Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street (1984)

Original title: Zuijia paidang zhi nuhuang miling
Country: Hong Kong
Director: Tsui Hark
Starring: Sam Hui, Karl Maka, Sylvia Chang, Peter Graves, Richard Kiel, Jean Mersant, John Sham
Music: Lynsey De Paul

Now dear reader, I warn you that this film is subtitled Our Man From Bond Street, so during the course of this review, I am going to be laying on the Bond references thick and fast. This film prides itself on how many Bondian references it can squeeze into it’s 81 minute running time, and in the course of detailing what this movie has to offer, I’ll be regurgitating them back for you.

What does Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street have to offer? Well, like previous instalments in the Mad Mission series it provides plenty of outrageous stunts and a swag of movie in-jokes. It is also a film from Hong Kong – made during the 1980’s. For me, one thing defines 80’s Hong Kong action cinema – and that’s broken glass. After a decade of cars, bikes and stuntmen crashing through so many panes of glass and windshields, I’d suggest that Hong Kong went into the 90’s as a windowless city. I am happy to report that Mad Mission III continues the window smashing legacy – it may seem tame compared to Jackie Chan’s Police Story, but I am sure the glaziers had there work cut out for them.

This instalment opens with international Jewel thief Sam Hong Kong (Sam Hui) checking out the tourist attractions in Paris. Near the Eiffel Tower he sets up a piece of equipment on a tripod (I have no idea what it is). As he scans the area with a telescopic sight, a black leather clad babe sets up a rocket launcher behind him. As he swings around, he girl fires the rocket. He leaps out of the way at the last second, and then chases the girl on foot. The chase leads them to the river, and as they wrestle on the shore, a speedboat moves into towards them. Inside the boat is a Harold Sakata (Oddjob from Goldfinger) look-a-like. Like Oddjob, this guy has a killer steel-rimmed hat, which he slings at Sam. The flying hat is deflected by a metal suitcase and then returns to it’s master. The distraction gives the girl time to get away, and she makes her way to the Eiffel Tower.

Now folks, the scenes I am about to describe may seem familiar to fans of the Bond films, especially those that remember A View To A Kill – but this film was released in 1984, a year before the afore mentioned Bond film. The chase continues, and Sam enters one of the elevator carriages on the tower. Inside, waiting is a seven foot tall giant, named Big G – played by Richard Kiel who Bond fans will immediately recognise as ‘Jaws’ from The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. As Sam is menaced by Big G, the elevator rises to the first level. The lift stops and the doors open. Then Oddjob’s deadly hat flies into the carriage, followed swiftly by it’s owner. This Oddjob is different to the Bondian one though. This fellow has a steel hand that can crush anything within it’s grasp. Now with two Bond villains after him, Sam decides it’s time to flee and smashes out a glass window and crawls out onto the roof of the elevator carriage. He is followed out by Big G who arrives on the roof with a parachute strapped to his back. Fearing nothing from the diminutive Sam, Big G removes the parachute and tosses it to the four winds. Sam, seeing his only chance of escape flying through the air, leaps off the carriage and catches the parachute mid flight. He straps it on, pulls the cord and drifts down towards the Seine. Above the river, he cuts himself free and falls into the dirty green water.

Poor old Sam’s problems don’t end there, I’m afraid. Next, underwater, he is chased by a giant mechanical shark. He tries to outswim it, but he is soon overtaken and swallowed by the mechanical beast. Inside, he finds himself in a hi-tech submarine, and confronted by James Bond – or at least, a Sean Connery look-a-like. But Bond is not an actual enemy. He in fact wants to recruit Sam. It seems that the Queen of England has lost her crown, and they need the master thief to re-acquire it from the security vault that it is being held in.

Sam agrees to the mission, but if he is going to return to a life of crime, even if it is for the Queen of England, he wants an alibi. His choice is his old sparring partner, Detective Kodyjack (Karl Maka). Sam arranges to meet Kodyjack at a restaurant. Knowing that Kodyjack fancies himself as somewhat of a lady-killer, Sam arranges for his assistant on the mission, Jade East to meet them at the restaurant. While Kodyjack ingratiates himself on Jade, Sam slips out to pull off the heist.

Adding to the plot convolution is the actual Man From Bond Street, secret agent Tom Collins – played by Peter Graves. As you’re no doubt aware, Graves played Jim Phelps in the Mission: Impossible television series – and yes, there is a joke about an self destructing message. Agent Collins is in Hong Kong on the trail of a gang of jewel thieves whose members specialise in impersonating the Conneryesque secret agents and the Queen.

This instalment in the Mad Mission series is a great deal of fun, but it is also extremely juvenile. But if you don’t mind lowest common denominator humour paired with outrageous stunts, then Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street is a passable Bond parody.

Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street (1984)

A Man Called Dagger (1967)

Director: Richard Rush
Starring: Paul Mantee, Terry Moore, Jan Murray, Sue Anne Langdon, Richard Kiel, Eileen O’Neil, Maureen Arthur, Leonard Stone, Mimi Dillard
Music: Steve Allen

Imagine one of the Matt Helm films – only without a charismatic leading man – with only a small portion of the budget – and with worse jokes – and then you’re well on your way to envisaging A Man Called Dagger. Dagger is meant to be lightweight, swinging spy entertainment; but it is not entertaining. You know I have watched some shit in my time, but this film even tested my tolerance levels.

In Paris, Secret Agent Richard “Dick” Dagger (Paul Mantee), wearing an eyepatch, posing as a one eyed Frenchman, is given the details of his next assignment by a miniature tape recorder. Before he can finish listening to the message, he is jumped by a group of thugs. In the struggle he loses his eyepatch, but eventually fights his way out of trouble and to freedom, or so he thinks. As Dagger walks off, one final goon on a rooftop, armed with a tranquiliser gun, shoots Dagger in the back.

As the titles roll, Dagger wakes up, he is in a steel lined room. The room is small, and getting smaller. The roof is slowly lowering. Our hero, extracts a cigarette from his cigarette case and breaks it open to reveal a wire. He attaches one end of the wire to the lightsocket and the other end to the steel door. He then bangs on the door yelling that gives up and he’ll do anything his captures want. A guard opens the door and Dagger twists the light globe, sending a current through the wire, electrocuting the guard. Dagger is free. And that is the end of the title sequence, and sadly the end of any creative thought going into this movie.

Dagger’s new mission is in the United States, so he boards the next plane. Also on the plane is Dagger’s target, Dr Karl Rayner (Leonard Stone), who is a Nazi biologist. By ‘target’, I don’t mean that Dagger has to kill him, but simply follow him. The man that his organisation is after is Rudolph Koffman (Jan Murray), who just so happens to be Rayner’s new employer.

In the U.S., Rayner is met at the airport by Koffman’s number one henchman, Otto (Richard Kiel). Dagger too, is met by a contact named Melissa. Melissa is a sprightly female agent who leads Dagger to a hot rod roadster. As inconspicuous as you can be in a hot rod, they tail Rayner and Otto.

Somehow, though, Rayner and Otto must have lost their tail, because we next see Rayner standing before Koffman. Koffman poses as a respectable businessman who runs a meat packing plant. The plant is heavily guarded because they are working on new top secret product lines. But in reality, the plant is used as a base for Koffman’s mind control experiments. Ultimately he plans to take over the world, by brainwashing the world’s leaders. But here, he is perfecting his technique by experimenting on young girls.

A Man Called Dagger is supposed to be a comedy, or at least I think so. But the film just rubbed me the wrong way. Koffman’s solution to disposing of the bodies off his scientific failures, is repellent in the extreme. One minute the film is winking at the audience, the next it is trying to shock it. Maybe with a quality acting ensemble in front of the camera, the film could have pulled off this two card trick, but with the amateurish talent on display here, the film never really stands a chance of winning over any audience.

A Man Called Dagger (1967)

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Roger Moore, Curt Jurgens, Barabara Bach, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Bernard Lee, Walter Gotell, Desmond Llewelyn, Geoffrey Keen
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Title Song, “Nobody Does It Better”, performed by Carly Simon

The Spy Who Loved Me is the first James Bond film I saw at the movies. In the town where I grew up we didn’t have a cinema, it was an old fashioned drive-in, and I organised with my friends to go with their families on different nights. This was my Star Wars. This is the film I went and watched again and again.

The Spy Who Loved Me is undoubtedly Roger Moore’s best appearance as James Bond. He seems less wooden than his first two appearances, and while some of his latter appearances were quite good, towards the end he was clearly too old for the role. The movie itself is fast, action packed and ferociously funny. If it has a weakness, it is that it was too successful. Many of the ideas and stunts used in the film have been recycled so many times (even by the Bond series), that a newcomer to this 30+ year old film may find themselves with a case of deja-vu. But remember, The Spy Who Loved Me did it all first with a great deal of flair and polish.

The story concerns James Bond’s efforts to thwart a madman with webbed fingers, Carl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) from starting World War III. Stromberg hijacks two nuclear submarines, one American, the other belonging to the U.S.S.R., and replaces the crews with his own men who have orders to fire nuclear missiles at opposing cities in America and Russia. He hopes the reprisals from the Superpowers will destroy civilisation, leaving him to rule the world from his city beneath the sea. World Domination! Yeah, sure it’s corny, but it is good fun. Apart from planning to start World War III, Stromberg also feeds a female assistant to the sharks.

The girls in The Spy Who Loved Me are stunning. Barbara Bach plays Major Amassova – Agent XXX. She was so impressive, that she was snapped up by Ringo Starr. I guess that’s what being a Beatle can help you do – the one thing that all guys would like to do – and that is marry a Bond girl. Lucky guy. Another eye catcher in the film is Caroline Munro as Naomi. She doesn’t get to say much, but with a wink, she says a thousand words.

Richard Kiel plays Jaws, the menacing physical heavy of the piece, who is seven feet tall, has steel teeth and is virtually indestructible. Jaws was so popular, his character returned in the next James Bond movie, Moonraker. Kiel, in his book Richard Kiel – Making It Big In The Movies – Reynolds & Hearn Ltd 2002, had this to say:

“He (Cubby Broccoli) also told me that they had already considered David Prowse, and, seeing that this didn’t register with me, he explained that David Prowse was the guy in the Darth Vader suit in the Star Wars film, then being produced in England. My excitement at the possibility of being in a Bond movie began to dim slightly; it didn’t take much of an actor to be in a head-to-toe suit, especially when James Earl Jones was saying all the words.”

“I had no idea of whether I would live or die, or how the audience would take to the ‘Jaws’ character.”

The film features quite a few little gadgets, but the one that steals the show is the Lotus Espirit. Bond is involved in another car chase and simply drives his vehicle off the end of a pier and it turns into a submarine. The car was such a sensation that it toured the world. I remember nagging my parents to take me to the Melbourne Car Show so I could see the car. My parents gave in and we went to the car show – which was only a four hour drive from where I lived. After seeing the car on the BIG screen it seemed so small. But I was a happy boy.

John Barry wasn’t available to do the score to The Spy Who Loved Me, so the duty fell to Marvin Hamlisch, who’s Bee Gees inspired score is quite good in a seventies disco-funk kind of way. The incidental music in the Mojave Club and at the Pyramids is quite effective too, with a contemporary sound fused with more traditional middle eastern sounds. The theme song, Nobody Does It Better, sung by Carly Simon is one of the more successful songs in the series and was a massive hit.

As you would have noticed, The Spy Who Loved Me occupies a special place in my heart. You can say what you like about Moore versus Connery, or the decline of the Bond films in the seventies. You can even take me to task over the cheesy musical references to Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence Of Arabia – to me it doesn’t matter, The Spy Who Loved Me is one of my favourite films of all time.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Moonraker (1979)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Roger Moore, Richard Kiel, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Corrine Clery, Geoffrey Keen, Walter Gotell, Bernard Lee as M, Desmond Llewellyn as Q, and Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny
Music by John Barry
Title song performed by Shirley Bassey
Very loosely based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Moonraker gets a lot of crap heaped upon it for being the worst Bond film. But in all honesty, for much of it’s running time it is quite good. It only drifts off course towards the end with a rather silly, Star Wars inspired space story. Another weakness is the plot itself – actually it’s not weak, simply it is the same story as the previous (and rather successful) film, The Spy Who Loved Me. The difference being that the Ocean and Ships, have been changed to Outer Space and Space Shuttles. It must also be noted, that The Spy Who Loved Me was in fact, very similar to You Only Live Twice. So the plot wasn’t weak; it was simply a matter of the film-makers going to the well one too many times.

The movie opens with a space shuttle being piggy-backed on a 747 jet liner. The shuttle engines fire up unexpectedly and the shuttle takes off. The blast from the shuttles rockets incinerate the jet which plummets to the ground. The shuttle disappears.

On another, smaller plane James Bond (Roger Moore) is being held at gunpoint. The two pilots are going to shoot Bond, bail out, leaving Bond’s remains to crash with the plane. After a struggle, Bond forces the two pilots out of the planes hatch, without being pierced with a bullet. He thinks he is in the clear and may be able to land the plane. But as he stands at the hatch, he is pushed out sans parachute by a set of large hands. These hands belong to Jaws (Richard Kiel), the seven foot tall evil minion who survived at the end of the last movie.
Bond is freefalling without a parachute, when he spies one of the pilots he forced out of the plane earlier. Using the air currents, he glides from above towards his quarry, then wrestles the parachute off the pilots back.

Back safely on the ground, and back at M.I.6 headquarters, ‘M’ (Bernard Lee in his last appearance in the series) and the Minister Of Defence, Frederick Grey (Geoffrey Keen), brief Bond on his new mission. He is to investigate the disappearance of the Moonraker space shuttle. He is sent to California and to the estate of Sir Hugo Drax, the multimillionaire who’s company manufactures the space shuttles for NASA.

Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) is a Frenchman, who now lives a very opulent life in America. And he is also obsessed with space. So much so, that he wants to kill practically everybody on the planet, and repopulate it with his own hand-picked, perfect human specimens which will live on an orbiting space station that revolves around the earth. Yeah, I told you the story was kinda silly!

The main Bond girl in this film is Doctor Holly Goodhead, played by Lois Chiles. Goodhead is a strange character, because she isn’t really sure who she is. On on hand, she is Bond’s equal, working for the C.I.A. and is a qualified Shuttle pilot. She can handle herself in a fist fight too. So we have one of the first truly equal Bond girls. She doesn’t scream all the time, and barely has to be rescued by Bond. But this equality and independence create a void where ‘romance’ should have been. The relationship between Bond and Goodhead is one of the coldest in the Bond series (for a leading lady, that is). That’s not to put down Lois Chiles’ acting performance – I think the written character wasn’t fully developed.

As always, Bond has a few gadgets to rescue him from dangerous situations. The first is a dart gun, that gets strapped to 007’s wrist. In comes in handy when Bond is trapped inside a G-Force simulator that is spinning wildly out of control. The second, and silliest of the Bond gadgets is a Gondola (or ‘Bondola’ if you will), which Bond uses on the canals of Venice. The Gondola can turn into a hovercraft. Err, yeah! The best is the speedboat, which Bond cruises down the Amazon river in. It features torpedoes, mines and a hang-glider which separates from the roof of the boat.

The music is by the maestro, John Barry, which by his high standards is rather ineffectual. The musical highlights are revisions of The Space March Theme from You Only Live Twice, and the 007 Theme from From Russia With Love. Even the title song, Moonraker, performed by Shirley Bassey is rather subdued. That’s not to say the music is bad. Generally it works, but doesn’t have the drive or isn’t as ‘brassy’ as previous musical scores for the Bond series.

As I said at the outset, Moonraker cops a caning for being the worst Bond film. I personally believe that Die Another Day is an inferior film. There’s a lot to like in Moonraker. There’s a classic scene at a pheasant shoot, which involves some poor marksmanship from 007; and plenty of boats chases, as mentioned above in the paragraph about gadgets; and even a cable car chase. All this adds up to a fairly entertaining Bond adventure, if somewhat marred by the film-makers desire to compete with the Star Wars franchise. And as a final word, it must be pointed out, whether you believe Moonraker is a good or bad film, that until the arrival of Pierce Brosnan (the Billion Dollar Bond), in unadjusted dollars this film was the most successful (profitable) Bond film, so someone must have liked it?

Moonraker (1979)