Running time: 101 mins
Director: Sergio Grieco
Starring: Ken Clark, Helga Liné, Philippe Hersent
This month sees the release of James Bond in his 23rd official outing Skyfall. Never to miss a chance to showcase the best of the forgotten Exploitation cinema we turn our crosshairs on Dick Malloy (
Clark), better known by his employers as Agente 077 as he
fights against international terrorists and his overwhelming libido to save the
Like Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die and For Yur Height Only it’s a take on Ian Fleming's superspy. Unlike the two films above it belongs to a special club we’ve been highlighting on Knifed in
Venice, the endangered films list. Joining the ranks of Kung Fu Cannibals and 3 Supermen Against Godfather the last remaining copy of Agente 077: Mission Bloody Mary comes from a badly beaten VHS.
As you’d expect from a combo European low budget action flick the film has aged though alarmingly not in a bad way. The right people, fancy people, would say that it’s somehow "bang en trend"…but I’m not going to say that. What I will say is that it has an abundance of a certain atmosphere and colour palette that many directors, many directors with greater resources than Grieco, would kill for. Grieco’s use of the camera to tell the narrative is strong. Where some of his performers, largely the supporting roles (scientists both Asian and European), have a touch of the wooden the fluidity of the directors camera gives the film an energy and life that it would be in danger of losing if static. Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s score is melodramatic with a touch of ham, it’s got an element of the Roger Moore era with some of the brass extravagance you’d expect from a Sergio Leone film. It’s rich and well placed alongside the aspiring spy antics. In other parts it's old worldy and complimentary to the narrative and always sympathetic to the characters. It's great.
I’m not entirely sure how it took four people (including director Grieco) to write the film. Narratively it’s rather plain and unchallenging especially when you consider how close it stays to the creative origins though I do like the fact his drink of choice is “two whiskeys, each one a double, in one glass”. Ken Clark’s the perfect piece of casting, a "tall glass of water" as the dames say. Having cut his teeth with “respectability” and South Pacific he moved quickly into the world of Exploitation and Demons of the Swamp, 12 to the Moon and From the Orient with Fury (the sequel to Agente 077: Mission Bloody Mary). He’s not the greatest of actors, his delivery can be a little wooden and he looks like the most badly dubbed (even though he’s from
Ohio) but he does have a physicality that
certainly helps the film. The fight
sequence on the train to Barcelona
in incredibly thrilling and a lot more brutal than any of the fights you’d see in
Bond (prior to Daniel Craig). The close
proximity and crushing sound of the blows landing is slightly reminiscent of a
Bourne fight and in particular the fight in Tanzanian bathroom in The Bourne Ultimatum. Helga
Liné cuts a fine figure of a Bond girl…or would she be more of a Dick Gal? She’s slightly reminiscent of Jane Seymour and
that’s no bad thing. Silvana Jachino
(created as Susan Terry) is similarly wonderful as Juanita, highly sexual with a heavy does of physicality and timing, the perfect female accomplice to Clark’s Dick
Malloy. Jachino was a regular of Sergio
Grieco and it’s not hard to see why, she brings not just her top game but also
the quality of the film up a notch with every scene she graces.
Like a lot of Exploitation genre pieces the narrative could do with a little firming up as though you know the overall reason why someone is doing something you’re never entirely sure how one set piece on occasion leads to another. It’s a minor complaint. To Grieco’s credit he has managed to construct a film that yes has it’s origins in a well established franchise but becomes more than a parody of his creator. Like Eddie Nicart’s For Yur HeightOnly and The Impossible Kid, Agente 077: Mission Bloody Mary has enough character, originality and most importantly ambition to all it to stand alone as an espionage thriller in it’s own right. Even if it does lack some of the smoother edges you’d expect from your secret agent with a license to kill.