Circus of Fear (1966)

Director: John Moxley
Starring: Christopher Lee, Margaret Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Suzy Kendall, Cecil Parker, Victor Maddern, Maurice Kaufmann
Screenplay: Peter Welbeck
Producer: Harry Alan Towers
Music: Johnny Douglas
AKA: Psycho Circus

What we have in Circus Of Fear is a British (rather than German) Edgar Wallace Krimi, albeit with a rather ‘International’ cast so it can travel over borders quite effectively. It also has a quite effective story line – I never knew where it was heading. Sure there are plenty of hints, and you can guess where each story thread may be leading, bot how do they all tie up together?

The film opens in London, and on a nice big widescreen closeup of Klaus Kinski’s head. Klaus is standing on a dock overlooking the Thames. But he isn’t the only suspicious character loitering around. There are quite a few suspicious characters – there’s two on a boat, there’s a few in a car, and another two men standing by a bridge with stockings over their heads. I realise this is swingin’ sixties London, baby, but I don’t think these guys are dressed like this because they’re swingers! It looks like some kind of heist is going down.

It doesn’t take long for the object of everyone’s attention to appear on the screen. It’s a small armoured van carrying a shit load of cash (er, for those confused by my terminology, a ‘shit load’ is an Australian collective noun… It can be used for almost anything, but most often to describe a large amount of money and when purchasing dim sims – but I digress). As the van and escort vehicle pull up at the bridge, the two gents in stockings make short work of the guards. This is because one of the guards, Mason, is in on the gig. However, unlike the other crooks, Mason isn’t a professional and he panics. He draws a pistol and shoots one of the other guards. The heist has now gone from being a simple robbery to now, MURDER!

Meanwhile Klaus has gone from loitering with intent, to completing a bit of nasty work himself. He sneaks up on the fellow in charge of raising and lowering The London Bridge and clocks him over the head. Now in charge, Klaus raises the bridge. The other cohorts are now on the bridge and are tying a rope to the railing and attaching the other end to a boat waiting on the river below. Attaching rings to the sacks of cash, they slide their ill gotten gain down to the boat. Then the criminals follow suit, crawling down to the boat. As the police flood into the area, the perpetrators make their getaway slowly cruising down the Thames.

Once in the clear they all assemble at a warehouse. Mason, after his indiscretion is given his share of the loot, and the unseen boss man’s loot too. Mason has to meet the boss outside the city in a place called ‘The Old Farm’ at Inglemere. The other cohorts load a van up with the remaining cash an drive off. Unfortunately for them, the police receive an anonymous tip off revealing the route they’ll be taking and the vehicle licence plate. This results in a car chase, with the perpetrators eventually being run off the road.

This leaves Mason as the only man with any of the cash, and he arrives at his destination at The Old Farm. For his trouble, he ends up with a knife in his back. Now this is where the films changes tone. Inglemere also happens to be the winter location for Barbarini’s Circus. Immediately we are introduced to a new set of disparate characters. Firstly there is Barbarini who runs the circus. Then there’s Gregor (Christopher Lee). Gregor, some years back had a horrible accident and now always wears a black hooded mask. Hi is also the custodian of his neice, Natasha (Suzy Kendall) Then we have Gina (Margaret Lee) who performs a knife act with her insanely jealous boyfriend Mario, who, as you’ve guessed is a knife thrower. Next you’ve got Karl (Heinz Drache), who is the ringmaster.

Now it’s pretty obvious that someone associated with the circus has had a part in the robbery, but of course that isn’t revealed. But it’s not before long and some of the stolen money starts to surface. All the banks in the area have been notified of the serial numbers of the stolen money, and when some turns up, passed by Barbarini, Police Inspector Elliot (Leo Genn) is called in to investigate.

It’s not the purpose of this website to act as a shill for any particular video or DVD company, but if you are going to watch Circus Of Fear (or any of the other names this film has travelled under), then do yourself the favour and obtain the Blue Underground version – Previous versions have been severely truncated – in America the film was originally released at 61 minutes long and in black and white – needless to say, this will not do the film justice. Get the full version and enjoy the film for what it is – and that’s a hugely entertaining thriller with a great cast.

Circus of Fear (1966)

The Bloody Hands of the Law (1973)

Original Title: La mano spietata della legge
Director: Mario Gariazzo
Starring: Philippe Leroy, Klaus Kinski, Cyril Cusack, Tony Norton, Silvia Monti, Fausto Tozzi, Pia Giancaro, Lincoln Tate, Rosario Borelli
Music: Stelvio Cipriani

The film opens at an airport. A professional hitman, Joe Gambino (Lincoln Tate) has flown in. He meets with another hood, Salvatore Perrone (Rosario Berelli), and together they go an assassinate and old guy lying in a heavily guarded room in a hospital. The hit goes like clockwork, and Gambino returns from whence he came.

Unfortunately for our two killers, a girl at a counter at the airport noticed Gambino as he came in. Equally unfortunate, the two killers noticed her, noticing them. Once an identikit photo of Gambino is splashed all over the newspapers, the criminal organisation behind the hit, decree that the girl should be silenced.

The task of killing the girl falls on Vito Quattroni, played by Klaus Kinski. Kinski looks very dapper in this role. He wears nice suits and a slick pair of sunglasses. As with most of Kinski’s performances, there is something creepy about it. This is amplified by the fact that he doesn’t speak throughout the film.

Quattroni does what he is paid to do. He arranges to have the key stolen to the girls apartment, so he can wait for her return. Quattroni isn’t even perturbed when she turns up with her boyfriend. He kills her and then stabs the boyfriend in the back. All without a flicker of emotion.

All this criminal activity is assigned to Detective DeCarmine (Philippe Leroy). Leroy has all the best clichéd dialogue. He is a cop from the Maurizio Merli, Franco Nero school. That is to say, he is doggedly determined to fight crime, no matter what methods are required to obtain results. Of course this brings him into conflict with his superiors. You know the score. Here the difference is that Leroy doesn’t have the ‘golden boy’ looks of some of the other stalwarts of the Eurocrime genre. He is not a gorgeous avenging angel. He is a bit older, his hair is thinning and his face is gaunt. He looks like he really has spent his time on the bricks.

After a few more witnesses and suspects die, DeCarmine’s superior’s allow him to use some more aggressive methods for tracking down the ringleaders of this current crime wave. This leads to some good old fashioned interrogation scenes, with bright lights and suspects chained to their seats, while DeCarmine beats the living shit out of them. Eventually, along with some furniture and a few skulls, DeCarmine starts to break the case. One lead, leads into another and so forth.

The Bloody Hands Of The Law is a half decent Eurocrime feature. It doesn’t have the flair of some of the ones that were made in the mid seventies, but all of the pre-requisite Dirty Harry inspired clichés are here. What stops this from being a great Eurocrime film is the repetition in the second half. Once DeCarmine’s shackles are removed and he can go about the case his way, it is almost a foregone conclusion that he’ll break the crime ring. But we see one beating after another, and it all becomes mind-numblingly the same.

The Bloody Hands of the Law (1973)

Coplan Saves His Skin (1968)

Original title: Coplan sauve sa peau
AKA: Devil’s Garden / Requiem for a Snake
Country: France / Italy
Director: Yves Boisset
Starring: Claudio Brook, Margaret Lee, Jean Servais, Bernard Blier, Jean Topart, Hans Meyer, Klaus Kinski
Music: Jean-Claude Pelletier
Based on the book Coplan Paie le Cercueil by Paul Kenny

Coplan Saves his Skin is the first film I have watched in the Coplan series. I do have a copy of an earlier entry FX-18 Superspy directed by Riccardo Freda, but the print is so diabolical even I couldn’t watch it. It looked like a polar bear in a snow storm, rather than the beautiful glossy colours I know the film proper has. So I tossed that to one side waiting for the day when a better print surfaces (it’s been a long wait). But while I wait, Coplan Saves his Skin has landed in my lap.

Now this is one of the very few titles not covered in the indispensable Eurospy Guide — notice whenever I refer to ‘The Guide’, I always describe it as the ‘indispensable’ Eurospy Guide — and that’s because if you are spy film fan, you cannot do without this book. I remember when this book came out five years ago (that long ago, huh!). I used to scrounge around trying to find movies from just one or two grey market dealers. I didn’t really know how much was out there. I knew that there were spy films that I wanted to see, but I didn’t know their names — after all these films go by so many titles. As for series, it was almost impossible to link up films. For example, above I mentioned FX-18 Superspy — in some markets it was released as Agent 077 Summergame. I thought it was a part of the 077 series, where in reality it is a Coplan film. Even IMDb wasn’t much help back then — if you were lucky you could find a title, but there was no cast and crew information. But then the Eurospy Guide appeared, and suddenly everything changed. Films had names. Series could be traced, and even better, the flow on effect is now these films are slowly being released. Companies like Dorado, Fin de Siecle, Dark Sky, and Retromedia started releasing some of these films. And also fan projects are being put together by eager Eurospy fans, keen to fill in the blanks — which is fantastic (and I my thanks sincerely goes out to those who put in the hours to redub, or subtitle some of these films. Your work is appreciated).

The fact that I can watch a version of Coplan Saves his Skin, where as at the time of writing David and Matt (the author’s of The Eurospy Guide) couldn’t, says a lot about how things have changed. But onwards.

Often when I look at Eurospy films you will read the term ‘James Bond ripoff’. And on the whole that is true, particularly of the Italian films. But the French films often owed a great debt to Alfred Hitchcock. The French New Wave loved Hitchcock, and you’ve got to remember that after North By Northwest, they wanted Alfred Hitchcock to direct the first Bond film, Thunderball (for those who are unsure about what I am referring to, should check out Robert Sellers excellent book, The Battle For Bond). Anyway, Hitchcock’s shadow fell over quite a few Eurospy productions, and these films had a slightly more psychological edge to them, rather than the slam-bam action of those films which relied solely on the Bond template. Coplan Saves his Skin is heavily influenced by Vertigo (but without the dizzying heights).

The film opens in Istanbul on the streets. A fat, hairy beast of a man, while eating melon, watches a group of street performers go through their routines. There is a man lying on a bed of nails, a fire eater, and even a dancing bear. At that moment, world renowned scientist, Otto Eisner walks by, accompanied by his assistant Mara (Margaret Lee). The hairy beast begins to follow them, sneaks up and stabs Eisner. Then he runs off. Rather foolishly, Mara chooses to follow him. This doesn’t last too long because the hairy beast signals to another guy, and he begins to chase Mara. I don’t know why the hairy beast didn’t just stab Mara too, but what the heck, let’s just go with it!

This new minion chases Mara all over Istanbul, which is a great opportunity to show off some great location photography (got to get that ferry in there somewhere). Eventually she loses her tail and makes her way to some kind of public house. Waiting there for her is Francis Coplan (Claudio Brook). He has travelled half way across the world to be there. The back story is that three years prior, in Acapulco, Mara and Coplan used to be lovers. Then one day she disappeared without a word, leaving him heart broken. Now all these years later, she contacts him. She needs his help because he works for the CIA. He obviously still holds a torch for her, because he turned up. He presents her with a red rose.

Not one to waste time, Mara explains that an organisation called the ‘Consortium of Brains’ are trying to kill her. Apparently the ‘Consortium’ aren’t evil men — they work for the betterment of mankind — but still, they want her dead. It never is really explained why.

Later as Coplan and Mara walk in a garden, they are attacked by a group of thugs dressed in black. One of them is the hairy beast and he goes after Mara, while the others beat up on Coplan. Mara tries to fight back and slings candle wax into the beasts face – he goes berserk (ends up facially scarred) and appears to repeatedly stab her. Appears? Well his bulk hides the action, and it’s hard to tell what he has in his hand. It appears to be a knife, but who knows?

Coplan slowly regains consciousness on a pebble beach. He is pretty smashed up, and has a serious knife wound on his left arm. He is found by a girl named Yasmine who arranges help. Once Coplan is healed, Lieutenant Sakki of the Emniyet (Turkish Secret Police) wants him to leave the country. Of course Coplan doesn’t and begins a search for Mara (and/or her killers).

Most Eurospy films feature the same old cliches. They often start with a brilliant scientist killed or kidnapped. Then the beautiful daughter or assistant becomes tangled up in the investigation with the dashing secret agent. As this film begins, all those cliches are present which tend to indicate that this is going to be another formulaic Eurospy flick (and hey, I’m happy with that!) But then in the middle, this film becomes a little bit eery as Coplan’s search for Mara becomes more obsessive and the film subtly shifts towards being a psychological drama. And while I do love the corny Eurospy tropes, I thought that Coplan Saves his Skin was striving to be a bit more than that. The cliches are here, but there also something fresh and atmospheric (albeit lifted from Vertigo). Coplan Saves his Skin is one of the more affecting Eurospy films. People who are after empty action thrills may find the going a little slow in the middle, but ultimately for those willing to invest their time will find this film to be a rewarding experience.

Claudio Brook is not your standard square-jawed hero. He is not as handsome and debonair as a Connery, a John Gavin or even a Richard Whyler. And physically, he isn’t as packed as a Ken Clark, Louis Davilla or Brad Harris. Brook is an ‘everyman’, and with the psychological approach this film takes, that’s a big plus when it comes to selling the human, obsessive side of the story. And obsessive Francis Coplan is. Even when all the twists have played out (which I wont reveal here), Coplan doesn’t accept it. His mind is singular in it’s desire. If Coplan had been a smarmy, self confident playboy (like Tony Kendall in the Kommissar X films), then all the believability in the character would have gone out the window.

Klaus Kinski give an oddball performance as Theler, who is a sculptor that knows something about Mara’s disappearance. Kinski spends his time surrounded by naked women and nude sculpture. He appears to wander around in a sarong and holds the odd seance. His role (and performance) aren’t pivotal to the story, but it’s always great to see him in this type of flick — and for once he isn’t playing a psycho hitman, which is refreshing.

Hans Meyer, plays Hugo the villain of the piece. He strokes a black cat (I never said this film totally eschews the Bondian stereotypes), and has a leather side plate on the left side of his face to hide horrible facial scarring. He also has a pretty impressive lair, which is a castle located in the Devil’s Valley. Now while Hugo is evil, he is also one of those villains who carries out his scheme in the belief it is for the betterment of all mankind. So he is evil, without being totally evil. The true villainy comes from his number one henchwoman, Carole, you wields a whip. Now she is just plain nuts with a delicious cruel streak. At the climax she is in charge of a manhunt to track Coplan down — it is essentially a variation on the ‘most dangerous game’. The sequence is a bit drawn out — and there is a rather poor sequence with a large spider, but the sensational location footage really makes up for any shortcomings. The ending has a very different feel to most films of it’s type.

I am making this film sound like a masterpiece. it is not, but it is substantially more intelligent than most of the films of it’s ilk, while at the same time presenting all the requisite tropes of the genre.

Coplan Saves His Skin (1968)

Circus Of Fear (1966)

Film GenericWhat we have in Circus Of Fear is a British Edgar Wallace Krimi, albeit with a rather ‘International’ cast so it can travel over borders quite effectively. Also quite effective is the story line which I never guessed where it was heading. Sure there are plenty of hints, and you can guess where each story thread may be leading, but how do they all tie up together?

The film opens in London, and on a nice big widescreen closeup of Klaus Kinski’s head. Klaus is standing on a dock overlooking the Thames. But he isn’t the only suspicious character loitering around. There are quite a few suspicious characters – there’s two on a boat, there’s a few in a car, and another two men standing by a bridge with stockings over their heads. I realise this is swingin’ sixties London, baby, but I don’t think these guys are dressed like this because they’re swingers! It looks like some kind of heist is going down.

It doesn’t take long for the object of everyone’s attention to appear on the screen. It’s a small armoured van carrying a shit load of cash (er, for those confused by my terminology, a ‘shit load’ is an Australian collective noun… It can be used for almost anything, but most often to describe a large amount of money and when purchasing dim sims – but I digress). As the van and escort vehicle pull up at the bridge, the two gents in stockings make short work of the guards. This is because one of the guards, Mason, is in on the gig. However, unlike the other crooks, Mason isn’t a professional and he panics. He draws a pistol and shoots one of the other guards. The heist has now gone from being a simple robbery to now, MURDER!

Meanwhile Klaus has gone from loitering with intent, to completing a bit of nasty work himself. He sneaks up on the fellow in charge of raising and lowering The London Bridge and clocks him over the head. Now in charge, Klaus raises the bridge. The other cohorts are now on the bridge and are tying a rope to the railing and attaching the other end to a boat waiting on the river below. Attaching rings to the sacks of cash, they slide their ill gotten gain down to the boat. Then the criminals follow suit, crawling down to the boat. As the police flood into the area, the perpetrators make their getaway slowly cruising down the Thames.

Once in the clear they all assemble at a warehouse. Mason, after his indiscretion is given his share of the loot, and the unseen boss man’s loot too. Mason has to meet the boss outside the city in a place called ‘The Old Farm’ at Inglemere. The other cohorts load a van up with the remaining cash an drive off. Unfortunately for them, the police receive an anonymous tip off revealing the route they’ll be taking and the vehicle licence plate. This results in a car chase, with the perpetrators eventually being run off the road.

This leaves Mason as the only man with any of the cash, and he arrives at his destination – The Old Farm. For his trouble, he ends up with a knife in his back. Now this is where the films changes tone. Inglemere also happens to be the winter location for Barbarini’s Circus. Immediately we are introduced to a new set of disparate characters. Firstly there is Barbarini (Anthony Newlands) who runs the circus. Then there’s Gregor (Christopher Lee). Gregor, some years back had a horrible accident and now always wears a black hooded mask. He is also the custodian of his neice, Natasha (Suzy Kendall) Then we have Gina (Margaret Lee) who performs a knife act with her insanely jealous boyfriend Mario, who, as you’ve guessed is a knife thrower. Next you’ve got Karl (Heinz Drache), who is the ringmaster. There’s also a malicious midget called Mr. Big, who specialises at listening outside windows.

Now it’s pretty obvious that someone associated with the circus has had a part in the robbery, but of course that isn’t revealed. But it’s not before long and some of the stolen money starts to surface. All the banks in the area have been notified of the serial numbers of the stolen money, and when some turns up, passed by Barbarini, Police Inspector Elliot (Leo Genn) is called in to investigate.

It’s not the purpose of this website to act as a shill for any particular video or DVD company, but if you are going to watch Circus Of Fear (or any of the other names this film has travelled under), then do yourself the favour and obtain the Blue Underground version. Previous versions have been severely truncated – in America the film was originally released at 61 minutes long and in black and white – needless to say, this will not do the film justice. Get the full version and enjoy the film for what it is – and that’s a hugely entertaining thriller with a great cast.

Circus Of Fear (1966)

Target For Killing (1966)

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!

The damsel in distress in Target For Killing is Sandra Perkins (Karin Dor), and we meet her on a plane bound for Montenegro. Behind the curtains a sexy stewardess mixes Miss Perkins a drink, adding something a little extra to the concoction. She brings the drink out and walks down the aisle, but as she is about to hand over the drink, a clumsy man in the seat opposite, stretches out and accidentally knocks the tray and sends the glass flying. The clumsy oath is James Vine (Stewart Granger), who, as we all know dear readers, is a secret agent.

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.

Now why would anybody want to kill a nice girl like Sandra Perkins? Well it appears that in three days, on her twenty-fifth birthday she is set to inherit a filthy amount of money. If she is dead, the money will go to other interested parties. Why is The Giant’s interested in Perkins and the redistribution of the money? Well he’s not actually an evil mastermind. He is evil, but he is not the mastermind. He’s more like a branch manger for an un-named evil organisation. From his Montenegro branch office, which happens to be in a monastery, he performs all sorts of illegal activities. And that’s why James Vine has come to Montenegro. He’s not here to protect Perkins, but is here to track down and shut down The Giant. But back to the point at hand, The Giant has been instructed by his superiors to kill Perkins.

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.

Worth a quick mention is the absolutely fantastic soundtrack by Marcelo Giombini which features a fantastic fuzzy electric guitar. Whenever the story seems to be losing pace and purpose, the guitar kicks in and you just ride with it until the movie finds its feet again.

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.

Target For Killing (1966)

The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967)


AKA: The 1000 Eyes of Su-Muru, The Slaves of Sumuru, Sumuru
Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Starring: Frankie Avalon, George Nader, Shirley Eaton, Wilfred Hyde White, Klaus Kinski, Maria Rohm
Music: Johnny Scott

Director, Lindsay Shonteff is singularly responsible for some of the worst spy films ever made, No 1 Licensed To Love And Kill readily springs to mind. And I am afraid The Million Eyes Of Sumuru does nothing to redeem Shonteff in the ‘million eyes’ of spy movie fans all over the world.

Maybe Shonteff isn’t solely to blame for The Million Eyes Of Sumuru. Producer Harry Alan Towers may have to share some of the burden. He is the man who bought us the sixties, Christopher Lee, series of Fu Manchu films. Some footage from the second Sumuru film (Seven Secrets Of Sumuru – AKA Future Women), featuring Shirley Eaton, mysteriously found its way into The Blood Of Fu Manchu. Apparently Miss Eaton was not happy about it, and who could blame her.

The film opens with a Chinese funeral procession. A group of young men march along behind the coffin, while on the side of the road, a girl watches on. Then we hear a voice-over from Sumuru herself (Shirley Eaton):

’This is the funeral of the richest man in the world…
These are his seventeen sons…
Soon they will share his fate…
Along with all other men who oppose my will…
The eyes of this girl are watching them…
As maybe, some other girl’s eyes are watching you…
I have a million eyes…
For I am Sumuru!’

A bomb goes off as the procession crosses a bridge and the seventeen sons are killed, and the titles roll.

Then we meet Sumuru in the flesh. She lives on an island with her own private army of women. But there is a problem with one of her disciples. One girl, operating out of Rome, has done the unthinkable – she has fallen in love! Sumuru decides to travel to Italy and ‘take care’ of the traitor personally. A voice over provides another piece of Sumuru’s manifesto:

’In the war against mankind, to achieve our aim, a world of peace and beauty ruled by women, we have but one weakness, which must be rooted out and destroyed…Love!’

We see these words put into action, when three women in black bikinis, drown a woman in a white bikini. So much for love!

Still in Rome, next we meet C.I.A. agent Nick West (George Nader). He is greeted by Sir Anthony Baisbrook (Wilfred Hyde-White), who works for H.M.G. (Her Majesty’s Government). It appears that the girl who was killed, is the secretary for the Syronesian Chief Of Security, Colonel Medika (Jon Fong). Sir Anthony seconds West into finding out who the killer is. Along for the ride is Tommy Carter (Frankie Avalon). Carter is not a swinging sixties secret agent. He’s just a spoiled dilettante with too much spare time. You see, his father left him eighteen million dollars – that’d do it!

West meets with Medika and they thrash out the path the investigation will take. But soon after the meeting, Medika is kidnapped by Sumuru’s agents, and West is left to solve the remainder of the puzzle, along with a little help from Carter, of course.

Sometimes when I jot down a synopsis, as I read back, I think ‘that doesn’t sound bad’. And Sumuru, on paper at least, has all the elements to make a great spy film. Unfortunately it is lumbered with poor dialogue, poor cinematography, and generally poor direction. There is an air of cynicism and perversion that pervades the whole film. You would expect a film that features a scantily clad all girl army, to be slightly erotic. Or at least a good perv, but this film features weird camera angles that make beautiful girls look distorted and ugly, and a script that forces them into acts of cruel violence, that make them unappealing. Even taking a feminist view, that it is a film about empowering women is undone by the cruelty.

So begs the question, why watch The Million Eyes Of Sumuru? I would suggest that you don’t, but if you had to, it would be for Shirley Eaton. Eaton was the Golden Girl from Goldfinger and her image, covered in gold paint, is indelibly burnt into the minds of sixties spy fans. Other than that, avoid at all costs.

The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967)

That Man In Istanbul (1965)


Directed by Anthony Isasi
Horst Buchholz, Sylva Koscina, Klaus Kinski, Gustavo Re, Alvaro De Luna, Perrette Pradier, Mario Adorf
Music by Georges Garvarentz

That Man From Istanbul is one of the most accesible and entertaining of the Eurospy films made in the mid sixties. It features Sylva Koscina in a major role. She may barely raise a footnote these days in lists of ‘most popular actresses of all time’ (particularly in Western countries), but in the mid sixties she was on a bit of a roll, starring in Hot Enough For June with Dirk Bogarde, and Deadlier Than The Male with Richard Johnson.

The film opens with a nifty little pre-title sequence where a light aircraft, with two secret agents in it, lands in a paddock in Turkey somewhere. Five cars packed with hoods with stockings over their heads meet the plane. One of the agents from the plane hands over a suitcase with one million dollars in it. The other agent secretly takes photos of the hoods with a camera hidden in his tie-pin. Once the hoods are satisfied that the money is all there, they signal another car. This car contains atomic scientist Professor Pendergast, who has been kidnapped. An exchange is made, and the plane takes off with it’s new passenger. Pendergast looks like he has been drugged or brainwashed. In the backseat of the plane he is sweating and fidgeting. Then he detonates a bomb inside his coat. The plane explodes and crashes.

We skip to Washington D.C. and into a C.I.A. briefing room. A team of agents are watching a report on the crash. X-rays from the bodies at the crash site reveal that the man they believed to be Pendergast was an impostor. The ransom the U.S. had paid was for nothing. As the briefing continues, the President of the U.S.A. phones in and cancels the mission. It seems he wants the affair to be handled through diplomatic channels. This doesn’t please Special Agent Kenny (Sylva Koscina). She sees something in the slides of the crash site, that everyone else has missed. In the background there is car, and in the car is Tony Mescenas (Horst Bucholz). Mescenas is an American who was deported for running a string of gambling houses, extortion rackets. He also ran a kidnapping scam in the past, where he exchanged fake people for his kidnap victims. Kenny doesn’t believe this is a coincidence, but as the President has cancelled the mission, she is forbidden to go to Istanbul.

For our viewing pleasure we are then treated to a colourful animated title sequence with a swinging sixties instrumental over the top. When we return from this interlude we are in Istanbul, introduced via some travelogue shots that look like stock footage. Then we move into Istanbul’s nightlife. Neon lights flicker. Cool jazz plays in the background. And Mescenas is cruising through the streets in his red E-type Jaguar, being discretely followed by the police. Mescenas stops outside a club which he runs with two colleagues. The first is ‘Brain’ (Gustavo Re), who has a photographic memory for facts, and the second is Bogo (Alvaro De Luna), who is more of your garden variety minion. He does all the dirty jobs.

Mescenas enters the club, which on the surface appears to be an average Turkish nightclub with belly dancers writhing on stage. But underneath this club is another club. An illegal casino in fact. Mescenas takes a secret elevator down to the casino and alerts the patrons that they are about to be raided be the police. It seems the tail on Mescenas wasn’t that discrete after all. But don’t panic, Mescenas has the place wired up electronically, and all the gaming tables disappear into the floor and the walls. The police raid the club, but instead of finding an illegal casino, they find Bogo treating the guests to a magic show. It seems like Mescenas ruse has worked. Well almost! A drunk starts demanding for his chips to be cashed. Mescenas can’t pay him without giving the game away. So what does he do? He starts a fight. Within seconds a bar room brawl erupts, the type usually found in western movies. But hey, after all this is a Horst Bucholz movie. Horst who, I hear you ask? Horst Bucholz is one of the two actors from The Magnificent Seven that nobody remembers. He played Chico, the Mexican peasant who wanted to be a gunfighter, …but back to the story.

Of course, Agent Kenny has defied orders and is in Istanbul, and in Mescenas’ club. As Mescenas, Brain and Bogo are regrouping after the police raid, Kenny approaches them and asks for a job. Mescenas’ interview technique is not politically correct by today’s standards. He asks Kenny to strip. She disrobes down to her underwear. Mescenas pretends not to be interested, but when the subject is as attractive as Ms Koscina a side glance is forgivable. Kenny gets the job, but doing what?

The next day Kenny is snooping around some of the locations from the photos in the C.I.A. briefing. One of these locations is a cemetery and mausoleum were the plane crash victims were interred. It is the last place were the missing tie-clip camera was seen. As she searches, she is accosted by the Chinese grounds keeper, but proves herself adept at judo, and acquits herself quite nicely, thank you. As she leaves the cemetery Mescenas picks her up for work. It’s obvious he has been following her. Her job? I’m not really sure what it is. It appears to be travelling around the sites of Istanbul and looking glamorous. She does it well.

As they look over the city from the spire of a mosque, Mescenas tells her that he knows she is a spy. Why is she interested in him? Kenny is a fairly trusting agent, and tells Mescenas the whole story about Pendergast kidnapping. Mescenas pleads his innocence and Kenny believes him. Then Kenny tries to convince him to help her track down the true perpetrators. But after being deported from the U.S., Mescenas isn’t too keen on helping Uncle Sam. Mescenas may not be patriotic but he is greedy, and when Kenny tells him of the million dollars ransom that was paid to free Pendergast, his eyes light up. Welcome on board.

Their first lead is to track down the Chinese grounds keeper who attacked Kenny at the cemetery. His information leads Mescenas to the Chinese Embassy. It appears that though the Chinese did not kidnap Pendergast, they are interested in tracking him down for themselves. After all an Atomic Scientist is a valuable commodity. But the Chinese do have the tie-clip camera hidden in a safe at the Embassy. With stealth and the odd bit of brutality Mescenas breaks into the safe and retrieves the camera. His escape, however is not so easy. First he leaps through one window, crashes through another into a bedroom. Then somehow ends up in the sewer system. So it doesn’t make sense, but that is part of it’s charm.

From the photos in the clip, Brain recognises one of the extortionists, the man with the steel hand, Hansie (Gérard Tichy). Well it’s not really a steel hand, it’s more of a steel stump or dome. He lives in a boarding house down by the waterfront, where all riff-raff in this type of film live. Mescenas follows Hansie as he leaves the house, but Hansie realises he is being followed and sets out to trap Mescenas. Hansie starts to ascend a tall mosque spire with a spiral staircase. Mescenas follows. At the top on the balcony, Hansie gets the drop on his pursuer. A fight breaks out but Hansie has a slight advantage. From his steel hand a knife juts out. Mescenas is thrown over the side surely to his death. But no, he catches a rope and slides down to the next level. Mescenas rushes back up the stairs and gives Hansie a beating. Hansie is about to talk when he is shot from below, by one of his accomplices. From Hansie’s dead body, Mescenas picks up the small hearing aid from the ear. It is not a hearing aid at all but a communication device. Mescenas hears the plans for the extortionists to meet at the coast road. In his red Jag, he makes his way there. It’s another trap. The extortionists knew he’d be listening and try to run him off the cliff top road. He gets past one vehicle but is not prepared for being rammed by an army truck. Mescenas’ sports car flies through the protective barriers by the side of the road and down the cliff.

In what really is a ‘cliff-hanger’, Mescenas leaps onto the back of the army truck as it collides with the Jag and hitches a ride. Meanwhile down the road, armed with high powered binoculars, the Chinese are watching. They have been following Mescenas, hoping he will lead them to Pendergast. They follow the army truck.

The truck stops in an underground carpark, and Mescenas starts snooping about. Inadvertently he sets off a silent alarm and the extortionists are alerted to his presence. Luckily for Mescenas, at this time the Chinese arrive and enter into a shootout with the extortionists. While all the shooting is going on the leaders of the extortion group sneak Pendergast out in an ambulance. Mescenas waits behind some crates till the shootout is over and then snoops around a bit more. In a back room he finds Elizabeth Furst (Perrette Pradier) tied up. She was kidnapped off a yacht. Naturally he frees her and sends her to a luxury hotel to recuperate.

Meanwhile the extortionists are not happy with one of their own. Gunther (Agustín González), who was driving the army truck, which Mescenas so cavalierly jumped on, is too be terminated for his incompetence. Evil organisations like this don’t tolerate failure. As the assassin draws his gun, Gunther shoots and flees. He’s on the run now and needs help. He phones Mescenas and offers information about the whereabouts of Pendergast in exchange for safe passage out of the country. A meeting is arranged. As Agent Kenny is the only licensed operative on the scene she wants to go to the meeting, but Mescenas does what any sixties, chauvinist, man about town would do. He locks her in a cupboard.

At the meeting Gunther is shot before Mescenas can get to him. Then he finds himself on foot, in the centre of a demolition derby. Some nimble footwork and some accurate pistol shots to car headlights save Mescenas’ skin. Well barely. After the car pile-up, a hail of gunfire starts. He borrows a front-end loader and ploughs a path to freedom.

After the nights fireworks, Mescenas pays a visit to Elizabeth Furst at her hotel, poolside. As he attempts to gain more information about her kidnapping and the whereabouts of Pendergast, an assassin lurks in the pool (with a water pistol, no doubt!). He fires a shot at Mescenas which misses, but shatters his wine glass. Not taking a backward step, Mescenas dives in to confront his would-be assassin. Underwater, a knife is produced and the two men struggle until the assailant ends up with the knife in his torso.

The next lead Mescenas and Kenny follow was found on Gunther’s dead personage. It was a season ticket to a Turkish Bath. At the bath, as they search, three goons kidnap Kenny and spirit her away. Out the back Mescenas finds wooden crates full of pieces of an atomic bomb. As he retreats, he is captured at knife-point. Then he is offered one hundred thousand dollars and Kenny alive if he leaves Istanbul. Mescenas refuses and escapes by losing a steam faucet. Clad only in a towel, he then scours the city searching for Kenny, but with no joy.

Despondent, he rings Brain. Brain passes on a message that Bogo and Ms Furst have information for him. Mescenas rushes to the hotel, but only to find that Furst’s room is empty. Almost. An assassin named Doctor Shrenk (Klaus Kinski) follows Mescenas in. As most evil minions do, Shrenk takes his time in killing Mescenas and talks too much. In doing so he reveals that Pendergast is on a yacht in the harbour. Mescenas ducks under a glass coffee table while Shrenk fires at him with a pistol. And in one of those contrivances that can only happen in the movies, the coffee table turns out to be bullet proof. Mescenas picks up the table and uses it as a shield until Shrenk runs out of bullets. Then it’s fisticuffs. During the fight, which rages through all the hotel rooms, Mescenas finds Bogo’s dead body in the bathtub. This sends Mescenas over the edge and he drowns Shrenk in a sink.

Mescenas’ attention is now on the yacht, and he climbs a cargo loading crane and lowers himself onto the boat as it passes underneath. After the death of Bogo, Mescenas sense of humour isn’t as prevalent as it was, and as he storms the boat, he kills one sailor in cold blood, and then orders the rest of the crew over the side. On board he finds Pendergast and Kenny and sets them free. Then he set about settling the score with the leaders of this insidious plot. Oh, what is their scheme, I hear you ask? It hasn’t really been mentioned yet, but it is something like this: They intend to build an atomic arsenal with Pendergast’s help. Then from a remote island, control the world. Excellent; another World Domination scheme.

In the stateroom on the yacht, Mescenas find the chiefs. He cleans house with a machine gun. He kills them all, except for one. I wont say who it is, but no prizes for guessing?

That Man In Istanbul is one of my favourite Eurospy films. It has a good sense of humour and decent production values, and is fast paced. Maybe it is a little long, and Sylva Koscina isn’t used as much as she should be, but small quibbles. Your response to the movie will depend on how you accept Horst Bucholz. I know of a few people who find his performance annoying and as such, don’t rate this movie very highly. I disagree, but I think you’re going to have to make up your own mind on this one?

This review is based on the Shocking Videos USA DVD.

That Man In Istanbul (1965)