Saturday 25 November 2023

Mission Bloody Mary (1965)

Mission Bloody Mary, released in 1965, was the first of a series of three eurospy movies featuring Ken Clark as American secret agent Dick Malloy, Agent 077. It was an Italian-French-Spanish co-production. It was followed by From the Orient with Fury (Agente 077 dall'oriente con furore) and Special Mission Lady Chaplin (Missione speciale Lady Chaplin).

Confusingly it appears that Agent 077 was named Jack Clifton in the European versions but renamed Dick Malloy in the English dubbed versions.

Mission Bloody Mary begins in a typical eurospy way. Someone has been causing US military aircraft to crash and they have stolen a new super H-bomb nicknamed the Bloody Mary.

It’s obviously a case for the CIA’s top agent Dick Malloy, if they can tear him away from the case he’s working on at the moment. That case happens to be a beautiful blonde. Agent 077 hates leaving a job unfinished but he promises the blonde that he’ll be back to finish the job.

Agent 077 finds his contact and of course she’s a glamorous female, Dr Elsa Freeman (Helga Liné). There’s another glamorous female who seems likely to be more dangerous, a Chinese stripper named Kuan (played by Mitsouko).

The bodies slowly start to accumulate. And people are trying to kill Dick Malloy, so he must be getting close to something.

The CIA can’t provide Dick with much information. They know the Black Lily is involved, but they don’t know whether the Black Lily is an organisation or a person, or whether it refers to a man or a woman. The Black Lily might be operating independently, or on behalf of the Chinese or the Soviets. And that bomb could be hidden anywhere.

There will of course be double-crosses. This is after all a spy story. The script provides plenty of twists. Some of them you’ll see coming but some of them you won’t.

There are glamorous women and poor Malloy has no idea which of them he can trust. He gets into plenty of tight corners but he’s a tough guy and he can slug or shoot his way out of most situations.

Ken Clark was one of those American actors who realised that they weren’t going to reach the top in Hollywood but might do a lot better in Italy. He made peplums, spaghetti western, eurospy and action movies. He was the ruggedly handsome American type who prospered in 60s eurocult movies. He makes a more than adequate square-jawed wise-cracking hero.

Helga Liné and Mitsouko add some glamour. The other cast members are all perfectly competent.

The major difference between the Bond movies and eurospy movies was of course money. The makers of eurospy movies did not have the budgets for elaborate sets, fancy gadgetry and spectacular action set-pieces. They had to rely on more conventional action scenes. A lot depended on just how good a director was at staging such scenes. In this case Sergio Grieco proves to be very competent. The action scenes are excellent.

And there are plenty of them. Pacing is crucial to the success of these kinds of movies. The lower the budget of the movie the less forgiving the audience is going to be of slow patches. This movie has no slow patches. It just keeps powering along.

Director Sergio Grieco had a fairly typical career for an Italian genre director. He made peplums, swashbucklers and quite a few eurospy movies. Later he dabbled in poliziotteschi and sex comedies.

This was 1965 so there’s no nudity but there are some witty sexy moments. A good place for a woman to hide a secret message is in her bra, especially if she can be sure that the man for whom the message is intended will get the chance to look inside her bra. And Mitsouko gets to do a strip-tease routine.

At one point Malloy has to make sure that a female agent is not an imposter. To do so he will have to make a careful examination of her left breast. Fortunately one of Malloy’s secret agent skills is persuading young ladies to remove their clothing.

The violence isn’t graphic but the fight scenes are quite full-blooded.

Mission Bloody Mary has relatively few of the outrageous and fantastic elements that populate a lot of eurospy movies, in fact it has almost none, but it manages to provide plenty of excitement, and it’s stylish enough in a slightly gritty sort of way. On the whole this is a top-notch eurospy offering and it’s highly recommended.

The German Pidax Jack Clifton Agent 077 DVD boxed set includes all three 077 movies, with the English soundtracks as well. The transfers are fine.

I’ve reviewed the other two Agent 077 movies, From the Orient with Fury (1965) and the superb Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966).

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