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Marc Mato, agente S. 077 (1965)
Fun For Lovers of 60s Kitsch and Euro-Spy Antics
The uncut version of Espionage In Tangiers is now available as part of Dark Sky Films' Drive-In Double Feature series. Coupled with Assassination In Rome, which stars Cyd Charisse (!) and Hugh O' Brien, these two unpretentious, old-fashioned flicks make for an entertaining double bill of 60s kitsch. Espionage is a Bond-influenced, convoluted, low-rent Euro-spy pot boiler, while Asassination is more in the spirit of Charade, although it's more of a mystery/thriller than a caper.
Espionage is surprisingly violent; the producers clearly embraced the amorality, casual sadism and misogyny of the early Connery Bonds but failed to grasp the wit of the 007 movies (Mark Murphy, "Agent 077," our "hero," thinks it's funny to throw a knife into the throat of a would-be assassin, for example). The film has its slow moments but there's a constant flow of fights involving groin kicking, throat chopping, and even a torture scene Jack Bauer would approve of, all set to a groovy jazz soundtrack. All in all, not a bad way to spend 90 minutes -- especially as the two-film disc comes with drive-in material including concession ads for hot dogs and pizza and two sets of trailers of coming attractions.
Assassination In Rome is a much slower film, but is superbly shot.
Thanks to Dark Sky, who are consistently delivering when it comes to restored, remastered editions of old B movies (e.g. their recent release of Slaughter of the Vampires), both films look and sound better than a pair of obscure 42 year-old flicks deserve.
Sin City (2005)
Bold, Brilliant and Totally Badass
With Hellboy, Guillermo Del Toro lovingly recreated panels from artist/creator Mike Mignola's comic book stories and brought them to vibrant life, setting a new benchmark for adaptations that respect their source material. With Sin City, however, co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have done more than just recreate the brutal chiaroscuro of Miller's stark post-modern noir artwork, they've captured the essence and the aesthetic of Basin City (as much a character as Marv or Hartigan) and brought its universe and characters to a stunning three-dimensional life. And unlike Hellboy, which suffered from a weak, confusing script, Sin City weaves a Pulp Fiction-esque narrative which snakes through the dark streets and crooked alleyways of this hellish metropolis like a fever dream.
In short, Sin City delivers a blistering ballet of bullets and blood, dames and danger at every turn. It's a kinetic masterpiece of pop culture for the new millennium (and a case could be made that this was the movie that CGI was invented for).
As a Frank Miller fan for over 25 years, I know his work and I know Sin City and this Sin City will knock your socks off whether you are a fan or a newcomer to the dark delights of his devilish imagination and brutal style. Exceeding my expectations on all levels, this movie ranks as one of the most enjoyable cinema-going experiences I've had in years.
Everything works here. From Rodriguez's cinematography and editing, to the seamless direction (no mean feat when you consider Robert co-directed with Miller and Quentin Tarantino joined the mix as "Special Guest Director"), to the spot-on casting. The script gives Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro plenty of opportunity to chew the scenery and they do, especially Rourke, who, despite having his mug buried under a thick layer of gruesome latex, delivers one of the best performances of his career and steals the show as Marv, the giant thug with a broken heart. The ladies hold their own, too. Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Brittany Murphy and Jaime King are all great in their roles, particularly Dawson as machine gun-wielding Dominatrix/Hooker-Godmother Gail. And kudos to Elijah Wood (proving there is life after Hobbits) and Nick Stahl who deliver contrasting performances as vile villains, the ultra-creepy Kevin and the disgusting Yellow bastard, respectively.
Sin City is smart, stylish, sexy and sick. It's also violent and funny. Certainly not a film for the whole family, but for those of us who enjoy our movies rated R, this flick kicks the head and the gut like a mule.
Here's hoping Sin City makes a mint, for there are 10,000 stories in the naked (sinful) city, and this is but a handful of them. I'm already praying for a sequel.
A picture perfect "ten" for this cineast.