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If you want to watch a young Burt Reynolds pretend to act then this
will fulfill your desire. Allegedly, this 1965 film is about espionage
in Sai Gon, Viet-Nam. Unfortunately, the only thing accurate is the
portrayal of incompetent CIA agents. The film opens with a CIA agent
standing on a steet corner when a young man on a small motorcycle
stops, dismounts and walks away. The alleged CIA is not suspicious and
is killed by a bomb attached to the motorcycle.
Suddenly, Burt Reynolds is dispatched as a university professor with expertise in agriculture. He is educated about Viet-Nam's Mekong Delta region while flying to Hong Kong. Strangely he then takes a Thai Airways airplane to Bangkok rather than Sai Gon. The film was shot in Bangkok. Note the business signs and of course the Thai temples which do not exist is Sai Gon. Also, note the aircraft and airport buses are Thai Airways.
Supposedly, a British journalist is conspiring with some Thais (pretending to be Vietnamese) planning to assassinate the U.S. Ambassador for unknown reason. This is remotely related to events during 1945 not 1965.
General Douglas Gracey commander of the British Army in Annam (southern Viet-Nam) during 1945 conspired with French and Vietnamese agents in Sai Gon, to kill the leader of the U.S. Army OSS (forerunner of the CIA) team who was trying to negotiate with political groups aligned with the Viet-Minh in Tonkin, led by Ho Chi Minh. Gracey supported France's claim for former colonies even though President Franklin Roosevelt before his death was publicly against France taking control of such due to previous despicable colonial policies. But, I seriously doubt the scriptwriters knew anything about the political situation in southern Viet-Nam during 1945.
This film needs a logical script. Apparently, the only reason this film was produced was to spend money sitting in Thailand or simply to visit and enjoy Thai massage girls.
Obviously, during 1965, few people knew Bangkok from Sai Gon. But after eight years of war and millions of photos sent home by soldiers, it is difficult to pretend Bangkok is Sai Gon. Also, none of the Thai girls wear the white Ao Dai costume common with Vietnamese schoolgirls.
Other than being a Bert Reynolds fan, the only other reason to watch this film is if you want to see Bangkok during 1964 - 1965.
Of course, if you look at this from a purist's perspective, the movie just won't hold water. However, if you want to let yourself get sucked right into the naive sixties' view of more exotic parts of the world, then this will do the trick quite nicely. Chuckle at the the unabashed attempt to fool the viewer into believing that well-known Bangkok landmarks are instead the setting for the movie, Saigon. Great to see a very young and sexy Burt Reynolds, and equally sexy Kieuh Chinh of later Joy Luck Club fame (Suyuan the mother), playing Reynolds' Vietnamese love interest. This movie is a jewel in its own right for being a kind of time capsule of 60s espionage intrigue and the glamor of international locales.
Actually, this movie isn't half bad. It's good to see a young Burt Reynolds kicking butt in the orient and making it with the cute Asian chicks. Definitely has that early-to-mid 60s feel, music and all. I recently purchased a very hard to find VHS copy of this movie from a collector, and I'm not gonna get rid of it! Operation CIA is one of them flicks to just kick off your shoes and sit back and relax. Worth checking out....
This spy thriller isn't exactly a thriller, but it doesn't drag. It's
not as action packed as 007, but not as plodding as some of the
deliberately confusing espionage movies.
The lead character helps, despite Burt Reynolds in the lead role. He later turned to straight man in comedy roles, his forte, because he wasn't what one would call a natural thespian.
Still, he tries, and we get that feeling. He plays a likable character who does try. He has a few human faults, but his heart is in the right place. The character is very well written, and makes us care about the story. That already gives the movie an advantage over 90% of other action movies.
The directing is superb, too. The fight scenes look very real, at least to people who have actually been in and around a lot of fights. Most action movies have goofy "choreographed" looks that street people laugh at, and that bubble boys swallow like a baited hook. "Operation C.I.A. looks like real people in real fights. What's more, after long chases scenes on foot, in long sleeves and hard shoes, they are actually fighting tired. Our director here was brave enough to risk showing "reality" as opposed to placating the bubble boys.
One gets the feeling that the movie was meant for working class people, for people who have been outdoors a lot. It certainly isn't for the cubicle dweller of today, the one who fantasizes that he is a Hulk who can do ten marathons in one day.
But that is because this was made in 1965, when most Americans did have a feel for the outdoors and reality.
However, there are faults to this movie. The sound and the score are not very good. One woman looks like her lines are dubbed in very poorly. There are a few parts that drag. Overly long scenes in cars, on streets, in conversations. Granted, these are needed for the plot, but they aren't animated enough. Most stage play directors know how to deal with this, and we get the feeling that the director here had forgotten simple theatrical directing.
In short, the action scenes are perfectly directed, but the dialog scenes leave much to be desired. Overall, more assets than detriments. Not a classic, but a decent movie. Figures to be rated 4-7, or 3-8. Any ratings of 1,2,9, or 10 would look suspiciously like some control freak trying to swing the vote for no reason. As of this review, most of the control freaks are trying to swing the vote toward the bottom, as is the case with the typical IMDb control freak towards movies made before 1960.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although primarily a TV director, Christian Nyby did do three or four theatrical features, most notably and most controversially, "The Thing" (1951), which many people (including me) would actually assign to Howard Hawks. Unfortunately, for me, "Operation C.I.A." doesn't prove anything one way or the other. Most of the movie is very routinely even most untalentedly and most unimaginatively directed. But then Nyby (or some uncredited specialist), ring in a really rousing chase climax, with the players actually performing their own stunts! And that certainly lifts this "B"-grade thriller to at least the 60% mark. I'd always hoped that one of these days, someone would confess and tell us what really happened on "The Thing". As I inferred above, it's my best guess that producer Hawks actually directed and that Nyby assisted with the action spots.
Operation CIA is an early film role for Burt Reynolds. We see a clean
shaven Reynolds playing a young CIA agent dispatched as an university
agriculture professor who is assigned to Saigon to stop a planned
political assassination at the US Embassy.
Reynolds went on to become a top box office star in the 1970s mainly for light action comedies but his reputation as an actor is rather maligned. Directors such as John Boorman who worked with him in Deliverance have noted that Reynolds is a good and clever actor, always thinking how to make his performance better.
The film has extensive location shooting. The problem is, as my son exclaimed, 'Dad, dad, we've been there, its Bangkok!' Right from the beginning we see the iconic Wat Arun and then we see the Grand Palace. It certainly is not Saigon. Maybe in those days viewers will not have noticed as people were less extensively travelled.
The film has a routine if silly plot but there are a lot of nasty deaths. People throwing bombs even at a group of children, people walking off a motorbike which is primed to go off. There is a grinning villain almost akin to Frank Gorshin's The Ridder.
Its a B film, although I am sure the filmmakers had a great time in Bangkok. Reynolds shows sign of promise, he gets a love interest, we even see him wisecracking. A spy with his heart in the right place.
Burt Reynolds who has contributed some hard as nails characters over
the years, provides his usual touch of class to this low budget 1960's
Plot In A Paragraph: Central Intelligence Agent Mark Andrews is dispatched to Saigon in an attempt to stop a potential assassination attempt on a US Ambassador.
In his first leading role in a movie, a clean shaven Reynolds isn't really given much to do, except run around a lot and try ad make some of the worst choreographed fight scenes seem plausible.
Reynolds would go on to greater things, I don't think anybody else in this movie did.
I had never heard of this film until I watched it recently. A CIA agent
played by a young Burt Reynolds is sent to Vietnam (although it was
filmed elsewhere) to try to abort an assassination plot against the US
ambassador. The film which was made in black and white does have an
amateurish feel about it, although Burt, who is not a great actor, does
okay. When the film started I didn't think that I would be able to
watch it all, however, I did and quite enjoyed it. There is a long
chase sequence with Burt doing a lot of running which I thought decent.
Although it's not a great film, do if you get the chance try to watch
it - if only for curiosity value.
I noticed on the final credits that the mens' hair stylist was Jay Sebring who was sadly one of the Sharon Tate murder victims.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Watching Christian Nyby's "Operation C.I.A." makes you wonder if he had anything to do with directing the classic chiller "The Thing From Another World." Whereas the latter horror thriller was agile, atmospheric, and audacious, "Operation C.I.A." is clumsy, amateurish, and downright boring. Could it be that the presence of Howard Hawk in the background had a salutary effect on the former editor? Little of his brilliance on the sci-fi saga filters through this lackluster espionage nail-biter about an attempt to assassinate state department officials. Burt Reynolds portrays a C.I.A. agent reluctantly sent into the Orient by his superior, Wells (John Hoyt of "Brute Force") with a little information. Our stalwart hero is constantly under scrutiny by the opposite side and occasionally gets into a scrap with them. Nothing memorable emerges from this muddled melodrama. Actually, you know something is wrong when the exotic locale and a talented cast are let down by a second-rate screenplay by "Strangler" scribe Bill S. Ballinger and "Nashville Girl" writer Peer J. Oppenheimer. "Operation C.I.A." qualifies as thoroughly forgettable. I must say, however, that the long shot that pans to follow an airliner into Hong Kong airport is scenic stuff. Oh, yes, "Operation C.I.A." was lensed in black & white is presented in standard full frame format.
This early Burt Reynolds movie is bad in all extremes. There is more time filler material (i.e driving in a car, riding in a boat...) than there is in 'Manos', the fight sequences, when they do arrive, are as about as well choreographed as a 3rd grade Christmas play. A sure-fire cure for insomnia. Skip it.
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