Each issue Lorihajitura takes a look at one of the so bad they’re good films featured on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – the Comedy Central/Sci-Fi Channel cult show from the late 80s and through the 1990s. This issue we focus on Episode 508: 1967’s Operation Double 007, which broadcast on May 24th, 1993.
(Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – MST3K to the fans – ran from November 24th, 1988 to August 8th, 1999, and starred Michael J. Nelson, Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Patrick Brantseg, Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl. Each week the evil Dr. Forrester (and later his mother, Pearl) held hapless space prisoner Joel (and later Mike) hostage on his craft the Satellite of Love and forced him and his robot friends Tom Servo and Crow to watch the worst movies ever made, as part of a mad scientist experiment.
Each week the experiment failed to drive Joel/Mike insane, as he and the robots found endless ways to poke fun of the movies and keep their sanity intact. This week’s episode featured Joel showing a bunch of home movies, much to Crow and Servo’s disgust, and attempts to get TV’s Frank out of his depression by letting him be Bavarian “for one shining moment”).
The late 60s exerted something of a hallucinogenic quality over movie audiences.
In the span of 12 months you could watch Casino Royale (1967), which isn’t a Bond movie, or Operation Double 007 (1967), which also isn’t a Bond movie, and also Danger Diabolik (1968), which co-stars Adolfo Celi as the bad guy but absolutely isn’t a Bond movie. If you wanted an actual Bond movie, you could go see George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and get Emma Peel into the bargain in the form of the lovely Diana Rigg.
A bit of backstory then – in 1967 Sean Connery hung up his Bond boots after You Only Live Twice and flounced off to make such stellar movies as Shalako (1968) and Zardoz (1974) before he crawled back as Bond, officially in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and unofficially in Never Say Never Again (1983), before leaving for good. And Roger Moore couldn’t break his contract on The Saint yet, so Cubby Broccoli casts Australian actor George Lazenby in Service.
With me so far?
To be fair, Lazenby let the whole Bond thing go to his head, and quit before Service even premiered, which prompted co-star Diana Rigg to say:
I can no longer cater for his obsession with himself. He is utterly, unbelievably … bloody impossible
(Hence why Connery Sr. came back a couple of years later.)
So, in 007 you have a movie that isn’t a Bond movie which stars someone called Connery who isn’t Bond in an era of two other movies which aren’t Bond movies but starred Bond actors while the other person called Connery isn’t Bond anymore.
You’re starting to warm to George Lazenby now, aren’t you?
I don’t want to burst your bubble, but George Lazenby officially lost his crown as Worst Bond Ever. I know. It took me a while to digest that, too. Operation Double 007 stars Neil “brother of Sean” Connery as a plastic surgeon called Dr. Connery, recruited by Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell to fight Adolfo Celi.
Yes – they mention James Bond a lot. Yes – they mention Sean Connery a lot. Lois Maxwell plays Miss Maxwell amongst all the other nod, nod references which rather suggests that the whole thing played for laughs.
But it falls flat due to the lack of any cohesive plot and for the absurd and misplaced use of Neil Connery. They go to great and elaborate lengths to beat you over the head with the fact of his sibling connection, dress him in a Tam-o-Shanter and a kilt – and then dub him with an American accent!
And how does a humble plastic surgeon know: how to shoot a gun, how to do some sort of martial art, how to hypnotize people, and also be a devastating chick magnet? Why do we start off with plots about double identity, switch to secret yogic methods, throw in some criminal cartel, divert over to nuclear weaponry, and then end up with an “anti-magnetic device”? It’s all a bit wayward.
(Lois Maxwell revealed in a later interview that when Sean Connery heard of her involvement in Operation Double 007, he screamed: “You’ve betrayed me!”. so we know what he thought.)
Of course, the movie tanked. Not Bond enough to actually be Bond, and not groovy or tongue-in-cheek enough to stand up with the other Bond parodies, it languishes somewhere in a dark hinterland despite several attempts to rebrand it as Operation Kid Brother, O.K. Connery, and Secret Agent 00. Even the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 cast run out of joke ideas beyond “brother of” and requests for Sean’s autograph.
But what puzzled me more were the weird parallels, intentional or otherwise, between Operation Double 007 and Danger Diabolik.
Above and beyond the obvious use of veteran Italian actor Adolfo Celi (Largo in Thunderball) as the main villain in both films, they also share Ennio Morricone soundtracks – and Man For Me from Operation Double 007 sounds suspiciously like a speeded-up version of Deep Down from Danger Diabolik. Did Morricone just happen to have some spare tracks laying around? Both films are Italian productions filmed within a scant year of each other, so it’s entirely possible that the crew just upped and moved from set to set. (We explore the fact that Barbarella came on the heels of Danger Diabolik and utilized a fair chunk of cast and crew in this previous article.)
Operation Double 007 isn’t a terrible film – but it certainly helps to watch it with Joel and the robots on hand to sweeten the deal.