Marie Chantal contre Dr. Kha

AKA: Blue Panther
Country: France, Spain, Italy, Morocco
Director: Claude Chabrol
Starring: Marie Laforêt, Francisco Rabal, Roger Hanin, Serge Reggiani, Charles Denner, Akim Tamiroff
Music: Michel Colombier, Gregorio García Segura, Pierre Jansen

French film director, Claude Chabrol is credited with starting the “nouvelle vague” French film movement (or the French New Wave as it commonly called). Prior to his first film, in 1957, Chabrol co-wrote ‘Hitchcock’ with Éric Rohmer. The next year, Chabrol made his feature directorial debut with Le Beau Serge (1958), a Hitchcock-influenced thriller. Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge (1958) is often cited as the first New Wave feature. This was followed by Truffaut’s The 400 Blows in 1959 and Godard’s À bout de souffle (Breathless) in 1960.

The thing that is important here though, is how Chabrol (and other New Wave directors) worshiped Hitchcock, because, despite Bondmania sweeping the world, Marie Chantal contre Dr. Kha is an affectionate reworking of The Man Who Knew Too Much — predominantly the 1956 version with James Stewart and Doris Day — although if you suggested that the scenes in the Swiss Alps owe more than a little to the original 1934 version with Peter Lorre, I would not argue with you. Or in this case the film may be called The Woman Who Knew Too Much, (but Mario Bava already used that title) and that woman is Marie Chantal.

The film opens on a train and many people are having a meal in the dining carriage. One such man is Dumont, who is an uncouth slob with glasses and a comb over. After his meal he down a good glass of brandy and lurches back to his compartment. His compartment is a four-berth room, and inside are three other travellers. Two of these men are young and they are practicing card tricks as a way to relieve the boredom of the long train trip. The other passenger on the bunk below Dumont’s is Bruno Kerrien (Roger Hanin – you may remember Hanin as the star of Chabrol’s two Le Tigre films). The two card players get bored with their card game and leave to get coffee. This leaves Dumont and Kerrien alone, but Dumont has already passed out. Kerrien silently gets out of his bunk, produces an icepick and stabs Dumont in the heart. Then he retrieves a blue panther pendant from around the dead man’s neck.

Kerrien then leaves the compartment and heads to the dining car. There he is seated at the same table as Marie Chantal (Marie Laforêt) and her cousin, Hubert de Ronsac (Pierre-Francois Moro). It seems that all three of them are travelling to the same destination which is Verbois in Switzerland and staying at the ‘Hotel des Neiges’. After the meal Hubert excuses himself because he is tired, leaving Marie in the company of Kerrien. At this point he asks a favour of her, but says he cannot explain why. He has a piece of jewellery — a blue panther with ruby eyes — which he wants her to take and hide upon her person. He will ask for it back in a day or so, once they are in Verbois. He then says that it is a matter of life and death. Marie reluctantly agrees to take the piece.

Once is Verbois the cast of characters is added to and fleshed out. First Marie meets Paco Castillo (Francisco Rabal), the square-jawed hero of the piece. He claims to be a reporter investigating an international spy ring. Then there is Mister Johnson (Charles Denner), who is the attache to the US Embassy in Morocco. In fact though, Johnson actually works for Dr. Kha (Akim Tamiroff). Dr. Kha is a super-villain of the highest order and has operative’s everywhere. Then there is a father and son team of Russian agents. This is given a twist in that the son, Gregor, who appears to be only twelve years old, is the brains of the duo, and the father, Ivanov, is the brawn.

Later Kerrien arranges to meet Marie at a nightclub so he can reclaim the panther. But prior to this, as Kerrien is on a chairlift, he is killed by a blow dart fired out of a ski-pole. Kerrien falls to the snow below. Marie just happens to be the first on the scene, and with his dying words, he says to only give the panther to Ali Kadour – and beware of Dr. Kha.


Ali Kadour happens to live in Agadir in Morocco, so that where Maire and Hubert head next, but followed by the entire cadre of spy characters who are all secretly after the blue panther.At the top I suggested this film is similar to Hitchcock’s The Man Who Kn
ew Too Much
, and the initial setup is very similar. In Hitchcock’s film, the characters meet on a bus rather than a train. And in both film’s the heroes (or in this case heroine) are given some secret information by a dying spy.

Marie Chantal Vs Dr. Kha is a very enjoyable film, but perhaps a tad to long with the final plot twist and thread coming so late in the story its importance is negated. This happens to be the titular showdown between Marie Chantal and Dr. Kha. But the other characters have been quite entertaining in their offbeat way up to this point, so even if the final confrontation doesn’t live up the billing and knock your socks off, you wont come away disappointed.

Marie Chantal contre Dr. Kha

Marie Chantal contre Dr. Kha (1965)

AKA: Blue Panther
Country: France, Spain, Italy, Morocco
Director: Claude Chabrol
Starring: Marie Laforêt, Francisco Rabal, Roger Hanin, Serge Reggiani, Charles Denner, Akim Tamiroff
Music: Michel Colombier, Gregorio García Segura, Pierre Jansen

French film director, Claude Chabrol is credited with starting the “nouvelle vague” French film movement (or the French New Wave as it commonly called). Prior to his first film, in 1957, Chabrol co-wrote ‘Hitchcock’ with Éric Rohmer. The next year, Chabrol made his feature directorial debut with Le Beau Serge (1958), a Hitchcock-influenced thriller. Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge (1958) is often cited as the first New Wave feature. This was followed by Truffaut’s The 400 Blows in 1959 and Godard’s À bout de souffle (Breathless) in 1960.

The thing that is important here though, is how Chabrol (and other New Wave directors) worshiped Hitchcock, because, despite Bondmania sweeping the world, Marie Chantal contre Dr. Kha is an affectionate reworking of The Man Who Knew Too Much — predominantly the 1956 version with James Stewart and Doris Day — although if you suggested that the scenes in the Swiss Alps owe more than a little to the original 1934 version with Peter Lorre, I would not argue with you. Or in this case the film may be called The Woman Who Knew Too Much, (but Mario Bava already used that title) and that woman is Marie Chantal.

The film opens on a train and many people are having a meal in the dining carriage. One such man is Dumont, who is an uncouth slob with glasses and a comb over. After his meal he down a good glass of brandy and lurches back to his compartment. His compartment is a four-berth room, and inside are three other travellers. Two of these men are young and they are practicing card tricks as a way to relieve the boredom of the long train trip. The other passenger on the bunk below Dumont’s is Bruno Kerrien (Roger Hanin – you may remember Hanin as the star of Chabrol’s two Le Tigre films). The two card players get bored with their card game and leave to get coffee. This leaves Dumont and Kerrien alone, but Dumont has already passed out. Kerrien silently gets out of his bunk, produces an icepick and stabs Dumont in the heart. Then he retrieves a blue panther pendant from around the dead man’s neck.

Kerrien then leaves the compartment and heads to the dining car. There he is seated at the same table as Marie Chantal (Marie Laforêt) and her cousin, Hubert de Ronsac (Pierre-Francois Moro). It seems that all three of them are travelling to the same destination which is Verbois in Switzerland and staying at the ‘Hotel des Neiges’. After the meal Hubert excuses himself because he is tired, leaving Marie in the company of Kerrien. At this point he asks a favour of her, but says he cannot explain why. He has a piece of jewellery — a blue panther with ruby eyes — which he wants her to take and hide upon her person. He will ask for it back in a day or so, once they are in Verbois. He then says that it is a matter of life and death. Marie reluctantly agrees to take the piece.

Once is Verbois the cast of characters is added to and fleshed out. First Marie meets Paco Castillo (Francisco Rabal), the square-jawed hero of the piece. He claims to be a reporter investigating an international spy ring. Then there is Mister Johnson (Charles Denner), who is the attache to the US Embassy in Morocco. In fact though, Johnson actually works for Dr. Kha (Akim Tamiroff). Dr. Kha is a super-villain of the highest order and has operative’s everywhere. Then there is a father and son team of Russian agents. This is given a twist in that the son, Gregor, who appears to be only twelve years old, is the brains of the duo, and the father, Ivanov, is the brawn.

Later Kerrien arranges to meet Marie at a nightclub so he can reclaim the panther. But prior to this, as Kerrien is on a chairlift, he is killed by a blow dart fired out of a ski-pole. Kerrien falls to the snow below. Marie just happens to be the first on the scene, and with his dying words, he says to only give the panther to Ali Kadour – and beware of Dr. Kha.


Ali Kadour happens to live in Agadir in Morocco, so that where Maire and Hubert head next, but followed by the entire cadre of spy characters who are all secretly after the blue panther.At the top I suggested this film is similar to Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, and the initial setup is very similar. In Hitchcock’s film, the characters meet on a bus rather than a train. And in both film’s the heroes (or in this case heroine) are given some secret information by a dying spy.

Marie Chantal Vs Dr. Kha is a very enjoyable film, but perhaps a tad to long with the final plot twist and thread coming so late in the story its importance is negated. This happens to be the titular showdown between Marie Chantal and Dr. Kha. But the other characters have been quite entertaining in their offbeat way up to this point, so even if the final confrontation doesn’t live up the billing and knock your socks off, you wont come away disappointed.

Marie Chantal contre Dr. Kha (1965)

Farz (1967)

Country: India.
Director: Ravee Kant Nagaich
Starring: Jeetendra, Babita Kapoor, Aruna Irani, Kanchana, Sajjan, Agha, Manohar Deepak, Mukri, Mohan Choti, V.D. Puranik.
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Choreography: I. Hiralal

Although Farz was among the first Bollywood attempts at making a Bondian spy flick, it was in fact a remake of a Tollywood film called Goodachari 116 (1967). For the un-initiated ‘Tollywood’ can mean two things — either the Telugu-language film industry based in the state of Andhra Pradesh or a film from the the Bengali-language film industry based in Tollygunge of South Kolkata in the state of West Bengal. In this instance I am referring to a film in the Telugu language films. Goodachari 116 starred Krishna Ghattamaneni, or ‘Super Star’ Krishna as he was known. Krishna would later star in James Bond 777, which sort of makes him the leading contender for the title ‘Tollywood Bond’. But if Krishna was ‘Tollywood Bond’, then Jeetendra certainly worked hard at cultivating the title ‘Bollywood Bond’. Remembering that Farz was made in ’67, eighteen years later (in ’85), Jeetendra was still having a crack at the Bollywood Bond style movie, appearing in Bond 303.

Farz opens at a Dam, and three hairy terrorist types pull up in their beaten up car, and park some distance away. One of them sneaks past security and takes care of the sentry with a garotte wire. The two other terrorists start planting some explosives, and connect it all on a long cable back to a detonator/plunger back at the car.

What these bad-ass infiltrators don’t know is that Agent 211081 is on the case. Dressed in a classic grey suit, and sporting sensible, neatly trimmed hair, he casually disarms the explosives and then with a miniature camera — which by today’s high tech standards is not very small — he photographs the bad guys and the numberplate of the getaway car.

The bad guys push the plunger, and much to their surprise the dam does not blow up. Confused, quickly they flee and report back to their boss. Of course, like any incompetent minions, they get slapped around a bit, and then sent back out — this time their mission is to kill Agent 211081.
When we next see 211081 he is arriving home where his sister has been waiting. He apologises for being late, explaining that he had his duty to perform. I could be wrong here, but I think ‘Farz’ translates as ‘Duty’. Outside the bad guys have tracked 211081 to his home and set about planting a bomb in his car.

Next 211081 gets a telephone call from Indian ‘M’ to report to headquarters. Our hero grabs his jacket and heads out to his car. Now the bomb is not one of those turn-the-key, and then ‘BOOM’ ones. This is a start the engine, which starts the timer type of bombs, so 211081 starts the engine and drives off with the bad guys following behind, waiting for and watching their handiwork.
Agent 211081, in his rear vision mirror, realises that he is being followed and suspects something sinister is going on. He veers off the highway and heads down a dead end road. He gets out of the car in just the nick-of-time, as the vehicle blows up. Then the bad guys turn up and a gunfight breaks out. Our hero is not much of a marksman and keeps missing the bad guys. They close in, encircling our hero. Finally, 211081 runs out of bullets and decides to leg it. Outnumbered and surrounded, he is shot in the stomach, but even then he refuses to give up and keeps moving through the trees towards the road. At the roadside, he flags down a passing motorist. The lady behind the wheel gets out of the car holding a flashlight – even though it is daylight. Why? Because she is a villainess and the flashlight really conceals a pop-out blade. She plunges the blade into Agent 211081 and he falls to the ground dead. It appears that Agent 211081 wasn’t the hero of the film after all. And that flashlight scene appears to have been directly lifted from the EuroSpy film, Mission Bloody Mary. The flashlight tricked is used a little later on in the film too, but then it’s night, so it makes a little more sense.

Finally we meet the hero of the film, Gopal, Agent 116 (Jeetendra) and he reports to Indian ‘M’, where he recieves his mission briefing, which as you have no doubt guessed is to replace Agent 211081. One little observation about Indian ‘M’ — by the way his office is decorated it is fair to assume that the man has an obseession with geography and cartography. Behind his desk he has a giant map of India which covers most of the back wall. On the wall to the left of screen there is a large map of the world, and then in the foreground, sitting on his desk is a globe.

Now this is where the film starts, and to be honest, it gets pretty confusing very quickly. This is because there is not too much spying going on, and a lot of heavy family relationship drama going on. Firstly it seems like Gopal has fallen in love with a girl named Sarita (Babika). The thing is that Sarita’s father happens to be head villain. Now there is a lot of suspicion going on here. Is Gopal using Sarita to get to her father. Or is the father using Sarita to get to Gopal. I must admit, I don’t know.

As an adjunct here, just two little observations based on my limited Bollywood viewing. Firstly the head villain is always referred to as ‘Boss’. And secondly, there are always two Bosses. There is the first Boss, who you are supposed to think is the evil mastermind because he is giving all the orders — but half way through the film, as the hero closes in — it is revealed that this first Boss is just an underling to an even bigger and more evil second Boss. Now the way you tell these two Bosses apart is their appearance. First Boss will look normal. He looks like a businessman, albeit and evil business man. The second ‘Head Boss’ – the evil mastermind – will look weird. He will have an eyepatch, or a scar, or even just a downright ugly head.

To complete his assignment, Gopal happens to be given two comic relief sidekicks. One of them is like Lou Costello but with caterpillars for eyebrows, and the other is like Jerry Lewis in Nutty Professor mode. These guys, even without being able to understand the language, are just painful and they get way too much screen time. Gopal just seems to sit back whenever they are on screen and watch their performance with a gormless smile on his dial.

After quite a bit of mundane spying which does very little to advance the story, Boss’ number one henchwoman seduces Gopal with a sweaty dance routine. I don’t mean sweaty, as in watching the routine you’ll break out in a sweat because the dance is so hot – no, the dancer actually has large sweat stains on her back and under her arm pits, which are very noticaeable on the tight fitting orange ensemble that she is wearing. After the dance, she puts a pill in Gopal’s drink. He pretends to drink it (pouring it into a pot plant) and then pretends to pass out.

The bad guys send a fake ambulance to collect Gopal, but as this phony ambulance team are carrying Gopal’s body out to the vehicle, Sarita turns up at his apartment. Seeing her love unconscious, she demands to travel in the ambulance with him. She is allowed to. Gopal is shunted into the back and driven away and pretty soon, as they head out of town, it becomes apparent that they are not taking him to the nearest hospital.

Gopal is in fact taken to a secret cave lair in the forest. Sarita is taken as a prisoner too — despite her father’s position in the evil organisation. All ends well though, because Gopal is only playing possum and shoots up the place and rescues Sarita.

There’s still plenty of action (I use the word loosely) and twists to come in the story, but I’ll leave my feeble synopsis there. All-in-all, I found Farz to be rather flat, and even when there is a good sequence, the material leading up to it and after it are of little consequence. For those who are interested in the musical numbers, well they may be of some merit. There is some nice choreography that integrates traditional Indian moves with ‘the twist’, and during Sarita’s birthday sequence, Jeetendra proves that while he may not be a bone crunching Connery type, he is a passable pelvis grinding Elvis clone.

If you are like me, and taking your first tentative steps towards an understanding of Bollywood films, then I’d suggest Farz is not the film for you. Its pacing and attempts at comedy are quite a hurdle, especially when you’re juggling comprehension with poor picture quality and sound. But having said all that, from a historical point-of-view, it’s a film that may well be worth revisiting once I am more battle-hardened and my knowledge and understanding of Bollywood films has grown.

I wasn’t able to get any screencaps of the VCD set used for this review, so I have borrowed some shots from Keith’s Teleport City review. To read Keith’s review, click here.

Farz (1967)

Farz (1967)

Country: India.
Director: Ravee Kant Nagaich
Starring: Jeetendra, Babita Kapoor, Aruna Irani, Kanchana, Sajjan, Agha, Manohar Deepak, Mukri, Mohan Choti, V.D. Puranik.
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Choreography: I. Hiralal

Although Farz was among the first Bollywood attempts at making a Bondian spy flick, it was in fact a remake of a Tollywood film called Goodachari 116 (1967). For the un-initiated ‘Tollywood’ can mean two things — either the Telugu-language film industry based in the state of Andhra Pradesh or a film from the the Bengali-language film industry based in Tollygunge of South Kolkata in the state of West Bengal. In this instance I am referring to a film in the Telugu language films. Goodachari 116 starred Krishna Ghattamaneni, or ‘Super Star’ Krishna as he was known. Krishna would later star in James Bond 777, which sort of makes him the leading contender for the title ‘Tollywood Bond’. But if Krishna was ‘Tollywood Bond’, then Jeetendra certainly worked hard at cultivating the title ‘Bollywood Bond’. Remembering that Farz was made in ’67, eighteen years later (in ’85), Jeetendra was still having a crack at the Bollywood Bond style movie, appearing in Bond 303.

Farz opens at a Dam, and three hairy terrorist types pull up in their beaten up car, and park some distance away. One of them sneaks past security and takes care of the sentry with a garotte wire. The two other terrorists start planting some explosives, and connect it all on a long cable back to a detonator/plunger back at the car.

What these bad-ass infiltrators don’t know is that Agent 211081 is on the case. Dressed in a classic grey suit, and sporting sensible, neatly trimmed hair, he casually disarms the explosives and then with a miniature camera — which by today’s high tech standards is not very small — he photographs the bad guys and the numberplate of the getaway car.

The bad guys push the plunger, and much to their surprise the dam does not blow up. Confused, quickly they flee and report back to their boss. Of course, like any incompetent minions, they get slapped around a bit, and then sent back out — this time their mission is to kill Agent 211081.
When we next see 211081 he is arriving home where his sister has been waiting. He apologises for being late, explaining that he had his duty to perform. I could be wrong here, but I think ‘Farz’ translates as ‘Duty’. Outside the bad guys have tracked 211081 to his home and set about planting a bomb in his car.

Next 211081 gets a telephone call from Indian ‘M’ to report to headquarters. Our hero grabs his jacket and heads out to his car. Now the bomb is not one of those turn-the-key, and then ‘BOOM’ ones. This is a start the engine, which starts the timer type of bombs, so 211081 starts the engine and drives off with the bad guys following behind, waiting for and watching their handiwork.
Agent 211081, in his rear vision mirror, realises that he is being followed and suspects something sinister is going on. He veers off the highway and heads down a dead end road. He gets out of the car in just the nick-of-time, as the vehicle blows up. Then the bad guys turn up and a gunfight breaks out. Our hero is not much of a marksman and keeps missing the bad guys. They close in, encircling our hero. Finally, 211081 runs out of bullets and decides to leg it. Outnumbered and surrounded, he is shot in the stomach, but even then he refuses to give up and keeps moving through the trees towards the road. At the roadside, he flags down a passing motorist. The lady behind the wheel gets out of the car holding a flashlight – even though it is daylight. Why? Because she is a villainess and the flashlight really conceals a pop-out blade. She plunges the blade into Agent 211081 and he falls to the ground dead. It appears that Agent 211081 wasn’t the hero of the film after all. And that flashlight scene appears to have been directly lifted from the EuroSpy film, Mission Bloody Mary. The flashlight tricked is used a little later on in the film too, but then it’s night, so it makes a little more sense.

Finally we meet the hero of the film, Gopal, Agent 116 (Jeetendra) and he reports to Indian ‘M’, where he recieves his mission briefing, which as you have no doubt guessed is to replace Agent 211081. One little observation about Indian ‘M’ — by the way his office is decorated it is fair to assume that the man has an obseession with geography and cartography. Behind his desk he has a giant map of India which covers most of the back wall. On the wall to the left of screen there is a large map of the world, and then in the foreground, sitting on his desk is a globe.

Now this is where the film starts, and to be honest, it gets pretty confusing very quickly. This is because there is not too much spying going on, and a lot of heavy family relationship drama going on. Firstly it seems like Gopal has fallen in love with a girl named Sarita (Babika). The thing is that Sarita’s father happens to be head villain. Now there is a lot of suspicion going on here. Is Gopal using Sarita to get to her father. Or is the father using Sarita to get to Gopal. I must admit, I don’t know.

As an adjunct here, just two little observations based on my limited Bollywood viewing. Firstly the head villain is always referred to as ‘Boss’. And secondly, there are always two Bosses. There is the first Boss, who you are supposed to think is the evil mastermind because he is giving all the orders — but half way through the film, as the hero closes in — it is revealed that this first Boss is just an underling to an even bigger and more evil second Boss. Now the way you tell these two Bosses apart is their appearance. First Boss will look normal. He looks like a businessman, albeit and evil business man. The second ‘Head Boss’ – the evil mastermind – will look weird. He will have an eyepatch, or a scar, or even just a downright ugly head.

To complete his assignment, Gopal happens to be given two comic relief sidekicks. One of them is like Lou Costello but with caterpillars for eyebrows, and the other is like Jerry Lewis in Nutty Professor mode. These guys, even without being able to understand the language, are just painful and they get way too much screen time. Gopal just seems to sit back whenever they are on screen and watch their performance with a gormless smile on his dial.

After quite a bit of mundane spying which does very little to advance the story, Boss’ number one henchwoman seduces Gopal with a sweaty dance routine. I don’t mean sweaty, as in watching the routine you’ll break out in a sweat because the dance is so hot – no, the dancer actually has large sweat stains on her back and under her arm pits, which are very noticaeable on the tight fitting orange ensemble that she is wearing. After the dance, she puts a pill in Gopal’s drink. He pretends to drink it (pouring it into a pot plant) and then pretends to pass out.

The bad guys send a fake ambulance to collect Gopal, but as this phony ambulance team are carrying Gopal’s body out to the vehicle, Sarita turns up at his apartment. Seeing her love unconscious, she demands to travel in the ambulance with him. She is allowed to. Gopal is shunted into the back and driven away and pretty soon, as they head out of town, it becomes apparent that they are not taking him to the nearest hospital.

Gopal is in fact taken to a secret cave lair in the forest. Sarita is taken as a prisoner too — despite her father’s position in the evil organisation. All ends well though, because Gopal is only playing possum and shoots up the place and rescues Sarita.

There’s still plenty of action (I use the word loosely) and twists to come in the story, but I’ll leave my feeble synopsis there. All-in-all, I found Farz to be rather flat, and even when there is a good sequence, the material leading up to it and after it are of little consequence. For those who are interested in the musical numbers, well they may be of some merit. There is some nice choreography that integrates traditional Indian moves with ‘the twist’, and during Sarita’s birthday sequence, Jeetendra proves that while he may not be a bone crunching Connery type, he is a passable pelvis grinding Elvis clone.

If you are like me, and taking your first tentative steps towards an understanding of Bollywood films, then I’d suggest Farz is not the film for you. Its pacing and attempts at comedy are quite a hurdle, especially when you’re juggling comprehension with poor picture quality and sound. But having said all that, from a historical point-of-view, it’s a film that may well be worth revisiting once I am more battle-hardened and my knowledge and understanding of Bollywood films has grown.

I wasn’t able to get any screencaps of the VCD set used for this review, so I have borrowed some shots from Keith’s Teleport City review. To read Keith’s review, click here.

Farz (1967)