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After the success of the James Bond film series, movies of the sixties were crawling with super-spies and secret agents. It wouldn't be long before filmmakers stopped pitting the agents against unbelievable maniacs bent on world domination and turned them instead against more realistic criminals like drug czars or organized crime lords. One such film is Sol Madrid (1968), which was titled The Heroin Gang in England.
David McCallum plays Sol Madrid, an undercover agent who wants to stop Mafia trafficking in the lethal white powder. The problem is that his only lead to the big crime boss is the kingpin's former girlfriend Stella Stevens. When McCallum heads to Mexico he runs into police officers, double-crossing smugglers, murderers and others who may or may not hinder his mission. Among the co-stars crossing his path are Ricardo Montalban, Telly Savalas, Rip Torn and Pat Hingle.
Sol Madrid is based on the novel Fruit of the Poppy by Robert Wilder, who also saw Hollywood make film versions of his two other books, Written on the Wind (1956) and Flamingo Road (1949). The studio, MGM, obviously saw the potential for another series character and enlisted Scottish actor McCallum, then appearing as ultra-cool Russian spy Ilya Kuryakin on the hit TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. In an interview during filming, McCallum noted, "Sol Madrid, the character I play, is with the undercover vice squad, a distasteful job. I think we achieve reality with this film."
McCallum worked on the film during the day and at night recorded an album with cult producer David Axelrod. (McCallum's father was a professional violinist with the London Philharmonic who even played on the Beatles' original recording of "A Day in the Life.") Though reports at the time indicated that McCallum's album would include several Beatles covers, the finished album, Music: A Bit More of Me, has only one Lennon-McCarthy tune ("Michelle"), though it does have a version of the Batman theme and a song called "The Edge" that was later used by Dr. Dre for "Next Episode." MGM Records released a soundtrack album for Sol Madrid featuring the score by Lalo Schifrin with such tracks as "The Golden Trip," "Villanova's Villa," "The Burning Candle" and "Stacey's Bolero."
Producer: Hall Bartlett
Director: Brian G. Hutton
Screenplay: David Karp
Art Direction: Carl Anderson, George W. Davis
Cinematography: Fred Koenekamp
Editing: John McSweeney
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Principal Cast: David McCallum (Sol Madrid), Stella Stevens (Stacey Woodward), Telly Savalas (Emil Dietrich), Rip Torn (Dano Villanova), Pat Hingle (Harry Mitchell), Paul Lukas (Capo Riccione), Michael Ansara (Captain Ortega), Michael Conrad (Scarpi).
by Lang Thompson