Baraka Sur X-13 aka Baraka X-77 (Maurice Cloche, 1966)
A solid B picture from Maurice Cloche based on the novel "Silence Clinique" by Eddy Ghilain who also wrote the dialogue and screenplay. Gérard Barray poses as airline crash investigator Serge Vadile aka X-13. Barray displays an understated yet dynamic presence enhanced by his Spanish good looks. He moves through the drama with a certainty and agility this is convincing. His non fussy low - key approach is echoed by the sound of his silenced gun. The gun is always silenced, used often and the “phhussh…”sound is quiet, deadly and efficient.
The villains are fronted by two renegade doctors, Reichmann and Lupesco who are quite merciless. They kill a plane full of passengers to get at Professor Sartin’s Solid Fuel formula that “will advance space travel 10 years”. Sartin survives the crash, so they whip him off to their private clinic to find out the secret of “Baraka 126” It later transpires that if they had simply consulted their edition of “Introduction to Tensor Equations” they would have found the answers there. But that would’ve been no fun. Instead Barray investigates the clinic and recruits the charming Sylva Koscina who is working there as a nurse.
A game of cat and mouse with the evil doctors and their army of black clad terrorists ensue. Barray is caught and subjected to severe whipping whilst being suspened by his wrists. He manages to escape after a vicious fight with a shovel.
The film is rich with classic spy imagery: the aforementioned silencers, IBM 2” computer reel to reel tape machines, X-13’s open top red sports car, secret passwords, microfilm and cyanide Through the clever use of surveillance equipment, X-13 outmaneuvers his co-agent Ingrid aka Agent B33 (Agnès Spaak) discovering both her duplicity and the location of a factory to be blown up.
The climax in an Italian industrial complex affords Barray the chance to exact revenge for his earlier torture. Utilizing stealth and precision he takes out the villains one by one.
George Garavantz’s memorable score pays homage to Anton Karas’ Harry Lime theme with an upbeat zither tune that replays throughout. His other main music cue centers on suspended vibraphone notes with minimal string accompaniment that works effectively in creating a “mystery” feel.
Mystery is a key element: the viewer is kept in the dark about names, motives and allegiances throughout most of the film. This web of intrigue motif work well: Baraka Sur X-13 keeps you hooked. 6/10
Berlino - Appuntamento per le spie aka Spy in Your Eye (Vittorio Sala, 1965)
Rather than “Berlino - Appuntamento per le spie” (literally “Berlin - Appointment for the Spies), the American title, “Spy in your Eye” is far more descriptive of this film’s eccentricity. The deranged premise of a false eyeball that is a camera is just the start of a breathless stream of looney spydom that makes this film a joy.
The film achieves its comedic success because the cast all play it deadly straight. (A lesson that would have saved many a spy spoof) Both Brett Halsey and Pier Angeli play out the story of the kidnapped scientist’s daughter harbouring a secret formula with aplomb. When trying to win her over to his side with romance and a breathtaking Portofino vista, Angeli says “All that’s missing is the music” which then starts on cue. “I didn’t do that” says Halsey with a straight face. Despite slurring a bit even Hollywood stalwart Dana Andrews mentions his surgeon “Professor Van Dongen” with a furrowed brow and no trace of irony.
Which means we can sit back and giggle at the insane gadgetry on show. The fake hunchback hump that doubles as a dagger and a radio transmitter is a favourite. The umbrella radios, giant microphones, amazing disappearing laboratory and knife welding waxworks Napoleon Bonaparte are all rather splendid. Then there is the human sized toothpaste tubes attached to a van roof for transporting troublesome spies. And the eye of course.
Vittorio Sala delivers a very fast moving story that is hard to keep up with. Whizzing round France, Germany, Poland, Lebanon and Italy at great speed with agents from China, Russia, France, Germany and America means there is no time for boredom. 8/10