Freelance secret agent Dick Smart is paid $1Million to track down an Atomic Reducer when the authorities realise that the task is beyond them. He soon realises that the top secret device has been stolen by the beautiful Lady Lister and her partner, who are planning a controlled atomic explosion to create a fortune in diamonds.
Light-hearted, freewheeling Eurospy from Italy with British actor Richard Wyler running from one death-defying scrape to the next as this week’s ‘Bond on a budget.’ Production values are higher than usual for a 007 knock-off and there’s plenty of guns, gadgets and girls to keep an undemanding audience entertained. On the female front, we have the drop dead gorgeous Margaret Lee as Lady Lister, Rosana Tapajós as Wyler’s nerdy girl Friday and an almost endless procession of eye candy for our hero to wrap his lips around. There’s not a lot of hi-tech equipment on show, but Wyler does have a motorbike that turns (rather unconvincingly) into an auto-gyro as a nod to Bond’s exploits in ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967). Our hero is quick with a gun too, although at times it does seem like he is shooting guys in suits and dark glasses at random, who actually may have nothing to do with the plot.
What sets this film apart from all others of a similar stamp is its heroic effort to cram more scenes into its 96 minute running time than any other film in history. ln one particularly fine sequence, Wyler is set upon by (yet another) bunch of faceless goons and escapes using a cable car hawser as a zip-wire. Unfortunately, with no establishing shots, we didn’t even realise they were on a mountain! Wyler then crashes into the cable car, uses a convenient rope ladder to exit, jumps to the ground, exchanges some pointless banter with a couple of watching kids, and then runs right onto a street where he is faced by the same goons (how did they get there so fast?) Then he’s apparently shot dead by Tapajós from a passing car, carried in a funeral cortege followed by Lee, and revived from his coffin by Tapajós again with some drugs and a kiss. All in about five minutes flat!
The obvious conclusion is that this film has been cut down from a much longer original by an editor either on the greatest caffeine binge of all time or so clueless that he removed bits and pieces from every single scene, rather than take out a couple of entire sequences. The plot isn’t so complex that its integrity would have been compromised by the latter course of action. However, that doesn’t seem to have been the case at all! The running time of the original Italian release only gives us 6 minutes extra, and that hardly seems sufficient to calm things down! It seems probable that, despite only having a couple of obvious gags, this was actually intended as a complete spoof of the whole ‘Bond’ franchise, with the helter-skelter nature of proceedings actually the main joke of the ﬁlm. It certainly doesn’t take itself that seriously.
Richard Wyler was a respected theatre actor and novelist, who had appeared in big Hollywood films such as ‘The Three Musketeers’ (1948) and ‘The Strange Door’ (1951) with Boris Karloff. He also took the title role of 1960s UK TV series ‘The Man from Interpol’ and was allegedly descended from the man who signed the death warrant of English monarch King Charles the 1st. He also attempted to mount a Broadway musical of ‘Sunset Boulevard‘ with Gloria Swanson.
Lee, on the other hand, had a far more conventional career, appearing in prominent roles in many European ﬁlms in the 1960s and early 1970s, including ‘The Bloody Judge’ (1970) with Christopher Lee. Her performance here is actually the ﬁlm’s outstanding asset as Wyler does lack some of the charisma of a Sean Connery or a Roger Moore. Director Franco Prosperi began his career writing films for Mario Bava, and even directed some scenes in the horror maestro’s ‘Hercules and the Haunted World’ (1962).
The fragmentary nature of the finished ﬁlm, and the atrocious English dub on the print that I saw, do detract from the entertainment on offer. However, this is still a far more engaging example of the Eurospy genre than the vast majority of its kind.