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  Lightning Bolt Let Us Rocket
Year: 1966
Director: Antonio Margheriti
Stars: Anthony Eisley, Wandisa Guida, Folco Lulli, Diana Lorys, Luisa Rivelli, Francisco Sanz, Barta Barri, Tito García, José Maria Caffarel, Luciana Petri, Goffredo Unger, Renato Montalbano, Oreste Palella, Clemente Ukmar, Nino Vingelli
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: There has been a problem with the moon rockets at Cape Kennedy: they keep blowing up soon after take-off, and the authorities are beginning to think this is no coincidence and no technical fault. In fact, they suspect sabotage, and the disappearance of one of their scientists, Professor Rooney (Francisco Sanz) while out on a diving expedition to gather more information convinces them to put a professional on the case to discover what is really going on. First, Captain Patricia Flanagan (Diana Lorys) is assigned, and she has help in the shape of Lieutenant Harry Sennet (Anthony Eisley) who will go undercover as an international playboy...

Hmm, underwater scenes, a secret agent with a playboy lifestyle, that title... do you think the filmmakers were fans of Thunderball? This was one of seemingly countless spy adventures to emerge from Europe during the first flush of the James Bond craze, and if this example is largely forgotten nowadays, let's just say it's not entirely unjustly. This was very much the standard cash-in of the day, although at least it looked as if there had been some money spent on it unlike some of its peers, with a few sunny locations, some fairly impressive stunts, and extensive model work and pleasing set design to offer the proceedings a nice enough gloss, though you would never mistake it for the real thing.

You would certainly never mistake Anthony Eisley for Sean Connery at any rate, not with that bright red hair he sported here, which oddly the chief villain, Rehte (Folco Lulli), appears to have mimicked. Maybe there was a surplus of ginger hair dye in Italy at the time? Whatever, Eisley adopted a laid back attitude that went against much in the way of dynamism or even excitement though to be fair he could step up his performance a gear when the scene demanded it. Mostly, however, he gave off the air of a chap who can't believe that he is getting paid to drive fast cars, lounge around in the sun with beautiful women, and generally act out the playboy lifestyle his character enjoys.

As for the plot, it was more a succession of setpieces and science fiction-y ideas in search of a stronger framework, as if director Antonio Margheriti was content to assemble something reminiscent of Bond without creating a work that could easily be mistaken for it. You could view this as two very distinct halves, as Sennet and Flanagan try to track the professor in an exotic location for the opening, and hey, fall in love too (though he seems keener than her), and for the extended finale Sennet ditched his partner to investigate an underwater base where Rehte directs all his nefarious operations from. The other love interest was Kary (Wandisa Guida), one of those very Bondesque ladies who you think is on the side of the baddies until she turns out to be not so evil before the end credits.

But for the most part, it was the items of eccentricity which marked Lightning Bolt out, if it did at all. It wasn't too hard to appreciate such sequences as Sennet getting a gun drawn on him which is actually a water pistol filled with acid, and that right after he and Flanagan are nearly drowned in a silo which fills with sea water (the way they get out of this with their lives is pretty novel, to be fair). Then again, when our hero does work out that the filmmakers are determined to use more grainy footage of failed rocket tests - er, I mean when he works out that more sabotage at the space base is afoot, he does take the curious option of trying to stop the launch by driving straight at the rocket in peril, just about getting himself blown up in the process. And he's supposed to be one of their best men. The undersea lair reveals Rehte, who brews beer as a sideline (?!) also has a bunch of bodies in suspended animation there, but it was the flooding of the place with what looked like blood that crafted the most memorable imagery, such as it was. Music by Riz Ortolani.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Antonio Margheriti  (1930 - 2002)

Italian writer and director who worked in a variety of genres throughout his career, although largely horror, science fiction and western. Some of his films include Castle of Blood, The Wild, Wild Planet, The Long Hair of Death, Take a Hard Ride, Killer Fish, Cannibal Apocalypse and Yor, Hunter from the Future.

 
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