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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Taken (2008)
Country: France
Directed by Pierre Morrel
Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, John Gries, David Warshofsky, Kate Cassidy, Holly Valance
Music by Nathaniel Mechaly

Luc Besson’s Europacorp is almost becoming a sausage factory pumping out one slick action film after another. But these sausages taste pretty good – they’re not your thin BBQ style; they’re nice fat juicy continental sausages. Some of the recent links in the sausage chain include the Transporter films, Crimson Rivers and District 13.

Taken is one of Europacorp’s latest productions. It is written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen (who wrote Transporter 3), and directed by Pierre Morrel (who guided District 13). The star is Irishman Liam Neeson. Neeson is the films greatest asset because he gives the film a sense of realism, which if it was missing, would render the film as another violent exploitation flick.

The story is a pretty simple one. Bryan Mills (Neeson) is an ex-spy. He has given up his life of international intrigue so he can be closer to his estranged daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). This isn’t as easy as Mills envisions it to be. Kim is now seventeen years old and lives with her mother, Lenore (Famke Janssen) and a wealthy step dad. They spoil her rotten, and Mills cannot compete financially with Lenore and Kim’s new dad.

Kim has reached that age, which rich girls do (or at least in the movies), where she wants to expand her horizons and see the world. Coupled with her best friend Amanda they have planned a trip through Europe where they will follow, from city to city, the rock group U2. Mills reluctantly allows his daughter to go on the trip, but only on the proviso that she will call him every night.

On the girls first night in Paris, Lisa is talking to her father on the phone when a group of Albanian gangsters break into the apartment where the girls are staying. Brutally they kidnap the girls. Mills hears the incident take place over the phone. As you can appreciate, Mills is not happy about his daughter being taken, but as an ex-spy, he has a skill set and connections that enable him to launch into a rescue mission.

I know it’s a storyline that you’ve heard again and again. Steven Seagal almost made a career out of rescuing kidnapped family members in a brutal fashion. Thankfully Neeson is a fine actor, and at times underplays the scenes so this film does not spiral off into an over-wrought revenge thriller. Instead it’s a passable time killer, which covers little new territory, but it has been slickly put together, and with a runtime of under 90 minutes it won’t eat up too much of your day.

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Spy Tunes – No 1

Today is the second anniversary (or blogoversary if you prefer) of Permission To Kill. The third year promises to be the best yet with all sorts of exciting things coming up. By my reckoning I’ve still got to look at 6 Bond films, 2 Flint films, 2 Matt Helm films, 5 Jerry Cotton films, 6 or 7 OSS 117 films, 6 Kommissar X films and the list goes on. But I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the people who drop on by regularly – and those who have helped me track down some of those more obscure titles. Cheers, you make doing this fun!

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The Devil Came From Akasava (1971)

Country: West Germany / Spain
Directed by Jess Franco
Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams, Ewa Stromberg, Howard Vernon, Paul Müller, Horst Tappert, Siegfried Schürenberg, Jess Franco

Music by Manfred Hubler, Siegfried Schwab

One of the world’s most prolific film-makers is Jess Franco, and he also happens to be one of the weirdest. He also seems to elicit mixed emotions from film viewers. Some believe he is a gifted auteur with a surreal and quite singular cinematic vision. Others believe he is an over rated hack with poor story telling skills, and a lazy approach to cinema. While I wouldn’t go quite that far, I do believe he is his own worst enemy, always turning his back on mainstream cinema, ending up working on the fringes with second rate budgets and second rate scripts. I guess that you’ve got to respect a man who has stayed true to his beliefs, but unfortunately for us cinema goers it has meant that the bulk of his work, is practically unwatchable without the aid of the fast forward button on your remote control.

Professor Forrester (Ángel Menéndez) is a British mineralologist who is working in Africa (most likely in Kenya). His work has him trying to locate a mineral, which like the Philosopher’s Stone can turn metal in gold. So far his exploration and research has lead him to a cave where he believes the mineral is located.

As the film opens, Forrester’s assistant, Jaoa, is searching the cave dressed in a flame retardant suit. With a flashlight he searches the walls of the cave until he finds a giant crystal which he pries out of the wall. He places the stone in a steel suitcase and exits the cave into a lush jungle setting. Unfortunately for Jaoa, some armed men with less than honourable intentions have been watching and waiting. The men open fire on Jaoa and he is shot twice. Wounded, he tries to make a run for it, back to his car, but falls short. Luckily he has a driver waiting, who rushes to his aid and drags him into the vehicle.

Jaoa is taken back to Professor Forrester who tries to attend to Jaoa’s wounds, but they are too serious. Forrester decides to go for help and gets in his jeep and drives off to secure the services of local doctor, Andrew Thorrsen (Horst Tappert). Thorrsen is in surgery at the time, but promises to rush over as soon as he has finished. Forrester drives back to his compound.

Meanwhile, an unseen person, heads into the room where Jaoa is laid up. This mysterious person opens the suitcase with the mineral inside. The room is suddenly bathed in a bright light. When Forrester returns he finds Jaoa dead. His face looks badly burnt, and the suitcase has gone. Forrester, now seeking help from the authorities gets into his jeep once more and drives off. The gunmen who shot Jaoa happen to be lurking in the lush vegetation surrounding Forrester’s compound. As Forrester drives off, a shot rings out and Forrester disappears.

Meanwhile back in London, at the Forrester’s London office, a man is breaking in. He snoops around for a while until he comes across the safe and begins to open it. The thief doesn’t have time to enjoy his ill gotten gain, because lurking unseen in the shadows is a man with a knife, which he plunges into the thief’s back.

Head of Scotland Yard, Sir Philip (Siegfried Schürenberg) doesn’t believe that Jaoa’s death, Forrester’s disappearance, and the murder at Forrester’s UK office are a coincidence. To get to the bottom of the problem, he goes to a bordello and meets one of the working-girls, Jane Morgan (Soledad Miranda). Jane is actually a Secret Service agent and is to take over the investigation. The man stabbed in Forrester’s office was the first agent assigned to the case, but he didn’t get too far. It is hoped that a female may have more luck.

Jane, posing as an Exotic dancer flies out to Mombassa and then takes a job at the Red Rose nightclub where she can observe all the characters associated with Professor Forrester. But Jane isn’t the only one seeking answers. Walter Forrester, the nephew of the Professor has also travelled to Mombassa to look into his uncle’s disappearance.

The Devil Came From Akasava, while still featuring many of the things that you’d expect in a Jess Franco film – like strip-tease scenes played out against a groovy jazz soundtrack – is still rather comprehensible and accessible as far as Franco goes. This is most probably because it is based on an Edgar Wallace story and a script by Ladislas Fodor who scripted many of the Edgar Wallace Krimis from the sixties. As with all these types of films there are twists and turns along the way, but seasoned viewers will find nothing shocking here. The Devil Came From Akasava, if you’re new to the world of Jess Franco, is a soft introduction. It’s not too weird and it’s a passable way to spend ninety minutes.

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Billion Dollar Brain (1967)

House, over at ‘The Horror’ blogspot is at again and beaten me to the punch with the Billion Dollar Brain. Harry Palmer is back. With a bigger budget and some glossy set pieces. This is the third of the Harry Palmer films, this time directed by Ken Russell.

After a slick title sequence by Maurice Binder (Binder did many of the Bond title sequences, along with Charade and Arabesque), we are launched into the sordid world of Harry Palmer. Palmer has left the British Secret Service and become a second rate private detective.

This is the last of what I’d call the official Harry Palmer films, but Harry Palmer did return in the mid 1990’s in two low-budget, tele movies called Bullet To Beijing and Midnight In St Petersburg.

To read House’s review – click here.

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The Intercine Project (1974)

Country: United Kingdon / West Germany
Directed by Ken Hughes
James Coburn, Lee Grant, Harry Andrews, Ian Hendry, Keenan Wynn, Christiane Kruger, Michael Jayston, Julian Glover
Music by Roy Budd

Based on the novel ‘Intercine’ by Mort W. Elkind

internecine adj. mutually destructive.

That’s not me, being a smart alec, above. I have 2 reasons for listing a dictionary definition. Firstly, I didn’t know what ‘internecine’ meant. Secondly, the DVD cover (through Feemantle Media) states that it is ‘a fancy word for multiple murder’. I wanted to check if that was true. Hmmm!

Onto the plot! The movie gets off to a promising, if somewhat mysterious start with a gloved driver speeding from place to place, checking times on a stop-watch. At each stop he inspects a manilla folder. The four folders contain information on Christine Larsson (Christiane Kruger), Alex Hellman (Ian Hendry), David Baker (Michael Jayston) and Albert Parsons (Harry Andrews). Each of these characters are essential to the plot but take a back seat for a while.

We move on. Julian Glover has a small role as host of the TV show ‘The World This Week’, and this weeks guests include Professor Robert Elliot (James Coburn), who is a senior lecturer on economic studies at Havard University, and Jean Robinson (Lee Grant), a journalist. By the taunting and the repartee between the two guests, it is obvious that they have had a previous relationship that has gone sour, and now she doesn’t trust him or what he stands for.

Her suspicions grow when E.J. Farnsworth (Keenan Wynn), Vice President of Central Oil, meets with Elliot and during a game of golf, offers Elliot the high flying position of ‘Chairman Of The President’s Economic Committee’. There’s a small catch. Before Elliot can accept the position he has to clean up all the skeletons in his closet. Put simply, he has to dispose of the people who know all his dirty secrets that have helped him to the top – the four characters mentioned in the second paragraph of this review.

At this point, you’re probably saying ‘Gee David, this all seems rather complicated and political, what with wheeling and dealing between the White House and the oil companies!’ My response is ‘nah!’ It’s only complicated to make you think that Elliot is important. It really is an elaborate excuse to arrange some simple murders. As we’ve seen, the dictionary definition of ‘internecine’ is ‘mutally destructive’. So after all that overly complicated plotting at the beginning, we get to the heart of the movie. Elliot has to convince his four cohorts to kill each other – ‘mutal murder’.

The Internecine Project is a low key film compared to Coburn’s glossy espionage thrillers from the sixties, such as Our Man Flint, In Like Flint and The President’s Analyst; but as the story plays out, the tension slowly builds up, and what you’re left with is a taut little thriller.

The film has a lot to recommend it. It features another great moody score by Roy Budd, and has a fine cast of English character actors fleshing out the smaller roles. The story too, is engrossing. But this is a small film and not a particularly happy one at that. Coburn never breaks into his trademark grin and there is a sense of foreboding about the whole affair. If you choose to seek out The Internecine Project, be prepared for something quite different to the films that Coburn had done before.

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