3 Seconds Before Explosion
aka 爆破３秒前 aka Bakuha 3-Byo Mae
Screenplay by Hideichi Nagahara
Based on the novel by Haruhiko Oyabu
Directed by Motomu Ida (as Tan Ida)
3 Seconds Before Explosion uses the basic war treasure plot we’ve seen from flicks such as Black Tight Killers, but dials back the ridiculousness to try to become more James Bond than anything else. Yabuki (Akira Kobayashi) is the secret agent hero who fights to solve the case, which contains a bunch of kidnappings and treasure hunting in between the random action scenes.
At this point Akira Kobayashi was at the height of his popularity, having helmed multiple series for Nikkatsu, even becoming a pop star along the way. When you work through Nikkatsu’s Borderless Action films, you’ll see him just as often as Joe Shishido pops up, sometimes alongside Joe Shishido. While Shishido may have the fake cheeks that somehow made ladies swoon, with his natural good looks and bad boy charm, Kobayashi is much better suited to play a suave secret agent type that would have a numerical code name. When each actor walks into a nightclub scene and stands around smoking, Shishido looks like he’s sizing up the room to beat everyone up while Kobayashi just looks so cool he make everyone else look like rabble.
The comparison to Black Tight Killers bears repeating, because not only is there a war treasure, but people related to those involved in hiding the treasure are kidnapped. This time the villains are part of an international gang lead by a rapist German named Galen (Galen the German??), and the treasure belongs to the made up new nation of Rabaley. This switch from the treasure being ostensibly owned by Japan lowers the stakes, because nobody cares if a fake nation gets a random treasure. In fact, you might cheer for them to not get the treasure, because I hear Rabaleans are a bunch of jerks. Allegedly. Please don’t invade me, mighty Rabaley!
Black Tight Killers
aka 俺にさわると危ないぜ aka Ore ni Sawaru to Abunaize aka If You Touch Me Danger
Screenplay by Ryuzo Nakanishi and Michio Tsuzuki
Based on the novel by Michio Tsuzuki
Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe
Black Tight Killers is an essential film. In a just universe, it would be a well-known classic instead of a fairly known cult movie. It assaults the senses with a full force blast of 1960s gogo excess from the opening credits, and just puts the pedal to the metal. The awesomeness is of such force that even viewers who shy away from the 1950s and 60s Japanese action cinema will be pulled along. The film is a visual feast, with nearly every scene so full of glorified excess of ocular excitement that your eyes will be in danger of going all ADHD on you.
Black Tight Killers starts with Akira Kobayashi as dashing war photographer Daisuke Honda doing daring deeds during a pitched battle that wouldn’t look out of place in any cheap 1960s Italian war movie that was also shot on a small set. But soon he’s flying back to Japan and we’re blasted by dancing gogo girls in black tights stomping through the opening credits. The film features a gang of fighting femmes (the titular Black Tight Killers) who use their ninja skills on a quest to recover stolen treasure before the villains can. They cross paths with Daisuke Honda, whose recent girlfriend Yuriko Sawanouchi (Chieko Matsubara) is kidnapped due to her family connections to the looted treasure. While the ninja ladies are at first adversarial with Honda and were attempting to kill Yuriko, eventually they become a team to go after the real villains. Honda’s lady killer charms combined with the actual ladies who are killers using ninja seduction skills (the Octopus Pot move traps you know which part of Honda’s body inside you know where of the ninja lass!) means we have plenty of sex to go with violence and music.
Of particular note is a technicolor jazz dream sequence of Daisuke Honda’s, as we follow dream Yuriko as she’s chased through long hallways by stalking menaces while a different-hued black tight killer lady prances in every direction. She frantically bursts through the paper walls of different colored rooms, the ladies chasing her all the while. It’s a literal technicolor fever dream! In the awake world, whenever characters are driving around in vehicles, the projected background is rendered in primary colors, recalling the dream sequence but also forcing focus on the characters in the car just through blasting out any distractions.
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!
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.