Our Man in Marrakesh (1966)
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Dr. No launched more than just the James Bond franchise in 1962. Bondmania inspired studios all over the world to come up with their own secret agent and espionage thrillers, preferably with suave spies, beautiful women, exotic locations, and a rogues gallery of sinister enemy agents and colorful thugs.
Our Man in Marrakesh (1966, aka Bang! Bang! You're Dead!) combines the spy thriller with the wrong man adventure of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956, the American tourist in Morocco) and North by Northwest (1959, the businessman inadvertently tangled up with international intrigue and a beautiful female spy) and the jaunty tone of Stanley Donen's Charade (1963). The title itself recalls Our Man in Havana (1959), Carol Reed's film of Graham Greene's satire of Cold War intrigue.
While not exactly a spoof, this is as much breezy comic adventure as exotic spy-versus-spy conspiracy. American oil man Andrew Jessel (Tony Randall) arrives in Morocco with a small group of tourists and boards a bus for the city of Marrakesh, where he meets the lovely Kyra Stanovy (Senta Berger), a glamorous woman of indeterminate nationality and formidable talent. When Andrew gets the wrong room key and finds a corpse in the closet, Kyra immediately convinces him to help her hide the corpse and his adventure begins.
Tony Randall isn't the first actor that comes to mind when casting a seductive globetrotting superspy -- he first made his fame playing uptight, fussy supporting parts in Doris Day pictures and later became a TV star in The Odd Couple -- but he's perfect as an incredulous yet chivalrous innocent pulled into international intrigue. Austrian-born Senta Berger, a star in Germany, was making an impression on the international stage in films like Major Dundee (1965) and Cast a Giant Shadow (1966). She exhibits a knack for lighthearted romantic comedy here, playing the role with a smile and a flirt as she concocts one story after another to "explain" the complications of her dangerous life.
The plot involves stolen secret documents, the United Nations, and a crime lord named Mr. Casimir (Herbert Lom, famed as Inspector Dreyfus of the Pink Panther films) waiting to sell state secrets for a bag of cash. Someone on Andrew's flight is the courier and, as fate and convenient plot complications would have it, none of them are who they appear to be. Wilfrid Hyde-White, John Le Mesurier (who bears a remarkable and surely not coincidental resemblance to Bernard Lee, 007's M), and Margaret Lee fill out our suspicious guest list, while a sneering Klaus Kinski cuts a striking figure as the sinister blonde henchman who stands out of any Morocco crowd. Gregoire Aslan co-stars as an affable Moroccan truck driver who takes a liking to our couple and third-billed Terry-Thomas makes a late entrance and still almost steals the film as El Caid, an unflappable Eaton-educated Brit with a Moroccan inheritance.
Producer Harry Alan Towers, who also penned the film's original story, specialized in budget-minded European productions with international casts, exploitable genres, and often a lurid edge, such as his run of Fu Manchu films. Our Man in Marrakesh leaves out the lurid and keeps just enough suggestion of sex to meet Bond expectations while remaining family friendly. Towers gives this film a bigger canvas than his usual production by shooting on location in Morocco, which adds Bond-like color and excitement and exotic flourishes to familiar spy movie conventions, from an escape across the tiled rooftops to a foot chase through the Marrakesh marketplace to a showdown in an abandoned prison that looks more like a former palace.
Director Don Sharp directed two of Towers' low budget Fu Manchu chapters but is best known for such Hammer Films horrors as The Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966) and the oddball undead cycle gang picture Psychomania (1973). None of those films hint at the light touch for comic mystery and snappy pacing of action scenes he brings to this film. It was surely no coincidence that he later was tapped to direct episodes of the colorful spy series The Avengers.
By Sean Axmaker