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  Fathom Chasing The Dragon
Year: 1967
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Stars: Anthony Franciosa, Raquel Welch, Ronald Fraser, Richard Briers, Greta Chi, Tom Adams, Elizabeth Ercy, Ann Lancaster, Tutte Lemkow, Reg Lye, Clive Revill
Genre: Comedy, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Fathom Harvill (Raquel Welch) is an amateur skydiver, and currently out in Spain to take part in a competition there, but once she has completed her parachute jump she is hailed by a man driving a jeep telling her that he has been sent to pick her up. Fair enough, she thinks, and goes with him as he introduces himself as Timothy Webb (Richard Briers), waving away her concerns that they are headed in the wrong direction for her hotel by saying they have an appointment elsewhere. That elsewhere being with Colonel Douglas Campbell (Ronald Fraser), head of a top secret organisation that is seeking help with tracking a missing atomic bomb trigger...

Or is he? Pulling the wool over the audience's eyes, never mind Fathom's, is what this caper is all about, so Lorenzo Semple Jr's script is intent on keeping its secrets from us until the very last scene. Not that those secrets are anything more complex than who is the baddie and who is the goodie, because as long as we know that Fathom is on the level then we know we're in safe hands. This was directed by TV man Leslie H. Martinson, who had brought the world the Batman movie - the first one that is, with Adam West - and he appeared to take the same breezy, don't take this seriously folks approach to the excitements here.

The good thing about this is that it may not be at all taxing, but that becomes its chief virtue aside from presenting to us Raquel Welch in her heyday sporting a selection of beachwear. If you've seen this before, chances are you've forgotten most of the finer points of the plot which renders this very easy to watch again, lightly digest, and forget about until a few years later when you're looking for something to fill up a couple of hours without troubling your thoughts in the slightest. The Spanish scenery is sunny and attractive, the derring-do is functional and just the right side of diverting, and the jokes are mildly amusing without being actively offensive.

Fathom (and yes, she does have characters often asking where she got her unusual name, but never gives the reason "It looks good on a billboard") is persuaded to parachute onto the villa of one Peter Merriwether (Anthony Franciosa) and plant a bug there, but she finds more than she bargained for when during her snooping she stumbles across a dead body, recently murdered, which turns out to have almost nothing to do with the rest of the story. Merriwether, she has been told, is a Chinese agent searching for the remote control trigger to nuclear weapons of the West, but his MacGuffin, called the Fire Dragon, might not be all she thinks.

Fathom has a habit of not leading the action but rather being led, so she keeps getting into dangerous situations from which she has to be saved by the dodgy geezers she continually bumps into. This sees Raquel looking glam as she has to negotiate a rampaging bull or dive into the waves from a speedboat, something she does with customary style as there's no way the production was planning to make her look anything less than perfect. The shifty types using Fathom to seek out the dragon, which turns out not to be anything to do with big booms, are nicely portrayed, with Franciosa the epitome of suave even with that dyed blond hair, Clive Revill as the truly strange Serapkin who claims to have a body temperature ten degrees below normal, and Briers who never allows a chance to call Raquel "luv" go by. It is lacking much personality other than what it was influenced by - umpteen spy spoofs basically - but passes the time brightly and painlessly. Music by John Dankworth.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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