Sunday 17 June 2018

12-ish (15) Eurospy

Seven Times Seven (1968) - An Italian heist comedy (disturbingly close to "Nutty Hijack") trying to pass itself off as a British heist comedy. The likes of Erika Blanc, Gastone Moschin, Ray Lovelock, a toothbrush-tached Adolfo Celi  and Gordon Mitchell show its true nationality, but it does have a Brit supporting cast, Terry-Thomas, Christopher Benjamin and the very Brit-film choices of Neil McCarthy as prison bruiser and Police Sergeant David Lodge. Lionel "moider" Stander plays one of the leads. It is too long, kind of ponderous, with almost art-film scenes of bare chested cons in a bath discussing. If it were a British film, it'd be a ton shorter.  It has an odd tone, not quite silly enough to be one of those Argoman-type silly capers, though there are silly costume jokes, but it is shot like a drama. Imagine Carry On Matron with the same script, but shot like a hard-hitting political thriller. Not that funny. Didn't even get a UK release.

Viaje Fantastico En Globo (1975)  - Rene Cardona's version of Jules Verne, set in a London portrayed by some rather opulent interiors and a sign on a an arch. Awful, clearly a vessel for stock footage.

I've been watching a lot of Euro-spy tosh.
Apart from the glorious Diabolik, Argoman (1967) is better than the other rival Italian spy-superhero-villain rivals, eg the bland duo Kriminal (1966) / Il Marchio Di Kriminal (1968)– which uses comic strip frames and shows Piccadilly cinemas showing CAST A GIANT SHADOW! before cutting to an Italian house with a policeman plonked house before devolving into the typical Italian superhero mix of parties full of extras in silly outfits, before devolving into sub-Topkapi capers, done in a such boring manner, laboured shots of foreign places and lots of padding, all visually attractive. A lot of them try to go Avengers-ish raised “oh, I’m a deliberate cartoon” even without dubbing, e.g. exaggerated facial movements eg the Fantomas movies. Diabolik does all this but does it well, somehow pulling it off.
Even the Italian Mexican wrestler knockoff Goldface (1968) devolves into the typical Italian spy knockoff, a rented helicopter, some badly staged fistfights, exposition, some cheesecake and invariably footage of London.
Argoman has all this, but it feels jokier, grander, it looks to have a bigger budget than it probably did, the dubbing by Lewis Ciannelli, son of regular Man from Uncle baddie Eduardo is rather fitting, all blustery Scotland Yard men and coquettish American girls. It has ambition and enthusiasm unlike a lot of the others, but it is a mess because it is too childish, too silly at times. Argoman tries too hard to have fun, and it is bright, breezy, attractive and like a lot of Italian exploitation heist/spy films, has interesting photography of British industrial areas (see also Kriminal).

Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966) – One of the better Eurospy films, but still not a great film. Like with a lot of these films, it has unenthusiastic performances both in front of the camera, and in the dubbing. The plot is hard to follow, star Ken Clark (playing Dick Malloy in his third film) has the look of a provincial waxwork of Roger Moore, I’ve watched numerous Italian spy films, and they’re all the same. Ex-musclemen/cowboys charmlessly beating up stuntmen, driving against back projection, using shite gadgets and wooing overly made up models. This has a few novelties. Ex-Bond girl Daniela Bianchi plays the titular Lady Chaplin, a British fashion designer (hence lots of boring scenes at fashion houses), who is also a spy. She gets up various disguises, but they’re all leaden and directed like a Pink Panther knockoff. The plot, though moving from New York to London to god knows where is ultimately some sort of vague Thunderball do-over with cardboard nukes. It’s hard to tell who is the villain, though it is Kobre Zoltan (ex-Mr. Ginger Rogers Jacques Bergerac, ironically later a Revlon executive). But he has relatively little presence. Directed by Alberto De Martino, who also handled OK Connery (1967). This has a better budget than most of the Eurospy fare (less reliance on stock footage) including the two earlier Dick Malloy films (with Clark labelled as 077 but doing work more akin to a mixture of Harry Palmer and Mike Hammer), but there’s still the inevitable slapping women about (these films make Bond look like a liberal feminist). There is some perhaps accidentally inventive set design (Intelligence HQ is a cramped bedsit with floral wallpaper and space taken up by massive computers). But there seems to be too much focus on location filming than trying to create a good story, a good villain, good cast, etc.

Umberto Lenzi’s 008 – Operation Exterminate (1968)  has sequences in Egypt prefiguring Spy Who Loved Me. Nothing else to say.

Target for Killing (1966) - Stewart Granger plays “James Vine” (not Shonteff’s Charles Vine). Watching it, and his boss appears. “That looks like Rupert Davies. It can’t be. It is!”. I didn’t notice the fab credits. I know the BBC Maigret was successful in Europe, hence why all 52 episodes miraculously survive, despite being a BBC series from the 1960s. Also featuring Curd Jurgens AND Adolfo Celi, as well as Klaus Kinski. Most of the stars use their own voices (certainly, Granger and Jurgens do). Despite a band of villainous white-robed monks, it is boring.

Coplan Saves His Skin (1968) – French effort with Mexican leading man Claudio Brook, better budgeted than the Italian efforts. Kinski plays a pervy sculptor. Weird scenes of hairy near-naked men lying in a bathhouse dressing dolls, and a plastic-faced cat-petting villain. Directed by Yves Boisset (who made arguably the greatest French SF film ever made- Game of Danger), it’s overlong and doesn’t really go anywhere. The sets are just ruins where the cast have camped in. Also saw elements of FX 18 – the Ken Clark Coplan film, which is a lot more dull.

Spy In Your Eye (1966), the Jerry Cotton series, Roger Browne in Password Kill Agent Gordon (1966), all cheap or empty, with none of the fantastic that Bond brings. The Kommissar X films at least look expensive and vivid, with lots of local colour in Death is Nimble, Death is Quick (1967) and Kiss, Kiss, Kill Kill (1967), but they’re empty vessels with charmless leads. No wonder most of these films went straight to TV, because they’re quite ITC.

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