Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965)

Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965)‘Has anyone dared feed your monster a little steel?’

While travelling home to Thebes, Hercules and his crew encounter a ship filled with pirates and put them to the sword. Their cargo of slaves are refugees from Troy, fleeing the city because every month a virgin must be sacrificed to a sea monster to appease the Gods…

At the end of the Italian muscleman cycle, director Albert Band decided to take the Hercules character onto the small screen with the assistance of producer Joseph E Levine, who had brought Steve Reeves to America with the original ‘Hercules’ (1957) and kicked off the whole craze in the first place. Together, they created this 50-minute pilot starring ex-Tarzan Gordon Scott in the title role. Unfortunately, the show didn’t sell, and the result went to cinema screens instead. Although that doesn’t sound promising, the film provides a surprisingly decent level of entertainment.

Sailing home to Thebes after various adventures, Scott and his companions encounter a pirate sharp, captained by Gordon Mitchell. A fairly well-choreographed fight scene follows, ending with Scott dumping Mitchell into a basket and flinging him overboard. Scott’s brothers In arms are led by ‘philosopher, scientist and sceptic Diogenes (Paul Stevens) and Ulysses, the son of the King of Thebes, played by Mart Hulswit. The easy banter between the three is one of the drama’s significant strengths and would have provided a solid base for a series if one had subsequently followed.

Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965)

‘Pah! Why does Scott get all the close-ups?’

When they take the refugees back home, the gang are disappointed to find their charges imprisoned when they reach the city. As King Petra (Steve Garrett) explains, they broke the law by leaving. Every month, the young maidens of Troy have to make themselves available for possible selection as monster fodder. Even Garrett’s niece, Diana (Diana Hyland) has to take part until she takes the throne in a couple of months. Of course, Scott vows to challenge the beast and end the curse, but intrigues at court threaten the attempt. The main problem is that Garrett is planning to hold onto the throne by ensuring Hyland is chosen at the next ceremony. Her lover, Leander (George Ardisson) is also jealous of the big man.

There’s enough plot here for a full-length feature and, at times, it does feel like this has been cut down from something much longer. This impression is heightened by actor Everett Sloane, who is fulfilling the role of VoiceOver Man here. This wouldn’t usually be a problem, but the device is overused, and his commentary is often unnecessary. Still, there is a fair quantity of well-mounted action, and it’s evident that Band had a decent budget at his disposal. The monster FX are variable; in the water, the creature looks pretty ragged, but it fares far better on land. It may not stir from the one spot on the beach, but it’s an impressive size and has a good range of body movement otherwise. Scott’s interactions with it make for a decent climax, although you can’t help wondering why everyone else just stands by and watches the fight, rather than give the big man a helping hand.

Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965)

‘Keep your tentacles to yourself.’

The performances also help proceedings significantly, with Scott making for a fine Hercules. Physically, he looks the part, and he has a charm and screen presence that elevates him above most of the actors who have taken on the role. Stevens is the brains of the heroic trio and delivers his lines with a dry, cynical humour that provides a nice contrast to the youthful enthusiasm of the good-natured Hulswit. We also get Roger Browne as heroic soldier, Ortag, who unsuccessfully takes on the monster at the start of the story, and later helps to rescue Scott from the bottom of a metal pit. Ardisson also displays a lively presence in his underdeveloped role, although he can’t compete with pirate captain Mitchell who only gets about a minute of screen time.

Scott had first made his mark through military service before pursuing various careers after his honourable discharge: cowboy, fireman and salesman. He was spotted by Hollywood talent scouts while working as a lifeguard, and producer Sol Lesser cast him in the title role of ‘Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle’ (1955). Five films in the series followed before he moved to Italy where he was cast in Peplum films, taking on the roles of many of its’ significant strongmen including Maciste, Samson and Goliath, as well as Hercules. But, by the mid-1960s, the popularity of such characters was being eclipsed at the box office by more modern adventures, typically featuring guns, girls and gadgets. Scott briefly made the switch to the spy game, but, after a couple of outings as a ‘Bond On A Budget’, he retired in 1967.

Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965)

‘A little help, please…’

Ardisson and Browne shared a very similar initial career trajectory, both getting their starts in Peplum before transferring to the Eurospy arena. But, while Scott retired, both Ardisson and Browne went onto long careers throughout the 1970s and beyond. Ardisson is probably best remembered for his work with director Mario Bava, appearing as sidekick Theseus in ‘Hercules In The Haunted World’ (1961) and the title role of ‘Erik The Conqueror’ (1961). Browne took the lead in cult favourite ‘Argoman The Fantastic Superman/The Fantastic Argoman’ (1967) and toplined half a dozen Eurospy pictures, most of which were better examples of the type, such as ‘SuperSeven Calling Cairo’ (1965) and ‘Operation Poker’ (1965).

A surprisingly good little episode in the chronicles of its muscle-bound hero. A series never resulted, of course, and, although that’s not a tragedy, on this evidence, it certainly had the potential to be an entertaining show.

Samoa, Queen of the Jungle/Samoa, regina della giungla (1968)

Samoa, Queen of the Jungle/Samoa, regina della giungla (1968)‘There are no Diamonds here, only this jungle of Doom! We’re going to rot like worms!’

A shady Asian businessman finances an expedition into the unexplored heart of Borneo after he receives reports of vast diamond deposits in the region. The party find their mettle and loyalties severely tested on the journey and, when they find that the stories are true, it creates a whole different set of problems…

Jungle movies were all in the rage in the early days of cinema, principally because many exotic regions of the world were still unmapped and their floral and fauna mostly unknown. Animals such as lions and elephants had been appearing in touring circuses since the 19th Century and had proved massively popular, but in the days before mass media, that was the only one way the public was likely to see them. The big-screen afforded them far greater access, and the mystery of their native lands gave filmmakers a virtually blank canvas which they could populate with lost cities, fabulous treasures and colourful natives.

By the end of the 1960s, of course, things were a little different. Television had brought the jungle right into people’s living rooms, and there had been hundreds of films where brave adventurers braved crocodile-infested rivers, wrestled with doped-up big cats and pointed offscreen at library footage of native ceremonies. The genre wasn’t just tired; it was in its death throes. Final extinction was delayed by the surprising popularity of NBC’s ‘Tarzan’ TV show starring Ron Ely, but that was cancelled in 1968. Of course, no less a director than Steven Spielberg was to revive its spirit over a decade later with his Indiana Jones series, but the jungle movie in its traditional form wasn’t coming back. There have been several attempts to revive Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famous Ape-Man since, of course, but they have not been successful, although that might have something to do with the woeful quality of those efforts.

Samoa, Queen of the Jungle/Samoa, regina della giungla (1968)

‘Please tell me some more about the history of Jungle Films…

So, where does that leave this Italian production, directed by Guido Malatesta under the name of James Reed? Well, the set up is what you’d expect. Rumours of priceless diamonds in the unexplored interior of Borneo have put dollar signs in the eyes of a dodgy businessman, Mr Wong. He has assembled a crack team of explorers to check it out, led by the handsome, square-jawed, two-fisted Clint Loman (Roger Browne). Other recruits from the pool of reliable old cliches are geologist Professor Dawdon (Tulio Altamura), his sexy blonde secretary Nancy (Ivy Holzer), young eager beaver Alain (Umberto Ceriani), medico Doctor Schwarz (Andrea Aureli) and a couple of other examples of wild animal fodder. We also get introduced to Pierre Moro (Ivano Staccioli) who might as well be wearing a t-shirt saying ‘untrustworthy creep.’ He even starts leering at Holzer at the first meeting, although it’s clear that she already only has eyes for Browne. At least we are spared the bullshit conversation about taking a woman on such a dangerous expedition, though. So, there is that.

It is pleasing to see that they waste no time in getting into the jungle and that the film proudly upholds some of the old traditions of this kind of picture when they do. The cast stare offscreen at lots of things that aren’t there, a stuffed tiger proves deadly for ‘jungle expert’ Hans Müller (Ivan Basta), and there’s lots and lots of stock footage of crocodiles. Holzer undresses in her tent with a light behind her and needs to be rescued by Browne from various beasties at unsurprisingly regular intervals. The expedition is warned of the presence of headhunters by two natives in a passing canoe who are kindly appearing courtesy of a local reasonably-priced film library.

Samoa, Queen of the Jungle/Samoa, regina della giungla (1968)

Always bring a machine gun to a spear fight.

Up until around the halfway point, this is all feeble, formulaic stuff. No-one is likely to be remotely convinced that the production set foot anywhere near a real jungle as the footage of the actors and the real-life locations is very poorly matched. The characters and performances are lifeless and bland. The attempt to stoke up a conflict between Browne and Staccioli over Holzer is half-baked and inevitable from the first few moments of the film after the opening credits have rolled.

But things only get worse as the film progresses. Inevitably, the expedition finds a lost tribe deep in the jungle, roughly in the region where the diamonds are supposed to be (what a surprise). This mismatched racial group (all Asiatic origins are welcome) communicates with our heroes via Samoa (Edwige Fenech), a beautiful, white girl left with them as a child after the death of her father. She looks like she wouldn’t last five minutes in a real jungle, but has perfect hair and makeup, so that’s ok. I often wonder who it was that thought to open a beauty salon in the jungle? Sound business plan, given all the lost jungle girls and savage tribal queens in need of a regular appointments. It’s not long before Browne and Fenech are knocking boots, of course, to the odd accompaniment of rippling footage of flowers. Well, I suppose it was the late Sixties.

Samoa, Queen of the Jungle/Samoa, regina della giungla (1968)

🎵 In the jungle…the mighty jungle… 🎶

In another riveting romantic development, young Ceriani starts making time with dusky tribal girl Yasmin (the very Italian Femi Benussi). I guess she was abandoned at birth by another explorer? Browne also discovers that their panning the river for diamonds isn’t working because the natives already have an extensive collection in their temple. Obviously, they are sacred stones (yawn!), and this conflict of interest culminates in a bloodless gun battle where the same extras are killed over and over again. This wouldn’t be so bad if they hadn’t already met a similar fate as headhunters earlier in the picture. Holzer isn’t allowed to use a firearm in the fight, by the way, but she’s very good at handing the men spare ammunition. And, no, the natives don’t have guns, just spears, so the heroes just cut them all down in cold blood.

Yes, here we come to the film’s main problem. Our so-called heroes are actually the villains. They barge their way into an unspoilt land, try to steal its riches and ruthlessly kill any of the indigenous people who have the nerve to object. Their only motivation is greed. Pure and simple. And if you think that leading man Browne is any different you’d be wrong. He only sleeps with Fenech to find out where the jewels are and even insists that she accompany him back to civilisation afterwards. She’s conflicted about going, but hey, she doesn’t really get a choice because he’s a man, so that’s ok. The only real distinction between Browne’s behaviour and that of the slimy Staccioli is that the latter attempts to double-cross everyone (yawn!) and Browne remains vaguely loyal to the rest of his dubious crew. So, I guess that makes him the hero, then.

Samoa, Queen of the Jungle/Samoa, regina della giungla (1968)

‘Don’t worry, I expect the clothing budget on your subsequent films will be a lot higher…’

Even the title is misleading. If you’re expecting to see Fenech swinging through the trees in a skimpy outfit, you’re going to be severely disappointed. She doesn’t talk to the animals, fight with them and moves around like she’s keen not to break a nail. It was only her second film so perhaps her failure to convince in the role should be put down to inexperience. The native village looks like it’s located in a field in somewhere like Oxfordshire and, in the end, none of our main characters is remotely sorry for anything that they’ve done. Rather they’re just slightly miffed at how everything was so damned inconvenient.

American Browne was a familiar face to Italian audiences, having graduated from the Peplum arena to running around the capitals of Europe as the best ‘Bond On A Budget’ in the mid-1960s. He also took the title role of ‘The Fantastic Argoman/Incident In Paris’ (1967), which is one of the most enjoyable cult movies of its time. Both Fenech and Benussi went onto cult status over the next few years. Fenech appeared as leading lady in many notable titles, such as horror maestro Mario Bava’s ‘Five Dolls For An August Moon’ (1970) and other Giallo pictures like ‘The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh’ (1971), ‘All The Colors of the Dark’ (1972), ‘The Case of the Bloody Iris’ (1972) and ‘Your Vice Is A Locked Room and Only I Have The Key’ (1972). She’s just as well known for many sex comedies, most of which don’t seem to have had too much in the way of a wardrobe budget.

Samoa, Queen of the Jungle/Samoa, regina della giungla (1968)

‘I’m bored. Can’t we needlessly shoot someone?’

Benussi followed a similar career path, working with Bava on ‘Hatchet For The Honeymoon’ (1969) before spending the next few years between the sheets on projects such as ‘Homo Eroticus’ (1971), ‘Decameron’s Jolly Kittens’ (1972), ‘Tales of Erotica’ (1972) and ‘Poppea… una prostituta al servizio dell’impero’ (1972) (do you really need that translated!?). Giallo ‘Strip Nude For Your Killer’ (1975) gave her a more significant role (even if she was playing second fiddle to Fenech) and she took the lead in ‘The Bloodsucker Leads The Dance’ (1975).

Many of the cast worked again with writer-director Malatesta, especially Altamura and Aureli who joined him on multiple projects. He returned to the jungle a year later with ‘Tarzana, the Wild Woman’ (1969) promoting Benussi to the role of savage queen opposite Ken Clark and Beryl Cunningham. But the bedrock of his career was the Peplum pictures of the early 1960s; titles like ‘Goliath Against the Giants’ (1961), ‘Colossus of the Stone Age’ (1962) and ‘Revolt of the Barbarians/La rivolta dei barbari’ (1964). He was still working at the time of his early death in 1970.

A tired and predictable jungle adventure with a somewhat dubious moral centre. 

Password: Uccidete Agente Gordon/Kill Agent Gordon (1966)

Password Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966)‘You’re very sweet and one day I want you to meet my twin brother.’

The Western intelligence community suspects that a mysterious criminal organisation are supplying the VietCong with illegal weapons. When an agent investigating in Paris is killed, a top spy is sent to take his place and bust the gun smuggling operation wide open…

This week’s ‘Bond on A Budget’ is American actor Roger Browne (again!), top lining this Italian-Spanish co-production directed by EuroSpy veteran Sergio Grieco under his usual alias of ‘Terence Hathaway’ (brilliantly misspelled in the credits as ’Therence’!) But let’s ignore the first two elements of the usual Eurospy formula of Guns, Gadgets and Girls and go straight to the main attractions: Roslba Neri and Helga Liné. Both actresses had bags of experience in the genre and, together with Browne, constitute what could almost be regarded as a EuroSpy dream team! And with a safe, experienced pair of hands behind the camera, this just has to be good, right? Um…no.

Browne arrives in Paris where he’s kidnapped from a taxi at gunpoint before he’s had a chance to even check in at his hotel. Fast work by the enemies of democracy you might think! But no, it turns out that it’s just his boss who wants to brief him on the mission (this agency seems to have a peculiar idea of ‘covert operations’!) ln no time, Browne has identified his ex-colleague’s important contact, played by Neri. She’s part of some kind of cabaret act that are referred to throughout the film as a Ballet company! Their dance instructor has ‘generic villain’ tattooed on his forehead and some business ensues involving a vital microfilm (or something?)

Password Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966)

Q Division always came up with the most sophisticated new spy gadgets…

Then is off to Tripoli for the next stop on the dance tour, and Browne tags along as it seems to be the thing to do (for some reason). There he teams up with Russian agent Liné and both are kidnapped and tortured after running around quite a bit. The villains attempt to double cross each other, a suitcase explodes, people actually fire guns at each other (eventually!), and there’s a final twist that will only surprise someone who has nodded off a couple of times during the film (most people, probably).

But the main problem here is the plot. It’s completely underdeveloped, and often seems to be little more than a series of excuses to get Browne from one punch up to the next. These are quite energetic, if not particularly convincing, the realism not assisted by the intermittent introduction of a fairly obvious stunt double. And far be it from me to question the presence of the always luminous Neri, but her dance moves seem to consist of just teasing her hair and strutting about for a few seconds. That’s not really ballet, love. Actually, her role is rather brief, although there is a scene where Browne ties her up and tickles her with a feather (for purposes of information gathering, of course). Liné is wasted even worse than Neri, with almost her entire contribution to proceedings being to lend her car to one of Browne’s colleagues! The two actresses never share a scene, which may have been down to the logistics of filming, but is a crying shame (or even ‘Kriminal’ if you will). Rather brilliantly, the villains favour the old Hollywood cowboy method of shooting; one handed, hold the gun low and don’t bother to aim properly. Surprisingly enough, they never manage to hit anything. It really highlights some serious shortcomings in our villain’s recruitment policy and henchman training program.

But all these doings prompt an important question. ls this even a EuroSpy film at all? Ok, so we do have a semi-mysterious villain. What is his plan for world domination? He doesn’t seem to have one. ls there a secret base that explodes when you shoot out a control panel? Err…no. ls there a super- scientific weapon ‘that must not fall into the wrong hands’? Nope. But there is lots of ‘Tourist Board’ footage showcasing the local colour of the glamorous locations, right? No. Any action set pieces or notable stunt work? Not really. Gadgets! There must be gadgets? Um…there’s a wristwatch that explodes, does that count? Are there any outlandish trappings at all? No. Well, to be fair, Liné is tied to a table at the climax and some sparks fly about. So there is that.

Password Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966)

The rehearsals for ‘Swan Lake’ were going particularly well…

Grieco began his directing career with costume and muscleman features, before jumping on the Bond bandwagon with ‘Agente 007: Missione Bloody Mary’ (1965) (also with Liné) and ‘From The Orient With Fury’ (1965), before following up with this effort, and the underwhelming ‘Special Mission Lady Chaplin’ (1966) (with Liné again!). He also reteamed with Browne for gloriously cheesy superhero flick ‘Argoman, The Fantastic Superman/Incident ln Paris’ (1967) for which the world must always be truly grateful.

Browne himself had already done the EuroSpy thing for real on several occasions; partnering up with Liné for ‘Operation Poker’ (1965) and with Neri for Umberto Lenzi’s ‘SuperSeven Calling Cairo’ (1965). As you may have gathered, Liné appeared in a truly heroic amount of films, especially in the 1970s, and, although her credits include a lot of comedies, notable cult films include ‘Kriminal’ (1966) and its sequel, ‘Horror Express’ (1972) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, ‘The Vampire’s Night Orgy’ (1973), ‘Vengeance of the Mummy’ (1973) with Paul Naschy, and ‘The Lorelei’s Grasp’ (1973) for ‘Blind Dead’ director Amando de Ossorio. She also found the time to star opposite legendary silver-masked Mexican wrestler El Santo in ‘Santo Contra el Doctor Muerte’ (1973)!

Neri is perhaps best remembered as the rather naughty ‘Lady Frankenstein’ (1971) and was unlucky enough to star in Jess Franco’s hopeless ‘The Castle of Fu Manchu’ (1969) with Christopher Lee. Actually, the actress worked in lots of different genres; principally Westerns and comedies, although more horror roles followed in the 1970s after her turn as the Baron’s daughter. Usually, in films where there appeared to be a limited budget for clothes.

If I’ve seemed to focus a little too much on the career history of our three principal actors, it’s mainly to emphasise what a missed opportunity we have here. All in all, this film is more of an international spy thriller than anything else; too vaguely silly to bear the stamp of Cold War realism but far too mundane to even be called a James Bond knock-off.

And a complete waste of everyone’s time.

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.

The Spy Who Loved Flowers (1966)

The Spy Who Loved Flowers (1966)‘l’m quite sure there’s a contact underneath based on magnetic frequencies…’

A spy is sent to assassinate three men who supposedly hold knowledge of a secret weapon that is in danger of falling into the hands of the other side. Unhappy with his role as a paid killer, he soon finds out that everything is not as it seems…

Roger Browne returns as Secret Agent Mark Stevens, although this time he’s dubbed by an actor with a German accent, which is a little distracting. It’s a sequel to the fairly slick ‘Super Seven: Calling Cairo’ (1965) which may not have been a classic, but obviously was a winner at the box office. ‘Bond On A Budget’ movies in the 1960s seemed less a licence to kill, and more like a licence to print money.

Everything is a slight step down in quality from the first movie and that was little more than a standard Eurospy outing, although there are many inferior examples of the genre. But there’s less action here, the story develops more slowly and female leads (Emma Danieli and Daniele Vargas) can’t compete with the luminous Rosalba Neri from the first film. There’s more useful information for the prospective tourist, though, with Browne’s mission taking him to Paris and Geneva before the drama plays out in Athens. Villainess Yoko Tani does display some martial arts moves, but the fight choreography is not particularly good, and the low budget is betrayed by the lack of stunts and big set pieces. Some of the supporting cast return from the first film, although in different roles.

The Spy Who Loved Flowers (1966)

‘Loop your own dialogue or else!’

The director was Umberto Lenzi, who made a number of these pictures before graduating to the horror genre and upsetting the British Censors during the ridiculous, trumped-up ‘Video Nasty’ scandal of the early 1980s. Of course, Browne also starred in ‘The Fantastic Argoman’/The Incredible Paris Incident (1967), a much funnier and surreal take on 1960s spy/superhero/comic book culture.

This film isn’t in that league, and simply takes its place amongst the endless parade of unremarkable Eurospy flicks of the 1960s.

Super Seven Calling Cairo/Superseven Chiama Cairo (1965)

Superseven Calling Cairo (1965)‘At the moment, Napoleon is the only one who can get us out of this mess…’

A foreign agent has stolen a brand new radioactive element, built it into a cine camera, and sent it to Cairo for collection by a Russian agent. But the camera is sold to a tourist by mistake and a British Special Agent is sent to recover it.

Above average 1960s Eurospy outing starring Roger Browne as this week’s ‘Bond on a Budget’ agent Martin Stevens. Predictably, the story is no great shakes, with most of the usual clichés of the genre making an early appearance. Browne finds the mysterious Rosalba Neri in his shower when he checks into his hotel room (lucky man!), there’s the usual tourist board footage (an agent is shot climbing the great pyramid!), and the plot takes our hero on a wild goose chase to other European cities, in this case Rome and Locarno in Switzerland.

Superseven Calling Cairo (1965)

‘Blimey! There’s a mysterious girl in my shower. Again.’

Having said that, it’s all good, breezy fun, and a notch above most of the other identikit spy thrillers of the period. Browne (an American who spent almost his entire career in Italian films) displays more charisma and screen presence than the vast majority of secret agents that were running around Europe in the mid-1960s and, of course went onto star in the title role of kitsch superhero classic ‘The Fantastic Argoman’/’The Incredible Paris Incident’ (1967).

The rest of the cast also helps, with Neri as gorgeous and exotic as ever, Fabienne Dali’ providing our hero with a pretty alternative and ex-Nazi villain Massimo Serato suitably suave and cruel. Although the budget doesn’t allow for any big set pieces, the story moves quickly and retains audience interest.

Italian director Umberto Lenzi knocked out a few of these pictures in the 1960s before his career swung into the horror genre with films like ‘Nightmare City’ (1980) and ‘Cannibal Ferox (1981), both of which got the British censors hot under the collar during the hysterical ‘Video Nasty’ scandal of the early 1980s.

Browne returned as Stevens the following year in ‘The Spy Who Loved Flowers’ (1966).

The Fantastic Argoman/The Incredible Paris Incident (1967)

The Fantastic Argoman/The Incredible Paris Incident (1967) ‘I warn you, it will permeate and destroy your volition.’

Sir Reginald Hoover is an international trouble-shooter for the British Government. He also fights crime more directly as Argoman, a masked superhero with telekinetic powers. When the world is threatened by a super villain who steals the Crown Jewels as part of a plan to get a big diamond and create an automaton army(!), he swings into action to save the day.

Cheerful Bond/Superman Italian silliness with Roger Browne sporting a nifty yellow onesie, a black mask, cape and boots. In real life, he’s your typical millionaire playboy, using his telekinetic powers to kidnap a beautiful girl from a passing hovercraft and right into his waiting arms. With great power comes great responsibility, don’t you know? Anyway, this turns out to be a tactical error as the seemingly innocent girl is actually Jenebel, self-proclaimed ‘Queen of the World’, played by the lovely Dominique Boschero. He proposes an archery contest — a Rolls for her if she wins, a roll with him if she doesn’t – and the seduction technique (although questionable) works a treat as she bungles it. But the fact is he’s being played, as she knows (somehow) that he loses his superpowers for 6 hours after sex, and she wants to get her sweaty paws on that diamond.

This is good knockabout, goofy fun with plenty of colourful action and a powerhouse performance from Boschero, who has a great time in a series of extraordinary outfits. The police and authorities are ridiculously stupid (as usual), and, although there’s a lack of big set pieces, that kind of adds to the bargain basement charm. A good deal of the action is allegedly set in London, so we get all the usual visual and musical cues; the National Anthem on the soundtrack, shots of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge, etc. When we move to Pairs, we get the obligatory scene shot at the Eiffel Tower.

The Fantastic Argoman (1967)

‘Nice weather we’re having this time of year, what?’

Director Sergio Grieco (as Terence Hathaway) had previous form in the genre with the rather dull and disappointing ‘Special Mission Lady Chaplain’ (1966), but delivers far more entertainment value here. Sadly, there were no direct sequels (an opportunity missed), but ‘SuperArgo Vs Diabolicus’ (1966)  and ‘SuperArgo Vs The Faceless Giants’ (1968) covered similar ground. Those films starred Giovanni Cianfriglia, who was billed under the somewhat less exotic name of Ken Wood.

Argoman gets some choice dialogue too, a particular highlight being when he gets all self-analytical in a conversation with his valet: ‘Sometimes l‘d prefer not to have my superpowers, if only to make my adventures a bit more difficult.’

Tongue wedged firmly in its cheek, this is one of the most enjoyable spy/superhero spoofs of the 1960s.