EUROSPYMEXISPYBOLLYSPYBLAXSPYBOSSASPYASIASPYARABSPY SOVIETSPY
EUROSPYMEXISPYBOLLYSPYBLAXSPYBOSSASPYASIASPYARABSPY SOVIETSPY
COLD WAR SPY FILM MULTI-DIMENSIONAL PROJECT
COLD WAR SPY FILM MULTI-DIMENSIONAL PROJECT

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A 008, operazione Sterminio (Umberto Lenzi, 1965)

 

The first of four spy films from Romana films produced by Fortunato Misiano and directed by Umberto Lenzi.  This romp between Egypt and Switzerland is silly stuff and a lot of fun.

 

A 008, operazione Sterminio is rich in spy film motifs. The opening title sequence is a montage of radar transmitters underscored by a bleepy morse-like main theme from Angelo Francesco Lavagnino. There is a fabulous array of spy gadgetry including a lipstick that sprays tear gas, a machine gun umbrella and a blade firing glove. There are cable cars, airport arrivals halls, nightclubs, exotic locales, poolside scenes and even a secret laboratory of large glowing balls. Lenzi has got all the spy imagery covered.

 

Probably the most interesting facet of A 008, operazione Sterminio is that the spy of the title and the leading role in the film is a woman. Cool German blonde Ingrid Schoeller is MacDonald, agent 008. She teams up with British agent Frank Smith, agent 606 (Alberto Lupo) to track down an anti-radar system hidden in Egypt. Schoeller is a strong female lead with a nifty suspender holster and a cute “22 calibre Winchester supersonic”. When Smith beats off her attacker, Macdonald says “I could’ve handled him myself”. Smith replies “Sorry, I keep thinking you’re a woman”.

 

The race is on against Chinese agent Ta Naki and chief villain Kemp (Ivano Staccioli.) to find the anti-radar system. Ta Naki is described as having “a weakness for roulette and blondes” and does not last long.  Our two leads take a pacey trip though Egypt via the sphinx, pyramids, Luxor and the desert with plenty of deadly run-ins with enemy agents. Cars with no breaks, a portable gas chamber in a van and the deadly glove all have to be contended with and that’s before the double crossing begins.

 

Despite some clunky dialogue, “A 008, operazione Sterminio” is full of the freshness of early Eurospy entries. Lenzi and co. seem to be having lots of fun conjuring up this hi-jinx which they pass on to us. Good show! 7/10

 

 

A.D.3 Operazione Squalo Bianco aka Operation White Shark (Filippo Walter Ratti as Stanley Lewis, 1966)

 

A.D.3 Operazione Squalo Bianco is a perfect example of the Eurospy guilty pleasure. It cannot be considered a good film; the pacing, editing, sets, direction and dialogue vary wildly from amateurish to passable. What is consistent in “Squalo Blanco” is an utterly carefree sense of fun. Nobody on this picture cares too much and the leisurely approach pervades the film. It’s like being on holiday. Much of this mood is created by Robby Poitevin’s score which is light, flute driven and melodic. It certainly helps conjures up a Mediterranean vibe. Scuba diving and yachting also adds to the holiday feel. The sunlit Sicilian locations around Porto Rosa complete the effect. Indeed the film at times feels like it was shot by a tourist. A scene late in the film featuring a cave network of stalactites goes on and on just to show the splendour of the location.

 

“Squalo Blanco” is without pretension and can only be enjoyed in that context. It systematically ticks every Eurospy motif box giving a reassuring viewing experience. It starts and ends at the airport, has an army of spy girls in black uniform, a kidnapped professor, and nightclub scene with torch song, torture, fist and gun fights and Citroëns. Most important of all it has a superhuman leading man in the shape of Rodd Dana (here billed as Robert Mark.) A supercomputer chooses Mark Andrews as the best man for the job and pops out a card with the following résumé:

 

“Law Degree; accomplished linguist; French; Spanish; Italian. Cases solved: caught kidnappers of Jones baby in Dallas; recaptured for the federal government the formula for missile fuel. Expert in deep sea diving; crack pistol shot; black belt in judo and boxing champion middleweight”

 

The man is the classic mythical superman and so easily located by the magic of modern technology.  When Washington calls Mark Andrews he is in the middle of a slapstick barroom brawl at “The Golden Gate Bar”. Referencing a classic western the scene plays with a honky-tonk piano as our good looking hero displays his invincible prowess. In answer to being called to a job, Andrews complains: “This is my vacation!” Superman status is further endorsed by amorous adventures on an airliner in the next scene.

 

In some ways “Squalo Blanco” is reminiscent of a Jesus Franco film. It has the same disregard for narrative and a loose, freewheeling style. It also stars Franco’s long time collaborator Janine Reynaud who is deliciously deadly as bad girl, chanteuse, and torturer.

 

“Squalo Blanco” is a film only to be enjoyed by Eurospy fans that are in no hurry and feel like idling in Sicily for 80 minutes. 5/10

 

 

Affare Beckett, L’ aka The Beckett Affair (Osvaldo Civirani, 1966)

 

A dark, complex affair from Italian director Osvaldo Civirani. The film actually feels more French than Italian; partly because much of the story plays out in Paris but also because of the serious and stylish tone. Lang Jeffries has the lead role of Agent OS27 Rod Cooper and carries this dense tale with his powerful presence.

 

Jeffries stumbled into acting after serving in Korea and ending up in Rome. His good looks and intensity were not only photogenic, but bore a passing resemblance to Sean Connery. The timing was just right. He proceeded to star in nine Eurospy productions all of which are first rate. Like Georgio Ardisson and Roger Browne, Jeffries was a spy of the new breed – agile, well built but not a muscleman, resourceful, serious with an underlying deadly potential. Whilst this type of spy was certainly based on the Bond model, these actors all made characters that were very much there own and just as compelling as Bond.  Lang Jeffries as Rod Cooper is an excellent example of this.

 

Rod Cooper is called to Paris where Mrs. Beckitt, the wife of an embassy military attaché, has been found dead. She was supplying information to Colonel Segura – a ruthless right winger hell bent on freeing Cuba. He runs a circle of spies all compromised by heroin and blackmail. To the sound of an excellent harpsichord and vibraphone driven score (Nora Orlandi), Jeffries puts the puzzle together. His follows a trail of murder and kidnapping to Rogerson, a counterspy junkie (Ivan Desney) who then leads him to Segura in Bern, Switzerland. Jeffries gets himself recruited by Segura and to test his loyalty he is sent to Nicaragua on an assassination mission.

 

Osvaldo Civirani, who also photographed the film, gives the film a strong European look with good locations in Paris and Bern. The plot is incredibly dense but all is made clear in the final scene. The opaque narrative adds to the sense of a large web of intrigue. Jeffries’ ability to carry this dense story is aided by a great supporting cast. Carla Calò (Nadia) Andrea Scotti (Steve) and Roberto Messina (Aumont) all played in several spy films. Cooper’s co-agent Paulette (Krista Nell) is stunning in her leopard print outfit. Ivan Desny as troubled addict “counterspy” is excellent. Desny also made many spy entries, notably playing the first Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath in “O.S.S. 117 n'est pas mort” (1956). But it’s Jeffries film and he excels.

 

In the closing scene of L’Affare Beckett, Lang Jeffries picks up a girl hitchhiking. She notices his exposed shoulder holster and asks if he’s James Bond. “And just who is this James Bond?” says Jeffries. Who indeed? 8/10

 

 

Agent Nr 1 aka Agent Numer Jeden (Zbigniew Kuzminski, 1971)

 

Such is the calibre of the makers of “Agent Nr 1” that it looks like it was made yesterday. The fact that it is a WW2 story shot for the most part in Greece does not detract from the very modern look. The sophisticated special effects. Immaculate lighting, framing devices and timeless score all contribute to this. Perhaps the most modern aspect is the low key direction, acting and dialogue which give the film the feel of a 1980s / 1990s art house film – quiet, measured and naturalistic. The fact that it was shot in 1971 is extraordinary. It is further proof that Eastern European filmmakers often lead the way with their modernity and innovation.

 

The true story of Jerzy Szajnowicz-Iwanow (Karol Strasburger) is one of extraordinary bravery and espionage ability. Rising to the position of Agent number 1 of the Greek resistance during Nazi occupation, Szajnowicz-Iwanow’s catalogue of sabotage is extraordinary. The set pieces depicting the huge explosions that devoured German resources are breathtaking. Strasburger’s performance is excellent – a very good looking guy whose boyish charms seem to carry his character though the many near scrapes. His innocent looks are tempered by a steely patriotism that powers his insane exploits.(He has a very nice line in removing handcuffs that he “learnt in Egypt”.)

 

It could be said that the film is perhaps too underplayed. The Nazi characters while brutal are never truly terrifying. The depiction of the occupying force maintains the naturalistic style but probably diminishes some of the drama. With Szajnowicz-Iwanow being effectively a superhero, a clearer sense of his enemy would have made for a better film. Powell & Pressburgers’ “Ill Met by Moonlight” tells the story of another legendary Greek resistance fighter, Patrick Leigh Fermor (Dirk Bogarde) who is pitched against Major General Kreipe (Marius Goring). Goring is an identifiable and formidable foe which this film lacks. However, this is a minor quibble. “Agent Nr 1” is an efficient, entertaining war story with much to recommend it. 7/10

 

 

Agente 077 Missione Bloody Mary (Sergio Grieco, 1965)

 

Sergio Greico made eight spy films back to back between 1965 and 1969. “Agente 077 Missione Bloody Mary” was the first. Ken Clark was leading man in five of Greico’s spy films, all with the name “Dick”. After many years in US television, Ken made his way in Italian sword and sandal epics before his move into the spy genre. Like Lex Barker, Gordon Scott and Brad Harris, Clark belonged to the body builder school of American actors in Europe that got into the spy genre. Clark exhibited an almost lumbering presence that seemed a little out of keeping with the new stealthy and agile James Bond style. That said, his good looks, athleticism, positive disposition and a decent tailor carried him as a secret agent. At his best, Ken exhibited a superhuman quality that gave his spies an almost classical heroic edge. At worst, he was a little Neanderthal.

 

The film kicks off with a smart title sequence and a bombastic title song. The “Bloody Mary” is a nuclear bomb that has been hijacked in France. The C.I.A. sends Dick Malloy Agent 077 to get it back. The details of plot are dealt with at a breakneck pace and the English dubbing in these early scenes is pretty rough. With 3 passports and $50,000 Ken lands in Paris, picks up a black Citroën DS and goes to see co-agent Elsa Freeman (Helga Liné). Dick learns about a deal with Russian agents to buy the “Bloody Mary” bomb. And so begins Dick’s mission.

 

“Agente 077 Missione Bloody Mary” never attains the mythic dimensions of “Missione speciale Lady Chaplin” (another Dick Malloy tale) but it has lots of fun moments with Ken being a super agent. There is a terrific Parisian rooftop chase and shootout with Ken doing his own impressive stunts. (Greico also stages some superb “falling off building” shots for enemy agents.) Ken has an exciting knife fight in his train compartment; he looks great in a ripped shirt covered in blood. His escape from execution on board an enemy ship requires a Herculean swim to shore. When he kisses Juanita (Silvana Jachino) she is left breathless and panting. There is no doubt Ken is “god – like”. It is appropriate that the latter half of his mission is in Athens.

 

Grecio issues a full cache of spy gadgets; cufflinks with hidden knives, a burnt message reconstruction kit, pocket cipher, bug detection kit and unusual “stub” silencers.  There is also plenty of pan- European action; from the Aeroport de Paris via the Capricorn nightclub and an Athenian marble workshop climaxing on the winding corniche roads of Monte Carlo. The supporting cast is also full of Eurospy regulars: Helga Liné with trademark smoldering eyes; Erica Blanc in the first of a dozen Eurospy roles and reliably unnerving villain Umberto Raho.

 

It is the spy motifs that are to be savored in “Agente 077 Missione Bloody Mary” rather than the whole. The ending is lackluster and running around Europe with a nuclear bomb in a small case is pretty silly. But for kitsch value, lightweight fun and spy style “Bloody Mary” is the bomb. 5/10

 

 

Agente 3S3, massacro al sole (Sergio Sollima, 1966)

 

It is hard to judge the 3S3 films from the 1960s English language versions which have been heavily cut. However the presence of leading man Georgio Ardisson makes it essential Eurospy viewing. He has a tip top physique; he moves like a cat, his clothes fit like a mannequin and he is an agile and fast fighter; perfect to play super spy Walter Ross. That said, “Massacro al sole” does not appear to have the pizzazz of the first 3S3 adventure.

 

Ross is sent to a Caribbean island, San Filipe, to locate lost operative agent 3S4.  Posing as an arms smuggler, Ross gains access to the court of looney revolutionary General Siqueiros (Fernando Sancho.) Siqueiros has his own private harem, army and a renegade scientist Karlesten (Eduardo Fajardo) who is busy inventing a new poison gas.

 

Not all the women are lobotomised harem females. Evi Marandi plays the sexy and very English agent Melissa Shaw. She does battle with Josefa (Leontine May) who is a telescopic kendo stick wielding psycho-bitch. Both ladies are most able.

 

The villains are good value too. In particular is Michel Lemoine (as Radek) who is both handsome and myopically twitchy.  He struts about accompanied by an impressive German Shepherd. Ross later bugs the dog’s collar to find out how Radek plans to seize control of the poison gas missile arsenal .

 

Whilst the film is enjoyable enough, it is does not have the hard edge of “Agente 3S3: Passaporto per l'inferno”. It feels more like “Agent 3S3 Passport for vacation” with its ever present backdrop of the sea, sunny Spanish locations and an impossibly catchy soundtrack. Director Sergio Sollima once again enlists the upbeat spy sound of Piero Umiliani who never disappoints. (The film has a great torch song by an uncredited singer.) Certainly worth a look. 6/10

 

 

Agente 3S3: Passaporto per l'inferno (Sergio Sollima, 1965)

 

Agente 3S3: Passaporto per l'inferno is one of the great Eurospy entries – classic genre filmmaking starring Georgio Ardisson who was dubbed at the time “the Italian James Bond”. Of all the actors in Europe who were chosen to confront Bond at the box office only a few were up to the job: Lang Jeffries, Roger Browne and Georgio Ardisson. They had much in common with the giant Connery; confidence, good looks, physicality, charm and screen presence. What set them apart was each had a distinctive and individual persona. There was no one like Georgio Ardisson.

 

Ardisson plays Walter Ross agent 3S3 who is sent to Vienna to seduce bad girl aristocrat Jasmine Von Wittstein (Barbara Simon.) In doing so he gets closer to unknown Mr. A and his Russian spy ring. So begins a series of attempts to eliminate 3S3 including a terrific chase in the snow where Ardissons’ VW beetle is attacked by two juggernauts.

 

There is much snow covered Viennesse location work including a night ride on “the third man” ferris wheel in the prater fairground about half an hour in. At this point the American 1960s print has an absurd 25 minute excision that beggars belief. That a film as good as this one should be deemed better running at 73 minutes is extraordinary and an important example of the way eurospy films were treated in distribution: hacked and renamed beyond recognition.

 

Both versions converge in Lebanon for an exciting 45 minutes of cat and mouse between 3S3, Mr. A and Mr. B. Jasmine is kidnapped but 3S3 has given her a transmitter disguised as a brooch. Another great spy gadget is a poison gas compact that also shoots deadly darts. 3S3 also carries a poisoned drink detection kit.

 

 

Sergio Sollima made a 3S3 sequel “Agente 3S3, massacro al sole” and the wonderfully dark “Requiem per un agente segreto”. He used Piero Umiliani on all his spy films who provides his signature twanging electric guitar spy sound that is a perfect accompaniment to the steady pace and action. “Agente 3S3: Passaporto per l'inferno” is a classic spy film. 8/10

 

 

Agente S.03 Operazione Atlantis aka Operation Atlantis (Domenico Paolella, 1965)

 

The way Agente S.03 Operazione Atlantis oscillates from jet set Pan Am chic to surreal sci-fi warp out is delightful. George Steel (John Ericson) is flirting with the stewardess and learning Japanese on his decent into Rome. He’s met at the airport by a group of anxious officials from the R.I.U. (Research of International uranium) who want Steel to take a job in Morocco. Scientists and researchers are disappearing. Steel meets Rosie, a fantastic looking stewardess who helps him decide to take the job by agreeing to a date in Rome. On leaving the airport Steel is ensnared in a web of intrigue. Before long sexy stewardess Rosie is assisting with his kidnapping and dispatch to Morocco in a packing case.

 

Steel finds himself in a wild subterranean Atlantis. It is seems Atlantis is “lost” in the Moroccan desert hidden by a radiation force field. In fact is a front. Within a radioactive element called Rubidium is being developed by arch-villain Ben-Ullah for the Chinese.

 

Ericson spends much of his time being fought over by Fatima (María Granada) and Albia (Bernardina Sarrocco). He takes to wearing a great pair of riding boots, and on occasion a super sci-fi kitsch anti radiation suit. He defeats a Chinese army and unmasks Ben-Ullah.

 

The Moroccan section of the film (shot in Spain) is truly surreal; a cinematic collision of Flash Gordon and James Bond.  It feels as if someone’s spliced in a couple of rogue reels from another film.

 

Unable to decide between them, Steel brings Fatima and Albia back to Rome in packing cases. The film then plays out as a standard Eurospy genre piece; more airline chic, blowing up cars, Russian helicopters etc.

 

It is impossible to remain unsurprised by Agente S.03 Operazione Atlantis – it is a freak. The sci-fi early synth score of Teo Usuelli, the bizarre hairdos and outfits of the nouveau Atlantians and the twisted genre mash up all make for a great trash experience.  5/10

 

 

Agente segreto 777 - Operazione Mistero (Enrico Bomba 1965)

 

The bold graphics of the opening titles gives way to a routine Italian spy flick that doesn’t have a huge amount to recommend it. Mark Damon as Dr. Bardin goes to Beirut to investigate rogue scientists that are experimenting on mice. Zombification is the name of the game but they only manage to make one zombie and he’s really just a guy sleep walking. While this may sound like an exciting cross genre experiment, it isn’t. There are long drawn out laboratory scenes with Dr. Serens (Seyna Seyn) (sporting heavy duty rubber armour plating) talking to his sidekick Dr. Dexter (Stelio Candelli).

 

Damon is a good looking guy but does not have much to do here short of a little poolside romance, water sports and the occasional scuffle.

 

Bomba made a sequel called “Agente segreto 777 - Invito ad Uccidere” (1967) with Tiziano Cortini (as Lewis Jordan) in the lead role. Jordan is in this too but his character is a fellow agent of Dr. Bardin. He also used the same composer Marcello De Martino for both. 2/10

 

 

Agentti 000 ja kuoleman kurvit (Visa Mäkinen, 1983)

 

Finnish spy spoof that apes Bond. Despite a budget and a car chase there is nothing here to enjoy. Like a 1970’s softcore sex film but with no sex. Not even risable! 0/10

 

 

Agguato a Tangeri aka Trapped in Tangiers (Riccardo Freda 1957)

 

“Agguato a Tangeri” is a very impressive example of early Eurospy. Director Riccardo Freda was already a well established director when he made this stylish and atmospheric slice of “espion noir.” (“Espion noir” is “film noir” featuring spies.) English actor Edmund Purdon who worked primarily in Italian genre pictures takes the lead as Interpol agent John Millwood. The assignment is to crack a drug smuggling operation in Tangiers.

 

At the centre of ex-patriot society and the fashionable beach culture in Tangiers is the beautiful Mary Bolevasco played by a radiant Geneviève Page. (Page later starred in “L'honorable Stanislas, agent secret” opposite Jean Marais.) Purdon and Page share a lot of screen time as their romance develops. True to the Eurospy tradition her father is a scientist, Professor Bolevasco who naturally is involved in the intrigue. The professor is played by established Italian actor Gino Cervi (His other spy films included Geheimaktion schwarze Kapelle” and “Die Herrin der Welt” in which he also played a professor.)

 

“Agguato a Tangeri” has a slick and stylish look with great framing, wonderful Moroccan sets, immaculate costumes and a strong “noir” feel. The film is underscored by a contemporary jazz score by Lelio Luttazzi. Amosphere is also created by the theme song “The Last Phone Call” sung by Gin Maureen that recurs throughout the film. It has a slow, jazz bluesy and after hours feel that compliments the many nightclub and night time scenes.

 

Whilst much of the drama is dialogue driven there are some effective action scenes including car chases, gun fights and a surprisingly gruesome torture scene that is shocking for it’s time. There is also an early example of a spy gadget – a concealed miniature tape recorder with wristwatch headphones. 

 

Riccardo Freda went onto to make two “Coplan” films where the cool spy style he introduced here was developed into benchmark Eurospy. “Agguato a Tangeri” is an important early example of the genre. 7/10

 

 

Agguato Sul Bosforo aka Trapped on the Bosphorus (Luigi Batzella, 1969)

 

Down at the lower depths of the genre is this slow, badly crafted 1969 spionaggio. The De rigueur Pan Am plane landing introduces Mark, Martin and Marcel - a gang of three underworld types in pursuit of a fragmented diamond and some microfilm.  They spend most of the film locked up in an evil sultan’s palace on the Bosphorus being tortured. One redeeming feature is the groovy Hammond driven score from Stelvio Cipriani. This includes a song by Cassia Cipriani which sounds promising but is lost in the mix.  There is a moment of fun where scarfaced baddy locks Rizzo in a shrinking room while manically playing an organ and watching from the other side of a two way mirror. But that is it. Bad choreographed fights and dull erotic dances abound. The film lumbers along to its anti climax where no one gets the diamonds or the microfilm. 2/10

 

 

Akce Bororo (Operation Bororo) (Otakar Fuka 1973)

 

Akce Bororo is a truly strange and in many ways intriguing Czechoslovakian film from the Soviet era of “normalisation”.

 

Dr. Junek (Svatopluk Matyás) goes to the Amazon to track down a rare medicine. Hot on his heels are spies from Germany, France and outer space. The extra terrestrials want the miracle drug to save their planet. The Western Europeans want it because they are baddies.

 

Bozidara Turzonovová plays the stunning blonde wigged alien Ori-Ana. When she is killed by the foreign spies, she is “reprojected” from her home planet.

 

The film is slow but uncharacteristic of the austere face of government approved cinema of the mid seventies. The wild sci-fi theme seems at odds with the sober and sensible standards set by Czech state film commissioners ÚPF. The style is ultra modern with sharp symmetrical shots and framing. Costumes are chic, technology is bright and clean and there are spy gadgets galore including camera sunglasses and recording wrist watches.

 

There are also universal messages spoken by the aliens that also seem a little transgressive for the time. At one point Bozidara Turzonovová says "We have sent signals to the universe to try and connect. Why have we remained silent? Your world is divided.”

 

Like so many films made under soviet rule “Akce Bororo” maybe easier to watch for a western audience than for a native audience that is closer to the cultural oppression of the Soviet era. That said, Soviet era films are being reassessed, especially those that slipped under the radar.  This is good as great Czech filmmakers did not all stop working in 1971. 6/10

 

 

Asalto di Tesoro di Stato aka Assault on the State Treasury (Piero Pierotti, 1967)

 

Roger Browne is an undercover agent posing as a criminal in this talky affair. Kaufmann hires specialists to steal the 20 million dollars from an Arab nation to prevent the Record oil company from losing oil field rights.

 

Shanda (Anita Sanders) is a fraud specialist, Elias (Frank Ressel) is a drug kingpin, Linemann is a white slave trader and Johnny Quick (Roger Browne) is master thief. Quite how the talents of these four are utilised is uncertain.

 

An endless series of Italian conversations that is beyond universal film language. 2/10

 

 

Assignment K (Val Guest, 1968)

 

A tight little espionage tale that has been quiet overlooked. The film has much in common with “Danger Route”; both are low budget British spy thrillers that combine Bondian glamour with downbeat realism. Both films have strong casts, talent behind the camera and intelligent, serious scripts and both are relatively unknown.

 

Assignment K had a few extra pence in the budget; the first half is shot on location in Kitzbühel in the Austrian Tyrol. Before a striking ski resort backdrop, a love affair begins between toy manufacturer tycoon Philip Scott (Stephen Boyd) and gorgeous jetsetter Antonia Peters (Carmilla Sparv). But they are just a few miles from the iron curtain. Agents abound employing classic spy tactics; invisible ink, passwords and morse signalling. Dead letter drops are hidden in cigarette butts. Microfilm is passed from matchbox to cindy doll to plaster cast. What part do the lovers play in this hotbed of espionage? Hints and suggestions are subtly presented to us. As the couple make their way back to London the twists and turns of the story develop in a most satisfying way.

 

One of the great elements of this film is the quite excellent score by Basil Kirchin. It is as good as any spy soundtrack while being quite original. Rather than mimicking the established John Barry sound, Kirchin employs his own signature melodic jazz based mood music. It segues though the film adding a pace and style that is delightful. During an early romantic scene the music is allowed to play at the same level as the dialogue almost obliterating it. The love talk becomes an element in the music rather than being foreground as is normal; a daring mixing decision that works.

 

Director Val Guest needs no introduction. His long post war career via Quatermass, Carry on and Expresso Bongo had led to previous spy entries “Where the Spies Are” and the vast “Casino Royale” both with David Niven. Perhaps the runaway train experience of Royale was central to Guest delivering such a lean and effective spy story here. Cinematographer Ken Hodges along with a crew of seasoned British technicians under-pin the slick look and feel of Assignment K.

 

Special mention must also be made of the splendid cast: Leo McKern, Jeremy Kemp, Michael Redgrave, Werner Peters and John Alderton give much gravitas to the assured central performances by Sparv and Boyd.

 

Why this film and its score are so little known is a mystery. A classic British spy film of the period. 9/10



Asso di picche operazione controspionaggio aka Operation Counterspy (Nick Nostro, 1966)

 

A fun spy film that makes good use of Georgio Ardisson.  In the Italian version he is called “Asso di picche” (Ace of Spades) / Bond Callaghan and in the English version he is Lord Morriston.

 

“Asso di picche” has to impersonate a safecracker called Van Bliss in order to infiltrate an Istanbul spy ring run by nasty nightclub owner Karatis. His quest involves torture, beating and very erotic belly dancing. He is aided by Lena (Lena Von Martens), a pretty blonde in a black pvc spy raincoat whose sister Alina has been killed by Karatis. The mission takes them to the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Libya.  World domination is being implemented by an army in silver suits with large black spiders on the front. They must be stopped and the clock is ticking. (Nostro literally superimposes a clock face on the screen for the last five minutes of the film.)

 

Ardisson looks great in the film in a well tailored white suit. He even looks good when he has to disguise himself in one of the enemy’s silver suits. Eurospy regulars Hélène Chanel and Umberto Raho pop up at the start of the film.

 

Whilst director Nick Nostro’s output was variable, here he is working with seasoned Eurospy talent. On the one hand was scriptwriter Alfonso Balcázar who penned a stack of spy stories. ( “Agente 3S3: Passaporto per l'inferno”, “Kiss Kiss... Bang Bang”, “Operazione Goldman” & “Agente Z 55 missione disperata”) On the other, dialogue writer, José Antonio de la Loma, who wrote a huge number of spy films back to back. He worked on all these films between 1967 and 1968: El Magnífico Tony Carrera, Destino: Estambul 68, Feuer frei auf Frankie, Con la muerte a la espalda, El Hombre del puño de oro, Coplan ouvre le feu à Mexico, El Hombre de Caracas. If you don’t care for Eurospy it’s probably Jose’s fault! 6/10

 

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