That's right, Sean Connery has a younger brother, Neil, who is a top plastic surgeon, hypnotist, world class archer and martial arts expert. Well, actually he was a builder, but in the context of this legendary Eurospy movie. we have to accept the former account of his activities. The film's US title, Operation Kid Brother
, sums up this Bond knock-off's unique approach to trying to cash in on the sixties Bond-craze. Released in 1967, the same year as what was supposed to be Sean Connery's last Bond outing, You Only Live Twice
, this Italian production posits the idea that, when top British spies are unavailable, intelligence chiefs instead turn to their multi-talented younger brothers. Which actually results in a slightly confusing scenario: Neil Connery plays Dr Neil Connery, whose older brother is the UK's top secret agent. Which implies, of course, that Sean Connery, rather than James Bond is our top man. All very post-modern. Anyway, getting back to the film itself, it tries to be as close to being a Bond movie in terms of scenario, plot, style and even cast, as it is possible to get without infringing Eon Productions' copyright.
Featuring not only Sean Connery's brother, but also Bernard Lee, (definitely not
playing M, instead he's British intelligence chief Commander Cunningham), Lois Maxwell, (playing Cunningham's assistant, who isn't
Miss Moneypenny, she's actually called Miss Maxwell), Adolfo Celi, (he might be the main villain and Number Two, sorry, Beta, in an evil criminal organisation, but he isn't Emile Largo from Thunderball
), Anthony Dawson, (Alpha in the criminal organisation, who is in no way like Blofeld, whose hands he had provided in From Russia With Love
), and Daniela Bianchi, (who might be Connery's love interest, but definitely isn't Tatiana in From Russia With Love
). The aforementioned secret organisation - THANATOS - is most definitely not SPECTRE, even though its aims seem to be similar and it holds regular meetings of its top operatives where the price of failure is summary execution. Whilst often described as a spoof of the Bond series, OK Connery
comes over more as a loving homage, replicating the formula faithfully.
Whilst this is one of those films that smart arses like to watch 'ironically' and mock for its entirely derivative nature, having finally seen it myself, (thanks to Google's slack enforcement of other people's copyright on You Tube), I have to say that it is actually a pretty entertaining and engaging piece of film-making in its own right. Sure, it's a deliberate and blatant cash in on the Bond series, but unlike most other Eurospy-type knock offs, OK Connery
seems to have actually had a budget - whilst not quite as globe-trotting as a genuine Bond movie, it does boast location shooting in Monaco, Spain and Morocco, (I suspect the 'Swiss' locations are actually in Spain). The production values are easily on a par with some of the earlier Bonds, with imaginative art direction and Beta's all female-crewed yacht being particularly impressive. The action sequences are well staged and most of the performances are above average for this sort of film. It also boasts a magnificent score by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai - including a theme song blasted out in Shirley Bassey mode by 'Krista'.
In some respects, I'd argue, it actually improves upon the usual Bond formula. Lee and Maxwell's characters, for instance, are far more involved in the action than the equivalent characters they played in the official Bond series. The film also adds an interesting twist to the proceedings with a power struggle within THANATOS, as Beta plots to usurp Alpha, planning to replace him with a compliant double, which he tries to force plastic surgeon Connery to create from one of his henchmen. Which isn't to say that the film doesn't have its problems - Beta's underground lab at the end is a bit disappointing and the villains' plot is barely comprehensible, (I still don't know what an 'atomic nucleus' is or why it would be transported across Spain in an ordinary army truck, or, indeed, why it was vital to Beta's scheme), and at some points, rather like some genuine Bond films, you have to keep reminding yourself as to where Connery is now and what he's doing there, as it isn't always obvious. Moreover, Connery's hypnotic powers are used by the writers as a lazy plot device to conveniently get him out of tricky situations a bit too often, (he only has to look at someone in a particular way to mesmerise them and bend them to his will). Of course, that could simply be parodying the way 007's gadgets (something absent from this film), are used in a similar way. Likewise the hypnotic powers could be an attempt to spoof Bond's habit of bedding every woman he meets with no effort whatsoever, (it is notable that in OK Connery
the hero doesn't
actually bed any of the women).
It all builds to a satisfying conclusion involving the Scottish archery team, (of which Connery is a key member), turning up at Beta's castle lair to help our hero take on Beta and his THANATOs thugs in a climactic battle in some caves. Actually, I have to be a bit pedantic here. The reason the archers are vital is because the THANATOS secret weapon uses some kind of electromagnetic field to render all machinery inoperative, including firearms!
Which ignores the fact that firearms don't rely on any kind of electromagnetic energy themselves to operate - things like revolvers and bolt-action rifles rely on the muscular power of the user to operate their mechanisms, whilst automatic weapons simply use the exhaust gases from the round they've just fired. Sorry, I can't help it - I happen to know about firearms and this is a major plot hole! Not that genuine Bond films aren't susceptible to such scientific inaccuracies. Still, that aside, OK Connery
is, if taken at face value, a highly entertaining piece of pop culture ephemera. Sure, as an actor Neil Connery made a great plasterer - his cause not helped by being dubbed with an American accent despite people constantly referring to him as being Scottish, but he looks good in the part and, to be brutally honest, it's probably a better film than many of those camp mid-period Bonds they put out in the seventies. Its certainly more entertaining than Man With The Golden Gun
and more credible than Moonraker
Labels: Forgotten Films