Se tutte le donne del mondo… (Operazione Paradiso) [Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die] (1966)

[Literal Translation: If All the Women in the World… (Operation Paradise)]

We’ve heard that art imitates life.

And a parody is, of course based on the original work.

But sometimes it works the other way.

Take Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, for example: it’s a lighthearted parody of the James Bond films, right?  One which features an impressive and memorable scene where Mike Connors (not long before he started his long run as Mannix on TV) climbs to the top of the world-famous statue of Christ in Rio De Janeiro and climbs onto the rope ladder dangling from a passing helicopter (a stunt so dangerous that Mike Connors claimed that they couldn’t find a local stuntman to do it so he did it himself).

Sound vaguely familiar?  It should: they did the exact same stunt in a movie called Moonraker.

…Which was a real James Bond film, starring Roger Moore.

Who, to the best of my knowledge, wasn’t actually hanging off that rope ladder.

In fact, the entire Rio De Janiero sequence in that film is also more or less copied from this film, right down to the “spies putting their weapons down” bit.

As Mark Twain put it, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

I’m not sure that sort of flattery would have bothered the people making this film anyway.  They clearly wanted to make a Bond-styled spy film set in Brazil, but didn’t feel any compulsion to actually imitate Bond.  Instead, they made something goofy and unique, with one of the craziest mad scientist/Bond Villain plans ever.

And that is saying a lot.

Kelly (and he never gives us any other name) is some sort of American spy, perhaps working for the CIA.  He’s on some sort of assignment involving the fantastically rich Mr. Ardonian, who is busy collecting girlfriends during his stay in Rio De Janeira.  And he’s very serious about it, as Kelly has to step in and save one of them from deadly scorpions hidden in Ardonian’s latest gift when she shows that she’s not really that into him.

Kelly’s interest gets drawn particularly to one of the girls, a rich British heiress named Lady Susan Fleming (Dorothy Provine) whom we eventually learn is actually a British spy.

But we aren’t about to spend too much time on that part of the story because they have a Bond villain to fight, a secret underground lair to find, not to mention piranha, the Chinese Army, a secret submarine, and a sinister missile launch which is about to wipe out the human race.

Very slowly.

This is one of those films which is just stuffed with things to love, for example the absolutely absurd fashions Dorothy Provine wears.  There’s one particular dress she wears to a party which has some sort of absurd collar which sticks up above her ears all around and is apparently clear plastic or something similar.

And then someone tells her how good she looked that evening.

Dorothy claimed that she based her performance on Lady Penelope on the Thunderbirds, and you have to admit that the two characters are a lot alike: both are beautiful, rich and British, have incredible gadget-laden Rolls Royces and an extremely talented butler who handles most of the detective and adventuring chores.

In this case, the Butler is played by none other than the legendary British comic Terry-Thomas, who is perfect at the imperturbably butler who is called upon for such mundane tasks as driving her car, planting surveillance devices, and beating thugs senseless.

Just like any other properly trained butler.

He also plays a fun second part as a British explorer who stumbles across a deadly secret, and is killed before the opening credits (note the wordless monocle pop).

Like any great Bond film, there are a lot of cool gadgets of various sorts, from various articles that double as weapons to the standard model secret lair, complete with missile silo and a rocket ready to be sent into space with a deadly payload (and, I’ll point out, almost six months before Bond encountered a similar missile in You Only Live Twice).

But the most interesting by far is Lady Fleming’s Rolls, which comes complete with such amenities as a complete, hidden wardrobe, built in automatic clubs for repelling intruders, Scotch on tap (although the mechanics need a speaking-to because it was supposed to be Irish Whiskey) and best of all, an absurd way of making the car invisible involving some very nice stop motion animation.

As you might expect from a film like this, Kelly comes with an odd quirk to give him a bit of personality: he loves bananas and eats them throughout the film (they even feature in the opening credits and the trailers in a mildly suggestive sort of way).  This leads to what has to be the funniest banana peel gag I’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of Monty Python’s edible missiles skit (although it is close).

The curious thing is that, despite all the bikini clad girls, a billionaire trying to build a harem as part of his evil schemes, a lot of bare female flesh, and the fact that this is supposed to be a Bond parody, there is no sex and nothing that couldn’t have been shown on broadcast TV in the days before ratings.

Not only that, but not only don’t the hero and the girl engage in the duly expected bedroom gymnastics de rigueur in a Bond film, but Kelly proposes to Lady Fleming at the end of the film and they drive off happily into the sunset.

It’s all outlandish and absurd, with a lot of gloriously silly moments and constant winking at the audience.  It’s as if someone made a parody of the most science fictional of Sean Connery’s Bond movies, but did so before that film ever came out.

Oh, well.  And once again we find yet another massively entertaining forgotten film which is doomed to linger unseen.

At least until someone finally drags it out into the light and helps it find the audience it deserves…

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