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Rik Van Nutter,
Weird mix of sci-fi and spy with only moderately successful results
Here's a run-of-the-mill slice of Italian spy hokum, with a few minor merry ingredients to distinguish it from the hundred or so others that came out in the mid-'60s as Italy's answer to the James Bond series. As part of the film supposedly takes place in the Sahara desert, once again Spanish locations are used giving the movie a hot, European look to it. This time our sweaty, disposable leading man is played by John Ericson, just one of the dozens of macho American types who travelled to Europe in the '60s and pretended to be James Bond in a series of increasingly tawdry spy thrillers.
AGENT S-03: OPERATION ATLANTIS is no exception, a shoddy, barely-budgeted movie which really doesn't have the strength to pull off a convincing depiction of Atlantis - instead, all we get is a room with strange furniture. The supposed destruction of Atlantis lasts about three seconds of jiggling camera-work and is highly disappointing. Even Alfonso Brescia's tacky peplum epic THE CONQUEROR OF ATLANTIS was more convincing than this one! Like in all of these Euro-spy movies, the central ingredient to the plot is a hero who manages to get himself out of all sorts of scrapes. In this film, they include being strapped inside a chest and flown in the cargo hold of a plane (in fact, this happens to two people; I guess they forgot that there's no pressure in the cargo hold of an aeroplane and oxygen starvation is a likely possibily for anyone travelling inside one!) and strapped to a table in preparation for... radiation torture! Then there are the incompetent police force, who don't have a clue what's going on. Convention necessitates that at least ONE scene should take place in a hotel, and preferably involve a disappearing corpse, and this film has that. Then there are the expected car chases; these are the highlights of the film and are pretty snazzy, including one guy getting the wheel blown on his car - there's a helicopter that shows up too.
A spy film wouldn't be a spy film without cool gadgets and devices, and AGENT S-03: OPERATION ATLANTIS has a ton of these. There's a cool x-ray machine; a guy who kills people with huge spiked pincers; a radioactive force-field; a ray that turns a man into a block of ice and disintegrates him; rubber masks to disguise identity; and finally, the film's silliest plot device, a radio receiver in Ericson's ELBOW! Yep, no matter how implausible, you know these Italo films have always gotta top Bond in some crazy way. There are the expected fist-fights and shoot-outs, but these are done with a bare minimum of style and lack excitement. And even the babes aren't as good this time around - bad hairstyles reign supreme and even take the edge off the lovely Berna Rock (real name: Bernardina Sarrocco). Eagle-eyed viewers may spot Erika Blanc (THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE), that sexy succubus of Italian cult cinema, hiding somewhere down in the cast.
Reading the above, I realise I'm made this film sound exciting, but it's not. The plot elements listed above don't really apply for much of the movie, which is slow-paced and pretty plodding. John Ericson's deeply wooden performance doesn't help much either. It's not the best spy film, nor the worst. Just averaging out somewhere in the middle, I guess. Only Euro-buffs are likely to get a thrill out of this one.
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