Wednesday, February 29, 2012

i SPY EUROSPY: Upperseven, the Man to Kill

Upperseven, the Man to Kill
Director: Alberto De Martino
Year 1966
Upperseven, the Man to Kill is a highly enjoyable Eurospy film that features a secret agent with the talent to replicate the appearance of anyone on the planet through the use of his theatrical mask building skills. The movie is fun and wacky, and the premise of being able to pass as another person just by placing a piece of latex over your face, is astoundingly silly but absolutely entertaining in this unusually fun spy caper.
In the film, we follow super agent Paul Finney AKA Upperseven, on his latest mission to take down the diabolical Kobras who is up to some nefarious business. Upperseven, along with his array of masks, sets out to one beautiful location to another, in hopes of finally bringing down this mastermind once and for all. Along the way, Upperseven picks up a beautiful partner named Helen Farheit, who not only looks amazing but can dish out some serious punishment when put to the test. Can the two take down this mastermind or will they end up stiff and lifeless like one of Upperseven’s many hokey masks? Lets get down to the nitty gritty and see what makes this obscure Eurospy tick.

Paul Hubschmid plays the titular character of Upperseven, a man of many faces who’s as deadly as he is clever. Hubschmid does a fantastic job in bringing a serious tone to such an over the top concept as this film presents. He’s a bit cocky like most Eurospy heroes, but beyond that formulaic trait is a more somber and professional agent. He’s an efficient agent who just so happens to dabble in the absurd talents of mask making, for which he uses to great use throughout the film.
What is most interesting about his use of disguising himself with masks is that the opposition isn’t even sure on what he actually looks like. He is a world renowned agent but no one has the slightest idea of what his true identity is on the count of him always changing his persona and physical appearance. The idea is great and the execution is a little silly, but when viewed within the wild world of the Eurospy it makes perfect sense and is actually a whole lot of fun. It’s kind of funny to see Paul Hubschmid slap a lifeless mask on his face and then watch as the camera cuts away to another actor emerging from the makeup chair, looking entirely different but mask-less. Good stuff.
Another amusing aspect of Upperseven’s masks is the fact that the people that he is transforming into are completely and utterly ridiculous looking. One of the most asinine of them all has to be the mustache and goatee sporting ship captain, who Upperseven brilliantly decides to dress as when he is tailing a suspected member of Kobras’ crew. There is nothing that says inconspicuous more then a weird looking dude in a bright white suite and a captain’s hat. Ridiculous! This scene is so strange and outrageous that I couldn’t help but laugh a little over the absurdity of the situation. Oh Upperseven, I can’t stay mad at you.

When Upperseven isn’t crafting his ridiculous masks, he’s whining and dining some rather fabulous ladies. There’s an all too short cameo by the exotic Rosalba Neri as a villainous woman who tries to set up Upperseven, but is then violently slapped around for her troubles and then thrown out into the street to be used as human target practice. Hey, that’s no way to treat a national treasure! Still she looks ravishing during her short appearance and even gets a chance to sing Upperseven a little love song. How sweet.
Likewise, Vivi Bach plays Kobras’ main squeeze and in a strange moment of weakness, Upperseven decides to disguise himself as Kobras in order to get a little late night loving when infiltrating the mastermind’s underground lair. It seems silly for Upperseven to do this, when throughout the movie he was always diligent about completing his mission, but it was a fun little diversion and rather unexpectedly randy of him. Upperseven, you naughty little monkey you.
Finally we get to the cream of Upperseven’s female crop. Karin Dor plays the role of Helen Farheit, a fellow agent and partner to Upperseven. She has been in a number of films that I’ve seen, but for some reason I don’t remember any of her performances in them. In Upperseven, she does a tremendous job as the competent and capable agent Farheit who has an air of innocence to her yet able to hang with Upperseven through the worst of times. I absolutely loved her role in this film and I’m going to make it my personal duty to revisit those other movies to see if I just wasn’t ready at the time for an actress like her. Either way she is stellar in Upperseven and she looks absolutely stunning.

Upperseven, the Man to Kill is a pretty entertaining Eurospy that gives a little twist to the genre. There is plenty of globe trotting and memorable action scenes to fill up the screen time and the inclusion of Upperseven’s mask making abilities tips the scale in creativeness within these types of films. I enjoyed the wackiness of it all and really appreciated the trio of fabulously looking women that absolutely shine while on the screen. Karin Dor especially makes good use of her role, making me contemplate what other special roles I’ll come to find once I start digging through her filmography.
From start to finish, the film just entertains, giving us just one more reason to dig this crazy film category called Eurospy. I had a blast and I implore you to track down this rare spy flick as soon as possible. They really don’t make them like this anymore, so if you get the chance, watch it. This oddity doesn’t disappoint. Upperseven, the Man to Kill is without a doubt a…..

I'm Upperseven and apparently I'm the man to kill.

How about you put that guitar away and we get down to the sex?

Upperseven... another F on your report card? We've talked about this.

Take off that grumpy mask Upperseven. You've got a hot chick in your lap!

They're so..... so.... lifelike!

Someone help! I'm being followed by a weird CAPTAIN!

The Captain says, need a light?

Damn you Scuba Steve!

You going eat your lima beans or am I going to have to get rough?

You don't look so cool now shithead.

Well hello there beautiful!

I'll teach you to dress me in this space-age shit!

All's well that ends well.

REVIEW: Varan the Unbelievable

Varan the Unbelievable
Director: Ishiro Honda
Year 1958
Varan the Unbelievable is quite frankly, Unbelievable. I mean that in the most respectable and positive way imaginable, because this fun little kaiju flick is a blast. As an offspring of sorts to the great monster movie Godzilla, Varan has a lot of original aspects to the production while still following that similar plot line that made Godzilla such a huge success. When it comes to Toho produced kaiju flicks, you really can’t go wrong and this one keeps that excellent track record alive and thriving.
The monster mayhem starts when a two person team of entomologists die in a land slide while searching for a rare breed of butterfly in the remote and uncharted regions of Japan. This tragedy occurs because they accidentally encroach on a sacred land reserved for a monster god that is worshipped by the local tribe of the area. Their presence awakens the giant lizard named Varan, an indestructible beast that is truly unbelievable. The army sends in the cavalry, including another entomologist named Kenji and a reporter named Yuriko. Together they bare witness to the awesome might of Varan as he defeats the army and destroys the local village on his way to storm the city of Tokyo. Watch out Tokyo, there’s more then one giant monster out there who loves to wreak havoc on your city and this particular lizard is unbelievable. Let the madness commence.

Directed by the legendary Toho filmmaker Ishiro Honda, Varan has the distinct advantage of having that already established name behind its production design. Honda’s crafting of Godzilla is felt throughout this film, almost mimicking it in parts, making you feel the familiarity of the plot but allowing for some unique aspects to come slipping through here and there. What results is a kaiju film that feels like a companion piece to the famous original Godzilla movie, which in my opinion isn’t a bad thing at all. The similarities are actually comforting and the quality of the production is astounding to say the least. It may not be as explosive as Godzilla, but what it lacks in destruction it more then makes up for in pace and placement within the world it creates.
I enjoyed the mystery behind Varan and the slow build up to his reveal. The fact that there is a village just a short walk away from the lake that he inhabits is a wild notion, and the realization that these villagers worship him as a god is a real treat. How Varan has never stumbled onto their village and has remained secluded to his area is beyond me, but I guess that’s the fun of movie magic. All I know is don’t look for butterflies on his property because Old Man Varan gets mighty pissed when you mess up his lawn.

The action of the film is also enjoyable, especially when you get to see tanks, jets, and everything in between, shooting all they have at this bastard of a creature and having all of their efforts do absolutely nothing to his hardened exterior. It’s also fun to see the desperation of the men and women fighting this giant, knowing there’s nothing they can do to stop him, but still trying over and over again to break his resolve. The film does a good job in making you believe that Varan is truly unbelievable in the sense that he just cannot be stopped by anything of this earth.
The special effects are also exceptional for the era of filmmaking and there’s some believable work in there that helps suck you into the film and make the unbelievable a reality. Genuinely speaking, the movie isn’t the most explosive kaiju film to ever grace the cinematic screen, but some of the set pieces and camera movements of the attacks on Varan really sweep you up in the action. The destruction level on Varan’s behalf also pales in comparison to Godzilla romp on Tokyo, but the atmosphere and tension that Varan’s doom march towards the city has in the film is rather tremendous and filled with hopelessness. That’s probably one of the best compliments that I can give the film.
There was always a sense of despair about the approaching monster to that metropolitan area and even though he never really reaches that destination or is able to wreak havoc on the metro landscape, you still feel the film had a satisfying ending because of all the tension that was created while trying to take him down. You almost feel the same relief as the inhabitants of the movie, when you finally see that the unbelievable Varan is maybe as not unbelievable as first thought.

Varan the Unbelievable is a great kaiju entry and another excellent film directed by Ishiro Honda. The movie has got the goods and the talent behind it to make it one hell of a fun ride. The mystery of Varan and the indestructible nature of the beast is intriguing and enjoyable, not to mention that the design of the creature is dynamic and iconic to boot. The blending of various successful elements of the original Godzilla film is a nice touch and the inclusion of some more original ideas are mixed perfectly into the structure of the film.
I’ve always enjoyed the monster mayhem of Japanese kaiju films and I’m glad to say that Varan is another one of those flicks that really stands the test of time in my eyes. It’s the hand crafted nature of these films that really get me and you can really see the efforts of all on board and the true dedication that the crew must have had in making this larger then life creature feature. If you’re a fan of kaiju films or need an innocent introduction to this wacky new world, then give this one a shot. It’s an iconic premise to a very successful genre of films, never straying too far from the norm but giving enough new concepts to warrant it a place among the greats of the genre. Varan the Unbelievable is truly…..

I can't take it anymore! I have to find a bathroom now!

This peaceful town is about to have one hell of a shitstorm.

Will you look at that. I stepped in gum again!

Someone's about to get a glimpse at something unbelievable.

Hello everyone.

Roger big daddy.... Calling to confirm that Varan is infact Unbelievable.

What's up party people!

Varan can fly?!?! Unbelievable!!!

These guys don't have a chance in hell of surviving this encounter.

My word! Even his action figure is unbelievable!

Well hey there. Need a lift?

Well I think he's unbelievable. I disagree.. He's most certainly believable.

Wang! Pay attention!

What an unbelievable way to make an enterance.

Look! I told you he was unbelievable!

Hi everyone at home. I'm still unbelievable.

The entire cast had the opportunity to say farewell to Varan. How sweet.

The End.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

i SPY EUROSPY: The Viscount

The Viscount
Director: Maurice Cloche
Year 1967
The Viscount is a fun little Eurospy-esque flick that showcases just how charismatic its lead actor, Kerwin Mathews, can be. Super charging the wit and amping up the fun factor, the movie brings all the goods of the genre to the forefront. Girls, guns, baddies, and beautiful locales are all here to feast your eyes on, plus we’re also given a rather interesting twist on the usual spy staples which gives the film a unique but not unfamiliar feeling.
In this espionage-styled caper, we follow the exploits of Clint de la Roche AKA The Viscount, an insurance detective who has a bone to pick with corrupt and dangerous drug pushers, especially ones named Marco Demoygne and Ricco Barone. It seems that Marco has stolen $2 million from a prestigious bank and within that bank’s safe deposit box was a rather large haul of opium, stashed by Barone. Marco plans to hold the opium for ransom, but unfortunately for him, The Viscount has been assigned to the bank robbing case, giving Barone an opportunity to vie for Viscount’s aid. Having no love for either man, The Viscount agrees to play Barone’s game in order for him to set-up both thugs for a hard fall. Let the enjoyable insanity proceed.

For all intensive purposes, The Viscount is not really a Eurospy film. It’s actually more of a detective flick, with heavy doses of Eurospy flavor. For instance we have Clint de la Roche, played by the wonderful Kerwin Mathews, who is essentially an insurance detective, but you wouldn’t even know it if you hadn’t read that in the synopsis. His appearance and actions are straight-up super spy, including his pension for wooing the ladies. The man is a glorified 60’s secret agent if I’ve ever seen one and in my opinion this film just screams Eurospy.

Another glaring similarity of the spy genre is the inclusion of a plethora of beautiful and exotic women. When we’re first introduced to Mr. Viscount, he is vacationing in Spain and dating multiple women who are virtually throwing themselves at him. This smooth criminal gets around and never gives up the chance to have an interesting night of female delights, even when he is assigned to be flying out of the country in the early hours of the morning. The guy is a champ and he is even given a femme fatale to play around with in the form of Lili Dumont, a stripper with a heart of gold, played by the voluptuous Sylvia Sorrente. This girl is the epitome of Eurospy flavor and she is an absolute stunner. I really wish that she was given more opportunities to shine in the Eurospy world, but unfortunately this is one of the only roles in which she was able to dip her feet into the genre. Be that as it may, she still gets a good amount of things to do in this film, even getting caught up in the action when she is captured midway through the movie and used as leverage over super insurance agent Viscount.
There’s also the inclusion of some very spy-fitting locations for Kerwin to flex his secret agent muscles in, including a beautiful villa where the climactic battle of the film takes place. I especially loved the luxurious beach resort where Viscount is first introduced while living it up in Spain. There’s such a lovely retro look to the place and plenty of 60’s style to boot. With all of the picturesque locales and breathtaking venues in this movie, it’s hard to come to the conclusion that this is anything but a Eurospy film through and through.

Like some of the more fun filled Eurospy movies out there, like Death on a Rainy Day and the Kommissar X series, insurance agent Clint de la Roche is given a partner named Billette to watch his back. This number two if you will, is played by Jean Yanne, and he is constantly coming to the aid of The Viscount, but is never really given that many opportunities to share the spotlight with his fellow agent and friend. Their relationship mirrors Paul Riviera and Bruno Nussak’s from Death on a Rainy Day, as The Viscount mostly runs the show while Billette mainly picks up the scraps that he leaves behind. The combination works though, because in the end it really is Viscount’s show and he does a more then adequate job in making this particular mission exciting as all hell.
Kerwin Mathews is golden in this role and is as up to form as he was in his other Eurospy efforts like OSS 117: se Dechaine, Panic in Bangkok, and The Killer Likes Candy. The guy was born to play a secret agent and he fills the role of Viscount perfectly. Some of his lines had me laughing out loud over their perfect delivery and witty approach. I’ve enjoyed every role he has played in, even the ones outside of the Eurospy spectrum, and this film is no exception.
The action was also rather feisty in this movie, going for more madcap anarchy then a structured set of choreographed fight scenes. It always seemed like Viscount was adapting to the situation at hand, and though cocky and stalwart, he never appears to have total control when the fists begin to fly and the bullets are let loose. That’s not to say he isn’t effective, far from it. He has a lethal streak in him, always going for the most brutal attack to incapacitate his foes, even going as far as to throwing them out the window when all the valuable information has been spilled by them. I had a blast with Viscount’s style and it looked like the entire production had a great time when filming this unique Eurospy film.

The Viscount may not be an official Eurospy effort, but in my mind it’s got all of the elements of one. Hell, it outdoes most films in the genre with its perfectly cast agent role, exceptional globe trotting locations, and exquisite eye candy as far as the eye can see. The women are beautiful, the villains are diabolical, and the atmosphere of the film is pure Eurospy.

If you've never heard of The Viscount before and you love the genre, give this one a chance. It's a solid effort and one hell of a fun ride. From beginning to end, I found myself smiling from ear to ear over the wild adventures of a simple insurance detective who just so happened to be stuck in the skin of one of the most dynamic secret agents in the whole world. God bless you Viscount, you crazy bastard. I thought this film was a.....

Well hello there.

Real sneaky sis.

Aint that a sight for sore eyes.

Billette has this shit covered.

Scram pip-squeak, you're cramping my style.

Look mom, John Woo style!

Get that lamp shade off your head retard.

I'm gonna say it one last time. Tell your boys I'm not playing Red Rover!

Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Ready for round two. I'll give you the 70% off Viscount.

Try getting out of this one you slippery shit.

Guns make me sad.

See he's laughing he's having a good time.

Viscount loves to break balls.

Get a room you two.

This is battery acid you slime!

Now on to the SEX!

The End.