Tuesday, February 14, 2012

i SPY EUROSPY: Coplan Saves His Skin

Coplan Saves His Skin
Director: Yves Boisset
Year 1968

Coplan Saves His Skin is a wonderfully original Eurospy film, which strays from the usual formula that James Bond’s Dr. No set up, and mixes things up a bit. The result gives way to a rather raw representation of secret agent Francis Coplan, depicting him as more of a human character set against some tremendous odds.

The film opens up in Istanbul, where an accomplished scientist named Otto Eisner and his assistant Mara are browsing goods in an open market. Suddenly an assassin strikes, stabbing Otto to death and leaving Mara to run for her life as the opening credits begin to roll. The sequence sets this film in motion and there really is no time to prepare yourself before the espionage mayhem cranks in.

With Mara in survival mode, she contacts her old flame CIA agent Francis Coplan, who appears to be still holding a flame for his lost love, because he rushes to her aid. Just before they are about to rekindle their love, a pack of assassins get the drop on them, leaving Coplan to wake up on a deserted shoreline with Mara nowhere in sight. Was she killed? Was she kidnapped? Coplan makes it his sole mission to hunt down the killers and make them pay. Yippie!

This film is fun, but far more serious then the other Eurospy films that I’ve covered for the “i Spy Eurospy” segment. With more of a revenge tale at the heart of the film, the story becomes more personal and in a result, more emotional for the main character of Coplan. Claudio Brook plays the scorned agent and for the most part he does a good job. He looks nothing like the typical 60’s secret agent, coming off gaunt and not the best looking representation of the male species, but boy can this man dish out some well deserved punishment. His action scenes are what make up for his lack of charisma and style, for when the shit really hits the fan this Coplan knows how to kick some serious ass.

Aside from the action department, Brook is a little stiff when it comes to the ability to convey emotion. The man only has a few facial expressions and none of them are rather flattering or expressive. This is actually kind of strange seeing that this story seems to focus on the more personal reactions of his character. Be that as it may, Brook still does a more than efficient job with the material and the strangeness of his casting only adds to the oddity that this film is.

Playing a dual role, is the absolutely ravishing Margaret Lee, who takes on the character of Mara and her twin sister Eva. That’s right, this film has so much Margaret Lee that it doesn’t know what to do with. Well actually they do know what to do and that’s give Lee one of the most accomplished and tantalizing stripteases ever seen in a Eurospy flick. Thanks guys! She actually has a bunch more to do in this film and as always Lee does any absolute amazing job with the two characters, casting shadows of sympathy, seduction, and ambiguity between her two roles.

Lee’s not the only femme fatale to show up in this film. We also get a sadistic chick by the name of Carole, played by the intense Nanna Michael. With the name of Carole, you’d think that she wasn’t that bad, but damn is she crazy. Her hobbies are playing with whips, hunting men for sport, and taking care of her man-hating pet falcon. She also enjoys horseback riding and long walks across the battlements of her employer’s castle, but that’s a whole other can of worms. Her presence in the film really amps up the Bond factor and she’d fit right in with some of the most famous Bond villainesses.

Another mad bastard that would fit in nicely antagonizing James Bond, would have to be the main villain Hugo, played by Hans Meyer. The guy is a sight to see and you really couldn’t miss him in a crowded room. You’d recognize him by his leather mask that he wears on the side of his face, his pet cat that he carries with him everywhere, and his wardrobe that consists entirely of priest inspired robes and garments. To top it all off, the guy owns his own private castle that’s literally constructed in the middle of nowhere. The location alone is enough to satisfy any Bond lovers’ cravings for interesting lairs.

It’s in this locale where we spend most of the second portion of the film and admittedly, this choice leads to some rather interesting scenarios for Agent Coplan. There’s a memorable scene in which he is hunted down by a gaggle of Hugo’s henchmen, led by the sadistic Carole on horseback. The sequence plays out like the films The Running Man, Surviving the Game, or The Most Dangerous Game, where Coplan is literally hunted in an environment that is far from hospitable. I enjoyed the animalistic and raw nature of this segment and it was a blast watching Coplan savagely take down his hunters, one by one. It’s a great bookend to the film and gives us one last dose of action before the curtain falls.

Coplan Saves His Skin is a film that really shies away from the Eurospy formula, but never strays so far as to alienate itself. The clich├ęd bits and pieces that crop up here and there, give us a rather odd mixture of elements that add up to one hell of an entertaining ride.

On the subject of the cast and characters, Claudio Brook’s turn as Francis Coplan is an oddity of the genre, replacing witty charisma and good looks with steely glares and utmost seriousness. I for one enjoyed the flipping of style and tone, and thought it mixed well with some of the more traditional Eurospy staples that we’re used to seeing. Margaret Lee is a vision of Eurospy perfection and her presence in this film in dual form, is a welcomed choice and so damn enjoyable. The bad guys were also perfectly realized in all their diabolical glory.

The film was just an overall blast that gives the viewer enough unique elements to keep them intrigued while placing the film in its own distinct territory without breaking the entire Eurospy mold. I’d have to say that Coplan Saves His Skin is…….

Get up you lazy piece of Coplan!

Are you ready for your happy ending?

Kinski you disgust me.

The many facial expressions of Claudio Brook.

It's too sexy! Too SEXY!

Another of the many facial expressons of Claudio Brook.

Pull my finger.

My name is Coplan...... and I am a slave.

The deadly game of trust.

Mr. Whiskers doesn't like you.

Heaven must be missing an angel.

The lovely couple win! Let's see what's behind door number one.

Yeah that's right. I'm cool as shit.

I don't know whether to be scared or aroused.

KHAN! I mean........ HUGO!

Hugs are the best. Even Coplan likes them.

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