Kevin Collette, a French James Bond specialist and movie critic (who also reads this blog), passes on the following:
Back at the height of the James Bond mania of the ’60s, each and every civilized country of the world started producing 007 clones like crazy. The Italians had 077, James Tont, and the infamous (Operation ) Kid Brother with Neil Connery. The French proudly displayed the adventures of Hubert Bonnisseur de la Bath, code named …OSS 117.
The series lasted a few films (with various actors playing the part including John Gavin and Kerwin Matthews). As with all other imitators, finally the series disappeared in the early 70′s .
Two years ago a mad French director-screenwriter named Michel Hazanaviciius decided it was time to ressurect OSS 117, perhaps as a healthy reaction to the so-serious Casino Royale and Bourne productions of the times.
The first new movie, titled OSS 117, Cairo Nest of Spies became a cult hit, much to the surprise of its creators.
Although set in 1955 , the nod towards the Sean Connery 007 era were more than obvious , with a quasi french clone of a young Connery hired to play the part of our Hero.
Jean Dujardin mimicked so well some attitude and poses of the great Scot actor ,that even the non Bond fan couldn’t help noticing the link.
In fact , France had at last invented her own Maxwell Smart or Austin Powers.
Fast forward to 2009. A new OSS 117 adventure reached the French and European cinemas last April. With that great cheesy title OSS 117 : Rio Doesn’t Answer Anymore!
This time, Gaumont, the producer and distributor, took no chance. A mamoth OSS 117 campaign engulfed France. Teaser posters (conceived in a very You Only Live Twice type way ) were visible everywhere , clips from the upcoming movies shown on TV , a website designed, etc.
Jettisoning all logic , this new adventure is now set in 1967 while OSS hasn’t aged a bit ! The French agent is sent this time to Brazil to deliver a suitcase full of money in exchange for some top-secret microfilms.
Those documents are in the hands of an exiled Nazi officer , who’s hiding (or so the French Secret Service thinks) deep in the Brazilian jungle.
Aided by a beautiful Mossad agent (shades of The Spy Who Love Me) , OSS must first track down his target. What what better place to start than at the Brazilian German Consulate?
Once again, the whole movie is indeed played for laughs and the 007 winks are even more noticeable than in the first movie. There’s even a (sort of) precredits sequence set in Gstaadt , which is truly a copycat sequence from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
But, despite this obvious cinematic love for agent 007, this time the film lacks something .
The casting is still great , the villain exquisitely mad, the girls more beautiful than ever (special mention to the Nazi ‘ Countess’ , aka the delicious Moon Dailly) and Jean Dujardin definitly IS OSS 117. But, for my money, I would have added even more references to James Bond in the story .
For instance, there’s still no trace of gadgets whatsoever –- which is truly a pity since it could produce hilarious sequences in some sort of Q labs recreation shots.
Another danger is that the character hasn’t really evolved between the two films (and two decades !) , meaning he could easily become some sort of carboard secret agent very soon , if no background story is provided to him .
And the final point I should mention is perhaps that the main character may sounds finally too French. References to French Culture abound ( the Students Riot of May 68 , President DeGaulle , etc.,etc . ) but I’m not so sure those will work abroad as good as in the Red wine and beret country.
Anyway , still a very entertaining entry in the 007 clones catalogue I’d say .
Let’s just hope the next one won’t be set in 1974 , or God forbid, 1985.
This writer wishes to thank : AS Communication (Miss Sandra Cornevaux)