Still More Eurospy Movies: I Can't Believe It's Not Bond!
Greetings and welcome to the third installment (or should I say "dossier?") of my Hub series on 1960s "Eurospy" films. I originally began digging into this often-neglected, mostly forgotten corner of the B-Movie universe earlier this year to occupy myself while I waited for the latest James Bond adventure (Spectre) to be released on video. Since my last entry I have finally seen Spectre, and though I don't think it was as good as the preceding Skyfall, it was still a decent enough, if a bit overlong, addition to the 007 canon. Once I was all caught up on my 007's and my duty as a Bond fanboy was therefore fulfilled, it was time to climb back into the Way-Bac machine, head for the swingin' Sixities again, and see what other goodies were waiting to be found in the Eurospy vaults. So if your security clearance is up to date, let's crack open this sealed file marked "TOP SECRET!" and see what I've discovered since our last briefing...
The name's Malloy. Dick Malloy.
Ken Clark was one of numerous American actors who found steady work on the late '50s/early '60s European B-Movie circuit when his Hollywood career stalled. The former male model's chiseled good looks (he actually looked a lot like a young Roger Moore) made him ideal for the role of handsome secret agent Dick Malloy, aka Agent "077" of the CIA. Clark played Malloy in three Spanish/Italian co-productions - Mission Bloody Mary (1965), From the Orient With Fury (1966) and Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966). All three were fairly standard Bond knock-offs, with the usual assortment of cool spy gadgets, scenic European locations, car chases and fistfights, and of course, lots of beautiful women. The Malloy films were all enjoyable in a cheap 'n' cheesy sort of way but If you can only see one, skip Bloody Mary and From the Orient... and go straight to Lady Chaplin, which appeared to have the biggest budget of the trio. As an added bonus, the "Lady Chaplin" of the title is played by Italian beauty and one time Bond Girl Daniela Bianchi (of From Russia With Love) in a tale involving Malloy's investigation into a sunken U.S. submarine and its missing payload of nuclear missiles. Bianchi's character is a fashion designer (?) and spy who's acting as a go-between for the missile thieves and their buyers - until she falls for Agent Malloy, of course. All three Malloy flicks were apparently released on DVD in a box set some time ago but those discs seem to be pricey collectibles nowadays, so you'd be better off watching them on YouTube.
"Special Mission Lady Chaplin" (1966)
The name's Drummond. Hugh Drummond.
British fans of adventure fiction have been reading the exploits of Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond since the 1920s. H.C. "Sapper" McNeil's gentleman detective was popular in England well into the 1950s, where he appeared in a series of best selling paperback novels, a long running radio program and numerous films. When Bond-mania swept the world in the late 1960s the dormant Drummond character was "re-booted" and turned into a swinging, jet setting investigator for a high-end insurance company. This "new" Drummond appeared in two films, portrayed by Richard Johnson - who, legend has it, had been offered the role of Bond when Dr. No was in pre-production, but he turned it down!
The first of Johnson's Drummond movies - 1967's Deadlier Than the Male - is definitely the better of the two. In fact, it's probably the best 007 knock off I've seen yet. With its high production values and star power it could almost pass for a legitimate Bond flick. In Deadlier, Drummond is sent to investigate the murders of several high-ranking oil company executives, and becomes the target of two gorgeous female assassins played by German actress Elke Sommer (who was at her absolute peak of hottie perfection at this time) and Sylva Koscina. The second film in the series, 1969's Some Girls Do, came out after the Eurospy craze had peaked and disappointingly plays more like a spoof than a legitimate spy flick. This time Drummond is assigned to track down some industrial spies who've sabotaged the test flights of a new airliner. He soon discovers it's part of a plot by a crazed supervillain who has a private island fortress full of gorgeous female robot soldiers. (Perhaps this film inspired the "Fem-Bots" of the Austin Powers series?) I greatly preferred Deadlier... over Some Girls Do, but both Drummond films were worth the watch, especially for the vast amounts of female eye candy!
"Deadlier Than the Male" (1967)
Plus a Diabolik-al honorable mention
Italian director Mario Bava's 1968 pop-art cult classic Danger: Diabolik doesn't exactly qualify as a "Eurospy" movie - for one thing, there are no spies in it - but the influence of the Bond films (as well as TV's "Batman") is stamped all over this action-packed tale based on an Italian comic strip character. John Philip Law (another ex-pat American picking up some Euro B-Movie cash) stars as a masked, mysterious master thief known only as "Diabolik," who drives a bitchin' sports car, has a Bat-cave full of cool gadgetry, and a smokin' hot girlfriend (Marissa Mell) who helps him plan and carry out his crimes. Thanks to his criminal activities Diabolik is the most wanted man in Europe - not only by the good guys at Interpol, but also by the continental crime syndicates, who are tired of the masked interloper stealing their thunder. Breakneck stunts and last minute escapes are the order of the day as Diabolik constantly avoids capture from both sides. Essentially, Danger: Diabolik is what it might look like if you gave a Bond villain his own movie! The film was obviously intended to be the start of a series, but apparently it never caught on outside of Italy since the Diabolik character was an unknown quantity in the rest of the world. In the '70s Mario Bava would achieve immortality amongst horror film fans thanks to the giallo and splatter flicks he directed like Shock, Twitch of the Death Nerve and Hatchet For the Honeymoon, but Danger: Diabolik is an unjustly forgotten flick that deserves another look.
"Danger Diabolik" (1968)
So what's next?
A quick skim of my "to be viewed" playlists on YouTube and various streaming channels reveals that I've still got a bumper crop of Eurospy delights to plow through, including several titles from the German Kommissar X series, the great Vince "Ben Casey" Edwards in Hammerhead, the intriguingly titled Spy In Your Eye (aka Bang! You're Dead), the Spanish flick Code Name: Jaguar, and an Italian spy spoof called Two Mafiosi Against Goldfinger (!), to name just a few. So there will definitely be more Eurospy briefings to come from yours truly in the near future. Thanks for reading and till next time, keep your martinis shaken and your Walther PPK shoulder-holstered and ready for action!!