Flashman (1967)

Flashman (1967)‘I’m afraid you’re wasting your bullets. They only tickle.’

Thieves murder a professor for his invisibility formula and use it to help them rob a bank. Unfortunately, a lot of their ill-gotten gains had already been replaced with counterfeit notes by a gang of beautiful women and, worse still, the chief teller is actually crime fighter Flashman in disguise.

Painfully uninspired cross between a caper movie and a superhero flick, which struggles throughout to find a focus for its rambling storyline. ls it Paolo Gozlino’s ‘Flashman’, a hero with a silly costume and not much else? ls it Claudie Lange’s girl gang, who cosy up to bank staff at work and swap out real currency with funny money right under their noses? Or is it lvano Staccioli’s cigarette floating in mid-air and chair cushions sinking under his invisible arse? Well, it’s all of these things, and none at all, really.

We open with a swinging montage of bright, primary colours and the camera zooming crazily in and out on tinted stills from the film. Girlie singers sing the name of the movie. Yeah, it’s the Sixties, baby! This Italian movie tries desperately to mine that ‘anything goes’ vibe but fails miserably to capture the spirit of the age with a pedestrian, laboured script which is little more than a scribble on a table napkin.

Our main man is Lord Burman, working undercover in his own bank to foil the counterfeiting ring, and then getting the blame for the more direct methods of the invisible bank robber and his pals. A quick exit is necessary through a convenient window, which leaves the guards flummoxed as he simply disappears! l guess it’s because he has a silly costume back in his closet at home. Also along for the ride is sister sidekick Ann Marie Williams, who contributes a series of silly outfits, outlandish makeup and little else. Flashman’s main squeeze is Micaela Pignatelli (from ‘Goldface, The Fantastic Superman’ (1967)!!), who ends up tied to the train tracks to the accompaniment of tiresome ‘comedy’ music (note the inverted commas).

Flashman (1967)

‘Something for the weekend, sir?’

No, the film doesn’t take itself very seriously, which is a bonus, so there is a fair bit of knock about humour, usually at the expense of ‘the man’, in the form of Police Inspector Baxter (Jack Ary). Sadly, it lacks, wit, style and any kind of madcap sensibility that might have provided some entertainment value. Instead, we have a succession of lifeless developments that really go nowhere, and painfully obvious pratfalls. ln the end, the film simply disintegrates into an extended climactic, chase sequence, which sorely tries the patience.

The only notable creative touch comes from director Ernesto Gastaldi, who sometimes favours close-ups so huge that we can only see part of the actor’s faces. But I guess we have to be kind and assume that it’s some kind of aspect ratio issue, rather than a testament to the amount of strange substances consumed on set.

Enough material for an unfunny comedy sketch does not make for a good film.

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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.

The Giant of Metropolis (1961)

The Giant of Metropolis (1961)‘Within two months, the conjunction of the stars will create the favourable physiological conditions for the transfer of a human brain.’

Obro and his brothers travel to Metropolis to warn its leaders to stop using science to pervert the course of nature. Meanwhile, the city’s leader (and top scientist) plans to transfer the consciousness of his deceased father into the brain of his young son so that the boy can live forever.

It’s always a little tricky to review films made in other countries, based on their U.S. release print. For a start, is this Italian muscleman picture about Atlantis or Metropolis? It’s the ‘M’ word throughout the picture, but the title crawl at the start of the film suggests otherwise, perhaps because George Pal’s big budget ‘Atlantis, the Lost Continent’ (1961) was out at the same time. Having said that, the English dub is so atrocious throughout that they may as well have gone the whole hog and just called it ‘Giant of Atlantis.’ Nobody would have been any the wiser…

Proceedings open with Obro (Gordon Mitchell) surviving some…um…wind thingy, which evil mastermind Yotar (Roldano Lupi) uses to keep strangers out of his city. You see, Lupi has quite a full dance card already, what with keeping his father alive after death, planning to put the old man’s mind into his pre-teen son, keeping the entire city’s population under hypnotic control and his wife (Linda Orfei) and daughter from his first marriage (Bella Cortez) in line. He’s also has a 200 year old ‘cave dweller‘ he regularly asks for advice and, surprise, surprise, the city’s built on top of an active volcano (probably an oversight in town planning there).

So along comes hunky Mitchell stirring things up with his prophecies of doom and that’s the last thing Lupi needs. Even if nearly everyone else in the cast is telling him the same thing anyway! But he plunges on with his mad schemes nevertheless and submits Mitchell to various tasks (or ‘labours’ perhaps?) including writhing under a nasty spotlight and fighting a big hairy bloke. He also has some combat with a group of flesh-eating pygmies in a chucklesome fight sequence which is the highlight of a string of totally inept action scenes.

Yes, this is actually a ‘Hercules’ picture in all but name, with a slight emphasis on science fiction rather than classical mythology. Mitchell flexes his pecs, shows Cortez ‘how to live’ (yes, you know what that means), Lupi scowls and shouts ‘take him away’ a few times, and everyone walks around in silly togas (apart from Mitchell, of course). Another highlight is a puzzling and hopelessly stilted ceremonial dance performed by Cortez and a couple of flunkeys, which I found pretty hilarious. Either she was no dancer or the choreographer had dropped some acid. You decide.

The Giant of Metropolis (1961)

‘I think he’s been too long under the sun lamp…’

Mitchell was a bodybuilder with a handful of unbilled credits when he went to Italy to ride the wave created by Steve Reeves and the global success of ‘Hercules’ (1959). This was Mitchell’s first starring role and he overacts terribly, although none of the rest of the cast were likely to win any awards either.

Mitchell had yet another hurdle to overcome: he didn’t speak any Italian. Instead, he recited dirty limericks during his dialogue scenes, knowing the correct lines would be dubbed in later! Given that the film was then released in the States re-dubbed, it’s inevitable that words and mouth movements rarely coincide.

Unbelievably, given such dubious beginnings, Mitchell went onto a long and very varied film career, appearing in ‘Fellini’s Satyricon’ (1969), John Huston’s ‘Reflections In A Golden Eye’ (1967) with Marlon Brando and slightly less prestigious productions such as ‘Julius Caesar Against the Pirates‘ (1962), ‘Evil Spawn’ (1987) and ‘Bikini Drive-ln’ (1995). Watch any Italian film from the 1960s and 70s (particularly a Western) and there’s a good chance he’ll make an appearance!

Unbelievably, it took six scriptwriters to come up with this particular slice of lunacy but I am so glad that they did. Seriously bad, but seriously entertaining as well.

Satanik (1968)

Satanik_(1968)‘It may sound absurd, but these last few days we’ve been on an ocean of absurdity.’

A top scientist has invented a formula which reverses the effects of ageing in his lab animals, although it does little for their personalities, turning them psychotic. His disfigured assistant wants him to try the potion on her anyway, but he refuses, citing the need for more tests. Disappointed with this management decision, she takes matters into her own hands…

Misleadingly marketed film that looks like a female version of ‘Danger: Diabolik’ (1967), but instead of a cartoon supervillainess threatening world peace with an arsenal of crazy gadgets, we get a heartless, social climbing serial killer, who seems perfectly happy stripping on stage in her new boyfriend’s casino!

The tale was actually based on a comic book character created by writer Max Bunker and artist Magnus, who were also responsible for the ‘Kriminal’ imprint.
But, although the Satanik character became involved in some pretty outlandish adventure in the comics, a lot were of a more conventional nature and, whether it was due to budgetary constraints or not, that’s the path the film chooses to take.

Our lead is the beautiful Magda Konopka, beginning the film in unconvincing old age makeup. She’s rushing to the lab in the dead of a stormy night for a confrontation with her boss, top research scientist Nerio Bernadi. The meeting ends badly, for him at least, and Konopka takes his experimental potion, dropping under the table like a hundred Dr Jekylls before her. A quick couple of lightning flashes later, and she emerges as a supermodel in sexy lipstick and black eyeliner! It’s one hell of a makeover. A quick trip down the pub later, and she’s seduced a rich antique dealer, who is connected to a dodgy flamenco club run by a criminal gang. Once she catches the eyes of the club’s boss, her current boyfriend is surplus to requirements, of course. And that’s not a good thing for him! Meanwhile a couple of senior detectives wander about a bit, investigating the murders and being spectacularly slow on the uptake.

Satanik_(1968)

Someone had sold her a kipper…

If it sounds like breezy fun, then think again. Konopka’s exploits largely fall flat as there’s little plot development here, more a series of loosely connected scenes. The rogues gallery of nasty underworld types that she encounters are completely generic and lack any personality; a criticism that could be directed at the entire proceedings. There are a couple of twists late on in the tale, which look rudely stuck on to provide an ending, but are at least a little unexpected.

Konopka had previously starred opposite ex-Tarzan Gordon Scott in obscure eurospy outing ‘Top Secret’ (1967) and her subsequent career was notable only for a featured role in Hammer’s ‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth’ (1970) and a handful of guest appearances on UK TV shows like ‘Jason King’ and ’The Persuaders!’ She certainly has some presence here, but it’s hard to judge her abilities based on such a one note character.

A disappointing project in most every respect.

Lightning Bolt (Gemini 13) (1966)

Lightning Bolt (1966)‘One of those agents had a multiple spine fracture after that doll got through with him.’

A mysterious supervillain is sabotaging the U.S. moon project by trashing the rocket launches at Cape Kennedy. A top secret government agency sends its best operatives to investigate and foil the saboteur’s dastardly schemes by any means necessary.

Opening with some scratchy stock footage of a rocket launch, this lame Eurospy cheapie is a ragbag of tired cliché and reheated elements. Most of the time we’re in the company of this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ Anthony Eisley, who is working with the lovely Diana Lorys, who plays hardass Captain Flanagan. She’s the head of the mission but, if you think that sounds like a pleasing role reversal, then I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

Our crazed super villain (Folco Lulli) is the head of a brewing empire, and uses his beer trucks to further his nefarious schemes. Unfortunately, he’s also built his secret headquarters on top of an active volcano, which might turn out to be a serious tactical error – it usually is. Eisley’s go-to gadgets include a watch that doubles as a Geiger counter and… well, the watch is about it, really. He also fires off his gun in a cramped grain silo because ricochets don’t matter, and tries to give the picture some pizzazz with his ‘witty’ voiceover.

Lightning Bolt (1966)

‘I really think you should stick to making toys. Mr. Lucas.’

Lorys’ Captain Flanagan is codenamed Agent 36-22-36 (a-ha ha ha!) and, for a supposed ruthless assassin, she spends an awful lot of time acting like a right girlie and waiting for Eisley to sort things out. And, of course, after putting up the usual token resistance, she’s only too willing to succumb to Eisley and his smarmy advances, which include a subtle smack on the rear end. The FSIC — Federal Scrutiny Investigation Commission — are obviously not too bothered about sexual harassment at work.

The tiny budget shows up most obviously in the shoddy model work and awful process shots, which are employed in a supposedly exciting race against time to stop a bombing. All the hallmarks of a tired and formulaic Eurospy outing are present and correct, but on an even smaller scale than usual. Entertainment value is low, and really it’s for hard core fans of the genre only.

And I couldn’t help but wonder why Lulli goes to the bother of sabotaging the rockets anyway. Surely, all he had to do was stop NASA renting the TV studio?