Sunday, 21 August 2016

Code 7, Victim 5 (1964)

Given the title and the way it was promoted back in 1964 you could be forgiven for assuming that Code 7, Victim 5 is going to be yet another James Bond rip-off. Actually it’s a straightforward private eye yarn. It’s the South African setting that is the real highlight here.

This is one of the countless low-budget movies cranked out by writer-producer Harry Alan Towers. Towers liked making his movies in exotic locales - they gave a low-budget movie that touch of class and (even more importantly) they were usually ridiculously cheap filming locations.

South African mining magnate Wexler (Walter Rilla) is convinced someone is intending to kill him. Badly scared, he calls in American private eye Steve Martin (Lex Barker) even though he is already surrounded by a veritable army of security people.

Martin decides it might be wise to cooperate with the local police and Inspector Lean (Ronald Fraser) seems happy enough to go along with the idea.

The one clue that Martin has is a photograph take during the war. Wexler had been a German prisoner-of-war working on a prison farm in South Africa. There are four men in the photograph. One is now dead and one is under threat of death. Obviously it would be desirable to track down the other men in the photograph but that proves to be easier said than done.

Inspector Lean seems to be busily engaged chasing every young woman in Cape Town so Martin sets off with Wexler’s beautiful Danish secretary Helga (Ann Smyrner) to find the other two men. It soon becomes apparent that however is trying to kill Wexler would be quite happy to kill Martin as well.

The plot really is pretty routine. It’s the setting that makes things interesting. There’s a shootout in the world’s biggest subterranean cave system, there’s attempted murder on an ostrich farm (with the ostriches as the intended murder weapon) and there’s a decent climactic sequence on the slopes of Table Mountain. Most impressive of all is the opening murder sequence - a wonderful set-piece.

Robert Lynn directed a mere handful of films, spending most of his career in television. On the evidence of this movie, taking into account the very low budget he had to work with, he does pretty well. Of course it helps having the services of ace cinematographer Nicholas Roeg. 

Lex Barker is a perfectly adequate somewhat sardonic hero. Fine German character actor Walter Rilla makes Wexler a suitably enigmatic figure - a powerful man who obviously has some dark secrets. Ronald Fraser was always amusing although the idea of the entire female population of Cape Town being besotted by him does stretch credibility a very long way indeed!

Ann Smyrner as Helga and Véronique Vendell as Wexler’s adopted daughter Gina are there to add glamour which they do very successfully.

I have no idea why Blue Underground decided this film was worthy releasing on Blu-Ray. The anamorphic transfer (the film was shot in the Cinemascope ratio) is quite satisfactory  but probably would have looked just as good on a DVD. This movie is paired with another Harry Alan Towers production, Mozambique, on a single disc.

Code 7, Victim 5 is quite enjoyable on it own terms. It moves along quickly and it looks terrific. Recommended.

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