Friday, February 12, 2016
OSS 117: Mission For A Killer
Frederick Stafford, who went over like wet spaghetti in his big break, the 1969 Alfred Hitchcock thriller TOPAZ, made his film debut as French agent OSS 117. OSS 117: MISSION FOR A KILLER, the fourth in the series, based on the character created by author Jean Bruce, and the third directed by Andre Hunebelle, MISSION FOR A KILLER is clearly inspired by the 007 pictures and offers gorgeous women, gorgeous scenery (shot in Brazil), slightly science fiction plotting, inspired action sequences, and Stafford in suave form.
Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath (Stafford) goes undercover as a journalist named Hubert Delacroix—a guise that literally lasts about three seconds before he’s ambushed leaving the Rio de Janeiro airport. Bond could never keep from blowing his cover either. OSS 117’s mission is to find the origin of a mind-control drug that is causing innocent people to carry out political assassinations, but Hunebelle is in no hurry to get there. The story meanders along, doling out an action scene here and a bit of plot exposition there. The mad villain doesn’t even appear until the damn film is more than half over.
Even though the plot is simple, it doesn’t mean the film is poorly paced. Hunebelle always knows where to point the camera. Of course, when shooting in Rio and the surrounding jungles, it isn’t difficult to find a visually appealing shot. MISSION FOR A KILLER is always interesting, and a major reason is Stafford, who is handsome, athletic, equally proficient with a quip or a karate chop. Stafford returned for the next OSS 117 picture, but didn’t stay a movie star for long. He died in a 1979 plane crash.
Surprisingly, Stafford had never acted before. Hunebelle discovered him after previous OSS 117 Kerwin Mathews declined to reprise his role in MISSION FOR A KILLER. He’s certainly believable and makes a smashing romantic team with the darling Mylene Demongeot (FANTOMAS), who performs well in a “Bond girl” role that’s more than decorative. Armed with a generous budget—one large enough to buy lavish sets, stunts, extras, and locations—Hunebelle and Stafford created one of the best European spy flicks of the 1960s.