1/19/07

815 Agent For H.A.R.M.

(1966, Action-Spies, color)

Better go back to the judo range.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

A smarmy secret agent saves the world from flesh-eating communist spores.

Summary:

Apparently some kind of Judo Range.Somewhere in Eastern Europe, middle-aged men with accents run through fields, pursued by a single soldier. They grenade the soldier and stumble into the arms of their traitorous French contact. Sausage-shaped gunplay ensues, leaving the traitor and the more expendable escapee to collapse into fizzy gray goo. The sole survivor, Professor Janos Steffanic, escapes to America by himself.

He settles into a large, gaudy beach house in San Diego with his extremely hot niece Ava and his government-assigned assistant to continue his work. One day, his assistant collapses into fizzy gray goo. Their suspicions aroused, the United States government sends agent Adam Chance to investigate.

Chance ogles Ava and threatens Steffanic until the latter finally breaks down and explains the plot to this point. The sausage guns shoot a spore extracted from an alien meteorite. This spore turns people into goo. Evil accented men from an undefined foreign nation will dust all the United States crops with powdered spore and then (I’m guessing here) they will rule the world! Steffanic must discover the antidote before they can set their nefarious plan in motion.

The effeminate, diminutive Malko leads said evil men, an elite cadre of ascot-wearing snobs, supplemented by the artist formerly known as Prince. They stop by the beach house on the pretense of picking up the dry cleaning. Chance hides out in the back of the dry-cleaning van, taking note while they drive south of the Mexican border to a secluded country estate/spore laboratory. He strangles one of the ascot henchmen and gets away.

He calls to tell his spy supervisor the location of Malko’s secret base and gets ready for the assault. The ascot men attack the beach house while he prepares. Chance kills a pair of them and rescues Ava while others make off with Steffanic. Fortunately, Chance planted a homing device on Steffanic before his abduction, allowing him to follow. One confusing spaz chop/booby trap/dirt bike/airplane/spore gun fight later, the bad guys all die horrible deaths while Steffanic survives thanks to his new antidote. Chance runs off to find help, but apparently the antidote isn’t as effective as advertised. When he returns, Steffanic has joined the movie’s pile of oozing gray corpses. Chance goes back to the beach house to seduce Ava one last time before he exposes her as a double agent (an unintentional but appropriate double entendre) and turns her over the authorities.

Introduction:

The intergalactic tribunal has to rent a disused karate rink.Tom and Crow have become EXTREME! WOOOOO! Crow practices EXTREME YOGA! Tom is into EXTREME PHILATELY! They pressure Mike to join them in their extremity. Mike decides he quite likes rice. WOOOOO!

Host Segment One:

Mike eats a bowl of EXTREME RICE! “Basmati!” he cries. “Aaaaggghhh!” He is suddenly transported to a cosmic courtroom, where a cosmic judge tells him he has been brought to trial for the wanton destruction of many planets (as seen in Episodes 804, 808, and 814). Allowed to pick the lawyers for prosecution and defense, Mike accidentally chooses Pearl Forrester as the former and Professor Bobo as the latter, over such other, more qualified options as Thomas Jefferson and Clarence Darrow.

Host Segment Two:

Crow bakes Mike a tort with a power saw inside. Down in the courtroom, Pearl delivers an opening statement using a balloon to represent a planet and a sharpened Satellite of Love model to represent Mike. Bobo rebuts with a long-winded speech about Brown Betty and panties. Mike tries to strangle him.

Host Segment Three:

Bobo provides video depositions of the ‘Bots. Tom mistakes the deposition for a telethon, and introduces such luminaries as Oliver Cromwell and funnyman Maya Angelou. Crow’s deposition stays more on topic, but his testimony is so laced with profanity that three quarters of it is a long, high-pitched bleep. Gypsy’s deposition is short and to the point. Quoth she, “He totally didn’t do it.” Bobo objects to her testimony.

Host Segment Four:

Tom’s search for legal loopholes is unsuccessful. Down in the courtroom, Brain Guy testifies about how he baked a pie for the Senior Observer Center while thrushes gave note to lovely tunes, etc., when suddenly he saw “seven horrible steeds” directed by “a grim-visaged man raining death!” He identifies Mike as the grim-visaged death-rainer. Upon cross-examination Bobo forces Brain Guy to admit he doesn’t really know how to make pie.

Host Segment Five:

Tom and Crow hold a candlelight vigil for Mike. Crow gets bored and continues his vigil over by the cookies. Down in the courtroom, Ortega offers unintelligible testimony. When he’s through, Bobo calls in a surprise witness—the Little Amish Boy! Little Amish Boy testifies to having no knowledge of Mike. Upon cross-examination, Pearl accuses the Amish in general of making sugary, flavorless fudge. Bobo objects. The judge overrules them both and renders a verdict. Mike is found guilty and sentenced to death, but he’s such an amiable lug that the judge commutes his sentence to eight hundred hours community service. He heads back to the Satellite to serve his sentence by cleaning up the mess Tom and Crow made while he was gone.

Stinger:

Malko spaz chops Steffanic.

Thoughts:

I prefer this version of Cindy Lou Who.This film’s action sequences have major problems. The largest problem, of course, is that there aren’t any. A few shots were fired, to be sure. Someone wired a television set to a door. A handful of people melted. At one point, someone rolled a utility van. But the word “sequence” refers to a number of action-like events strung together in a somewhat cohesive fashion, and nothing like that happens here. If asked to summarize the action in one sentence I would have to say, “A middle-aged man in a cardigan putters around a beach home while ogling a much younger woman.”

And speaking of middle-aged men, Adam Chance has pleasant enough facial features and smarm to spare (two necessary qualifications for a cinematic spy of the sixties) but I can’t get past his graying hair, yellow cardigan, and girdle. The way he rubs himself all over Ava induces nausea, especially since no amount of makeup can hide the fact that he’s at least two and a half times her age. Sean Connery got away with it his later films (before he grew a salt-and-pepper beard and started playing eccentric-but-competent codgers) but he has several decades worth of sexy leading roles to lean on. As Adam Chance, Peter Richman doesn’t have that kind of history.

The host segments revolve around Mike’s trial. A long list of witnesses are called, including Ortega and the very funny Little Amish Boy but my favorite is Crow’s taped deposition. What he’s saying might be relevant to the trial, if we could just hear it through all the bleeping. Pearl does an excellent job as the prosecutor, but Bobo steals the show as Mike’s defense attorney. Part ape, part Matlock, and part Colonel Sanders, he manages to derail every host segment and drive it forcefully towards the topic of food. The EXTREME segments at the beginning are well done, also. I like the fact that Mike’s extreme rice is plain. This is the first episode with Patrick Brantseg as Gypsy. The switch from Jim Mallon happens so smoothly, I wouldn’t even have noticed if Bill Corbett hadn’t drawn attention to it in the Satellite News Online Episode Guide. With this cast change, the satellite crew is now entirely different from the one that originally set out in 1988.

The aggressively bland film segments take a little stamina to watch. During the beginning Mike and the ‘Bots think of a number of possible meanings for the acronym H.A.R.M., such as “Huge Angular Red Marshmallows,” and “Hot And Ready, Man.” Later, Mike identifies the diminutive, bow-tied Malko as “Pee Wee Herman’s grandfather, Winchester Wee Herman.” Later, he explains Ava’s attraction to Chance by saying, “She’s after his social security checks.” Near the end, when Chance insists to his superiors that Steffanic couldn’t have died, Mike says, “Santa came down from heaven and made him better.” All throughout, the Satellite crew takes turns singing the James Bond theme whenever someone does something action-ish, like opening a door, or merging carefully onto the freeway. It’s a slow, frustrating film, but Mike and the ‘Bots make it worth at least one viewing.