‘My company is in the phone book under the FBI.’
A top FBI agent saves a stranger from being beaten up by two thugs after leaving a bar. What he doesn’t know is that all of them are part of a conspiracy to hijack an armoured van and rob the U.S. Treasury. The agent begins to investigate when the young man turns up dead, but the poison gas he created is already in the hands of the gang…
The fourth entry in the Jerry Cotton series finds the ever-present American actor George Nader once more in the title role. Although his adventures are often recorded as falling under the Eurospy umbrella, the connection is a little tenuous. Nader might be a cool agent ready with his fists, but there’s little of the girls and gadgets on hand that an audience might reasonably expect and even less of the typical glamour.
A quiet night down the pub is never on the cards when you’re a secret agent. When his spider-sense starts a-tingling, Jerry Cotton (Nader) follows young gun Tommy Wheeler (Christian Doemer) out of his local when the chemist picks up a couple of non-too friendly plus-ones. Nader deals with them, of course, but Doemer doesn’t hang around to say thanks. Nader shrugs it off, of course. It’s just another day at the office for the likes of him. He’s happy to go back to his pint and chat up the bar’s singer Violet (Yvonne Monlaur), who tells him that Doemer is an out of work chemist who seems to be in some sort of trouble. Nader agrees to look into it, although it may only be an excuse to give her his telephone number.
Doemer has fallen in with a criminal gang who hang out backstage at a wrestling arena and are led by the ruthless Charles Anderson (Horst Tappert). The current project on the books is robbing the U.S. Mint, apparently located in Wall Street and not Washington D.C. as you might have thought. Anyway, this government financial ‘clearing house’ (whatever it may be) is in the habit of recycling old bills for new, sending out the discards in an armoured van, presumably for destruction. The plan is to hijack the vehicle using a smoke bomb provided by Doemer, grab the cash and head for the hills. The heist comes off, but Doemer is surplus to requirements afterwards. When the boffins at the FBI examine the body, they find traces of the gas used in the robbery, and Nader puts two and two together.
The bureau was already on high alert when it came to the targeted shipment anyway, and Nader had advised bank official John M Clark (Walter Rilla) to make the run with an empty van. Stupidly, he ignored our hero’s advice. Faced with the distraught Rilla, Nader accepts responsibility for the decision to the press, which earns him an immediate suspension from agency head Mr High (Richard Munch). Of course, Nader hangs around instead of going on leave and keeps in touch with the investigation, courtesy of his sidekick, Phil Decker (Heinz Weiss). Developments are only too predictable from there; the villains double-cross each other, the inside man reveals his identity, and in an enjoyably silly climax, Nader launches himself off a building and grabs on to a helicopter.
All told, this is a pretty dreary entry in the series, with only the inventive heist sequence sparking any significant interest. This action is well-executed by director Helmuth Ashley, even if it is a tad implausible. Elsewhere, there’s the usual desperate effort to make the film look American with New York stock footage and some truly terrible back projection work. The armoured van also has a ‘Mells Fabo’ decal, which is obviously a riff on ‘Wells Fargo’, but it’s unclear if this is supposed to be a joke or another hamfisted attempt at hoodwinking the audience as to the origins of the film. As usual, Peter Thomas provides a swinging, brassy soundtrack that practically screams the 1960s, but it’s scant reward for sitting through another 90 minutes of Nader’s underwhelming crime games.
Nader was born in Pasadena and performed some uncredited bits and minor supporting roles in films in the 1950s before landing the lead in Phil Tucker’s famously dreadful ‘Robot Monster’ (1953). Signed to a contract by Universal Studios, most likely as insurance against Rock Hudson being outed. Nader’s career went nowhere, perhaps because he was also gay and, unlike Hudson, made little effort to hide it. He did land the title role on the syndicated television show ‘Shannon’ in 1961, but all that followed were a few scattered film roles. These included a return to low-budget science-fiction with the Woolner Brothers’ shabby production of ‘The Human Duplicators’ (1964). He left for Europe shortly afterwards, where he made eight films as Jerry Cotton. There were another couple of encounters along the back roads of cult cinema before he retired in 1974 to become an author.
Monlaur was born in France and trained for the ballet before working as a model in her late teens. She began appearing in domestic and Italian films in her twenties and relocated to England at the end of the decade. Some assignments in the horror field followed, starting with the wildly entertaining ‘Circus of Horrors’ (1960), where she played opposite mad surgeon Anton Diffring. Her performance was enough to get her noticed by Hammer Studios, who cast her as naive heroine Marianne Danielle in ‘The Brides of Dracula’ (1960) and alongside Christopher Lee in ‘The Terror of the Tongs’ (1960). But her career never took off and, after a handful of films back in her native land, she retired at the end of the 1960s.
A rather bloodless and unmemorable crime drama that strays a little into Eurospy territory but fails to make much of an impression in either genre.