19 August, 2006

MISION LISBOA: THE FRANCO DOSSIER


REVIEWED BY ROBERT MONELL [Thanks to Alex for finding this poster and to Mirek for technical assistance]:


O77 INTRIGUE A LISBONNE (Fr); MISION LISBOA (SP)ESPIONAGE IN LISBON (GB); AGENTENFALLE LISSABON (WG)
Directed by Tulio Demichelli It/Sp/Fr
CAST: Brett Halsey (Agent 077), Marilu Tolo, Fernando Rey, Jeanne Valerie, Daniel Ceccaldi, Alfredo Mayo, Francesca Rosano.
P: Frederic Aycardy Hesperia Films-Madrid; Terra Film-Rome; Speva Films-Paris
Sc: David Khunne (Jess Franco)*, Jose Byones, Juan Cobos, Monica Felt, Tulio Demicheli
DP: Angelo Lotti-Techniscope-Eastmancolor
M: Daniel J. White
83 mn
More than a simple rewrite of LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES as "Obsession-The Films of Jess Franco" notes,** this is more of an elaboration, an indication of things to come
which offers a sharp contrast in directorial styles between Franco and Demicheli and an example on how a scriptwriter can dominate a film and become its true auteur.

First and foremost, and as always with Jess Franco, there is the element of music. The Jazz melody "Terrado Blues" first heard played by a musician (a future murder victim who appears with saxophonist Jess Franco in the Whisky Jazz Club Band) on his trumpet during a gig in LA MUERTE SILBA UN BLUES, is also employed as a motif here, but where it had a certain emotional resonance in LA MUERTE... here it's just a signal, part of a secret musical code which the villains use to communicate and the protagonists follows as a lead to a further musical code, an Italian folk song, the notation of which contains the directions to the location of a formula which is being smuggled out of the country by foreign agents. Using an elaborate musical code as a sort of musical compass would be a key plot element in such later Franco Eurospy flavored items as KISS ME, MONSTER (1967) and LA NOCHE DE LOS SEXOS ABIERTOS (1981), LA NOCHE... would also reuse some of Daniel White's cues which make up some of the background score for INTRIGO... . A more surprising musical cross reference comes during the scene where 077 ignites a smoke device during a fashion show, the runway peformance is accompanied by a musical theme heard in one of the cabaret shows attended by Doctor Orlof in the Franco directed classic, GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (1961). Was this a nod to Franco added by White without Demicheli's knowledge, a kind of musical in-joke which would become so prevalent in so many later Franco-White collaborations?

There are also some visual resonances. Some of the Lisbon locations would appear in the later Franco directed NECRONOMICON (1967), note that the rocky point on the Lisbon shoreline in one of INTRIGO's scenes is where Lorna Green would have a fateful rendezvous with a doomed blonde. Other exterior locations would appear in Amando de Ossorio's first "Blind Dead" title, LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO (1971).

What INTRIGO shares with LA MUERTE... is the main plot situation of agent 077 (Brett Halsey here, looking in very fit form) teaming up with a female singer (the voluptuous Marilu Tolo is quite a contrast to the more delicate Dannick Pattison of LA MUERTE...) to track down a master criminal. The sting in the tail of LA MUERTE... was that Ms Pattison would be the one to destroy the all powerful Radek (a name which would resonate throughout Franco's subequent career), and Ms Tolo is just as resourceful, but it comes as no surprise that she also has a hidden agenda and can take care of business. In his first appearance in a Franco related project, the chief villain here is played by Spanish acting heavyweight Fernando Rey (VIRIDIANA;TRISTANA;THE FRENCH CONNECTION), who is just as adept at projecting a dapper sense of evil as Georges Rollin was in LA MUERTE... . Rey would also play a villain in the Franco directed Eurospy CARTES BOCA ARRIBA (1966) and pop up in roles in the Franco scripted ANGEL OF DEATH (1986) and the Franco directed ESMERALDA BAY (1989).

Most of INTRIGO is played for laughs and fast paced action, with Demicheli (ASSIGNMENT:TERROR; THE MEAN MACHINE; JUEGO SUCIO EN PANAMA***)proving quite up to the job at hand, but there is nothing personal or particularly interesting about his style except that he keeps things moving quickly and colorfully, whereas Franco in LA MUERTE... is doing a distinct riff on Robert Siodmak's THE KILLERS and Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL, complete with backlit figures scurrying down sinsiter alleyways viewed from titled camera angles. It's what Franco called during one of our conversations on noir the "Jazz style", citing the midnight Jam session in Siodmak's PHANTOM LADY (1943). Demicheli's film is closer to the many Pop Art Eurospy Bond imitations of the mid 1960s. A lot of fun but instantly forgettable.****


Notes:
*Some prints, the Spanish one consulted for this review, only credit "David Khunne" with the story.
** p. 52
***The Santiago Moncada script for JUEGO SUCIO EN PANAMA (1972) would later became the template for Franco's 1984 thriller JUEGO SUCIO EN CASABLANCA, with an updated script also credited to Moncada.
****Franco really has fun placing a lot of Bond style gadgetry in the action, but with his own edge: see the mannequin which comes equiped with a secret communication device. Mannequins and radio controlled robots will play an important role in numerous future Franco titles, including CARTES BOCA ARRIBA, NECRONOMICON, VAMPYROS LESBOS and LA VENGANZA DEL DR MABUSE.

Copyright by Robert Monell (C) 2006: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

contact the author of this post @ monell579@hotmail.com

1 comment:

filomeno2006 said...

Con el gran Fernando Rey