DVD Review: OSS 117 se déchaîne (1963)
The first proper entry in the OSS 117 film cycle, OSS 117 se déchaîne, is also one of the best. Made in 1963, it’s one of the earliest European attempts to jump on the Bondwagon, and director Andre Hunebelle manages to nail the action/spy formula even before Saltzman and Broccoli themselves got it down pat the following year with Goldfinger! Of course, Hunebelle had a bit of a head start, in that (despite the film series’ blatant debt to the Bond movies) he was drawing from a series of books by the prolific author Jean Bruce featuring CIA agent Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath (his grandfather was French) which actually predated Ian Fleming’s Bond novels.
Sinbad garb for spywear, makes a surprisingly credible secret agent and comes much closer to Sean Connery’s charm and charisma than many of his Eurospy colleagues. Buxom brunette Irina Demick and (especially!) blond Nadia Sanders contribute all the sex appeal one could hope for from a Sixties spy flick worth its salt in a film that embraces the frank new sexual attitudes of its era and even goes a step beyond Bond by not only trading on sex, but actually talking about it, too–and not just in double entendres designed to soar above the kiddies’ heads. When OSS 117 meets the lovely Brigitta (Sanders), who shares a boat with a man he wants to question, he gets right down to brass tacks:
Klebb: You have had three lovers.
Tatiana: What is the purpose of such an intimate question?
Klebb: You are not here to ask questions! You forget to whom you are speaking.
Tatiana (smiling): I was in love...
Klebb: And if you were not in love?
Tatiana: I suppose that would depend... on the man.
It wasn’t just sex in which OSS 117 managed to get the drop on 007. The French series also beat Bond in taking screen spies beneath the seas. Although Fleming had forever forged the connection between spies and scuba diving in his second novel, Live and Let Die (and solidified that identification with the epic underwater confrontation in his 1961 novel Thunderball, concocted in conjunction with screenwriters Jack Wittingham and Kevin McClory), Bond himself wouldn’t don his first onscreen wetsuit until Goldfinger (capped by a stuffed seagull), or indulge in any sort of underwater action on the scale of OSS 117 se déchaîne until 1965's Thunderball, when the scale would far exceed anything shown here.
Kommissar X-style. She resists at first, but of course she comes around to liking it.
France and is supposedly coming out soon in Germany. I watched the Gaumont French release, part of their wonderful five-film OSS 117 box set. As with all the movies in that collection, OSS 117 se déchaîne comes loaded with its fair share of extras (all in French, unfortunately without subtitles). Each movie features a “pre-show” viewing option, compiling little newsreel bits (mostly) relevant to spying. The “1963" edition offers one segment about spy gadgets, one about a ski resort, and another about a lingerie runway show.
OSS 117 se déchaîne is a fantastic disc.
Read my introduction to the character of OSS 117 here.
Read my review of Banco à Bangkok pour OSS 117 (aka Panic in Bangkok aka Shadow of Evil) here.
Read my review of Furia à Bahia pour OSS 117 (Fury in Brazil, aka OSS 117: Mission For a Killer) here.
Read my review of Atout coeur à Tokyo pour O.S.S. 117 (aka OSS 117: Terror in Tokyo) here.
Read my review of Pas de Roses pour OSS 117 (aka OSS 117: Murder For Sale) here.
Read my review OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d'espions (OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies) here.
Read my review of OSS 117: Rio ne répond plus (OSS 117: Rio Doesn't Answer, aka OSS 117: Lost in Rio) here.