Wednesday, September 7, 2011

i Spy Eurospy: Estambul 65

Estambul 65
Director: Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi
Year 1965

Estambul 65, AKA That Man in Istanbul, is an extremely enjoyable Eurospy film that showcases all the flavors of the genre that we love. The film follows a clever club owner named Tony Mecenas, played by the kick ass Horst Buchholz, and a gorgeous American secret agent named Kenny, played by the sultry Sylva Koscina, as they hunt down a kidnapped scientist in Istanbul, Turkey. The plot is as wacky and convoluted as they come, but Buchholz's performance as the wise talking and death defying Tony more then makes up for the confusing narrative. Another gem from the Eurospy archives, Estambul 65 is a delight from beginning to end.

Ciao Tony.

Give me that damn grocery list!

On the topic of the character Tony, he carries the film effortlessly. From thwarting the bad guys and dealing out a few miraculous escapes, Tony makes this film an entertaining wonder. It isn't just the action and splendor that makes the grade, but the playful nature of his character that really elevates the film from its ruin of a plot. Tony often breaks the 4th dimension and speaks directly to the audience, often bragging about how damn cool he is.

One of the most memorable scenes that showcases his swagger, happens when Tony falls into a trap at a construction site. He takes on an army of thugs who are all driving their individual cars and hoping to turn poor Tony into roadkill. Tony dodges the oncoming assault with ease forcing the cars to collide with each other in a heap of twisted metal and broken bones. After a narrow escape from one of the last vehicles, Tony turns and smirks to the camera saying, "What? Me worry?" Damn that Tony is a smug bastard, but man if he isn't the coolest.

The gang couldn't get over his Pee Wee Herman bow tie.

So are we going to do it or what?

Aside from Buchholz's solid performance as Tony, the only other memorable character of the film is Sylva Koscina's Kenny. Unfortunately though, she doesn't have much to do in this film. She often disappears for entire segments only to crop up in the background with little to no dialogue, but when she does get a chance to show her stuff, she shines. It's a shame that the filmmakers didn't utilize her talents better, because from her one performance alone in Hot Enough For June, you can see the amount of talent the actress possessed, not to mention her contributions to the film Deadlier Than the Male.

Still her appearance in Estambul 65 is not without its magical moments. Sylva gets to flaunt her athletic ability as she gets in a few scraps and hairy situations. She's a beautiful actress and I only wish they utilized her more instead of pushing the excellent performance of Horst Buchholz to the forefront and leaving her to pick up the scraps.

Hi Tony.

Tony in drag... not so convincing.

Estambul 65 is a very cleverly balanced film, teetering back and forth from its comedic elements to its more action oriented set pieces. The film is actually very impressive in its execution of a number of scenes, one especially being the health spa section of the movie. Tony must infiltrate an all women's spa in order to narrow down the lead on the missing scientist. Kenny escorts a cross dressing Tony to the baths and it's as ridiculous as you'd think it would be. The guy looks nothing like a women and the disguise is just plain ludicrous. After successfully entering the spa, Tony takes a look around for himself only to be ambushed by a gang of undercover male thugs, ensuing a crazy and chaotic series of fights that sets the whole place into an uproar. The action is fast paced and energetic and gives a great example of how the filmmakers were able to balance between the comedic aspects of the story yet at the same time be able to inject some mad cap action into the mix at a moments notice without either of the two feeling out of place.

The film does have a great sense of humor to it, never getting too serious or bogged down by real world consequences. It's a lighthearted affair that borrows heavily from some of the most iconic and memorable elements of its fellow Eurospy brethren. One of the most successful reoccurring sequences that presents itself in the film is the acknowledgement that everyone in Istanbul knows Tony, especially the female population. Every time Tony bumps into a women during one of his escapades and brilliant escapes, they turn and say "Ciao Tony." No matter what the situation is, this comedic running gag keeps popping up and each time is more funnier then the next. The technique was just a constant reminder that the film wore its heart on its sleeve and that the filmmakers realized how tongue and cheek the whole proceedings really were.

Meet the finest mustache in Istanbul boys.
Tony's cruising for a bruising.

Not only are the two main performers of the film at the top of their game and the comedic and action moments so expertly filmed, but the visual prowess of the film is impeccable. The location of Istanbul is breathtaking and director Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi really knows how to display the city in all its wonder and exotic diversity. One of the most impressive scenes that really demonstrates the majesty of Istanbul and at the same time the dangerous Eurospy world that plays onscreen, is the battle between Tony and the assassin on top of the picturesque spire that lies high above the city. The fight sequence is tense and dizzying as we're given some rather marvelous shots of the surrounding landscape, intermingled with the two characters' epic fight for survival.

The film is also very lavish in presentation, provided by the excellent style of the era. Vibrant interiors, stylish poolside views, and swinging retro infused decor, supply the perfect look for the film. There's really nothing like this time period of film making, both in the atmosphere and appearance of the Eurospy film, and with Estambul 65 we get the good stuff aplenty.

Someone's going down.

You know you're having a bad day when Klaus Kinski gets the jump on you.

Estambul 65 is a surprisingly great Eurospy film that relishes in the absurd situations and charismatic escapades of its main character Tony while at the same time presenting us with an outstanding view of a city lost in time. The logic of the plot may be less then desirable, but in my opinion that doesn't really matter with this film. It's a fun movie relying on moments to push the story along rather then a cohesive narrative and easily followed plot points. I'd highly recommend Estambul 65 to anyone who loves their Eurospy films entertaining, fun, and constantly winking towards their audience. Check it out. Ciao Tony!

4 out of 5 guns        A Fun Eurospy Film Starring TONY!

1 comment:

  1. Nice summary, you described this film very thoroughly. I really enjoy these Italian films from this era and this was one of the best.