I haven't had much luck with the Bond rip-offs produced by Shaw Bros. in the 1960s, so I approached INTERPOL (1967) with some trepidation since I'd found little entertainment value in ASIA-POL, ANGEL WITH THE IRON FISTS, or THE ANGEL STRIKES BACK, all also reviewed on this site. And while INTERPOL is just as shoddily plotted as those films are, it compensates with a fast pace, abundant humor, and a charming lead actor who plays it at just the right pitch. Tang Ching was quite a versatile dramatic actor at Shaw Bros. and mixed contemporary films with swordplay adventures such as VENGEANCE IS A GOLDEN BLADE (1969). He was in the two ANGEL films with Lily Ho cited above, yet his performance here is still quite a revelation because he gets to cut loose and act the part of a hard-drinking, hard-smoking, womanizing gambler, with few restraints. Granted, he's secretly an Interpol agent, but he's allowed to have real fun in his cover role. The character is clever and funny and quite a fashion plate. He attracts women everywhere he goes and beds three of them in the first hour, with the promise of more at the end. In his very first scene, he's on a French beach with two bikini-clad women all over him, one Asian and one white. He's less like Sean Connery's James Bond than like Dean Martin's Matt Helm, who was evidently the more likely model for this film.
The half-hearted plot has to do with a gang running a counterfeit operation printing U.S. dollars in Hong Kong and shipping them out to other cities in Asia. Our hero, Chen Tianhong, Agent 009, has to locate the operation and shut it down before they can get the money out of the country. At one point, he gets into a fight with traffic cops and is thrown in jail, all to divert the bad guys pursuing him. In jail, he does card tricks and impresses the other prisoners, including a genial pickpocket (Li Kun), who winds up as his comical sidekick throughout. At another point he romances the femme fatale (top-billed Margaret Tu Chuan) who helps run the counterfeit gang.
There are a lot of ridiculously convenient coincidences along the way and whenever the plot starts to kick in, things slow down considerably. But when our hero is running around visiting clubs, gambling, making out with available women, and bantering with his new sidekick, it's genuinely entertaining. There are two songs in a nightclub sequence, the second one being a nice, melodic slow number performed by an unbilled singer. There's not much action to speak of, other than a grand, if far-fetched shootout in the villain's mansion parlor. The hero and his sidekick get handcuffed and locked in a basement workshop with a time bomb at one point and we have to wait and see what kind of hidden device the hero will come up with to get free. Early in the film, he introduces the most outlandish spy gadget I've ever seen--a special type of chewing gum that, when sprayed with perfume, turns hard as steel. He uses it to break into offices and hotel rooms by chewing the gum, sticking it into the lock, spraying it with perfume he's filched from one of his lovers, and then twisting it to open the door!
The director's credited name here, Yang Shu-hsi, was actually a pseudonym for Japanese director Ko Nakahira, who's best known for the cult film, RICA (1972), a Toho response to Toei's "pinky violence" series. He knows how to keep things moving and get the best out of his actors. There's a John Barry-style music score that fits the action smoothly throughout. Margaret Tu Chuan is an attractive and effective villain; Shen Yi plays a voluptuous nightclub singer who gives our hero some nice attention; and Lily Ho (co-star of the aforementioned ANGEL films) turns up in a very cute cameo at the end.
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