Mission Impossible: Odds On Evil (1966)

Director: Charles R. Rondeau
Starring: Steven Hill, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus, Martin Landau, Nico Mindaros, Nehemiah Persoff, Vincent Van Lynn
Music: Gerald Fried
Mission Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin

Odds On Evil is one of the most popular episodes from season one for spy fans, because the story closely resembles Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale. But rather than relying on card sense, the IMF team rely on gadgets and card tricks to break the villain’s bank.

The episode opens with IMF leader, Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) toying around in an amusement arcade. He is taken out the back by the proprietor and lead to an old moviola and then left alone. Briggs brings his eyes to the viewer and is given the details of the new mission. After the briefing, the message, naturally, self destructs.

The IMF Team’s mission is to take down Prince Iben Kostas (Nehemiah Persoff), the leader of an un-named European country. Kostas intends to declare war on a neighbouring oil rich country. To do this, he has ordered 1.5 million dollars worth of weapons from arms dealer Oliver Borgman (Vincent Van Lynn). The weapons are on their way by ship, and Kostas has agreed to pay for them on delivery. Kostas, apart from being his countries leader also runs the countries casino. The IMF intend to obtain the money that Kostas intends to pay for the arms shipment, by breaking the bank at Kostas’ casino.

The team selected for this mission are IMF electronics wizard, Barney Collier (Greg Morris), who set about putting together some gadgets that can help the team in it’s quest. Next is Rollin Hand (Martin Landau), the teams master of disguise and deception. In preparation, he works on his card handling skills and sleight-of-hand. Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus) is the muscle of the group, and Cinnamon Carton (Barbara Bain) is the beauty. The special guest agent is Andre Malif (Nico Mindaros).

When they get to Kostas’ country, Cinnamon immediately makes contact with the Prince. She pretends to be a rich married woman. Andre plays her long suffering husband. Despite being ‘married’ she still throws herself at the Prince. To get revenge, Andre attempts to break the bank by playing roulette. Naturally he has a little help from one of Barney’s gadgets. Standing close by is Willy Armitage who has a ninety pound computer is hidden in the lining of his suit. This computer can work out where the ball will stop on the roulette wheel. Then the number pops up on the dial of Andre’s watch. Andre quickly amasses a small fortune as the Prince watches on. As Andre passes the $150,000 mark, the Prince shuts down the table.

But Andre isn’t smart enough to take his winnings and go. No, he has to attempt to win more – this time at the Baccarat table. But Andre’s luck doesn’t hold out. He loses all his winnings to another card player; Rollin Hand. Andre walks away dejected and defeated. After his win, Rollin is looking to call it a night too. But Kostas sees Rollin as any easy mark, and that he can win the casinos money back. Everyone seems like an easy mark to Kostas, because he has marked all the casino’s playing cards and wears special contact lenses to read them. But what he doesn’t know is that Rollin has worked out Kostas’ system and is wearing contact lenses too.

One aspect of the 2006 Casino Royale movie that I was disappointed in, was that the film-makers changed the card game in the story, from Baccarat to Texas Hold ‘em Poker. The reason given for this was that they believed that Baccarat was too complicated and the viewing audience would not understand it. One of the joys of Odds On Evil is that Kostas gives Cinnamon a minute long lesson in Baccarat. It’s clear and concise and drives the story along. Even those unfamiliar with the game will understand what is happening on the screen. It’s a shame that the Bond film felt the need to dumb down for it’s audience, whereas Mission: Impossible educated their audience instead.

Apart from the card game, the other Bondian touch to Odds On Evil is the car that the IMF team choose to make their escape in. As you’ve no doubt guessed, it’s an Aston Martin DB5.

As this is a season one episode, it has Steven Hill and the team leader, rather than Peter Graves. Graves is so indelibly linked with this show, when going back and looking at the earlier episodes, it sometimes seems rather strange that he isn’t there. But in the end Odds On Evil is a great example of the Mission: Impossible formula, and one that should be of interest to spy fans in general.

Mission Impossible: Odds On Evil (1966)

Fantomas (1964)

Directed by André Hunebelle
Jean Marais, Louis De Funes, Mylène Demongeot, Jacques Dynam
Music by Michel Magne

Fantomas is an ages old criminal character from France. He has appeared in books, movies and on television. One of his earliest and most popular incarnations was in a silent movie serial made by Louis Feuillade in 1913-14. In the 1960’s, director André Hunebelle decided to revive the character for three feature films featuring Jean Marais in a duel role as Fandor, the hero; and Fantomas, the evil villain. This is the first of the three movies.

This one opens in Paris. A Rolls Royce weaves it’s way through the traffic and makes it’s way to Van Cleef and Arpels. Inside, a distinguished gent and lady are shown a selection of diamond necklaces and chokers. The gent in question is Lord Shelton and he is buying up big. He forks out 5,500,000 New Franks for the trinkets. Shelton writes out a cheque, and he and his mistress make their way out of the building with their purchases. Later, one of the sales staff is examining the payment, when shock, horror, the writing and signature on the cheque disappear before his very eyes. It becomes a blank cheque. Then slowly a new name appears: “Fantomas”.

Who is Fantomas? He is a super criminal; a man of one thousand faces – and so far, the French police have been unable to stop him.

After the theft, Police Comissioner Juve (Louis De Funes) appears on television assuring the public that Fantomas’ day are numbered. In a slightly comical speech, he intones that Fantomas is just an ordinary murderer,… a man like you and me,… he’s claimed fewer victims than car accidents,…and even though he has blown up planes and derailed trains, he is not as bad as dangerous drivers! Yeah, right. From Juve’s speech you get a little of the idea of the tone of Fantomas. Yeah, it is a crime movie, and it’s a caper movie, but it is also a comedy (and probably an appropriate comparison would be with the Pink Panther films).

A crowd of people have gathered around a shop window and are watching Juve’s press conference on televisions mounted inside, when Fantomas makes his presence felt once more. From a moving vehicle he lobs a hand grenade at the shop. The crowd flee, the grenade explodes, and the television go up in smoke.

With all this strife the newspapers are having a field day, but one journalist, Fandor (Jean Marais) is looking for a different angle. First he writes an article claiming that Fantomas does not exist and is a creation by the police department to cover up for their failure to catch the perpetrators of criminal acts. Fandor reads his article to his girlfriend and photographer, Hélène (Mylène Demongeot). She is not impressed. She suggests he gets an interview with Fantomas. But that isn’t easy.
But Fandor has a brainwave. He has Hélène photograph him in a black mask and cape pretending to be Fantomas – after all, nobody really knows what he looks like. Then Fandor writes a fake interview and it gets published in the morning papers. In the fake article, it is calimed that Fantomas now possesses the ultimate weapon and could blow up the planet, and intends to do so on the following night.

Comissioner Juve isn’t happy about the article. Apart from the fact that it makes him look like a buffoon, he suspects it is a fake. he storms into the newspaper offices and threatens to ‘BLOW the lid of this web of lies!’ Well, Juve is the only one upset by the article, and not the only one intent on BLOWING things up. Fantomas plants a bomb outside the newspaper office, and as Juve speaks his mind, one of the walls disappears in a shock of flame.

Once Fandor is out of hospital, he returns to his apartment. Taped to his door is a calling card from Fantomas. ‘See you soon!’ it says.

Meanwhile out on the street, Juve has hatched a scheme where he will follow Fandor, believing the journalist will lead him to Fantomas. As he waits, dressed in a cunning disguise as a hobo, he is arrested by two gendarmes. Despite Juve’s protests, he is taken back to the station. (Interesting note, that a similar thing happens to Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau in the second Pink Panther movie, A Shot In The Dark, but as both movies were released in 1964 and only a few months apart, on different sides of the world, I doubt that there is any plagiarism on anyone’s behalf).

Meanwhile upstairs in his appartment, Fandor receives a telephone call saying that Fantomas is sending a car and will pick him up in five minutes. Fandor thinks it is a prank call and hangs up. He has barely put the phone back in it’s cradle, when an arm appears behind his chair holding a blackjack. Fandor doesn’t see it, and is bopped on the head and passes out.

Understandably he wakes up confused, in a cavernous underground lair, with high arched ceilings, a pipe organ (all super villains must have one), statues and other objets d’art. And then through an elevator door, Fantomas emerges (also played by Jean Marais). Fantomas appears wearing a surreal featureless blue mask.

Fantomas isn’t happy about the article that Fandor wrote. It made him look foolish. As recompense Fantomas orders Fandor to write another article admitting that the previous story was a concoction. It also has to paint Fantomas in a flattering light (or at least flattering to Fantomas’ own perception of himself). If Fantomas isn’t happy with the article, he will make sure that Fandor dies a slow agonising death. Fantomas then seals the deal by branding Fandor’s chest with an “F”. The journalist has 48 hours to complete his mission.

When Fandor awakens he is back in his appartment, and Hélène is banging on the door. He let’s her in, and recounts his encounter. Meanwhile Commissioner Juve isn’t too chuffed about having spent a night in the drunk tank, and he immediately heads to Fandor’s apartment to arrest him for being Fantomas’ accomplice. Fandor tells Juve the truth, but the dimwitted Commissioner does not believe him, and holds him in jail for 48 hours. Naturally while he is in jail, Fandor cannot write the article to appease Fantomas.

Once Fandor is released from jail, Fantomas has him kidnapped once again, and brought down to the underground lair.. But this time, Fandor is being held as a prisoner. In his place, Fantomas will go out into the world and commit crimes as Fandor. Fantomas rips off his blue mask to reveal Fandor’s visage. You see this is Fantomas’ talent. He is a man of a thousand faces because he has perfected a way to make lifelike artificial skin. With this, he can make himself up to look like anybody. In this instance, it’s Fandor. Fantomas intends to go a crime spree which the whole world will attribute to Fandor.

Fantomas is one wild film, and it is extremely enjoyable, especially when the Fantomas character is on the screen. With his featureless mask, he is slightly disturbing, which is exactly how a villain should be. For me the weakness in the film is Louis De Funes’ character, Juve. He is too much of a buffoon. Early I compared the film to the Pink Panther series – this is only the sequences with Juve. The rest of the film is colourful and always interesting, with great set pieces, and plot twists and turns. Outlining them all would ruin the fun, but the extended chase scene at the end bears special mention, where Fantomas uses a train, a car, a motorbike, a boat, and finally a submarine to make his escape.

Fantomas (1964)

Avakoum Zahov Versus 07

Written by Andrei Gulyaski
Published by Scripts Publishing 1967

I generally lounge around in a dinner suit, seated in a candy coloured bean bag, nursing a vodka martini while watching spy films from the sixties. But today, with your indulgence, I am going to slip into a burgundy crushed velvet smoking jacket, light my pipe, pour myself a balloon of brandy and make my way to the library. I have a strange little story to tell. It’s the story of a book called Avakoum Zarhov vs 07

Now after scouring the internet (and there isn’t that much information out there – most use Wikipedia), I have worked this much out. How much of this is true, is open to debate…and I am sure there are people out there who have a far greater knowledge of this project than I (if you are one of them – I’d love to hear from you). Firstly, we are talking mid sixties. Ian Fleming is dead and Kinglsey Amis hasn’t yet written his Bond continuation novel Colonel Sun. So there is a gap to fill. Apparently Bulgarian author Andrei Gulyashki approached Glidrose (the Bond book publishers) and told them that he had written a NEW James Bond novel. Glidrose weren’t interested. Gulyashki decided to publish his book anyway. Gulyashki was quite vocal in his quest to publish his Bond novel. So much so, that the press dubbed him ‘The Vulgar Bulgar’.

In the Titan comic strip edition of Goldfinger, there is an article by Vladislav Pavlov entitled Behind Enemy Lines: The Russian Perspective. This is what he briefly has to say about Avakoum Zarhov vs 07.

‘…Bulgarian writer Andrei Gulyashki (known for his series about the Bulgarian secret agent Avakoum Zakhov) announced his intention to write a novel in which his hero would be fighting the notorious 007. (Behind the Iron Curtain, the notion of copyright was always been a bit vague, to put it mildly). When it became known to the proprietors of the literary Bond franchise (Glidrose) they naturally banned Gulyaski from using either the number 007 or the name James Bond. As a result, the name of the villain disappeared and the number 007 was shortened to 07, the British agent acting in Bulgaria under the control of the NATO intelligence division.

In his book Gulyashki did all he could to defame the character, picturing him as mean and stupid, substituting, in a way, the role of 07 for the Russian SMERSH leaders described by Fleming in From Russia With Love. There was, however, one notable exception: whilst Fleming, describing the villains in such a grotesque way, was only pulling the reader’s leg, Gulyashki’s villain, created for the benefit of Soviet propaganda, looks infinitely dull and serious. The book has been rumoured to have been published in English, and is even considered a kind of Holy Grail amongst some Bond collectors for it’s extreme rarity. However, few people realise that the carpenter’s cup can’t be made of gold.’

The rumours that Pavlov mentioned are true. Avakoum Zarhov vs 07 was published in English, but only in Australia by a company called Scripts. Firstly as you would have gathered from the information above, this is not an official James Bond novel, but still it’s a Bond story and one that not many people will have a chance to read about, so I will be fairly detailed in my description. Without further ado, here is a review of the Holy Grail of Bond books – the one, the only, the infamous Avakoum Zarhov vs 07.



07 had been given his assignment. He must kidnap a Soviet scientist who had just perfected the deadliest laser yet devised…

A thrilling adventure of intrigue and fast paced action unfolds as Avakoum Zahov pursues the wily western spy through Bulgaria to Paris, then Tangiers and finally confronts him in the ice-locked vastness of the Antarctic…

“Zahov was slipping over the edge of the bottomless crevasse. 07 towered above him. Zahov tried to hold on but he couldn’t. His feet dangled into emptiness. 07 aimed a kick at his face.”

The novel opens in London. 07 has just returned from a mission in the Philippines and is now meeting The Chief (‘M’ is referred to as ‘The Chief’ of Department A) in an exclusive club on St. James Street. 07 isn’t given another mission, but told he has seven months to learn how to speak Russian like a native Muscovite.

Seven months later, 07 speaks fluent Russian and is called into another meeting with The Chief. Again he is not given a mission. Well, not officially anyway. In fact he is sent on leave. Paid leave. But all is not as it seems, because an officer from NATO is to call on 07 tomorrow. He will make a proposition which 07 can either choose to accept or reject.

The next day a NATO officer named Richard visits 07’s apartment. It seems the Soviets are in the process of inventing a new weapon.

“Some kind of H-bomb?”
“I wish it were as simple as that. No, in comparison to this new weapon, the H-bomb will be about as effective as one of those slings in the Bible they used to put bumps on the heads of the chosen of Israel! No, this is a highly developed laser beam which can disable electro-magnetic waves. Have you any idea what this means?”

I must confess that I don’t know what it means, but it sounds nasty. 07 thinks so too, and chooses to go ahead with the ‘unofficial’ mission.

07 moves onto Istanbul for the next section of the story. He meets a contact who provides a new passport and makes preparations to send 07 on his way to Bulgaria. The Soviets in this part of the world are not fools though and have a whole surveillance system dedicated to tracking 07’s whereabouts.

Avakoum Zahov enters the picture. His passion is archaeology and he is described as a ‘hunter of spies; and ancient monuments buried in the earth.’ But his mission is not to watch Agent 07. He is assigned to protect Professor Konstantin Troffimov. Troffimov is to attend a symposium on Quantum Electronics in Varna. He made world headlines when ‘he discovered a laser ray which could not be refracted by any mirror surface and which could penetrate all matter and totally paralyse all kinds of eletro magnetic waves…’

The arrangement is that Professor Stanilov, one of Bulgaria’s top scientist, will play host to Troffimov at a small villa set beside the sea. Zahov arranges security at the villa, hand selecting a team of men to keep watch twenty four hours a day. Meanwhile, another Department B officer, Colonel Vassilev is assigned to watch 07’s movement. The Soviets know he is in the area, and that he is posing as a Swiss reporter, named Rene Lefevre.

Making preparation for Troffimov’s arrival at the villa, Zahov does his rounds, then heads to the beach side to check that out too. As he stares out to sea, he sees 07 swimming past. Elsewhare in Varna Professor Troffimov flies in from Moscow on a special military aircraft, and then is transported to the small villa. Zahov has agents everywhere to protect the Professor. There are two gardeners, and a valet who have been specifically chosen to protect Troffimov, as well as the usual detail of security staff.

Over the next few days, Troffimov attends the symposium. Everybody is expecting 07 to make a move to kidnap the Professor, but he has other things on his mind. It appears that Gulyashki thinks that Fleming’s Bond is a lecherous swine. So he paints 07 in such a light.

“…when the chambermaid came in to pour some fresh water into the vase, he put his arm round the girl’s waist and drew her to him. The girl did not seem particularly surprised, she only went on holding the pitcher. Then his hand slipped down the curve of her knee, lingering a second or two on the cool skin before travelling upwards. Who said that marble was the smoothest thing under the sun?

This piece of living marble had muscles and his hand felt them go rigid, then wake with life. So this white-aproned girl had the hips of a sportswoman! Lying on the chaise-lounge, he could not see her face, but that didn’t matter. He drew her closer to him. The cluster of amber grapes hanging so near him made him giddy.

Then the empty ice-cold pitcher struck him on the chest. He was aware of the sensation because his chest was bare and his skin hot with the sun. Ice! The girl pulled herself away and burst out of the room.”

For those who didn’t ‘get it’, the ‘cluster of amber grapes’ that Gulyashki describes are in fact the girls breasts. He really makes 07 seem like a smutty schoolboy.

Anyway back to the plot. Colonel Vassilev’s men are watching 07 closely. For the last few days during the symposium, 07 and a female companion spend time on a boat out to sea. Each day they row out, and frolic about. Sometimes 07 fishes, sometimes the couple just hold each other. Or so it seems. In fact it isn’t always 07. He has an inflatable version of himself made up. He inflates it on the boat, dresses it in his clothes, and has his female accomplice hold the effigy in a loving embrace. Meanwhile he slips over the side of the boat in a wetsuit and sets in motion his kidnap operation.

After the last day of the symposium, 07 succeeds in kidnapping Professor Troffimov and his secretary, Natalia Nikolaevna. His infiltration of the small villa seems to be quite brutal. He kills one of the gardeners and a garage attendant, and severely injures the valet. Once again, Gulyashki’s interpretation of the Bond character is quite different to what we are used to. Sure we know that Bond has a License To Kill and we have read about (or seen on the cinema screen) Bond killing people. But generally, everybody that Bond kills is trying to kill him. But in Gulyashki’s novel 07’s incursion isn’t described (well not initially anyway – see below). Instead we see it through the eyes of Avakoum Zahov who arrives late on the scene. We see the brutal legacy that 07 has brought to bare on the staff of the villa. It’s an interesting observation by Gulyaski. and one that has been lampooned in films like Austin Powers or even in a episode of The Simpsons (You Only Move Twice). 07’s victims are not faceless or nameless henchmen, whose lives have no value. They are people who are just doing their job, and at the end of the day, go home to their family. 07 is portrayed as a real villain.

To escape the villa with his prisoners, 07 has Professor Stanilov drive out the front gate, with 07, Troffimov, and Nikolaevna hidden under a blanket in the back. How the sentries missed that one, I’ll never know. At gunpoint Stanilov drive’s them out of the city. Then three hours later, Stanilov’s body is found lying beside a road (another example of Bond’s brutality).

Avakoum Zahov sets up a command centre at his apartment. All roads, the airport and sea ports are closed off. Later Zahov’s superiors gather to hear a report on the kidnapping. Zahov, with almost Holmseian powers of deduction has pieced together 07’s movements. He recounts how 07 abducted the Professor:

“He stealthily climbed up the staircase. On the topmost landing he shot the other guard. The guard groaned as he rolled down the steps, his arms flung out, his face down. Dazed with sleep, the ‘valet’ had jumped up to open the door, but 07 was already on the threshold, striking the man’s jaw with gun, and the ‘valet’ sunk to the floor.

The ‘valet’ was put out of the way and now the second round began. The Englishman stole out through the living room onto the veranda. The windows of both bedrooms were open. He drew the curtain aside, slipping into the first bedroom. 07 could tell by the breathing that it was occupied by the professor. He brought the cottonwool padding close to the sleeping man’s nose. One second, two, three. 07 was patient. The breathing became irregular and lower, it was hardly audible. Then he took the syringe out of his pocket, and gripping the professor’s arm at the elbow, plunged the needle into the muscles.

“It was an expert job because he had had a lot of practice at this. Now the professor would be fast asleep for many hours, perhaps for many days and nights.

“He did the same in the other bedroom. Natalia Nikolaevna also went into a death-like sleep.

“07 was thorough. After the job was finished, he left nothing behind, putting everything back in his pockets, even the vials.

“Then, one after the other, he took both Konstantin Troffimov and Natalia Nikolaevna into Stanilov’s car. His muscles were well trained and carrying them, 60 to 65 kilograms each, was a mere detail. He went back for their luggage, leaving nothing behind. He placed the two drugged persons on the back seat, covering them with a sheet he had snatched off Natalia Nikolaevna’s bed.

“That done, he tiptoed into Stanilov’s room and roughly kicked him out of bed. Two slaps across the face brought him back to consciousness. They fought like two tigers. Why, we don’t know. But the thieves had fallen out. Perhap’s Stanilov was beginning to crack and 07 was ensuring that his tracks were completely covered. Anyway, in his jacket and trousers, with no shoes on his feet, Stanilov sat behind the wheel of the Citroen – that was the final act. maybe he felt the barrel of a gun at his back?”

After the kidnapping and killing Stanilov, 07 leaves Varna in a boat and sails to a pre-designated spot, where he is met by a freighter. 07, the Professor and his secretary are taken on board, and move on towards their next destination.

Of course it can’t be left like that. Avakoum Zarhov must rescue Professor, and regain the ray. After a bit of investigation; scouring radio signals and breaking codes etc. the Soviets believe they have 07 located on a freighter in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately they do not know where he intends to make port. But the case must progress, so Zahov flies briefly to Paris. From intercepted radio signals, next he learns that one of the likely locations where 07 will put to port is Tangier. And furthermore, he is to be met by a man codenamed ‘Hans’.

Zahov flies to Morrocco, and pretending to be a French Interpol Agent, makes his way to the German Embassy. There he enquires about German citizens who have arrived in Tangier over the last week. There had been five men, but four had moved on to other parts of the world. Only one had stayed. His name is Professor Paul Schellenberg. Zahov guesses that this is ‘Hans’.

Schellenberg is a very paranoid man. He believes that people are trying to kill him. Maybe they are? He was a scientist during the War and now he is a wanted War Criminal, for work he carried out at Auschwitz.

Zahov has an interesting method for meeting Schellenberg. He arranges for a local taxi driver to attempt to side-swipe Schellenberg as he crosses the street. Zahov’s plan is, at the last moment, to snatch him back from the ‘jaws of death’. Zahov’s plan goes like clockwork. He save’s Schellenberg’s life and in return is invited for a drink.

At a bar in a back alley, Schellenberg tells Zahov that he knows who he is. Schellenberg believes that Zahov is a body guard who has been sent to protect him (It is never really mentioned who Schellenberg believes would send a body guard, but it is heavily intimated that it is NATO). Zahov assumes the role, that Schellenberg has assigned to him. As a ‘protective measure’, Zahov suggests that Schellenberg sleeps at his hotel that evening, and he will sleep at Schellenberg’s. This gives Zahov time to go through Schellenberg’s belongings, then find and doctor his passport to suit himself.

The next day, after drugging Schellenberg, Zahov learns the details of Schellenberg’s rendezvous and impersonates him at the meeting. Zahov is taken to be Schellenberg, and is brought on board a ship docked at the harbour.

I must admit that I found this middle section of the book to be the best. As 07 is virtually absent, and the story concentrates on Avakoum Zahov’s investigation and manipulation of Schellenberg, rather than maligning the James Bond character, the story becomes a simple but entertaining spy adventure. This is the way it should be – but alas, there’s still a third on the novel to come, and 07 is back in Gulyashki’s sights.

Indeed Zahov’s hunch is right, and he ends up on the ship as it sets sail for whereabouts unknown with 07, Troffimov and Natalia Nikolaevna. But strangely, Troffimov and Nikolaevna do not truly realise that they have been kidnapped. You see, the ship has a high-tech radio device on board. When somebody sends out a message, it can come back to a smaller hidden radio device, also on the boat. This ‘secret’ radio can then return a message, pretending to be another radio contact. I know that’s hard to make sense of, but here’s how it worked. When Troffimov and Nikolaevna first awoke on the ship, they believed they had been kidnapped. 07 convinces them otherwise by allowing them to contact Moscow on the radio. They send their message but it doesn’t really go to Moscow. It circles around to the small radio, where it is decoded. Now, pretending to be Moscow, the small radio then sends back a message saying that all is well and 07 can be trusted.

During the ocean voyage, there is a strange passage where Zahov writes the events of the day (in invisible ink, no less) into his diary. And instead of reading the story, we are now reading Zahov’s diary. This results in the story switching from being told in third person to first person.

Later Zahov uses the hidden radio to trick 07. 07 is supposed to order the ship to sail to Capetown, but Zahov sneaks into the hidden radio room, and pretends to be passing on new orders from NATO. He has 07 order the ship to the Antarctic.

Gulyashki continues to present 07 as stupid and cruel. Obviously he is stupid for falling for the radio ruse, a ploy that he in fact instigated. 07 is also presented as a cruel brute when he has his valet tortured (cigarettes stubbed out on his neck), and then hung from the mast for eveybody to see.

As the ship moves further south, it gets caught in the ice and eventually the hull is pierced. The ship sinks, but not before 07 has dragged Troffimov and Nikolaevna onto the ice pack.

Naturally Zahov also escapes from the ship, just before it disappears beneath the sea. On the ice, the weather is deadly. Somehow, Zahov manages to find 07 and the others, and he uses his skills to save them (even 07). He builds an igloo, and kills a seal for food and heat. But before the ship sank, 07 had radioed for an Icebreaker to meet them. Equally Zahov had radioed for an aeroplane to meet them. With rescue from both sides, 07 and Zahov face off to take control. This results in a wrestling match on the ice.

Some other reviews suggest that Zahov doesn’t kill 07 in the end. I beg to differ. Zahov forces 07 over the edge of a hundred foot crevasse. I guess Gulyashki doesn’t describe 07’s death, and there is a miniscule chance that he survives, but really, the intention is to KILL 07.

The Soviet plane reaches Zahov, Troffimov and Nikolaevna first. They climb on board and fly to safety. World peace is restored.


Avakoum Zahov
His name was whispered with dread in the spy centres of the West.
Who was he?

The daring exploits of Agent 07 are well known to readers in the Western countries.


How do the Communists view the renowned British agent and his anti-espionage adventures?

We find out in this exciting story by Bulgaria’s bestselling author, Andrei Gulyashki, the creator of Avakoum Zahov, top agent for Department B, a gentle, perceptive, educated man of good taste and great charm who has a passion for archaeology and Mozart and who sees 07 as a sinister threat to world security.

In the final struggle between the world’s greatest Secret Agents-one must lose. And the loser must pay the penalty for defeat!


ANDREI GULYASHKI was born in Bulgarska Rakovitsa village, district of Koula, in 1914. He participated actively in the resistance movement. Took up writing in 1931. He worked as editor for the newspapers “Rabotnichesko Delo” and “Otechestven Front,” the magazines “Septemvri” and “Plamuk” and is Director of the National Theatre in Sofia at present. Twice awarded Dimitrov Prize, the highest honor for works of literature and science in his country.

The writing in Avakoum Zarhov Versus 07 is very clunky and sometimes I had to read a paragraph again to work out it’s meaning. I am sure that this is due primarily to the translation from the original Slavic language. Some translations appear to be quite literal. Mr. Gulyashki could not possibly be such a poor writer. In some sentences it even appears that words have been omitted. Hardly the worst transgression, but to give you an idea, here’s a passage from the book.

“The man in the white overalls ordered from the dais and now his voice was unusually excited…”

Now I am hardly an expert on language, but surely replacing ‘ordered’ with ‘shouted his orders’ or even ‘commanded’ would read much more smoothly.

Avakoum Zarhov Versus 07 also features a lot of purple prose. A few highlights from the first few pages include:

‘The black asphalt flowed furiously against him, …”

‘…the rye moved like a swishing sea of gold.’

‘…along the yellow flagstones glittering like a golden river…’

‘Fresh and alive with green leaves, the morning sun streamed into his room…’

I have nothing against good descriptive writing. But in this novel almost every page is littered with clumsy coloured descriptions. Maybe they’d be okay if they flowed with the story, but they are really incongruous. This criticism may be due to the translation, and then again it may be a case of trying too hard to be swinging ‘sixties’. The kaleidoscope of colours is off the chart.

So there it is. Avakoum Zarhov Versus 07 may be one of the rarest books in the Bond canon, but it certainly isn’t one of the best. Apart from the clumsiness of the writing, the book is as Vladislav Pavlov stated above, a Soviet propaganda piece. The Bond character is not presented in a positive light. He is a brutish, sleazy thug, without an ounce of style or class.

The book is a curio at best. For Bond fans I can understand the curiosity and the fascination with it; hey, I am right there with you. But hopefully this review will have dispelled some of the myths surrounding the book. It isn’t that good.

Avakoum Zahov Versus 07

The Living Daylights (1987)

Directed by John Glen
Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Joe Don Baker, Art Malik, John Rhys-Davies, Jeroen Krabbé, Desmond Llewelyn, Robert Brown, Caroline Bliss
Music by John Barry
Title song performed by a-ha
Based on a short story by Ian Fleming

I must sound like a parrot when I say ‘this Bond film had a troubled production history’. I start each Bond review with that sentence. It seems that putting together a new Bond film is not an easy task, and each production presents a new series of pitfalls. On this occasion, the drama related to the casting of James Bond.

After A View To A Kill, Roger Moore finally said goodbye to the character of James Bond. Over his tenure, many actors had been suggested as his successor. They included: Lewis Collins, Ian Ogilvy, Sam Neill and James Brolin. But most of them had faded away by 1987, and there only seemed to be one real contender, Pierce Brosnan. And indeed, Brosnan was cast as Bond. Brosnan had just finished work on the cancelled Remmington Steele television series. But he was still under contract for that show. The publicity that Brosnan received from being cast as Bond, focused the public’s attention back on Remmington Steele. At the last moment, the producers of Remmington Steele changed their minds and decided to make another series. As Brosnan was contracted, he was obliged to do the series. But, and here’s the kicker, by being seconded back to Remmington Steele, Brosnan was no longer free to accept the role of James Bond.

Enter Timothy Dalton. After the pre-title sequence, the film opens in Bratislava in Czechoslovakia. Bond is assigned to aid in the defection of top KGB agent General Yorgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) to the West. When Saunders (M.I.6’s man in this part of the world) makes a balls-up of the operation, 007 takes over, and smuggles Koskov out in a specially designed carriage that travels through the gas pipelines. Those of you who have watched Sol Madrid with David McCallum will have seem this device before.

Anyway, 007 gets Koskov out of Czechoslovakia and to the UK. There Koskov explains his reason for defecting. He states that General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies), Koskov’s superior, has to all intents and purposes gone mad. He has initiated a plan called “Smiert Spionen”, which translates as ‘death to spies’. Pushkin intends to kill all the British agents operating in his area. On hearing Koskov’s information, M.I.6 assign 007 to investigate and, if necessary, assassinate General Pushkin. But two things interfere with Bond completing his mission. The first is that Koskov, although protected by M.I.6 in a safehouse, is kidnapped back by the Russians. The second problem occurs, when Agent Saunders (Thomas Wheatley) is killed in Vienna. Whatever Koskov or Pushkin’s stories maybe, there is definitely someone out there who is targeting the best agents the UK has to offer.

It is up to 007 to unravel the mystery. Along the way, Bond ingratiates himself with Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), a brilliant cellist, who just happened to be Yorgi Koskov’s girlfriend. By staying close to her, he believes it will bring him back in contact with Koskov and closer to the truth. Bond’s journey takes him from Czechoslovakia to Vienna, and afterwards to Morocco. The last destination is Afghanistan, and this brings Bond into contact with the Afghanistan Freedom Fighters, headed by Kamran Shah (Art Malik).

Maryam d’Abo plays Kara Milovy, the main Bond girl in the film. The character, despite being a world renown cello player, isn’t the brightest spark. In fact she is rather gullible and naïve. But d’Abo plays the role rather well, and is convincing. Alas, she does get lumbered with the worst women’s fashions to ever appear in a Bond film.

The Living Daylights is the last Bond film that John Barry composed the score to. Rumour has it, that he didn’t get along well with Norwegian pop group a-ha, who performed the title song. The song itself seems a bit of a rehash, of Duran Duran’s title song for A View To A Kill. Two other songs appear on the soundtrack, performed by The Pretenders. They are: ‘Where Has Everybody Gone’ and ‘If There Was A Man’. Both songs have the Bond sound. The score itself is a bit of a departure for Barry. It features a thin sounding drum machine to underscore the action. I must admit, I find it a little bit disconcerting in places, and is makes the score seem artificial rather than orchestral. But generally the score is pretty good.

When The Living Daylights was released, it was marketed as ‘safe sex Bond’. The A.I.D.S. Epidemic had just been swept to the public’s attention in a particularly scary fashion. People’s attitudes and lifestyles were being forced to change. No longer socially acceptable was casual sex with multiple partners. Monogamy was the order of the day. With these prevailing attitudes, Bond was given only one Bond girl (or so the marketeers told us – in fact he has two – one in the pre-title sequence, and Kara Milovy). It was considered socially irresponsible, for Bond to have multiple partners throughout the film.

Despite the machinations of the marketing gurus, The Living Daylights is still very much a Bond film. In fact, I’d say that the first two thirds of The Living Daylights are some of the best Bond story and and acting we have seen. Mostly due to Dalton’s performance, The Living Daylights is an emotional experience. By the time the films reaches Saunders death at the fairground, the film is positively bursting with tension. Sadly, the last third of the film is lumbered with some uninspired action scenes set in Afghanistan. As it’s a Bond film, the sequences are put together professionally, but on this occasion they seem rather cold and fail to engage the viewer.

Even Joe Don Baker and Jeroen Krabbé as villains, don’t provide any real threat. In fact both men come off as ‘jokes’. It really is a shame that the film couldn’t keep up the style and substance set up at the beginning – otherwise I’d be championing this film as one of the best of the series. Instead it gets pulled back in line with the rest of the pack.

I get frustrated with The Living Daylights. I see so much potential. But the ending kills it. Even a film that is boring at the start and then has a ‘kick-ass’ ending is generally enjoyed by the public. They walk out of the cinema on a high. They don’t remember the dirge at the start. This film works the other way. It starts brilliantly than leaves us on a low. I’d be interested to hear other opinions on The Living Daylights. What did you think?

The Living Daylights (1987)

Dick Smart 2.007 / Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die

Here’s a quick look at two soundtracks to Eurospy films from the sixties, composed by Mario Nascimbene. Both movies are set in Rio, so their soundtracks feature a lot of Latin American bossa nova lounge grooves.

First up, Dick Smart 2.007
Composed and arranged by Mario Nascimbene.
Orchestra conducted by Roberto Pregadio.
Released by Hexacord.

Dick Smart is a pretty wild Eurospy production directed by Franco Prosperi. It features Richard Wyler as swinging sixties dilettante, womaniser, and part-time spy, Dick Smart. Smart is hired by the CIA, for a fee of one million dollars, after five atomic scientists go missing from around the world.

Nascimbene’s score is very good, and the hook will get stuck in your head for days, even weeks perhaps. You will find yourself humming the theme after you’ve finished listening to the album. As the film is primarily set in and around Rio, the soundtrack features a lot of Latin beats, like Sambas and Bossa Novas. Each track gives away it’s musical style in it’s title ‘Samba For Dick’, ‘Bossa For Dick’ etc… There are no vocals until the end track. The male vocal is quite flat – it almost seems spoken. But the instrumentals are quite good, although slightly repetitive, but it is a soundtrack, so you’d expect that a few musical motif’s are repeated.

If the album has a weakness, it is that sometimes the instrumentals tend toward ‘elevator music’ with weird sixties electronic sound effects over the top. At the end of the CD, there are some musical cues and control room dialogue from Nascimbene. It is an interesting curio – but doesn’t add much. But still it isn’t a bad album. If you’re a fan of Eurospy Soundtracks, I’d buy this one. I wasn’t disappointed.

Track listing:

01 Main Titles Theme
02 Dick Smart Investigates
03 The Amazing World Of Dick Smart
04 The Chase #1
05 Discotheque Party
06 Dick Smart In Action
07 Swimming Pool Bossa Party
08 The Chase #2
09 My Name Is Smart…Dick Smart
10 Samba For Dick
11 The Chase #3
12 The DS 2.007 Shake
13 Kiss Kiss, Girl Girl
14 Bossa For Dick
15 Background Exotica
16 The DS 2.007 Shake #2
17 Finale
18 Il Tuo Sguardo Atomico – End title Song

Next, Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die
Composed and arranged by Mario Nascimbene.
Released by Avanz Records

Firstly, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die, so it’s difficult to place the music in context with the film, but as a stand alone listening experience, this is great. It is better than the Dick Smart soundtrack, but is similar in so many ways. Once again, the film is set in Rio, so the soundtrack has a Latin American feel to it. Although there is a lot more variety on the Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die soundtrack. The closing title song, although not listed on the album, is performed by Lydia Macdonald (I think. Please correct me if you know otherwise). Macdonald, while hardly a household name these days, was a very busy girl in the 1960’s especially singing title songs to Eurospy films. She can be found singing ‘Don’t Ever Let Me Go’ on the soundtrack to Requiem For A Secret Agent; ‘Nothing To Fear’ from MMM Missione Morte Molo 83, and the title track to From The Orient With Fury.

As with the Dick Smart, Kiss The Girls also has a few weird sci-fi electronic soundscapes. No doubt, if I had seen the film I’d know what these are. Most likely they are from scenes in the film, where the chief villain is test firing his latest hi-tech weapon. These call be a little bit grating. They aren’t really ‘lounge’ tunes, and as such aren’t really easy listening. But on the whole, this is a pretty good soundtrack album. It’s a bit harder to track down than Dick Smart, but once again, if you are a fan of this type of soundtrack, this is worth hunting down.

Track listing:

01 Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die (Main Titles)
02 Kelly Captured
03 Carnival In Rio
04 Scientist’s Laboratory
05 Love Scene
06 Susanne’s Revelation And Arrest – Escape
07 Car Chase
08 Kelly’s Pursuit – Frozing The Girls
09 Kelly Captured (Alternate Version)
10 Frozing The Scientist
11 Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die (With Harps)
12 Susanne And Kelly
13 Guaracha (Version 1)
14 Guaracha (Version 2)
15 Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die (Finale)

Dick Smart 2.007 / Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die

Project: Kill (1976)

William Girdler
Leslie Nielsen, Gary Lockwood, Nancy Kwan, Vic Silayan, Vic Diaz, Galen Thompson, Maurice Downs)
Music by Robert O. Ragland
Song ‘The Lonely World’ performed by Pilita Corrales

On numerous occasions I have said that I watch all the crap films, so you guys don’t have to. Well get out a big black texta colour and cross Project: Kill off your list. It is absolutely dreadful. Project: Kill is one of a myriad of craps film that Leslie Nielsen made before he found an audience as a comedic actor. Here he stars as John Trevor who works for a covert intelligence group, much like the C.I.A. He used to be one of their best field agents, but now he works as a trainer. The films begins with a group of new recruits watching a training film presented by Trevor. The footage shows an assassination attempt being foiled by an ‘interdiction’ agent. When I heard this in the film, I didn’t know what ‘interdiction’ meant, so I looked it up in the dictionary. The word seems to have a few meanings, but the one that made the most sense to me was : authoritative prohibition. So I’d guess, relating it to the training film, an interdiction agent has the power and authority to stop an assassination attempt. Let’s move on shall we?

Trevor goes on to state ’The only effective method of combating political assassination – by the interception and destruction of the assassin himself.’ So the so-called ‘authoritive prohibition’ actually means ‘killing’. These agents are killers. You could say, theses agents have ‘Permission To Kill’ (sorry about that!) Next Trevor goes on to explain how these new recruits will become highly trained killing machines. He says:

”YOU will be given vitamins to increase your stamina – chemical injections to expand your mental capabilities – injections to assist you in both physical and mental control. You’ll be programmed to respond instantaneously to any hidden stimulus. YOU will become a reflex – a highly directed unit of force. YOU will be taught how to use everyday objects as weapons – everything from a toe nail clipping to a briefcase…”

I don’t know about you, but if these guys were being trained to protect me, I’d hope they were armed with more than a nail clipping!

After the briefing Trevor and his number two man, Frank Lassiter (Gary Lockwood) head into an office. Trevor has a headache. He has had enough of the drugs, and enough of the mind control. He wants to quit. He expresses this to Lassiter. Lassiter responds by picking up the phone and ordering a medical detail to come and assess Trevor. Trevor doesn’t want to be assessed – he want’s out! So he clocks Lassiter over the head while his back is turned, and then breaks out of the facility and goes on the lam.

When we next meet Trevor, he has arrived in Manilla in the Philippines. This provides an opportunity for some piss-poor travelogue footage. Next, he makes his way to a villa owned by to friends from the old days. One of the men is Wagner (Galen Thompson); the other is Hook (Maurice Downs). Both men used to work for the ‘agency’, but Wagner lost his legs in an operation. Wagner and Hook provide shelter for the night, and provide money and transport for Trevor to move on.

Meanwhile, a rival oriental agency, headed by Alok Lee (Vic Diaz) know that Trevor is in the Philippines. As Trevor has been a part of the program for so long, they figure he is carrying a lot of valuable information around inside of his head. Lee orders his henchmen to capture Trevor alive. Complicating matters further, the agency that Trevor worked for has sent Frank Lassiter to also bring him in before the headaches and other withdrawal symptoms cause him to become too violent. The film does have it’s violent moments courtesy of some poorly choreography martial arts sequences. These scenes are accompanied by equally poor sound effects.

These days, it is hard to take Nielsen seriously, even when watching an older film before his comedy turns. As a comedian, his delivery is usually dry and straight faced. So when he gets lumbered with some ridiculous dialogue, like in Project: Kill it is almost instinctive to think that this is a joke. But it isn’t – mores the pity.

The music by Robert O. Ragland is, in places, overly melodramatic, but generally it is better than this production deserves. The song, ‘The Lonely World’ is a pretty forgettable lounge number with flute accompaniment.

It’s a shame this film is such a stinker, because there may be a good idea hiding under all the crap. When you think about the plot, of chemically controlled assassins, who work for covert agencies controlled by the government, it’s hard not to compare it to the recent film The Bourne Supremacy. Obviously The Bourne Supremacy was good, whereas this is crap, but there is an interesting seed at the centre of this film. But one good idea, does not make a good film. You can safely skip over Project: Kill.

Project: Kill (1976)

The Avengers: Lobster Quadrille (1964)

Directed by Kim Mills
Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman, Burt Kwouk, Jennie Linden, Leslie Sands, Gary Watson, Corin Redgrave, Norman Scace
Music by Johnny Danworth

Lobster Quadrille is one of the most popular episodes of The Avengers for a couple of reasons. The first is that is the episode where we bid a fond farewell to the character Cathy Gale. The second reason is that Honor Blackman, who played Gale, left the show to film the James Bond film Goldfinger with Sean Connery. To reflect this, at the end of the episode, their are a few subtle in-jokes, which suggest she will go ‘pussy’-footing around on the sun soaked shores of the Bahamas. For those who don’t ‘get it’, the character that Blackman played in Goldfinger was Pussy Galore. So this episode is really one for the hard-core fans. Not that the story is inaccessible to ‘regular’ people. Far from it, it is simply the bigger fan that you are, the more you’d get from this episode.

The episode starts with a man waiting in a fishing shack. At his feet is a dead man. The body is John Williams. He was an agent for the Ministry, who operated out of France. Recently he had been working on breaking a narcotics smuggling ring, but his investigative days are over. A second man, named Bush (Gary Watson) enters the fishing hut. The first guy explains what happened, then smashes a kerosene lamp. The two men leave as the hut goes up in flames.
Two of the Ministries top agents are assigned to find out what happened. Enter John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman). Their first port of call is the morgue. Among Williams personal effects, Cathy finds a very rare and valuable chess piece. She decides to follow that lead and find out more about chess. But Steed heads to the scene of the crime.

At the hut, he meets the pathologist, Dr Stannage (Norman Scace). He has ascertained that Williams was shot and is now looking for the bullet. He doesn’t find it and moves on. This leaves Steed to his own devices. He starts poking around the hut, examining some charred pots of lobsters, when he is interrupted by Bush. Bush enquires as to Steed’s purpose at the hut. Steed says he is working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and is looking into the case. Steed also arranges a time to interview Bush in more formal surroundings, along with his boss, Captain Slim. Slim runs a fishing fleet that specialises in catching lobster, which it then sends all over the world.

Meanwhile, Cathy arrives at the aptly named ‘The Chess Shop’, an establishment run by an oriental gentleman called Mason (Burt Kwouk). Cathy asks about acquiring a chess set in the same style as the piece she has acquired from Williams. Mason doesn’t have one in stock, but says to call back in a few days.

Steed interviews Captain Slim and Bush, and both men assure him that they had never met Williams before and had no idea how a fire could have started in one of the fishing huts. Soon after, as the interview winds up, the Captain’s daughter in law, Katie Miles (Jennie Linden) arrives at the house. She was married to the Captain’s son, who tragically died in a boating accident a year ago. Now she works as an entertainer at a nightclub in London. Naturally Steed takes a shine to her, and arranges to meet her after work.

I won’t outline any more of the plot, because the astute among you will have already pieced together this puzzle. It is exactly as you’d expect.

Lobster Quadrille features chess motifs throughout the show. Black and white chequered floors abound, whether it be in the morgue, Steeds apartment or in Katie’s nightclub. Equally, on the walls, there are images of knights, kings and queens. It’s the kind of surreal environment that would become a feature of The Avengers in future episodes, and would dominate the shows with Cathy Gales successor, Emma Peel.

Lobster Quadrille, like all the earlier episodes, doesn’t have the polish of the Emma Peel or Tara King era episodes, but it still is a good example of the show. These days, because Diana Rigg was so popular and successful as Emma Peel, she sort of overshadows Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale. But let’s not forget, in her time Cathy Gale was quite groundbreaking for a female lead in a television show. She wasn’t simply an appendage to Steed. She was an equal. In this particular episode, in fact Steed fails to rescue her. But that doesn’t matter, because Cathy is smart, tough and resourceful, and can get out of any trouble that she gets into.

Lobster Quadrille is one of the core episodes of The Avengers. If you are a fan of The Avengers and haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to track it down. If, on the other hand, you’re just a casual observer who likes the colourful costumes and offbeat stories, well then, I suggest that you skip forward to the episodes from 1967. That’s the year when The Avengers went ‘colour’ and by this time the formulation of outlandish plots had been honed to perfection.

The Avengers: Lobster Quadrille (1964)

Return Of The Saint: The Debt Collectors (1978)

Director: Les Norman
Starring: Ian Ogilvy, Anton Rodgers, Mary Tamm, Geoffry Keen, Diane Keen

As with The Saint television series it can be argued that Simon Templar isn’t a secret agent. That’s true, but even more so than it’s predecessor, The Return Of The Saint has many espionage episodes.

The blurbs from several episodes on the Umbrella DVD release read like this:

The Judas Game
British Intelligence send THE SAINT to rescue Selma Morell who has been kidnapped by the Albanian Secret Police…

One Black September
THE SAINT teams with a lovely Israeli agent to track down a defecting top member of the Black September terrorist movement….

Murder Cartel
An assassination attempt on a powerful oil sheik precipitates THE SAINT’s undercover work for the CIA.

You get the idea. By the mid seventies, international globe trotting wasn’t enough for The Saint. He had become more than a loveable rogue. He was a tool. Sometimes even a killer. With television shows like The Sweeney in England, and The Six Million Dollar Man in America, the Saint couldn’t remain an overgrown boy scout. The producers had the choice of toughening up The Saint, by showing his more criminal activities, or exaggerating his good deeds. The chose the latter. Ian Ogilvy was the man who replaced Roger Moore and the man who toughened up The Saint’s image.

For me, The Debt Collectors is one of the highlights of the Return Of The Saint series. It has all the elements we expect in a Saint story plus it has a few very interesting additions, which to a spy enthusiast give it an extra dimension.

The episode starts with Simon Templar (Ian Ogilvy) going for a leisurely horse ride. Another rider, Gerri Hanson (Mary Tamm) loses control of her horse and it gallops away. Naturally, Templar rides to the rescue, and reaching across at full gallop brings the horse under control. Afterwards he drives Gerri home. Inside, waiting for her is her blind father, Paul Hanson (Esmond Knight). He is impatiently waiting for the mail, because he is expecting a letter from his other daughter, Christine, who is studying in the USA. Here, Simon witnesses a strange event. Gerri picks up a bill from the pile of letters and reads it, improvised, as if it were a letter from her sister.

It seems that Gerri has been protecting her father from the truth. Christine isn’t in the USA. In fact she is in prison. She was sent there five years ago after being caught red handed passing on military secrets. Gerri, reading the fictitious letter says that Christine will be returning to the UK soon. In fact, this is because she is eligible for parole. She is due to be released on the next day.

But as with only twenty four hours till her release, Christine does the unthinkable – she breaks out of prison. Waiting on the other side of the wall is her boyfriend. He is an American racing car driver and just the man to spirit Christine away, before the authorities cordon off the area.

Meanwhile, The Saint himself is attracting a bit of unwanted attention. Two thugs who have been following Gerri, turn up on Templar’s doorstep. At gunpoint, they attempt to warn him against seeing Gerri anymore. Of course, the thugs threats do not dissuade Templar. The next time he sees Gerri, she engages him to help her find Christine.

There are two reasons why I particularly like this particular episode of The Return Of The Saint. The first is the plot. Sure, it starts out as another ‘knight in shining armour’ episode, with Templar coming to the rescue of a damsel in distress. But from these beginnings it moves quickly into ‘spy’ territory. The story revolves around a mole in M.I.5 who has been selling secrets, and many of the seemingly innocent events that occur, are in fact ploys to force the traitor to reveal himself.

The second reason why I like The Debt Collectors is that it stars Geoffrey Keen as Sir Charles Meadley, the head of M.I.5. Bond fans will recognise Keen as the character Frederick Gray (Minister Of Defense) from The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights. But it is not seeing a familiar face that makes it intriguing; it’s the dialogue between Sir Charles and Templar that give the story that extra punch. At the end of the episode, Sir Charles asks Templar to join M.I.5. Yep, The Saint is asked to become a professional spy. Needless to say, he turns down the offer. The Saint gives his reasons why he doesn’t want the job (I won’t reveal them here), but it is an interesting insight into Templar’s character and how he is different from the spies of the world.

The Debt Collectors is a good example of why I keep posting reviews of the adventures of Simon Templar; gentleman, thief, soldier of fortune. He may not be a spy himself (well, he had the chance), but his adventures certainly bring him into contact with some shady characters from the espionage community.

Return Of The Saint: The Debt Collectors (1978)

Agente Speciale LK (1967)

Bruno Nicolai
1999, Dagored CD Re-issue

Agente Speciale LK, or Lucky The Inscrutable as I call it, is a strange little film that was directed by Jess Franco, and released in 1967. Just mentioning Franco’s name either conjures up fear or perverse delight. But generally, Franco’s films, despite what you may think of their content, usually had pretty good soundtracks. This one is composed by Bruno Nicolai.

The film itself is a weird hybrid of comic book and spy movies. It stars Ray Danton as ‘Lucky The Inscrutable’, a super hero – spy who wears superman style costume with a large ‘L’ on his chest. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the soundtrack is light hearted and pop oriented – albeit sixties Italian pop, rather than cool spy jazz. It includes some sixties choral singing – Light ‘Bub-adubba-das’ lilt over the top during action sequences – and deep ‘Bum, Bums’ resonate in the title song. The style is more like Hugo Montenegro (Matt Helm phase) than Nicolai’s sometimes partner, Ennio Morricone.

I must admit when I saw the film, I didn’t think the music was that bad at all (hence, why I bought the album), but as a listening experience on it’s own without visuals, I was fairly disappointed. It is quite cheesy in places. But it does take the smorgasbord approach. Unlike some soundtracks which keep repeating the same theme over and over again, here each track is very different. If you don’t like one, you may like the next.

The standout track for me, is ‘Lopagan Island’ which is a jaunty calypso style number with Edda Dell’Orso’s soprano voice warbling over the top. The CD is almost worth it, for this track alone (only it is too short). Who is Edda Dell’Orso I hear you ask? Thanks to her collaborations with Ennio Morricone, on the soundtracks to Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns, she is often referred to as ‘The Voice Of Italian Cinema’. You might not know her name, but anyone who has listened to The Good, the Bad & The Ugly or Once Upon A Time In The West soundtracks, will recognise her voice.

The tracks are:
1. Lucky Theme Song
2. Carnival Fanfare & Party
3. Group Therapy
4. Lucky & Cleopatra/Circus Fight
5. Secret Reunion “Lucky Theme”
6. Lucky In Rome
7. Lovely, But Dangerous
8. Spy Chase
9. Parachute Down/Mission Danger/Patrol Pursuit
10. Funny Trains
11. Lucky & Yaka Love Theme
12. Escape & Last Goodbye
13. Lopagan Island
14. Bossa For Lucky/Showgirl Dance
15. Lucky Tango/Lucky & Madame Linda
16. L.K. Shake
17. Gold Glasses/Escape From The Base/Death Of Goldglasses
18. End Titles Lucky Theme Song
19. The Lucky Suite

As each track is so different it is hard to classify or compare this album to something else. On the whole, I find it a bit abrasive. It isn’t smooth ‘lounge music’. If you are a fan of Eurospy soundtracks (and you’ve got spare cash to throw away) if you see it, buy it. It’s worth a listen, and I am sure one of the tracks will grab your attention, but I wouldn’t spend hours searching the net for a seller.

Agente Speciale LK (1967)

Mata Hari (1931)

Directed by George Fitzmaurice
Greta Garbo, Ramon Navarro, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, C. Henry Gordon, Karen Morley

“In 1917, war-ridden France
Dealt summarily with
Traitors and spies”

I am far from an expert when it comes to the film Mata Hari. Sure, when reviewing a film, I try to do a little bit of research, but generally when watching a mainstream film, I presume that I am watching a full-length, uncut version. After all, what kind of shocks could a film from 1931 hold for modern audiences? Not too many, but when the film was re-released in 1938/39, some scenes were cut out to satisfy the Hays Code. And unfortunately, these scenes have never been reinstated. So the current DVD version of Mata Hari is cut. But who knows, the complete version may turn up one day?

But here’s a quick overview of the current DVD version: In a field three traitors a tied to stakes. A firing squad shoots the first traitor, then the second. Before shooting the third, two officials walk up to the young gent tied to the stake. One of the officials, Dubois (C. Henry Gordon) asks the young man about a woman. The man, who is clearly scared, refuses to answer. Dubois says, “It’s Mata Hari isn’t it?” There is still no answer. The officials walk away in disgust, and the traitor is shot.

Overhead, a biplane flies over the killing field to a nearby landing field. The plane is Russian and the pilot is Alexis Rosanoff (Ramon Navarro) of the Russian Imperial Airforce. He is carrying important documents which have to be passed on to the heads of the Russian Embassy in Paris. Waiting to greet Rosanoff is General Shubin (Lionel Barrymore), a high ranking Russian officer stationed in Paris. Shubin takes Rosanoff to the Embassy where he hands over the despatches. The documents he has handed over demand a reply, but the information is in code and will take twelve hours to decipher. So in the meantime. Rosanoff has a few hours to kill in Paris. Shubin invites Rosanoff to dinner, and afterwards to a performance by Mata Hari.

At the show, Mata Hari (Greta Garbo) does a provocative dance in front of a giant statue of Shiva. Apparently this is one of the sequences that was cut. It appears that Garbo’s dance was a little too steamy. At the end of the performance the crowd goes wild. Especially Rosanoff, who after witnessing one performance is completely infatuated with Mata Hari.

But Rosanoff isn’t the only one infatuated with Mata Hari. General Shubin meets her back stage. He wants a relationship (or a least a quick leg-over) with Mata Hari. But she is not interested at this time. She is more enamoured with the other younger men who throw themselves at her. But Shubin knows a few ‘dirty secrets’ about Mata Hari, and threatens to reveal them all. She calls his bluff. Shubin backs down and leaves with his desires un-satiated.

Afterwards, Mata Hari and an entourage of young men make then way to a gambling den called The Pavillion. The Pavillion is actually a front for the German spymaster Andriani (Lewis Stone), and Mata Hari is one of his agents. Mata Hari and Andriani meet in a back room. Her next mission is to find out about the papers that were flown in from Russia earlier in the day. To acquire the information she is sent to seduce Shubin once again. But there may be a another way to get the information. Rosanoff has followed Mata Hari to the casino, and offers to chauffeur her home. She accepts the offer, and the couple return to her abode.

More recent Mata Hari films have asked the question, was Mata Hari really a German Agent? Or was she a French double-agent? Or was she a courtesan who’s allegiances fluctuated with whoever was paying her the most? In this film there is no conflict. She is definitely a spy for the Germans. The conflict in this film comes from her relationship with Rosanoff. It is her love for him that is her eventual undoing.

Early in the film Andriani kills one of his agents. Her name was Carlotta (Karen Morley), and she worked in a very similar fashion to Mata Hari; seducing the information from men of influence. But she falls in love. As Andriani has her killed, he says to Mata Hari, ”A spy in love is a tool that has lost it’s usefulness.” It’s a lesson that Mata Hari should have heeded.

This film makes virtually no attempt to tell the truth about Mata Hari’s life. The only things that are true are: she called herself Mata Hari, she danced, she fell in love with a Russian pilot, and was shot as a traitor. Apart from that, all the characters and situations have been made up.

But if you look at this film as entertainment, and not as a history lesson, then I guess it isn’t to bad. The last twenty minutes or so are a bit long and overly melodramatic, but that was the style at the time. Despite this film’s flaws it is worth noting that much of the myth and notoriety surrounding Mata Hari was created by the success of this motion picture, rather than any factual retelling of the Mata Hari story.

The acting is a film of this era isn’t really worth talking about too much. It was made long before ‘method acting’ so nobody really inhabits their character. In some of the scenes it is almost like watching a bad soap opera. Ramon Navarro is particularly guilty of over-acting. Garbo, on the other hand doesn’t have to act until the end of the film. Generally her lurid costumes do the talking for her.

Time has caught up with this film a bit, but if you are a hard core fan of spy movies, you must see this film (at least once). The Mata Hari legend begins here.

To read the review for the Biography’s Mata Hari: The Seductive Spy click here.

To read the review of Sylvia Kristel’s Mata Hari click here.

To read the ‘Eye Witness To History’ article click here.

For information on Mata Hari’s propaganda postcards click here.

Mata Hari (1931)