Underrated 1965

originally published on Rupert Pupkin Speaks


Underrated 1965

I’d eagerly awaited this trip back to Underrated 1965 for Rupert Pupkin Speaks so I could share some of my favorite, lesser-known descendants of James Bond. Then I sifted through the movies I’d wanted to highlight and realized that 1965 turned out to be a bit of a buzzkill. There’s a handful of worthy genre flicks, but few really qualified as being overlooked or forgotten gems. They were merely better than the rest of the chicken scratch. The French/Italian Corrida pour un espion (aka Code Name Jaguar) starring Ray Danton, for example. Worth watching, but would you feel rewarded for seeking it out? Spy fans, definitely. The rest of the world? Ehhhh… probably not so much. (It’s available on YouTube if you’re curious.) Beginning with Dr. No in 1962, James Bond churned out four movies by the end of 1965. The rest of the world struggled to reinvent. Many of the early parodies, ripoffs, and cash-ins just failed to distinguish themselves. (Just wait for 1966, though!) Rather than force-feed readers a mélange of mediocrity, I branched out. I’ve included the most notable non-Bond spy flick, an early giallo (also a favorite genre of mine), two films featuring Ursula Andress and a plain old non-genre film about a girl coming of age (what’s that doing here??). Never fear. To make up for the lack of official spy business, I’ve included a bonus commentary on the 1965 Bond film that takes far too much grief.


mission bloody mary

Agent 077: Mission Bloody Mary (1965, dir. Sergio Grieco)

“You seem rather nervous. This can’t be the first time you’ve seen the breast of a woman.”

“In fact it’s the second. And the first time was my wet nurse.”

Mission Bloody Mary opens on a rainy night. A police officer stops to aid a woman stranded on the side of the road. Of course she’s beautiful. Of course she’s exotic. Of course she’s sopping wet. And of course she stabs him with a flashlight dagger. Thus sets into motion the scheme to be foiled: a nuclear weapon’s on the loose and only a most cunning superspy can infiltrate the mysterious Black Lily crime syndicate to prevent a global meltdown.

This is the first of three spy outings with Ken Clark starring as Dick Malloy, American Agent 077. Clark plays James Bond filtered through the American ideal. He’s taller and physically more imposing than Sean Connery. Clark, he of the chiseled jaw, worked briefly in the Hollywood B-movie system (starring in such films as Attack of the Giant Leeches) and made a few failed TV pilots before casting away to make spaghetti westerns, sword and sandal epics, and Eurospy movies in Italy during the 1960’s.

Though Mission Bloody Mary’s entrenched as a sincere budget Bond knockoff, it knows precisely which buttons to push. Beautiful women (in rose petal pasties), despicable villains (though a little on the bland side) and exotic international locales. There’s a brutal fisticuffs sequence on a train (recalling From Russia With Love) that ends with an impromptu window guillotine. Though Ken Clark is a largely humorless actor, the script allows him bits of natural comedy that plays off his wooden persona. For example, Malloy starts a bar brawl with a few sailors as a distraction and all the while fights with a lit cigar (James Bond meets Hannibal Smith). At one point a henchman makes a crack about 077’s cardigan sweater and subsequently pays the ultimate price.

As with almost all of these mid-60’s cheap Bond knockoffs, there’s bad acting and poor dubbing, vague motivation and few logical narrative threads. This first Ken Clark outing features all of that… but Mission Bloody Mary manages to offer its own brand of whimsical, half-baked cardigan-clad thrills with panache.  The series peaks with the excellent third and final entry, Special Mission Lady Chaplin, co-starring Bond girl Daniela Bianchi.

You can view Mission Bloody Mary on Amazon Streaming.