L’INCONNU DI SHANDIGOR (1967)
aka The Unknown Man of Shandigor
Article 4817 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Jean-Louis Ray
Featuring Marie-France Boyer, Ben Carruthers, Jaques Dufilho
What it is: Eurospy, arty comic style
A scientist creates a method of nullifying nuclear bombs, but goes into isolation with only his daughter and his assistant. He becomes the target of several groups of spies, all of which want the scientist’s secret for their own ends.
I was halfway through watching this movie before I realized that I had English subtitles to help me sort out the French dialogue, so I went back to the beginning and watched it with the subtitles. But I don’t consider my half-viewing the first time around to be wasted; having had a chance to concentrate on the visuals and the acting during that time, it made me realize just how comic the movie is, and that’s something I might have missed if I had been concentrating on the story. It’s a spy story shot like an art film, and feels like a sly parody of both. There’s at least five groups of spies in the movie, and in a sense, there’s no real hero, and one is left wondering which of the groups (if any) will prevail. At times the movie gets truly bizarre; the strangest scenes has one group of spies embalming a deceased member of their team while their leader plays and sings a weird ditty on the organ. There’s torture by psychedelic music, a massacre in a bowling alley, and an unseen aquatic monster kept by the scientist in a swimming pool. Howard Vernon is on hand as the closest the movie comes to a James Bond character, a man named Bobby Gun (who, incidentally, uses a knife). The weird-looking Daniel Emilfork almost steals the movie as the scientist. All in all, I was charmed and delighted by the movie, though it might take a couple more viewings to sort out some of the plot details.