1/3/07

620 Danger!! Death Ray

(1968, Action-Spies, color)

The ocean’s beautiful in this part of the tub.

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

Irresistible superspy Bart Fargo charms the ladies and rescues a kidnapped scientist.

Summary:

Fraternizing with the enemy.A light jazz scat choir sings us into a gathering of ugly, bald Italians in an underground bunker. A radiation scientist goes on at length about the peaceful applications of his newly invented Death Ray, as demonstrated by melting a hole through a large piece of metal. A toad-faced terrorist and his cohorts interrupt the proceedings by gassing everyone present, gunning down the surprisingly inept and poorly armed security forces, and making off with the unconscious scientist. They get away by plastic helicopter to rendezvous with a five-inch submarine in a nearby bathtub.

International man of mystery Bart Fargo is rudely awakened by his employer’s sexy retrieval squad. They take him to superspy headquarters where his garrulous boss throws orders and insults while eavesdropping on his sexy secretary. Later, Bart swims under a boathouse and beats up some random thugs to a peppy jazz beat. After several arbitrary knifings, he chats about secret rendezvous points with the villains on a hijacked ham radio.

Bart heads to the rendezvous point, a swanky Spanish club called The Morocco, where he beats up villainous waiters. A Lincolnesque assassin chases him through the streets and hotels of…whatever Spanish city they’re in. Bart drops through a skylight and into the studio of a naked painter named Lucille.

Bart goes back to his hotel, where the Lincolnesque assassin leaps at him while he’s standing by an open window. Bart stands aside and the assassin predictably goes splat three or four stories down. The other assassins go back to their hideout, while Bart follows in the most conspicuous vehicle available. A sexy evil lady warns them, and they somehow run him off the road and into the ocean. Bart ends up back at Lucille’s house, dripping wet. Heedless of her safety, he takes her out that night to The Morocco.

The bad guys wait until he’s alone before striking again. A friendly blond assassin tries to kill him and fails. Bart questions him, but is interrupted by the sexy evil lady. She pretends innocence while the blond guy escapes. Bart has a clear shot to kill him, but doesn’t. He sleeps with the evil lady and accepts her invitation to go boating with him the next day. The boat blows up, so he goes home to find the blond guy is waiting again, this time as a friend. The former thug had a change of heart after his cohorts tried to kill him for his failure. While Bart’s on the phone with Lucille, the blond guy spills the beans about the secret villa hideout.

Bart arrives at the hideout where he confronts the smarmy supervillain. Lucille heard the location over the phone and shows up to confess her love for Bart. They’re both captured and transported separately to another secret villa where the scientist is being held. The former assassin rescues Bart, but is quickly gunned down at the other villa. Bart kills a metric ton of disposable henchmen (including the sexy evil lady and the toad-faced terrorist from the beginning) and makes his way down a hallway filled with wall-mounted remote control machine guns. Bart shoots out their cameras one by one and ends up at a thick metal door. He can’t get in until the main villain conveniently melts a hole in it with the eponymous Death Ray. Bart shoots him and rescues the scientist. Later, he sets his wrist radio adrift and heads off into the sunset with Lucille.

Introduction:

Masculine sunglasses, from Italy.Crow has started wearing contacts. His eyes are red and dripping. Quoth he, “This is so much more convenient than glasses.”

Host Segment One:

Talent Agent Frank has negotiated a shoe endorsement deal for Tom, despite Tom’s lack of feet. Crow wants Frank to represent his screenplays, Earth vs. Soup and Peter Graves Goes to the University of Minnesota, but Frank refuses. Mike tries to tell him off but puts on his sailor suit and bursts into song when Frank says he’s booked him into a high-paying Cole Porter touring company. Dr. Forrester arrives and demands an explanation. Frank starts to explain, but breaks off to welcome his newest client, Torgo. Dr. Forrester breaks a piece of agent office scenery over Frank’s head.

Host Segment Two:

Tom has built a Death Ray. He sees Crow wandering past… A moment later, the mangled and horribly burned Crow demands to know what’s going on. They all share a hearty laugh while Tom explains it’s for peaceful purposes only. Crow bursts into flames.

Host Segment Three:

Tom dons a cheap suit and bad toupee to announce, “Mike Nelson, This Is Your Life!” Mike is invited to remember voices from his past, such as Crow, Crow, Crow, Crow, and…um…Crow. Quoth Crow, “Hi Mike, how ya doin’?”

Host Segment Four:

Crow has designed a line of fancy sunglasses for Italian men. These include the round, orange variety, the cat’s eye variety, and the heart-shaped variety. He becomes insulted when Mike and Tom suggest that his designs are all more than a little feminine.

Host Segment Five:

Mike tries to read a letter, but it’s smudged with Cambot’s tears. Cambot continues to cry all during the Satellite portion of the segment, mourning the death of all those security cameras in the final sequences of the movie. Mike and the ‘Bots give him the rest of the day off. Down in Deep 13, Frank gives Dr. Forrester a copy of his glamour shot. Dr. Forrester views it and declares, “You look like a slut.” Frank is overjoyed.

Stinger:

Bart sets his wrist radio adrift.

Thoughts:

Danger!! Drill Beam!Danger!! Death Ray is decent but unspectacular spy thriller. There’s a handsome superspy, the requisite pretty girls, and a mostly comprehensible evil plot. The film has its share of problems, though. The soundtrack undermines the tension by adding a light jazz score to the action sequences (most notably the high school band staple “Watermelon Man”). The special effects are obviously discount toys on strings. The cinematography seems to focus mainly on the villains’ dumpy rear ends. And, believe it or not, more than one Italian filmmaker actually thought the name “Bart Fargo” was sexy.

The idea that something called a Death Ray might be invented for peaceful purposes would be ridiculous if it something similar hadn’t already happened in real life. Twice. Both machine guns and nuclear weapons were invented with the idea of creating a weapon so horrible that no one would ever dare use it. In the scientists’ defense, the invention of nuclear weapons has mostly fulfilled its peaceful purpose (so far). In the movie’s defense, the Death Ray might actually have a peaceful application; it looks like it would be useful as a high-powered mining drill. Danger!! Drill Beam may be a less provocative title, but it’s a lot more interesting.

Crow’s red, watery eyes in the first host segment look painful. Frank is impressive as an overbearing talent agent, and his reaction to Dr. Forrester’s assessment of his glamour shot is great. Mike’s sailor suit refers back to Outlaw when it was revealed that every play he’s ever acted in has required him to dress in nautical attire. Crow’s screenplays, Earth vs. Soup and Peter Graves at the University of Minnesota, first appeared in Earth vs. the Spider and Beginning of the End respectively. The sunglasses for men sketch and the This Is Your Life sketch both started out interesting but went nowhere. My favorite segment was Tom’s hilarious peaceful use of his Death Ray on Crow.

The host segments have some good lines, some referring to the special effects, as in, “The ocean’s beautiful in this part of the tub,” (Mike) and, “Special effects by Billy,” (Crow). During the scientist’s overlong explanation of his Death Ray, Tom says, “Can the balloon juice and kill something.” Near the end, Crow says, “It was an interesting choice not to have any suspense in this movie.” They all sing, “Ba-pada-padada,” along with the scat choir and interject, “Watermelon Man!” wherever appropriate in the action music. The film is aggressively bland, and the quotable commentary is a little sparse, but there’s enough of it to make watching this episode worthwhile.