16 May, 2008

WANTED: ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS DVD!


The immortal Eddie Constantine in his signature role of Secret Agent Lemmy Caution pursues Anna Karina in Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 science fiction/noir/Eurospy classic, ALPHAVILLE. One of the templates for ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS...

Here's one of my archived reviews of Jess Franco's delightful 1966 Europsy spoof CARTES SUR TABLE, a French-Spanish co production featuring the legendary singer-actor Eddie Constantine. I've only seen it via a dub of a Video Yesteryear video (from an ancient, battered 16mm source) in its US English language export version, ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS. That version seems to be cut and the English language translation omits/obscures numerous Franco homages and in-jokes.



Here's hoping for a deluxe Eurospy double bill DVD of the two Eddie Constantine Eurospy adventures Franco made in 1966, CARTAS BOCCA ARRIBA and the more serious, sober RESEDENCIA PARA ESPIAS, in OAR, from good original elements and with multiple language track options.

(a.k.a. CARTAS BOCA ARRIBA; CARTES SUR TABLE; KARTEN AUF DEN TISCH; JAMES CLINT SFIDA INTERPOL)
Retired secret agent Al Pereria (Eddie Constantine) is called to action by his former employers to investigate the worldwide disappearance of people who share the Rhesus-0 blood type. One of the victims, musician Yves Barriel, is subsequently spotted on a beach in Alicante, Spain. Pereria arrives there as unsuspecting bait for the kidnappers, having been used by both his employers and Chinese agents as a means to infiltrate and destroy a secret group of politicians, scientists, and killers. Pereria learns these terrorists use an army of brainwashed assassins, controlled by radio signals via electronic receivers implanted in eyeglasses.
Pereria finds Barriel. A fight ensues and Al ends up with the glasses, which leads him to a seaside villa which is the headquarters of the scientist (Fernando Rey) who created the robots. Lady Cecilia Addington (Franciose Brion) attempts to seduce Al, but is killed by Rey. Then all hell breaks loose, as the robots turn on their creator as the Chinese attack the villa.



ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS is a Spanish-French co-production made by the same creative team responsible for THE DIABOLICIAL DR Z (1965). Both movies were given a tremendous boost by the imaginative screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere (who had worked for the great Luis Bunuel on many of his French productions). This perhaps explains the sarcastic French-style humor in ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS, which differentiates this from the more slapstick orientation of Franco's later Eurospy efforts (such as LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE and KISS ME MONSTER). For instance, the opening assassination scenes include the murder of an ambassador and then a high church official, scenes that are staged with a slightly absurd, surreal touch which anticipates similar scenes found in future Carriere-Bunuel projects, THE MILKY WAY (1968) and THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972).



ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS, though, is not an art house film in any sense of the term. It was Franco's attempt to establish himself as a commercial contender in the action-picture sweepstakes. The results are charmingly naive by today's standards, and the film was probably too dingy-looking (the low budget really shows) to make a dent in the international exploitation market, which was already glutted with spy movies.
Franco's producers apparently prevented him from making the action more sexy and violent, and the US ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS edits out some tame nudity. Also, the undistinguished black-and-white cinematography gives the film a flat, unappealing look (or it must may be the video of old 16mm print I've seen). Compare it to the bright, comic book-style frames of the eye-popping LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE, filmed the following year.




Despite its flaws, ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS is one of the director's most consistently entertaining romps, due to the always droll Eddie Constantine, as well as above-average performances by Fernando Rey and Franciose Brion as the villains. They are enormously helpful in maintaining suspension of disbelief in light of the sometimes tacky sets and awkward action scenes. (Al's escape from Lee Wee's opium den is a typical, clumsily-filmed example. But it's a Jess Franco film and we expect confusion and technical mistakes, don't we.)


There are some neat science fiction sequences, briskly staged on obviously cut-rate but imaginative sets, involving the creation of the robots using a giant test tube thing charged with electricity. This device proves especially handy to our hero during the hecticly rendered final showdown. Jazz fans will find the big-band style score of Paul Misraki a warm bath of nostalgia.



RESENDENCIA PARA ESPIAS, another 1966 Eddie Constantine vehicle, which brought Franco to Istanbul for location shooting for the first, but not last, time, is also highly recommended. It's out on a watchable Spanish language DVD from DIVISA.

(c) Robert Monell, 1998-2008





10 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a really fun film. Even non Franco fans can at least dig it for uber droll Eddie. Something Weird Video released the film on video many years ago, which is wear I got my copy. I don't think they carry the title anymore. It's in English and clearly cut, may be the same as the Video Yesteryear release. - Damian

Robert Monell said...

DAMIAN: I've heard it's even more fun with the Euro tracks which have the in jokes and the 94m version CARTES SUR TABLE is showing at the CINEMATHEQUE FRANCAISE JFranco retro this summer! Hopefully, a new DVD will be generated.

Georgy said...

Hi.

Do you know if the is the movie where people are captured and put into pods to be turned into cyborgs/robots ?

I've been looking for that movie for a long time and it could be "Attack of the robots".

ps: in my memories there a lot of scenes shot under the sea. Is this the case ?

Robert Monell said...

Welcome to the blog, Georgy. Yes they are turned into cyborgs placed in a giant test tube apparatus. There are a few boat sequences but not sub aqua shots.

Georgy said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your reply, I'm glad to have finally identified that movie. Now I have to find it.

Thanks again.

G.

Georgy said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your reply, I'm glad to have finally identified that movie. Now I have to find it.

Thanks again.

G.

Georgy said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for your reply, I'm glad to have finally identified that movie. Now I have to find it.

Thanks again.

G.

Georgy said...

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the confirmation, I'm glad I've finally identified this movie. Now I have to fin it.

Thanks again.
G.

Darci said...

I believe the film Georgy is recalling is "The Terror Beneath the Sea" (1966) aka "Kaitei daisensĂ´"
Hope this helps!

Georgy said...

Thank you a lot Darci, this is exactly the movie I was looking for.

I've checked out the trailers on YouTube and it sent shivers down my spine... :~]

Years after posting here the oracle has spoken.

ps: sorry for the multiple postings above.