AKA: Operation ‘Y’
Country: Italy / Spain / France
Director: George Finley (Giorgio Stegani
Starring: Louis Davilla, Gaia Germani, Alfredo Mayo, Jesús Puente, Janine Reynaud, Alberto Dalbés
Music: Nico Fidenco
I was struck by a strange feeling of dejavu when I watched the title sequence in Ypotron. The titles feature scenes of our hero, Robby Logan (Louis Davilla) frolicking around in Acapulco. There’s nothing extraordinary in that, but the footage is shown in negative, so the crystal blue waters look orange with black peaks. It almost looks like a fire ball. But that’s when it struck me – I had seen another Eurospy film that had the title sequence shown in negative. Racking my brain I finally came up with Espionage In Tangiers, which also starred Louis Davilla.
Naturally enough, this made me wonder if these two films were a part of a series? A quick glance at the indispensable Eurospy Guide yielded no results – well not on initial inspection. You see in this film Davilla plays Robby Logan. Some foreign film posters indicate that the character is also known as Lemmy Logan (possibly trying to cash in on the popular Lemmy Caution character). Those who take a quick look at the poster above – courtesy of David Deal’s excellent EuroSpy poster gallery – will notice that Davilla’s character was also called Mike Murphy (Agent 077 – no less). Likewise in Espionage In Tangiers, Davilla’s character is lumbered with a few names. One of them happens to be Marc Mato – in some territories the film was known as Marc Mato, agente s.077. But as you may have already guessed, in English versions, the character is Mike Murphy. At this point I am feeling pretty smug that I may have stumbled onto a new spy series for me to investigate – but having said all that – let’s be realistic – these are EuroSpy films and they will latch onto any marketing device they can. As you can already see, both films Ypotron and Espionage In Tangiers are also trying to worm their way into the 077 series, but in reality they aren’t official entries. Equally some marketeer or distributor may have tried to rope these films together to make it seem like a series. The truth is I don’t know, but that doesn’t really matter. You either enjoy EuroSpy films or you don’t. If you don’t then my investigative journey is of little consequence. If you do, then you realise the inconsistencies of the sub-genre, and are happy to ride along with it. But just to confuse you, even though the print I viewed has the lead character called Robby Logan, I am going to call him Murphy…just because I want to.
The film opens with Murphy walking into a darkened room. He flicks over a set of infra-red lens down over the lens of another set of glasses and begins to examine a strange diagram – that looks like a symbolised schematic of the human body. Behind Murphy a secret door opens and the muzzle for a machine gun is aimed at him. A volley of shots are fired, but Logan does not die. But after such an elaborate set-up, we find out the Murph isn’t on a mission, he is at headquarters and he was simply testing out a new bullet proof vest. Then that’s it – he’s on holidays, and what do all good swinging secret agents do, when they’ve got a few weeks leave. Yep, they head to Acapulco.
When we next join Murph, he’s enjoying the surf, and the company of a beautiful brunette – but not for long. He is interrupted by a raven haired beauty that he ditched six months previously (presumably on holiday too). She is not too enamored to see him. Oh, who am I kidding – of course she is glad to see him, but first she has to spend a few minutes making him feel guilty about running out on her.
But then Murph doesn’t even get the chance to enjoy this liaison. His partner – for that read ‘fellow agent’ – Wilson (Jesús Puente) arrives in Acapulco with a new assignment. Murph is naturally reluctant to take it as he is in holiday mode. But Wilson explains that three other agents, Harvey, Stone and Margaret, have all been killed. All three were working on security for a company called Indra. Indra is described as being a ‘big European missile factory’.
The target at Indra is the chief scientist on the missile program, Robert Moreau. Now Murph and Moreau share a little bit of history. Back in WW2, Murphy was imprisoned in a concentration camp called Merloc. Merloc was headed by an evil Nazi scientist named Dr. Eichmann, who used to use the prisoners as guinea pigs for his cruel and unusual experiments. Murphy was intended to participate in one of these experiments but at the last minute he was saved by one of Leichmann’s underlings, Robert Moreau. Moreau refused to carry out Eichamnn’s test and was subsequently tortured for his non-compliance. But as you can imagine, Murphy now owes his life and a huge debt of gratitude to Moreau. He readily agrees to accept the assignment. Holiday over, Murph and Wilson head to Europe.
In Spain (I presume), Murph heads to Moreau’s home. The scientist isn’t home, but his daughter Jeanne (Gaia Germani) is. She phones her father at Indra, and he promises to come home straight away. As a precaution though, Murph has Wilson tail Moreau back from Indra, but as the cars wind around a mountain road, Wilson loses Moreau. Embarrassed, Wilson radios in his failure. Murph passes on the bad news to Jeanne who is visibly upset at her father’s disappearance. Murph makes a promise that he’ll find her father and return him safely.
The mission isn’t progressing to well. Murph doesn’t have too many leads to go on. His break comes when Jeanne tries to slip away to Madrid carrying one of her fathers suitcases. As you’d expect, Murph follows her and arranges to be on the same flight. Now this is where the fun really begins.
Many EuroSpy films are currently only available in prints that can only be politely described as diabolical, and with a large proportion of these films that isn’t too big of a hurdle. Most likely you’d only watch them once in your life time. But others have just an ounce of style or even an animal magnetism (if a film can hold such attraction) that makes you want to revisit it – and even more, long for a pristine print so you can see the film as was originally intended. Ypotron, for me, is one such film. I am not going to lie to you and say that it’s a good film, but it does have this strange electricity about it – an animal magnetism that makes me enjoy – nay, even respect this film despite all its goofy flaws. It has a great surf guitar soundtrack which is layered with a hint of cheesy Hammond organ, and the title song by The Sorrows will get stuck in your head for days – even if it makes no sense ‘Yee Po Tron’! Added to this, there’s a great Flamenco musical number that’s coupled with a primal strip-tease act.
If you’re after gadgets, this film has a bargain basement full of them; from cigarette lighter communicators, oil bombs, hidden cameras and tape recorders, listening devices, and of course, as featured in the intro, Murphy’s rose coloured glasses.
Naturally the film has a lunk-headed leading man and sandy haired Davilla fits that bill nicely. The girls are great too, As the good girl we get Gaia Germani who certainly is a looker. For the bad girl , but not too bad, we are presented with Janine Reynaud in bleach blonde hair. Most people recognise Reynaud as the fiery redhead in Jess Franco’s Red Lips films, Two Under Cover Angels and Kiss Me Monster.
All in all, I think Ypotron is a great little package. I don’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm, but at the end of the day, who are you going to trust – your well thumbed pages of your Leonard Maltin Video Guide or me?
Of course that’s redundant because Ypotron doesn’t appear in the Maltin guide. You have to trust me. Evil maniacal laughter trails into the distance…
Oh, sorry! one last little bit – a small warning for those who may be put off or offended by witnessing a bullfight. Ypotron features a rather graphic one (although the effect is diminished by the quality of the print I acquired). But if you believe that watching such images would upset you, then may I suggest you give this film a miss.
After the long weekend Down Under, I am a bit tardy in preparing my next review for your perusal. But in the meantime, Tanner over at the Double O Section has a fine review of Secret Agent Fireball.
Jackie Chan’s career can be broken up in to two distinct parts – his Hong Kong work which is pretty good, and his American work which isn’t. The Tuxedo is one of the American productions, and as hard as he tries, poor old Jackie just can’t carry this sort of crap. This film also proves that no matter how hard Jennifer Love Hewitt tries, she’ll never be a comedienne.
The film begins with CSA Agent Wallace in a water bottling plant owned by Banning Industries. He has been working on an operation called ‘Big Drip’ and must have found out something serious, because he urgently puts through a call to CSA headquarters on his mobile. Before he can relay this super-vital piece of information, from above a guy puts a clear plastic bag over Wallace’s head. This isn’t any normal plastic bag. It happens to have a hose attached at the back, and just when you think the poor bloke is going to suffocate a torrent of water rushes in and Wallace ends up drowning. Wallace falls to the ground dead. The evil minion who executed Wallace stands over the dead body and says ‘Aqua La Vista, Baby!’ – I am sure you all get the bad pun, but for younger readers not familiar with the work and immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s a play on the line ‘Hasta La Vista Baby,’ from Terminator 2.
So what have we got so far? A dead CSA agent you was working on ‘Operation Big Drip’ (it’s hardly ‘Thunderball’) and a villain who makes bad puns. From the two minute mark of the movie, you can clearly see the line that this movie is taking – broad comedy – which is a shame, because the villains plan in this film is really quite good. It’s a pity that they wrapped it up in a goofball comedy. But back to the plot. We haven’t even seen Jackie yet!
Jackie plays a love struck, tongue tied taxi driver named Jimmy Tong. When we first meet him, he is standing outside an art gallery, staring at the beautiful girl who works within. As he watches, he practices his introduction line. Finally he works up the courage to go in and ask her to dinner, but he freezes and makes a fool of himself.
He returns to his cab outside and finds that there is a passenger waiting inside. She gives Jimmy an address and says that if he can make it to the destination before she finishes putting on her makeup, she’ll pay him double the amount shown on the meter. Jimmy puts the pedal to the metal and weaves his way through the congested New York streets. He makes it on time, and not only collects a big fare, he also collects a new job. The lady offers him a position as the chauffeur to the mysterious Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs). Devlin is a James Bond like figure. He is suave, witty, a great dancer, and the best agent the CSA have. Men want to be him, and women want to be with him.
Meanwhile back at CSA headquarters, they have discovered Wallace’s body and have performed an autopsy. It looks like an accident – in a bath tub, no less. But one operative, Del Blaine (Jennifer Lover Hewitt) has other ideas. She believes it is murder, and provides evidence to back her theory. Her investigative work gets her a promotion and she is assigned to work with Clark Devlin, following up on Wallace’s work.
Devlin though, is already at work and following up some leads, with Jimmy chauffeuring the limousine. As Devlin and Jimmy stop for a bite to eat, some young punks attach a homing device to the rear of the limo. This homing device attracts a riderless skateboard to which has been taped a large amount of explosive. As the explosive device moves closer and closer, Jimmy once again has a chance to prove his driving prowess, but eventually they are forced into an alleyway and then cut off by a parked vehicle. Both Devlin and Jimmy get out just before the bomb hits, but he explosion throws Devlin into some garbage cans. He gets up with a nasty gash and blood trickling down the side of his face. He collapses. Jimmy, naturally rushes to his aid, and as is the tradition in all these types of films, Devlin whispers some important information. The first, is to contact a man named Walter Stryder. The second is ‘trust no-one’. And finally he hands over his watch. He tells Jimmy to wear it.
Jimmy heads back to Devlin’s mansion and finds that the watch opens a glass booth which houses a pretty nifty tuxedo. Jimmy decides to try on this tuxedo, but as you will have no doubt guessed (because the movie is called The Tuxedo), that this is no ordinary tuxedo. It is the ultimate Q Branch gadget. The Tux – or Tactical Uniform Xperiment (TUX-1) – immediately adjusts to Jimmy’s size, and through the watch, which is like a remote control, the suit can do almost anything. Some of the modes include: Demolition / Assemble Rifle / Anti Grav / Shake Booty.
Now Jimmy, dressed in the ultimate spy weapon takes over from Devlin. Along the way he teams up with Blaine and together they try to take down the malevolent water mogul, Banning.
Of course, this elaborate set up is not really important to the film. What is, is that Jackie Chan is in a suit that makes him do really cool, and sometimes really silly things. The point being that Jackie’s character Jimmy isn’t really doing any of the actions – the suit is – giving Jackie the opportunity to do large amounts of physical comedy using his martial arts skills.
Look I love Jackie, and obviously as we’ve come to expect from his films, the choreography is amazing, but really this is pretty tedious and juvenile stuff. The film is given another kicking when they chose to partner him with Jennifer Love Hewitt who has no flare for this kind of comedy. Not wishing to be mean, I am sure Miss Love Hewitt has her fans and in other productions proves her worth, but in this – and the script writers must take some of the blame – she is so conceited and irritating that I just wanted Jackie to hit her with a chair or something just to make her stop talking. At this juncture, before I get into trouble, I’d just like to say that Permission To Kill does not condone any form of violence towards women – we are talking films here, and I am sure the props department could rig up a chair that would in no way hurt or injure Miss Love Hewitt. It’s a Hollywood chair – it’s an imaginary CGI chair. All I am trying to say that her character was so frustrating to watch, that it began to make the movie a chore to sit through.
Okay with that off my chest, I’d like to say that The Tuxedo is not a great film. Young teenage boys may like it, but beyond that it is far from Jackie’s grandest moment. You’ve been warned.
AKA: The Secret Of The Yellow Monks
Country: Austria / Italy
Directed by Manfred R. Kohler
Stewart Granger, Karin Dor, Rupert Davies, Curt Jurgens, Klaus Kinski, Scilla Gabel, Adolfo Celi, Mollie Peters, Erika Remberg, Luis Induni
Music by Marcello Giombini
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the great actors from the 1960s who were at the forefront of the Spy Boom, Stewart Granger isn’t an actor that comes readily to mind. I guess that’s because his contribution to the spy genre were a few middling Eurospy films. Granger’s career wasn’t going too well at this time and he’d take any job that came along. Amongst his output were Red Dragon, Spy Against The World, Requiem For A Secret Agent and Target For Killing.
Target For Killing is a muddled affair, but reasonably entertaining on a throwaway level. But if you happen to be a Bond fan there are a few compelling reasons to watch the film. All of them are cast members. Let’s start with Thunderball – we have Adolfo Celi (sans eyepatch) and the beautiful Mollie Peters (sans mink glove, but in a bikini and a bath tub). Then we have our leading lady, Karin Dor, who would appear in You Only Live Twice a year later. Incidentally, Dor also appeared in Spy Against The World, but not in the same segment as Stewart Granger. However it did also feature Klaus Kinski, who also appears in Target For Killing. Am I painting a nepetitious little picture? Then finally we have Curt Jurgens who appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me, which is just another one in his long line of contributions to the spy genre.
Target For Killing is not the best Eurospy offering out there, and to be honest the English dubbing is pretty ordinary, but it is far from the worst either. After witnessing Granger’s turn as a hard bastard in Sergio Sollima’s Requiem For A Secret Agent it’s good to see him return to playing a likable, suave and sophisticated gent once again, and if the story is a bit confused, then does that really matter? Well in fact it does. I don’t mind that Eurospy films are occasionally silly and feature climaxes that could only be described as ‘dodgy science’, but if you are going to introduce a weird scientific element, run with it – play it for all it’s worth. Here, they have a premise about a ‘mind weapon’ and telepathy, but it only seems tacked on to the side. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s find out what it’s all about!
Vine’s intervention has caused a bit of a stir in the cockpit. You see, the two pilots – one who happens to be Klaus Kinski – and the stewardess work for a despicable fellow called ‘The Giant’ (Curt Jurgens). The Giant has ordered that Perkins be killed. Without any weapons at their disposal, and knowing that The Giant will not tolerate failure, the flight crew decide to bail out with parachutes and let the plane crash.
Vine notices the crew leaving, but doesn’t think anything of it until he see three parachutes open out of his window (he must have been looking down). Realising that something is wrong, he convinces Perkins to go with him to the cockpit. It may seem like a catastrophe waiting to happen. but it isn’t all doom and gloom, because Vine was once in the airforce. He takes to the pilot’s seat and has Perkins man the radio. It has been a while, be he manages a rough old landing.
The thing with The Giant that stops him from just being another underling is that he has hired some quality underlings of his own. The first is his evil henchwoman, Tiger (Scilla Gabel). She gets around in a pair of tight fitting black leather pants and wields a machine gun with unrivalled expertise. Then there is The Giant’s evil seductress, Vera Stratten (Mollie Peters). She uses her body to get to her targets. And finally there is Dr. Yang (Luis Induni), who is an expert on telepathy and torture. He has a special gift of getting into peoples minds, which causes them to lose all free will. The Giant and his cadre of hench-people are a formidable target for James Vine.
I want to like Target For Killing and I want to recommend it to everyone, but in all fairness I can’t as a spy film. But if you’re interested in the cast, then go ahead, track a copy down. If you’re interested in swinging spy guitar grooves, track a copy down. If you’re interested in empty lightweight espionage thrills, track a copy down. Oh yeah, and if you’re interested in Scilla Gabel in black leather pants, then track a copy down. If none of those categories appeal to you, then you’re going to have to look elsewhere for espionage thrills.
Once again I find myself short for words and turn to Todd over at Die Danger Die Die Kill (or 4DK as we in the trade say). Here Todd tackles another Bollywood spy film, without the aid of a safety harness, net or even a translator. But barriers like ‘foreign languages’ are just a minor hurdle when you’re prepared to stick on a pair of hobnail boots and kick over a few rocks in the search for the most obscure and neglected spy films in the world.
I feel the world is better off due to the efforts of cinematic explorers like Todd. To read the review click here.