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  Agent 505: Death Trap in Beirut Blake smirks at danger
Year: 196
Director: Manfred R. Köhler
Stars: Frederick Stafford, Geneviève Cluny, Willy Birgel, Chris Howland, Renate Ewert, Gisella Arden, Pierre Richard, Renato Lupi, Carla Calò, Danny Taborra, Patrick Bernard, Mouna Saad, Harald Leipnitz
Genre: Action, Thriller, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two bikini girls lounging atop a yacht in Beirut are shot dead. Yet no bullets are found in their bodies. Baffled police corner the killer who is himself shot with another invisible bullet. But only after he reveals that an international criminal known only as The Shiek is plotting to blow up Beirut. Interpol send for dashing agent Richard Blake (Frederick Stafford). Mere moments after arriving in Beirut, Blake outwits a string of assassins out to eliminate him and sparks up a romance with flirty American reporter Denise Letienne (Geneviève Cluny). Aided by police Inspector Bertrand (Pierre Richard) Blake uncovers a connection between the murders and seemingly benevolent business tycoon Omar Abdullah (Willy Birgel). However Abdullah denies any involvement. Before long a fresh set of clues steer Blake elsewhere while the countdown to disaster for Beirut keeps ticking...

Filmed on location at the height of Lebanon's reputation as a glamorous lounge spot for the international jet set, Agent 505: Death Trap in Beirut is a lively and likable Eurospy outing for genre staple Frederick Stafford. The Czech-born actor had an unorthodox entry into the movie business. After graduating college with a degree in chemistry Stafford held various corporate roles within the pharmaceutical industry before becoming a regional manager for Bristol Myers based in Hong Kong. While in Bangkok, Stafford met French director André Hunebelle who invited him to try acting. To which the then-thirty-six year old businessman supposedly replied: "Why not?" Whereupon Hunebelle cast him in two Eurospy films as secret agent OSS 117. The same character later famously parodied by Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin in the spy spoofs OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) and OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009). Aside from Enzo G. Castellari's cult war movie Eagles Over London (1969), Stafford had a brief moment of international stardom as the lead in Alfred Hitchcock's spy thriller Topaz (1969). Unfortunately one of the things critics slammed about that rare Hitchcock dud was Stafford's wooden performance.

Truth be told he is not all that engaging here either. As Agent 505 (a code-name not actually used in the film) Stafford exhibits the nastier traits of Sean Connery's James Bond along with the smarm of Roger Moore. Which, although an unappealing combination, clearly left Dujardin a lot to work with in his spoof films decades later. Stafford's smug spy strides coolly through all sorts of mayhem seemingly indifferent to innocent deaths and happy to exploit the odd bystander as a decoy. Blake also leaves a significant portion of the detective work to his slouch hat-wearing sidekick Bobby O'Toole (Chris Howland) despite exhibiting near-superhuman intuition and deductive reasoning. Nevertheless a plethora of glamorous women, including a helpful hotel maid-cum-undercover agent (Renate Ewert) and bouffant blonde sharpshooter Monique Ferrara (Gisella Arden) - whose nightclub act is really something - can't help but throw themselves at him, even though Stafford is strangely mechanical in his love scenes.

Manfred R. Köhler, another Eurospy staple more prolific as a screenwriter, has a slippery grasp on his appreciably intricate script which wavers from the outlandish girls and gadgets formula of the popular Kommissar X films and the more sober-sided espionage antics of From Russia with Love (1963). Nonetheless Agent 505: Death Trap in Beirut packs in plenty of action, including some accomplished stunt-work, solid production values (this ranks among the healthier-budgeted Eurospy films) and a plot that is relatively well thought out. If Stafford's flippant hero treads a fine line between intrepid and insufferable, at least the final twist unmasking the villain plays a clever joke at his expense. Jazzy score by Ennio Morricone with input from Bruno Nicolai.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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