Desperate Mission

Desperate Mission
Desperate Mission

Aka Agente z55 Mission, Mission Deseperee (France), Z55 Mision Deseperada (Spain)
A Cineproduzioni Associate (Roma), P.C. Balcazar (Barcelona) & Les Films Copernic (Paris) co-production.
Director: Robert M White [Roberto Bianchi Montero]
Script: Ray Calloway [Alfonso Balcazar], Roberto Montero
Photography: Ken Foster
Music: Francesco De Masi {Nazionalmusic}
Editor: Jordan B Matthews {Bruno Mattei]
Sets: Mary Jo Lewis
Original running time: 90 mins
Exteriors shot in Hong Kong
Cast: German Cobos (Robert Manning), Susan Baker (Sally), Yoko Tani (Su Ling), Gianni Rizzo (The Baron), Milton Reid (Cheng), Paco Sanz (Professor Larsen), Leontine May, Anthony Blade, Florence Simpson, George Chow, Audrey Rosales, Alfred Ngo
Uncredited: Giovanni Cianfriglia (The Baron’s henchman with woollen hat), Romano Puppo (?Thug in cinema?)

After a rather dull first hour, this evolves into something much grittier than is normally to be found within the genre. With an onus on night-time photography (that often makes things rather difficult to make out), a preponderance of hard-hitting fistfights and a particularly nasty face-burning scene, it all leaves one with the (ultimately misguided) feeling of being a rather sombre affair. It definitely seems to lack the glamorous ambience that pervades the majority of its peers. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any better than average, and at several points this hapless reviewer found himself in need of a swift raspberry collins to offset the dangerous onset of sleep.

Professor Larsen, a prominent nuclear scientist, is freed from a Chinese prison camp by a group of Japanese judo experts. They take him to Hong Kong, where he can await in hiding whilst transportation to America is arranged. However, his main contact, Agent Z51, is killed before anything can be finalised. Knowing the delicacy of matters, the US Secret Service send in their best agent, Robert Manning, aka Z55 (German Cobos). His mission: to both relocate the AWOL academic and avenge his murdered associate.

It’s not long before Manning discovers that a disparate group of individuals are taking a close interest in his activities. There’s a suspicious pair of ‘bodyguards’ (Milton Reid and Yoko Tani) who persist in trying to pay him to work for them, not to mention an annoying blonde, Sally (Susan Baker), and her camp chum, The Baron (Gianni Rizzo). Now every good camp villain should have a pet – in Bond films, these ranged from piranhas to sharks to, err, a cat. Unfortunately, the Baron was dealt a rather duff card in the vicious fauna stakes; his particular mammalian sidekick is… an armadillo (‘an animal that’s quite affectionate, despite it’s rude exterior’)! Now there’s nothing that quite so diminishes the tension of a scene as much as having a goddamned armadillo wandering around in the background. Sometimes I’d swear that these Italian filmmakers just threw in such outrageously absurd elements just to completely confuse the unsuspecting viewer, stumbling across their long forgotten works after thirty-five years of total obscurity.

Desperate Mission
Desperate Mission

Anyway, Mr Z55 is soon wandering around an assortment of Judo clubs, hoping to locate the one handed black-belt who had been working with his predecessor. He also manages to visit an assortment of swanky drinking establishments, hoping to find a long-stemmed glass full of a well-mixed martini (and who wouldn’t). It doesn’t take him too long to locate The Professor, but that’s only the beginning of his troubles…

Desperate Mission has a few things in its favour. There’s a great title sequence, faultlessly blending animation, loungecore vibes and shooting silhouettes, that conjures up memories of The Avengers. Francesco De Masi’s soundtrack is very enjoyable, and there’s a nice supporting cast, including a couple of unexpected performers. Milton Reid was a familiar face in British films, often appearing as a mute butler or bodyguard (see Adventures of a Private Eye, Au Pair Girls, Dr Phibes Rises Again and Dr. No amongst others). He’s not a great actor, for sure, but has a formidable presence and a bad complexion. Yoko Tani was a French actress who appeared in many Euro productions as a token oriental (ie giggling regularly, looking demure, trying to kill people) before her death in 1999.

Apart from that, though, it’s pretty much a motley assortment of the usual clichés: stupid passwords, hat-wearing villains, stilted ‘suave’ dialogue (‘what kind of chicken are you, Mr. Manning?’). Unfortunately things aren’t helped along too much by rather stodgy direction, with the exception of a good shoot-out in a cinema, from the usually reliable Roberto Montero. Lead actor German Cobos certainly looks like Sean Connery, and acts in a much more vicious way than is expected, but fails to really engage.

Desperate Mission
Desperate Mission
About Matt Blake 890 Articles
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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