Il Marchio Di Kriminal (1967)

Country: Italy / Spain
Directors: Fernando Cerchio, Nando Cicero
Starring: Glenn Saxson, Helga Line, Andrea Bosic, Frank Oliver, Tomas Pico, Evi Rigano
Music: Manuel Parada

Il Marchio Di Kriminal is much lighter in tone than it’s predecessor, and the plot is a little more straight forward. But, it is still fine, good old fashioned entertainment.

Kriminal (Glenn Saxon) is back and operating in London, but Inspector Milton (Andrea Bosic) of Scotland Yard believes the fiend is still locked up in a prison in Istanbul. In fact, Kriminal is now working as the director of Villa Serena, which is a nursing home for old widows. The film starts with Kriminal, dressed in full skeleton kit entering through the outside window, into one of the rooms of one of the ladies in his care, Ethel Smith. Ethel awakens, sees Kriminal standing above her, and then has a heart attack and dies.

As Ethel had no kin, the life insurance is paid out to Villa Serena (and Kriminal). After the funeral Kriminal goes through Ethel’s belongings. One item is a little blue Buddha statuette. Kriminal’s gorgeous accomplice, Janet (Evi Rigano) clumsily drops the statue and it breaks open. Inside is a quarter of a map, showing the location to two stolen paintings (by Goya and Rembrandt).

Kriminal estimates the paintings to be valued in the millions of dollars, and as such it seems like a worthy project and worth his attention. But the catch is, that the other three portions of the map are hidden in three identical blue Buddha statues.

Kriminal tracks one of the statues down to an auction house, but he is too late. The hammer had just fallen and the statuette has been bought. Adding insult to injury, the winning bidder is the fiancée of Inspector Milton, and she intends to turn it over to him as a wedding gift.

Another Buddha belongs to a German art collector named Von Beck (Ugo Sasso/Hugo Arden). Kriminal dons the skeleton suit and heads to Von Beck’s home, only to find that someone has beaten him to the punch. Von Beck is lying on the floor with a knife in his belly and the Statue is gone. Naturally enough, Kriminal gets the blame for the murder – but that’s what happens when you wander around dressed as a skeleton – people just believe you’re up to no good.

After his failure to retrieve Von Beck’s Buddha, Kriminal goes after Milton’s. Disguised, Kriminal poses as a guest at Milton’s wedding and swipes the statuette from the gift table. In it’s place though, Kriminal leaves a ‘special’ gift for Milton. The gift happens to be a spring loaded gun, that fires when the gift box is opened. The shot misses, but the gift alerts Milton to the fact that Kriminal may be at large. He runs out of his wedding and after a little investigating, makes his way to Istanbul to check if the authorities really have their man.

Now that Kriminal has two pieces of the map, Janet tries a little bit of treachery. Kriminal is wise to the event, and runs Janet a nice hot bath – unfortunately, the water has an electrical charge running through it. Alone, Kriminal next follows his next clue to Madrid, and to a Flamenco dancer named Mara Gitan (Helga Liné). You probably remember, Liné was in the first Kriminal film, but here she is playing a different character.

Kriminal and Gitan agree to team up and find the forth missing piece of the map. She believes it is in Lebanon, and they both agree to take a boat trip there. Naturally, Gitan double crosses Kriminal, but he was ready for that. And as she has never actually seen Krimal’s face, her attempt isn’t too successful. It’s hard to double cross someone when you don’t know what they look like!

Saxon is great as Kriminal. He has the looks to convey the sophisticated gentleman traveller, but he also has an evil glint in his eye, maybe even a furrowed brow, which indicate that there is more to this character than we are seeing. Andrea Bosic doesn’t have quite as much to do as Milton this time around, and Helga Liné is just plain gorgeous. As with the first film, the globe trotting locations and scenery are excellent, especially in Baalbeck amongst the ancient ruins. Manuel Parada’s music is light and swingin’ and really suits the film. As I mentioned at the top, this is a lighter Kriminal, but that doesn’t mean this film should be dismissed as being inferior to it’s predecessor. If you enjoyed the first, then I am sure you will enjoy this second outing for our skeleton suited anti hero.

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

Il Marchio Di Kriminal (1967)

Kriminal (1966)

Country: Italy
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Glenn Saxson, Helga Line, Andrea Bosic, Ivano Staccioli, Esmeralda Ruspoli, Dante Posani, Franco Fantasia, Susan Baker
Music: Raymond Full, Roberto Pregadio

The character Kriminal has a rich history, which is a bit out of my depth to discuss at length. Put simply, Kriminal began in a series of adult comic books (called Fumetti) in Italy. The success of the comics lead to two Kriminal movies, made in the mid sixties and starring Glenn Saxon as the titular hero.

The film opens in London. A man is being lead to the gallows. The man is ‘Kriminal’ – an evil genius. He is to be executed for the theft of the Crown of England. Kriminal mounts the scaffold, and the noose is slipped around his neck. At the last second, before Kriminal swings, the lights go out and the rope breaks. In the confusion Kriminal escapes.

The escape had been carefully planned down to the last detail. But not by Kriminal though. It was the police that allowed Kriminal to escape. Why? Because the Crown has not been recovered. If Kriminal had died, the secret location would have died with him. Instead, the police have secretly positioned officers in cars and on foot to follow the fiend, hopefully to the regal headpiece. But as I mentioned at the top, Kriminal is an evil genius, and it does not take him long to slip through the cordon of officers, leaving Scotland Yard with egg on their face and a lot of explaining to do.

Taunting the police further, Kriminal returns the crown, letting everybody know that it is a goodwill gesture on his behalf, rather than the tactics or investigation skills of the police that have returned this priceless artifact.

Now free from the shackles of imprisonment, Kriminal can return to his old ways, and when committing a crime, this involves wearing a full body skeleton suit. It’s a pretty threatening ensemble, but you could only get away with wearing it in the sixties. No modern evil mastermind would be seen dead wearing it. When we next see Kriminal he’s in his suit and breaking into a ladies bedroom. When he flicks on the light the lady awakens, and then confronted by Kriminal, she screams. As she does, he takes off his mask. She recognises his face and stops screaming. Her name is Margie Swan and she used to be married to the man standing in front of her. And all that time she never knew she was married to an uber fiend. But that is all in the past. Margie is all set to remarry a rich man. She now works for the Tradex Diamond Company and her new love, is her bosses son. But Kriminal isn’t interested in Margie’s love life. He’s interested in Tradex’s next big shipment of diamonds from London to Istanbul.

The thing about masked fumetti characters like Kriminal or Diabolik, is while they are criminals themselves, their actions tend to take down people and crime syndicate’s that are worse. The regular criminals have no code of honour, or worse still, pretend to be upright citizens. Kriminal’s skeleton suit says to the world, ‘look out’, I am a bad person, ‘stay out of my way’. But criminals who do not wear are costume are hypocrites who want things both ways. They want there ill gotten gain, but they also want to be accepted and fit into society. That’s exactly what happens in this film. Kriminal attempts to steal some diamonds, but finds that they have already been stolen. But of course, he gets the blame for the theft, while the perpetrators get off scott free. But Kriminal is an evil doer of the highest order, so naturally he seeks retribution.

Kriminal is an interesting film. It’s fun in a glossy sixties jet-setting fashion, but there are a few ‘evil’ moments. Generally, the nasty things happen to people who deserve the atrocities, but a couple of innocents get caught along the way. It’s this subversive or slightly malevolent tone that may put a few people off this movie. But mostly it’s cartoon mayhem, with a dash of sixties glamour.

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

Kriminal (1966)

Mission Bloody Mary (1965)

AKA Agent 077 Mission Bloody Mary
Operation Blue Lotus
Directed by Terrence Hathaway (Sergio Grieco)
Ken Clark, Mitsouko, Philippe Hersent, Helga Liné
Music by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino

Mission Bloody Mary is one of the best entries in the Eurospy genre. Ken Clark is Dick Malloy, Agent 077, on the trail of The Black Lotus, an evil organisation who have stolen a nuclear warhead. Sure, the film borrows heavily from Thunderball and even From Russia With Love but is done fairly slickly and paced so rapidly, you don’t have time to notice the holes in the plot.

Let’s look at the holey plot. It’s an absolutely miserable night. As the rain teems down a military jeep makes it’s way toward the Strategic Air Command base in Coatbridge (near Glasgow) A loan airforce officer is driving. As he approaches the base, a young lady, Kuan (Mitsouko), all dressed in red and soaked to the skin, flags him down. Her car has broken down. He offers assistance (who wouldn’t?) For his trouble he ends up with a knife in his belly. Two other men emerge from the shadows. One on them dons an airforce uniform and takes the officers place behind the wheel. He proceeds to the base and past the sentries.

The movie cuts to a montage of newspapers from around the world. Each proclaims that a U.S. aircraft carrying nuclear warheads has crashed in France. In Washington intelligence chiefs have gathered and are discussing the incident. The plane was carrying a new nuclear weapon, the B-32, also known as ‘The Bloody Mary’. When the crash site was examined, the weapon was gone. It is agreed the weapon has be recovered discreetly. The head of the C.I.A., Mr. Heston (Philippe Hersent)assigns his best agent, Dick Malloy. Agent 077 (Ken Clark). Clark is a big hairy mountain of a man, which is a bit of a plus. When he gets into a fist-fight (which happens quite a bit), you can actually believe if he hit you, it would hurt. On the negative side (and this might just be the dubbing), he doesn’t seem too bright. He walks into a lot of traps set by the enemy.

When we first meet Malloy, he is entertaining a young lady. Barely dressed, they are rolling around on the bed, drinking champagne, and listening Nat King Cole records (well that’s the record sleeve beside the player – although it sounds remarkably like an instrumental of the title tune). His nocturnal activities are disrupted when he is called into the office. In the best sense of sixties style and fashion, Malloy slips on a snazzy red turtleneck (and trousers) and heads into the office.

His briefing takes place on the target range, where he is being fitted with a new range of weapons. Heston explains that The Black Lily, an evil organisation, is behind the theft of The Bloody Mary. Their headquarters are in France at the Betz Clinique. Malloy’s contact there will be Dr. Freeman. And in the best tradition of spy movies, there is a code phrase that Malloy will use to identify himself: ‘I am an old friend from San Francisco’.

Sooner rather than later, Malloy turns up at the Betz Clinique and makes his pre-arranged rendezvous with Dr. Freeman. Malloy is delighted to find out that Dr. Freeman is in a fact Elsa Freeman (Helga Liné), a woman.

Mission Bloody Mary has some good scenes. There’s a roof top gun battle, a sequence on a train (what good spy film doesn’t have a train scene?), a barroom brawl, and a stoush in the cargo hold of a ship. And there’s the usual double crossing, and false identities that you’d expect in a spy film. The movie also features a good musical score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. It’s a brassy trumpet sound, which at times seems like it would be better suited to a Spaghetti Western than a spy film. But all in all, this is a pretty good Eurospy package.

It is not my policy to endorse any particular company or product, but if you are searching for a copy of this film, rather than scouring the grey market, Dorado Films Inc, in the United States have released a nice clean copy on DVD.

For other Dick Malloy, Agent 077 films, see also:
From The Orient With Fury
Special Mission Lady Chaplin

Mission Bloody Mary (1965)