Ziab la ta'kol al lahem aka The Kuwait Connection (Samir A. Khouri 1973)
A crossover spy / crime story starring ʻIzzat ʻAlāyilī as Anwar – a soldier and revolutionary who has fought in Palestine, Vietnam and Korea. Moral confusion has led him to become an international hit man for the Chicago syndicate. Like watching a cold war spy film from Russia, it is fascinating to see things from the other side of the mirror – in this case, the Islamic perspective. The message of this Egyptian thriller is clear. By going to work for the infidel in the shape of the American mafia, Anwar’s moral corruption and torment and downfall is certain.
To illustrate this morality tale, director Khouri employs lowbrow genre devices of the west to depict moral decadence. Happily, such devices also bring excitement and narrative drive. The film borrows from the Italian giallo genre with a whodunit slasher element in the final reels. The film also plays like an Italian Eurocrime cop thriller with breathless car chases and vicious gun battles. Khori often subverts the generic forms by adding a moral note. One gun battle takes place in an abattoir where the real slaughter of cattle is intercut with the death of agents. The opening scene features Anwar carrying out an assassination in a white dinner suit and using a large ostentatious gold machine gun: a spy film with symbolism.
There is much to recommend in The Kuwait Connection. The exteriors have a scorched Middle Eastern feel that makes the heat tangible. When the genre elements take a back seat a rich poeticism takes it place; ʻIzzat ʻAlāyilī speaks in voice over about his plight; sound effects, music and montage come to the fore. Such elements are far more in keeping with an art film making the shifts back into genre territory all the more jolting. But the mix-up works – The atmospheric rendering of Egypt helps bring the many styles together. This is due to the fable - like quality of a moral and physical “journey”. As with other epic journeys, the landscape is a key element. Moving through a magical and mythical Egypt, Anwar’s moral tale is woven together as he moves through disparate generic episodes.
All in all, a satisfying and dynamic piece of filmmaking that is quite unlike anything else western viewers will have seen before. Indeed “Ziab la ta'kol al lahem” appears to be a one-off. Surprisingly, there is a great deal of female nudity which may be one of the reasons the film has never been shown theatrically in Egypt. Despite it’s unavailability in Egypt it has something of a reputation – Nahed Sherif’s nude scenes ensure it is considered one of most erotic Egyptian films ever made.
Zwischen Schanghai und St. Pauli aka The Renegades of Captian Kidd aka Voyage to Danger (Roberto Bianchi Montero, Wolfgang Schleif 1962)
A West German / Italian co-production that is more of an excuse for stomach churning Deutsche Schlager songs and weak gags than the gripping high seas espionage story one would hope for.
Horst Frank in shades, safari suit and a panama is the only attraction as chief villain Federick. He orchestrates the exploitation of the titular Captian Kidd and his crew.
Despite the “Ultrascope” widescreen canvas and a trip to Morocco, the film is crude and lacking. Painful moments such as the flamenco dance plays out to length with no narrative importance or the jokes about a singing sailor and his faithful dog stick in the memory like glue. Avoid! 1/10