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Fox Home Entertainment presents
"My presence here is motivated by man's purest emotion: greed."
DVD ReviewWhen James Bond became a smash hit, Fleming's spy was imitated and spoofed relentlessly throughout the 1960s in such films as Our Man Flint and lesser television offerings such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. One of the less successful attempts was this 1966 effort at capitalizing on Raquel Welch's star-making appearance in One Million Years B.C. Unfortunately, Welch's presence is about the only thing that separates this from the many dozens of weak Bond knockoffs.
Fathom Harvill (Welch) is a dental assistant from California on tour in Europe with a skydiving group. After a jump, she is recruited by Col Campbell (Ronald Fraser) of H.A.D.E.S. (Headquarters Allied Defense, Espionage & Security) to use her talents to help recover the detonator of an H-bomb called the Fire Dragon. But Peter Merriwether (Tony Franciosa) is after the Fire Dragon himself, along with his Chinese accomplice, Jo-May Soon (Greta Chi). In the mix also is a treacherous skindiver (Tom Adams) and Serapkin, a collector of antiquities (Clive Reville). But not all is as it seems and Fathom just succeeds in getting herself drawn deeper into life-threatening conspiracies as she tries to do the right thing.
While Welch is undeniably easy on the eyes and charming, she doesn't have the charisma to carry a picture like this. She's not helped any by a script by Lorenzo Semple Jr (of Batman notoriety) that in its complexity and double-crosses makes The Maltese Falcon seem linear. Plot holes of massive proportions are present everywhere, and an irritating Europop theme keeps chirping along merrily throughout the film. Perhaps most annoying, though, is Merriwether's incessant addressing of Fathom as "poppet." A few times might have been cute, but by about the 40th iteration it's just downright maddening.
It's not entirely clear whether a spy spoof or a serious action flick was intended. Fathom is certainly quite light for the latter, but not nearly humorous enough for the former (though there are a few amusing jabs at Q with such odd devices as explosive earrings). The action sequences, such as they are, are quite lethargic. One standout is a sequence that has Welch in a lake being shot at by a harpoon gun, but it's spoiled by a combination of deus ex machina and naked plot device that completely dilutes whatever impact that the sequence might have had. One gets the impression that the producers were aiming for a North by Northwest feel here, but there are serious problems with that motif. Since Fathom is supposed to be an innocent, thrust into the situation, she can't believably get herself out of the scrapes she's in and thus ends up reliant on others getting her out of them. Part of this problem is that the scrapes are too extreme (the harpoon gun, or Fathom caught in a bull ring) and Welch just doesn't have Cary Grant's chops for bringing off such a character.
Welch is nonetheless the focus here, and the camera lovingly moves over her body at every opportunity. She's also put into a bikini at every opportunity, and she provides an unforgettable little dance in one about halfway through. Indeed, in some conversational sequences the camera just blatantly focuses on (and zooms in on) her legs, her rear end or her chest, completely oblivious of the exposition. And frankly, that's not a bad thing here; besides her physical presence, there's precious little to recommend this film.
Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: D
Image Transfer Review: The widescreen anamorphic picture looks quite nice for the most part. Colors are bright and vivid, with nice black levels and solid shadow detail. The last reel is problematic, however, since large chunks of it seem to have faded to pink beyond the ability of video restorers to repair. There's also a stray hair on the screen in this segment. The edges are somewhat squeezed, apparently an artifact from using anamorphic lenses.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack sounds very nice, as does the stereo version. Both have decent range for a 1960s film, although the music sounds a shade on the tinny side. Dialogue is always crystal clear and well-defined, with no hiss or noise to be heard whatsoever. The stereo version has a bit more definition than the mono track, but both are quite acceptable.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring In Like Flint, Our Man Flint, Modesty Blaise
Extras Review: There's not much for extras. Widescreen (but nonanamorphic) trailers for the feature and three other 1960s spy romps are provided. The chaptering is quite generous, but that's all. The DVD does come in a groovy orange Amaray case for those who care about such matters.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsA somewhat tedious and unexciting action film, devoted mainly to showcasing Raquel Welch in a bikini at every chance. Maybe worth a rental.
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