16 June, 2009


Agente 07 con el 2 delante (Agente Jaime Bonet) (1966), directed by Ignacio F. Iquino.

Reviewed by Nzoog

Readers here will probably be familiar with Franco and Ciccio comedies. Here's a rough Spanish equivalent: vehicles for the late Casto Sendra "Cassen" (1928-1991), a Catalan revue and TV comedian who had made his debut in the cinema in Berlanga's Plácido (1961) and later embarked on a film career either consisting of vehicles for himself or character roles. As a character actor, he was welcome and useful; as a star comedian, he's certainly an acquired taste, or at least very much of his time, and contrary to what happens with the likeable Alfredo Landa, an even more popular Spanish of lowbrow comedy, an element of self-centredness emerges in his tailor-made vehicles, a kind of life-of-the-party expansiveness.

After the painful experience of another Iquino film with Cassen, La liga no es cosa de hombres (1972), I wasn't exactly entertaining great expectations for this, the first in a series of comedy vehicles initiated by Iquino and then entrusted either to himself or to one of his house directors. Here, at least, Cassen didn't write the script, although the director allowed him to rewrite much of it to his own style, and Iquino himself, at least, still seemed to enjoy making them.

The title may tip us off that this is a Eurospy spoof, with a Hispanised (or rather, Catalanised) version of the James Bond moniker. Prolific comic book writer Armando Matías Guiu was entrusted with the script and one presumes Iquino's credited role as co-writer was that of polishing it up for the film medium. A member of the British secret service is in pursuit of a football carrying a valuable microfilm, ending up in Barcelona in the process. When the agent dies accidentally, two Secret Service bosses (Gustavo Re and Luis Oar) decide that their available staff of spies is too littered with tall, handsome men that would immediately attract attention so they improvise a replacement in the podgy, slobbish, womanising Spanish waiter, Jaime Bonet (Cassen). Travelling back to his native Barcelona, Bonet has lots of fights and performs many pratfalls.

The initial establishing segment, set in the Secret Service venues and almost theatrical in its enclosed activity, is the most successful. Thereafter, once the plot moves outdoors, it becomes long drawn out. And this is a Cassen vehicle with a vengeance: he clowns, he gets to sing a song, has fight scenes and, despite his plain looks and paunchy physique, he is given lots of pretty girls as company. In addition, the plot, at one point, requires him to appear on stage for a while, offering Cassen an excuse to show off his stand up act for a while. All in all, 95 minutes of Cassen felt to me like a good 110. Although he was launched as a film actor in Plácido, Berlanga disliked his performance, feeling it was too revue-like, and Juan Bosch, one of Iquino's employee-directors, came to resent his conceitedness. The relationship between the egocentric Cassen and the businesslike Iquino was itself not unruffled and in Agente 07 con el 2 delante (Agente Jaime Bonet) the comedian was reportedly angry at the fact that the director seemed to be giving too much screen time to the film's female co-star, the singer Encarnita Polo, at the expense of his own. This was not a good film experience but at least, unlike the chaotic Los fabulosos de Trinidad, I was left in no doubt of Iquino's ability as a director. Indeed, I liked the opening credits tracking shots through the nighttime neon-lit Ramblas of Barcelona under the credits, suggesting a sleazy noir rather than a spy film and was amused by the opening barroom killing in which characters speak out the film's credits ("The guy who did this mess is Ignacio Farrés, better known as El Iquino"). "El Iquino" does, in fact, maintain his directorial high spirits throughout (It seems the photography was his own, with Julio Pérez de Rojas used as a front), for framing and cutting are consistently good, but then he obviously knew this was going to be one of his major commercial undertakings: Agente 07 con el 2 delante (Agente Jaime Bonet) brought in an impressive viewership of 1,917,207 viewers (about a fifteenth of Spain's population at the time), undoubtedly on the strength of Cassen's leadership in the cast.

[Thanks to our friend Nzoog, Spanish genre cinema historian par excellence, for the excellent, informative review of this incredibly obscure (and probably never to be seen in the US) spy comedy. I was so impressed  that I copied it from THE FILMS OF IGNACIO IQUINO thread at www.cinemadrome.yuku.com where Nzoog has posted numerous essays on the films of the prolific Spanish genre director. These reviews are lavishly illustrated with screencaps, rare artwork and more from Nzoog's collection. Please visit and enjoy this highly recommended featured topic. Iquino is a barely known director among US European Trash Cinema fans (other than a few Eurowestern and horror titles) and these reviews detail his unique filmography. RM]

1 comment:

Nzoog Wahlrfhehen said...

Thanks, Robert!

As for me being a "historian"...well, just make it "buff" for the time being.
Just for the record, the informative aspect of these reviews is largely drawn from Ángel Comas's 400-page book on Iquino. Obviously, the caps are straight from the films themselves and the posters are from various internet sites, mainly auction sites for various film material.
There'll be more in future...