Cazadores de Espías
Still more exciting than whenever Mantaur wrestled!
In 1969, Mexico had noticed the whole secret agents thing has gotten a little ridiculous and thus ripe for parody. Enter Cazadores de Espías, a comedic film filled with secret agents, double crosses, identical twins, a carnivorous plant, a masked villain, a seductive villainess, a luchador, a mad scientist, and even a robot. There is plenty of goofy action across the board, lending Cazadores de Espías the power to potentially be something bigger than it is. Unfortunately, there is no subtitled version at all, and the first half of the film leans heavily on verbal jokes, leaving people like me to be forced to lean on their rusty Spanish. At TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles, but they probably would have come in handy here! Despite the lack of clear understanding of a few plot points, the general gist was easy to get, and no one needs subtitles when a robot is running around! Cazadores de Espías is fun, but thanks to the language veil it isn’t as fun as it should have been.
Cazadores de Espías was filmed around the same time as Muñecas Peligrosas and Con Licencia Para Matar, which is pretty obvious. It features familiar sets and cast members, and all are directed by Rafael Baledón (though this time the original story is by Adolfo Torres Portillo). The sets usually used at the villain’s lair is now a hotel, a control room is now a villain lair, and the familiar nightclub returns, though there is now a big wrestling ring in part of it. The goons of the mysterious Mr. X were big X’s on their uniforms (instead of G’s or K’s!) Mexican villains are all sponsored by the same letters that sponsor Sesame Street!
As the film is rather obscure, please enjoy the longer film synopsis review. But as the film is hard to follow at parts, please forgive any errors that creep in due to confusion or language barriers. As usual, I blame those nefarious Spider Gnomes of Jupiter, who cause me no end of troubles. I will defeat you one day, Spider Gnomes of Jupiter! Fans of random Mexican song interludes will enjoy the performances by Los Rockyn Devil’s, The Shadow of the Beast, Manolo Muñoz, Rubin “Penjamo” Mendez, and Jose Antonio Zevala. Non-fans will find a convenient time to go to the bathroom. Now on with the show!
Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly Tags: Adolfo Torres Portillo, Carlos East, cool robots, Eleazar García "Chelelo", Héctor Andremar, Julián de Meriche, Leonorilda Ochoa, luchadores, Maura Monti, Mexico, Nathanael "Frankenstein" León, plants eating dudes, Rafael Baledón, Spies, We don't need no stinking subtitles
Con Licencia Para Matar
aka With License to Kill aka Las Tigresas
Written by Alfredo Ruanova
Directed by Rafael Baledón
When danger rears it’s head, and the police are helpless, they call in Las Tigresas! A trio of fighting femmes donning black catsuits with leopard print collars who bust in and kick serious butt, then collect fat paychecks to live exciting jet-setting lives.
There are two Las Tigresas films, Con Licencia Para Matar (With License to Kill) is the second, following Muñecas Peligrosas (Dangerous Dolls), though according to some material I read, this one may have been filmed first. That’s not surprising, as both films appear to be filmed one after the other (they even share sets and actors, and Cazadores de Espias also shares sets and actors and was filmed at almost the same time in 1967!)
Las Tigresas are a mercenary group that contracts out to the IUS to do special missions (at a price!) Their liaison/mission boss is “Jefe”, Jim Morrison (who is now dating Emily, the leaders of Las Tigresas) They have a comic relief maid named Leonor who occasionally joins them for adventures, and in this film also get a comic relief butler named Hector who is sort of dating Leonor.
Las Tigresas are independent warrior women who don’t wait around for men to save them. Despite calling Morrison their boss, he barely does anything except give them assignments and take Emily out on dates (In a clear HR violation!) The ladies are independent role models, not only does Leonor spend both films wanting to be one of them, in this film Hector even tries to join their ranks.
Unlike the other Las Tigresas film, there are no English subtitles for Con Licencia Para Matar, but a TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! Con Licencia Para Matar is the much more enjoyable Las Tigresas film, and the lack of accessibility means it still lingers in the realm of obscurity despite the best efforts of world cinema fanatics. As this film is rather rare, enjoy the far too detailed plot synopsis review below. Or else!
aka Danger Dolls aka Operación Contraespionaje aka Operation Counter
Written by Alfredo Ruanova
Directed by Rafael Baledón
Muñecas Peligrosas is the first of the two Las Tigresas films, featuring a trio of fighting femmes in black catsuits and leopard collars who fight evil (for a fee!) It fits right in with the established world of 1960s Mexican spy cinema, which borrows chunks from James Bond and Eurospy while keeping its own distinct flavor. There is a secret international spy agency, and all-powerful unknown villains who retain their mystery despite having advanced branding tactics. Muñecas Peligrosas is a more subtle affair then the sequel, which features the ladies battling green robots controlled by a mad scientist. Here, they battle an industrialist determined to steal a catalyst for solid fuel production by luring the maker to Mexico via sabotage. But the plot is just background distraction, the real draw of Muñecas Peligrosas is the female characters, the three fighting women and their comic relief maid.
The lead Tigresa is Emily (code designation: T001), played by Emily Cranz. She was born Emma Cranz Cantillano in Arizona to a German mother and Mexican father. She had a string of film appearances in the 1960s, along with several albums (occasionally with a group called Los Black Jeans) and appearances on television variety shows. She eventually married and disappeared from public view in 1970.
Tigresa Diana (code designation: T009) is played by actress Maura Monti. She’s best known to genre fans as the star of the Mexican Batwoman movie, La Mujer Murciélago, as well as appearances in films such as S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini, El Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras, and Santo Contra la Invasion de los Marcianos. Maura Monti has gigantic hair in this movie.
The final Tigresas is Barbara (code designation: T002), played by Bárbara Angely. Her character sort of gets the shaft in both of the films, often supporting one of the other two characters. Bárbara Angely was born Barbara Mueller in Austria, both her and her twin sister Angelika became models in Italy and eventually moved to Mexico. Now being billed as Bárbara Angely, she appeared in films through the last 1960s, only to retire by 1970 (it was said she tired of the lifestyle.) She earned a Ph.D. and eventually became a triathlon athlete along with her sister. It was while competing in one such event that she suffered the injuries that claimed her life in 2008.
Despite Barbara being a real Tigresa, Emily’s maid Leonor (played by comedic actress Leonorilda Ochoa) gets much more screen time and plot development. Unlike the three import actresses above, Leonorilda Ochoa did not marry and vanish from public view in 1970 as the Mexican film industry depressed. She moved to television, gaining fame in Los Beverly de Peralvillo, a satire on life of rich Mexican City residents (and named in reverence to the US program Beverly Hillbillies). She has been absent in the public eye in recent years due to Alzheimer’s.
Villain Garrick is one of those villains who needs people to know who he is, so he has his big G logo plastered all over his hideout and on his troops. The design of the big G kept making me thing of Gizmonic Institute from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Maybe the Institute militarized and that’s why Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank moved to Deep 13. Makes you think…
There is also a very unfunny running gag involving a karate instructor (played by Alejandro Suárez in yellowface) who speaks gibberish back and forth with Leonor while she hits on him. These scenes go on for far too long and are just awful.
The copy I have came complete with some fan subtitles. Some of the names might not match right up with other names you’ve seen, and I’ve compromised by what names sound correct. And as this is relatively obscure, please enjoy the more detailed than usual review. Or else!
Conquistador de la Luna
aka Conqueror of the Moon
Story by José María Fernández Unsáin
Adapted by Alfredo Varela
Directed by Rogelio A. González
Conquistador de la Luna (Conqueror of the Moon) is a Mexican science fiction comedy that deals with a bumbling genius and his adventure after accidentally getting blasted to the moon and meeting the evil moon aliens. Who are totally not where they got the ideas for Sleestaks from! These Moon Sleestaks clearly have four arms, thank you very much!
Despite being a cornball comedy featuring a Mexican comedian with a one-word nickname (we’ve all learned from FourDK that one-word nicknames on Mexican comedians are a warning signal that only brings pain!), there are some inventive elements that borrow from classic American and British alien and space travel films. The Martians found on the Moon have four arms and appear to be green in appearance in what I can only believe is a reference to the John Carter of Mars stories from Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The Great Brain of Mars is a complete non-humanoid creature with an all-seeing eye on a stalk and a big box that the brain is housed in. Like all movie monsters, he can’t resist Mexican women, and when one practically lands in his doorstep, he’s hot to trot to mate with her. Since he’s a brain in a box with an eye tentacle that oozes bubbly liquid, exactly how this mating will occur gets grosser and grosser the more you think about it. And he doesn’t care about consent, because the Great Brain is just going to hypnotize Estela to get the job done. Never fear, there is a man around to rescue her, even if he’s not much of a man.
If Conquistador de la Luna is strongest in one effect, it is in the alien costumes and design. The Sleestaks are just human enough to have recognizable emotions, but just alien enough to be menacing. The Great Brain’s entire setup is impressive, and calls back to the fun era of 1950s science fiction drive-in films with it’s creatively weird design straight out of Roger Corman.
Outside of the costumes, Conquistador de la Luna has some practical effects mixed in with some visual tricks. During the rocket sequences, the effects of g-force are shown by the actors’ reflections being contorted. G-force is one of those things that space movies stopped using decades ago, but talking guinea pig movies are still using. There is also a big bag of stock footage “borrowed” from other recent rocketship films, for those of you who like to play the “Where is that from?” game. There are visual effects rocketship shots created just for the film, especially during the climactic showdown to save the planet.
If the writing and directing credits (Story by José María Fernández Unsáin, adapted by Alfredo Varela, directed by Rogelio A. González) look familiar, that’s because they are identical to fellow 1960 Mexican science fiction film La Nave de los Monstruos/Ship of Monsters. Alfredo Varela would adapt dozens of stories by José María Fernández Unsáin through the 50s and 60s. By 1970, José María Fernández Unsáin had moved on to adapting his own scripts and even directing some of them. Alfredo Varela both wrote and acted through the 50s to the 70s.
Peligro…! Mujeres en Acción
aka Danger! Women in Action
Written and directed by René Cardona Jr.
If you heartily missed the action of Alex Dinamo, agent of Servicio International, after his last adventure discovering the Bikini Conspiracy, then you are not alone. Alex Dinamo returns because of that ever-present danger, women doing things! Peligro…! Mujeres en Acción(Danger! Women in Action) was made a year after SOS Conspiración Bikini, and has the return of Julio Alemán as Alex Dinamo and René Cardona Jr. as writer/director. By now the Alex Dinamo franchise has grown to the point where there were comic books, and spy films in the mold of James Bond were hot hot hot. So it’s not a big surprise when Peligro… was eyed as an international production, even going so far as probably producing an English language dub. If that version was released is a mystery, but as the opening credits sport overlapping credits in Spanish and English, it was at least partially completed.
Peligro…! Mujeres en Acción sees the return of the mysterious international force known as S.O.S.(Secret Organizational Service), who plan to poison the water supplies of Ecuador and other Latin American countries in a bid to openly take over. S.O.S. is presented as a large conglomerate movement that actively controls the governments of many third world nations, but whatever their larger goal other than world takeover just for the thrill of taking over is never explained. Nor is any overlying S.O.S. ideology, so it is a mystery why it attracts so many people, especially a high proportion of women. Like S.O.S., the sequel is largely female-centric, despite being stuck in a male super hero spy world. The leadership of S.O.S. is almost exclusively women, Dinamo’s partner and contact are both women, and other women are instrumental in helping Dinamo take down S.O.S. It’s almost a consolation prize, Cardona knowingly packing the cast with women to try to counter Dinamo’s sexist ride through life, as well as taking advantage of all the eye candy to pack in male audiences.
This being an Alex Dinamo film, the following things return, thus making them official Alex Dinamo tropes: Weird ways of passing notes by secret agencies, this time via cigarettes. Random gadgets such as a cigarette voice recorder and a hairpin gun. A female contact who dies halfway through the film, and a female main partner for Alex. Lots of random S.O.S. agents who all die in a hail of gunfire during a long long action climax.
Peligro… falls short in that it is too long (ha!), and not because it’s packed with lots of action. We see every second of things that happen. From people walking and walking to their planes/boats, to starting the planes/boats, to the planes taking off and boats unmooring, not a frame goes to waste on the cutting room floor. Hey, I understand, editing is expensive. But that makes the film clock in to close to two hours, while only having 90 minutes of film.
The major difference is the action sequences are very long and much more brutal, which is better than the prior and I like the change. The violence isn’t innocent, Alex Dinamo and his companions are not immune to bullets and get injured in almost every fight. There is a cool knife fight that is the best scene in either Dinamo film combines. It’s not enough to propel this sequel to awesomeness, but it was enough to keep me interested. You don’t need to see the original to follow along, so if you see one Alex Dinamo film, this is the one you should get.
Sonia Furió is replaced by Elizabeth Campbell as the new head of S.O.S. Bárbara Angely plays an agent named Bárbara, who spends a large amount of time in a bikini like all government agents do. Amedee Chabot (Agente 00 Sexy ) pops up as a bikini-wearing girl with a gun. Other women who have bit parts as S.O.S. Agents include Nadia Milton, Elsa Cárdenas, Ellen Cole, and Arturo Correa.
Although the film appears to be filmed at least partially in Ecuador, information has made it out that it was largely Florida and Mexico City that were where the film was actually shot. Production and union problems plagued the film, necessitating the cutting of shooting location. It sounds like they just flat ran out of money and had to make due with what they could scrape together. Not a wholly unusual story, and it’s good to know these things when judging the final product to see how they compensated.
S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini
aka S.O.S. Bikini Conspiracy
Written and directed by René Cardona Jr.
The best conspiracies don’t involve the government teaming up with aliens to stick things in your butt, but instead involve lots of women in bikinis. Mexico was hip to this fact long before the rest of the world, thus the 1967 cinematic entry S.O.S. Conspiración Bikini. Not only is there a dastardly conspiracy that requires lots of women to wander around in bikinis, but this film is the first appearance of a Mexican answer to James Bond, Alex Dinamo. The Alex Dinamo character would find footing in a comic book series and a sequel film released soon after (with an eye for international release), Peligro!…Mujeres en Acción (Danger! Women in Action). From what I can gather, that was the last appearance of Alex Dinamo onscreen, and he disappeared into the ether after the cancellation of his comic series at date unknown (aka I couldn’t find it), though there was a lucha wrestler named Abismo Negro who used the name Alex Dinamo for a time.
Most Alex Dinamo information online concerns the two film productions. Both S.O.S. Conspiración Bikini and Peligro!…Mujeres en Acción are Ecuadorian coproductions, directed by Mexican genre director extraordinaire, René Cardona Jr. The S.O.S. in the title is not a call for help because of bikini conspiracy complications, but is the name of the villainous organization, S.O.S. (Secret Organizational Service). Perhaps that was a threatening name in 1967, now it just sounds like a college club that needs an excuse to get drunk.
As you may have guessed, the main attraction of S.O.S. Conspiración Bikini is the bikini clad babes (featuring Peter Pan swimwear designed by Oleg Cassini), who are usually carrying weapons of deadly force. The S.O.S. is a global organization, but has a large number of women in prominent roles. This is juxtaposed by the raw masculinity of Alex Dinamo and his heroic organization, where both Alex and his boss Inspector spend much of their down time (and up time!) chasing after tail. One of the only heroic women spends much of the film annoyed that Alex Dinamo isn’t spending 100% of his attention on her tail, but not so annoyed that she drops the creep. The other becomes someone for Alex Dinamo to rescue, except for the point where he doesn’t and she dies.
As one of them newfangled spy movies, there is lots of gadgets and things going on. Guns are built into cameras, makeup containers, even high healed shoes. People speak in code and use matchbooks for symbols. At other times, characters openly state they are working for organizations and are about as covert as a bull in a china shop. The opening sequence with a fisherman taking photos leads to a ridiculously complicated method of sending intelligence information around the globe coded in microfilm disguised as a period at the end of typewritten sentence that was a coded message for arms dealers trade routes. This first encounter with S.O.S. takes place 12 years before the film proper, and there is no evidence the heroes even know they are dealing with a super secret conspiracy organization.
In addition, Isela Vega appears as one of the SOS women who is somewhat sympathetic to Dinamo. Liza Castro is also credited, but I’m not sure who she plays. She appears in the sequel in an expanded role.