Saturday, October 16, 2010

S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini (Mexico, 1967)

It says a lot about Mexican spy films from the 60s that S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini is one of the more sober examples. In the case of most such films, the makers might as well have just made a movie featuring a guy in a sharp suit go-go dancing with a bunch of bikini girls on the roof of a Ferrari for ninety minutes. I mean, it’s not like anyone was demanding that any of them actually have a plot, right? Pero no, says S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini, and goes on to deliver what, to my trained eye, appears very much to be an actual story, complete with characters and a series of causally related events and stuff like that.

Though, not being fluent in Spanish, I couldn’t tell you what exactly that story was. Nor can I even tell you for sure what the conspiracy at that story’s center was. It did indeed, however, involve a bikini fashion show taking place at a resort hotel in Ecuador, so it was probably some kind of nefarious, cameltoe based scheme, or perhaps a plan to start some kind of worldwide wedgie pandemic. The bikini models, you see, are enemy agents. And if you’re looking for some kind of conspiracy-minded thread tying the events of S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini to those of our present day, it is possible that they are Muslims -- but, really, probably not.

S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini is positively riddled with familiar faces from 1960s Mexican genre cinema. Chief among these is our star, Julio Aleman, here taking his first of two turns in the role of Mexican super-spy Alex Dinamo. (This film’s sequel, Peligro…! Mujeres en Accion, would arrive two years later.) Aleman was a handsome fixture in the Mexican B movies of the day, being a regularly featured player in both the Neutron and Nostradamus series, as well as the star of the awesomely ridiculous Rocambole costumed hero capers. (One of Rocambole’s super powers is ventriloquism.) As our bad guys, we have lucha movie staples Noe Murayama and Carlos Agosti, a screen villain so reliable that the mere presence of his name in the opening credits counts as a kind of spoiler. And finally, we have the ever-welcome Maura Monti in the role of Henchwoman Most Frequently In A State of Near Complete Undress.

Behind the camera here we have the familiar hand of Rene Cardona Jr., who, though not yet as seasoned as his dad, was well on his way at this point to approaching the same level of obscene prolificacy. S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini was not blessed with the kind of budget that would allow for the kind of set pieces one would hope for in a spy film of its type, so instead we have an air of intrigue established by way of lots of sneaking around. People skulk suspiciously in corners, guns are furtively brandished, and folks listen at hotel walls with stethoscopes.

When there is evidence of production value, the attempts to milk it for all its worth are fairly conspicuous. An old station wagon is blown up, and we then get to watch it burn, and burn, and burn. And burn. For the climax, some boats, a seaplane and a helicopter were rented, and needless to say we are granted ample opportunity to get a very good look at them. Fans of frequent, inter-cut shots of people shooting alternately out of airborne and waterborne vehicles will find much to embrace.

Another way that S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini compensates for its lack of kinetic thrills is by featuring a lot of things that are absolutely as red as they could possibly be.

The world’s reddest car.

The world’s reddest jacket.

And finally, the world’s reddest jacket vs. the world’s reddest cardigan.

To be fair, S.O.S. Conspiracion Bikini had the misfortune of being yet another spy movie in a month when I’d already watched quite a few. It’s really not bad. It’s just not novel enough to stand out above the accumulated noise of so many bullet-firing cameras, morse code blaring wrist watches, and exploding old junkers. It does have a great scene of sexy ladies dancing to a gringo garage band called “The Surfers” in a classy nightclub, which is exactly the kind of thing that will make it shine more brightly in my memory than it deserves to. At least I’ll have this review to refer to before I make the decision to watch it again.


Prof. Grewbeard said...

all these familiar names and yet, i had never heard of this one!

carol said...

i have started to distinguish between "production value" and "a production value" when it's obvious the production could only afford a limited number of "values," i.e., one station wagon to burn. though, to be fair, if someone set their station wagon on fire down the street, i'd probably watch it burn for at least 5 minutes.

Todd said...

It's a good point you make, Carol. On a similar train, if Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David had a fistfight in front of my house, I could probably watch it in its entirety without once thinking to myself, "Omigod. Really?"

Prof: And it's those familiar faces that really make the movie, as there's not a whole lot to it beyond that. Then again, that's often enough for me when it comes to old Mexican B movies. It's like visiting with old friends.

memsaab said...

It's even better when that same burning station wagon is used later on for other situations and we understand that we are supposed to forget we ever saw it before :D

Todd said...

Exactly. Or when Antonio Margheriti uses a quick cut to a stock shot of a burning car to represent an explosion in outer space and hopes nobody notices. I obviously need to do an entire post dedicated to burning cars.

carol said...

yes, todd and memsaab, it's exactly re-using the station wagon in other situations or to represent other explosions that make me love these films and film-makers. my heart goes squish every time i see egregiously over-used footage. sure, james cameron can use hundreds of millions of dollars and make every explosion unique, but does he understand the essence of "explosion?"

Michael Barnum said...

Why, oh why are so many Mexican film DVDs not subtitled! It is a crime, I tell you.

...however, I did just get the Red Riding Hood (released in the US via K. Gordon Murray) films on DVD with English subtitles, and a better time was never had by me! I recommend them to you Todd!