The Liquidator (1965)

Director: Jack Cardiff
Starring: Rod Taylor, Trevor Howard, Jill St John, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Akim Tamiroff, Gabriella Licudi, Eric Sykes, John Le Mesurier, Derek Nimmo, David Tomlinson
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Title song performed by Shirley Bassey
Based on the novel by John Gardner

Brian ‘Boysie’ Oakes was a character created by John Gardner as a sort of antithesis of James Bond. Sure he is a secret agent, well more of an assassin really, and he is surrounded by gorgeous girls. But underneath it all, he is a coward with no stomach for killing, and an intense fear of flying. Strangely enough, nearly all Oakes adventures feature flying, after all, a globe trotting agent isn’t much good if he can’t trot. And adding insult to injury, in Gardner’s final Oakes novel, The Airline Pirates, Boysie is forced to set up his own airline called Air Apparent. But here’s a quote from Madrigal (Corgi 1968), the fourth book in the series:

‘Fly?’ The words came out in a strangle of panic. Boysie had a natural aversion to taking airplane rides. It was a state bordering on the pathological. He was sick in aircraft and usually in a state of shock from takeoff to touch down.’

Not very suave and sophisticated is it? That’s enough background on Boysie. Let’s look at the film. It opens in black and white. The end of the Second World War is near, and Boysie Oakes (Rod Taylor) is commanding a tank. But he is lost. As he stumbles around the streets of Paris in search of directions, he comes across a British Intelligence Officer, Colonel Mostyn (Trevor Howard), being accosted by two assassins. Oakes is no hero, but wades in to help anyway. As he does so, he trips over and Oakes accidentally fires his pistol. The shot kills one of the assailants. Then the kick from the first shot, sends Oakes over onto his backside. He accidentally fires again. The second bullet finds it’s target and the other assailant falls to the ground dead. As Mostyn struggled for his life, he wasn’t watching Oakes. All Mostyn can see is the aftermath. Oakes has cleanly killed two men, with two shots. Mostyn is impressed and locks away in his mind Oakes’ details. Intelligence may have use for a man such as this.

Then screen then explodes into colour and a loud brash animated title sequence, by Richard Williams takes over. The title song, naturally enough, The Liquidator is hammered out with great gusto by Shirley Bassey. It’s no Goldfinger, but the song is big, bold and brassy and at this stage, it seems if the viewer is in for one great ride. Is this one of the great lost spy gems from the sixties?

The war is long over. It is now the swinging sixties. Mostyn is now second in charge of British Intelligence. But unfortunately, of late, there have been a few scandals, and Mostyn’s chief (Wilfred Hyde White) is not happy about it. In fact, he suggests that they hire a man to ‘remove’ the troublemakers and the undesirables. All of this is unofficial, of course. As he says, ‘Rather than scandals, we’ll have accidents!’

Mostyn remembers Oakes from the war and pays him a visit. Boysie is now running a café, that is, when he is not cutting a sexual swathe through all the ‘dolly birds’ in the vicinity. It’s this womanizing that get’s Boysie into trouble, and gives Mostyn the leverage to blackmail Boysie into working for him.

At first, it doesn’t seem too bad. Boysie is relocated to a swinging pad in London, and soon has a new coterie of girls to seduce. Even the military training that he is put through, doesn’t seem too difficult. It’s only when Boysie is sent out into the real world, and actually has to kill someone, that things get difficult. So difficult in fact, he chooses not to do it. Instead, he hires a hitman, Griffen (Eric Sykes) to do his dirty work for him.

The score to The Liquidator is good. It is by Lalo Schifrin who I consider to be one of the truly great screen composers. This is one of his earlier scores, but that doesn’t make it any the less enjoyable. As mentioned earlier, the soundtrack includes Shirley Bassey’s brassy title theme, and an assortment of bossa novas, conga beats, and lounge grooves. It a great slice of sixties spy music in all it’s diversity. For those interested in tracking down the soundtrack album, there are two versions available: The first is the original issue, which has musical highlights from the film (it makes a great lounge album – but is quite short – around 30 minutes). The second is a recent release from Film Score Monthly and has the bulk of the music from the film in chronological order (around 63 minutes). Your choice?

It’s such a shame, that a film that had offered so much in it’s opening minutes should collapse half way through and never truly recover. Earlier, I asked the question: Is this one of the great lost spy gems from the sixties? The answer is sadly no. The Liquidator is an interesting diversion but not much more than that. The failure of this film resulted in no further Boysie Oakes adventures making it to the silver screen. Starting a franchise was obviously the intention. If you look at the corgi paperback of Madrigal, the animated assassin from Williams title sequence can be seen on a playing card, clearly tying it in with the film series. So The Liquidator joins Where The Spies Are, Modesty Blaise and Hammerhead as a film adaptation from a popular book series that didn’t take off.

This review is based on a Turner Classic Movies television broadcast. Currently, The Liquidator is unavailable on DVD.

The Boysie Oakes novels by John Gardner are:

• The Liquidator 1964
• Understrike 1965
• Amber Nine 1966
• Madrigal 1967
• Founder Member 1969
• A Killer For A Song
• Golgotha
• Traitors Exit 1970
• The Airline Pirates (Air Apparent) 1970

Boysie Oakes also appeared in two short stories in:
• The Assassination File 1974

The Liquidator (1965)

No. 1: Licensed To Love And Kill (1979)

AKA: The Man From S.E.X.
Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Starring: Gareth Hunt, Fiona Curzon, Nick Tate, Geoffrey Keen, Gary Hope
Music: Simon Bell

With the passing of Gareth Hunt last week, I thought it fitting to review No. 1: Licensed To Love And Kill, although it’s probably not the way he’d want to be remembered.

This film is another shlock exploitation flick from director Lindsay Shonteff, the man who gave us The 2nd Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World and The Million Eyes Of Sumuru. In 1977, the success of The Spy Who Loved Me brought about a resurgence in James Bond knockoff movies. And Lindsay Shonteff, recycled the Charles Vine series, starring Tom Adams from the sixties. Gareth Hunt plays Charles Bind in this bottom of the barrel addition to the spy genre. This is actually the second film in a series of three; the first being No. 1 Of The Secret Service starring Nicky Henson as Bind and the third a final film was Number One Gun (1990) starring Michael Howe.

What’s it all about? The film starts with Charles Bind trapped in a jet plane as it hurtles out of control. Bind’s explains the predicament he finds himself in:

’I ask myself, what am I doing, Britain’s number one agent, tied hand and foot, in this jet fighter, with only dynamite for company?’

As any good spy hero would, Bind ejects at the last moment, just before the plane erupts into a ball of flame. He parachutes down to the street, and rips off his coveralls to reveal a pristine white dinner suit underneath. Naturally enough, he has landed exactly in front of the restaurant, where he had a standing dinner engagement with a stunning superbabe. When the lady in question admonishes him for being late, he glibly replies, ’Yes, I was tied up for a while!’ Groan!

After a trashy title sequence, Bind arrives at the Ministry Of Defence Headquarters, and waltzes into his superiors office. In Shonteff’s The 2nd Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World, Charles Vine’s boss was Rockwell. In this instance, Bind’s boss is Stockwell (Geoffrey Keen). Bond fans will recognise Keen as Frederick Grey, Minister Of Defence in several of the Roger Moore era films. Bind is briefed on English Lord Dangerfield, a high ranking diplomat. The Home Office is worried about him, as he has been out of contact for a few weeks. His last known whereabouts, was at the home of an old friend, Senator Lucifer Orchid (Gary Hope), in the United States. Bind’s mission is to find Lord Dangerfield and bring him home. After the briefing, Bind is shipped off to see Merlin, in K Department (a low budget version of Q Branch).

As I have mentioned earlier, this is a cheapjack production and the cinematography is very poor, the whole film looks like it has been filmed through the bottom of a beer glass. There are many shoe-string scenes such as when Bind goes to see Merlin (John Arnatt), the head of the ‘dirty tricks’ department. Merlin doesn’t have an office or a laboratory. He seems to be set up in a boy-scout hall. He doesn’t even have a desk; it’s a fold up table. Merlin hands over a few simple gadgets, and then Bind is off to America to complete his mission.

Nick Tate plays Jensen Fury, a loud, abusive mercenary whose code-name is Ultra 1 – even better than No. 1, get it? – implying he is the fastest and deadliest gunman in the world. His acting is on par with the dialogue his character is given. It is so awful it is painful to listen to. When we first meet Fury he is proving his prowess with a pistol to his new employer, Senator Lucifer Orchid. Fury does this by gunning down innocent people on a beach. He’d rather use live targets, because it keeps him sharp.

Once in America, Bind joins forces with Lord Dangerfield’s daughter, Carlotta Muff Dangerfield (Fiona Curzon), who naturally enough, gets called ‘Lotta Muff’ by Bind. But she is only one of the many girls, Bind get’s involved with. There’s ‘Cutie Pie’ and ‘Sweetie Pie’ who provide a bathing service, and the exotic Asian beauty Fun-ghi. Unfortunately Fun-ghi meets an untimely end, when she dives into a swimming pool filled with acid. You see, the caretaker cleans the pool with acid to kill funghi (Fun-ghi, er, get it? No, you’re right. It is not very funny.)

This film also features a few other chestnuts of the genre. There’s an evil double of Charles Bind, and an malicious midget with a whip. Even the ‘She-He’ character from The 2nd Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World is repeated.

No. 1: Licensed To Love And Kill is not a particularly good film, but one thing it cannot be accused of, is being slow paced. It moves very swiftly from one bad set piece to the next. If you are a spy film completist and must watch this movie, look out for the stripper with razor blades attached to the tassels over her nipples. Ranking as one of spy cinemas most absurd assassins, as she sways around, the razors begin to spin like aircraft propellers, becoming a lethal weapon. As she approaches Bind, he holds a wooden chair out in front to protect himself. Accompanied by the sound of a circular saw, the chair is reduced to saw dust.

Does Bind survive? Who cares? This movie is crap.

This review is based on the Filmways Home Video Australia VHS cassette

No. 1: Licensed To Love And Kill (1979)

The Liquidator (1965)

Director: Jack Cardiff
Starring: Rod Taylor, Trevor Howard, Jill St John, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Akim Tamiroff, Gabriella Licudi, Eric Sykes, John Le Mesurier, Derek Nimmo, David Tomlinson
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Title song performed by Shirley Bassey
Based on the novel by John Gardner

Brian ‘Boysie’ Oakes was a character created by John Gardner as a sort of antithesis of James Bond. Sure he is a secret agent, well more of an assassin really, and he is surrounded by gorgeous girls. But underneath it all, he is a coward with no stomach for killing, and an intense fear of flying. Strangely enough, nearly all Oakes adventures feature flying, after all, a globe trotting agent isn’t much good if he can’t trot. And adding insult to injury, in Gardner’s final Oakes novel, The Airline Pirates, Boysie is forced to set up his own airline called Air Apparent. But here’s a quote from Madrigal (Corgi 1968), the fourth book in the series:

‘Fly?’ The words came out in a strangle of panic. Boysie had a natural aversion to taking airplane rides. It was a state bordering on the pathological. He was sick in aircraft and usually in a state of shock from takeoff to touch down.’

Not very suave and sophisticated is it? That’s enough background on Boysie. Let’s look at the film. It opens in black and white. The end of the Second World War is near, and Boysie Oakes (Rod Taylor) is commanding a tank. But he is lost. As he stumbles around the streets of Paris in search of directions, he comes across a British Intelligence Officer, Colonel Mostyn (Trevor Howard), being accosted by two assassins. Oakes is no hero, but wades in to help anyway. As he does so, he trips over and Oakes accidentally fires his pistol. The shot kills one of the assailants. Then the kick from the first shot, sends Oakes over onto his backside. He accidentally fires again. The second bullet finds it’s target and the other assailant falls to the ground dead. As Mostyn struggled for his life, he wasn’t watching Oakes. All Mostyn can see is the aftermath. Oakes has cleanly killed two men, with two shots. Mostyn is impressed and locks away in his mind Oakes’ details. Intelligence may have use for a man such as this.

Then screen then explodes into colour and a loud brash animated title sequence, by Richard Williams takes over. The title song, naturally enough, The Liquidator is hammered out with great gusto by Shirley Bassey. It’s no Goldfinger, but the song is big, bold and brassy and at this stage, it seems if the viewer is in for one great ride. Is this one of the great lost spy gems from the sixties?

The war is long over. It is now the swinging sixties. Mostyn is now second in charge of British Intelligence. But unfortunately, of late, there have been a few scandals, and Mostyn’s chief (Wilfred Hyde White) is not happy about it. In fact, he suggests that they hire a man to ‘remove’ the troublemakers and the undesirables. All of this is unofficial, of course. As he says, ‘Rather than scandals, we’ll have accidents!’

Mostyn remembers Oakes from the war and pays him a visit. Boysie is now running a café, that is, when he is not cutting a sexual swathe through all the ‘dolly birds’ in the vicinity. It’s this womanizing that get’s Boysie into trouble, and gives Mostyn the leverage to blackmail Boysie into working for him.

At first, it doesn’t seem too bad. Boysie is relocated to a swinging pad in London, and soon has a new coterie of girls to seduce. Even the military training that he is put through, doesn’t seem too difficult. It’s only when Boysie is sent out into the real world, and actually has to kill someone, that things get difficult. So difficult in fact, he chooses not to do it. Instead, he hires a hitman, Griffen (Eric Sykes) to do his dirty work for him.

The score to The Liquidator is good. It is by Lalo Schifrin who I consider to be one of the truly great screen composers. This is one of his earlier scores, but that doesn’t make it any the less enjoyable. As mentioned earlier, the soundtrack includes Shirley Bassey’s brassy title theme, and an assortment of bossa novas, conga beats, and lounge grooves. It a great slice of sixties spy music in all it’s diversity. For those interested in tracking down the soundtrack album, there are two versions available: The first is the original issue, which has musical highlights from the film (it makes a great lounge album – but is quite short – around 30 minutes). The second is a recent release from Film Score Monthly and has the bulk of the music from the film in chronological order (around 63 minutes). Your choice?

It’s such a shame, that a film that had offered so much in it’s opening minutes should collapse half way through and never truly recover. Earlier, I asked the question: Is this one of the great lost spy gems from the sixties? The answer is sadly no. The Liquidator is an interesting diversion but not much more than that. The failure of this film resulted in no further Boysie Oakes adventures making it to the silver screen. Starting a franchise was obviously the intention. If you look at the corgi paperback of Madrigal, the animated assassin from Williams title sequence can be seen on a playing card, clearly tying it in with the film series. So The Liquidator joins Where The Spies Are, Modesty Blaise and Hammerhead as a film adaptation from a popular book series that didn’t take off.

This review is based on a Turner Classic Movies television broadcast. Currently, The Liquidator is unavailable on DVD.

The Boysie Oakes novels by John Gardner are:

• The Liquidator 1964
• Understrike 1965
• Amber Nine 1966
• Madrigal 1967
• Founder Member 1969
• A Killer For A Song
• Traitors Exit 1970

The Airline Pirates (Air Apparent) 1970

Boysie Oakes also appeared in two short stories in:
• The Assassination File 1974

The Liquidator (1965)

No 1: Licensed to Love and Kill (1979)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Starring: Gareth Hunt, Fiona Curzon, Nick Tate, Geoffrey Keen, Gary Hope
Music: Simon Bell
AKA: The Man From S.E.X.

With the passing of Gareth Hunt last week, I thought it fitting to review No. 1: Licensed To Love And Kill, although it’s probably not the way he’d want to be remembered.

This film is another shlock exploitation flick from director Lindsay Shonteff, the man who gave us The 2nd Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World and The Million Eyes Of Sumuru. In 1977, the success of The Spy Who Loved Me brought about a resurgence in James Bond knockoff movies. And Lindsay Shonteff, recycled the Charles Vine series, starring Tom Adams from the sixties. Gareth Hunt plays Charles Bind in this bottom of the barrel addition to the spy genre.

This is actually the second film in a series of three; the first being No. 1 Of The Secret Service starring Nicky Henson as Bind and the third a final film was Number One Gun (1990) starring Michael Howe.

What’s it all about? The film starts with Charles Bind trapped in a jet plane as it hurtles out of control. Bind’s explains the predicament he finds himself in:

’I ask myself, what am I doing, Britain’s number one agent, tied hand and foot, in this jet fighter, with only dynamite for company?’

As any good spy hero would, Bind ejects at the last moment, just before the plane erupts into a ball of flame. He parachutes down to the street, and rips off his coveralls to reveal a pristine white dinner suit underneath. Naturally enough, he has landed exactly in front of the restaurant, where he had a standing dinner engagement with a stunning superbabe. When the lady in question admonishes him for being late, he glibly replies, ’Yes, I was tied up for a while!’ Groan!

After a trashy title sequence, Bind arrives at the Ministry Of Defence Headquarters, and waltzes into his superiors office. In Shonteff’s The 2nd Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World, Charles Vine’s boss was Rockwell. In this instance, Bind’s boss is Stockwell (Geoffrey Keen). Bond fans will recognise Keen as Frederick Grey, Minister Of Defence in several of the Roger Moore era films. Bind is briefed on English Lord Dangerfield, a high ranking diplomat. The Home Office is worried about him, as he has been out of contact for a few weeks. His last known whereabouts, was at the home of an old friend, Senator Lucifer Orchid (Gary Hope), in the United States. Bind’s mission is to find Lord Dangerfield and bring him home. After the briefing, Bind is shipped off to see Merlin, in K Department (a low budget version of Q Branch).

As I have mentioned earlier, this is a cheapjack production and the cinematography is very poor, the whole film looks like it has been filmed through the bottom of a beer glass. There are many shoe-string scenes such as when Bind goes to see Merlin (John Arnatt), the head of the ‘dirty tricks’ department. Merlin doesn’t have an office or a laboratory. He seems to be set up in a boy-scout hall. He doesn’t even have a desk; it’s a fold up table. Merlin hands over a few simple gadgets, and then Bind is off to America to complete his mission.

Nick Tate plays Jensen Fury, a loud, abusive mercenary whose code-name is Ultra 1 – even better than No. 1, get it? – implying he is the fastest and deadliest gunman in the world. His acting is on par with the dialogue his character is given. It is so awful it is painful to listen to. When we first meet Fury he is proving his prowess with a pistol to his new employer, Senator Lucifer Orchid. Fury does this by gunning down innocent people on a beach. He’d rather use live targets, because it keeps him sharp.

Once in America, Bind joins forces with Lord Dangerfield’s daughter, Carlotta Muff Dangerfield (Fiona Curzon), who naturally enough, gets called ‘Lotta Muff’ by Bind. But she is only one of the many girls, Bind get’s involved with. There’s ‘Cutie Pie’ and ‘Sweetie Pie’ who provide a bathing service, and the exotic Asian beauty Fun-ghi. Unfortunately Fun-ghi meets an untimely end, when she dives into a swimming pool filled with acid. You see, the caretaker cleans the pool with acid to kill funghi (Fun-ghi, er, get it? No, you’re right. It is not very funny.)

This film also features a few other chestnuts of the genre. There’s an evil double of Charles Bind, and an malicious midget with a whip. Even the ‘She-He’ character from The 2nd Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World is repeated.

No. 1: Licensed To Love And Kill is not a particularly good film, but one thing it cannot be accused of, is being slow paced. It moves very swiftly from one bad set piece to the next. If you are a spy film completist and must watch this movie, look out for the stripper with razor blades attached to the tassels over her nipples. Ranking as one of spy cinemas most absurd assassins, as she sways around, the razors begin to spin like aircraft propellers, becoming a lethal weapon. As she approaches Bind, he holds a wooden chair out in front to protect himself. Accompanied by the sound of a circular saw, the chair is reduced to saw dust.

Does Bind survive? Who cares? This movie is crap.

This review is based on the Filmways Home Video Australia VHS cassette.

No 1: Licensed to Love and Kill (1979)

Zeta One (1969)


Directed by Michael Cort
Robin Hawdon, James Robertson Justice, Yutte Stensgaad, Charles Hawtrey, Dawn Addams, Valerie Leon, Anna Gael

Barely more than soft core porn, Zeta One is an example of swinging sixties British Cinema at it’s worst. To fans of the perverse it may even fall into the ‘so bad it is good’ category. Thankfully it is fast paced and the costumes, sets, and the girls in the film are easy on the eye.

The film opens with Section S Agent, James Word (Robin Hawdon) returning home after a mission. Waiting in his apartment is Anna Olsen (Yutte Stensgaad), the ‘company’ secretary. She wants to knows the details of Word’s mission in Scotland. After a game of strip poker (naturally), Word,via flashback, begins to tell the story of ‘Zeta’, a woman who rules a colony of women in a place called ‘Angvia’.

The scantily clad Angvian women have special powers and could take over the world, but so far have restricted their activities to kidnapping and brainwashing a few girls to join their colony. For those who have not worked it out yet, Angvia is an anagram of ‘vagina’.

Meanwhile, head of Department 5, Major Borden (James Robertson Justice), a well dressed, well connected English gentleman, has plans to take over Angvia for his own purposes. Despite Borden’s respectable veneer, he is actually a brutal sadist, with his own torture chamber, which within he ‘questions’ young girls in a bid to find the location of Angvia. To achieve his ends, Borden sends his assistant, Swyne (Charles Hawtrey) out to track some Angvian girls. This isn’t too hard to do as they all wear orange minis around.

Swyne follows two Angvians to a strip club where they intend to kidnap one of the ‘artistes’ to join their colony. Swyne reports back to Borden, who then convinces the stripper, Edwina Strain, to conceal a transmitting device upon a person, so he can track her to Angvia.

All goes to plan. Edwina is kidnapped and taken to Angvia. With the disappearance of Edwina, Word is called into headquarters and has a meeting with his section chief, ‘W’. Word’s mission is to follow Borden, and he is sent to Scotland where Borden has an estate.

The film’s plot really isn’t important, and really doesn’t make much sense. There are a few weird scenes including a Michael Caine look-a-like who follows around Borden, and a superstitious talking elevator with a chip on it’s shoulder. The scenes in Angvia are trippy with a lot of coloured lights and filters, and one scene which looks like it was filmed through a lava lamp.

As a secret agent, Word doesn’t really do much. He gets to bed multiple attractive sixties dolly birds, and drive a fast car. That’s it really. Not surprisingly, Hawdon spends most of the film with a continuous smirk on his face.

Curious note: Lionel Murton plays Word’s boss known as ‘W’ , but on the wall on his office is ‘UU’ (ie double U). Maybe the set designer had a better sense of humour and was more creative than the rest of the team that put this movie together?

Zeta One is a dirty little sixties spy film. If that’s your bag, man, then by all means, seek it out and enjoy. It is fast paced and at approximately 82 minutes it wont take too much out of your day. But for others who are looking for a real spy film, I am afraid you will have to look elsewhere.

This review is based on the Salvation Films UK video cassette

Zeta One (1969)

The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967)


AKA: The 1000 Eyes of Su-Muru, The Slaves of Sumuru, Sumuru
Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Starring: Frankie Avalon, George Nader, Shirley Eaton, Wilfred Hyde White, Klaus Kinski, Maria Rohm
Music: Johnny Scott

Director, Lindsay Shonteff is singularly responsible for some of the worst spy films ever made, No 1 Licensed To Love And Kill readily springs to mind. And I am afraid The Million Eyes Of Sumuru does nothing to redeem Shonteff in the ‘million eyes’ of spy movie fans all over the world.

Maybe Shonteff isn’t solely to blame for The Million Eyes Of Sumuru. Producer Harry Alan Towers may have to share some of the burden. He is the man who bought us the sixties, Christopher Lee, series of Fu Manchu films. Some footage from the second Sumuru film (Seven Secrets Of Sumuru – AKA Future Women), featuring Shirley Eaton, mysteriously found its way into The Blood Of Fu Manchu. Apparently Miss Eaton was not happy about it, and who could blame her.

The film opens with a Chinese funeral procession. A group of young men march along behind the coffin, while on the side of the road, a girl watches on. Then we hear a voice-over from Sumuru herself (Shirley Eaton):

’This is the funeral of the richest man in the world…
These are his seventeen sons…
Soon they will share his fate…
Along with all other men who oppose my will…
The eyes of this girl are watching them…
As maybe, some other girl’s eyes are watching you…
I have a million eyes…
For I am Sumuru!’

A bomb goes off as the procession crosses a bridge and the seventeen sons are killed, and the titles roll.

Then we meet Sumuru in the flesh. She lives on an island with her own private army of women. But there is a problem with one of her disciples. One girl, operating out of Rome, has done the unthinkable – she has fallen in love! Sumuru decides to travel to Italy and ‘take care’ of the traitor personally. A voice over provides another piece of Sumuru’s manifesto:
’In the war against mankind, to achieve our aim, a world of peace and beauty ruled by women, we have but one weakness, which must be rooted out and destroyed…Love!’
We see these words put into action, when three women in black bikinis, drown a woman in a white bikini. So much for love!

Still in Rome, next we meet C.I.A. agent Nick West (George Nader). He is greeted by Sir Anthony Baisbrook (Wilfred Hyde-White), who works for H.M.G. (Her Majesty’s Government). It appears that the girl who was killed, is the secretary for the Syronesian Chief Of Secruty, Colonel Medika (Jon Fong). Sir Anthony seconds West into finding out who the killer is. Along for the ride is Tommy Carter (Frankie Avalon). Carter is not a swinging sixties secret agent. He’s just a spoilt dilettante with too much spare time. You see, his father left him eighteen million dollars – that’d do it!

West meets with Medika and they thrash out the path the investigation will take. But soon after the meeting, Medika is kidnapped by Sumuru’s agents, and West is left to solve the remainder of the puzzle, along with a little help from Carter, of course.

Sometimes when I jot down a synopsis, as I read back, I think ‘that doesn’t sound bad’. And Sumuru, on paper at least, has all the elements to make a great spy film. Unfortunately it is lumbered with poor dialogue, poor cinematography, and generally poor direction. There is an air of cynicism and perversion that pervades the whole film. You would expect a film that features a scantily clad all girl army, to be slightly erotic. Or at least a good perv, but this film features weird camera angles that make beautiful girls look distorted and ugly, and a script that forces them into acts of cruel violence, that make them unappealing. Even taking a feminist view, that it is a film about empowering women is undone by the cruelty.

So begs the question, why watch The Million Eyes Of Sumuru? I would suggest that you don’t, but if you had to, it would be for Shirley Eaton. Eaton was the Golden Girl from Goldfinger and her image, covered in gold paint, is indelibly burnt into the minds of sixties spy fans. Other than that, avoid at all costs.

The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967)

The Osterman Weekend (1983)


Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Rutger Hauer, JohnHurt, Craig T. Nelson, Dennis Hopper, Chris Sarandon, Meg Foster, Helen Shaver, Cassie Yates, Jan Triska, Burt Lancaster
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Based on the novel by Robert Ludlum

Although directed by the legendary Sam Peckinpah and based on the best selling novel by Robert Ludlum, The Osterman Weekend is a huge disappointment.

With security cameras everywhere, voyeurism is one of the main themes of the movie. Maybe Peckinpah in his prime could have made a valid point about privacy and security issues. But in this case, the voyeurism is used for cheap titillation. It seems that whenever the pace of the movie slows down, the female characters disrobe. In fact the female leads spend most of their screen time in various states of undress.

At the end of the movie, John Tanner (Rutger Hauer), during a broadcast of his TV program, makes a speech urging viewers at home to turn off their television sets. At the same time, with the subtlety of a wrecking ball, Peckinpah tries to convince us that we the viewers (be it cinema or at home) had the same opportunity to ‘turn off’ or ‘walk out’ during the previous ninety minutes. Instead we chose to watch the show. We wallowed in the violence and leered at the sex.

Maybe Peckinpah’s right. But if you paid good money to see the film in the cinema or hired a copy from a video library, you’d want to get your money’s worth. Perhaps Tanner’s speech should have been printed on the movie poster and on the video/DVD packaging, so we could decide to ‘turn off’ before we had spent good money.

For the opening scenes the image is pixelated and grainy, like it would appear if you were watching closed circuit television. The image is Lawrence Fassett (John Hurt) having sex with his wife. Once Fassett is spent, he leaves the room to have a shower. While he’s out of the room, two KGB agents enter the bedroom. One stops Fassett’s wife from screaming, while the other produces a hypodermic needle and inserts it up her nose – I guess this is so that there are no obvious puncture wounds on the body? When Fassett returns his wife is dead!

It is indeed a video tape we are watching, and we are in C.I.A. headquarters. Chief Maxwell Danforth (Burt Lancaster) is being debriefed on his agent Fassett. After the death of his wife, Fassett went wild in his attempts to track down her killer. In the process he discovered a cell of KGB agents called Omega.

Omega are three successful American business men, who operate under communist spy master Andrei Mikalovich. The men from Omega are:
• Stockbroker, Joseph Carbone (Chris Sarandon).
• Plastic surgeon, Richard Tremayne (Dennis Hopper).
• Television producer, Bernard Osterman (Craig T. Nelson).

Apart from being communist spies, the three men also have one other thing in common. They all went to college together with their friend John Tanner (Rutger Hauer). Tanner is now the successful host of ‘Face To Face’, which is a television talk show. His show is controversial and he often tackles weighty issues and interviews politicians and members of the defence force. He wants to interview C.I.A. Maxwell Danforth. And luckily he will get his chance.

Danforth and Fassett seek Tanner’s help. They want him to help ‘turn’ one of his communist friends. Tanner reluctantly agrees, but on one condition – that he gets to interview Danforth. The deal is done.

Since college days, the four men, Tanner, Carbone, Tremayne, and Osterman arrange holiday weekends together. They call these weekends ‘Ostermans’ as it was Bernie who started the tradition in college. The upcoming weekend an ‘Osterman’ is planned and Tanner is to be the host. Fassett moves quickly an crams all the latest surveillance equipment into Tanner’s house. And then waits for the guests to arrive.

The music for The Osterman Weekend is by Lalo Schifrin. I am a big fan of Schifrin’s work, but this is not one of his greatest moments. The music is soft saxophone jazz, that sounds like music from a 70’s porno flick. Given this films subject matter and style, it may be a purposeful stylisation, but it doesn’t make for great listening.

Generally speaking, and with the exception of the Matt Damon Bourne movies, Ludlum’s books haven’t translated too well to the silver screen. The first attempt at The Bourne Identity with Richard Chamberlain was a misfire, and The Holcroft Covenant was undone by an air of sleaze and unpleasantness. Similarly, The Osterman Weekend is a sleazy affair. I know that Peckinpah is making a point about voyeurism and media manipulation, but it doesn’t mean I want to watch it.

This review is based on the MRA Australia DVD. A quick word about the MRA disk – it is poorly mastered and won’t play in some DVD players, and in the ‘Features’ section, selecting ‘Trailer’ will result in stopping the disk.

The Osterman Weekend (1983)