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Branded a coward for surrendering his New Mexico fort to the Confederates without firing a shot, a Union colonel attempts to redeem himself by leading a band of condemned prisoners on a suicide mission to recapture it.
This is the first of George Ardisson's spy flicks and it's a darn good beginning. He followed this up with Inferno in Caracas, Operation Counterspy, and another 3S3 adventure, Hunter of the Unknown, all released in 1966. Ardisson made his share of spaghetti westerns, was in several of Mario Bava's costume epics and even had a bit in Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits! Here he plays Walter Ross, agent 3S3, a designation meaning secret agent number 3 of the 3rd Special Division, and he pretty much kicks butt. Ardisson was an excellent fighter and he has plenty of chances to show off those skills including a particularly brutal match up against Dakar, a man twice his size.
We are treated to a terrific Piero Umiliani jazzy soundtrack that kicks in with the cool credit sequence and barely lets up the rest of the way. This was also director Sergio Sollima's (credited here as Simon Sterling) first spy flick and he keeps things tight and on the move throughout. Sollima also directed Hunter of the Unknown and Requiem For a Secret Agent with lesser results.
Fun things include the winter Vienna locations, the unusual geographical and architectural locations in Lebanon, arm wrestling with a glass of beer between the combatants, litmus paper that can be used to detect poison in one's drink, a pendant transmitter with the receiver in a pair of eyeglasses, and a needle-shooting compact case. The script is good without a lot of nonsense and one line that sticks with this viewer is spoken by Jackie Yen: `I hate violence when it's used against myself.' Don't we all.
The real attraction here is of the tailor-made role for Ardisson. He's a snappy dresser and doesn't come across as your typical smarmy secret agent. Rather, he's in control and doesn't need a lot of gadgets to get the job done. He's worth watching the film for even if it wasn't as good as it happens to be. Recommended.
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