In what has to go down as one of the great disappointments in the history of cinema, at no time during director Antonio Margheriti‘s Killers Are Challenged does star Richard Harrison (Giants of Rome, Messalina Against the Son of Hercules ) ever utter the phrase “the name is Fleming. Bob Fleming.”
Despite being deprived of what would have certainly provoked snickers among even the actors in the scene where that line might have been uttered, the film does not disappoint in any other area as it manages to ineptly attempt to cash in on the James Bond craze of the mid 1960s with all the success of its preternaturally dimwitted lead character.
Harrison’s Fleming spends most of the movie milling around the same hotel in Casablanca getting mixed up with a variety of sexy babes who are trying to kill him. He’s in deep cover as the genius scientist Coleman who, along with two others, has discovered an alternative energy source to oil. The other two have been murdered and Coleman is next on the list and he’s gone so far as to have plastic surgery to hide his true identity from potential assassins.
This is perfect for the CIA’s efforts to protect Coleman and to root out the killers because it allows Fleming to assume Coleman’s identity. It might have been a teensy bit less than perfect though since this plastic surgery somehow turned an old ugly dude into a strapping blonde stud, but Fleming even thought of that!
Once Fleming encounters Coleman’s wife, he reveals his true identity to her and gives her information on how to contact her real husband to verify his story. He even demonstrates his secret agent prowess when he asks to be connected to the super secret phone number in Geneva where Coleman is hiding out by announcing they would take the phone call in the hotel’s phone booth since Mrs. Coleman’s phone might be tapped!
Unfortunately, he also demonstrates the secret agent prowess of a guy in a virtually unknown Italian spy movie by neglecting to think that the room itself might be bugged or that if the phone was bugged, the bad guys would already have the phone number and city where Coleman could be located.
Really though, how could anyone, even a guy like Fleming ever anticipate something so dastardly like a spy hanging a long cord with a microphone down from the room above him into the open window in Mrs. Coleman’s room?
Don’t worry about Fleming’s next job performance review though. Missing the bug hanging down in the window wasn’t nearly as critical as his telling Mrs. Coleman all this since she turns out to be one of the people trying to kill her husband!
She and a couple of other evil hotties are getting paid by a sweaty, pasty, wheelchair-bound Texas oil baron to take care of Coleman. Sure, it sounds somewhat ludicrous that Coleman just happened to marry a diabolical broad with a team of killers at her disposal, but I think you’ll see it makes perfect sense when Mrs. Coleman believes one of her gals has betrayed her and makes her strip to her black nightie and then whips her! Dang, I’d marry her, too!
As with any moderately boring Eurospy effort, there’s a few spots in the story that don’t make any sense outside of a desperate need to not have the movie end after only forty-five minutes or so. For instance, if you’re even paying the slightest bit of attention to things, you may wonder why once the bad guys realize that Coleman is in Geneva and that Fleming is just some CIA goof, they continue to try and kill Fleming.
Why not just check out of the hotel when Fleming is in the shower, fly to Geneva and kill Coleman? Why mess with our hero at all anymore? He’s irrelevant to evildoers’ objective at this point.
The need to stretch things out to feature film length may also help to explain why Margheriti (Lightning Bolt, Jungle Raiders) felt compelled to shoot the longest bar fight ever filmed. What started out as a confrontation between the oil tycoon’s henchman and Fleming at a dockside watering hole degenerated into a fifteen minute epic of slapstick stuntman welfare.
Though it would be easy to dismiss this sequence as mindless violence that has nothing to do with the plot, it is actually mindless violence that has nothing to do with the plot that features a midget wearing a fez!
In a movie decidedly lacking in secret agent spy gadgets, a midget in a fez is easily one of the greatest secret agent spy gadgets of all time! I mean, there’s just no contest between this little booger in a funny hat and Nick Nack from The Man With The Golden Gun!
Fleming’s second and final adventure (Secret Agent Fireball was the first) concludes the only way it really could with Fleming having absolutely nothing to do with defeating the bad guys, but still getting praised for his fine work by his superiors!
Coleman’s wife reunites with Coleman and tries to poison him, but his super duper poison-detecting mood ring alerts him to her evil intentions and he switches the drinks on her when she’s not looking!
Good job Fleming! We never had any doubts that you could stand around accepting undeserved accolades before retiring to your hotel to screw the Russian agent who just tried to sabotage your mission which you failed at anyway without her help! Good show, old chap!
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