Sunday, 10 January 2016

So Darling, So Deadly (1966)

So Darling, So Deadly (AKA Agent Joe Walker: Operation Far East, original title Kommissar X - In den Klauen des goldenen Drachen) was the third of the seven popular Kommissar X eurospy films. It’s an international co-production between Germany, Italy, Austria and Singapore. This is a fairly typical eurospy feature and it’s one of the better examples of the breed.

Joe Walker was the hero of a series of German crime/espionage novels. Paul Alfred Mueller wrote 620 (!) Kommissar X novels under the name Bert F. Island - and there were hundreds more titles by other writers.  

The eurospy genre of course consisted of low-budget James Bond knock-offs but the best of them have a distinctive flavour, and a madness, all their own.

One thing you don’t worry too much about in eurospy movies is plot coherence. They do have plots but if the plots make no sense that tends to be a feature rather than a bug. This one has a plot and it concerns a kindly well-intentioned physicist who has invented a new kind of laser that is a terrifying death ray. It’s remarkable how many kindly movie scientists seem to devote their careers to the invention of death rays. This particular death ray can knock an aircraft out of the sky 300 miles away.

Of course like every brilliant scientist in the history of movies he has a beautiful daughter, and of course you know that at some point she’s going to get herself kidnapped by the bad guys.

Agent Joe Walker (Tony Kendall) is given the task of preventing the death ray from falling into the wrong hands. In the novels Joe Walker was apparently a kind of private eye but in this movie he seems to work (possibly unofficially) for a agency known as the International Bureau. He is sent to Singapore to protect the scientist and he is accompanied by tough New York cop Captain Tom Rowland (Brad Harris).

A mysterious group of bad guys try to kill Walker and Rowland as soon as their plane lands in Singapore and they go on trying to kill them. The bad guys include a deadly blonde named Stella (Gisela Hahn) who seems to see killing as her vocation in life.

There’s no point in worrying too much about what happens next. Suffice to say there are murders, lots of attempted murders, kidnappings, brawls and in general plenty of action. The death ray is basically a McGuffin and it provides the excise for mayhem in abundance. Since it’s set in Singapore there’s a certain flavour of the Mysterious East to it and there are even a few hints of Fu Manchu in the form of the brotherhood of the Golden Dragon.

Writer-director Gianfranco Parolini made peplums, spaghetti westerns and eurospy movies and with So Darling, So Deadly he proves himself to be fairly competent. He keeps the action moving along at a frenetic pace and he handles the action scenes well enough considering the budgetary restraints he was working under. Much of the movie was shot in Singapore, giving the obligatory touch of the exotic. The action scenes obviously can’t compare to those in a Bond film but they’re executed with a reasonable amount of flair. The Singapore locations are used quite effectively.

Tony Kendall, despite his name, was an Italian actor. He makes a perfect eurospy hero - suave, dashing, recklessly brave, always chasing the ladies and always with tongue planted firmly in cheek. He may not have been the world’s greatest actor (although he’s perfectly adequate) but most importantly he was handsome and he certainly had charm and charisma, he could do action stuff convincingly and he looked like a movie secret agent.

Brad Harris was a genuine American, a college athlete and bodybuilder who made a career for himself in the Italian movie industry appearing in peplums, spaghetti westerns and eurospy films. He makes a good foil for Tony Kendall. In the discotheque scene he proves himself to be an amazing dancer - and I don’t mean that in a good way.

Do you remember the bad old days of VHS when if you wanted to watch a movie at home you would find yourself watching a horrible mangled pan-and-scanned print, probably cut, and with atrocious picture quality? Those bad old days are gone forever. Unless you’re a eurospy fan If you’re a eurospy fan then the only way to see most of your favourite titles is still in horrible cut pan-and-scanned prints with abysmal picture quality. 

Retromedia’s DVD release of the first three Kommissar X movies being a case in point. So Darling, So Deadly is indeed pan-and-scanned and image quality is fairly bad. The colours are a bit washed out and they vary wildly from scene to scene. To be fair this seems to improve as the movie progresses. This really is not a great transfer.

On the other hand if you are a eurospy fan you know that this is, with a very few exceptions, par for the course. If you want to see these movies you just have to put up with outrageously awful transfers. And sometimes it’s worth it. This is one of those times when it really is worth it.

The frustrating thing about being a eurospy fan is that you know that one of the reasons the genre is not highly thought of is simply that most people have never had the opportunity to see these movies in their correct aspect rations and in decent prints.

So Darling, So Deadly is classic eurospy fun. It’s silly fast-paced action-packed enjoyment. Highly recommended.

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