Friday, January 18, 2013
SPY AROUND THE WORLD (1966)
When police track Wendt (Peter Vogel), a suspected ladykiller, to the home of Professor Alden (Richard Munch) it's up to the good doctor to keep the suspect occupied until he can formulate a plan to turn the tables. Naturally, the psychiatrist's plan includes showing the criminal the folly of his ways... by relating a trio of tales designed to illustrate that crime does not pay.
Yes, you've got that right, SPY AROUND THE WORLD (aka KILLER'S CARNIVAL) is an espionage anthology with each segment unspooling in a different exotic-ish locale (hence the title).
In the first segment (set in Vienna), a desperate woman seeks out suave man of mystery David Porter (Stewart Granger), a debonair detective who is the only one that can solve her journalist brother's murder. With the help of his dutiful butler Karl (Walter Giller), Porter works his sources, runs afoul of a nefarious nightclub owner and trips up the killer just as he tries to eliminate the detective. The lighthearted segment succeeds largely thanks to Granger and Giller, who have a fun crimefighter/sidekick dynamic that feels like they're two guys who have spent way too much time together. In fact, I was a bit disappointed when their segment ended – I could have taken a whole Porter and Karl flick.
If you think the first story sounds a tad lightweight, SPY's Rome segment is downright comedic, complete with wacky sound effects, an identically-dressed gang of mismatched thugs, a Rosa Kleb-esque female villain, double agent Margaret Lee ('natch) and 60s-era spy gags like a record pressed on pasta that our hero, Agent Brice (Pierre Brice), eats to destroy.
Your overall appreciation of SPY AROUND THE WORLD is likely to go as far as your willingness to dig this middle segment. Once I took a deep breath and remembered that by 1966 the tide of espionage cinema had turned from the rough-and-tumble FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE to the jokier, gadget-filled world of THUNDERBALL I had a much better time with the flick.
The third, and perhaps best segment, features handsome, imposing Lex Barker (THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM) as hard-drinking detective Glenn Cassidy. After uncovering a plot to assassinate the Brazilian president during Carnivale in Rio, Cassidy hightails it south of the border and impersonates the assassin. Klaus Kinski (complete with tiny moustache) turns up in a couple scenes as "Gomez", a sweaty Brazilian rebel.
(By the way, what is it with these guys? Kinski, of course, made headlines recently after his daughter Palo accused him of abusing her when she was an adolescent. While checking out details for this review I was surprised to learn that Barker, who died of a heart attack at the age of 54 while walking down a NYC street, was accused of similar horrors by Cheryl Crane, the daughter of third wife Lana Turner.)
Directed in workmanlike fashion by a quartet of directors, SPY is about as light and fluffy as 60s Eurospy gets. It has all the trappings of the genre – exotic locations, colorful characters, double-crossing babes, convoluted denouements, a cast of familiar faces – delivered up in a series of bite-sized nuggets. Like a series of uninspired but pleasant sandwiches I consumed SPY over three lunch breaks and that may have been the best way to digest it. Certainly not required viewing, unless you're a Eurospy or Kinksi completist, but you won't hate yourself if you do end up downing it.
Poster image via emovieposter.com.