Original Title: Coplan FX-18 Casse Tout
AKA: Agent 077 Summergame, Agent 777 Mission Summergame, The Exterminators, Coplan FX 18
Country: France / Italy
Director: Riccardo Freda
Starring: Richard Wyler, Robert Manuel, Jany Clair, Valeria Ciangottini, Maria-Rosa Rodriguez
Music: Michel Magne
To confuse things, a lot of Eurospy movies called them self ‘077’ movies, but in reality there are only three official movies in the series, and they all feature Ken Clark as Dick Malloy Agent 077. So FX-18 Superspy, even though it is sometimes called Agent 077 Summergame isn’t an official ‘077’ film, but it is an official entry in the Coplan series. The series consists of six films: To Catch a Spy (1957), Coplan Agent Secret FX 18 (1964), Coplan prend des risques (1964), FX-18 Superspy (1965), Mexican Slay Ride (1966), Coplan Saves His Skin (1968).
In this film, Francis Coplan is played by Richard Wyler. Wyler has a fine spy pedigree appearing in the TV series Man From Interpol, and the films Dick Smart 2.007 and The Girl From Rio. I even recall him turning up in a role from The Return of the Saint.
As the film opens, Coplan is in a nightclub in Istanbul, and an exotic dancer is performing a semi-strip routine. As she dances through the crowd to Coplan, she passes him a rose, and then moves on. Written on the inside of one of the petals, is the name of the man who is Coplan’s target tonight – you see, he is here for a bit of wet-work. There’s nothing subtle about Coplan – at least in the manner that Wyler plays him. In fact he is a ruthless bastard. Before the end of the film, not only will he shoot his target for this evening (which I’ll talk about in a moment), he also stubs out a cigarette on a minions hand, drowns another minion in a hand basin, and orders his assistant to shoot at point-blank range, a man he has pinned to a wall. Coplan is not a gentleman spy – but a cold-hearted professional.
Back to the film: the dancer continues her performance, and Coplan draws his pistol (with silencer) under the cover of the table cloth. The tempo of the dancing and the music increase. As the music is reaching its crescendo, Coplan takes aim and fires at a waiter – just as he has popped the cork on a bottle of Champagne (or is that Methode Champenoise now?)
After the victim falls, Coplan rushes to the man’s side pretending to be a doctor – but in fact he is secretly searching the man’s pockets. He finds a notebook which he discretely tucks away. Later, back in his hotel room, he goes through the pages and finds a note written in code. It only takes Coplan seconds to crack it (later he tells a girl it was very difficult to crack – I am not sure if he was being facetious, or it was a clumsy plot point. Wyler is not too good with the jokes). The code steers him in the direction of a delivery truck that travels from Istanbul, through Athens and then finally to Paris.
As this van traverses its route, a light plane flies overhead. It’s enough to give the guard in the back of the truck the heebee geebies, and he draws a machine gun and starts firing away. Of course, Coplan is flying the plane, and somehow he returns fire. I couldn’t tell how on the print I was watching. The plane didn’t appear to have machine guns, so I guess, Coplan just fired a few shots from his pistol out of the window as he flew by. He kills the guard. What a marksman! Then, and you’ve got to see this to believe it, Coplan lands his plane on the roof of the moving truck. This isn’t a semi-trailer or anything like that – just an ordinary truck, but he manages to land smack dab on top of the vehicle. Then he leaps out of the plane, just as it is shaken loose, falling beside on the road in a bright orange fireball. Coplan scampers across the roof; leaps through the passenger side window; clobbers the driver; and then takes control of the truck and brings it to a halt.
Coplan gets out of the cab and inspects the cargo. Inside one of the crates he finds the dead body of Professor Herman Boltz. Professor Boltz and his partner, Professor Bruno Schwartz, were actively engaged in building a French rocket. Now Boltz is dead (he went missing in Rome we are told), and Schwartz is missing – kidnapped in Paris.
Coplan is assigned to find Professor Schwartz, and he is partnered with two agents from the Israeli Intelligence Service – Gelda Lieber (Valeria Ciangottini) and Shaimoun (Gil Delamare). The Israeli theory is that the Egyptians are up to no good, and are attempting to build their own rocket. In Paris, Gelda makes contact with some men who she thinks can lead her in the right direction. And she is correct, but instead they kidnap her, torture her and then kill her. But before she died, she somehow managed to leave a message on her baby doll. It’s one of those ones, that you pull a string at the back and it talks. Coplan and Shaimoun retrieve the doll, and the message from Gelda sends then onto the next leg of the mission in Istanbul.
Earlier I mentioned that it was hard to tell when Wyler as Coplan was serious or not (and that may have something to do with the dub too). But that would be the major flaw with this film. It lacks a sense of humour except in the general conceit of its story, which like many films of its ilk, is pretty goofy. Despite this goofiness, the story is played stoney cold straight – not that I expect, or even want, a smirk with every incident that occurs – but hey, when you’ve got your hero strapped to a nose cone of a rocket that is aimed at the heart of New york, well you’d like to think that the actors realised that this was all in fun…Coplan FX-18 Superspy never acknowledges that absurdity.
But still, this film is a pretty spirited adventure with a certain amount of style. It features decent action and stunt sequences – a standout being a chase where Coplan on motorcycle chase some minions in a red sports-car. There is practically no rear projection or models – so most of the action is happening in front of the camera – so a reasonable budget was allocated to this film. As with so many Eurospy films, it cannot compete with James Bond for spectacular action set-pieces – but the film features enough moments of originality to ensure that it is not just another Bond knockoff.