008: Operation Exterminate (1965)

008 Operation Exterminate PosterIf you enjoyed the delightfully incompetent Superseven Calling Cairo and wondered where director Umberto Lenzi honed his talents in making uninspired James Bond knock offs that take place in Cairo, 008 Operation Exterminate provides the pleasingly appalling answer.

It’s all here – the pointless trip to the Pyramids, the tacked on trip to a colder country (this time it’s Germany instead of Switzerland), the gadgets that surely only seemed awesome to Umberto, and of course the obligatory, but quite embarrassing reference to Ian Fleming’s James Bond himself! (I’m not watching a spy movie just to see secret agent Frank Smith lounging at the hotel pool with his copy of Live and Let Die! Hell, I could do that myself and I don’t even have a license to kill!)

The opening scene where guys are sitting at a desk explaining why and who our spies are after was one of those that I had to rewind because I always get drowsy when people start talking about Lebanese engineers, anti-radar gizmos, and Egypt.

I instantly knew that some strapping bland guy would be dispatched to hang around a hotel, make contact with a female spy whom he would work with and pepper with obnoxious pick up lines, and periodically fight sinister looking guys in sunglasses and hats before breaking the case wide open by jumping to some far fetched conclusion based on nothing more than his super spy intuition.

But what my own super spy intuition didn’t pick up on was that big bowling scene that concludes the film and reveals the shocking double-double-cross! (Hint: it involves a hideous Clark Gable-style glue-on mustache!)

Agent Smith arrives in Cairo and immediately sets about demonstrating that the good guys won the Cold War in spite of dingbats like him. He mills around the Pyramids trying to find his contact by walking up to unsuspecting tourists and saying his secret spy phrase, “the baby has a fever.”

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Thankfully, he notices a woman (Agent MacDonald) wearing a yellow neckerchief similar to his and uses his espionage training to discern that the only other person capable of making such a fashion misstatement is a fellow spy.

MacDonald advises that they should not be seen together, so they go and spend the afternoon at a museum, stay in the same hotel, and roll around in the same bed in the hotel even as they know that the room is being monitored.

The investigation finally ramps up as MacDonald goes about the business of cozying up to the Oriental who is suspected of somehow being involved with the anti-radar invention. The Oriental’s role in things would actually be totally beside the point, but for the gambling scene this allowed Lenzi to stick in the movie. Everyone knows, even an Italian filmmaker, that a spy movie needs a scene where dudes are playing poker or roulette. If you don’t believe me, just ask Agent Smith if you can borrow one of his James Bond novels.

The Oriental doesn’t figure much into plot, but who cares since Agent Smith is finally unleashed high atop an observation tower! Running up some stairs, he sees the shadow of a guy with a gun just around the corner and showing us that even the lamest super spies still have their moments, he pauses to get a cigarette out of his case before chucking the case in the direction of the gunman!

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What follows is a brawl high up in the skies of Cairo! And even better, a loving shot of a dummy sailing through the air to the ground below!

More violence follows as it turns out that the hotel Smith and MacDonald are staying in is managed by Kemp, the guy who has captured the anti-radar device! So begins the completely unnecessary dance of death between the three.

Kemp spends his time concocting harebrained schemes to kill the two (attempted electrocution in the hotel pool, gassing them in the back of a truck) while Smith and MacDonald also run around trying to avoid a guy with a glove that shoots blades.

In a scene that I never did understand, MacDonald shows Smith a Life Magazine about a plane trip that actress Gina Lollobrigida was on, and Smith immediately deduces that a German guy on the plane was involved with the anti-radar gear, that he has a place in Luxor, and that’s where the anti-radar gear must be!

He’s right of course, and later while at Luxor he immediately deduces that the actual plans for the anti-radar gear must be back at this guy’s regular home in Germany!

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Not to be outdone, Kemp again shows us the mental prowess of a rabid camel by confronting Smith and MacDonald in Germany about how he’s been there for a whole week and has the plans, but still manages to get killed by MacDonald, while Smith brags after the fact to MacDonald about his totally ghetto bullet proof winter coat! (It just has strips of metal sewn into it!)

There’s lots more to keep the indifferent fan of Eurospy flicks amused in this one including MacDonald’s career as a nightclub singer, Smith beating down a woman spy (twice!), the tear gas disguised as lipstick gizmo that passes for a cutting edge spy gadget, Smith trashing the anti-radar gear by busting a light fixture and pulling out some wires (while stock footage of a real radar unit is shown stopping), and Smith whining about how the axle on their car is broken after they crash it in the desert because the brakes were tampered with.

The sudden appearance of a bunch of Russian tourists in the middle of the desert as well as Smith being drugged and talking in his sleep being used to explain a plot point which is ultimately negated by the ending of the movie only cements 008 Operation Exterminate as a film that will likely only be remembered as causing anyone who watches it wonder just who in the hell Gina Lollobrigida was.

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