Code Name: Tiger

Original Title: Le Tigre aime la chair fraiche
AKA: The Tiger Likes Fresh Blood, The Tiger Likes Fresh Meat
Country: France / Italy
Director: Claude Chabrol
Starring: Roger Hanin, Daniela Bianchi, Maria Mauban, Roger Dumas, Antonio Passalia, Roger Rudel, Carlo Nell
Music: Pierre Jansen

Most reports on the various English language versions of this film that are currently available on the grey market are that they are severely truncated (The Tiger Likes Fresh Meat seems to be missing twenty minutes, and Code Name: Tiger is missing about twelve minutes). This heavy handed editing has apparently rendered the story almost incomprehensible. With that in mind, I have gone to the original French version, Le Tigre aime la chair fraiche, for this review. Considering my inability to speak French, this probably served to render the film just as incomprehensible as the poor English versions, but I was confident that the international language of spy films would shine through.

The film opens in a Middle Eastern country in a darkened cinema, and some diplomats are watching footage of a Mirage jet re-fuelling in midair. As they watch the film, a man with a knife enters the screening room and sneaks up behind one of the men watching the presentation. As the assailant plunges the knife into the back of his target, the film ends and the lights go on. The killer is out in the open and exposed. He makes a run for it with a squad of policemen on his trail.

Surprisingly, the killer runs rings around the local constabulary and makes it to a safe house. Here he is met by an albino in a natty white suit and Panama hat. From the safe house they drive through the country to an amazing location – it’s this fortified white stucco mansion that’s surrounded by palm trees – but what makes it surreal, is that the area has flooded, so half a metre of water covers everything. They walk into the mansion, which is fully furnish (with opulent furniture at that), with water up to their knees. They wade through unperturbed into the office of the unseen boos man. Both men are given a stack of bills as payment, and then the albino stabs his partner. We next see the dead man floating face down through the palm trees. It’s a bizarre but stylish opening sequence.

The minion was killed because he had in fact botched the assassination attempt in the cinema. Sure he killed someone, but not the man he was supposed to. His intended target was a Turkish diplomat called Baskine. The man the assailant actually killed was a French secret agent, and a friend of Louis Rapiere – known in espionage circles as ‘The Tiger’. And that brings us to our hero for the show. We meet The Tiger (Roger Hanin) at a training camp in France. He is in the middle of conducting a judo class when he is interrupted by a General. He informs The Tiger of his colleagues death. He also re-assigns The Tiger to take over the assignment. It is feared that there will be more attempts on Baskine’s life.

Next we join The Tiger at Orly Airport with a team of operatives, including the accident prone Duvet (Roger Dumas). For ‘accident prone’ – read ‘comic relief’. The Tiger and his men are on hand to protect Baskine as he arrives in France. Also loitering around the airport is the albino and a team of killers, including a malicious midget and a bad boy scout, all intent on turning Baskine into raspberry jam. With this many thugs at the airport, it will come as no surprise that an attempt is made on Baskine’s life, but it is foiled by The Tiger.

The Tiger’s heroic actions have brought him to the attention of Mrs. Baskine (Maria Mauban), the diplomat’s wife, and more importantly, Melhica Baskine (Daniella Bianchi), the diplomat’s daughter. Both women are grateful for his intervention at the airport, and as a reward for his heroics, he finds himself chauffeuring around the ladies as they go on a shopping spree in Paris.

Code Name: Tiger starts out as a promising enough spy thriller but soon bogs down. Maybe my lack of French is to blame, but I think even to a Parisian native, the dreary pacing would take it’s toll. But any spy film that features Daniella Bianchi cannot be all bad, even if she is wasted as window dressing. In this film she has little more to do than make goo-goo eyes at The Tiger, and then get kidnapped by the villains.

One of the films saving graces is the music by Pierre Jansen. Although used sparingly, it makes the few action scenes seem more exciting than they actually are. It is certainly better than his score for the Chabrol helmed Who’s Got The Black Box.

I think that Code Name: Tiger may well be a fair to decent Eurospy picture, but as it stands at the moment, for English speakers – with poor, edited and dubbed versions it’s hard to know for sure. This wasn’t the end for The Tiger, though. He would return in an official sequel, Our Agent Tiger (Le Tigre se parfume à la dynamite), and star Roger Hanin would appear in other spy films that were marketed as ‘Tiger’ films in other countries.

Code Name: Tiger

El Lobo (2004)

AKA: The Wolf
Country: Spain
Directed by Miguel Courtois
Eduardo Noriega, José Coronado, Mélanie Doutey, Patrick Bruel, Santiago Ramos
Music by Francesc Gener

El Lobo is an absolutely thrilling and amazing film from Spain which outlines the Spanish police and government’s battle with the ETA (Basque Separatist Movement) in the 1970’s. The film is based on real events, which can sometimes lead to rather dry and un-involving storytelling, but not so here. Each of the characters is portrayed as human with good and bad traits. They aren’t just black and white or good and evil. They all have many shades of grey, and just when you start to sympathise with a character, they’ll do something reprehensible which turns you off.

The film starts in 1975, and Txema Lygorri (Eduardo Noriega), a member of the ETA, is running from the police through the streets of Madrid. From the front gate of his house, and old man strolls into the path of Lygorri. Lygorri grabs him and holds a gun to his head and demands to be taken inside and given shelter. The old man reluctantly agrees, but what can you do when there’s a pistol pressed against your temple? Inside the house is the old man’s wife. Lygorri makes the old couple sit down and shut up while he makes a phone call. He rings a pre-designated number and much to his chagrin, he gets an answering machine. Into the mouthpiece he keeps shouting, ‘I’m El Lobo!’

The film then flashes back to 1972. Lygorri was a different man then. He worked in construction and lived with his beautiful wife and baby son. At two in the morning, there’s a knock on the door. It’s two acquaintances of Lygorri, who just happen to be members of the ETA. They are looking for a place to hole up that night. Lygorri allows them to stay, but only if they agree to be gone by dawn.

The next day, Lygorri finds out that his two house guests are planning to murder a local taxi driver, who the Basques believe is an informer. This taxi driver happens to a friend of Lygorri’s, so Lygorri tries to warn him by leaving a note on his car windscreen. His attempt fails as the ETA hitman shoot the informer before he reaches his car. The shooting enrages the local authorities who throw a net over the whole Basque community. It isn’t long before Lygorri is rounded up and brought in for questioning, and he breaks, revealing all that he knows about the hit. Just for harbouring the hitmen, he is considered an accomplice and is looking at jail time.

Then into the picture steps Ricardo (José Coronado) who is a CEPED (Spanish Secret Service) officer. He needs a mole to infiltrate ETA and work his way up through the terrorist cells, and in Lygorri, it looks like he has found his man. Ricardo cuts a deal with Lygorri, but in truth Lygorri has no idea what he is really getting into. He thinks it is simply passing on a bit of information, but Ricardo needs someone who can reach to the top of the ETA movement – and to do that, you have to be in very deep.

As a time capsule of the 1970’s, El Lobo doesn’t really work. The film feels very ‘now’, but that isn’t a hindrance. In fact, I’d say it’s a deliberate attempt to juxtapose the events of the past, with the events of today – remember in 2004, eight months prior to the release of this film, an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist cell conducted a terrorist attack on the Madrid commuter train system. At the time, three days out from an election, initial reports suggested that the ETA may have been responsible for the bombings – but generally it is believed that was a ploy by the incumbent government to keep control of power. A Basque attack would look better in the eyes of the voting public than an attack by al-Qaeda in response to the countries involvement in the Iraq War.

Politics aside, El Lobo is a story about people and choices, and ultimately the emotional cost, or sacrifice if you prefer, that have to be made to stand up for something you believe in. The story and the well acted characterisations flesh the film out and drive it forward making you feel the pain as Lygorri changes into a man he doesn’t want to be. El Lobo is a masterful film, and well worth the time to seek it out.

El Lobo (2004)

When Eight Bells Toll (1970)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: Etienne Perier
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Nathalie Delon, Robert Morley, Jack Hawkins, Corin Redgrave, Derek Bond
Music: Angela Morley (as Walter Stott)
Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean

Hannibal Lektor as a secret agent! I’m sorry but Anthony Hopkins performance as ‘Hannibal The Cannibal’ was so successful, and much imitated, that it has now moved beyond a mere performance in a movie, to being a part of popular culture. No matter what Hopkins did in the past or may do in the future, now he will always be compared to, or judged as Lektor. But long before The Silence Of The Lambs, Hopkins portrayed a cold, ruthless secret agent in this adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s novel, When Eight Bells Toll. Back in 1970, Hopkins was in reasonable shape and it didn’t seem like such a stretch for him to play a two-fisted, highly skilled secret agent. This is not the case in the recent film Bad Company, where he seemed completely out of place.

The film opens at sea, with secret service agent, Philip Calvert (Hopkins) in scuba gear. He surfaces near a large freighter at anchor, and proceeds to haul himself up the anchor chain and onto the deck. He makes his way to the radio room and opens the door, only to be looking down the barrel of a gun. The man holding the gun has a steely gaze and doesn’t waiver a muscle. Calvert begins to realise something is not right. This bloke doesn’t speak or move at all. Calvert moves closer and takes the pistol from the man’s hand. The movement causes the radio operator to topple over revealing a knife in the centre of his back. He is dead – just propped up to seem life like. This is someone’s idea of a joke. As Calvert searches more, he finds another dead body. Who are these two men? I am glad you asked, but to find out we have to flash back to a few days previously.

A helicopter lands in the gardens of a giant white mansion. This building is in fact Secret Service Headquarters. Calvert alights from the helicopter and is met by Hunslett (Corin Redgrave). Hunslett, although an agent, specialises in intelligence gathering and does very little field work. He outlines there current problem to Calvert. It appears that several bullion ships have been hijacked at sea. In the film it is never adequately explained why gold bullion would need to be transferred by ship – but let’s just take it as a given that it is important. These ships are hijacked and the crews are taken to Ireland where they are released a few days later. By this time the ships have vanished. Calvert and Hunslett have to come up with a plan to stop the theft and round up the people responsible.

The plan they come up with involves hiding two men to act as radio operators on board the next bullion ship. If it is hijacked, the men will transmit the ships location at designated times, and Calvert will follow behind in another boat. It will come as no surprise that the two men chosen for the mission are the two men that Calvert found dead in the opening sequence of the movie. Calvert and Hunslett don’t have free reign though. They are answerable to Sir Arthur Arnford Jones (Robert Morley). Jones is a stuffy bureaucrat who doesn’t like Calvert’s brash and arrogant manner. But against his better judgement, Jones allows the plan to be put into action.

It’s another eccentric performance from Robert Morley, not too dissimilar to his role in Hot Enough For June – but whereas Hot Enough For June was a gentle comedy, this film is a straight laced action adventure. Thankfully, half way through the movie, Morley gets with the program and pulls it in, and the film is all the better for it.

Every good spy film has a villain, and in When Eight Bells Toll it is shipping magnate, Sir Anthony Skouras. Playing the part is seasoned character actor Jack Hawkins. Hawkins looks quite ill in this movie, and his dialogue has been looped by Charles Gray.

When Eight Bells Toll is actually a pretty good little movie. It may not have the globe trotting excesses of a James Bond film, but it has some fine set pieces, and drips with atmosphere. The cinematography around the Scottish coast is as breathtaking as it is inhospitable. At times, you can actually feel cold and a little sea-sick when watching this film.

There’s one action scene that I think warrants a special mention, which involves a helicopter that Calvert is travelling in, being shot out of the sky and crashing into the sea. The scene is tense and well staged. All in all, this is a good one and worth looking out for.

When Eight Bells Toll (1970)

Enter The Dragon (1973)

Country: Hong Kong / United States
Directed by Robert Clouse
Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Sek Kin, Ahna Capri, Robert Wall, Bolo Yeung, Geoffrey Weeks
Music by Lalo Schifrin

As Enter The Dragon is one of the most famous and successful martial arts movies ever made, most people tend to overlook the fact that, in essence it really is a formulaic spy film. The biggest difference between it and a myriad of other spy films is that rather than using a collection of gadgets and dirty tricks to complete his mission, Bruce Lee has to use his martial arts skills to get him out of the situations he finds himself embroiled in. Despite this lack of conventional weapons, Mr. Lee at no stage looks troubled by the forces that are opposing him.

The plot for Enter The Dragon is simplicity itself. British Intelligence knows that Dr. Han is the head of a massive heroine operation, but they cannot prove it. Han lives on a remote island and as on the surface, he has committed no crime, the authorities cannot move against him. It’s a catch-22 situation – they can’t get proof about Han’s illegal activities without going onto the island, and they cannot go onto the island without proof. But every four years Han allow strangers onto his island to attend a martial arts tournamnet which he runs. Han uses the tournament to find and recruit new talent for his heroine distribution network. Han’s tournament attracts the best talent from all corners of the globe.

Braithwaite (Geoffrey Weeks) from British Intelligence requests that Bruce Lee attends the tournament and infiltrates Han’s operation and provide proof of illegal activities. Initially Lee is reluctant, but once he finds out that his sister Su was accosted by some of Han’s men – and subsequently killed herself – Lee sees the tournament as an opportunity to extract a bit of vengeance on his sister’s behalf.

Han’s tournament attracts a wide variety of fighters, and apart from Lee, two of the more interesting characters are Roper (John Saxon) and Williams (Jim Kelly). Roper is a smart mouthed hustler who just happens is down on his luck lately. After the mob come to collect an outstanding debt, and Roper has to defend himself, he decides it’s time to leave town. Williams is ablack American who has been persecuted all his life due to the colour of his skin. Over the years he has learnt to fight back. Williams is forced to leave town after a run-in with some racist police officers. Both men find themselves competing at Han’s tournament.

The real highlight of Enter The Dragon is the fight choreography. The fight scenes, large and small scale are impressively put together. From this film, it is easy to see why, thirty years after his death, people are still infatuated with Bruce Lee – the man – and martial artist.

Like I alluded to earlier, the plot for Enter The Dragon may not be the most original, but as a display of martial arts, this film has very few peers. It is thouroughly entertaining and not to be missed.

Enter The Dragon (1973)

Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street (1984)

Original title: Zuijia paidang zhi nuhuang miling
Country: Hong Kong
Director: Tsui Hark
Starring: Sam Hui, Karl Maka, Sylvia Chang, Peter Graves, Richard Kiel, Jean Mersant, John Sham
Music: Lynsey De Paul

Now dear reader, I warn you that this film is subtitled Our Man From Bond Street, so during the course of this review, I am going to be laying on the Bond references thick and fast. This film prides itself on how many Bondian references it can squeeze into it’s 81 minute running time, and in the course of detailing what this movie has to offer, I’ll be regurgitating them back for you.

What does Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street have to offer? Well, like previous instalments in the Mad Mission series it provides plenty of outrageous stunts and a swag of movie in-jokes. It is also a film from Hong Kong – made during the 1980’s. For me, one thing defines 80’s Hong Kong action cinema – and that’s broken glass. After a decade of cars, bikes and stuntmen crashing through so many panes of glass and windshields, I’d suggest that Hong Kong went into the 90’s as a windowless city. I am happy to report that Mad Mission III continues the window smashing legacy – it may seem tame compared to Jackie Chan’s Police Story, but I am sure the glaziers had there work cut out for them.

This instalment opens with international Jewel thief Sam Hong Kong (Sam Hui) checking out the tourist attractions in Paris. Near the Eiffel Tower he sets up a piece of equipment on a tripod (I have no idea what it is). As he scans the area with a telescopic sight, a black leather clad babe sets up a rocket launcher behind him. As he swings around, he girl fires the rocket. He leaps out of the way at the last second, and then chases the girl on foot. The chase leads them to the river, and as they wrestle on the shore, a speedboat moves into towards them. Inside the boat is a Harold Sakata (Oddjob from Goldfinger) look-a-like. Like Oddjob, this guy has a killer steel-rimmed hat, which he slings at Sam. The flying hat is deflected by a metal suitcase and then returns to it’s master. The distraction gives the girl time to get away, and she makes her way to the Eiffel Tower.

Now folks, the scenes I am about to describe may seem familiar to fans of the Bond films, especially those that remember A View To A Kill – but this film was released in 1984, a year before the afore mentioned Bond film. The chase continues, and Sam enters one of the elevator carriages on the tower. Inside, waiting is a seven foot tall giant, named Big G – played by Richard Kiel who Bond fans will immediately recognise as ‘Jaws’ from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. As Sam is menaced by Big G, the elevator rises to the first level. The lift stops and the doors open. Then Oddjob’s deadly hat flies into the carriage, followed swiftly by it’s owner. This Oddjob is different to the Bondian one though. This fellow has a steel hand that can crush anything within it’s grasp. Now with two Bond villains after him, Sam decides it’s time to flee and smashes out a glass window and crawls out onto the roof of the elevator carriage. He is followed out by Big G who arrives on the roof with a parachute strapped to his back. Fearing nothing from the diminutive Sam, Big G removes the parachute and tosses it to the four winds. Sam, seeing his only chance of escape flying through the air, leaps off the carriage and catches the parachute mid flight. He straps it on, pulls the cord and drifts down towards the Seine. Above the river, he cuts himself free and falls into the dirty green water.

Poor old Sam’s problems don’t end there, I’m afraid. Next, underwater, he is chased by a giant mechanical shark. He tries to outswim it, but he is soon overtaken and swallowed by the mechanical beast. Inside, he finds himself in a hi-tech submarine, and confronted by James Bond – or at least, a Sean Connery look-a-like. But Bond is not an actual enemy. He in fact wants to recruit Sam. It seems that the Queen of England has lost her crown, and they need the master thief to re-acquire it from the security vault that it is being held in.

Sam agrees to the mission, but if he is going to return to a life of crime, even if it is for the Queen of England, he wants an alibi. His choice is his old sparring partner, Detective Kodyjack (Karl Maka). Sam arranges to meet Kodyjack at a restaurant. Knowing that Kodyjack fancies himself as somewhat of a lady-killer, Sam arranges for his assistant on the mission, Jade East to meet them at the restaurant. While Kodyjack ingratiates himself on Jade, Sam slips out to pull off the heist.

Adding to the plot convolution is the actual Man From Bond Street, secret agent Tom Collins – played by Peter Graves. As you’re no doubt aware, Graves played Jim Phelps in the Mission: Impossible television series – and yes, there is a joke about an self destructing message. Agent Collins is in Hong Kong on the trail of a gang of jewel thieves whose members specialise in impersonating the Conneryesque secret agents and the Queen.

This instalment in the Mad Mission series is a great deal of fun, but it is also extremely juvenile. But if you don’t mind lowest common denominator humour paired with outrageous stunts, then Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street is a passable Bond parody.

Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street (1984)

Spartan (2004)

Country: United States
Written and Directed by David Mamet
Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, William H. Macy, Ed O’Neill, Kristen Bell
Music by Mark Isham

If you think logically about Spartan and analyse the story, you’ll realise that it is some of the most overly contrived nonsense ever put on the screen. But having said that, this film works very well as a character study. The story is simply a very recognisable framework on which to hang a series of espionage related events that affect changes in the characters. Val Kilmer’s performance as a hard-edged professional agent twists the spy genre on it’s head. No doubt many of you have read the quote by Ian Fleming referring to James Bond as a ‘blunt instrument.’ Well, in comparison to Kilmer’s character, Scott, James Bond is a show pony. Scott is a blunt instrument – a tool, much like a handgun. He is single minded in his purpose, never allowing outside influences to distract him from his mission or his target. But whereas James Bond has a mind of his own, Scott is not a planner. His superior’s just aim him in the right direction and set him loose.

Briefly, the story is about about the daughter of the President of the United States, Laura Newton (Kristen Bell). One day she cuts and dyes her hair. Then she has a fight with her boyfriend (he didn’t like the new look). After the fight she goes to a bar, and is kidnapped to be sold into white slavery. Due to her her change of appearance, the kidnappers do not realise that they have taken the President’s daughter, but once they do, most likely they’ll kill her. Scott is one of the agents assigned to find her and bring her back.

Naturally, it isn’t that simple. Firstly Scott has to find out what I have paraphrased in one brief paragraph. Then, once he knows what we know, he has to find a way into the pipeline, in which the girls are smuggled out of the country and then effect a rescue.

But Spartan is a political thriller too, so that means that things aren’t as they seem on the surface. After Scott has ascertained that Laura has been taken to Dubai, and that certain officials failed in their duty to protect her, events are manipulated to keep the President in a favourable light with the media and public. But Scott is not the type of machine that you can just turn off when you like. Once he is set in motion, he’s very hard to stop. Like I said at the top, he’s a blunt instrument. It’s this approach, that half way through the film causes problems for Scott and his partner, Curtis (Derek Luke). After the rug is pulled out from under Scott’s feet, he decides to continue with the mission regardless. This means that he has to become a planner. He has to think about the objective and the best way to carry it out. It’s a challenge for Scott, who has up until this point, has almost been a mindless automaton.

David Mamet has put together a wonderful film. The plot contrivances are not an issue, because the film is a character piece. If it was a big, dumb shoot ‘em up, with wise-arse Val firing off one liners after each kill, then yeah, the framework would have to be better. You’d think that the idea for a film about the kidnapping of the President’s daughter, would be a big story, but here it’s almost played as if it is a generic ‘incident’. Generally, there is no emotion connected with the mission. The operations team are detached from what we would call the ‘real world’. During the film, it’s almost as if we the viewer are taken into the inner sanctum of the Secret Service and see how the cogs turn. These guys are not the police and don’t play by the rules. They act solely upon the information they have. It’s the bureaucrats and the ‘real world’ that stop them from achieving the desired result.

Spartan is one of the best and most interesting spy films of recent years, and definitely worth the price of a rental if you haven’t seen it.

Spartan (2004)

Spyforce: Reilley’s Army (1971)

Directed by David Baker
Jack Thompson, Peter Sumner, Redmond Phillips, Katy Wild, Chips Rafferety, Bill Hunter, Diana Davidson, Denys Piggott, Patrick McCarville
Music by Brian Rangott and Geoff Harvey

As a boorish, parochial Australian, I often wonder what my island nation’s contribution to world espionage cinema and television is. Sure, there’s been quite a few actors, George Lazenby and Rod Taylor readily spring to mind, but actual shows are few and far between. Spyforce was an Australian televison series that ran from 1971 to 1973 and starred Jack Thompson as archetypal Aussie, Luke Erskine, and Peter Sumner as his German born partner Gunther Haber (who Erskine constantly refers to as ‘Adolph’). The show depicted the exploits of a highly trained team of soldiers who carried out covert missions behind enemy lines during World War II.

The series was buoyed by an injection of money from Paramount Pictures, and benefited from actual location shooting in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Bangkok, Ceylon and New Guinea.

Despite Spyforce being a local production, I have found it extremely difficult to find episodes to review. Hopefully, this episode, Reilley’s Army (Episode 20) is indicative of the series. The episode begins in New Guinea during 1942. Roberts, is a Coast Watcher for the military. His job is to radio in descriptions of any enemy activity in the area. Upon observing a convoy of thirty-eight Japanese ships, he radios headquarters. Midway through his report, Japanese soldiers burst from the foliage and open fire. Outnumbered, and outgunned, Roberts attempts to flee. As he runs, he is shot in the leg, but he continues to evade capture, scampering deeper into the jungle. He makes his way to another hidden radio and continues his report, detailing the ships in the convoy. It is feared that the Japanese are about to move against Port Moresby or the Solomon Islands. As Roberts winds up, he is shot and killed.

Back at Headquarters, Colonel Cato (Redmond Phillips) interviews Mrs. Reilley (Diana Davidson). Cato asks her to radio her husband in New Guinea and ask him to come home. Her husband, Liam Reilley (Chips Rafferty) is living with the natives. Mrs. Reilley isn’t happy about her husband’s choice of lifestyle and refuses to help.

Reilley has gone renegade, blatantly refusing to follow orders from HQ. Deep in the jungle, he has created his own army, and they wage their own war against the Japanese. This would be fine, but it appears that they are too good at it. The Japanese attempt to strike back, but cannot catch them. Instead they turn their attention to men that they can catch – the coastal natives. In turn, the natives do not appreciate the attention that they receive from the Japanese. To alleviate the harassment, they expose the Coast Watchers. Robert’s happens to be the sixth Coast Watcher killed in the last week.

Summarising, indirectly, Reilley’s Army is responsible the death of the Coast Watchers. Military Headquarters have repeatedly asked Reilley to cease and desist, but he refuses. They have no other option to send men in to retrieve him. And if he refuses, then he is to be killed.

The men chosen for the job are Luke Erskine (Jack Thompson), and Gunther ‘Adolph’ Haber (Peter Sumner). A cursory overview of the plot reveals an ‘Ocker’ spin on Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness – years before Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Now that may not seem like much of a spy story – but the story is double pronged. Not only do we follow Erskine and Haber’s exploits deep in the New Guinea jungle, we also follow Lt. French (Katy Wild) who is sent to observe Reilley’s estranged social climbing wife. Let’s just say ‘loose lips – sink ships!’

Spyforce is actually a pretty good show and I’d love to catch a few more episodes. Most Australian productions from this time were done on the cheap and have not survived very well. It’s biggest asset, of course, is that it has two charismatic leads in Thompson and Sumner. Thompson’s career is still going strong – I think I last saw him in The Good German. If I had to pick one spy show to represent my nation on the international stage, I say that Spyforce isn’t a bad representative.

Spyforce: Reilley’s Army (1971)