Apr 9, 2010

Code Name: Alpha (1967)

What Stars Do When They're Broke: Case File #4751.

Once former swashbuckling star Stewart Granger got long in the tooth for his costume dramas, he went to Europe for a long career of second-string genre efforts like this one (which was also known as Red Dragon). This tired attempt to cash in on the James Bond craze is worth a glance for the actor's first scene. After we see some generic spy goons get shot in the opening, we cut to a model train set on a rug, in which one of the cars is carrying a drink over to the appreciative secret agent man! A mildly novel way of riffing on the cocktail-swilling stereotype of these intrepid souls. Granger's drinking habit is soon interrupted by this assignment to find the killers in Hong Kong, and he is paired with sexy super agent Rosanna Schiaffino (think of Yvonne Craig crossed with Natalie Wood). And because the formula of the genre commands it, naturally Granger tries to put the moves on his new partner, but no dice. Seeing him trying to score with this sharp-featured gal is a lot like watching someone in a zoot suit trying to pick up some punk girl at a New York Dolls concert at CBGB'S. Anyhow, the usual red herrings and foiled murder attempts abound, with an amusing subplot where this young lady actually manages to wangle herself into a job as the secretary of the main suspect they are tailing! (Somehow I'm reminded of Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest.) This is also noteworthy for the location footage in Hong Kong, but the obvious sledgehammer English-dubbing gives the setting a slightly surreal effect. (The cheapo budget label VHS copy I saw was also slightly out of sync.) For comic relief, Granger gets paired with an Anglophone who apparently can translate Chinese, but that's okay, because everyone they meet speaks English! Culminating in a not-bad finale on a burning boat, this isn't a bad time-waster from yesteryear, perfect for a Saturday afternoon when you've seen the movie on A&E three times already. What the hell, rent it.

(originally published in ESR #9)

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