More 'Eurospy' Movies: Not Quite Bond...
I can't get enough EUROSPY movies!
As I write this the latest James Bond adventure Spectre has just been released on DVD and Blu-Ray. I haven't seen the film yet, but I've been a Bond fanboy since childhood so naturally it currently occupies the top spot on my "must-see" list.
To get my spy movie fix while I waited for Spectre's home video release, I found myself becoming quickly addicted to so-called "Eurospy" films - the infamous low budget cloak & dagger knock-offs made during the height of 1960s James Bond mania by various European film studios. I wasn't born till the '70s so I missed out on this spy craze the first time around, but after doing a bit of digging into the Eurospy scene, it seems like you probably couldn't set foot in a movie theater between 1964 and '68 without tripping over a new secret agent flick. Whenever Sean Connery wasn't starring in a new Bond adventure, hordes of cheaply made, poorly dubbed overseas quickies rushed in to fill the spy-mania void, starring handsome American bit players as agents with code names like "077," "X-117," or "Super-7". (international copyright laws must not have been quite as stringent back in the day...) Many of the "Eurospy" films are long forgotten - and with good reason! - but for this Bond fanatic they've been a fun, entertaining look into a bygone era. I am kicking myself for taking so long to check some of these films out! This is my second Hub about Eurospy flicks (the first one can be found HERE) and it showcases my most recent viewings in this often-ignored genre. Without any further ado, let's roll'em!
He Strikes Like a Ball of Thunder! (huh?)
Antonio Margheriti's Lightning Bolt (aka Operazione Goldman) may be the most entertaining Eurospy flick I've watched thus far. This is yet another Italian production with an American leading man (Anthony Eisley of the early '60s detective TV series Hawaiian Eye) and it comes closest to approximating the James Bond feel in spite of its obvious cheese-and-crackers budget. A series of American moon rockets have been mysteriously destroyed immediately after launch, so Agent Harry Sennett (Eisley) is sent to Cape Kennedy to smoke out the saboteur. Sennett pokes around the Cape's beaches and resort hotels in his undercover role as a millionaire playboy (nice work if you can get it, huh?) for a while and discovers that the attacks are the work of a crazed beer-brewery magnate (?) who wants to put his own rocket on the moon before the U.S.- so he can place a laser weapon on the lunar sphere and hold the entire world hostage. Yikes! Doctor Evil would be proud! Lightning Bolt even ends with a typical Bond-style climactic battle royale in the bad guy's secret underwater headquarters, with Sennett fighting his way through a bunch of black-suited henchmen to rescue the girl and defeat the super-villain in an explosive showdown. Lightning Bolt was tons of campy fun, with plenty of action and (as usual) lots of pretty girls. I would definitely watch this one again! Useless trivia: the film's Italian title, Operazione Goldman, was an obvious nod to the Bond film Goldfinger, which had been released the previous year.
"Lightning Bolt" (trailer)
The Sheik! Le Freak! Awwwww, Freak OUT!
Talk about international co-operation: 1966's Agent 505: Death Trap Beirut is a German/Italian co-production with a Czech-born star (Frederic Stafford) and a French leading lady (the lovely Genevieve Cluny) that was shot on location in Beirut, Lebanon - which looks like it was quite the swingin' city in the early Sixties. With so many languages and nationalities coming together it's not exactly a surprise that the English-dubbed version of this movie is a mostly confusing muddle. Stafford plays the square-jawed Richard Blake, aka "Agent 505," who's assigned to track down a terrorist known only as "The Sheik." Enlisting the help of a lovely female news photographer (Cluny). Blake must find the Sheik before he can make good on his threat to destroy Beirut with a high tech new weapon. As you might expect from this sort of thing, Agent 505 gets into his fair share of fistfights, gun battles, and car chases before he can defeat the villain (and score with the hot babe). Agent 505 was entertaining enough for a one-shot viewing but compared to most of the other Eurospies I've watched recently it ranks near the bottom of the pile.
"Agent 505: Death Trap Beirut" trailer (in German!)
The name is Fleming...no, not Ian Fleming. BOB Fleming!
Next up was 1966's Killers Are Challenged (aka Bob Fleming: Mission Casablanca), the second film to feature American character actor Richard Harrison as Agent Bob Fleming, aka "Agent 077." In this sequel to 1965's Secret Agent Fireball, Fleming is assigned to impersonate a scientist who's been targeted for elimination by a trio of gorgeous femme-fatale assassins. Thankfully Harrison - who portrayed Fleming as an unlikable, ugly-American, smirking frat-boy type in the first film - dials his performance down this time out in favor of a simple, two fisted tough guy approach. I thought this flick was far superior to the first "Fleming" outing thanks to its bigger action sequences, exotic Moroccan scenery and outstanding female eye candy This was Harrison's last outing as Agent Fleming, but he continued starring in European B-Movies well into the 1970s before finishing out his acting career in '80s Hong Kong, where he appeared in dozens of bottom-of-the-barrel "Ninja" flicks.
Just in case you're keeping score, by the way: the two "Agent 077" films with Richard Harrison have no connection whatsoever with another trilogy of Italian-made spy films which starred Ken Clark as a different agent who was also code-named "077."(What are the odds?) I hope to check out some of that series (Agent 077: Mission Bloody Mary and Agent 077: From the Orient With Fury, both from 1965, and Special Mission Lady Chaplin, from 1966) in the near future.
But wait...there's more!
I am planning further installments of this Hub series in the near future because I still have quite a pile of Eurospy adventures to work my way through, via YouTube or on one of the cult movie streaming channels available on my Roku TV. My current "to be viewed" list includes several films from Germany's Kommissar X series, a Spanish Eurospy entry called Code Name: Jaguar, and the aforementioned trilogy of "077" films with Ken Clark ... so watch this space!
If the films I've described in this article and its predecessor still aren't enough Eurospy action for you, I was recently alerted to some rarities of the genre which are about to make their long awaited debut on Blu-Ray. The veteran B-movie specialists at the Blue Underground label will release a double feature of British-made spy flicks - Code 7, Victim 5 (1964) and Mozambique (1964) at the end of March, 2016. According to Blue Underground, this Blu-Ray will mark the first time that either movie has ever been available on home video - of any kind. I'm not familiar with these flicks but it's cool to see rarities like these are still being unearthed! Does this mean that some of the Italian Euro-spies might come to Blu-Ray in the near future? We can only hope!
Till I return with another round of Eurospy action, may your secret missions be successful, your martinis be well shaken, and your ladies be beautiful and dangerous!!
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