Ten Little Indians (1965)

AKA: Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians
Director: George Pollock
Starring: Hugh O’Brian, Shirley Eaton, Daliah Lavi, Wilfrid Hyde White, Fabian, Stanley Holloway, Leo Genn, Dennis Price, Mario Adorf, Marianne Hoppe
Music: Malcolm Lockyer

I am a simple man with simple tastes. And if you put Shirley Eaton and Daliah Lavi together in a movie then you’re pandering to those tastes. Such a pairing occurs in the pot-boiler, Ten Little Indians, based on the novel And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.

The film opens in the dead of winter, with eight guests arriving at a train station in Austria. Then they take a cable car up the snow covered mountain to castle residence of Mr. Owen, who is to be their host for the evening. Upon arrival they are greeted by the manservant and his wife, Joseph and Elsa Grohmann (Mario Adorph and Marianne Hoppe). The guests are stunned to learn that their host is not at the castle but will be arriving later in the evening for dinner.

As none of the guests know each other they introduce themselves. The guests are Hugh Lombard (Hugh O’Brian), Ann Clyde (Shirley Eaton), Mike Raven (Fabian), General Sir John Mandrake (Leo Genn), Detective William Henry Blore (Stanley Holloway), Judge Arthur Cannon (Wilfrid Hyde-White), Dr. Edward Armstrong (Dennis Price) and Ilona Bergen (Daliah Lavi). Once they have met, they also ascertain that none of them actually know their host, Mr Owen. They call in Grohmann the manservant to find out a bit more about there host, only to find that he and his wife were only employed two days previously through an employment agency. It appears that no one knows their host at all. But all should be revealed when he arrives for dinner! Not to be. Mr. Owen doesn’t turn up. The guests are slightly concerned, but Owen may have been delayed by the snow.

Later that evening as the guests relax in the parlour, a recorded message begins to play. The message in from Mr. U.N. Owen (Unknown – get it?), and it is voiced by venerated horror film icon Christopher Lee. Owen charges the house guests with the following crimes. Ann Clyde murdered his sister’s fiancé Richard Barclay – Bergen brought about the death of her husband in a cold blooded and brutal fashion – Lombard is guilty of the death of Jennifer Hays – Raven murdered William and Lisa Stern – Mandrake sent five men to their deaths – Cannon was responsible for the death of a innocent man – Armstrong killed Miss Ivy Bedson – and Blore through perjured testimony sent a man to his death. But it is not only the guests who are on trial, but the staff as well. Joseph and Elsa Grohmann are accused of the death of their previous employer.

After this rude attack upon the guests character, each of them wants to leave the castle. Grohmann tries to arrange it but the phone is dead, and the cable car is not operating at this time of the evening. They all decide to make the best of it and decide to ride it out. That is until Mike Raven drops dead from cyanide poisoning.

As this film is a ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery, I won’t outline any more of the plot, needless to say that the guests are picked off one by one, by an unseen assailant – and each murder correlates to the Ten Little Indians nursery rhyme.

Most of the enjoyment in this film comes from the cast. I’ve already mentioned the girls, but the old stagers aren’t bad either. In the end Ten Little Indians is a half decent little thriller that has much in common with the Krimi thrillers that were being made at the same time, the difference being that this is based on Agatha Christie, rather than an Edgar Wallace story. While you can’t really consider it a Krimi, if you happen to be watching The College Girl Murders or The Strangler Of Blackmoor Castle, then add this film to your list. It will slot in very nicely.

Ten Little Indians (1965)

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)

Goldfinger (1964)

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Cec Linder, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn Lois Maxwell, Nadja Regin, Margaret Nolan
Music by John Barry
Theme song performed by Shirley Bassey
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming

Many people consider this the best Bond film of them all. Maybe it is. It certainly is the film that set the style for all Bond films to follow. The first two movies, Dr. No and From Russia With Love were a bit harder than Goldfinger and they took on the flavour of the locations Bond was visiting – in Dr. No when Bond lands on Crab Key the film takes on an old fashioned (boys own) adventure tone. In From Russia With Love, the scenes in Turkey, and in particular the Gypsy Camp, have a certain feel which has never been replicated. But by the time Goldfinger came around, the Bond style was finely honed. It didn’t matter where Bond travelled to, wherever the location, the style of the films did not change.

Another element that changed with Goldfinger was the increased amount of humour. Although there was humour in the previous two Bond movies, Goldfinger really is ground zero for the double entendres, and the occasional sight gag. For example the opening scene features James Bond in SCUBA gear approaching a dock. Attached to his headpiece as camouflage is a artificial duck. With that, I’ll move on to the plot overview – it starts with a rip-roaring pre-title sequence in Latin America.

‘Shocking! Positively Shocking!’ After James Bond (Sean Connery) has blown up an Oil Refinery, which was actually a heroin processing plant, he stops off at nightclub to pay his respects to Bonita (Nadja Regin), a dancer he has been seeing. Backstage, as he holds her, reflected in her eyes, Bond sees an assassin sneaking up from behind. At the last second, as the assailant brings down his blackjack, Bond spins and the girl receives the blow meant for him. Ouch! Bond and his adversary duke it out in the small backstage room, until Bond gets the better off his attacker and sends him flying backwards into the bathtub. Unfortunately for Bond, next to the bathtub, is Bond’s Walther PPK (for the un-initiated – his gun). The assassin grabs Bond’s gun and takes aim. Simultaneously, Bond flings an electric fan heater into the bathtub and electrocutes his attacker.

Then we launch into the title sequence. The song Goldfinger is sung with gusto by Shirley Bassey. If you haven’t heard it, you must have been living on another planet. Accompanying Miss Bassey’s vocal are Robert Brownjohn’s visuals, images from the film projected onto the golden body of Margaret Nolan (who will turn up later in the movie as ‘Dink’). Trevor Bond is quoted in Emily King’s book “Robert Brownjohn: Sex And Typography”:

“I think Goldfinger were the only titles that ever went to the censor. We were going to project objects on her body, but that was too difficult, it was hard to make them stand out. It was Bj’s idea to project scenes from the film. The golf ball down the cleavage is pure Bj. It was brilliant.”

After the titles we land at the Fountainbleau Hotel in Miami. Beside the pool, Bond is receiving a massage from Dink (the aforementioned Margaret Nolan), when he is interrupted by old friend and C.I.A. agent Felix Leiter (this time played by Cec Linder. Leiter was previously played by Jack Lord in Doctor No).

Leiter passes on a message from ‘M’. Bond is to observe Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). Each day Goldfinger plays gin with Du Pont, and each day Goldfinger has won. Bond observes this from a far, but is suspicious. His suspicions take him up to Goldfinger’s hotel suite. Inside he finds Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), clad in black underwear, peering through a pair of binoculars. From her vantage point she can see the cards, Du Pont is holding and via a small two way radio, she passes this information to Goldfinger. His receiving device is disguised as a hearing aid. Bond isn’t impressed with the scam. He takes the microphone and threaten to tell the Miami Police unless Goldfinger starts to lose. And lose he does.

Meanwhile Bond takes Jill back to his room for a bit of ‘slap and tickle’. But while searching the fridge for another bottle of champagne, Bond is knocked unconscious. Now the Bond series has a few iconic moments, and the next scene is one of them. When Bond comes to, he sees Jill dead, spread eagled on his bed. But what makes this different, is she is covered from head to toe with gold paint. She has died from skin suffocation. The scene is dazzling and original and now indelibly etched into the minds of anyone who saw this film when they were young.

Back in London in ‘M’s office, Bond is reprimanded. He was supposed to watch Goldfinger, not borrow his girlfriend. Later, he is briefed on what his mission is about. Goldfinger is a gold smuggler. He buys gold in undeveloped countries for a small price and sells it in developed countries for a high price. But nobody knows how he does it. Bond’s mission is to find out. Naturally there’s more to Goldfinger, than just gold smuggling. That’s just the tip of the ice-berg. But these are things that Bond and the viewer finds out along the way.

Onto the Bond girls (I am sure there’s a Bondian quip there, but I’m not game to use it). Bond has quite a few conquests throughout this film. Above I have already mentioned Nadja Regin as Bonita, and Margaret Nolan as Dink. The three main Bond girls, are Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson, Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson, and most famously Honour Blackman (Cathy Gale from The Avengers) plays Pussy Galore.

Goldfinger doesn’t feature too many gadgets. Bond only has one. And it’s a doozy. It’s the very famous Aston Martin DB5. It comes equipped with every assault and defence device imaginable. Amongst the devices are revolving number plates, a rear bullet proof shield, front and rear machine guns, smoke screen, oil slick, and a passenger side ejector seat. It’s riot, when Bond finally gets to put the car through its paces. But Bond isn’t the only person allowed to have gadgets. Goldfinger possesses an industrial laser. Goldfinger demonstrates its capabilities in a very uncomfortable scene (for male viewers), where Bond is strapped to a table, and Goldfinger has his laser moving between Bonds legs, slowly up towards his genitals. At this point Bond asks, “Do you expect me to talk?” And to this Goldfinger glibly replies, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” It’s classic cinema.

As with most Bond movies, a few notes about music are in order. The musical score is by John Barry, and the classic Bond sound starts here. Sure, Barry worked on Dr. No, and composed the score for From Russia With Love. But here is starting line for the true Bond sound. Barry has composed a terrific score, with an equally memorable title song performed by Shirley Bassey. This is the soundtrack to which all other Bond soundtracks are compared. It’s bold, it’s brassy. It’s Bond.

So that’s Goldfinger, the third film in the Bond series. It has to be the most fun of all the Bond films. It’s story isn’t the strongest, and Bond falls into more traps than he sets. Actually he doesn’t do that much at all in the end, but he is the centrepiece; and because of this film, an iconic one at that. When this film was released, people queued around the block to see it at cinemas. Its success launched Bondmania around the world. Bond became a brand. There were everything from jigsaw puzzles and toy cars to talcum powder and vodka labelled with the 007 logo. If it was Bond, it was sixties cool. Countless imitators and rip-offs began springing up. Particularly in Europe where a whole industry popped up making Eurospy films. Even in Asia, Bond was popular; and they had their own attempt at making spy films. It seems like there wasn’t a place on the planet where Bond’s influence wasn’t felt. Even behind the Iron Curtain. The average Soviet citizen may never have had the opportunity to see a Bond film, or read a Bond book, but they knew who Bond was.

Before I sign off on this review, I thought I’d share a little bit of trivia: Before Goldfinger Harold Sakata was a Hawaiian pro-wrestler called Tosh Togo. He also won a silver medal in the 1948 Olympics in the light – heavyweight weightlifting division.

Goldfinger (1964)

Future Women (1969)

AKA: The Seven Secrets of Sumuru, Future Woman, Rio 70, River 70, Sumuru, The Girl From Rio
Directed by Jess Franco
Shirley Eaton, Richard Wyler, George Sanders, Maria Rohm
Music by Daniel White

This film goes by many names and is a sequel to The Million Eyes Of Sumuru, although the only linking thread seems to be Shirley Eaton, and even her character name changes from version to version. Apparently this film has finally been released by Blue Underground on DVD as The Girl From Rio, which is great if you are a glutton for punishment and The Million Eyes Of Sumuru was not enough for you. Well, maybe I am not being fair here. Whereas the first Sumuru movie was a cross between a Fu Manchu mystery and a Beach Party film, this second one moves into JESS FRANCO territory. Who and what is Jess Franco? Jess (or sometimes Jesus) Franco is a film director who made his reputation by directing a string of Euro-sleaze films. Titles amongst his 180 plus film catalogue include Vampyros Lesbos, Killer Barbie’s versus Dracula, Mari-Cookie, Killer Tarantula in 8 Legs to Love You, Blood Sucking Nazi Zombies, and Sadisterótica. Already posted is a review of Franco’s Lucky The Inscrutable. Franco’s films are routinely low budget and contain gratuitous violence and nudity.

In the indispensible The Eurospy Guide by Matt Blake and David Deal, they cheekily described the amazing Mister Franco like this:
“…he spent the whole of the sixties and early seventies traipsing from one exotic location to another, accompanied by a gang of mates and some beautiful women – making films whenever he couldn’t find a good restaurant to sit in all afternoon.”

I am sure it wasn’t all beer and skittles for Franco, but that passage sums up what you can expect from a Franco film apart from the aforementioned violence and nudity – unusual exotic locations and lazy film-making. In the case of Future Women’ there are great South American locations, and of course featuring the great architectural marvel that is the City of Brasilia, which stands in for the City of Femina. As for the film-making, well it’s a step up from Lindsay Shonteff’s Million Eyes Of Sumuru, but it is pretty low down on the creativity list. A few nice shots of rain forests and sun-sets do not add up to a great film.

Now all that background information probably has you thinking that it might fit into the ‘So Bad, It Is Good’ category. Forget it. It is really crap. Sure it has the odd nude bod, but that doesn’t lift it off the bottom rung. Here’s a quick introduction to the mind numbing plot…

After a title sequence that verges on being soft-core porn, featuring some women clad in transparent mesh tops with steam rising around them, we see the arrival of Jeff Sutton (Richard Wyler) in Rio. He checks into a hotel, with no luggage other than a briefcase filled with ten million dollars. As he checks in, he orders some shirts, to be sent to his room, and a haircut and manicure. The manicurist is Leslie Mathers (played by Franco regular Maria Rohm) and she immediately forms an attached with Sutton.

Meanwhile, the underworld has heard rumblings about Sutton, how he has stolen a large amount of money and fled to Rio. The head of Rio’s underworld Masius, (George Sanders), is interested in acquiring the money for himself. He sends out a squad of underlings to capture Sutton and acquire the cash.

Later that evening, Sutton and Leslie go out to dinner. The meal goes well, but as they stroll back to the hotel, they are accosted by a group of men in carnival masks and brandishing knives. Sutton proves himself adept in a stoush and manages to drag himself, and Leslie back to the hotel.

You may have heard the old saying, ‘if it is in focus, it’s porn. If it’s blurred, then it’s art!’ Back in Sutton’s room, Leslie throws herself at her new man. Franco films this scene through a vase, and the glass distorts and blurs the image. So it must be art! The next morning a newspaper is delivered to the room. Sutton’s face is all over the front page, and now everybody wants a piece of the action. With Leslie’s help, Sutton decides to leave the city. The pair head to the airport. Masius’ men are waiting and they grab Leslie. Sutton is forced to fight his way through a gauntlet of men and barely makes it to the plane. But things aren’t quite what they seem, as Leslie belonged to a colony of women who live in the city of Femina. Femina is ruled by Sumanda (Shirley Eaton), who has plans of conquering the world with her all-girl army. No sooner has Sutton boarded the plane, and then he is drugged by the hostess. In fact he is the only passenger. The plane is filled with an army of Sumuru’s women who are there to take him back to Femina.

When Sutton awakes, he is in Femina and he is a captive of Sumuru. Why does she want him? She doesn’t need the money. And why is Sutton happy to be in Femina? Could it be, that he wanted to go there all along?

From the synopsis above, Future Women may not seem like much of a spy film, but Sutton has a duel purpose for being in Rio, and by the end of the film we are definitely in ‘spy’ territory. Just how many viewers will make it to the end of this film, now that’s another question!

On the positive side, the film is colourful and the locations are great, but then again so are postcards. And on their side, most postcards have more depth than this production. You have been warned!

The soundtrack, credited to Daniel White is pleasant enough. Appropriately enough for a film set in South America, it is in a Latin style, featuring plenty of bongos, xylophones, flutes, and brass. For the sequences in the City of Femina, White reverts to more futuristic, electronic sounds.

Strangely, the version I have seen of this film, the Shirley Eaton character, is called Sumanda? Initially this film was intended to be a sequel to The Million Eyes Of Sumuru and as such, I would expect her to be called ‘Sumuru. I could try to find other versions of the film to compare, such as the new The Girl From Rio, but I don’t think I really want to spend too much more time on this turkey. But please, if you want to track down alternate versions to compare the differences, be my guest.

This review is based on the Shocking Videos DVD.

Future Women (1969)