Jean Bruce's Hubert Bonnisseur le Bath was France's answer to James Bond. Like Ian Fleming, Jean Bruce became rich thanks to his best-selling novels featuring OSS 117, i.e., Hubert Bath. Despite the French name inherited from his Gallic ancestors, Hubert Bath is an American who is a secret agent for the OSS, the predecessor of the CIA. Jean Bruce's books were turned into movies. Apparently popular in France at that time, they never found an international audience. Watching "Banco a Bangkok pour OSS 117" (English title: Panic in Bangkok), one understands why. The production values are quite bad. OSS 117 seems to be a carbon copy of James Bond. He is irresistible to women; he is good at fisticuffs, etc, etc. Kerwin Mathews who plays the lead role tries to be suave. Of course, he does not have Sean Connery's charisma or presence. The story is formulaic though it anticipates Moonraker, the James Bond flick. An evil Indian doctor, Dr.Guna Sinn (the name does not sound Indian) working in Thailand has developed a biological weapon that will reduce the world's population in accordance with his eugenicist beliefs. OSS 117 has to stop him with the help of a Thai sidekick and seduce the Indian doctor's sister Lila while he is at it.
I watched this movie as a boy many years ago. At that time, it seemed that the acting was adequate. I am sure that I won't think so now. Jean Bruce's books which have been translated into English were far superior to the OSS 117 flicks. Quite the opposite of Ian Fleming, whose books can't hold a candle to the films they engendered. Indeed Jean Bruce was a better writer than Ian Fleming. Read the OSS 117 books. Avoid the movies.
(Reviewed by Sundar Narayan)
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