Espionage in Tangiers/S O77 Spionaggio a Tangeri (1965)

Espionage In Tangiers (1965)‘A plate like this, even if used by a child, would destroy the whole universe.’

A trio of scientists invent a disintegrating ray, which is immediately stolen by enemy assassins. One of the killers is identified by a U.N. operative in Tangiers and a special agent is dispatched to recover the device…

Eurospy films of the 1960s are not exactly noted for high levels of invention and creativity, and sadly there is nothing in this Italian/Spanish example to buck that trend. And that’s quite a disappointment actually, as it comes from director Gregg G Tallas, the man behind the ‘Is this a comedy?’ classics ‘Siren of Atlantis’ (1949) and ‘Prehistoric Women’ (1950). Sadly, there’s no evidence of the same level of entertainment here, not even a sign of the giggles provoked by his final film, the ridiculous schlock horror compendium ‘Night Train To Terror’ (1985).

This week’s ‘Bond on A Budget’ is Argentinian actor Luis Dàvila, who looks older than his 38 years, but still throws himself into the rounds of rather unconvincing fisticuffs with impressive levels of commitment. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to run around the glamorous capital cities of Europe having conversations beside world famous landmarks, but instead is confined to the narrow streets and dusty warehouses of Tangiers and Nice.

The story never really develops beyond the all-too familiar tropes relating to the ‘weapon that must not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands’ and, of course, despite the seriousness of the situation, the authorities are quite happy to leave its recovery to just one man. The weapon itself resembles nothing so much as a battery for a mobile phone or the ‘waffer-thin’ mint fed to Mr. Creosote in ‘Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life’ (1983). Insert it into a toy pistol, however, and it makes for a great solution to parking problems or putting out the barbecue in your fireplace.

So, what about the Guns, Girls and Gadgets? Well, despite her first name, our lead actress José Creci is a slim, attractive brunette. She ends up in bed with our hero after he slaps her around a bit, in a scene that rings a few warning bells in these more enlightened times. Creci also appeared in the similar ‘Operation Poker’ (1965) but was more likely to be found in ‘peplum’ pictures such as ‘Hercules Against The Barbarians’ (1964) and ‘Goliath and the Sins of Babylon’ (1963). Here she’s competing for Dàvila’s somewhat questionable attentions with shady nightclub owner Petra Cristal, who played in ‘The Awful Dr Orloff’ (1962) for notorious director Jess Franco, and in Paul Naschy’s ‘Fury of the Wolf Man‘ (1972), among many others.

Espionage In Tangiers (1965)

‘Seriously? That’s the best map you’ve got?’

ln the film’s most curious sequence, Dàvila picks up a motorbike from outside a building and exits stage left in pursuit of the bad guys. A brief chase through the night streets follows, made up of long shots and unconvincing, gloomy close ups. Then Dàvila rides the bike back into frame, to park it seemingly outside the very same building which he left only a few minutes earlier. Perhaps the owner of the bike simply didn’t trust the filmmakers more than a few feet at a time!

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot more to say about such a generic, by the numbers enterprise. Perhaps Dàvila has a little more edge than some of his contemporaries, but that’s really all you can take away from this one. Does he have any gadgets? Um…no. Not really. Apart from a gun, which he uses a few times. One of the villains does have a carphone, though, and it comes with a TV screen! Some of the scenery is quite nice too.

A completely forgettable entry in the Eurospy genre.

Lucky The Inscrutable/Agente Speciale L.K. (1967)

Lucky The Inscrutable (1967)‘Along with all my other talents, l happen to be a master of false bottoms.’

A suave, super spy is sent to less than exotic climes by his chief, Archangel, to break up a counterfeiting operation. On the way, he runs into a spot of bother with guns, girls and gadgets (without the gadgets) but a killer smirk and some half-arsed witticisms are just two of the weapons in his arsenal. Well, the only ones really…

Italian/Spanish spy spoof brought to us by cult director Jesus ‘Jess’ Franco, and starring Ray Danton as this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’. Unfortunately, as it turns out, he’s on a very small budget indeed. Yes, instead of the usual round of Paris, Lisbon and Casablanca, poor Danton gets brief stopovers in London and Rome, before he’s sent to Tirana in Albania. And he never gets to leave. It’s not exactly the French Riviera, is it?

Actually, the film opens well, with a scene that evokes nothing so much as ‘West Side Story’ (1963)! A gang of cool cats wait in the street for their mark, girls coo prettily on the soundtrack, and the photography is quite gorgeous. Not that any of this helps the operative who meets his Waterloo at the hands of the gang and sets the film’s plot in motion. Such as it is. Yes, it’s bad. Everything heads around the u-bend immediately. The fight choreography is lame for a start. Ah, it’s supposed to be a comedy. Only it isn’t remotely funny. Slight problem that.

Actually, the film gets increasingly bizarre, frantic and desperate as it goes, the running time unreeling at the rate of the rapidly expiring production budget. Most of the so-called plot developments are simply an excuse for another ‘madcap’ chase scene, and these are executed with very little stunt work and a complete absence of wit or flair. The addition of ‘comedy’ music also means there’s a distinct echo of old two-reelers from the silent movie days!

Lucky The Inscrutable (1967)

‘Have you heard of something called deodorant?’

Are there any girls? Well, yes, there’s plenty of eye candy for Danton to smarm over, but none stick around long enough to make any real impression apart from the lovely Rosabela Neri. Typically, she’s wasted in just a couple of scenes as a sexy Albanian policewoman.

Are there any guns?  Yes, plenty. Sometimes it even looks as if the cast are firing them. We also get scratchy, black and white artillery emplacements firing on Danton’s private plane! Shame it’s a colour movie. Are there any gadgets? Well…no. Not really. None at all, in fact.

Director Franco went onto become something of a cult figure in Euro-cinema with a prodigious output of 203 features! It’s inevitable that the quality is all over the place, of course, but there’s no denying the sense of visual style that he brought to such projects as ‘She Killed In Ecstasy’ (1971) and ‘Vampyros Lesbos’ (1972). Unfortunately, his skills as a storyteller were less well developed, and that was a problem as he scripted most of his pictures. And with his habit of regularly knocking out more than half a dozen projects a year, there are some truly wretched examples of his work, such as ‘Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein’ (1972) and ‘The Castle of Fu Manchu’ (1969). The latter was a collaboration with Christopher Lee and the two also worked together on other, better films such as ‘The’Bloody Judge’ (1970) and ‘Count Dracula’ (1970), although these also suffered from a lack of production values. And this film is one of Franco’s real bargain basement efforts. The cheapness is even acknowledged in the film’s ridiculous climax, which is about as useless as it gets.

Spy spoofs were ten a penny in the 1960s, but you’d be hard pressed to find a worse example than this. The best aspect of the film is its brief length, but this is small consolation to the audience, as the film overstays its welcome in the first quarter of an hour.

Not recommended. Even for hard core Eurospy freaks.

Dick Smart 2.007 (1967)

Dick Smart 2.007 (1967)‘Lady Lister has such a lovely jawbone.’

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.

Dick Smart 2.007 (1967)

‘We’ll have to hurry up, we’ve got another 25 scenes to film before lunch.’

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.

Fury In Marrakesh (1966)

Fury In Marrakesh (1966)‘The man you killed was in her dressing room – and he wasn’t there for fun!’

An international cartel of villains plan to flood the world with counterfeit banknotes hidden by the Nazis. One of their employees steals some of the loot, and her spending activities alert the US security agencies. The CIA send an untested agent to investigate…

Fairly typical Eurospy product with this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ being Canadian actor Stephen Forsyth as CIA man Bob Dixon. He’s mostly joined by an Italian cast, but this is an Italian-French co- production so we also get the lovely Dominique Boschero, who was so good as the evil ‘Queen of the World’ in ‘The Fantastic Argoman/The Incredible Paris Incident (1967). Actually, there’s more than the usual ration of eye candy for the discerning gentleman viewer with ruthless blondes Antonella Margia and Cristina Gaioni and Chinese agent Mitsouka, who actually had an unbilled role opposite Sean Connery in ‘Thunderball’ (1965).

There are also plenty of gadgets for Forsyth to utilise but sadly most of them only appear in a sequence where he goes to get fitted out for his mission, a scene not entirely unfamiliar to anyone with a passing knowledge of ‘Q’ Division. He does get to use a flame thrower disguised as a cigarette lighter, an infra-red viewer and a balloon parachute, although we don’t see this actually deployed.

Fury In Marrakesh (1966)

He was not impressed with the latest 3-D experience.

Most of the action takes place in New York and Morocco so we get a few typical ‘tourist board’ shots, and a tour of the cabarets of Marrakesh, but the climax comes together in the Alps. This features some good stunt work with a light plane and a helicopter, although we do get a story ‘twist’ that’s so obvious that it barely deserves the description.

Writer Ernesto Gastaldi later got involved with the screenplays of a couple of comedy Spaghetti Westerns developed from ideas by great director Sergio Leone: ‘My Name is Nobody’ (1973) and ‘A Genius, Two Friends and An Idiot’ (1975).  Directors Mino Loy and Luciano Martino were better known as producers, although Martino scripted almost 100 films, one of which was Sergio Leone’s full directorial debut ‘The Colossus of Rhodes’ (1961). Forsyth worked up a few more credits, but quit acting in the early 1970’s to become a composer.

A fairly formulaic entry in the Eurospy cycle, with decent enough production values to ensure that it’s a cut above the worst of the genre, but without the creativity or invention to make it stand out from the crowd.

Electra One/Con La Muerte A La Espalda (1967)

Electra One (1967)‘I’m getting used to you and your briefcase.’

A supervillain demonstrates his new mind control drug by making an officer go mad on an army base and almost launch its nuclear missiles. An antidote does exist, but the Professor who created it is killed, and the only samples in existence are in a briefcase carried by his beautiful assistant…

Tired and flat Eurospy outing with this week’s ‘Bond On A Budget’ being George Martin, a Spanish actor whose real name was Francisco Martinez Celeiro. But it’s not quite a business as usual. He’s not a super-slick secret agent in a tuxedo, but a super-slick international jewel thief in a tuxedo instead. You won’t be surprised to learn that it doesn’t make a lot of difference.

After the inventor of the antidote (Georges Chamarat) is shot dead by Electra One’s minions at the jewellery showing where he’s meeting the U.S. authorities, his assistant is rescued by Martin who is luckily attempting a heist at the same time. Yes, it does seem a strange venue for a hand over of something that may save the free world, but then neither the Amercians or the Russian Intelligence Services seem overblessed with that quality in this film. Anyway, our felonious hero rescues the Prof’s pretty assistant (Vivi Bach) along with the briefcase and the two go on the run together. And, boy, do they run! All over the port of Hamburg! But that’s about it as far as story development goes, and the endless series of cross and double cross can do little to hide it.

Electra One (1967)

‘Look at my chest again, and I’ll squeeze even harder…’

There really isn’t a lot to get excited about in this Spanish-French-Italian co-production. Martin is handsome but forgettable and the scenes between him and Bach have little chemistry. Gadgets? Well, he’s not a secret agent so he doesn’t have any, but then neither does anyone else. Guns? There are a few being waved about, but Martin only picks one up in the last 20 minutes of the movie, just before the cable car climax and no, it’s not much like the one in ‘Moonraker’ (1979), being somewhat less ambitious.

Girls? Apart from Bach, there’s the gorgeous Rosalba Neri, but, despite her obvious star quality, she’s totally wasted in the role of the villain’s main killer, the humdrum script providing her with nothing on which to base a performance. There’s an attempt at satire with the Russian and American agents trying to outwit each other, but this subplot is repeatedly ditched in favour of another chase scene before it can develop into anything significant.

Director Alfonso Balázar teamed up with Martin again for ‘Clint el Solitario’ (1967), a Spaghetti Western that also starred Marianne Koch, who’d been the female lead of a little picture called ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ (1964), which also had a ‘Clint’ connection. Bach went on to marry and join her husband in presenting a TV game show before retiring from the screen entirely, due to chronic stage fright.

Dull and anonymous spy romp enlivened by some mildly entertaining stunt driving, but not by the bland, throwaway dialogue scenes in between.

Operazione Poker (1965)

Operazione Poker (1965) ‘With your foolhardy actions, you have signed your own death warrant!’

A secret agent is sent on a mission to ensure the safe arrival of a high-ranking Vietnamese official in central Europe. Other agents involved earlier on have started to disappear, and suspicions are forming in the highest circles that the mission is compromised…

The name’s Glenn. Glenn Foster. This week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ is Roger Browne (yet again!) who visits various glitzy European capitals in search of an AWOL diplomat who has some important documents about something or other. Gadgets? A tracking device he puts on a dog. Guns? Yes, the bullets fly from time to time, particularly around the barrels at a Tuborg Brewery in an extended bout of deadly product placement. Girls? The lovely Helga Liné from the ’Kriminal’ films.

Actually, to be completely fair, there is another gizmo that you can wear as a tie-pin which gives you x-ray vision via a pair of contact lenses but, rather than belonging to Browne’s cache of spy equipment, it’s being used by a playboy to cheat at cards. Browne does get to use it later on, however, when he spies on his girlfriend in bed, thus reinforcing his macho/creepy credentials.

Operazione Poker (1965)

‘No, I don’t want to hold for the Retentions Team…’

Browne’s mission takes him to the usual Tourist Board destinations: Geneva, Vienna, Casablanca, Copenhagen, Paris and Malaga as the weary plot grinds on, throwing up its entirely predictable twists and turns.

 

Browne, who starred in the rather brilliant ‘The Fantastic Argoman/Incident in Paris’ (1967) is an acceptable enough leading man, but the film itself charts waters so familiar it might almost be the dictionary definition of ‘formulaic’. There’s some card play that echoes Daniel Craig’s celebrity poker movie ‘Casino Royale’ (2006) and a car that splits in half at the touch of a button, thereby ejecting unwelcome backseat drivers.

Director Osvaldo Civirani also provided the story for this less-than-thrilling escapade, and remained active in the European film industry for another decade with his final product of note being the subtly titled ‘Voodoo Sexy’ (1975). Browne’s career toddled on until the early 1980s. Despite being American, he appeared almost exclusively in Italian cinema.

An anonymous example of the Eurospy genre.

A001: Operazione Giamaica/Our Man In Jamaica (1965)

A001: Operazione Giamaica/Our Man In Jamaica (1965)‘I’ll get a load of nerve gas and spray it from my plane.’

A secret agent is sent to the West Indies after a colleague goes missing investigating the local trade in gun smuggling. When he arrives, he becomes entangled in a conspiracy involving a mysterious supervillain with some very sketchy plans to destroy America…

Dull and dreary Eurospy with U.S. actor Larry Pennell as this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ running around in an adventure so underwhelming that it barely deserves the name. Guns? Yes, there are some. They actually get fired on occasion. Girls? Margitta Scherr and Barbara Valentin look pretty enough, but both struggle to leave much of an impression. Gadgets? Well, Pennell has this recording apparatus which has both a transmitter, which he hides on a cargo ship, and a receiver. His boss hands this over as if it’s the most wonderful and innovative piece of new spy kit ever, which is perhaps the most puzzling plot development in the entire film.

It’s fairly obvious that we’re not exactly in for a thrill-ride from the get go. Pennell’s Agent 001 (copyright alert!) is licensed to fly, so he solos to Jamaica in a private plane. When he arrives, ground control put him in a holding pattern for absolutely no reason at all. Why? It’s a lame excuse to crowbar in the usual, aerial ‘Tourist Board’ footage and let him buzz some bikini-clad babes on a yacht. Later, he wears a bright yellow shirt at a night-time stakeout (he gets spotted!) and takes a couple of minutes to find a clue hidden under a desk blotter, when the kidnapped heroine did everything but draw him a map to it in the previous scene.

About the only bright spark here is the presence of Brad Harris playing the local police inspector who teams with Pennell. It’s basically the same role the actor played opposite Tony Kendall in the ‘Kommissar X’ series of films, although without the humour. But at least he brings some physicality and a little personality to the proceedings. To make things even worse, the dialogue in the U.S. cut could practically qualify as a dictionary definition of the word ‘generic.’

A001: Operazione Giamaica/Our Man In Jamaica (1965)

‘Of course, I’m going to wear this to the stakeout tonight. What could possibly go wrong?’

Before acting, Pennell was a professional baseball player with the Boston Braves. His acting career didn’t feature many lead roles, but a long history of supporting turns in films like ‘Bubba Ho Tep’ (2002), ‘Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn’ (1983), ‘The Space Children’ (1958) and many network TV shows. He even had a bit in Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’ at the end of his career. Unfortunately, he displays so little screen presence here that the scenes where he and Harris appear together only demonstrate the fact that Harris should have been cast in the lead.

Apparently, some of the action scenes were cut for the French release. I can only think it was because there was a danger that they would send the audience to sleep.

A Eurospy best saved for a wet afternoon in February.