AH, the exotic thrill and glitz of the big time world of international espionage, where steely eyed men in immaculate suits regularly face off against impossible odds and charm the ladies with polish and flair!
Then there's Bart Fargo.
Bart Fargo, whose pithy comments and sidelong glances have redefined the Spy Game for so many of us who have been unfortunate enough to actually see DANGER! DEATH RAY. Make no mistake about it -- in the dog-eat-dog world of spies and intrigue, Bart's that big, mangy puppy that follows you home, tripping all the time over its oversized paws, in hopes that you'll share some day old bacon with it.
Actually, DEATH RAY is a fun little Italian spy film...once you throw up your mental arms and accept what are clearly a very cheap model submarine and an equally threadbare toy helicopter (no boxtop went unsubmitted in the interests of your viewing pleasure) as being manifestations of a rich, ruthless and powerful man who is out to use every last penny of his personal fortune in his relentless bid to rule the world.
Bart is played rather blandly by former movie Tarzan Gordon Scott. Bart is in some distinctly European city when we first meet him, sprawled languidly beneath the sheets. Yep, sleeping solo, which probably should warn us that this won't be your average spy flick.
Two lovelies from the office ambush Bart, meaning to drag him into work (or possibly simply work him over with tire irons while he sleeps -- you get the feeling that Bart is the type who would really annoy most women).
Bart's no fool. He evidently always sleeps with a gun under his pillow (evidently he's had run-ins with irate girls before). Distracting them with his nearly massive pecs, he niftily gets the drop on them. After flashing his big gun, Bart sullenly dons bunny slippers and sallies forth.
You see, as we're about to hear endlessly, Bart is on vacation and just doesn't have his heart in saving the world and the rest of us working schlubs out here. Thanks, Bart. From the bottom of my heart.
Off to HQ and our first (failed) little attempt at a witty confrontation. His chief is in a peevish mood. Bart had done something particularly well (possibly picked up the Chief's best suit from the cleaners without catching it in the car door), and had been given this vacation week. However, something dire has come up. Pausing only to good naturedly slander the entire Arab race, the boss gives Bart his briefing:
A dedicated scientist has invented a death ray -- for entirely peaceful purposes. No wholesale killing and mayhem for this genius! No sir. This is a better, kinder, gentler...er...well, death ray.
Let's take inventory. Just to make sure I'm not missing anything.
A bland spy, uninspired car chases, and this kind of logic. I think we can all see where this is all heading.
Demonstrating this perky little device for a bunch of bald guys (Pro Spy Tip # 1 -- Bald = Brains!), the researcher is promptly kidnapped and taken by unconvincing toy helicopter to the above mentioned toy sub. Clearly he's being carted away by the wicked people of the land of Wee!
Or maybe it's just cheap sets. Everyone aboard the sub seems to be big. Ah, heck. "Portly" comes darned close to covering it.
And now for a nice, almost bracing shot of plot to spice things up a bit! It seems that a wealthy man wishes to use the peaceful death ray to bring the world to its knees. Peacefully, we presume, but you never KNOW with these rich megalomaniacs...
Bart is instantly off to the rescue, and it is from this moment on that our learning process truly begins. In rapid succession we learn each and every one of his many, many shortcomings.
Bart has only a vague clue as to where he's going. He finds a tavern, his first real clue, more or less by accident. Following a rather leisurely fight, Bart boldly turns tail, winding up pretty literally hiding behind a woman's skirts. Except that the woman in question's working in the nude. Sort of.
Back at his hotel, Bart is again attacked by one of the thugs. Bart, in no mood to play, mauls him mercilessly with a 'phone, then allows him to escape.
Fortunately for Bart, his attacker is even more of a stumble bum than he is. Realizing that he's made a total fool of himself, Bart lets the man go without filing him full of holes. This works out nicely, as it later prompts the thug to come over to Bart's side and help him sneak into the Bad Guy's evil estate.
Back to the "romance". Much vaguely arch dialog, ensues. At the same time, Bart flirts with a blonde who he had met on the flight out, and who is obviously one of the Bad Guys.
En route to the final showdown, Bart tries to do some Spy Stuff, again wretchedly. He puts on his nifty sunglasses, climbs into his red sports car, and attempts a car chase.
Tedious. Just tedious, and mostly shot in close focus with both cars very obviously careening around hairpin curves in speeds occasionally in excess of 5 mph. A few random shots are tossed vaguely back at Bart, and his car lazily rolls off of a convenient cliff.
The whole sequence has the same non threatening feel of a dream featuring the Care Bears.
It's non-stop tedium, and thrills a-snore! After some more derring-do, Bart's off to the villain's palacial-yet-cheezily decorated manor house.
He bribes that conveniently reformed thug (remember him?) into being his friend. His pal. His sacrificial target for the local snipers. He's dead within a few seconds of their crashing the gate.
After daring the corridor of hidden cameras and remote controlled machine guns, Bart takes on the baddie and his death ray, rescues the brainwashed scientist and the redhead of his dreams, and conveniently "forgets" about his planned vacation with the boss's secretary.
All in a bad day's work for our boy Bart!
DEATH RAY has its moments (chiefly in the buoyant but endlessly reprised main theme). In the end analysis, though, it's extremely minor stuff.