Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Too Many Novels By Fleming
Mentioning the 1967 CASINO ROYALE inspired me to finally check out the other Bond-related spoof from that year that I hadn’t seen yet, OPERATION KID BROTHER. It’s also known as OK CONNERY and the crummy-looking video I rented goes under the title of OPERATION DOUBLE 007, which I guess we’re supposed to read as OPERATION DOUBLE-DOUBLE-OH-SEVEN. But no way am I going to spend too much time figuring that one out. An Italian-based attempt to cash in on the Bond craze by casting Sean’s younger brother Neil Connery as a similar secret agent, the film has never been seen as more than a curiosity, if it’s even ever seen as that.
Neil Connery plays, um, Dr. Neil Connery, plastic surgeon and master of hypnosis and lip-reading. He’s also the brother of the world’s most famous secret agent, whose name we never learn but someone actually begins to refer to as “Agent Zero-Zero—“ before getting cut off. Since his brother is unavailable, Dr. Neil Connery is recruited by Commander Cunningham (Bernard Lee) and his assistant Miss Maxwell (Lois Maxwell) to help defeat a powerful crime organization. Neil looks sort of like his brother, but as he spends the entire film sporting a Van Dyke—maybe this was one of several possible legal concerns—it’s tough to tell. Oddly, the facial hair makes him look more villainous than anything else.
To clarify, yes, Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell, better known as “M” and Moneypenny, basically play the same roles that they are famous for, only with different names. Even stranger than that is the two of them get considerably more screen time here than they did in the actual Bond films. How did the Bond producers feel about this? How did Sean Connery feel about his brother taking on this project in the first place? I guess the answers are unimportant, as unimportant as trying to figure out the plot. DR. NO’s Anthony Dawson, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE’s Daniela Bianchi and THUNDERBALL’s Adolfo Celi also appear, presumably to give the whole thing some added street cred. Celi wore an eyepatch when he played the villain Largo in that film and here sports a monocle. It reveals a lot when I say that this is probably the cleverest thing about OPERATION KID BROTHER. After Connery tells another character what he suspects is going on, she responds with, “You read too many novels by Fleming,” which is also another good indication of how amusing this ever gets.
The score, credited to both Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, is fairly catchy with a decent title song, which isn’t a surprise, but it’s nowhere near as impressive as Morricone’s score for DANGER:DIABOLIK. Of course, what he had to work with couldn’t have been very inspiring. It occasionally begins to sound melodically like the real Bond theme but apparently not close enough to get sued. As far as I can tell, no other film ever steered so close to what must have been some sticky legal issues with the Bond producers, with the exception of Roger Moore’s role in THE CANNONBALL RUN, a movie which probably warrants an entire piece on its own.
The film is generally referred to as a spoof, which makes sense, but tonally it falls somewhere between cheap knockoff and out-and-out parody, which means it ultimately isn’t much of anything. The production, despite location work in Morocco, Spain and Monaco, is kind of cheap and shoddy, with lots of bad dubbing. Those sound like Lee and Maxwell's own voices but everyone else, including Connery, is definitely dubbed. More than anything it resembles Jess Franco’s own unfunny spy spoof LUCKY THE INSCRUTIBLE. Already OPERATION KID BROTHER feels like it’s dissolving from memory, but at least I can say I’ve finally seen it. And if it ever comes out on DVD, I’m sure I’ll see it again.