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  Special Mission Lady Chaplin The lady loves Dick
Year: 1966
Director: Alberto De Martino, Sergio Grieco
Stars: Ken Clark, Daniela Bianchi, Helga Liné, Jacques Bergerac, Mabel Karr, Alfredo Mayo, Philippe Hersent, Ida Galli, Tomás Blanco, José Panizo, Peter Blades, Rafael Albaicin, Raymond Jourdan, Alberto Cevenini
Genre: Action, Thriller, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: An American submarine, inexplicably stashed at a fake monastery, is stolen along with its payload of nuclear missiles by beautiful super-criminal Lady Arabella Chaplin (Daniela Bianchi). Secret agent 077 a.k.a. Dick Malloy (Ken Clark) is on the case. He suspects billionaire playboy Kobre Zoltan (Jacques Bergerac), a specialist in submarine research, is also involved. Sure enough Malloy learns Zoltan is in cahoots with Lady Chaplin, a glamorous fashion designer by day but off-hours a mistress of disguise who bumps off the lone witness to her crime. But is Arabella as amoral as she seems or can Malloy charm her into helping him stop Zoltan's evil plan?

Sadly, unlike Ursula Andress, From Russia with Love (1962) star Daniela Bianchi never made the leap from Bond girl to international sensation. Instead Bianchi became a staple of Eurospy films or Bond imitators like O.K. Connery (1967), Requiem for a Secret Agent (1966) and Special Mission Lady Chaplin which was third, and many consider the best, of the handful of 077 adventures Italian director Sergio Grieco made with American star Ken Clark. The other entries were Mission Bloody Mary (1965) and Fury from the Orient (1965). Co-directed by O.K. Connery's Alberto De Martino, a reliable Euro-exploitation hand, Special Mission Bloody Mary delivers solid spectacle and production value even though it steals ideas from the more famous spy franchise, especially Thunderball (1965). That said Zoltan's chief henchman sports a metal claw that predates T. Hee in Live and Let Die (1973). The film's pleasures are largely stylistic: vivid comic book colours (an action scene in a red lab where a blue fishtank spouts a suspicious green goo is a visual standout), chic fashions for the fetching ladies (future Euro-horror regulars Helga Liné and Evelyn Stewart a.k.a. Ida Galli pop up as secondary femmes fatale), exotic locations, inventive action sequences (when his car gets crushed a bulldozer, 077 uses his ejector seat to escape out the rear). Ken Clark cuts a dynamic figure performing all his stunts but 077 lacks personality. In his trench-coat and slouch hat he comes across as a throwback to an older style of square-jawed All-American heroism, lacking the irony and wit of Bond.

While small potatoes compared with the Bond franchise, Special Mission Lady Chaplin undeniably gives Daniela Bianchi considerably more to do. The intro alone has her disguised as a nun, machinegun a monastery full of fake monks, then strip down to a fetching swimsuit. Aside from looking lovelier than ever Bianchi clearly has a ball with this meatier role. She gets to switch from outrageous disguises (including a little old lady with a gun-laden wheelchair) to chic Parisian fashions, gas a train-load of posh British soldiers ("I say didn't we meet at the inter-service tennis match, argh!"), jump out an airplane in a dress that turns into a parachute (!) and gun down evil henchmen by the dozens. Of course this being an Italian film from the Sixties she still has to put up with being slapped around by Dick Malloy before melting into his arms, but still it is a heck of a lot more than Tania got to do in From Russia with Love. Even the theme song, performed in English by a singer with an amusingly thick Italian accent, is all about Lady Chaplin and not ostensible mastermind Zoltan. Interestingly the plot also gives its Moneypenny stand-in, Jacqueline (Mabel Karr), more to do. She goes undercover as one of Lady Chaplin's models and shoots dead a key supporting villain. However, she also suffers the film's most outrageous death: blown up by an exploding dress!

If the storytelling is a tad sluggish and 077's would-be sexy banter falls largely flat, De Martino and Grieco sagely sandwich enough action and suspense between laboured plot points to keep things lively. It is a fun Eurospy movie provided one is willing to overlook silly moments like the climax where the protagonists trade gunfire in a room full of nuclear warheads.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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