Friday, January 2, 2009

Operation Double 007 (Produzione D.S., 1967)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

As our movie, Charles and I picked out a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 presentation of a 1967 spy spoof called Operation Double 007, a.k.a. O.K. Connery. Lots of people in the 1960’s turned out stupid spoofs of the James Bond movies (by far the best spoof of them was the Get Smart! TV show) but only the makers of this one, producer Dario Sabatello and director Alberto De Martino, had the chutzpah to hire Sean Connery’s brother Neil as their star. In fact, some of the alternate titles even proclaimed that fact about the movie: Operation Kid Brother and O.K. Connery. Neil Connery strongly resembles his brother physically (though, oddly, he insists on wearing a thin moustache and beard throughout the film that makes the resemblance less obvious than it otherwise would have been) but not at all in acting ability — and if the sheer brazenness of casting Sean Connery’s brother in a James Bond spoof weren’t enough, the producers also engaged actors like Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell who had been in the real Bond films.

The story was credited to Paolo Levi but the actual screenplay to Levi, Frank Walker, Stanley Wright and Stefano Canzio (“Bad luck! Four on a screenplay!” the MST3K crew joked; certainly this is a movie that confirms my general field theory of cinema that the quality of a movie is inversely proportional to its number of writers) and the four men on this screenplay managed between them to come up with something that doesn’t make even a lick of sense. We begin the movie not with James Bond — oops, James Bond’s stupider brother — but with the villain, Mr. Thai a.k.a. Beta (Adolfo Celi), on his yacht that comes equipped with TV monitors and wall-to-wall women, including one whose back is serving as the screen for his projection TV. (“When he changes the channel, does he need to get a different woman?” one of the MST3K crew joked.) He’s moored off the coast of Monaco, and at the Monaco general-aviation airport a black plane comes in for a landing and Mr. Thai sends a radio-controlled Citroën car (we see the car with no driver and then there’s a cut to Mr. Thai on board his yacht driving it with a remote-control device) to ram it and cause it to explode, killing the pilot.

The pilot was going to sell the good guys information on the bad guys’ latest plot — the good guys are unnamed but the bad guys are an international organization called Thanatos, and Mr. Thai is called “Beta” because he’s the second-in-command and he wants to displace Alpha (Anthony Dawson) and take over. In order to do that he plans to steal an “atomic nucleus” (what, only one? Didn’t the members of the writing committee realize how small one is?) and construct his own nuclear weapons. His adversary is the internationally famous plastic surgeon Dr. Neil Connery (quite a few of the actors in this movie are using their own names!), who came to Monaco to demonstrate his use of an ancient Tibetan hypnotism technique as an anaesthetic; his experimental subject was Miss Yachuko (Yachuco Yama), and as a side effect the hypnotic technique also brought up some crucial information locked in her brain that both the good guys and the bad guys need. So the bad guys kidnap and torture her and Dr. Connery has to find her.

There’s also a hit-person nun who kills people with a knife with a spring-loaded blade she can shoot at them, a lot of gags involving archery (including a rather charming sequence in which the baddies who’ve kidnapped Yachuko bundle her up and use an air-gun that looks like a bazooka to shoot a line out her window so they can lower her to a waiting vehicle — disguised as an ambulance — and get her out of the building without risking being discovered) and a climactic action sequence that is pretty unmemorable — in fact, I was having trouble staying awake through this one and was zoning out during much of it. The most memorable parts of its MST3K presentation were two interstital segments, in one of which Joel Hodgson does his Mr. Thai impression and works the robots into it as the women in Mr. Thai’s life; and another in which the crew compares the careers of Sean and Neil Connery and then says, as a punchline, “Well, there’s one thing we have to say for Neil Connery. At least he didn’t do Zardoz.”