Aug 16, 2011


DVD Review: Spies A-Go-Go aka The Nasty Rabbit (1964)

There are some spy movies even I can’t sit through. Not many, I’ll grant, but some. And this is one of them.  It doesn’t sound too bad on paper: a rock’n’roll teen spy movie from the height of the Sixties spy craze and the Sixties teen rock’n’roll craze co-starring Richard Kiel and shot by the great, Oscar-winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (credited here as “William Zsigmond”).  In fact, that sounds like something that should be right up my alley. Horrible as they are, I’ve got a soft spot for some of those beach movies from the era, and there are very few Sixties spy movies I can’t find some merit in. And Richard Kiel’s always worth the price of admission even in dreck like War of the Wizards.  Even the premise sounds sort of promising, in the right hands, for the right mood, perhaps with the right substances. A Russian general on a “secret sub” (they say the words “secret sub” an awful lot) orders a disgusting spy to take a talking rabbit ashore in America and use it to release a deadly plague. Sounds like a decent enough setup for a parody called Spies A-Go-Go, right? Well, it’s not, so don’t bother to track this one down. 
No, they couldn't afford proper titles. The title is written on a sign.

And the cast names are written on cut-out rabbits.

Eat your heart out, Maurice Binder!
If you were to try to suss out a plot from the very little that takes so long to go on here, it would be that there are a bunch of spies (a midget, an aged woman who, judging from her long cigarette holder, is apparently supposed to be a va-va-voom sexpot, a Japanese guy, a Mexican, a bunch of overweight hicks in overalls and flannels and self-proclaimed teen idol Arch Hall, Jr. as a rock star FBI agent*) wandering around the must unappealing scrubland you can imagine looking for that plague-ridden rabbit. You’d think that since a submarine set the rabbit ashore, and since the movie is apparently targeted at the teen beach movie crowd, there might be some beaches. Nope. The rabbit got put ashore on barren California scrubland that not even Vilmos Zsigmond can make look remotely appealing.  (And this is the guy who shot Close Encounters of the Third Kind!)  Then again, even if you caught the landscape just right at Golden Hour, nobody could make these “actors” look good. Richard Kiel aside (that’s right; I said Richard Kiel aside!), they are seriously the most unappealing gaggle of humanity ever assembled in the 1960s, when most people in movies generally tended to be attractive. Despite Arch Hall Jr.’s clear desperation for the title, that makes Richard Kiel the stud of the bunch by default. He plays a cowboy as tangential to the alleged “plot” as anyone else onscreen, and even spends some of his time in the company of a midget. That’s a pretty classic gag (repeated decades later when the cartoon show James Bond Jr. perpetually paired Jaws with Nick Nack), and it alone should make for a watchable movie… but it does not. 

Also, the rabbit talks. But not in a mouth-moving, Cats & Dogs sort of way. Just in a zoom-in-for-a-close-up-and-a-shrill-actor’s-voice-recites-a-joke-older-than-vaudeville sort of way. After sitting through as much of it as she could stand, my girlfriend declared, “I hate that rabbit—and he’s the most appealing character!” With those words of wisdom, she left. And the Russian general, meanwhile, sits on his secret sub and eats lots of chicken and gets it all over his face, which is as gross as everything else onscreen. “How can what you’re describing equal an entire movie?” you might be asking yourself. “What else happens?” Well, because I can’t possibly describe it, I’ll show you:

Yes, it's what it looks like.

I apologize for subjecting your eyes to all this...

...but now you don't need to see the movie for yourself.
There. Now you know as much as I do. What plot can those ugly, ugly pictures possibly add up to? Whatever you guess is right, because the movie itself doesn’t spell it out any better. The term “worst movie ever made” gets thrown around an awful lot, and usually pinned on so-bad-they’re-good sorts of films, like Plan 9 From Outer Space or Robot Monster, which isn’t really fair. Because if you can sit through them (and those ones are fun to sit through), then obviously they’re not candidates for the worst movie ever made.  Spies A-Go-Go, however, is such a candidate. I defy anyone to sit through its nine-hour entirety. (Or maybe it’s only an hour and a half, but it amounts to the same thing.) I’m not saying it’s the worst movie ever made (1. Because it’s too bland as to earn any superlative, and 2. Because there’s actually been a lot of this sort of no-budget crap produced over the years), but it’s a clear candidate for the heap. Don’t see it. Don’t. Even though I said it had Richard Kiel paired with a midget, don’t see it. You won’t like it.

Spies A-Go-Go, amazingly (especially considering all the great spy movies that aren't available), is available on DVD. It’s part of a double feature disc presented by Johnny Legend, along with a movie called Prehistoric Women (not the Hammer Prehistoric Women) that neither lives up to its title nor its genre. Don’t buy it. Don’t seek it out. And if you do (which you really, really shouldn’t, no matter how determined you might be to see every Sixties spy movie)… don’t say I didn’t warn you.

*And I don’t mean “rock star FBI agent” in the modern sense, as in that he’s the best at what he does. I mean that he’s a rock star and an FBI agent. But you knew that.


David said...

Thanks for that Matt. I appreciate the pain and suffering that you are prepared to go through for us loyal readers.

I had been circling this and 'The Fat Spy'. I have been warned about both of them - but being a 60's spy film completist, I thought how bad could they be?

But I will heed your warning.

Tanner said...

Your very welcome, David! I'm happy to know I've saved at least one soul from enduring this mess.

But tell you what... Since I took this bullet, I'd be more than happy to let you check out The Fat Spy, and then I'll abide by whatever verdict you give it!

Unknown said...

Does anyone know if this is an actual "Spies A-go-go" print or the usual video subtitled "The
Nasty Rabbit"?

Tanner said...

This one has the "Spies-A-Go-Go" title on screen. You can see a screen cap above. It's not a bad print! Just a very bad movie.