Friday, July 3, 2015

Italian Exploitation Month, Free Card Fridays: OK Connery (1967)

            Connery… Neil Connery.

             Sometimes in the life of a cinephile, you come across certain movies that boggle the mind… for one reason or another. Some that sound so crazy on paper, they seem like something some crazed movie fan dreamed up on a whim, but could never actually exist in reality. Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune teaming up in a buddy western, with Alain Delon as the heavy. A co-production between Hammer Films and the Shaw Brothers, with Peter Cushing paired up with David Chiang. And a 007 ripoff featuring real-deal Bond movie actors Lois Maxwell, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, Adolfo Celi and Daniela Bianchi, with the title role played by none other than Sean Connery’s kid brother, Neil. But, as unlikely as they may sound, all of those movies actually exist, with many now little more than an Amazon click away from your disbelieving eyeballs (goddamnkidsdon’tknowhowgoodtheyhaveitnowadays). Against all odds, some of them are even just as amazing as they sound on paper.

            OK Connery is not one of those.

            Made seemingly for the sheer purpose of capitalizing of the success of Neil’s older brother and that other spy franchise, OK Connery (aka Operation: Kid Brother) is certainly not without its pleasures. It’s very hard not to enjoy a movie that opens aboard villain Adolfo Celi’s yacht, where all the deckhands are ladies in matching, midriff-baring tops - all of whom are also master assassins (of course). Also hard not to enjoy the presence of the other Bond stalwarts, especially Lois Maxwell, who gets more to do here in this one movie than she did in the entirety of her thirteen-film run as Ms. Moneypenny. But considering that the entire film was seemingly built for the purpose of exploiting Sean Connery’s less-talented sibling, the movie just doesn’t hold together, enjoyable in fits and starts though it may be. It’s not that Neil is a terrible actor (he’s certainly on par with any other generic leading man you’d find in other Italian exploitation of the time), but he lacks the presence to carry a film on his own. You could place Sean Connery in the background of any scene, and he’d immediately have the attention of the viewing audience.

            The film’s ambling structure certainly doesn’t help much, either. Upon learning that the criminal empire Thanatos is up to no good, Britain calls on its top secret agent to come in and clean house. Only trouble is, said top secret agent is unavailable, so they call in his younger brother, the master plastic surgeon/hypnotist/world champion archer Neil to do the job. There’s some hesitation from all involved, considering Neil has no experience as a spy, but since he’s a master plastic surgeon/hypnotist/world champion archer, he winds up doing just fine. All this leads to one goofy set piece after another, all of which are enjoyable after a fashion, but strung together so haphazardly that the film quickly wears out its welcome. It’s clear that the film’s story was made up on the fly as they went, and according to which Bond actors they could get. As such what we wind up with is more curiosity than actual film… but, oh what a curiosity it is.

* Also worthy of note: I’m 99% sure the red leather jumpsuits the villains wear at the end were later used for the Caroline Munro vehicle Star Crash.

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