Sep 20, 2008

DVD Review: Mad Mission 3: Our Man From Bond Street (1984)

DVD Review: Mad Mission 3: Our Man From Bond Street (1984)

In this 1984 entry in the goofy celebration of stunts and effects–Hong Kong style–known as the Mad Mission series (or the Aces Go Places series depending on your geography), director Tsui Hark turns his attention full-on to one of the obvious influences on the series: the James Bond films. As the movie begins, our hero is in Paris (we don’t know why) when a beautiful woman in Geordi La Forge glasses suddenly tries to kill him with a missile. He chases her up the Eiffel Tower, where he encounters Jaws and Oddjob. (As you do.) They all fight, then Oddjob leaps off with a parachute. Jaws tosses his parachute off the tower, and for some reason the hero (whose name is Sam) jumps after it, grabs ahold, and fights Oddjob while they’re dropping. But why did he have to jump after the parachute? He wasn’t falling from a plane like Bond when he fought Jaws in freefall; he was standing on solid footing! Oh well. If you’re the sort of person who constantly asks those kinds of questions, then the Mad Mission movies aren’t for you. Surprisingly, all this Eiffel Tower action happens a year before 007 himself does it in A View To A Kill!

Sam’s escape from Oddjob takes him under the Seine, where he’s immediately devoured by a giant submarine with a SPECTRE space capsule-style mouth adorned with pointy shark teeth. Inside the cavernous shark submarine, he meets someone who claims to be James Bond while carefully avoiding any copyrighted phrases. Fake James Bond is played by a Sean Connery impersonator who perpetually wears a white dinner jacket and actually looks a little bit like Never Say Never Again-era Connery in certain light. Sometimes. He’s aided by the Oddjob lookalike we already met (who really likes to laugh and goes the real Oddjob one better by having a metal arm in addition to a deadly derby) and the Jaws lookalike, who’s named "Big G" and who’s actually played by the real Richard Kiel. Rounding out Fake Bond’s motley crew is the beautiful seductress/assassin who fired the initial missile at Sam, Jade East, and a woman who appears to be Queen Elizabeth II. Yep, it’s that kind of movie, and this scene really has to be seen to be believed. Fake Bond introduces himself with a very clever "fake arm" gag, and the "Queen" appears to emerge from a painting. All inside a giant mechanical shark, you’ll recall, with Jaws and Oddjob looking on. It’s an Avengers level of delightful spy surrealism.

For those just joining the series, or even those who have forgotten what’s gone before (it’s easy to do), we learn at this point that Sam is a famous jewel thief. "Bond" and "the Queen" convince him to steal the crown jewels for them, claiming they’ve already been stolen and his job is to get them back. The jewels are on display in Sam’s home city of Hong Kong. Sam thinks he’s doing this for James Bond and the Queen of England, so how can he turn them down? What we learn soon enough, however, is that Fake Bond is really a notorious international thief only posing as 007–and that the so-called Queen is really a notorious Queen impersonator! (Sam doesn’t realize any of this, though.)

There are so many spy movies with dull Bond-clones in the lead that it’s a very refreshing take to cast the Bond clone as a villain. And I just love the fact that a measly thief travels the world in a giant shark submarine with a Queen impersonator. I know I’m repeating myself, but this is stuff that bears repeating!

Peter Graves, meanwhile, plays the real "man from Bond Street," specifically from "Bond Street Exports," whose telephone exchange ends in "007." Fake Bond may have avoided potentially litigious terms, but in this case, "Bond Street" and "007" are mentioned again and again by the telephone operator connecting Graves. Other than hitting us over the head with the number "007," the whole phone call is rather superfluous, given that Graves receives his orders via exploding tape recorder, as he once did on Mission: Impossible. (And would again, for that matter, a few years later on the 80s revival of his signature series.) Unfortunately for him, though, the five second self-destruct delay doesn’t give him much time to escape the rickshaw he’s riding in, and the dead-serious Mr. Phelps (ah, that is, "Tom Collins") ends up the butt of a predictable physical gag. He then sits out the bulk of the movie until the finale. Presumably, the film’s producers could only scrounge up enough Hong Kong dollars to lure Peter Graves for a few days’ shooting at most.

Upon his return to Hong Kong, Sam quickly meets up with his old partners, police people Kodyjack and his wife Nancy. Sam and Jade East concoct an elaborate scheme to use Kodyjack as his alibi while Sam swipes the first of the jewels. Like many of the best moments in this movie, it involves fake arms, as well as Jade East’s seductive skills. While much of the humor falls flat to my modern, Western tastes (whether it's because its Hong Kong humor, because it’s dated 80s humor, or because it was never really that funny to begin with I cannot say), this alibi trick does lead to one of the movie’s genuinely hilarious scenes. Thinking he’s caught onto Sam’s trick, Kodyjack questions his old friend with the aid of a lie detector. Nancy operates the machine, and Sam carefully calculates all of his responses to incriminate Kodyjack ("You were too busy with that beautiful woman!") in front of his wife until she storms out, ending the potentially dangerous interview.

The bulk of the movie consists of a number of unnecessarily elaborate heists (utilising a lot of very early CGI) and lots of cool stunts, governed for the most part not by the laws of physics but by the laws of extreme silliness. We get personal jets (watch for the wires), car chases, dirt bikes ridden by Santa Clauses (yes, that's a plural), and dune buggies aplenty manned by leather-clad punks. Let’s discuss that phenomenon for a moment. It’s easy to underestimate the perplexing amount of influence Mad Max had on a generation of filmmakers. For some reason, though, no 80s action movie could resist leather-clad punks riding motorcycles and dune buggies and wielding medieval weapons, even if they’re totally out of place—which they always are, of course. Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street falls into the leather punk trap as easily as so many of its contemporaries.

Eventually, Sam realizes he’s been duped thanks to Peter Graves, and he begins collaborating with Nancy and Kodyjack against Fake Bond. Fake Bond arranges to sell the crown jewels Sam stole for him to a wealthy Arab sheik who’s already tried to purchase the Statue of Liberty. The exchange it to take place on the sheik’s yacht. Graves leads a team of helicopters to intercept the exchange, though, and uses powerful magnets to lift the Sheik’s yacht out of the water. A British submarine then surfaces, flips over and reveals itself to be a duplicate yacht on the other side! This fake yacht replaces the real one. All this leads to a couple of finales, an imperiled baby, and a final showdown with Fake Bond. They also manage to work in one final celebrity impersonator: Ronald Reagan. (Unlike the others, I think he’s supposed to be the real Reagan.) Yes, I realize that my summary doesn’t make a lick of sense, but neither does the movie. And that doesn’t matter one iota. The Mad Mission movies aren’t about sense-making; they’re about the crazy stunts, which I can’t really do justice to in mere words. If you have a soft spot for inanity and the bizarre, and if there’s even a part of you that smiles at over-the-top Hong Kong action, I promise you’ll get a kick out of Mad Mission III: Our Man From Bond Street. It’s surprisingly one of the only Bond parodies of its era, and one of the more enjoyable entries in that subgenre.


Delmo said...

Where do you find this stuff?

Fred said...

It's not the strongest part of the Aces Goes Places-series, that's part 4 :) But it's still quite fun and never boring. I prefer the Hong Kong-cut of the movie though.

Jack Yan said...

Very fascinating to read about and see some of the scenes which are missing from the Chinese version (e.g. Hong Kong moviegoers never saw a Mission: Impossible-style briefing). There always seem to be two versions: one with footage that the other lacks, so that the plot makes even less sense, regardless of whether you are a HK local or someone putting up with bad dubbing. One of these days, someone should put the lot together.