Espionage in Tangiers (1965)

Director: Gregg Tallas
Starring: Luis Davila, José Greci, Perla Cristal, Thomas Blanco, Ana Castor, Alfonso Rojas, Barta Barry, Joe Camel
Music: Benedetto Ghiglia

Louis Davila is back, or Louis Devill as he is sometimes known. It’s a great name for a villain, but here he is once again as the rather brutish spy hero, Mike Murphy. In fact this may even be the first appearance of Mike Murphy because I haven’t been able to work out if Espionage In Tangiers or Ypotron was made first – and if they are in fact meant to be a two film series. Maybe as both films starred Davila, some marketing guy decided to lump them together — and renamed the character for American release! But that doesn’t really matter — all you really need to know is Davila is a sandy haired mountain of a man who smiles a lot — especially if he is beating up on someone.

The movie opens at the I.A.E.A (International Atomic Energy Agency) building. It is late in the evening and a guard is doing his rounds. He checks the doors – they all seem secure. Inside three scientist, Professor Griff and his two assistants, are going through the final vital stages of an experiment, which if successful will create the most dangerous weapon that mankind has ever dreamed of. This deadly weapon has been commissioned by the United Nations Security Council. This scientific breakthrough involves a small piece of metal whipping around in a centrifuge. Once it has finished spinning, Professor Griff places the metal square into a specially built hand gun. Then he goes to the window; opens it; and takes aim at a car sitting in the street. He fires and a pale blue beam of light comes from the weapon. Initially it looks to have no effect, but slowly the vehicle begins to vanish. Not invisible mind you — completely gone.

Griff goes to the phone to call the UN and report his success. Meanwhile one of his assistants goes to the bathroom; pops open a window and signals to an unseen party, by flicking the light on and off three times. Next, a rope drops from the roof, and two guys dressed in black climb down and crawl through the window. These bad guys, now inside, kill the two assistants — including the ‘stooley’ who signaled them in. Once they have the weapon (which is actually a tiny little metallic plate which goes inside the gun) they turn on each other. The guy with the gun, shoots the other guy then flees. Talk about tying up loose ends. Griff, of course, who was out of the room making his phone call, manages to survive.

The surviving thief, rappels down the side of the building and rushes to the waiting getaway car. As he hands over the weapon, the receiver winds up the car window, crushing the thief’s throat. The car races off with him still trapped in the window, until he snaps free and rolls into the gutter dead. Once again – I reiterate – talk about tying up loose ends. So far they film has had six characters and four are already dead.

When we meet Mike Murphy, he’s on the job — not spying, but making out with a dolly bird on a chaise lounge when the phone rings. Naturally he doesn’t want to answer it because he is using his mouth for other things. After the second call he reluctantly answers — it’s HQ — he has to go in. At HQ, Murph is introduced to Professor Griff and a gent named Charleston who is the head of the Atomic Research Investigation Branch (A.R.I.B.). They explain that the stolen plate was the key component to a ‘Molecular Disintegration Ray’ — and the murderers have got away with it. It’s Murphy’s job to find it. The only lead comes from Tangier. A.R.I.B. sent out photos of the dead perpetrators and one man was recognised by an agent in Tangiers — Murph is sent there to make contact.

Before Murphy’s flight has even landed he has made contact with two enemy agents. One is the beautiful Lea Randall (José Greci). The other is the not quite so beautiful Arlette Steiner (Ana Castor). Obviously they are all after same thing and as the story progresses these characters cross each others paths on numerous occasions. Upon landing, Murph is greeted at the airport by an assassins bullet. Luckily the bullet lodges in the pages of a book Murph was carrying in his top pocket.

Murph then checks in at his hotel and prepares to meet his contact — Mr. Hasseen Rhaba. But before Murph can make contact, Rhaba is murdered in his hotel room. Murph takes care of the killer before he can make his getaway, but now this leaves him with no leads whatsoever. In a lucky co-incidence, at that moment the phone rings and Murph pretends that he is Rhaba and finds out the contact details for the next person in the chain. Rhaba was to meet a fellow called Jules Martin at a cafe in the Casbah. Murph turns up at the designated times in Rhaba’s stead, but before Murphey can glean any information, Martin ends up with a knife in his back — and another narrowly misses Murphy. The body count continues to rise in relation to the plot convolution.

The fight scenes in Espionage in Tangiers are reasonably well choreographed and Louis Davila looks like he can throw a punch — and if it connected, it would hurt. Good thing too, because Murphy is one secret agent who likes to throw his weight around. He gets into brawls in a hotel room, the cargo hold of a ship, a coffin makers workshop, and in a nightclub. At one stage he even applies a blowtorch to one of the villains feet. Later he throws a knife into the throat of a henchman — all the while grinning like the Cheshire Cat. One thing’s for sure, Murphy means business. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the guy is a psychopath, rather than a slick secret agent.

While I enjoyed Espionage in Tangiers, it is not really a top tier Eurospy film. Davilla’s Ypotron is a far more entertaining film. But what this film has got going for it is that it is available in a pretty snazzy widescreen transfer from Dark Sky films, which makes the viewing experience pretty enjoyable. Ypotron on the other hand is only available from grey market sellers and the transfer is diabolical.

Despite what you may have read or heard, George Lazenby is not in this film!

Espionage in Tangiers (1965)

Ypotron (1966)

AKA: Operation ‘Y’
Country: Italy / Spain / France
Director: George Finley (Giorgio Stegani
Starring: Louis Davilla, Gaia Germani, Alfredo Mayo, Jesús Puente, Janine Reynaud, Alberto Dalbés
Music: Nico Fidenco

I was struck by a strange feeling of dejavu when I watched the title sequence in Ypotron. The titles feature scenes of our hero, Robby Logan (Louis Davilla) frolicking around in Acapulco. There’s nothing extraordinary in that, but the footage is shown in negative, so the crystal blue waters look orange with black peaks. It almost looks like a fire ball. But that’s when it struck me – I had seen another Eurospy film that had the title sequence shown in negative. Racking my brain I finally came up with Espionage In Tangiers, which also starred Louis Davilla.

Naturally enough, this made me wonder if these two films were a part of a series? A quick glance at the indispensable Eurospy Guide yielded no results – well not on initial inspection. You see in this film Davilla plays Robby Logan. Some foreign film posters indicate that the character is also known as Lemmy Logan (possibly trying to cash in on the popular Lemmy Caution character). Those who take a quick look at the poster above – courtesy of David Deal’s excellent EuroSpy poster gallery – will notice that Davilla’s character was also called Mike Murphy (Agent 077 – no less). Likewise in Espionage In Tangiers, Davilla’s character is lumbered with a few names. One of them happens to be Marc Mato – in some territories the film was known as Marc Mato, agente s.077. But as you may have already guessed, in English versions, the character is Mike Murphy. At this point I am feeling pretty smug that I may have stumbled onto a new spy series for me to investigate – but having said all that – let’s be realistic – these are EuroSpy films and they will latch onto any marketing device they can. As you can already see, both films Ypotron and Espionage In Tangiers are also trying to worm their way into the 077 series, but in reality they aren’t official entries. Equally some marketeer or distributor may have tried to rope these films together to make it seem like a series. The truth is I don’t know, but that doesn’t really matter. You either enjoy EuroSpy films or you don’t. If you don’t then my investigative journey is of little consequence. If you do, then you realise the inconsistencies of the sub-genre, and are happy to ride along with it. But just to confuse you, even though the print I viewed has the lead character called Robby Logan, I am going to call him Murphy…just because I want to.

The film opens with Murphy walking into a darkened room. He flicks over a set of infra-red lens down over the lens of another set of glasses and begins to examine a strange diagram – that looks like a symbolised schematic of the human body. Behind Murphy a secret door opens and the muzzle for a machine gun is aimed at him. A volley of shots are fired, but Logan does not die. But after such an elaborate set-up, we find out the Murph isn’t on a mission, he is at headquarters and he was simply testing out a new bullet proof vest. Then that’s it – he’s on holidays, and what do all good swinging secret agents do, when they’ve got a few weeks leave. Yep, they head to Acapulco.

When we next join Murph, he’s enjoying the surf, and the company of a beautiful brunette – but not for long. He is interrupted by a raven haired beauty that he ditched six months previously (presumably on holiday too). She is not too enamored to see him. Oh, who am I kidding – of course she is glad to see him, but first she has to spend a few minutes making him feel guilty about running out on her.

But then Murph doesn’t even get the chance to enjoy this liaison. His partner – for that read ‘fellow agent’ – Wilson (Jesús Puente) arrives in Acapulco with a new assignment. Murph is naturally reluctant to take it as he is in holiday mode. But Wilson explains that three other agents, Harvey, Stone and Margaret, have all been killed. All three were working on security for a company called Indra. Indra is described as being a ‘big European missile factory’.

The target at Indra is the chief scientist on the missile program, Robert Moreau. Now Murph and Moreau share a little bit of history. Back in WW2, Murphy was imprisoned in a concentration camp called Merloc. Merloc was headed by an evil Nazi scientist named Dr. Eichmann, who used to use the prisoners as guinea pigs for his cruel and unusual experiments. Murphy was intended to participate in one of these experiments but at the last minute he was saved by one of Leichmann’s underlings, Robert Moreau. Moreau refused to carry out Eichamnn’s test and was subsequently tortured for his non-compliance. But as you can imagine, Murphy now owes his life and a huge debt of gratitude to Moreau. He readily agrees to accept the assignment. Holiday over, Murph and Wilson head to Europe.

In Spain (I presume), Murph heads to Moreau’s home. The scientist isn’t home, but his daughter Jeanne (Gaia Germani) is. She phones her father at Indra, and he promises to come home straight away. As a precaution though, Murph has Wilson tail Moreau back from Indra, but as the cars wind around a mountain road, Wilson loses Moreau. Embarrassed, Wilson radios in his failure. Murph passes on the bad news to Jeanne who is visibly upset at her father’s disappearance. Murph makes a promise that he’ll find her father and return him safely.

The mission isn’t progressing to well. Murph doesn’t have too many leads to go on. His break comes when Jeanne tries to slip away to Madrid carrying one of her fathers suitcases. As you’d expect, Murph follows her and arranges to be on the same flight. Now this is where the fun really begins.

Many EuroSpy films are currently only available in prints that can only be politely described as diabolical, and with a large proportion of these films that isn’t too big of a hurdle. Most likely you’d only watch them once in your life time. But others have just an ounce of style or even an animal magnetism (if a film can hold such attraction) that makes you want to revisit it – and even more, long for a pristine print so you can see the film as was originally intended. Ypotron, for me, is one such film. I am not going to lie to you and say that it’s a good film, but it does have this strange electricity about it – an animal magnetism that makes me enjoy – nay, even respect this film despite all its goofy flaws. It has a great surf guitar soundtrack which is layered with a hint of cheesy Hammond organ, and the title song by The Sorrows will get stuck in your head for days – even if it makes no sense ‘Yee Po Tron’! Added to this, there’s a great Flamenco musical number that’s coupled with a primal strip-tease act.

If you’re after gadgets, this film has a bargain basement full of them; from cigarette lighter communicators, oil bombs, hidden cameras and tape recorders, listening devices, and of course, as featured in the intro, Murphy’s rose coloured glasses.

Naturally the film has a lunk-headed leading man and sandy haired Davilla fits that bill nicely. The girls are great too, As the good girl we get Gaia Germani who certainly is a looker. For the bad girl , but not too bad, we are presented with Janine Reynaud in bleach blonde hair. Most people recognise Reynaud as the fiery redhead in Jess Franco’s Red Lips films, Two Under Cover Angels and Kiss Me Monster.

All in all, I think Ypotron is a great little package. I don’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm, but at the end of the day, who are you going to trust – your well thumbed pages of your Leonard Maltin Video Guide or me?

Of course that’s redundant because Ypotron doesn’t appear in the Maltin guide. You have to trust me. Evil maniacal laughter trails into the distance…

Oh, sorry! one last little bit – a small warning for those who may be put off or offended by witnessing a bullfight. Ypotron features a rather graphic one (although the effect is diminished by the quality of the print I acquired). But if you believe that watching such images would upset you, then may I suggest you give this film a miss.

Ypotron (1966)