Detonator II: Night Watch (1995)

AKA: Night Watch, Alistair MacLean’s Night Watch
Directed by David S. Jackson
Pierce Brosnan, Alexandra Paul, William Devane
Music by John Scott

Night Watch is director David S. Jackson’s follow up to Detonator: Death Train. Once again it is based on an Alistair MacNeill novel, from outlines left by Alistair MacLean at his death. While the team from the first film is back, Pierce Brosnan returns as Mike Graham, and Alexandra Paul reprises her role as Sabrina Carver, many of the better elements of the first movie have disappeared.

• Firstly, Patrick Stewart has gone as head of United Nations Anti-Crime Organization (UNACO) and is replaced by William Devane.

• Next, ‘UNACO’ the organisation Graham and Carver work for is hardly mentioned at all. In fact it only appears written on the side of a 4WD that drops Graham off at headquarters. In contrast there are quite a few mentions of the CIA, Graham and Carver are even partnered by the CIA’s agent in Hong Kong. It would appear that ‘UNACO’ is a part of the CIA, not a global agency sanctioned by the United Nations.

• And finally there is Brosnan’s appearance. Maybe all the rumours and comparisons with James Bond had taken their toll on Brosnan. In the first film, Death Train, Graham was clean cut with short hair. In this sequel, Brosnan has gone for the Mexican bandit look. His hair is long and unkempt, and he has grown a Zapata moustache. This change of appearance serves no purpose, and as far as continuity between the two pictures is concerned…well, it’s like Darth Vader in a red suit. Sure the character is the same, but somehow it just doesn’t seem right.

So, despite the same team in front and behind the camera, this film is a very different bird to it’s predecessor.

The film opens with a violent beach rescue. Brosnan’s partner is shot and dies in a sea of blood. This is so badly staged it almost seems humorous. But the mission has taken it’s toll on Graham. So he is given a ‘cushy’ mission. Something that should be a walk in the park. It appears that Rembrandt’s painting, the ‘Night Watch’ which had been touring all around the world, has returned home as a fake. Somewhere along the way, the original must have been exchanged for this elaborate forgery.

Graham and Carver are teamed up once again and shipped off to Holland to discover how the painting was switched, and more importantly, where the original is?
In Amsterdam, it doesn’t take long for Graham to get into a fight with a muscle bound hoodlum on a boat. Unfortunately for Graham, he doesn’t have a search warrant and it’s the hood who presses charges. Meanwhile Carver is engaged in another of the film’s many silly action set pieces. In this one, agent Carver cycles (as in bicycle) after a boat travelling down one of Amsterdam’s canals. She overtakes it and races forward to the next bridge, where he dismounts and then leaps onto the boat as it passes under the bridge. As you can imagine, this boat is not powering along. After a fight on board, the boat collides with another boat. This second boat is carrying a drum of petrol. As the boats touch, both vessels explode in giant orange balls of flame. Sure the collision may have resulted in an explosion, but this was totally out of proportion to the lead up. This was a slow moving boat – not a speedboat moving at pace. And don’t worry about Agent Carver – she slipped over the side into the water, just before the explosion.

The trail then leads to Hong Kong. In every city that exhibited the Night Watch painting, the museum that showed the piece, footed the bill. Not Hong Kong. There a wealthy art connoisseur, Martin Schraeder (Michael Shannon) picked up the tab. Posing as newly weds, Graham and Carver move their investigation to Hong Kong, where they team up with CIA Agent Myra Tang (Irene Ng).

As Schraeder is the logical suspect, Graham and Co. focus their attention on him. This leads them to a Casino in Macao, which Schraeder owns. In a casino setting, the film moves into Bond wannabe territory. Naturally there is a high stakes card game, where Graham faces off against Schraeder. And added to this, Graham choice of drink is a ‘vodka martini, straight up with a twist’. Hardly shaken not stirred, but close enough to seem familiar. Of course, Schraeder is the bad guy, and this is where the usual espionage hi-jinks begin.

Towards the end, this production reaches new depths in low budget Bondian action. Graham has to stop a North Korean freighter from launching a rocket in the middle of Hong Kong Harbour. As with all the action scenes in this movie, it is sloppy and far-fetched. Detonator II: Night Watch is a very poor film. Even die hard Brosnan fans will find this tough going. Bottom of the barrel.

Detonator II: Night Watch (1995)

C.Q. (2001)

Directed by Roman Coppola
Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, Élodie Bouchez, Gerard Depardieu, Billy Zane, Jason Swartzman, Giancarlo Giannini, John Phillip Law, Dean Stockwell
Music by Mellow

C.Q. is a curious little film from Roman Coppola (Son of Francis, brother of Sophia). It is set in the final months of 1969 and stars Jeremy Davies as Paul, a film editor on a European sci-fi/secret agent film. This fictitious film is an Italian French co-production and is being filmed in Paris. The film, Dragonfly is being directed by Andrezej (Gerard Depardieu). Andrezej is a radical who does not want to pander to the mainstream, and has no ending for his film. But he does not want an ending. He thinks the film is complete the way it is, ending with a whimper, not a bang. Unfortunately for Andrezej, the film’s producer Enzo Di Martino (Giancarlo Giannini) is not happy about the weak ending and fires the director. He replaces him with schlock film maker Felix De Marco (Jason Swartzman). De Marco, who appears to have Attention Deficit Disorder ends up opting out of the Dragonfly after he breaks his leg in an automobile accident. Paul is called up to the plate to direct the remaining portions of the film, complete with a brand new ending. But Paul cannot think of a new ending.

C.Q. (Seek You) is put together rather stylishly, using three different techniques. Firstly is a black and white cinema verité style. These scenes reflect Paul’s journey as a person as he moves from 1969 into 1970. At home he films small slices of his life, along with his long suffering and neglected girlfriend, Marlene (Élodie Bouchez).

The second technique employed by Coppola, is your standard, film-making. It’s in colour. It’s low-key and doesn’t draw attention to itself. This is used during the narrative portions of the film. This is how the story moves forward from point A to point B.

The third and most visually impressive style, are the scenes from the 60’s sci-fi/secret agent film that Paul is working on. The sets, the costumes, music and special effects all hark back to the techniques used on films from the 1960’s. These scenes are candy coloured and deliberately artificial.

For fans of films from this era, a lot of fun can be had trying to spot the influences and direct film references. The obvious ones are Danger: Diabolik, Barbarella and Modesty Blaise, but there are more to be found. In fact, Diabolik himself, John Phillip Law has a role as the head of the group that hire Dragonfly.

What is Dragonfly about? The movie Dragonfly features Angela Lindvall as Agent Codename Dragonfly (it is deliberately worded awkwardly to reflect some of the clumsy English translations of 60’s European films). Dragonfly is hired to infiltrate a militant revolutionary group who have a secret base on the dark side of the moon. The revolutionaries are headed by Mister E. (Billy Zane), and he has invented a powerful new weapon that can freeze people in time. The weapon itself resembles a red bulbous pistol, but to me, it looks like a capsicum. Dragonfly has to fly to the moon; enter the secret base; retrieve the capsicum, er, weapon, and return home. It must be said that Angela Lindvall looks fantastic, and echoes the sex kittens from the sixties. And Billy Zane seems to having a great deal of fun as the revolutionary leader.

On the MGM/UA R1 DVD, on the flip side of the disk, you can watch the Dragonfly movie, which at around 20 minutes, is perfect for those with short attention spans.

The soundtrack by Mellow is absolutely fantastic. It sounds incredibly sixties, more so than any soundtrack that is actually from the sixties. And it moves through the real world and the film world with consummate ease. My favourite snippet is the Dragonfly Carchase, which reflects Ennio Morricone’s long lost Diabolik soundtrack. Also the song Take Me Higher, featuring vocals by Allison David is pure, smooth, sixties pop. Again, I could compare it to Deep Deep Down off the Diabolik score, but that would be unfair to Mellow. Sure this music is derivative of many sixties soundtracks, but this is a loving homage, rather than plagiarism. I am sure the album is licensed by different companies for different territories around the world, but the soundtrack to C.Q. is available from Shock Records Australia.

C.Q. is a film that I enjoyed immensely, although it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Because it has so many styles and stories running simultaneously, each viewer will enjoy different aspects of the film. Obviously I am drawn to the Eurospy homage. Others may connect with the drama of Paul’s personal life. Some will be fascinated by the inside look at the film making process (albeit from the sixties). It’s the type of film you will respond to on the strength of your own personal experience. I can imagine people watching this film and afterwards feeling rather cold, and wondering what the hell it was all about.

From my point of view I highly recommend C.Q.. It is original and clever film making.

C.Q. (2001)

Sleeping Car To Trieste (1948)

Directed by John Paddy Carstairs
Jean Kent, Albert Lieven, Alan Wheatley, Derrick De Marney, Paul Dupuis, Rona Anderson, David Tomlinson, Finlay Currie, Hugh Burden
Music by Benjamin Frankel

Sleeping Car To Trieste is a British post-war spy thriller, and not a bad one at that. If it has a weakness, it’s that you may have seen this kind of espionage hi-jinks on board a train a bit too much. But I for one, like this kind of film, so I enjoyed it immensely.

The film opens in Paris France, and a grand ball is being held at an Ambassadors residence. While all the other guests are swanning around downstairs, upstairs Colonel Zurta (Albert Lieven) is breaking into the safe. From inside he removes an important diary. As he is about to shut the safe, a servant walks in. Zurta pulls a pistol and fires. Somehow the other guests fail to hear the shot. Zurta then puts the diary into a bag and walks out onto the balcony. Down below an accomplice, Karl (Alan Wheatley) is waiting. Zurta throws down the bag and returns to the ball.

Inside, Zurta has another partner, Valya (Jean Kent). She is the real driving force behind the theft. Her father was assassinated due to the contents of the diary. In her possession, the diary could start a revolution. But that’s all background information. The Maguffin is the diary, and everybody wants it. Zurta and Valya share one last dance and leave the Ambassador’s residence. They head to Karl’s appartment to collect the diary only to find that he has double crossed them and scarpered. From his man-servant, Zurta and Valya ascertain that he is leaving Paris on board the Orient Express.

Once on board the train, the film is about the assorted characters making the journey. Some of them are good, some are bad, and some of them are comic relief. And a few have nothing to do with the story at all. Karl, now travelling under the name George Poole is in hiding and hoping for a compartment to himself. And Zurta and Valya managed to board the train at the last moment. Naturally they spend their time trying to search the train looking for Karl. Other pasengers include: George Grant (Derrick De Marney) and Joan Maxted (Rona Anderson), a couple having an extra marital affair and certainly don’t want any attention brought to them. Then there’s Sergeant West (Bonar Colleano) who is an American soldier, hoping to meet some attractive European birds. Unfortunately for West, the only birds he encounters are provided in book form by Elvin (Michael Ward), an effete birdwatcher. Boarding the train along the track is famous author, Alastair MacBain (Finlay Currie) and his put upon valet/secretary (Hugh Burden). MacBain has a grudge against the French Ambassador, after a poor response to one of MacBain’s lectures.

Adding to the variety of travellers on board is Inspector Jolif (Paul Dupuis) who is the French equivalent to Sherlock Holmes. He has little to do in the first half of the film, but after Karl is killed, he holds a criminal investigation on board the moving train. As we know who the bad guys are from the beginning, there aren’t too many surprises in the story, but it is handled well, and the ending is quite good.

Sleeping Car To Trieste is a good old fashioned thriller. It is not a classic, but if you like train films such as Murder On the Orient Express or even Breakheart Pass, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here. Apparently this film is a remake of an even better thriller called Rome Express (1932) which I have never seen, but sounds like it may well be worth tracking down?

Sleeping Car To Trieste (1948)

The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Directed by Norman Panama
Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Joan Collins, Robert Morley, Walter Gotell, Dorothy Lamour
Cameo appearances by Peter Sellers, David Niven, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra
Music by Robert Farnon
Songs by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen

I’ll confess that I am too young (ha, ha) to have watched and been a fan of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. And this is the only ‘Road’ movie that I have seen. I chose to watch it because of the espionage related plot. From other sources this film is generally derided for being the weakest of the ‘Road’ movies, but from my point of view this is a fairly decent 1960’s spy spoof.

What I find quite remarkable is that Road To Hong Kong was released in the US on 22 May 1962, a good 4 months before Dr. No was released in the UK (I mention the UK because The Road To Hong Kong was filmed in England. Incidentally Dr. No wasn’t released in the US till January 1963). Why am I comparing release dates? Well, The Road To Hong Kong is one of the better Bond send ups – only it was made before there were Bond films to send up. Firstly, the film features a title sequence by Maurice Binder. Secondly the production designer is Syd Cain, who worked uncredited on Dr. No (under Ken Adam), and as head on From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Live And Let Die. Apart from Bond, Cain worked on, Hot Enough For June and The Billion Dollar Brain. Then we have the cast: Walter Gotell appeared in seven Bond films and provided the voice of General Gogol for the James Bond Jnr animated series. Next we have Niven and Sellers, who both appeared in the 1967 comedy version of Casino Royale. Okay Robert Morley and Joan Collins never appeared in a Bond film, but both of them are not strangers to the world of espionage. Morley appeared in Hot Enough For June, Some Girls Do, and When Eight Bells toll, plus many others. Collins appeared in the TV shows The Persuaders, Mission Impossible, and The Man From UNCLE. Theatrically she appeared in Subterfuge with Gene Barry. I think I have laboured the point, that while The Road To Hong Kong may not have been a very successful ‘Road’ picture, it was a very fertile training ground many of the people behind Bondmania and the spy-craze that swept the world during the sixties.

Let’s have a look at the story. After the title sequence, which features a vaudevillian dance routine from Hope and Crosby, the film opens in Hong Kong, at the American Intelligence Organisation headquarters. They are concerned, because the Russians have just sent two men around the moon in a spacecraft. The most disconcerting thing for them though, is that the cosmonauts have American accents. They play a tape recording to demonstrate. The voices are of Hope and Crosby. At that moment a girl, Diane (Joan Collins) is allowed into the room. She claims to have knowledge of the space mission. She says it wasn’t the Russian who sent up the spacecraft. It was a group called The Third Echelon. She describes them as ‘more desperate, more intelligent, and infinitely more dangerous the the Americans or the Russians’. Diane, who used to be an agent for The third Echelon, explains the story via flashback…

Ten days previously, in Calcutta, Harry Turner (Bing Crosby) and Chester Babcock (Bob Hope) are trying to sell a ‘Fly It Yourself’ interplanetary space suit to a gullible crowd. Harry is spruiking the suits virtues, how anyone can fly it, and you can go anywhere you want to go with one. These spacesuits consist a silver top and pants. Added to this are a helmet with a propeller on the top, and an engine, with another propeller strapped to the backside. To continue the Bond association, which I started in the opening paragraphs, the suit is like a cross between Little Nellie, the gyro-copter used in You Only Live Twice and the jet rocket pack that Bond used in the pre-title sequence in Thunderball. The innocent dupe, who was going to test fly the suit for the crowd does a runner at the last minute. Harry convinces Chester to put on the gear and demonstrate. Needless to say, it all goes horribly wrong.

Chester ends up in hospital with amnesia. He cannot remember Harry, or even his own name. Chester is then taken to the best neurologist in India, who just happens to be Peter Sellers. Sellers Indian routine will be familiar to anyone who has watched Blake Edwards The Party. I know that in some circles, The Party is considered a comedy classic, but in my opinion, Sellers cameo in this movie is funnier. But that is a personal taste thing, you’ll have your own opinion.

Sellers cannot restore Chester’s memory but he recommends a lamasery in Tibet (for those that don’t know, a ‘lamasery’ is where the ‘lamas’ live, as in Dalai Lama etc…). So, Harry and Chester prepare to catch a plane to Tibet. At the airport Diane is meeting an agent who has stolen a top secret Russian rocket fuel formula. The formula is passed to Diane on a series of cards, which she secrets away. In turn, she is to pass them on to a photographer who will take shots and make microfilm. The photographer is also to meet her at the airport. She’ll recognise the photographer from a symbol on his luggage – three concentric circles. Naturally there’s a mix up with the baggage, and Chester winds up carrying the photographer’s case. Diane approaches him and slides the formula into Chester’s coat pocket. Then Harry and Chester board their plane for Tibet, before Diane has time to realise her mistake.

Harry and Chester arrive at the lamasery, and indeed they can cure Chester. In fact the secret herb that can restore his memory, can also help him remember anything he reads. Chester takes the drug and is cured. But now Harry and Chester are not allowed to leave the lamasery. They belong to the temple. This wont do, so the boys escape using the old patty-cake routine. Once you see it, you’ll know what I mean! As Harry and Chester are con-men always looking for an angle to make money, they also steal a phial of the herbs. They figure they can use it on stage for a ‘memory routine’.

They fly back to Calcutta, and in their hotel room they decide to test the herbs. For the test they need something to read, and Chester pulls out the rocket formula from his jacket pocket. Chester takes the herbs, and reads the cards. Harry tests him on his knowledge and as he is successful, burns the cards. Unwittingly, now the formula only exists in Chester’s mind.

Diane is still after the formula, and makes an arrangement with Harry. She will pay them $25,000 if they will go to Hong Kong and recite the formula. It is an offer too good to refuse, and off go our two intrepid heroes. Harry and Chester arrive at the home of the leader of the Third Echelon. By an amazing elevator, they are taken to an underground, and underwater lair which houses a rocket base. I must make mention of the set design at this point. It is all staggering good. Sure it is a little on the cartoon side, after-all this is a comedy, but everything from the control rooms, the rocket launch site, the submarines, and even the interior of the rocket capsule, with the banana feeding machine is extremely well done.

The leader of the Third Echelon is Robert Morley. He demands that Chester reveals the secret formula. But this time the herbs don’t work (they have been substituted for tea). Chester cannot remember. Harry and Chester are sentenced to be killed. Their reprieve comes via one of the scientists, Dr. Zorbb (Walter Gotell). He suggests that they send Harry and Chester up into outer space instead of the two monkeys that were originally going to be sent.

As you can see by the plot, it’s all very silly, as you expect from Hope and Crosby. But generally it is all pretty good fun. As this is the first ‘Road’ film in ten years for the boys, there are plenty of jibes about their respective ages. And as you’d expect, it’s the banter between the two stars that really drive this film along. Sure, you heard some of the jokes before (‘walk this way’), but these guys are old friends. For fans of the other film in the series, don’t expect too much from Dorothy Lamour. Her role is barely more than a cameo towards the end. As I mentioned at the top, as a ‘Road’ film, this may not be the funniest or the freshest, but at the beginning of the sixties, film styles were changing, and maybe without even realising they were doing it, the team behind The Road to Hong Kong were providing a taster of things to come.

The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Ministry Of Fear (1944)

Directed by Fritz Lang
Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, Carl Esmond, Hillary Brooke, Percy Waram, Dan Duryea, Alan Napier, Erskine Sanford
Music by Victor young
Based on the novel by Graham Greene

Fact: Fritz Lang is a genius. He is renown for his classic films, Metropolis, The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse and ’M’. And rightly so. But even his lesser films are of an incredibly high standard. The Big Heat for example, is one of my favourite crime films of all time. Now I have just discovered Ministry Of Fear. What a discovery! It’s an absolutely cracking film. I hate to compare two masters of cinema, but Lang’s film is in the Hitchcock style. Or more correctly, this is the type of story that Hitchcock does so well, and this is Lang’s attempt at ‘the innocent bystander accidentally gets drawn into a web of spies’ type of story.

The film opens in wartime England, outside London, and Stephen Neale (Ray Milland) has just been released from a mental asylum. (Graham Green fans will note that the character’s name has been changed from Arthur Rowe.) Neale has just spent two years locked away for killing his wife. Now he is free, he is heading back to London. Whilst waiting for a train, he stops at a nearby fete run by a charity group called ‘The Mothers of Free Nations’. Wandering through the stalls and amusements, two elderly ladies suggest that he visits the fortune teller. He does. Inside the tent, the fortune teller informs Neale of the weight of a cake that is in competition outside. That is to say, that if you guess the correct weight of the cake, you get to take it home. Neale goes over to the cake stand; pays a shilling (it is a fundraiser), then guesses the weight as foretold by the fortune teller. Neale is correct and the cake is his.

As Neale is about to leave the fete with his prize, a taxi pulls up at the gates. A man rushes out and dashes over to the fortune tellers tent. It seems that ‘cake competition’ was rigged, and the cake was intended for this newcomer. But it is too late. Neale boards a train for London.

As the train is about to shunt off, a blind man enters Neale’s compartment. Both men make idle chatter as the train rattles on. But then the train grinds to a halt as a German air raid begins. As Neale peaks at the explosive light show through a crack in the curtain, the blind man raises his cane and knocks Neale out. It appears that Neale’s travelling companion isn’t as visually impaired as he would have us believe. He then grabs the cake and exits the carriage, running off into a surrounding marsh.

Neale comes to, just in time to see the man running off and chooses to follow him. After all, in wartime, good cake is hard to come by! As Neale closes in on the thief, the man turns and starts firing a pistol.

Overhead, the bombing from the German aircraft is getting closer. The thief ducks into an abandoned shack only to have a shell land at his location. The shack, the thief, and the cake are all blown to smithereens.

From then on, poor old Stephen Neale, who may or may not be crazy, is drawn into a world of death, deception, nazi spies, bombs in suitcases, and political intrigue. And it’s all handled with Lang’s assured style. As you’d expect from Lang, there are some very impressive visuals too; especially at a séance, and in an apartment block where Neale and Carla Hilfe (Marjorie Reynolds) – she’s the girl who believes Neale’s story – are being pursued by a mob of enemy agents.

The Ministry Of Fear was a pleasant surprise to me. It doesn’t seem to be considered ‘top-shelf’ Lang. Nor does it seem to be considered ‘top-shelf’ Graham Greene either. But despite it’s lowly status, it is an extremely entertaining espionage adventure. And upon repeat viewings, it could become one of my favourites.

Ministry Of Fear (1944)

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 Security, 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 spoiled 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)

Dick Smart 2.007 (1967)

Directed by Franco Prosperi
Richard Wyler, Margaret Lee, Rosana Tapajós, Ambrosio Fregolente
Music by Mario Nascimbene

Dick Smart 2.007 is an ‘out-there’ Eurospy production. It features Richard Wyler as swinging sixties dilettante, womaniser, and sometimes spy, Dick Smart. Dick Smart is hired by the CIA, for a fee of one million dollars, after five atomic scientists go missing from around the world. It appears that someone is using the men to put together an atomic bomb; but who? It’s Smart’s job to find out.

The first half hour of the film is nonsensical. There is no investigation on Smart’s behalf and the story doesn’t really make sense. But it isn’t boring. It’s fast paced and there a few gags about ‘bottoms’. And a film isn’t hard to watch, when the ‘bottoms’ are the shapely female kind, the type found in bikinis on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Who cares about plot?

Thankfully the film does settle down, and a more typical spy story starts to evolve. The films other main characters are Lady Lorraine Lister, played by the beautiful Margaret Lee. Apart from being the ‘beauty’ she is also the ‘brains’ behind the atomic mystery. In fact she isn’t building a bomb at all. She is building a device that converts carbon (chunks of coal) in diamonds using an atomic radiation device.

Lady Lister has a partner called McDiamond (although that could be Black Diamond), played by Ambrosio Fregolente. McDiamond is kind of creepy. He speaks through an electronic device fastened to his throat (his voice sounds very similar to the computerised voice in Jean Luc Goddard’s Alphaville but I couldn’t say if it is a homage or not?) Partnerships in spy films don’t tend to last too long, and this one is no exception. McDiamond has the time of his life torturing Lady Lister in the second half of the film. Not that I condone torture, but I like the sequence where McDiamond ties Lady Lister to the bow of his boat.

The other major character is Jeanine Stafford, played by Rosana Tapajós. She is a fellow CIA agent who tries to help Smart along the way. Needles to say, she is more of a hindrance than a help, but on the odd occasion she does come through with the goods and saves Smart’s bacon. The character seems to be derived from the goofy Stella Stevens character in The Silencers. But by that same logic it’s interesting to compare Tapajós’ CIA character with Sharon Tate’s ICE character in The Wrecking Crew which was made two years later in 1969.

The film features some wonderfully silly gadgets. There’s a chess playing computer with a mechanical voice. Strangely it is easier to understand it’s speech, than it’s opponent McDiamond. And then there’s my favourite gadget, the ‘LBW’…the Locator of Beautiful Women. It’s small hand held device that beeps and flashes whenever a beautiful woman is in the vicinity. And finally there is an amazing gyro-copter / scooter / submarine type thing. It get’s quite a workout in this movie, and I am sure it woul give James Bond’s Little Nellie a run for it’s money. To see the gadget, cut and paste the following link and scroll down to the second picture:

Also worth a mention is Mario Nascimbene’s score. It is very good (although slightly repetitive), and the hook will get stuck in your head. You will find yourself humming the theme after you’ve finished watching the film. As the film is primarily set in South America, the soundtrack features a lot of Bossa Nova inspired lounge grooves.

At the end of the day, Dick Smart 2.007 is not one of the great Eurospy films, but it is a pretty good one, once it starts moving forward. And the film is aided considerably by a major role for Margaret Lee. Lee appeared in a lot of Eurospy productions (including From the Orient With Fury, New York Calling Superdragon and Our Agent Tiger) but generally she was window dressing. But in this film, she shares the billing and the screen time with Wyler. And you don’t have to guess which of the two, I’d prefer to see on the screen. If you are a fan of sixties Eurospy films, this is one to check out, but for others, this may be a little bit too silly.

DVD Review.
Generally I don’t review particular DVDs because with many of the obscure films that I tend to review, it’s often a matter of finding ‘any’ copy, rather than a ‘particular’ copy. But quite a lot of effort has been put into this release, so I thought it was worth mentioning. The Kommissar Eurospy edition of this DVD is an English language reconstruction of Dick Smart 2.007. The image has been taken from an out-of-print Italian version (Titanus / Creazioni Home Video), and combined with the English soundtrack from a Greek version that has been hovering around on the Grey market for some time.

Combining two versions isn’t as easy as it sounds. Firstly, NTSC and PAL have different frame rates. And DVD and Video run at different speeds. The differences are subtle, but none-the-less, you cannot just lay the soundtrack next to the image and hope that it fits. The soundtrack must be edited the fit the image. This can be a long and painstaking process. And all this is done, to bring you a B-grade film that you’ve probably never heard of. But I for one, am extremely glad that somebody is taking the time to do this. If it isn’t done, these obscure Eurospy films could disappear altogether.

The film features both English and Italian soundtracks; has mini biographies of the stars, Richard Wyler, Margaret Lee, Ambrosio Fregolente, and Rosana Tapajos; portions of Mario Nascimbene’s score; a poster gallery; and a still gallery with over 150 images.

The copy is admittedly far from perfect, but until somebody digs up an original widescreen print or camera negative, to work from, this is currently the best version available.

Dick Smart 2.007 (1967)