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Kommissar#1: Kissing & Killing like James Bond
MASTER PLAN: corner the gold market. Probably the most successful of the cheap European James Bond copies, with quite a few sequels. The hero (played by Kendall), detective Walker, resembles Sean Connery, especially when in a suit and hat, recalling the "Dr.No" days, and is more-or-less partnered with a police captain (muscular Brad Harris). The two buddies have a very healthy competition and the captain is more inclined to arrest Walker than fight alongside him at times. The plot involves the mystery of a couple of crime lords getting blown up; there are four top gangsters in all and it becomes obvious that one of them has decided to dissolve their partnership. The tone of the movie is quite cheerful throughout, almost carefree, with Walker very sure of himself and his way with the ladies, though he doesn't have all that much success, either in love or the chasing/gun battles. The film even spells out what franchise it's copying, with references to author Ian Fleming in the dialog. The first half of the film drags a little.
The copycat approach becomes very blatant in the 2nd half, when it switches to the master villain's secret base and becomes, essentially, a remake of Dr.No's 2nd half and "Goldfinger." As with many such action spy thrillers, the 1st half is a standard detective story and the 2nd becomes a sci-fi adventure. As in "Goldfinger," there's a private army of female soldiers, as well as the villain's preoccupation with, you guessed it - gold. One scene is a direct rip-off of James Bond's confrontation/seduction scene with Pussy Galore, followed by a sudden rebellion by all the females - I guess Walker does have a certain charm, after all. The production values aren't too bad in this climactic section and there's actually a minor sense of grandeur by this point, recalling Dr.No's finale, though the villain's demise is a bit lame. The next Kommissar adventure was "So Darling,So Deadly." Heroes:6 Villain:5 Femme Fatales:6 Henchmen:5 Fights:5 Stunts/Chases:5 Gadgets:3 Auto:3 Locations:6 Pace:6 overall:5
Tecnica di una spia (1966)
Target: More Italian-style James Bond
MASTER PLAN: steal that Uranium and develop an anti-nuke serum. Another among the innumerable cheap European James Bond knock-offs (see also the Italian "Danger! Death Ray" and "OK Connery") of the sixties, this one, like many of these, recalls "From Russia With Love" - but imitation is not a form of flattery here. This features a lead actor resembling Mike Connors (who starred in "Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die" around the same time). We're introduced to him on a golf course (shades of "Goldfinger") and immediately thrust into some of the most awful, cheesy dialog (dubbed?) of the decade. The plot involves a freighter crew getting massacred and uranium stolen; the secret agent is sent to Copenhagen, Denmark to sort things out or "before it gets too explosive" as his boss states. "The persons in possession of the uranium are going to use it for purposes which are not peaceful," the hero says with a straight face.
The pace is choppy at best and, with the exception of one movie-style karate combat scene in a hotel room, most of the action scenes are fairly lackluster. As in "Dr.No" and "From Russia With Love," the agent needs to acquaint himself with a new locale, avoid assassins and connect with the local law-enforcement bigshot. The criminal organization is named 'The Snake' - not quite as creative as Spectre. The climactic action involves the invasion of the villain's island base and now rips off the similar underwater action scenes in "Thunderball." I also got the uneasy impression that the sets in the climax are merely re-used from the other Bond imitation-films, such as "OK Connery" and the "Kommissar X" films. The only other plus I could see at this point is that the movie is pretty short (the version I watched was 85 minutes) and so the ending isn't dragged out. But, "it doesn't take much imagination to dope that out." Hero:4 Villains:3 Femme Fatales:3 Henchmen:2 Fights:3 Stunts/Chases:3 Gadgets:3 Auto:3 Locations:4 Pace:2 overall:3
A Human Shark Avoids the Germs
MASTER PLAN: obtain the info on some secret papers. By this point in the late sixties, some filmmakers were getting a little carried away with all the psychedelia and decadence of the decade, including a few who jumped on the James Bond bandwagon. The first scenes seem to say that the director & his crew were dropping acid during the filming, though it turns out to be some bizarre performance art depiction. We're also introduced to Mr. Hood here (Edwards), the secret agent of the story, looking on bemused. He fits the profile - an American but working well within the British & other European locales as a handsome man of adventure. He's not all that impressive, however: though able to handle himself well in a fight, he does get knocked out a couple of times quite easily (one of these fights, in a dark garage, recalls a similar scene in "Deadlier Than the Male" of the previous year). As the very British girl who keeps popping up unexpectedly throughout the movie, Judy Geeson is an acquired taste and can be a bit annoying; I didn't blame Hood for wincing the 3rd time she reappears. I also kept thinking, what is she doing in this movie? This sense didn't change much for me by the end of the film. Much of the action at the forefront of this film takes place against the backdrop of the youthful generation doing their thing during those swinging sixties.
The plot involves the machinations of the very Bondian uber-villain Hammerhead (Vaughan), complete with peculiar eccentricities, such as white gloves to keep the germs away and especially sadistic tendencies towards females. The actress Adams plays the more interesting female character, in a brief role. Oh, and, to make sure we understand that this bad guy is a sleaze, he also has interests in pornography. His dastardly plans are hinted at during Hood's briefing in a train cabin; there will be a special meeting of top men from NATO nations and one of these men has papers that Hammerhead wants a gander at, involving defense plans. This offers a good dual role for versatile actor Bates, who plays the target and one of Hammerhead's key henchmen. The film meanders a bit in the first half, even with the intriguing scenes on the villain's huge yacht, with everything moving at an easygoing pace, as if the filmmakers were unsure of themselves or the story. But, it does all come together in the final half-hour, when the details of the villain's subterfuge are played out (though why Hood and his girl aren't simply shot instead of that protracted scene in the coffin...never mind). Watch for Dave Prowse, soon to be in "A Clockwork Orange" and future Darth Vader, as the huge henchman - the strongest man Hammerhead knows. The climactic action, especially the unexpected end of the villain, will either irritate or enthrall you, depending on how much you like darkly ironic, satirical endings. I thought it was a bit out of left field. Hero:5 Villains:5 Femme Fatales:5 Henchmen:6 Fights:6 Stunts/Chases:5 Gadgets:4 Auto:5 Locations:6 Pace:5 overall:5+
Battle Beneath the Earth (1967)
From Beneath They Will Get us
MASTER PLAN: tunnel underneath the USA with nuclear warheads and obliterate us. Take about the most outrageous James Bond-type plot against the free world you can imagine; act as if you're creating a comic book for sixties kids; now, make it even more unbelievable. That pretty much sums up this battle for the existence of the United States. This could have been really good but, for some reason, the plot usually veers into unwarranted silliness. This is evident in the very beginning, when the scientist-hero, the one who is the first to figure out the plot against the USA, is found by the cops ranting about ants underneath us; the scientist is carted off to the loony bin and, rightly so. Later, when the authorities are also aware of the plot, this guy is rational; what was all the business about him being a nutcase? I dunno. The primary hero, a military man (Matthews, best known as Sinbad) in the James Bond mold, ends up leading a squad of soldiers to confront the invading Chinese under our feet; the master villain is a Chinese general who got the idea to dig 3 tunnels underneath the Pacific Ocean and halfway thru the U.S. territory by the time the Americans find out. The premise is that while the U.S. was busy with outer space technology, the Chinese had developed heat ray weapons and a special rock-melting/boring machine. When the American soldiers fire their typical rifles, the invaders simply point what looks like a flashlight and *Ssssss* - *yahhhh!* The U.S. comes across as very limited in other ways: the squad of soldiers seems to be the extent of American military might in this movie.
The (probably unintended) subtext here is compelling: the free world concentrated on technology above us while the communists focused on below us - and they end up with the advantage; see also "The Time Machine" by H.G.Wells for another take on the subterranean vs. overhead existence theme. At one point, it's mentioned that the rate of progression by the Chinese is 8 miles per day so, conceivably, they could have accomplished their goal in 3 years. But, that's about all which is plausible. When I first saw this as a kid many years ago, I also wondered about the Caucasians who apparently took over the upper echelons of the Chinese; well, the filmmakers weren't able to use oriental actors, for some reason. The main villains look somewhat absurd here - like, out of a comic book. There's even a scene involving brainwashing, a possible sign that the writers watched "The Manchurian Candidate" a few times too many. The Chinese general has nukes all over the place - even, it's surmised, under Peking, where he holds power over his countrymen. Yet, all it takes is one nuke to put him out of business, even though the 3 tunnels are about 500 miles apart from each other. The heroes give themselves 10 minutes on foot to escape an atomic blast, which is obviously footage of tests out on the Pacific, while all the invaders, it's suggested, are wiped out. Forget logic - the combined outrageousness of these loopy scenarios results in some strange entertainment - it's kind of one-of-a-kind. Don't take it seriously or you'll end up in a loony bin. Hero:5 Villains:4 Femme Fatales:5 Henchmen:4 Fights:5 Stunts/Chases:5 Gadgets:6 Machines:6 Locations:5 Pace:5 overall:5
Il raggio infernale (1967)
Danger! Ray of Death for Italian-style Bond
MASTER PLAN: get the death ray plans from a kidnapped scientist. Yet another in a long line of European James Bond knock offs during the swinging sixties, this piqued my curiosity due to the casting of Gordon Scott as the super agent - meet Bart Fargo! I was mostly familiar with Scott for his Tarzan portrayals of several years earlier, some of which were quite good; of course, he is also well known for his roles in Italian musclemen epics, playing mythical heroes named Goliath or Maciste. So, he has no problem depicting the physical aspect of being a hero - you have no trouble believing he can beat up a couple of henchmen. In fact, most of the entertainment value here stems from a wry sensibility developing by the time Scott is thrashing his 4th or 5th thug (Fargo is the target of several killers during the movie). By that 4th time, Fargo is barely trying - he merely taps a door into the bad guy and then starts slapping him around like a wet noodle. I thought, this is what happens when Goliath puts on a suit and pretends to be a secret agent. This was one of Scott's last leading roles after a career of over a decade and it's actually a shame he didn't get to do more of these, improving on the formula.
The plot begins with the kidnapping of a scientist - much gunplay and cars moving in the night. Fargo isn't introduced until a good 20 minutes in, awoken from his beauty sleep by a couple of babes. He has the now-familiar repartee with this film's version of M and Ms. Moneypenny - it's blatantly derivative. The problem with Italian pics such as these (such as "OK Connery" aka "Operation Double 007") is the dubbing; the voice actors obfuscate the speech patterns and you're guessing what Scott's performance was really like. The spoken dialog itself is terribly crude: a woman is painting some self-portrait and Fargo climbs into her apartment thru the roof; 'What's the matter?' she says. 'Haven't you ever seen an artist's studio?' This passes for sophisticated spy seduction talk here. Later, Fargo interrogates one of his attackers. 'Awright, talk!' Fargo demands, pointing his silencer. 'If I tell ya, the boss'll have me killed,' the guy answers, 'please try to understand!' Then, Fargo pauses and growls 'Listen, you tell me or you're gonna be in REAL trouble.' What's Fargo's threat? Kill the guy even more? Finally, the FX - oh, oh. Fargo is forced off the road at one point in his red European sportscar, falling off a cliff into the sea; only, it's obviously a tiny model car falling into a pond. I laughed out loud yet, at the same time, admired the filmmakers' audacity. They're telling the audience, hey, this is what you get; you don't like it, sue us. Hero:5 Villains:3 Femme Fatales:3 Henchmen:3 Fights:4 Stunts/Chases:4 Gadgets:3 Auto:4 Locations:4 Pace:4 overall:4-
Danger! Diabolical Thief at Large!
MASTER PLAN: steal everything. Based on the Italian fumetti/comic strip, this was director Bava's follow-up to "Dr.Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs" and, at first glance, would seem merely a slight upgrade from that earlier unfortunate campy fiasco. But, with the availability of a decent DVD version, the picture's strengths become more readily apparent. Bava's ability with design and color enables a fairly successful transposition from comic books to movie screens. Many might point to "Dick Tracy"(90) as another such heartfelt attempt to capture comic strip ambiance on the screen, but that one was far more blatant & apparent. Bava's creativity due to a lack of a huge budget resulted in a more subtle interpretation of comic book action, as incongruous as that sounds when talking about an adaptation of a comic strip. Some of the images here, whether large buildings or close-ups, are startling - something seems a little off in the image but you're not sure what it is. When you think about it or view it again, you realize it's a comic book come to life. Bava was also fond of filming a frame within the frame, resulting in some intriguing compositions. This also invites comparisons to "Barbarella," released a little later. But, Barbarella's images are awfully static when compared to all the movement we see here - everything and everyone moves here - whether on foot, in a sports car or on motorcycles.
Since this was the sixties, one also can't help but think of the James Bond craze of this period. The obvious difference between this and the Bond imitators is that the central character is a villain, not some agent-hero. Diabolik (Law) specializes in outrageous acts of thievery; at the point the film begins, the establishment (government & police) are well aware of him, to the point that they resort to unusual methods of transporting valuables in an attempt to avoid him; of course, they fail. Diabolik wears a weird comic book-styled suit, with a mask that covers the lower half of his face; yet, you can still see the outline of his mouth. He also has a weird, sinister laugh, though this is not over-indulged. He operates from a fantastic underground hideout, an expansion of the Batcave from the "Batman" TV show. Of course, he does not work with the authorities but against them, a rather subversive message in those pre-Watergate times, where-in the audience is placed in the position of rooting for this, at best, anti-hero; but, remember, this is from Italy (see Sergio Leone's 'Man-With-no-Name' western trilogy). Also, rather than hanging out with a younger version of himself, as Batman did, this guy gets it on with a cool chick; ah, yes, the villains do have all the fun. Keep in mind, though, his violence does extend to killing cops, so it's not just a laughing matter.
There's no 'main' plot line; the authorities make a deal with a local bigshot gangster (Celi, the villain from "Thunderball") to capture or eliminate Diabolik, but this plot is wrapped up way before the conclusion. The story switches to an attack by Diabolik on all the economic bastions of power, a rather direct act of terrorism (though there are no realistic repercussions, such as showing fatalities) and then there's some climactic action involving all the gold on a moving train. It's as if the filmmakers took several disparate plots from the comic strip and welded them together in one film; but, it holds together pretty well, against expectations. The ending is a little on the eerie side. Since this is, overall, an amusing and even silly take on the super-hero/super-villain genre, it may be why "Mystery Science Theater 3000" chose it as one of the films they made fun of, an honor they saved for the most silly movies out there. But, this has enough esoteric style and panache to place it above those clunkers and MSTK3 should have saved their efforts for some other truly dumb film. Anti-Hero:6 Villain:6 Femme Fatales:6 Henchmen:5 Fights:5 Stunts/Chases:7 Gadgets:6 Auto:7 Locations:6 Pace:6 overall:6
Dr. Goldfoot vs. the Buffoons
MASTER PLAN: blow up key U.S. generals with booby-trapped girl robots. The diabolical Dr. Goldfoot is back, in this sequel to "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine"(65). No lie! How they talked Vincent Price into this, I'm not sure, though he was already hamming it up in the previous movie. Here he's joined by a couple of comics who were Italy's answer to Abbott & Costello. Teen heartthrob Fabian replaces teen heartthrob Frankie Avalon as an agent of S.I.C., oh, yes! Rather than simple theft, which he indulged in previously, here Goldfoot teams with the Chinese for probable world domination (those dastardly Chinese - see also "Battle Beneath the Earth" which came out around the same time). Goldfoot explains all this by speaking directly to the audience, breaking that 4th wall. He still uses a machine which manufactures female robots, all dressed in golden bathing suits and boots, which he sends to kiss various generals; an intense enough smooch sets off an explosion. The only general left standing is Goldfoot's double. All this is kind of incidental; the main plot has the two main leads/buffoons improbably/accidentally join up with S.I.C. as agents.
Goldfoot, of course, is a broad parody of the outrageous villains from the James Bond films. He has a swimming pool of killer fish, probably something like piranha, so, every now and then, a skeleton turns up, freshly cleaned. This also copies "Our Man Flint" a bit, with the latest IBM computer (Rita) sabotaged by Goldfoot when it selects the best agents for the job. The two comedians are not very subtle, with over-the-top mugging, and a lot of the action is sped up (undercranked) to give it that slapstick silent comedy feeling. Otherwise, much of the humor falls flat, though it does pick up near the end. I've written that the previous Goldfoot movie was the most ridiculous parody of the Bond craze, but this Italian take on the whole thing takes it to yet another level. The final half-hour gives a new meaning to the term 'absurdity,' involving a balloon trip by the heroes which touches off of heaven at one point and then chases down a supersonic jet plane! Laura Antonelli figures prominently in these last few scenes; she became a somewhat famous sex symbol in Italian sex farces in the seventies. My DVD version was in Italian, with optional English subtitles. Heroes:3 Villain:4 Femme Fatales:5 Henchmen:2 Fights:2 Stunts/Chases:3 Gadgets:3 Auto:2 Locations:3 Pace:3 overall:3
Estambul 65 (1965)
Running Around all Over Istanbul
MASTER PLAN: kidnap scientists and keep the ransom money. The James Bond film this obviously calls to mind first is "From Russia From Love" but, besides the locations, there is very little actual similarity. Horst (the snot-nosed hothead member of the original "Magnificent Seven") stars as a well-known rascally adventurer who is forced to foil the dastardly schemes of a criminal organization after he's targeted as an initial suspect. Koscina offers support as the FBI agent sent in to figure things out; she was in a few such roles in the sixties (see "Hot Enough For June" and "Deadlier Than the Male"). The story jumps around and drags in the first half, as well as being hard to follow. It's also a bit too long at nearly two hours and, as mentioned elsewhere, only washed out prints of the picture seem to be available.
The action really picks up in the 2nd half, with Tony (Horst) doing a lot of running around in Istanbul, whether being chased or doing the chasing. At one point, he's thrown off a tower during a fight in the closest we get to a spectacular sequence. The best action bit, though, is when he uses a bulletproof glass table while an assassin takes potshots at him (the killer is played by Kinski in a small, yet memorable role). The action is sort of a mixture of slapstick and straightforward thrills which never really finds the right tone; a lot of it is presented as serious danger, yet Horst also winks at the audience a couple of times. He's probably a bit too cute for Bond fans, strictly for the girls. There's also some surprising (for mid-sixties cinema) bits of female nudity. Hero:6 Villains:5 Femme Fatales:6 Henchmen:4 Fights:5 Stunts/Chases:5 Gadgets:3 Auto:3 Locations:6 Pace:6 overall:5
OK Connery (1967)
Operation: Mimic Connery, M & Moneypenny
MASTER PLAN: Operation Blackmail - controlling the world's gold reserves. A very calculated attempt to copy & make money off the James Bond craze of the sixties, this comes off as a silly joke, maybe intentionally. It's similar to "Licensed to Kill," the 'Charles Vine' Bond cheap copy, but less creative. The plot can be deduced from an alternate title, "Operation Double 007" - that's not a typo - the spy agency of the Bond world requests the services of 007's brother; hence, this is about 007's double (they never completely finish saying '007' out loud, always stopping short of voicing the '7' - ha). 007's brother is played by Sean Connery's real life brother, Neil, with a goatee and a talent for hypnotism. This starts off badly, with Neil Connery, playing a famous genius plastic surgeon, explaining his advanced techniques and how he combines them with Tibetan mind control - it's pathetic drivel - and then some mêlée breaks out. It's groan-inducing. But, the main attraction is for film buffs and Bond fans making all the connections with the real Bond films.
All the main actors (besides N.Connery, whose connection to Bond is already explained) in this one are from one or more James Bond movies. Celi, as the main villain, played a similar role in "Thunderball" (Celi, who looks like an overweight banker, was always playing villains or gangsters in the sixties). Bianchi, the femme fatale, was in "From Russia With Love." Dawson was in "Dr.No." Of course, Bernard Lee (aka M) and Lois Maxwell (aka Ms.Moneypenny) were from most of the Bond films of the sixties and seventies. They duplicate their roles from those here, though Maxwell gets a chance to run around shooting a gun, something she never had a chance to do with her 'receptionist' role in the Bonders. The villains seem to be SPECTRE, though they're referred to by another name, Thanatos, who plan to use some kind of magnetic waves to imbalance the world. The other strange and amusing aspect is that some of the main characters are referred to by their real names (Dr.Connery, Ms. Maxwell, etc.) rather than as Mr.Bond - get it? It's goofy, somewhat dull and a curiosity. Hero:3 Villains:3 Femme Fatales:4 Henchmen:2 Fights:3 Stunts/Chases:3 Gadgets:3 Auto:3 Locations:4 Pace:2 overall:3
CIA Agent Loves 'em and Leaves 'em in Rio
MASTER PLAN: infertilize the USA's population by eliminating the sexual drive (cripes!) via a launched satellite. This begins as an obvious spoof, showing some scientist getting shot in the jungles while exploring a local tribe's infertility problem, with satirical narration (by actor Michael Hordern, maybe?). It's a very goofy start. But, the action switches to Rio de Janeiro, a nice bit on Corcovado, in and around the famed statue, as an agent played by lead Mike Connors fights off a villain. This sets the tone for the rest of the film, a more sophisticated parody of the James Bond thriller than I first thought, in the vein of "Our Man Flint." There's the typical stuff: use of scorpions & piranha, the odd henchman and the main villain (Vallone) who has sinister grand plans for the world. Provine shows up as a femme fatale with a severely British accent. Terry-Thomas then pops up as an effeminate chauffeur who can handle himself very well in a fight.
The exotic locations in Brazil are pretty good; as mentioned in other comments, some of this, including some plot points, seems to have been copied by an actual later Bond film, "Moonraker," though one could argue this happened because this copies earlier Bond films such as "Thunderball" and "Dr.No." The story has some slow parts in the first half, meandering as the hero follows villains and vice-versa. This is reflected in the film's music score, which has a lazy, easy style to it, even during action sequences. As the hero, Connors also ambles his way through, usually laconic or sarcastic, depending on the scene, but projecting toughness. This was just before he began his 8-year run as tough TV private eye "Mannix." To give you an idea of the humor, there's a recurring theme of the hero's fondness for bananas. Things pick up in the latter half when the action shifts to the sci-fi stronghold of the villain. I've heard that this film is a favorite of Quentin Tarantino's. Hero:6 Villains:6 Femme Fatales:6 Henchmen:6 Fights:7 Stunts/Chases:6 Gadgets:6 Auto:4 Locations:7 Pace:6 overall:6