Saturday, October 27, 2012

In short: Espionage in Tangiers (1965)

Original title: Marc Mato, agente S. 077

Finally, world peace is near, for a certain Professor Greff (Tomás Blanco) has invented a death ray for the International Atomic Energy Agency! Unfortunately, before the ray can be used for its true, peace-making, purpose (don't ask me what that may be), evildoers working for mastermind Rigo Orel (Alberto Dalbés) steal the magical little plate responsible for hot death ray action to sell it off to the highest bidder.

The Free World™ sends its smuggest psychopathic spy Mike Murphy (Luis Dávila) to get the item back. The trail leads to Tangiers, but, this being a eurospy movie and all, Murphy will have to do a bit more country hopping before the case is finished. When he's not tussling with Orel and his goons, he has various kinds of fun with his fuck buddy and spy-for-hire Lea (José Greci) who may or may not work for Orel, gets into trouble with a disgruntled ex-girlfriend and her goons, and kills and tortures as many people as he can.

On the surface, Gregg C. Tallas's Espionage in Tangiers is an archetypal eurospy movie that presents all the required elements of the subgenre with a certain degree of low budget verve. There's the ridiculous McGuffin everybody wants to get his or her hands on, the international travel where every country is represented by Spain (this being a eurospy movie where for once Spain and not Italy seems to have been the lead country of the production), various women of dubious loyalties for the hero to bed, and a lot of action scenes that are more enthusiastic than good. On that level, Espionage is quite a decent bit of entertainment.

However, watching the film, I became less and less enamoured with the film's cardboard charms and increasingly bothered by its unpleasant undercurrents. The eurospy genre often has a bit of a nasty undertone to it, which comes as no surprise from films mainly influenced by the not exactly friendly earl Connery Bond movies and each other, but for my tastes, Espionage too often steps over the line dividing the fun, "just kidding", type of unpleasantness and the truly nasty, especially since the film always tries to keep up the appearance of being a fun romp, instead of trying to make a point with its unpleasantness.

When I called Murphy a psychopath I wasn't exaggerating. Our "hero" - and the film absolutely presents him as a hero, ridiculously even letting him talk proudly of his moral code - is the kind of guy whose reaction to killing and torturing people is smirking, smiling and laughing in the most off-handed manner; it's absolutely clear he enjoys inflicting pain and suffering on others. When confronted with women, he really likes to let his fists speak, too (and yes, of course this is the sort of film where women enjoy sleeping with him after he abused them), giving the impression of a sexual sadist well on his way to becoming a serial killer. Weirdly, I find all that to be somewhat off-putting traits in my hero spies.

Again, my problem - obviously, given my tastes in films - isn't so much that Murphy and his enemies are violent and sadistic but that Espionage treats them as if they weren't, as if it, or its director Gregg C. Tallas, didn't actually realize having a laugh after throwing a knife into someone's throat is neither healthy behaviour nor a way to make a protagonist endearing.

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