Friday, February 28, 2014

Rosalba Neri Friday # 17 - UPPER SEVEN - THE MAN TO KILL 1966

All Sorts Of Swingin' 60's Euro Spy Coolness With Rosalba AND Karin Dor !!!

AKA The Spy With Ten Faces

     An Italian/West German 1966 co-production, this was one of a plethora of European secret agent/spy movies that post 1965 & GOLDFINGER flooded the market in the mid to late 60’s. UPPER SEVEN stars Paul Hubschmid (The professor from 1953’s THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS) as British secret agent “Upper Seven” Paul Finney, who in performance and speech (as here dubbed) is eerily similar to future James Bond one shot George Lazenby in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE from 1969. Discounting the well known stable of 60’s “Bond Girls” Finney has to be one of the luckier secret agents in screen history as he gets to spend time with both Rosalba and the very beautiful Karin Dor (who herself would go on to Bond girl status in 1967’s YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE).

  Otherwise known as THE SPY WITH TEN FACES, which refers to in this film of the much used gimmick in other euro spy movies of the removable rubber masks used as disguises, which probably had their basis in the prologue to 1965’s FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. The rubber mask ploy and the all around master of disguise thing is Upper Seven’s specialty which leads to the premise that none of his enemies know what he looks like. Although it is kind of ludicrous to see Finney pull on a cheap rubber mask in one scene and then cut to the other actor he’s portraying (with a few dabs of greasepaint) as the disguised Upper Seven, it all adds to the spirit of the movie including one sequence where he dons a bright red mustache & goatee along with a white British naval uniform (complete with shorts) to tail a suspect.

    Like peplums, I find most all of these movies hugely entertaining & fun (even the bad ones) and UPPER SEVEN is one of the better ones in that regard. The film features a variety of international locations including London, Rome, Copenhagen and Johannesburg (all proceeded by a bright yellow title card letting us know where we’re at) and an earnest performance by Hubschmid as the title character, who seems to take the role very seriously in spite of the sometimes wacky proceedings. Even though almost 50 years of age at the time, he handles the physical stuff very well - but oddly seems to fall a little flat chemistry wise with his beautiful co-stars, who in the person of Rosalba & Karin help immensely with the proceedings . Also adding to the “60’s spy girl vibe” is Danish actress Vivi Bach (!), who seemed to specialize in these movies during the 60’s and was known as the “Danish Bardot”

   All the usual Bond trapping are here including the gruff but kindly head of the section; the witty dialogue with the secretary, a Far Eastern nemesis (working thru a major crime network) and of course some gadgets - which include an exploding belt (!?) and a cane which can do a variety of things. In addition it’s always fun to see in these movies how they replicate the awe inspiring Ken Adam interior design work of the Bond movies on an infinitely smaller budget. The plot gets very convoluted very quickly with counterfeiting, robbery, secret missile bases, and a poisoned water supply all jostling for screen time, but eventually thing get sorted out leading to the climax in the villains underground liar complete with explosions, judo, remote control machine guns and one piece silver jumpsuits.

   Rosalba plays Pauline, who as Upper Seven’s London based girlfriend appears to be some sort of model and gets to ride in a big chauffeur driven Chevrolet convertible. Unfortunately she also works for Kobras (which seems to be both the name of the lead villain & his organization) and by setting up a hidden camera in her bedroom after their date hopes to get some film on him, which although maybe having something to do with his unknown identity is never fully explained. After ducking in to take a bath, she re-appears in a bright yellow terry cloth robe and warbles the (dubbed) title song while accompanying herself on acoustic guitar! Sadly, she’s dispatched rather quickly and doesn’t make it past the 20 minute mark in the movie with her total screen time adding up to about 8 minutes. All this is really a shame as she has a wonderful look here and it’s too bad we don’t get more of her.

   Karin Dor plays Helen Farheit who as Upper Seven’s FBI American ally (ala’ Bond’s Felix Lighter) makes for a very strong presence and almost upstages him in the action and judo stuff, including a great scene where she whips a knife out her garter belt and later when she participates in the final ass whoppin’ on the villain. She had starred in a bunch of the German Edgar Wallace “Krimi” films and in 1967 along with her Bond role would also appear in the excellent gothic horror THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM (and to top it all off it was her 76th birthday on Feb. 22 !) Fun Stuff !!

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