Saturday, September 5, 2009


Just a year before assaying his most famous role as TV's tough private eye, Joe Mannix, Mike Conners starred in this fun 1966 spy-fi adventure from producer Dino DeLaurentis (Danger Diabolik) and director Henry Levin (Murderer's Row, The Ambushers).

Conners plays CIA agent Kelly. We don't learn much about the character over the course of the film, not even whether "Kelly" is his first or last name. All we really find out is that he's smart, good with his fists, and likes bananas.

Kelly is in Rio de Janerio, investigating a millionaire named Ardonian (played by Italian actor Raf Vallone), who seems to collect girlfriends -- several at a time. These young women (all beautiful, of course) all seem to go missing eventually. Among Ardonian's most recent amorous interests is Susan Fleming (Dorothy Provine), an aristocratic Englishwoman.

Eventually, it is revealed that Susan is also a secret agent, working for MI6 and also investigating Ardonian. Her chauffeur, James (Terry-Thomas) is also her partner-in-espionage, working as her back-up man and bodyguard. He also drives her Rolls Royce, which is equipped with numerous secret weapons and gadgets.

Working together, Kelly and Susan uncover Ardonian's sinister plot: the Red Chinese have provided him with a rocket, with which he intends to launch a satellite into orbit. This satellite will emit waves of radiation that will destroy the male sex drive, and ultimately cause the human race to die out. The Chinese have been assured that he will only "sterilize" the West, but Ardonian has bigger plans. Those missing girls? He has them cryogenically preserved in his underground rocket base/secret lair, and intends for them to be the mothers of his own, world-conquering progeny.

Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die surprised me. I had expected it to be an outright spoof, but it wasn't quite as cartoonish as the Matt Helm movies, instead playing out a bit more like the Flint films; outlandish but played straight-faced. It was also a more lavish production than I expected, with a seemingly larger budget than any of its Eurospy contemporaries. The Rio locations were used well (especially a nice action scene in and around the Redeemer statue on Corcavado) and Ardonian's lair was nicely designed and impressive in scope. The fight scenes were very well staged and performed, too.

I really liked Mike Conners' laconic performance, and was really surprised at how much I enjoyed Terry-Thomas' character. I had previously only seen him play stereotypical upper-class twits and clueless bureaucrats, so I was caught of guard the first time he laid out some thugs with surprisingly convincing judo moves. I was less impressed with Dorothy Provine; she was okay in the role, just not my "type." Eurospy vixen Margaret Lee also appeared in the movie, though, and she's always welcome eye candy.

And yeah, it's true: an awful lot of this movies plot -- including it's Rio setting -- seems to have been cribbed by screenwriter Christopher Wood for the 1979 James Bond film, Moonraker. Several scenes are almost identical, and it just doesn't seem likely that it was coincidental.

I wish someone would give this film a legitimate DVD release.

1 comment:

Kevin Findley said...

Thanks Chris! I never knew about this film. My wife and I are nearly done with the second season of Mannix and are looking forward to season three. Now I have to find a copy of this too!

Looking forward to the next reviews.