A racing car driver visits Stockholm on a promotional trip at the same time as a Russian ballerina arrives in the city to defect. Two secret agents die after exchanging a confidential report and, as the driver is found at the scene of the second murder, he is drawn into the web of deceit and lies spun by various international espionage agencies…
U.S. actor Ken Clark had already spent considerable time running around continental Europe as this week’s ‘Bond On A Budget’ playing agent Dick Malloy in a trilogy of films, including ‘Agent Bloody Mary’ (1965) and ‘From The Orient With Fury’ (1965). He was following the trail blazed by ‘Hercules’ actor Steve Reeves; relocating to Italy for roles as a leading man after a distinctly underwhelming American career. It was a game plan followed by many at the time. But, although at first glance this seems like yet another ‘cookie cutter’ Eurospy project, you could argue that it doesn’t fit into that category at all.
Clark is Dick Worth: a hot shot, womanising Formula 1 driver who is cajoled into a Swedish working holiday by asthmatic team manager Jess Hahn. The excuse is that Hahn is looking for investors amongst Stockholm’s intelligentsia and Clark is duly dispatched to shake some hands at a theatrical premiere. But our handsome hero has other ideas. His own mission is to ‘get a Swedish girl’ and it seems his luck may be in when one gives him a fender bender in the car park. Unfortunately for Clark, she’s a secret agent who is there for a rendezvous with a colleague and to receive the mysterious report of the title. Both agents wind up dead with Clark first on the scene of the second killing. Luckily, rather than getting arrested by the local constabulary, he’s recruited by C.l.A. big cheese Lincoln Tate to help obtain the report instead (obviously standard C.I.A. practice).
So far, so familiar. This Italian-French co-production sounds like a dozen other Eurospy pictures of the period. As well as Clark, it even has a familiar name behind the camera: Sergio Grieco (hiding under his usual alias of Terence Hathaway) who’d delivered the Dick Malloy trilogy that starred Clark as well as ‘Password: Kill Agent Gordon’ (1965) with Roger Browne. But there are significant differences from the usual formula, which give this film more of the vibe of a serious cold war thriller. For a start, there are no gadgets of any kind. The villain does have a secret identity, but no lair or underground base, and there’s no super weapon ‘that must not fall into the wrong hands.’ Yes, everyone is after this mysterious report, but, for once, it is actually important to the plot, rather than just a device to drive the story.
And then there’s Clark’s racing driver. Yes, he’s a hit with the ladies, but he soon falls head over heels for sexy ballerina Beba Loncar instead of playing the field. He also spends almost the entire film all at sea; completely confused by events and getting captured, beaten up and interrogated on such a regular basis that it’s really no surprise when yet another group of faceless goons start whaling on him and shouting questions.
Clark’s lack of competence is quite refreshing and it’s perhaps indicative that by 1968, the seemingly endless tide of ‘Bond’ knock-offs was on the wane. However, this doesn’t help to energise the film’s repetitious action, and the absence of any unusual quirks or outlandish touches doesn’t assist with the entertainment value. There’s also a serious lack of pace, which is particularly obvious in the closing stages where the film fails to build any momentum at all.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the copious amounts of smoking that everybody does. After all, what’s the first thing you do after finding a fresh corpse that’s still warm? Light up, of course!
A rather anonymous spy thriller that has little to recommend it.