In a public market in Marrakesh, a man in the crowd grimaces and turns to show an enormous decorated blade sticking out of his back. He’s hastily covered with a blanket and carried away by his killers, apparently before anyone notices. This leads to the question: if you want to stab someone discreetly, why use a great honking blade with a foot-long handle? The answer, of course, is to make an exciting and picturesque moment reminiscent of The Man Who Knew Too Much, without being as good and whether it makes sense or not. This flimsy, silly, light-hearted plot isn’t going for sense.
So begins Bang, Bang, You’re Dead (the onscreen title doesn’t have the exclamation points of the packaging), one of about a million spy spoofs that flooded screens in the 1960s in the James Bond craze. They needed two things: pretty girls and pretty locations, and this inexpensive item from producer Harry Alan Towers offers both.
The stabbed body keeps turning up, like the corpse in The Trouble with Harry, in the room of tourist Andrew Jessel (Tony Randall, mugging frantically) and his gorgeous neighbor Kyra (Senta Berger, drop-dead mod in pink and white ensembles), who spins so many lies that we don’t know whether to trust her final claim to working in “one of the branches” of the CIA. All we know is that two McGuffins—the corpse and a briefcase of papers—trigger endless chases across rooftops and bazaars and through deserts and mountain roads between our couple and the bad guys before the final picturesque free-for-all. It all serves the impression that Morocco is part of the world’s exotic playground for Euro-American action-tourism. In a more radical movie, Andrew and Kyra would have been smoking kif with Paul and Jane Bowles.
The game cast of all-star character actors includes Herbert Lom as the chief villain, Wilfrid Hyde-White and John Le Mesurier as mysterious gents who might be couriers for the Red Chinese, Klaus Kinski (apparently dubbed) scowling distinctively as a henchman, Gregoire Aslan as a Moroccan trucker, Margaret Lee as a bikini (framing a composition where Randall stands between her legs), and Terry-Thomas as a kind of parody of Lawrence of Arabia. The staging and editing of action, marked by abrupt cutaways and other clumsy shortcuts, shows that director Don Sharp was definitely on a budget, which is less fatal in a comedy than lack of laughs.
While the original British title was Our Man in Marrakesh, this is Paramount’s US print, licensed to Olive Films and transferred to Blu-Ray and DVD without expensive restoration. Thus, the colors of Michael Reed’s photography seem a bit faded and spots of minor damage are evident, while the HD remastering underlines the process shots (in driving footage) and makes grain noticeable. The results are watchable, if ultimately forgettable, for the type of retro-mod nostalgist who recognizes the cast list.
// Notes from the Road
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