Most spy movie fans are aware that Dr. No kicked off the whole James Bond Superspy craze in the 60s. But how many of you know about the rivals of Bond, the lesser-budget spy movies which filled out the lower bills of many a Drive-in ? Since there was money to be made in the genre, Italian, French and even German film companies began cranking out the product to meet demand. There’s even a term to describe these films: EuroSpy. Most of the movies on this list are found on the Internet, so it’s not like the old days when you had to catch them at 3 AM on the late-late show.
So polish your proton gun, tune-in the shoe-phone and enjoy the days of tough spies, beautiful counter intelligence agents, and exotic scenery. And don’t forget to check your P-38 at the front door. But be careful: the old woman in the wheelchair just might be packing a machine gun. Or she could be a beautiful fashion designer moon-lighting.
1) Assignment K (1968). Stephen Boyd and the great Leo McKern star in this tale of intrigue along the old border between a divided Germany. This film has an unbeatable opening: you watch as information transferred from the Soviet bloc to the West via train, matchbox and Barbie doll. All set to a cool jazz opening score by Basil Kirchin. And there’s the beautiful Carmilla Sparv as the love interest.
2) The Golden Claws of the Cat Girl (1968). The original title in French, La Louve Solitaire, translates to “Solitary She Wolf” in English, so a new one had to be found. Daniele Gaubert plays a cat burglar recruited by the French government to bust a drug smuggling ring. Unlike most heroines, Mssr. Gaubert plays her role as an ice queen. She’s teamed up with a lip-reader to stake out the villain’s operation and the two develop feeling for each other over the course of the assignment. It’s worth the time investment just to watch Gaubert go into action wearing her cat suit.
3) Operation Atlantis (1965). This Italian film has Hollywood idol John Erikson playing George Steele, a secret agent trying to locate the lost city of Atlantis. Seriously. Atlantis, located somewhere in North Africa, has a huge deposit of radioactive materials which all the governments of Earth want. Steele manages to reach the lost city and find out who is really behind Atlantis. Along the way, women fight over him and thugs try to kill him. There’s no shortage of women falling for Steele; they put an appearance in every few minutes. And it has a catchy theme song.
4) The Yin And Yang of Mr. Go (1970). How can you not like a spy movie starring James Mason, Jeff Bridges and Burgess Meredith narrated by the Buddha? This was the only movie Burgess Meredith’s ever directed and he claimed the producer took the rough cut out of his hands. The plot has something to do with an anti-missile laser weapon being sought by Mr. Go (James Mason), a trader in state secrets. Jeff Bridges spends a lot of time quoting James Joyce. It opens with Burgess Meredith administering acupuncture to James Mason. It also has a trippy 5th Dimension-style theme music. Just wish there was a better print out there because the one I keep seeing went through a belt sander.
5) Spy Pit (1967). Here’s a fun take on the usual Super Spy movie: have the hero be something other than the usual square-jawed Anglo. And it works. Roger Hanin Plays “Saint-Dominique” who travels all over the world trying to uncover a sinister plot to Destroy Civilization As We Know It. And it has Margaret Lee as a love interest.! Also known as Berlin Apocalypse.
6) Vienna Spy Hunt (1965). A fun little German spy movie from 1965. Among the stars in this movie is Terrance Hill, who would go on to play the hero in the Trinity western movies.The plot: a group of spies run around Europe looking for a stolen device. The Eurospy craze was just starting to kick in and you can see some ideas which developed later. The movie has been known under countess other titles. The opening score has a gun being fired as musical instrument.
7) Mr. 10 Percent (1968). George Martin (AKA Francisco Martínez Celeiro) stars as a rogue agent who steals from crooks, then returns the loot to the police for 10 percent of it’s original value. More of a crime comedy than a spy movie, it has elements of the swinging 60s spy craze. For instance, the name “James Bond” keeps getting tossed around as a running gag. Also known as Sigpress Against Scotland Yard. And it features Klaus Kinski as the faithful manservant Periwinkle.
8) Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1966). Ken Clark plays secret agent Dick Malloy, who’s called into action when the government suspects someone of trafficking in stolen nukes. Lady Arabella Chaplin (Dianela Bianchi, a former Bond girl) is the fashion designer/ ruthless killer/ trader in state secrets who may or may not be brokering the deal with the nukes. The final corner of the triangle is Kobe Zoltan (Jacques Bergerac), a shipping magnate who wants those nukes.
9) The Million Eyes of Sumuru (1967). The “eyes” in this movie are the minions of evil genius Sumuru, a character Sax Rhomer created to match his fiendish villain Dr. Fu Manchu. The original novel had the title character manipulating the world with her seductive powers. Shirley Eaton plays the new and improved Sumuru as a gynocratic over-mistress who rules with a hit squad of beautiful women. It even opens with a man being tortured to death by the she-devils. Most of the movie is played for laughs and the final assault on the Sumuru’s liar is a hoot.
10) Code Name Jaguar (1965). And finally we have a movie that begins with a peaceful boat floating on the ocean just before a submarine surfaces. Ray Danton plays a secret agent who is up against the Russian nogoodniks in Spain. Plenty of action and beautiful women.