Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Agente 00 Sexy (Mexico, 1968)

If I have mentioned Agente 00 Sexy many times before, it is likely because of pictures like this:

That picture promises a lot, as does the title Agente 00 Sexy. And because of that, you will probably be just as surprised as I was to find that Agente 00 Sexy, out of all the goofy spy spoofs to come out of Mexico during the 1960s, is among the most sedate. It is bloodless, in fact, and very low on thrills, aiming instead for a comic amiability that, were it not for the rich helping of cheesecake supplied by former Miss California and current California real estate agent Amedee Chabot, would render it downright -- gasp! -- family friendly.

What it does share with other Mexi-spy capers of its era, aside from an appreciation for Chabot’s curves, is the unique conviction that a campy espionage thriller provides the ideal platform for showcasing the current pop acts of the day. The chief beneficiary of this is Mike Laure, practitioner of a tropically influenced breed of Latin American pop known as Cumbia, who not only stars as himself but also performs a generous selection of musical numbers.

Agente 00 Sexy begins with hapless nice guy Ernesto (Fernando Lujan) arriving in Mexico City with a guitar in his hands and dreams of stardom in his heart. He makes haste to the television studio, where he soon meets cute with nice girl Gloria (Irma Lozano), who introduces him to Laure and helps him get an audition in front of the studio bigwigs. This would seem like good news for Ernesto, until he opens his mouth to sing, at which point issues forth something that sounds like the audio of a snuff film starring Fred (and, seriously, to give Fernando Lujan credit, his rendering of Ernesto’s wounded mewling is legitimately hilarious). Meanwhile, every studio in the building is buzzing with the latest sounds from teen town, as the cameras capture an extended procession of guitar-slinging pretty boys. You’d think the telenovela had never been invented.

His dreams handily smashed, Ernesto takes his guitar and wanders out into the night, where he is soon caught in a shootout between police and what I honestly believe is meant to be a gang of Nazi Mafiosos. The gang mistakes him for their leader, Louie -- who we will later learn, in a very Bollywood twist, is an exact double for Ernesto -- and hustles him into their getaway car. Soon he is ensconced at their penthouse hideout, where he meets Ernesto’s blonde bombshell of a girlfriend, Angora (Chabot). Angora is played not only as a dumb blonde, but, even worse, as a dumb gringa, spouting dialog that’s a noisome combination of yelled English and mangled Spanish. (Chabot, who had speaking roles in many Spanish language films without embarrassing herself, is clearly acting here.)

Ernesto’s repeated attempts to escape the gang fail resoundingly, as do his efforts to alert various authorities and passers-by to their criminal designs. Still, the suspicions of his thick witted gangster companions are never roused. Finally, he is sent to Costa Rica with a case containing the loot from the gang’s latest robbery. There he meets up with Angora, along with Louie’s gullible toady El Nervios, who is played by Mexican comedian and radio personality Hector Lechuga. More bungling escape attempts follow, this time punctuated by nightclub musical numbers, until Ernesto returns with the gang to Mexico, only to be arrested by police as soon as his feet hit the tarmac.

Police official Colonel Gomez (Pancho Cordova) lets Ernesto in on the fact that the real Louie is in police custody and places it upon him to continue his masquerade in order to gather intelligence on the gang. And it is here, well into Agente 00 Sexy’s second hour, that we finally see it sleepily make a nod toward the genre that it is putatively lampooning, in that Ernesto is tricked out with a spy camera and microphone watch before being sent off to tremulously do his duty. Meanwhile, in an occurrence for which the phrase “as luck would have it” was minted, the real Louie is freed when a van he is being transferred in crashes, setting the stage for the two doubles to pair off against one another. This occurs at a fancy dress party at which Amedee Chabot models the skimpy cat costume in which all surviving publicity materials for Agente 00 Sexy picture her.

Those many posters and lobby cards, by the way, would lead you to believe that Amedee Chabot is the touted Agente Sexy, and it is only via a last second twist that they are given veracity. This, of course, is lazy and a con, yet we are still not left totally wanting for a protagonist. Fernando Lujan, it has to be said, is an interesting comedic presence -- especially when viewed alongside the mugging of quotation mark dependent purveyors of Mexican comic relief like Antonio “Clavillazo” Espino, German “Tin Tan” Valdez, and Eleazar “Chelelo” Garcia. Unlike them, he is not clownish in appearance, and is, in fact, delicately handsome, yet affects a blasé demeanor that gives him a quirky fascination. When we first meet him, riding in the back of a taxi to the television studio, he is literally rolling his eyes. It is only the event of his ear-flaying vocal audition that clues us in that he is a man separated from the world more by childlike naiveté than by jadedness. His being forcefully pulled into that world, with all its attendant mess and chaos, is thus given that much more comic bite.

It is true that Agente 00 Sexy lacks the rambunctiousness of more enjoyable Mexican spy spoofs like Cazadores de Espias, yet it is still a hard film to dislike. There’s an oddball appeal to its very 1960s notion of the spy film and rock and roll as being complimentary bedfellows, despite James Bond’s famous unwillingness to take on The Beatles without earmuffs. This is no doubt due more to both being signifiers of modernity than a reflection of reality. For, as we know, there is nothing less “rock and roll” than spies, who, in life, are emissaries of the cursed Establishment at its most malign and insidious. A buxom blonde in a revealing cat costume, however…

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