Lightning Bolt (1966)

AKA: Operation Goldman
Country: Spain | Italy
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony Dawson)
Starring: Anthony Eisley | Diana Lorys | Folco Lulli | Ursula Parker | Wandissa Leigh | Paco Sanz
Music: Riz Ortolani

There’s a line towards the end of this film, where the hero quips to the villain that he ‘never liked your beer anyway’. What can I say? How evil can you get. Not only is the evil megalomaniac in this film intent on taking over the world, he can’t even provide a quality beverage for the masses. Yep, the evil genius runs a brewery. That’s nothing new. The villains in The Ambushers also operated out of a brewery, but at least they had the common decency to produce a quality bottle of beer. When Matt Helm fell into the vat of beer it seemed like an inconvenience rather than a chore. But this guy, Rehte is his name is an ungodly creature, is pure evil. And that’s why we need secret agents like Harry Sennet (Anthony Eisley) and Pat Flannagan (Diana Lorys).

Lightning Bolt is a slick but silly Eurospy film from Italian journeyman director Antonio Margheriti. The film opens with NASA test firing a new rocket. It starts well, but then spirals out of control. NASA have no option but to push the self destruct button – after all they don’t want it to make an unexpected landing in someone’s back yard. It’s the sixth rocket test that has failed, and now they are beginning to suspect sabotage. Dr. Rooney, one of the NASA scientists does some analysis and comes up with the first lead. He has discovered, at the time that the rockets were launched, strange radio signals were coming from the bottom of the sea. He cruises out in a small runabout with a Navy diver named Wilkes. Using a Geiger counter, Rooney homes in on the signal and once in position, sends Wilkes over the side to investigate. Wilkes quickly meets his end, and Rooney’s boat is blown up – but strangely the good scientists body is not found.

At this point the Federal Security Investigation Commission – or the F.S.I.C. for short – are called in to take over the investigation which is codenamed ‘Lightning Bolt’. The first agent is Captain Pat Flannagan, also known as Agent 36-22-36 – yep, she’s a woman alright! Her underling is a cheeky young chap named Harry Sennet. Sennet is different to most spies in that he doesn’t like to use violence to solve his missions. He prefers to use a chequebook – that is to say if Sennet finds himself in a dangerous situation, rather than pulling a gun or a knife, he pulls out a chequebook and bribes his assailant. As a cover, he chooses to play a wealthy playboy – it’s great work if you can get it!

Sennet and Flannagan head to a hotel in Miami for no other reason than it is a hot-bed of spies. Their hunch is right and soon they are hopping from one scrape to the next. Along the way, Sennet provides a very dry narration, as if the film were a detective thriller from the 1940’s, but rather than delivery witty wisecracks, Sennet spits out sleazy one-liners like a cut-rate Connery.

Look, I know that Lightning Bolt is a load of rubbish and ‘normal people’ would do well to steer clear, but I found this film to be extremely entertaining. All the silly spy film clichés are in place. It has swanky living; sexy girls in slinky costumes; an underwater lair for the mysterious madman; rockets; and an E-type Jag being thrashed to within an inch of it’s life. The sets and the models in this film aren’t too bad either – okay you can tell they are models, but that just adds to the trip. Lightning Bolt may not be one of the best Eurospy films that came out riding on the coattails of James Bond in the mid sixties, but it sure is a lot of fun.

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