‘A bulletproof vest under a tuxedo? My tailor would never OK that.’
A top scientist working at a missile plant is kidnapped just as he is about to complete his life’s work. The authorities send in their best agent to crack the case, and he soon discovers that the scientist’s beautiful daughter is being blackmailed into handing over a mysterious briefcase…
Standard Eurospy shenanigans with Argentine actor Luis Dávila fighting the good fight as this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget.’ This Italian-Spanish-French co-production comes from co-writer and director Giorgio Stegani, who spices up the action with some timely elements of the space race.
It’s happy holiday time for super spy Lemmy Logan (Dávila, wonderfully billed as Luis Devil), who is running around exotic Acapulco juggling a choice selection of beautiful women. Sadly for him, his fun is interrupted by his killjoy sidekick Wilson (Jesús Puente), who delivers the inevitable news that he’s needed back home. Missile expert Professor Morrow (Alfredo Mayo) has been kidnapped, something that comes as no surprise to any audience member who noticed that his chauffeur, Strike, was being played by ubiquitous villain Luciano Pigozzi.
Mayo has been working on a mysterious project for smooth-talking industrialist Revel (Alberto Dalbés) called ‘Operation Gemini’, but Dávila prefers to pursue a more attractive prospect. The lead in question is Mayo’s beautiful daughter, Jeanne (Gaia Germani), who Pigozzi and his criminal gang have already contacted. The price of her father’s ransom is a mysterious briefcase, but the situation is complicated by the presence of the beautiful Carol (Janine Reynaud), who seems to be playing a game of her own.
This is pretty much a by-the-numbers, low-budget spy game of the mid-1960s. There’s the dashing hero who looks sharp in a suit and is handy with his fists, the kidnapped scientist with the super weapon, his beautiful daughter and the usual parade of faceless goons for our main man to work through before he unmasks the true evil mastermind. These minions include the giant Goro (Fernando Bilbao), whose only weakness turns out to be getting a burst of hot steam to the face. The gadgets are nearly all of the surveillance variety, including a tracking radar hidden inside a bible and one that can take photographs from inside a closed suitcase. A handy little device can also make telephones ring from across the room.
Unfortunately, the film only seems to be available with a rather careless English dub track, which may be responsible for some of the apparent inconsistencies in the story. It also turns Dávila into ‘Robbie Logan’ and makes it difficult to assess the cast’s performances, although Pigozzi delivers another of his trademark creepy villains. As with many similar endeavours, the lack of budget really begins to show through in the final third when Dávila and Germani reach the villain’s lair. This hi-tech headquarters turns out to be little more than the maintenance level of a typical high-rise, complete with steam pipes and boiler room. Not forgetting the model rocket sitting in the desert on top, of course. Inevitably, the action also lacks scale, and the fight choreography is workmanlike at best, but director Stegani does create a couple of memorable sequences. The first sees Dávila trapped in a wind tunnel at the missile facility, and the second involves the abduction of Germani from a nightclub. This snatch takes place during a striptease act and is surprisingly effective.
There are also some enjoyably cheesy moments. Although initially distrusting Dávila, Germani comes on board immediately when he tells her he’s a secret agent working for NASA with the codename of ‘Cosmos 1’ (stop laughing at the back!) It’s also fortunate that Reynaud can blink in morse code and that Puente’s in contact with stock footage of a navy destroyer in the middle of some ocean or other. Oh, and a word for all you budding film producers out there. If you want to use an invented word as the title of your movie, probably best to come up with something that doesn’t need a pronunciation guide!
Stegani began as a writer and worked uncredited on Giorgio Ferroni’s remarkable ‘Mill of the Stone Women/Il mulino delle donne di pietra’ (1960). He doubled as Second Unit Director on his next writing gig and received his first full directing credit for the ‘Italian Version’ of ‘Operation Hong Kong/Weiße Fracht für Hongkong’ (1964), although this may have been for quota purposes only. However, he was in full charge as writer and director of Spaghetti Western ‘Adiós gringo’ (1965) before he moved into the world of the Eurospy. More tales of the Old West followed, including ‘Beyond the Law/Al di là della legge’ (1968) with Lee Van Cleef, but after the end of the decade, he worked only sporadically.
Unremarkable spy games, but fans of the genre will probably find some things to like.