OSS 117 Double Agent
Director: Andre Hunebelle
OSS 117 Double Agent is a film, like many Eurospy movies, of a thousand names. Also titled Murder For Sale, No Roses, and many other variations, Double Agent is a highly entertaining and worth while Eurospy that brings so many great aspects of the genre together that you really can't deny its overall entertainment value.
Double Agent tells the story of American Secret Service agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, aka OSS 117, as he attempts to infiltrate a terrorist organization run by a fashionably devoid, but highly brilliant mastermind, Il Maggiore. OSS 117 takes on the identity of a known criminal William Chandler, in hopes to gather information on the illusive organization, only to be trapped in a deadly game of trust by his new employers when he is sent to the Middle East to assassinate a peace negotiator. Can he survive in a high stakes game of treachery and treason? Can he thwart Maggiore's well laid out plans? And can he also do this while at the same time bedding a few beautiful women on the side? My instincts tell me yes.
|Hold it right there buster!|
|EXTRA! EXTRA! Put some pants on!|
OSS 117 Double Agent has one of the most impressive casts that I've come into contact with on my topsy turvy journey through Eurospy land. The caliber of spy actors among the ranks of this film are delightful and seeing each person come onto the screen, in very random moments, is a real treat for Eurospy fans. Some appear for only a few frames and others help carry the film along, but all help in creating a colorful film that screams to be watched, especially by spy enthusiasts.
One of the names that is not very known in the Eurospy world, just happens to be the man who plays the main character of OSS 117. John Gavin may be lacking the credibility to take on the role, but he ends up coming out of the ordeal as an accomplished veteran of the spy trade. I loved his portrayal of OSS 117 and felt that he brought just the right amount of charisma and playfulness to the role. His character appears to be living it up and loving every moment of it, even when he is fighting for his life. Gavin's juggling of both business and pleasure is also a hoot to watch play out. Much like his predecessor James Bond, Gavin's OSS 117 loves the ladies and doesn't mind rolling around in the hay on mission time. I felt that Gavin hit the perfect note of lightheartedness and significance, often recalling Sean Connery's performance as Bond, without delving into more camp material like Roger Moore. Unfortunately this is Gavin's only portrayal of OSS 117 and to my knowledge this is also his only foray in the Eurospy genre. It's sad, because I really got a kick out of his performance.
|It seems that your nipple is in perfect working condition.|
|I don't know what I hate more. That tacky suit or that sweaty gorilla standing behind me.|
Like all spy films of this era, the women are essential and let me tell you there are tons in this film. Not just in quantity though, but quality also. We have a fleeting appearance by one of Italy's most iconic actresses, Rosalba Neri. She plays a bit part early in the film where she comes to find that the man that she has just slept with is ruthless killer William Chandler, of course portrayed by OSS 117 on his undercover mission. She phones the police, ensuing a rather entertaining scene where 117 must fight off a group of police officers wearing only a newspaper and a few random objects. It's a great set piece and it's nice to see Rosalba even if it is just for a few precious moments.
Two of the meatier roles go to fellow spy vets, Luciana Paluzzi and Margaret Lee, with Lee coming out with the more substantial role. Both women are no strangers to the genre with Paluzzi taking on her iconic role in Thunderball alongside Sean Connery in 1965, to Lee's almost endless supply of Eurospy films. She seemed to be the go to girl at the time these films were most popular in Europe. Some of her credits include Agent 077 Fury in the Orient, New York Calling Super Dragon, Bang! Bang! You're Dead!, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, Dick Smart 2007, Spy Pit, and the list just goes on and on.
In Double Agent, Luciana Paluzzi plays the role of Maud, a physician who works for the terrorist organization that 117 is up against. She encounters agent OSS 117 and of course falls into bed with him. She has a few key roles and does splendidly with them for the short amount of time she's on screen, but boy does she eat up the scenery. She has the ability to draw your attention in and she does it in great abundance in this movie. Margaret Lee on the other hand plays the role of Aicha Melik, an innocent woman who ends up getting tangled in 117's life and mission only to fall head over heels for him. She actually has a lot of physical scenes in this film, lunging at armed assassins and getting tossed all over the place. I've always loved Margaret's performances in this genre and in Double Agent she doesn't disappoint. Like Paluzzi, she has a magnetic personality that was just made for film and in this one she shines.
|Margaret Lee is unbeLEEvable! Yeah I said it.|
|What a nice Sunday drive.|
Let's not forget the other side of the coin here, for where would we be without the villains? In Double Agent, we get a hefty portion of diabolical masterminds that all serve their individual purposes while at the same time, never really defining a clarity in the bad guy hierarchy chain. It really is a strange sort of set up, because the obvious main villain comes in the form of Il Maggoire, the leader of the assassin and terrorist outfit, but he really has little to no influence throughout the picture. He is more of a guide of sorts, pushing 117 on his way and never getting that confrontation moment that we are always treated to at the end of these spy opuses.
Instead we are given two underlings of the organization, that are given two separate roles in plaguing our main character. There is a Doctor named Saadi played by Robert Hossein and a brutish fellow named Karas played by George Eastman. Both men have a great deal to do in the film, helping to carry the extra weight that Maggoire's character neglects to share. Saadi has a particularly interesting role in poisoning OSS 117, keeping him on an invisible leash so to speak in order to get his daily dose of the antidote and to stay the poison in his bloodstream. Karas' character is a more physical beast, in which he relishes the brutality of inflicting pain. During the early portions of the film he plays a more passive role, but come the waning moments of the movie he becomes a raving lunatic lashing out at anything and anyone, most notably pour Margaret Lee. It seems to be a specialty of Eastman's because whenever I see him in a film, he is a raving mad lunatic. Take his roles in Antropophagus and Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, just to name a few. The guys a complete maniac! Luckily he was able to channel that same lunacy for his role as Karas, because he really does set the few ending moments of the film on fire with his energy and animalistic mystique.
|That's the last time you open the window when the air conditioning is on.|
|Oh Margaret Lee.... you're just darling.|
Though the overall plot of the film is a bit vague in its presentation, you really can't deny the energy and fun of the whole mission. John Gavin's playful nature as OSS 117, is infectious in my opinion and really helps to mold the film into a fun romp in espionage. Paired with the enjoyable and adorable acting chops of Margaret Lee and you've got yourself a winner.
The two have a great chemistry between each other and the relationship that they begin to build together is pleasant to see unfold. You really can't say the same thing for a majority of Eurospy films or even the originator of the genre, the James Bond films. The only thing that comes close in my memory would be George Lazenby and Diana Rigg's relationship in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Both films kind of lifted up the misogynist spy facade and took a broader scope at the main agent's relationships. While not as accomplished at said feat as On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Double Agent still has a twinkle of that unique magic in its workings. For being such an under-seen gem, I would say that's quite an accomplishment.
|You better start talking lamp shade or the girl gets it!|
|A romantic helicopter ride for two.|
OSS 117 Double Agent is a surprisingly enjoyable spy romp that has an elite cast of Eurospy veterans and genre pros to back it up. The overall story may be vague, but the impression that the film gives off is immensely addictive. I loved the carefree nature of John Gavin's 117 and the playful nature that he brought to the character. I felt it was perfectly balanced with the tone of the whole film and gelled well together with both the narrative and Margaret Lee's enrapturing presence. I highly recommend the film for anyone who loves the wild ride that Eurospy can provide and if you're new to the genre, give it a try. You might just end up becoming one of the converted. Double Agent is an extremely enjoyable addition to the OSS 117 spy series and one you should definitely check out.