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Published by David Carter on 2016/6/19 (286 reads)
Directed by Linsday Shonteff/Jess Franco
Review by David Carter

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Released by Blue Underground
Running Time: 79 minutes/94 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 1.0 Mono English/English Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1/1.66:1 Widescreen
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Interviews with Jess Franco, Harry Alan Towers and Shirley Eaton, still galleries
Trailer Online: Yes

The film industry is prone to obsessive behavior. Entire decades are dominated by certain genres and themes, as each film studio and filmmaker wants to put their individual stamp on the prevailing idea of the moment. Thatís actually just a less-cynical way of pointing out that if a specific genre proves to be a money-maker, Hollywood will churn out hundreds more like it. Just as todayís screens are filled with comic book superheroes, screens in the sixties were home to dozens of dashing spies all dedicated to stopping the latest villain with eyes on world domination. Even a cursory glance at spy films will reveal a genre far more vast and exciting than the rather stuffy and lifeless James Bond films would lead you to believe existed. Two such examples, THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU and THE GIRL FROM RIO, are now available on Blu Ray from Blue Underground.

THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU introduces us to the titular villainess and her army of scantily-clad but deadly female warriors. Sumuru runs a terrorist organization/cult of women dedicated to eliminating male rulers to pave the way for a world controlled by females. Standing (reluctantly) in her way are Agents Nick West and Tommy Carter, American agents conscripted by the British government to protect eccentric warlord Boong (Klaus Kinski). The womanizing Boong is Sumuruís latest target and she beats West to the punch by kidnapping the agent before he can reach Boong and forcing him to double-cross his British handlers. West must walk a tightrope between saving the world and his own neck, all while avoiding the considerable charms of Sumuru and her bevy of beauties.

The effortlessly entertaining MILLION EYES is a fourth-wall breaking spy parody from Lindsay Shonteff, no stranger to that milieu. George Nader and Frankie Avalon are excellent as the beleaguered spies who would rather get on with their vacation than save the world and are paired well against the vampish Shirley Eaton. Kinskiís involvement in the film is brief but highly enjoyable, as everyone in the cast gleefully chews on scenery at any given opportunity. Extremely fun and definitely recommended to fans of the swinginí sixties.

Sumuru returned in different hands in THE GIRL FROM RIO. Those hands belonged to Jess Franco, who puts his own unique take on the idea of a cult striving for a female-lead world. Sumuruís plot this time involves an on-the-run secret agent holding ten million dollars in stolen money. Mob boss Masius wants to get his hands on the money and also on the riches of Sumuruís compound ďFemina.Ē The three-way struggle for power threatens to tear Brazil apart as the battle for control escalates into an all-out war.

RIO is one of a handful of films Franco shot in South America and this film features some of the most outstanding cinematography of those. When given a sufficient budget, Franco was nothing short of genius with a camera and RIO showcases him at his best. This uncut version of the film sees Franco both adhering to the style established by MILLION EYES while also taking that plot to the delirious excesses for which he is known. Whippings and lesbianism Ė only implied in MILLION EYES Ė are shown in their entirety, as RIO takes a more serious approach to the material but one that most viewers will find equally enjoyable.

Blue Undergroundís Blu Ray double-feature is excellently put together, showcasing beautiful prints of each film. Interviews with Shirley Eaton and Jess Franco appear as bonus features, but the prints of these hard-to-find films will doubtlessly be enticement enough for most film fans. Sumuru was created by Sax Rohmer as a female version of his Fu Manchu and the character is one of the forgotten great pulp villains. These two films offer strikingly different takes on the material, but both offer ample entertainment and display well the breadth of the underappreciated non-Bond spy genre.
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