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Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966)

My notes on the Eurospy movie Missione speciale Lady Chaplin/Operazione Lady Chaplin (Special Mission Lady Chaplin)

 

‘Calling base, can you see that woman who just parachuted out of my plane? … I want all of you to surround her and eliminate her – quick!’

 

A nun (Daniela Bianchi) drives up to a monastery with a basket of linen, takes out a machine gun and wipes out a bunch of false monks then ventilates a computer – under the credits, which are accompanied by an unforgettable Bruno Nicolai song sung by Bobby Solo, she strips her habit to disclose a bathing suit and drives off.  This is Lady Arabella Chaplin, couturier-cum assassin, working for an above-suspicion millionaire with the entirely reasonable-sounding name Kobre Zoltan (Jacques Bergerac) – the sort of smarmy fellow who raids sunken submarines for Polaris missiles to sell to an unethical government (‘I could destroy a whole continent with the tip of my finger – just like that!’) and keeps pet scorpions to fight on a table-top to entertain his wealthy guests.  Enter American agent Dick Molloy (Ken Clark) – still wearing a trenchcoat with the collar turned up in a decade when spies were generally cooler, snappier dressers – who is assigned by irascible boss Heston (Philippe Hersent) to get to the bottom of the international mystery, which means a shoot-out in a deserted Spanish corrida, some chatter at a New York heliport, a trip downbelow by bathyscape, the theft of some rocket fuel in London, a Paris fashion show, a secret missile base in Morocco, etc.

 

This international (France-Italy-Spain) co-production is one of many Euro efforts made in imitation of the Bond movies, usually with a surplus 007 actor or two in the cast – here, Bianchi has more fun as a bad girl than she did in From Russia With Love as the romantic interest, and furthermore gets to be a mistress of disguise hit woman (besides the nun, her best act is as a disabled old lady in a tricked-up wheelchair with guns in the armrests and a modified Rolls Royce).  Clark is a bit of a plank as a hero – so many of these films imported blocky B-reject American stars to play their secret agents, missing the fact that Bond was British and suave as well as tough and sexy.  Many of the trimmings are Bondian – a hook-handed chief henchman, lots of black polo-neck-clad judo choppers, villains shoved against equipment to be electrocuted, the mad millionaire’s novelty pet, the traitor killed by choking inside his getaway car after he’s served his purpose (when the baddies try the trick on Dick, he shoots his way out of it).

 

When Zoltan discovers Lady C has been dallying with Molloy (like Pussy Galore, she’s switched sides – in fact, like Pussy Galore in the novel, she seems to have stopped being a lesbian as well), he tosses her out of his aeroplane – but she’s got a concealed parachute, her favourite machine gun and that theme tune which plays whenever she’s doing her stuff.  She’s having a shoot-out with Zoltan’s minions in the desert when who should swim ashore but Dick with a spear-gun and some bombs.  Acting like a complete macho thug, Dick slaps her unconscious in order to be solo at the wheel during a jeep chase to the ship where he has the weapons of mass destruction stashed (‘to fire these sixteen atomic missiles, all I have to do is throw that switch on the wall over there. The whole continent will be blown up’).  Hero and baddie have a tolerably athletic punch-up among the missiles in the burning hold and Zoltan gets fatally bitten by one of the pet scorpions he keeps around for good luck and dies laughing (a less wooden hero than Dick Molloy would have something amusing to say about this).  Malloy and his boss bicker about the killer babe: ‘What about that Chaplin girl.  She’s been nothing but a heap of trouble and you know it.’ ‘But she’s still a lot of woman.’ ‘Ah, you’re my best man, but woman-crazy!’  At the end, Dick slaps the handcuffs on Lady C … but not necessarily to arrest her.

 

Made in 1966, it has delightful then-modern tech – a couple of bubble-carapace helicopters that strafe a ship with gunfire and colourful smoke-bombs, a remote-viewing underwater drone, etc.  Among the supporting lovelies are exploitation regulars Helga Liné (always best as a slinky woman of mystery – here, she represents the country which wants to buy the missiles) and Evelyn Stewart (aka Ida Galli).  This was the third ‘Dick Molloy’ movie, following Agente 077 Missione Bloody Mary and Agente 077 dall’oriente con furore/Agent 077: Fury in Istanbul – by now, it seems injunctions had wiped the code number off the franchise.  Directed by Alberto De Martino (Antecristo, Holocaust 2000) and series regular Sergio Grieco (as Terence Hathaway).

 

Here’s a trailer.

Here’s the title sequence, with earworm song …

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