing device on ‘The Specialist’ and follows in her car.

‘The Specialist’ is onto the tail, and leads Angel to a wooded park area outside of town. Angel gets out of her car and is knocked unconscious. Luckily for Angel, ever since she saved Deng Lei’s life (from the exploding tarantula), he has been following her around, looking to repay the favour. Here he gets his chance. He helps Angel stage her own death, and then he invites her back to his home for a cigarette and a drink – What a pleasant chap!

To continue her investigations Angel adopts a new identity. She cuts her hair and dons a set on glasses. Then she dresses as a man. Somehow this disguise seems to work and soon she is back on the trail of the ‘Bomb Gang’. Personally I don’t think the transition works – even loose fitting suits cannot hide Lily Ho’s natural curves.

I think the Shaw Brothers, Bond inspired spy films are fantastic. They are fast paced, candy coloured treats for the eyes, and every bit as enjoyable as their European counterparts. The girls, good and bad, get to wear some wild fashion, from transparent plastic tops, to gold catsuits – each piece is an engineering marvel. On a similar note, the sets featured in The Angel Strikes Again are mind blowing. The villain’s lair is gaudy and outrageous – just like it should be.

The music is always interesting too. Whereas Eurospy films had top composers like Ennio Morricone, Mario Nascimbene, Piero Picconi and many others to create their unique spy soundscapes, the Asian version wasn’t above a bit of unabashed thievery and took their musical cues from popular Western sources. I have already mentioned that fragments of The Liquidator run through the pre-title sequence. Through the rest of the film we have some healthy lifts from John Barry’s Goldfinger. There are even a few snatches from a Spaghetti Western – I’ve heard the tune before but cannot recall the film – but that’s hardly important. Aurally we are treated to a smorgasbord of sixties them music.

The Angel Strikes Back is good old fashioned fun, and I think a small step up on its predecessor, The Angel With Iron Fists.

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I, Spy: The Barter (1966)

Director: Allen Reisner
Starring: Robert Culp, Bill Cosby, John Abbott, Philip Ober, Lisa Jager, Roger C. Carmel, Joan Blackman
Title theme: Earle Hagen

Here’s a quick one. The Barter is an episode of the I, Spy television series which starred Robert Culp as Kelly Robinson and Bill Cosby as Alexander Scott. For the one or two of you who have never seen an episode of I, Spy, the premise is pretty simple. Robinson and Scott are spies, but Robinson also happens to be a professional tennis player. Scott acts as Robinson’s trainer. Using the world’s tennis tournaments as cover, Robinson and Scott are able to travel the world with relative ease.

The episode opens in Russia. Professor Shenko (John Abbott) is burning documents in a fireplace. Shenko is one of Russia’s pre-eminent philosophers and he is going to Tokyo on a lecture tour. Accompanying him are two burly KGB agents, who just so happen to be the countries judo and pistol shooting champions.

Professor Shenko wants to defect to the West, but his KGB minders will stop any attempt he makes. That’s were Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott come in. They have to work out a plan to snatch tehe Professor.

Mr. Sommer (Philip Ober), an ex-pat American who lives in Tokyo agrees to help. He is a widower with a young daughter named Lin (Lisa Jager). Robinson and Scott use Sommer’s home as a base, and later, a place to hide the Professor, off the beaten path.

Robinson and Scott want to attempt the snatch at the Hotel Savoy where Shenko is staying. To get the penthouse suite next door to Shenko, Scott poses as the Ambassador of an African nation. Once in the suite, our two intrepid heroes waste little time and quickly have the Professor in their custody. They take him back to Sommer’s home, which is just an intermediate step before smuggling the Professor out on a freighter. But things go awry.

The Russian’s find out where Shenko is being held and in retaliation, they kidnap Sommer’s daughter Lin. Representing the Russians is a shady businessman, Gordon Merritt (Roger C. Carmel). He is the go-between. His job is to arrange the exchange of Lyn for the Professor.

Now Robinson and Scott have their work cut out for them, trying to find a way to get Lin back safely, while still holding on to the Professor. But the Russian’s have one weak link. Their choice of ‘go-between’. Merritt likes to drink, so Robinson and Scott ply him with liquor.

I, Spy was always a well produced show with (on occasions) actual location footage. This episode is one of the many fine stories, that this show dished out over it’s three seasons (from 1965-68).

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