Movie Review: Super Seven Calling Cairo (1965)
I recently called Countdown to Doomsday a “middle of the road” Eurospy movie and asserted that I didn’t mean “middle of the road” in a bad way. Well, in the case of Super Seven Calling Cairo, I do... kind of. Maybe Countdown to Doomsday just caught me in a better mood, but this equally generic genre entry didn’t quite do it for me. Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to like in Super Seven Calling Cairo. This middle-of-the-road Eurospy movie is nothing special, but it does manage to hit just about all the notes expected of the genre, which is always a good thing. Roger Browne (whose trademark is smoking a pipe) plays the hero here, secret agent Martin Stevens (a role he reprised the following year in The Spy Who Loved Flowers). He’s American, but he works for the British Secret Service. I’ve liked Browne quite a bit in other films like The Fantastic Argoman and Password: Kill Agent Gordon, but in Super Seven Calling Cairo suddenly I found myself a bit sick of him, to be honest.
I was also impressed by the MacGuffin in this story. As usual, it’s some sort of new metal. “Have you ever come across the word Baltonium?” asks Stevens' professor boss.
“Sounds like a brand name for cosmetics, sir.” replies his top agent glibly.
“Nothing so innocuous, I’m afraid,” the professor continues. “No, Baltonium is a new element. So new in fact that its discovery is still top secret. You see, it’s a hundred times more radioactive than Uranium. And furthermore, the metal’s properties are quite incredible. It can be handled in complete safety like an ordinary stable mineral.”
Browne furrows his brow and attempts a Conneryesque air of casual expertise. “That’s called ‘latent radioactivity,’ if I’m not mistaken,” he comments in a know-it-all voice.
“That’s right,” says his boss, duly impressed. He then goes on to explain that the missing Balatonium has been hidden inside a tourist’s movie camera, to make it a convenient MacGuffin-size and something which is easily switchable with basically identical items at crucial moments as the plot demands. Stevens is sent off to Cairo to recover the Baltonium film camera, where naturally his investigation will take him to a strip club.
“Shhh!” says Stevens. “I’m a secret agent. James Bond, you know.” They both laugh it up... and then she agrees to go out with him. Further points are earned for a swimming pool scene (which actually turns out to be the first of several), a torture sequence intercut with a bellydancing number, and still more for the awesome travelogue shots of Cairo. We’re treated to some very cool footage of a guy actually climbing the Great Pyramid of Cheops (I’m pretty sure you can’d do that anymore!), which gives a good sense of how enormous it really is. So enormous, in fact, that the film stretches credulity a bit when an assassin takes the guy out with a pistol (a silenced pistol, no less, for a shot that would require a sniper rifle!) from quite a great distance on the ground... but what’s credulity in a Eurospy movie?
Fathom! There’s still a killing at a go-kart race and a rather obvious twist to come before a rather bland final climax involving a boat and a helicopter and a “mini-bomb” that looks like a Tic-Tac, but with none of those disparate elements interacting in the ways you’d hope they would. (For a better boat-and-helicopter Eurospy finale, see... well, see almost any of them, but particularly see Secret Agent Fireball.)
There’s certainly nothing overtly bad about Superseven Calling Cairo. (In fact, under the direction of Umberto Lenzi, it's better made than many Eurospy movies.) And that might be the problem. If it were spectacularly good entertainment or spectacularly bad entertainment, then it might overcome its rigid adherence to convention and disappointing lack of weirdness. But as it is, it’s an utterly unremarkable entry in the Eurospy cannon. It's still certainly worth a watch for die-hard devotees of the genre, but probably not worth the difficulty of tracking down for the more casual fan. That said, there’s a quality widescreen DVD available in Germany which sadly lacks an English language track or subtitles, but which served as the basis for an excellent fan-made dub (ie, combining the best available disparate audio and video elements to make a watchable English language version) by a dedicated and talented fan known as Skadog. This is the version under review.