‘What’s a groovy chick like you doing in the spy racket?’
A mob enforcer is sent across the country to link up with a neo-Nazi group offering to supply substantial sums in near-perfect counterfeit currency. Meanwhile, the federal authorities are on the case, targeting the German nobleman they believe to be the leader of the right-wing group…
This week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ is American actor Mark Adams, playing Federal Agent John Gabriel, placed undercover with the mob. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to swan around the glamorous capitals of Europe or play with any high-end gadgets because he’s appearing in a film from notorious low budget producer-director Al Adamson.
The federal authorities are concerned with an influx of counterfeit 20 dollar bills they believe to be the work of radicals attempting to fund a new Nazi movement back home. Agent Gabriel has already infiltrated the syndicate, and it’s the perfect coincidence when crime lord Joe (Keith Andes) sends him west to negotiate the wholesale purchase of the fake currency on offer. Although he’s tasked with breaking up the gang, his main objective is finding the original plates, which are believed to have originated in World War Two.
His mission is complicated by a whole array of local characters who may or may not be involved. There’s a local biker gang, the Hessians, the mysterious Count Otto Von Delberg (Kent Taylor), his girl Friday, Carol Bechtal (Vicki Volante) and rookie agent Jill Harmon (Emily Banks). He also begins an affair with dress shop owner Leni (Jacklyn O’Donnell), which seems to put them both in danger. Gabriel has to dodge the usual mixture of faceless assassins in sunglasses and suits while dealing with betrayal, double-cross, gunplay and conflicting loyalties before the final fadeout.
The main issue with Adamson’s film is the somewhat convoluted storyline. Characters are introduced without explanation, some have identities that are never clearly established, and others fulfil no function in the plot. The most obvious example is the biker gang, who are allegedly agents of the villainous Taylor. The film opens with them stopping a car on the highway and severely beating the two occupants. A piece of voiceover dialogue identifies them as ‘Commies’, and the Russians do get another namecheck later on in the film, but it’s their only (apparent) appearance. Also, the gang (or at least some of them) interact with only one other character in the film, Volante, who acts as their go-between with Taylor. This is because the biker footage was added later on to try and sell the movie, which initially failed to secure distribution. It also allowed the marketing department to put bikes on the poster and give it the tagline ‘They’re madmen on motorcycles!’
If this all sounds like a recipe for complete incoherence, that’s not the case. For once, Adamson papers over the cracks and inconsistencies pretty well, although there are more than a few moments when the scrappy, disjointed structure is rather obvious. There’s also a fantastic car chase where the protagonists stop at red lights and a cheap pen that doubles as a grenade/time bomb. There’s also a great scene when Adams takes O’Donell out on a (cheap) date to the local KFC only to have their romantic tryst interrupted by the real-life Colonel Sanders, who wants to check if they’re enjoying their delicious chicken meal.
We also get some Hollywood stars on their way down. As well as Taylor, Adams’ boss is played by one-time Oscar recipient Broderick Crawford! Despite first billing, he never leaves his office and has a total screentime of not more than five minutes. However, deputy Scott Brady does get in on the action at the end, even if he doesn’t have much in the way of dialogue, and that’s future cult film director Greydon Clark as a fellow agent. And, of course, here’s John Carradine popping up for his one-scene ‘paycheque cameo’ as a Pet Shop Owner offering twin blondes some salient advice about lovebirds with relationship issues. Fans of the original ‘Star Trek’ TV show will recognise Alyce and Rhae Andrece from their appearance in Season 2 episode ‘I, Mudd’.
Adamson was a prolific filmmaker from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s who favoured many of the usual exploitation genres. He tackled horror on several occasions, with cut-price flicks like ‘Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) and memorably awful patchwork outings ‘Blood of Ghastly Horror (1967) and ‘Dracula vs. Frankenstein’ (1971). He also delivered the monumentally appalling interplanetary adventure ‘Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970). However, in the interests of balance, Western ‘Five Bloody Graves’ (1969) and actioner ‘The Death Dimension’ (1978) are pretty watchable. Sadly, his life came to an end in August 1995 when he was murdered by a man he had hired to work on his house.
Although he can’t compete with Carradine (who could?!), Brady still has an enviable list of cult film credits to his name. Starting his career in undistinguished low-budget Noirs, a role for director Nicolas Ray in his dark fable ‘Johnny Guitar’ (1954) saw him typed in Westerns until the 1960s. Work on the range began drying up, and he diversified into science fiction b-pictures such as ‘Destination Inner Space’ (1966), ‘Castle of Evil’ (1966) and David L Hewitt’s intermittently interesting ‘Journey To The Centre of Time’ (1967). The association with Hewitt continued with an embarrassing encounter with ‘The Mighty Gorga’ (1969), although minor roles in more legitimate pictures came along occasionally, such as the astronaut drama ‘Marooned’ (1969). A lot of television followed throughout the 1970s before he capped his career as Sheriff Frank in ‘Gremlins’ (1984).
Underwhelming, low budget mash-up of crime and spy thriller from the notorious Adamson. Choppy and disjointed but just about coherent by the time the credits roll.
It’s on Amazon Prime but “not in my area.” Used to play on local stations for years as The Fakers until the infomercials gobbled up the air time blocks.