Secret Service with a Smile

MASTER STROKE, AKA COLPO MAESTRO AL SERVIZIO DI SUA MAESTA’ BRITANNICA (1967 and whew!) is a genre-smashing romp from new Shadowplay fave Michele Lupo. It starts as a spaghetti western, but immediately it turns out that we’re on a film set, then one of the actors, Richard Harrison, is recruited by a crime gang to impersonate his double, another Richard Harrison, as part of a diamond heist. But then it turns out that this is in itself a ruse, and Harrison has now been recruited by the British secret service. And there are more twists ahead.

There’s a fiendishly catchy theme tune by Francesco de Masi, and some novelty in the film’s conflation of crime/undercover genres with spying. Brief spells in Spain and Paris are just a prelude to an 80% London-set caper (Lupo filmed in Britain A LOT!)

It could have used better jokes — English dialogue is by the co-author of DON’T WORRY, WE’LL THINK OF A TITLE. I think the translation from the Italian is fairly literal. Harrison’s dialogue doesn’t always even seem to relate to what the Italian and Spanish actors are saying to him, via their dubbed lines, which I suppose is one of the dangers if you’re going to do this kind of thing, and I’m not suggesting you should. There is some amusement to be had from Harrison’s impersonation of an Englishman, which mainly involves talking in a very high-pitched voice.

Lupo, of course, has fun with his trademark crotch-shot low angles, crash zooms, rack focuses and eye-popping extreme close-ups. His style is all decoration and there’s little of substance, but I do find his pop-art ADHD approach endearing.

Consider yourselves earwormed.

MASTER STROKE stars Bob Fleming; Emilio Largo; Marie-Christine Lemercier; Liberius; Brother Smith & Wesson; and Anthropophagus.

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