THE FAT SPY (1966)
Article #1507 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-30-2005
Posting Date: 9-27-2005
Directed by Joseph Cates
Featuring Phyllis Diller, Jack E. Leonard, Brian Donlevy
Teenagers invade a small island owned by a cosmetics magnate who believes that the fountain of youth is found there.
You know, it would be nice to go into a movie with a clean slate and no preconceptions of what you’ll be experiencing when you see it. However, when the title of your movie is THE FAT SPY and it comes from the mid-sixties, you’re going to have an opinion right off the bat. I fully expected to see a very bad parody of a James Bond movie with a running joke about the weight of our hero.
Well, I was wrong. It isn’t a James Bond parody at all. It’s an overtly comic variant on a genre that was on its last legs; namely, the beach party movie. The main difference between this and a regular beach party movie is that the teenagers are the secondary characters here and the comic subplots have taken over. However, I wasn’t wrong about one thing; it’s very bad indeed. In fact, it’s even worse than I expected. So here are my ten thoughts on this particular travesty.
1) If I haven’t mentioned it already, this movie is also a musical. The music is largely a compendium of regurgitated sixties musical motifs. I’m tempted to say there’s way too much music, but at least when they’re dancing and singing, they’re not trying to advance the plot, which, in this movie, is a good thing.
2) There are four romantic pairings in this movie. The first is a young couple with a secret. This secret doesn’t manifest itself until the last scene in the movie, and is probably the best part of it. Of course, I won’t reveal it here.
3) The second is a star-crossed romance between a young boy named Dodo and a mermaid. Given the fact that the boy is named after an extinct bird, you shouldn’t be surprised if this romance has a tragic ending. Or does it? Only his swim trunks know for sure, and they’re not talking. I hope.
4) The third is between Jack E. Leonard as Irving, a rose-loving researcher on the island, and Jayne Mansfield as Junior (in full-blown breathy dumb blonde mold). Given that Jack E. Leonard can be described physique-wise as the anti-Mickey Hargitay, I’ll leave it to you to decide on the likelihood of this romantic pairing.
5) The fourth is between Jack E. Leonard as Herman (Irving’s brother and the Fat Spy of the title) and the main rival to Herman’s boss, another cosmetics magnate named Camille (Phyllis Diller) whose real name is Rapunzel Fingernail. If there is anybody out there dying to see Jack E. Leonard and Phyllis Diller engaged in a passionate kiss, this is the movie for you. For me, the scene will linger long in my nightmares.
6) And now a competition for the most embarassing scene in the movie. The first nominee – Watching Jack E. Leonard and the teens writhing together during a musical number about the world’s slowest dance called The Turtle.
7) Second nominee – Watching Phyllis Diller beat her masochistic Sikh servant with a riding crop. Phyllis Diller as dominatrix? I bet I’m not the only one having nightmares.
8) Third nominee – Jack E. Leonard and Phyllis Diller chowing down greedily on a black rose.
9) Fourth nominee –- Watching Jack E. Leonard sing a love song to Phyllis Diller that compares her to other sex symbols such as James Cagney and Darryl F. Zanuck.
10) Fifth nominee (and my choice) – Watching Brian Donlevy (in what surely must be the cinematic low point of his career) sitting in a boat while disembodied voices doing imitations of Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart encourage him in his quest.
All in all, this is scarier than most horror movies of the period. Now, if it only WERE a horror movie…