After foiling an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament by masquerading as a sightseeing party of women, special agent Charles Vine and his colleagues become involved with attempts to sabotage a nuclear powered bomber and its deadly payload of missiles.
Did the world really need a sequel to under-performing Bond knock-off ‘Licenced to Kill/The Second Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World’ (1965)? Probably not, but it arrived anyway, with Tom Adams returning, and more of an emphasis on comedy than thrills. Unfortunately, it isn’t very funny. The script is lazy, obvious and a lot of the jokes misfire. There is some satire involving a Government minister, which is hardly groundbreaking but mildly amusing, and a gunfight in a mortuary that benefits from the comedy chops of ‘Carry On‘ star Sid James. Less successfully, there’s a truly weird sequence involving a cat in an office, which is quite a head-scratcher. I guess it’s supposed to be funny, but either the context is lost on a modern audience, or someone was using some interesting substances.
The supporting cast is full of familiar faces, and it’s great to see Michael Ripper (usually a barman/pirate/gravedigger in many a Hammer Horror) getting a much bigger role than usual. Unfortunately, his oriental villain is a clumsy caricature and will get alarm bells ringing in these more enlightened times. His henchman is played by Tim Barrett, an actor who spent almost two decades on British TV almost exclusively playing upper class twits in situation comedies.
Also showing up for duty are Dawn Addams, who is second billed but only appears in the last twenty minutes, Wilfred Brambell from classic sitcom ‘Steptoe and Son’ and the gorgeous Suzan Farmer as a girl on a train. The action, when it arrives, is lame and underwhelming and Adams lacks the personality to make up for the project’s shortcomings. He was a capable actor with some natural charisma, but that’s exactly what’s lacking in his appearances as Vine, so perhaps that’s more of a reflection on director John Gilling. He was an experienced pair of hands with some of the creepiest Hammer Horrors to his name, such as ‘Plague of the Zombies’ (1966), ‘The Reptile (1966) and ‘The Flesh and the Fiends’ (1960) and a seasoned TV veteran, but crucially he had very little experience with comedy. Writer Michael Pittock has only two credits to his name; this and the last of the Charles Vine trilogy: ‘Ok Yevtushenko’ (1968). Yes, it beggars belief, but there was a third film in the series.
Hopelessly dreary and tiresome spy comedy that raises groans rather than laughs. Watch at your peril. Bring a barrel of strong coffee.