Film: Spy in Your Eye / Bang You’re Dead / Agente 077 – Berlino appuntamento per le spie (Operazione Polifemo) (1965)

February 9, 2018 | By

Film: Weak

Transfer:  n/a

Extras: n/a

Label:  n/a

Region: n/a

Released:  n/a

Genre:  Spy Spoof / Action

Synopsis: Agent Bert Morris is tasked with retrieving from evil Soviets the snatched daughter of a dead scientist who may hold the formula for a death laser ray!

Special Features:  n/a




By the mid-1960s, American International Pictures had a sort-of cozy relationship with Italian filmmakers, co-producing or handling the exclusive North American distribution of films that featured mainly U.S. stars (some in their twilight years) in whatever genre was in at the time or popular at drive-ins.

Both Mario Bava’s shockers (Black Sunday) and several sword & sandal epics (Erik the Conqueror) were among the first Mediterranean productions that were imported, often rescored by house composer Les Baxter, recut for pacing, or sometimes included new scenes (The Girl Who Knew Too Much) to flesh out or fix films running too short after AIP had first applied their hacksaw.

Spy in Your Eye differs by being a co-production featuring a balance for U.S. and European markets – former Fox contract player Brett Halsey (Return to Peyton Place) is super-spy Bert Morris, tasked by boss Col. Lancaster (Dana Andrews, smack in the middle of a busy year) to retrieve Paula Krauss (pretty Pier Angeli), arrested and held by East German security for attempting to escape via Berlin with her father, an egghead with a secret formula for a deadly laser weapon.

Angeli had appeared in Hollywood (Teresa, Somebody Up There Likes Me) and European films, making her the perfect choice for the international market, but with 4 writers caring little about plot and AIP scribe Louis Heyward writing an English script to make sense of endless chase scenes, at least in the English 85 min. cut, Spy is a meandering mess.

Perhaps as a means to give their semi-spoof some topical weight, the motivation for every proactive character is Must Get Paula: the Chinese seem to appear in the story purely to embarrass the Americans and frustrate the Soviets; the Soviets want Paula to embarrass the Americans and show the East Germans How to Retain a Prisoner; the Americans want Paula because the semi-amnesiac may know the death ray know-how that died with her papa at the east-west border; and the Arabs are there for feigned exotica.

As vital as Paula may be, she’s forgotten by the writers after being dropped by the Americans into a safe house somewhere in France, and reappears pretty much as a human suitcase, grabbed from the bathtub and dragged, drugged, fettered, and camouflaged until she finally ends up in the arms of Bert whom she only met once, a hour before the finale.

The script’s most unexplained element is Lancaster’s ocular surgery at the beginning in which he’s fitted with an artificial eye by surreptitious Soviets who use the ‘unremovable device’ to see and hear whatever secret plans are concocted, and foil the Americans at every turn. It’s never explained why Lancaster needs a robotic eye, nor how he was dumb enough to never suspect the doctors might be Soviet agents, but it’s the script’s most peculiar conceit that allows the Soviets to constantly bugger Bert’s plans until a momentous moment has him covering the eye with a patch – the same one Lancaster used before his unexplained surgery! D’oh!

Former documentarian Vittorio Sala seemed to focus on pacing than logic, and while Spy does move, the thinness of the plot soon mandates increasingly absurd chase montages involving trains, cars, trucks, planes, helicopters, and boats – all scattered in a few exotic locales. There’s no doubt the bulk of Spy was shot in Italy – tree-lined Italian roads, Italian villas, and Italian seaside resorts look Italian, so forget any sense of Paris beyond some quick (and hastily shot) exteriors. Same for East Berlin (a wide shot of a no man’s land is very cool), but there’s a few money shots in Damascus, Syria, and at the Baalbek Ruins in Lebanon.

The problem is cinematographer Fausto Zuccoli (Violent Rome, Zombi Holocaust) may have been fine with interior and dressed external sets, but all of the location shots are handheld amateur hour – sloppily composed images which are similarly cut for pacing rather than radiate exotica. Sala’s also not adept at stunts, making the fight scenes, vehicular chases, and three particularly important sequences look clunky.

Chinese agents chasing Paul in a carnival warehouse should’ve been amazing – the giant floats are impressive and creepy – but there’s no effort to create the kind of eerie mood which Bava managed to extract in a props warehouse in Blood and Black Lace (1964); the carnival itself may have been at attempt to evoke the deadly festivities in the James Bond classic Thunderball (1965), but it’s stitched together using more hastily shot second unit footage; and a clever sequence in which the Soviet’s hidden spy lair in a medical clinic recedes and compacts behind walls and faux facades is poorly coordinated, and when it goes awry, the death of blonde babe Madaleine (Tania Beryl) is as lame as seeing a fake punch in a badly conceived camera setup (which happens).

Riz Ortolani’s kind-of jazzy score seems to have been composed without having seen the actual film, as many cues don’t quite match the mood of screen action, and some cues are heavily repeated; the Main Titles itself is a hack edit of a longer cue that recurs in chase scenes.

Spy has yet to receive a proper DVD release in North America, and the YouTube version makes matters worse, given it’s a full screen reduction from a worn print with faded colours. Most of the film looks pink with waves of green, and Zuccoli’s widescreen cinematography is badly hacked up. The film is a minor footnote in the careers of the three leads as well as one of many sub-par spy spoofs cranked out in Europe to cash–in on the still-strong James Bond franchise. (The Italian Agente 077 title rebrand allowed the film to be double-billed with 1965’s Da 077 : le spie uccidono a Beirut / Secret Agent Fireball, thereby launching a loose series of ‘sequels’ featuring spy-fighting Agent Fleming.)

For fans of CanCon, Spy is also a minor footnote for The Mask (1961) director Julian Roffman, uncredited as co-producer. AIP would also distribute the Jules Bricken directed / Roffman produced Explosion / The Blast (1969). Spy was also released as Agente 077 – Berlino appuntamento per le spie (Operazione Polifemo), and Bang You’re Dead, and was doubled-billed by AIP with Secret Agent Fireball (1965), which was followed by Bob Fleming: Mission Casablanca / Agent 077, sfida ai killers (1966).



© 2018 Mark R. Hasan



External References:
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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