Siete minutos para morir

Siete minutos para morire
Siete minutos para morire

Aka Sette minuti per morire (I), Agente Howard: 7 minuti per morire (I)
Urfesa (Madrid), S Caruso (Rome)
Director: Ray Feder [Ramón Fernandéz]
Story & screenplay: A. Di Risso, Gianni Scolaro, Ramón Fernandéz, E. Urrutia
Cinematography: Aldo Di Robertis {Eastmancolor}
Music: Jose Torregrosa
Release information: Spain (Madrid, 03.05.71)
Spanish takings: €51.447,21
Cast: Paul Stevens [Paolo Gozlino] (Bill Howard), George Hilton (Agent Mike Russo), Betsy Bell (Virna), Ruben Rojo (Ray Monks), Jose Marco, Mario Donen (mafia head), Marisol Ajuso, Julio P Tabernero, Francisco Sanchez, Fajda Nicol, Emilio Rodriguez (the consul’s assistant), Rufino Ingles (the American consul), Margaret Lhy, Mary Leyva, Nieves Navarro (nightclub singer), Elizabeth Wu
Uncredited: George Wang (the mafia contact)

Secret Agent Ray Monks is murdered whist recovering some top-secret documents from a shadowy individual in the backstreets of Hong Kong. Bill Howard (Paolo Gozlino) is ordered to find out who is responsible, and to make sure the documents are returned to the American authorities. Bill seems to have a thing for the oriental ladies, which means that his task is an entertaining diversion from chatting up as many females as possible. And things aren’t made any easier when the one man who may know anything about exactly what’s going on is murdered.

The action decamps to Milan, where Bill displays an unseemly interest in the activities of Monks’ girlfriend, Karen Foster. It seems his suspicions are well founded: the agent is not really dead. The murdered man was in fact someone whose face had been made to resemble that of Monks through the judicious use of plastic surgery, a fact that was given away by an unaccounted-for tattoo on the cadaver in question. But just what is the ‘dead man’ up to?

Well, hanging around in questionable nightclubs, mostly, although he does manage to lure our hero into a particularly rubbish ambush. It appears that he is receiving orders from a mysterious Mr. Fargo, who is paying him handsomely for his underhand services. Fargo is the head of a criminal organization and, apart from trying to make a dishonest buck out of the aforementioned stolen documents, is also having a bit of trouble with the local Mafia.

Dangerous dames and hostile headgear in Paolo Gozlino lets his gun talk in Siete minutos para morire
Dangerous dames and hostile headwear in Paolo Gozlino lets his gun talk in Siete minutos para morire

Siete Minutos is a respectable genre entry, no better and no worse than many others of its type are. There’s plenty of decent location work, especially that filmed in Hong Kong – a popular destination for sixties exploitation films. Deservedly so, given its winding alleys and bobbing junkets, not to mention the inevitable temples and palaces that cinematographers were so keen to capture on celluloid.

Direction is adequate, if hardly memorable; things are kept moving with a bare minimum of extravagance or elaboration (as reflected by the sparse running time of just under 80 minutes). Every ten minutes or so you have the obligatory fight or chase scene, and the plot barely even registers. By way of gadgets, you get a nasty guillotine protected safe (which takes the hand off a minor villain in a well-edited, squirm inducing sequence) and the age-old room with closing walls routine.

Fortunately, all this is elevated substantially by a good cast. Nieves Navarro plays her token brunette bitch, Ruben Rojo makes an innocuously slimy villain and Betsy Bell is suitably wide eyed. George Hilton has a secondary role (this was before he became a serious euro-star) and acts louche, larks about in a helicopter (looking relaxed to the point of slumber) and is – unsurprisingly for giallo fans – revealed to be the villain of the piece. He would partner up with the excellent Paolo Gozlino (whose other main role in the genre was as the lead in Flashman (67)) in the pleasing spaghetti western One More in Hell (Uno di più all’inferno, 68); although by that time their position in the credits had neatly reversed.

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