Red Sun (1971)

Ursula Andress FestivalAKA: Soleil Rouge
Director: Terence Young
Starring: Charles Bronson, Toshirô Mifune, Ursula Andress, Alain Delon, Capucine, Anthony Dawson, Luc Merenda
Music: Maurice Jarre

By the early seventies, the Spaghetti Westerns (which had revitalised the Western genre) were starting to run out of steam. The look, the feel, and the violence weren’t enough to attract audiences anymore. Westerns needed another twist, or an angle to put bums on seats again. Then somebody took the old saying ‘East meets West’ and twisted West not to mean ‘civilisation’ but the ‘old west’. And for a brief moment in time we had Kung-Fu and Samurai Westerns. Entries in this short lived cinematic movement include Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe, the TV series Kung Fu with David Carradine, and this film Red Sun (okay it was a very small movement).

The idea is simply a variant on the fish out of water story, but Red Sun added another nice twist on top of that – the casting of Charles Bronson and Toshirô Mifune. How is that special I hear you ask? Well Mifune was one of the Seven Samurai and Bronson was one of The Magnificent Seven. I like the correlation.

But the film features many fish out of water. It was filmed in Spain, and starred the American, Bronson; Japanese, Mifune; French, Alain Delon; and the Swiss actress Ursula Andress.

The film opens in 1870, and the Japanese Ambassador is travelling by train, accompanied by two Samurai guards, across the wild west to deliver the gift of a golden ceremonial sword to the President of the United States. Unfortunately for the Ambassador, this is the train that outlaws, Link Stuart (Charles Bronson) and Gauche (Alain Delon) have chosen to rob with the help of their band of trusty outlaws. Well maybe ‘trusty’ is the wrong word. There is no trust. In fact Gauche double crosses Stuart and leaves him dead. Gauche also angers the Japanese Ambassador when he steals the ceremonial sword and kills one of the Samurai guards.

The Ambassador orders his other Samurai guard, Kuroda Jubie (Toshirô Mifune) to track down Gauche, kill him and retrieve the sword. They figure the best man to lead Kuroda to Gauche is Stuart. So begins a journey for the two men. Wise-ass Stuart, has no intentions of staying with Kuroda, who is dressed in full Samurai gear. But Stuart does want to get to Gauche, and retrieve the money that is rightfully owing to him. But his attempts at breaking away from Kuroda aren’t too successful, as Kuroda is dogged in his determination to complete his mission – retrieving the sword – and if that means sticking with Stuart, then that’s exacly what he does.

Stuart and Kuroda aren’t too successful in tracking down Gauche, so Stuart adopts another strategy. He let’s Gauche come to him. Or more correctly, come to Christina (Ursula Andress). Christina is a prostitute, and also happens to be Gauche’s girlfriend. Stuart figures that sooner or later, Gauche is going to have the ‘urge’, and when he does, he’ll come for Christina; and Stuart will be waiting.

Red Sun, while being very enjoyable in it’s way, is quite an uneven film. After the train robbery and betrayal at the start, the film spends quite a bit of time with just Bronson and Mifune’s characters; and here the film works very well as almost a character piece. But plotwise, with only two men making a journey together, not much story progression is taking place. But that’s not to say it is boring – these are characters that are engaging.

For the second half of the film, once Ursula Andress’ character is introduced, the story does move forward, but it doesn’t really have any place to go.

The ending itself, is very reminiscent of Bandolero (and numerous other Westerns), where the ‘good’ guys and the ‘bad’ guys have to team up to defeat a common enemy – here they have to battle a number of rather European looking Comanche Indians. I always think it is a clumsy plot device when fate steps in to turn the tables in favour of the hero. A real hero would ‘think’ or ‘fight’ his way out of trouble.

Ultimately Red Sun is not a great film, but it is an interesting one. It’s Samurai Western with a likeable International cast performing a variety of Swordplay, Gunplay, and if you count Christina’s seduction of Link, Foreplay.

Red Sun (1971)

OSS 117 Terror in Tokyo (1966)

Original Title: Atout coeur à Tokyo pour O.S.S. 117
AKA: OSS From Tokyo With Love
Country: France / Italy
Director: Michel Boisrond
Starring: Frederick Stafford, Marina Vlady, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Jacques Legras, Valery Inkijinoff, Henri Serre
Music: Michel Magne
Based on the novel by Jean Bruce

I thought it was time to get back to presenting tales of slick secret agents, beautiful babes and nefarious villains with insidious plots for world domination. OSS 117 Terror in Tokyo delivers all that and more.

OSS 117 Terror in Tokyo is the fifth of the seven OSS 117 films (that is if you don’t count the two recent Jean Dujardin films, or otherwise it is nine OSS 117 films), and it is the second starring Frederick Stafford as Hubert Bonnisseur de la Bath.

The film starts with a cranked car chase. OSS 117 is in the back of a car that is being chased by two cars full of unknown assailants wielding machine guns. The vehicle that OSS 117 is in, after some slick manoeuvring, drives into a stone quarry where a helicopter is waiting for them. Conveniently, there are some barrels of fuel at the entrance to the quarry, beside the road. OSS shoots the barrels and the petrol floods out onto the road. Next he produces a cigarette lighter and sets the fuel alight. The pursuing vehicles drive into the wall of flame as Hubert makes his getaway.

Back at headquarters, it is explained that the opening scene was actually a failed rescue attempt where OSS 117 was to rescue a fellow agent named Clark, who was investigating a ‘new undetectable missile’. The makers of this missile are blackmailing the governments of the world for one hundred million dollars. To prove that they are genuine, the unnamed evil organization (let’s just call them ‘the Organization’) threatens to blow up a US base in the Far East.

After the destruction of one of a US base in the Far East, the Top-Brass are convinced that the threat is genuine, and assign Hubert to Tokyo to find out what he can. His contact is an operative named Ralston who has mysteriously gone missing. However, fearing the worst, Ralston passed on instructions that if anything were to happen to him, then the firm is to watch over and protect a girl at the US Embassy named Eva Wilson (Marina Vlady).

Within no time, Hubert is on the job and interrogating Eva. She explains that several months prior, she met an officer in a nightclub – then her memory of the evening is blank. She woke up in a strange room on the outskirts of Tokyo. Later a Japanese gentleman turned up with some photos of her and the officer in rather uncompromising positions. The gentleman promised not to send the photographs to her husband in Washington (it’s a long distance marriage) id she would divulge certain information – being the radio codes for US base 124 – which just so happens to be the US base that was destroyed by the Organization.

Knowing that Eva Wilson is the only link to the Organization, Hubert chooses to pose as her husband and hopes to flush them out. Which he does, resulting in some memorable set-pieces – one being a car chase on a winding mountain road, and another being a great fight scene in a Japanese Bath house.

I found this film to be an absolute riot and a joy to watch (I must have been in just the right mood), but it is far from perfect. The villains are ill defined and when they are revealed are not particularly menacing or imposing. But the action set pieces are very competently put together, and as the story progresses, the plot has just the right degree of outlandishness that I have come to expect from a Eurospy production. Fans of the James Bond series in particular will find a lot to enjoy. The film has a hint of Thunderball about it, which is not so very surprising considering Terence Young’s participation — he was one of the writers, who adapted Jean Bruce’s novel. But what I truly found fascinating — and I am not suggesting any plagiarism on anybody’s part here — is that this film features a few ideas that would be expanded upon in The Spy Who Loved Me made eleven years later. The film features a giant yacht that can swallow other ships and even has its own little dock inside. It’s not on the same scale as the Liparus in Spy, but the similarity is eerie. The co-incidence is taken a step further at the climax, when Hubert sits behind the control desk of The Organization’s missile console. As the missile flies through the air, Hubert re-routes the projectile so its target is now the The Organization’s headquarters on the yacht. By the way, this yacht is not just a little sailing ketch, this floating lair houses a scientific setup to rival Dr. No.

OSS 117 Terror in Tokyo is a terrific little film and Frederick Stafford makes a believable and charismatic hero. Stafford also played OSS 117 in the previous film in the series, Mission For a Killer, which is reportedly even better than this (I haven’t seen it). If that is the case, then it must really be a humdinger, because this film delighted me no end. Yeah, it is EuroSpy, and I know sometimes the pacing and style of EuroSpy films take a bit of getting used to. But Terror in Tokyo more than meets the audience half way. After the success of Jean Dujardin’s recent OSS 117 films, the sixties films were re-released on DVD in France, in beautiful widescreen prints, but unfortunately (as the dastardly French often do) they didn’t see fit to include an English dub or subtitles. That is a real pity because this series appears to be worth seeking out.

Below is the first few minutes of the film. Posted on YouTube by: Tallyortoby

THE OSS 117 films are:
OSS 117 is Not Dead (1956)
OSS117 Unchained (1963)
OSS 117 Shadow of Evil (1964)
OSS 117 Mission For a Killer (1965)
OSS 117 Terror in Tokyo (1966)
OSS 117 Double Agent (1968)
OSS 117 Takes a Vacation (1969)

The two recent parodies with Jean Dujardin are:
OSS 117 Cairo: Nest of Spies (2007)
OSS 117 Lost in Rio (2009)

OSS 117 Terror in Tokyo (1966)

From Russia With Love (1963)

Director: Terence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Daniella Bianchi, Lotte Lenya, Vladek Sheybal, Pedro Amendariz, Walter Gottell
Music: John Barry
End title song performed by Matt Monroe
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted reviews for some of my favourite James Bond films. This is not because I don’t want to do them, but I want to do them justice. I want every word to be perfect (but as you know, this will be the usual scattershot scribble – but give me points for trying!) In conversation I could talk about From Russia With Love for half a day and still not be out of breath – admittedly, all I’d be saying is ‘Daniella Bianchi is gorgeous’ over and over. When it comes to the written word I could write ‘Daniella Bianchi is gorgeous’ over and over, and in my mind, that would still make it a good review – although slightly repetitive. But I want to give you more, especially as this is one of the best spy films of all time. It is a tight cold war thriller which has a good plot, some great fight scenes, particularly in a gypsy camp and on board the Orient Express, and intriguing characters. The story concerns Bonds attempt to retrieve a Russian decoding machine from Istanbul. But along the way Bond encounters Robert Shaw and Lotte Lenya, who are a pair of particularly nasty villains working for S.P.E.C.T.R.E. – Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.

The previous Bond film, Dr. No did not have a pre-title sequence. The series’ first pre-title sequence happens in From Russia With Love, and it is now an integral part of the Bond formula. But the legacy starts here, and this film has a magnificent cow-catcher. The film opens in a hedge maze at night, on S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Island. In the maze are James Bond (Sean Connery) and Red grant (Robert Shaw). It slowly becomes apparent that a cat and mouse game is going on between the two men. It seems that they want to kill each other. As the ‘game’ continues, Grant gets the drop on Bond. As Bond moves from his cover, Grant grabs him from behind and then produces a garrotte wire from his wristwatch. He then proceeds to choke Bond to death. Bond dies and collapses dead on the grass. Suddenly giant flood lights flick to life. The whole exercise was a training exercise for psychotic S.P.E.C.T.R.E. killer, Grant.

What about Bond though? Grant’s trainer, Morenzy (Walter Gotell) walks over to Bond’s corpse and reaches down. He removes a mask revealing the face of an unfortunate S.P.E.C.T.R.E. thug. The real Bond is still alive. This man was just a training tool.

Next comes the title sequence. Most Bond fans are aware that Maurice Binder was responsible for the famous gunsight logo at the beginning of each Bond film. They are equally aware he provided many of the title sequences throughout the series. However he did not do the titles for From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. These were created by sixties Graphic Design guru Robert Brownjohn. From the book ‘Robert Browjohn: Sex And Typography’ by Emily King…

“Brownjohn often told the tale of how he sold the idea for From Russia with Love: gathering producers and executives into a darkened room, he turned on a slide projector, lifted his shirt and danced in front of the beam of light, allowing projected images to glance off his already alcohol extended belly.”

After the titles, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. introduces it’s fantastic scheme which is the product of an evil mastermind named Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal). We meet Kronsteen at the Venice International Grandmasters Championship, which is a chess tournament. It is the match final, and he is facing off against the Canadian champion McAdams. Against the wall is positioned a giant chess board so a gallery of spectators can follow the game as it progresses.

As the game is played out, a glass of water is brought out to Kronsteen. He raises the glass and napkin to his lips only to see a secret message visible at the bottom of the glass – written on the napkin. It says: ‘You are required at once’, and underneath is the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. logo – which appears (in this instance) to be a four legged octopus. Kronsteen is forced to finish the game quickly, which he does – showcasing his superior intellect.

Next we join Kronsteen on a boat where he outlines his scheme to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., and Rosa Klebb. His scheme is quite complicated. At the heart of it all is a Lektor decoding machine, which the Russians use to send and decode secret messages. Practically every intelligence agency in the world wants to get their hands on one. The Americans want one – so do the British. And S.P.E.C.T.R.E. want one to sell to the highest bidder. But S.P.E.C.T.R.E. don’t want to do their own dirty work. Kronsteen’s plan involves the theft of the Lektor by M.I.6. To achieve this end, Rosa Klebb, who was a high level Russian Security official, but now works for S.P.E.C.T.R.E., orders a young girl, Tatiana Romanova (Daniella Bianchi), who works at the Russian Embassy in Istanbul to seduce British agent, James Bond. Romanova still believes that Klebb works for Russian Intelligence and agrees to the mission (she has little choice).

A photo of Romanova is sent to M.I.6 headquarters, along with a letter saying that she wishes to defect to the West. It also indicates she has access to a Lektor and is willing to bring one across with her. M.I.6 jump at the chance to obtain a Lektor. But the defection has one condition – the agent sent to bring her in must be James Bond. She has seen a file photo of him and has fallen in love. ‘M’, the head of M.I.6 doesn’t buy into the lovey-dovey stuff for a second and realises it is a trap – but he decides to send 007 to Turkey anyway. S.P.E.C.T.R.E., of course expect Bond to acquire the Lektor, and then they step in, kill Bond, and take the decoder.

On paper, and scrawled in longhand, the plot for From Russia With Love seems terribly contrived and complicated, but as the movie unfolds the story plays out beautifully. Every piece of the puzzle fits expertly into it’s slot.

Another plot point worth mentioning is that the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. don’t just want to steal a Lektor. They also want revenge for the death of their operative Dr. No. That is to say, they want to kill James Bond – you may have gathered that from the pre-title sequence. The S.P.E.C.T.R.E. operative chosen to eliminate Bond is Red Grant, who, once again was featured in the pre-title sequence. Grant is a nutter who enjoys killing. His confrontation with Bond on board the Orient Express is one of the best fight scenes in the series.

From Russia With Love being an earlier Bond film, isn’t as gadget reliant as some of the other films in the series. But none-the-less it still features one or two little devices. I don’t know if you’d call a briefcase a gadget, but the case presented to 007 by ‘Q’ (Desmond Llewellyn) has quite a few handy features including a flat throwing knife, a gas canister that explodes when the case is opened, and a supply of gold sovereigns with which an agent could buy his way out of trouble.

It seems strange to say this, after all it is a Bond film, which these days is synonymous with big action scenes and adventure, but From Russia With Love is almost a character piece. The film has a varied and interesting ensemble of characters. Lotte Lenya, who plays Rosa Klebb, the ex-SMERSH director of operations, who now works for S.P.E.C.T.R.E, is a hard piece of work. It’s even intimated that she may be a lesbian. There’s definitely some ‘man-hating’ tendencies in her character. She bullies and abuses her henchman, Morenzy (Walter Gotell), and introduces herself to Red Grant by hitting him in the stomach with a set of brass knuckles.

Another interesting character is Kerim Bey, played by Pedro Amendariz. Amendariz was riddled with cancer when the film was being made, and committed suicide after the filming of his scenes was complete. The character though, is warm and cultured, the complete antithesis of Rosa Klebb.

The music for the previous Bond film, Dr. No had been composed by Monty Norman, and it has been acknowledged that he wrote The James Bond Theme. But John Barry is credited with arranging and performing The James Bond Theme. It was his work on that track that landed him the gig as composer on From Russia With Love. Although it would be the next film down the track, Goldfinger, which locked in the Bond sound, the score for this film is of a very high standard. The musical interludes in Turkey are particularly good. The soundtrack also introduces the ‘007 Theme’ which would reappear in later films in the series. Although there are no lyrics to the title track, Matt Monro croons the end title song, which is pretty smooth.

From Russia With Love is universally acknowledged as one of the best Bond films, but I would take that further – From Russia With Love is one of the greatest films of all time, regardless of genre. It has a great story with intriguing characters – each of them portrayed by the perfect actor for the role. The film is a timeless classic and superior cinema.

..and, of course, ‘Daniella Bianchi is gorgeous’!

From Russia With Love (1963)

Secret Mission (1942)

Directed by Harold French
Hugh Williams, James Mason, Michael Wilding, Carla Lehmann, Karel Stepanek, Herbert Lom, Nancy Price, Roland Culver, Walter Gotell
Music by Mischa Spoliansky

One of the writers credited for Secret Mission is Shaun Terence Young – better known to spy fans as plain old Terence Young, who would later direct three of the early James Bond films, as well as Triple Cross and Jigsaw Man.

Made in 1942, of course, this is a war time propaganda piece. It’s all about fighting the good fight for the just cause, but not much fighting actually happens. In the film four men stationed in England are sent on a mission to St. Antoine in German occupied France. The men are Major Peter Garnett (Hugh Williams) who is leading the group. Next we have Captain Red Gowan (Roland Culver). Then we have ex-patriot Frenchman, Raul de Carnot (James Mason), whose family lives in St. Antoine. And bringing up the rear is cad, Private Nobby Clark (Michael Wilding), who has a French wife in St. Antoine who he is not too keen to see.

The men are ferried across the Channel, through the mines, until they are just off the coast of France. From there, they have to make their own way in a dingy. Once on French soil, Garnett and Raoul hide out at Raoul’s family home, and Gowan and Clark hide at Clark’s wife’s home.

The real weakness of the film is the mission itself, which is ill-defined. It seems like a case of ‘let’s go see what Jerry is up to!’ While intelligence gather was no doubt very important during the war, in this instance it doesn’t really add up to a ‘Secret Mission’ as we’d expect in a spy film today.

The story is also riddled with subplots involving the loved ones of Raoul and Nobby. While Nobby’s plight is mostly comic relief, poor old Raoul plays the serious and dour, but at the same time righteous and patriot Frenchman, who fights to get his country back. With German occupation in his hometown, this only causes conflict between him and his family. Maybe Raoul would have been a far more sympathetic character had he not been hampered by Mason’s dodgy French accent.

The film has one or two lighter moments. One of them is when Garnett and Gowan, posing as Champagne salesmen talk their way into German Intelligence headquarters for the region. The Germans realise that the men are frauds, but believe that they are from the Gestapo checking up on them. The scene is a breath of fresh air in a rather drab film.

Generally this type of film enthrals me. I love the old character driven pieces from the thirties and forties, but unfortunately this one just doesn’t stack up.

Secret Mission (1942)

Dr No (1962)

Directed by Terence Young
Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Jack Lord, Anthony Dawson, John Kitzmiller, Eunice Gayson, Zena Marshall, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell
Music by Monty Norman
James Bond theme played by John Barry
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming

I don’t think I am giving too much away when I say that I am a child of the seventies and eighties. The first Bond film I saw was The Spy Who Loved Me, and I absolutely loved it. Soon after, I started on a quest to try and watch all of the James Bond films. It wasn’t so easy back then. There were no video tapes, let alone DVDs. Basically all I could do was wait until a Bond film showed up on network TV, Over the years I ticked off each of the films as they were shown, but Dr. No remained steadfastly hidden from view. It wasn’t until the video age swept the world in the mid eighties that I finally got to see the first Bond film. And as a teenager, I must admit I wasn’t too impressed. It wasn’t like the other films. The start was different; where was the pre-title sequence? And where were the one-liners and double entendres?

But still, it was a Bond film and almost religiously I would watch it once a year. And now here it is twenty (plus) years later and you know what? I have truly grown to love this film. I think it is one of the best of the series. Anyway, that’s enough reminiscing; let’s look at the film!

There are conflicting opening dates for the first Bond film. The James Bond Interactive Dossier lists it as October 5,1962, but Raymond Benson in The James Bond Beside Companion writes that the film opened on the 7th. Either way Ian Fleming’s superspy James Bond 007 made his first big screen appearance. By this I mean cinematic appearance. James Bond had appeared before in an American TV movie of Casino Royale in 1954, but to most people, that doesn’t count. Dr No was the first official James Bond movie made by EON productions, the company most people associate with the Bond franchise.

For the part of James Bond, Ian Fleming wanted David Niven or even Roger Moore, but he was contracted to the television series The Saint. The Studio’s wanted Cary Grant but he would only agree to do two films. Finally they settled on little known actor Sean Connery and the rest, as they say, is history.

Despite it’s age, Dr No is one of the most violent Bond movies. From full-blooded fist fights, cold- blooded killings, flash-cubes being thrust into the head, this films depiction of violence is more realistic, and less stylised than later films in the series. Towards the end, after Bond has been given the ‘treatment’ by Dr No’s henchmen and struggled through an obstacle course, he is pretty badly beaten up and not the suave, unruffled hero we are used to.

In it’s day Dr. No was quite blatant in its depiction of sex. These days it would be considered quite mild and even teen films like Agent Cody Banks and If Looks Could Kill are almost on par with the shenanigans that go on. But still, there are quite a few conquests for Bond along the way. Firstly, Eunice Gayson’s character, Sylvia Trench (the girl Bond picks up at the Casino at the beginning). Originally the character was intended to appear in every film but the idea was dropped after From Russia With Love. It is alluded to that Bond beds her before heading off on his mission.

Next is Zena Marshall, who as Miss Taro is the most ruthless and conniving of the ladies Bond beds. She deliberately lures Bond to her cabin in the mountains for a romantic interlude. All the while it is a trap, where a team of assassins in a hearse try to run Bond’s vehicle of the road. After the assassins fail, she arranges for Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) to finish the job. He is not too successful either.

Last but not least, is Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, who was cast after the producers saw a picture of her in a wet T-shirt. She is the first real Bond girl. Her emergence from the water, wearing a white bikini with a belt and knife at her hip, is one of the most famous and lampooned sequences in modern cinema history. Incidentally, Ursula Andress’ voice was completely re-dubbed for the films release.

The movie primarily set in Jamaica, starts with the assassination of Strangways, the top M.I.7* operative in the Caribbean, and his secretary, by three hoods working for Dr No. Strangways was investigating some destructive radio signals emanating from the Caribbean. These signals were toppling (sending off course) American missiles.

Bond is sent to Jamaica to follow up, and from the instant he arrives, he is up to his armpits with henchmen and women trying to divert him from his mission. And naturally enough, this all leads to Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman). Dr. No, like many criminal masterminds, has a physical impediment. He has metal hands. He also works for an evil criminal organisation called S.P.E.C.T.R.E., which stands for Special Executive for Counter Terrorism Revenge and Extrortion.

I think that the true Bond fans love Dr. No. Maybe callow youth (hey, I was one once) and tourists to the series may not rate it too highly, but this is a bloody great film, and without it, we wouldn’t have the Bond series as we know it today.

*In Dr. No, ‘M’ (Bernard Lee) refers to his department as M.I.7. Only in later films in the series does it revert to M.I.6. But funnily enough, in vintage advertising material, ‘M’ says M.I.6. If you look carefully at the film, you can see the Lee has looped his dialogue. His lips read ‘six’, but his voice says ‘seven’.

Dr No (1962)

The Jigsaw Man (1983)

Director: Terence Young
Starring: Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier, Susan George, Robert Powell, Charles Gray, Vladek Sheybal, Anthony Dawson, Peter Burton
Music: John Cameron
Song: ‘Only You And I’ performed by Dionne Warwick
Based on the novel by Dorothea Bennett

The Jigsaw Man opens with a rather paunchy, grey old Englishman living in Russia receiving a visit from a Boris Medvachian (Morteza Kazerouni), a KGB agent. Medvachian tells the elderly gent that he is dead. Literally, as he shows him a newspaper with his obituary dated six months in advance. The elderly man is outraged. He insists he is an important person and cannot be treated this way. His name is Philip Kimberley (obviously a play on Kim Philby – played by Richard Aylen), and he used to be the Director General of the British Secret Service before he defected to Russia. And although Kimberley is quite old, every time he speaks, the voice of Michael Caine escapes from his lips. Is this a clever makeup job? No, it is a poor piece of dubbing. It seems that Kimberley has become a drunken embarrassment and the Russian powers-that-be want him out of the way. Kimberley is drugged and bundled into an ambulance which takes him to a private hospital. At the hospital Kimberley undergoes plastic surgery, and when he awakes, not only does he sound like Michael Caine, but now he looks like him, but with dark hair and a porn star moustache. Next we launch into a low-rent training montage which has delusions of being in the Rocky vein, but without the sweat and sculptured physical specimens. Kimberley is being turned into a killing machine.

After six months, Kimberley’s training is complete and the scars from the surgery have healed. To complement his new face, he is given a new name, Sergei Kozminsky. And he is given a mission. He is to go back to England. It is believed, that when he defected, he stole a payroll list of all the convert Russian agents working in Britain. He is to retrieve this list.
At this time it is also announced to the world the Philip Kimberley has died and a Russian State funeral is held in his honour.

Kozminsky/Kimberley (for the purposes of this review and to avoid confusion, I’ll refer to him only as Kimberley from now on) arrives at Heathrow. As he passes through customs, an official finds a note planted in his passport which says that he is a KGB agent and wants to defect. Within seconds, he is surrounded by security officers and spirited away to The Home Office. Medvachian and the KGB are not happy.

Meanwhile another flight lands at Heathrow. This one is carrying Jamie Fraser (Robert Powell), a top flight secret agent who poses as a United Nations diplomat. Upon arrival in London, the first thing he does is report to headquarters and his controller, Admiral Gerald Scaith (Laurence Olivier). During a heated debriefing it appears that Fraser has lost a fellow operative on his last assignment. The agent concerned was a homosexual who hanged himself in disgrace. It also appears that Scaith is not happy about Kimberley’s death and it is revealed that Fraser is now bedding Kimberley’s daughter, Penny (Susan George). It’s all rather tangled and contrived. Sorry, dear reader, it gets worse, but more on that later…..

Afterwards, Fraser heads to Penny’s apartment. She is being hounded by the press for a story about her late father. Fraser helps her through the wall of reporters and takes her to her country cottage. Meanwhile back at the Home Office, after his defection, Kimberley has escaped from custody. Scaith isn’t happy about this either, as Sir James Chorley (Charles Gray) mocks him for losing his prize. Scaith orders the room fingerprinted, but doesn’t expect much.

Scaith is portrayed and a bitter and twisted old man. Why is he bitter? When Kimberley defected, Scaith moved in on Kimberley’s abandoned wife. But rather than marry Scaith, she chose suicide. We see this via flashback as Scaith wanders the streets at night, heading home. On route, as he pauses to light a cigarette, who should pop up? Kimberley. But Scaith doesn’t recognise him as Kimberley. He thinks it is genuinely a defector call Kozminsky. Adopting a cringe inducing Russian accent, Kimberley as Kozminsky tells Scaith that back in Russia, he was close friends with the deceased Kimberley. Er, does that make sense? Kimberley also says he has access to the stolen Russian payroll documents and will sell them for one million dollars. As the two gentlemen stroll, they get closer to Scaith’s house. As a high ranking official, he always has a policeman patrolling his home. When they are within range, Scaith blows a whistle and the police officer comes running. Kimberley is forced to flee. More police flood into the area, and Kimberley has to disable two officers to make his escape. When it appears that Kimberley is in the clear, a green van pulls along side, and unknown assailant shoots Kimberley in the side. The van then drives off. When I say ‘unknown assailant’, it is pretty obvious who it is. After all, the British want their defector alive. There is only one other side – the Russians. But how they found him is a mystery. Oh well, just another poorly plotted red herring, in a piss-poor script.

Onwards. The following morning, in a sequence that seems like bureaucracy at it’s worst (or more poor plotting), Scaith asks Sir James Chorley to get his Special Branch men involved in the search for the defector. But Chorley says his Branch is stretched tight and asks to borrow some men for the task. First, he asks for Fraser’s partner – the homosexual who killed himself. Chorley is told of his recent demise. Then Chorley asks for Fraser. Scaith agrees. (Surely Scaith, as Fraser’s controller could have simply set him loose on Kimberley without bringing Chorley into it?) But after all that bullshit, Fraser is now working for Chorley to track down a defector called Kozminsky, who has access to the Russian payroll list.

Penny, now residing at her country cottage arrives home to find the tap dripping. She turn the faucet only to find it is covered in blood. Before she can react, Kimberley grabs her from behind, and confesses to be her father, despite his appearance. It doesn’t take long for him to convince her, as he reveals some intimate details from her past that only her father would know. She patches up his bullet wound the best she can, and puts him up in a hotel run by some of her friends.

Back at Scaith’s office, a Scotland Yard fingerprint expert explains that the fingerprints found at the Home Office, when the defector escaped, belong to Philip Kimberley. Scaith can’t believe it, but somehow is pleased that he will have a chance to go up against his old adversary once more. He also decides to keep this bit of information to himself. So Chorley and Fraser still believe they are after Kozminsky.

Kimberley decides it is time for one further change of appearance. He shaves off the moustache and dies his hair light brown. The transformation is complete – we now have pure Michael Caine. Next Kimberley ducks into a local church and retrieves a micro film he had secreted there many years ago. hidden in a statue, naturally. Kimberley then mails a small portion to Scaith as evidence that he still has the documents, and that he still wants his million dollars.

Back in London, Penny loans her apartment to a girlfriend named Susan (Maureen Bennett). Not a great idea, because the Russians are watching the flat and mistake Susan for Penny. Susan is kidnapped and whisked away to Russia.

Now this is where the story gets weird. Fraser and Chorley are still trying to track down Kozminsky and are staying at the same Hotel. After taking a shower, Fraser walks into his bedroom to find Chorley in the room wearing only a dressing gown. Chorley is a homosexual and because Fraser’s ex-partner was also gay, Chorley assumes that Fraser is. Fraser sets Chorley straight. It’s not an easy scene to watch. Not because of the homosexual theme – but because Charles Gray is lumbered with a poorly applied skull cap. It appears his character is bald and he wears a selection of different length wigs each day to intimate that his hair is growing. But the makeup in this scene is so badly applied, that rather than being a defining moment for these two characters, it simply becomes creepy!

Back to Penny. She makes a trip to her apartment to check on Susan who is not answering the phone. He finds the apartment has been trashed and Susan missing. In hysterics she calls Kimberley, but the phone is tapped. Scaith turns up and takes Penny into custody. Kimberley flees from the hotel he is staying at and calls Scaith. He still wants to make the exchange and organises a swap, cash for the payroll, at the church where the microfilm is hidden. Scaith agrees and sets Penny up as the delivery girl. She has to take the money to her father.

Naturally enough it is a trap, and all agents converge on the church, including Chorley and Fraser. As the exchange is taking place, Kimberley grabs Penny and puts a gun to her head. It’s a ruse, because he won’t kill his own daughter but Chorley and Fraser don’t realise that Kozminsky is Kimberley. Scaith realises its a ploy, but doesn’t let on. It does, however allow Kimberley to escape and he steals a car. Fraser ‘borrows’ a police motorbike and follows. For some reason, the chase and following shootout take place in a lion park. It just happened to be there, I guess (Why did the chicken cross the road?)

As I mentioned in the paragraph above, once the cars and bike have come to a halt, there is a shootout. Poor old Chorley buys it, but it appears he was working for the Russians anyway. That about wraps it up – there is a bit more but not worth discussing. In the context of the story and the past history these characters have, it doesn’t make sense. But, oh well, that sums up the movie really!

One of the most annoying things about this movie is the constant references to the Cambridge Spies, Philby, Burgess, Maclean and Blunt. Barely a set piece goes by without mention or allusion to these four men. I presume this is because of the publication of Climate Of Treason by Andrew Boyle, the book that outed Anthony Blunt as the fourth man, a few years earlier. As I mentioned at the start, Caine’s character is Philip Kimberley obviously a play on Kim Philby, and the comparison’s in life story are similar (Head of British Intelligence defects to Russian etc..). Maybe that is clever, simplistic, but a fare enough foundation to hang a film on. But the film makers aren’t happy with this. they have to go further. They imply that Philby exists also, which implies that two Heads of British Intelligence have defected. It is just clumsy, and reeks of name dropping for the sake of credibility.

Another clumsy aspect of the film is the way homosexuals are represented. In the film homosexuality seems to imply that one is a Communist. A dated view of the world, which would be sure to raise the ire of certain groups in the community. Fraser’s partner kills him self in shame, and at one point, Scaith says that if homosexuality had been legal in Britain at the time, Burgess and Maclean wouldn’t have defected. And as it turns out Sir James Chorley is a Communist spy, and he too is homosexual.

This has to be one of the most disappointing films in the genre. Why? Although it is not the worst film to be found on these pages (but it’s close), the talent associated with this project should have ensured a top-flight production. Let’s start with the team behind the camera. Firstly, director Terence Young has a proven track record with spy films, having directed Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Thunderball and Triple Cross. The second unit director is Peter Hunt. He worked with Young on the early Bond films and directed one of the best, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Then we move onto the people in front of the camera. Michael Caine, yep Harry Palmer himself, a doyen of the spy film, gives possibly the worst performance of his career. His attempt at a Russian accent is painful. Next we have Olivier. Well, it’s no secret that he made a lot of crap in the autumn of his years, but for an actor who is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century to stoop to this level is quite sad. Then we have Robert Powell. He escapes my scathing tongue, by virtue that he is underused. The film features some fantastic character actors, who have been, or were the mainstays of the spy genre, like Vladek Sheybal (From Russia With Love, Billion Dollar Brain, Puppet On A Chain, Scorpio) and Anthony Dawson (Dr. No, Operation Kid Brother, and Blofeld’s voice in Thunderball). So despite all these seasoned campaigners behind and in front of the camera, they cannot lift this turkey up above the bottom rung. That’s why it is such a disappointment.

Maybe this review, with all the name dropping in the previous paragraph has peaked your interest. Please, don’t be fooled. This movie is only for spy or Michael Caine completists.

The Jigsaw Man (1983)