Mission Bloody Mary

Agent 077 Mission Bloody MaryMission Bloody Mary marked the first appearence of Ken Clark as Dick Malloy, aka Agent 077, one of the key eurospy characters to follow in the wake of James Bond. Malloy would only appear in another two films, Agent 077 Fury in the Orient and Special Mission Lady Chaplin, making it a relatively minor competitor to, say, the Kommissar X or the OSS117 series, both of which notched up a good half dozen titles each. In terms of success, however, it was a winner, doing reasonable business in Italy and proving succesful on the export market. In fact, it feels like Malloy was a far more prolific character that he actually was, not least because Clark and director Sergio Grieco went on to make a couple of other films featuring an almost identical protagonist with a slightly different name; ‘Dick Hallam’ in The Tiffany Memorandum and ‘Dick Worth’ in The Fuller Report. Furthermore, Grieco – obviously flushed with his success in the genre – also churned out a couple of other films while Alberto De Martino was taking up the reins with Special Mission Lady Chaplin, Password Kill Agent Gordon and Rififi in Amsterdam, both of which starred Roger Browne but were pretty much 077 films under another guise.

The plot is standard eurospy fluff. A freelance villain called ‘The Black Lily’ (Umberto Raho) has stolen a new, ultra-powerful type of bomb (‘the bloody mary’) from the British Army, and plans to sell it to the highest bidder, with the Chinese being particularly interested. The American Secret Service, though, isn’t happy with this, so call up their top agent, Dick Malloy, to get it back (and deal with villains while doing so). Bizarrely, Malloy seems to know exactly who ‘the black lily’ is, a plastic surgeon who runs a clinic in the French countryside, and luckily enough there’s another agent, Elsa Freeman (Helga Line), who happens to be working undercover there.

With Elsa’s help, Malloy discovers that the bomb is to be shipped from Barcelona to Athens, where it is to be collected by the Chinese. Seizing his chance, Malloy grabs himself a berth on the liner and sets about stealing it back… However, his plans don’t allow for the involvement of a number of Russian agents (who are equally interested in obtaining ‘the bloody mary’) and a traitor in his own camp.

From a narrative perspective, there’s very little that’s new here; indeed , the only way it really breaks ranks at all is in dispensing entirely with the usual sub-plot in which the hero tries to uncover the identity of the main villain… it just, well, happens really, and within about the first ten minutes as well. However, this doesn’t really spoil the fun at all, and the scripts were never really the key thing with the Eurospy format. It’s the incidentals that score the points here: the great soundtrack by Angelo Lavagnino, the superb technicolor photography of Juan Julio Baena, the stylish clothes, swinging club sequences and glamorous girls. It’s not deep, but you can’t help but dig it.

It also score points for having a considerable sense of self-parody. Malloy is the ultimate smoothie, who ‘exercises’ between his missions by engaging in a spot of how’s-your-father with a nubile young lady (in between swigging champagne), snogs any women in his vicinity and is generally about as cool as goes. There’s continuous use of arch dialogue, almost as though the writers – or at least the dubbers – realised the inherent ludicrousness of the whole project and concentrated on simply having fun. It’s not a parody, though, and there are plenty of action sequences (a chase across the Parisian rooftops is particularly impressive) and some tension. Grieco’s direction, though, isn’t quite as assured as it was for his later films (The Fuller Report is probably the best of his collaborations with Ken Clark), and some sequences have a rather strange, almost stilted feel.

Clark does well in the lead role. He’d already appeared as an agent in Emimmo Salvi’s obscure, early spy film, FBI chiama Istanbul (64), and displays a certain roughneck charm, not to mention a considerable screen presence. He was one of the more exprienced of the American stars who decamped to Europe in the early 60s, having had supporting roles in the likes of South Pacific (58) and starred in cult favourite Attack of the Giant Leeches (59). The cast also includes the German actress Helga Line as the femme fatale, French actor Philippe Hersent as Malloy’s bow-tie wearing boss, and the urbane Italian Umberto Raho as the rather restrained villain. Mitsouko, a Eurasian beauty who made a name for herself in Parisian strip clubs, has a smallish role, and gets to do a neat nightclub routine before being dispatched.

About Matt Blake

The WildEye is a blog dedicated to the wild world of Italian cinema (and, ok, sometimes I digress into discussing films from other countries as well). Peplums, comedies, dramas, spaghetti westerns... they're all covered here.
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