Con Licencia Para Matar (aka With License to Kill) is the second of a pair of films featuring Las Tigresas, a trio of catsuit-wearing female secret agents for hire. The first Tigresas film, Munecas Peligrosas (aka Dangerous Dolls) was a barely-there affair, with just enough of a plot on which to hang its numerous instances of padding. Con Licencia Para Matar, by contrast, would seem to be packed with enough plot for the both of them, complete with two competing sets of villains, including a beatnik scientist with a trio of super-powerful, green-faced androids at his command, and a blonde bombshell revolutionary who conceals her true designs under her cover as the owner of a posh go-go club. Despite all of this business, the film still manages to devote plenty of time to what seems to be the Tigresas films’ first order of business, that being the inclusion of lots of random musical numbers and scenes of the Tigresas lounging around their well-appointed bachelorette pad in various stages of undress.
The film sports a cast that’s a rogues gallery of familiar faces from 1960s Mexican B cinema, including Austrian-born glamour girl Barbara Angeli as Tigresa “Barbara”, and comedienne Leonorilda Ochoa as the ladies’ comic relief maid. Fernando Casanova, who plays secret agent Jim Morrison, played the romantic lead in the trilogy of films Santo made for Peliculas Rodriguez earlier in his career — back in the days before Santo got to play the romantic lead himself – and, in the mad scientist role, we have the ever-reliable Noe Muriyama, whose prolific work as a screen baddie extended into Euro cinema with appearances in, among other things, Sergio Solima’s classic Spaghetti Western Run, Man, Run and the West German Eurospy entry Man on the Spying Trapeze. Even Santo’s manager, Carlos Suarez, shows up for a bit part in the opening scene, acting, appropriately enough, opposite a midget.
Of course, for me, Con Licencia Para Matar’s major draw is the fact that it features the lovely Maura Monti in the role of the bow-and-arrow wielding chief Tigresa, Diana. Born in Milan, Monti came to Mexico to seek her fortune in the early sixties, at first finding work as a model before becoming a fixture in Mexican B movies, with appearances in such quintessentially sixties classics as Santo contra la Invasion de los Marcianos, the respective Santo and Blue Demon spy efforts El Tesoro de Moctezuma and Destructor de Espias, Las Vampiras with Mil Mascaras, and, most unforgettably, as the bikini-clad – and not at all copyright-infringing – super heroine Bat Woman in La Mujer Murcielago. That Monti would retire from the screen at the dawn of the seventies seems fitting, since her screen persona is so much of its era that to imagine her in a world where miniskirts, peaked leather caps and white go-go boots were no longer in fashion is near impossible.
Con Licencia Para Matar finds Monti’s Diana on the eve of her retirement from the Tigresas, bound for a life of quiet domesticity after having caught herself a good man. Obviously the Tigresas, despite being masters of exotic weaponry and cool professional killers, are not so liberated that they would attempt such a thing as balancing a career with married life. Anyway, before Diana can bid farewell to her partners (played by Emily Cranz as “Emily” in addition to the aforementioned Angeli), the three of them must track down a stolen gold shipment. However, as we’ve seen in the prologue, this shipment of gold has not been stolen just once, but three times; first by the gang of crooks lead by Carlos Suarez and his midget accomplice, then from them by the diabolically bohemian Dr. Klux and his scuba-suited androids, and then, in turn, from them by the revolutionarily-minded disco maven Adrian (Claudia Islas).
Such is the Tigresa’s fame that Dr. Klux immediately blames them for the theft (he noticed that the driver of the getaway car was a woman, you see) and sends his androids to their swank penthouse digs to do their worst. Thus, in classic 1960s spy movie fashion, does a villain’s precipitous, unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the heroes once again alert those heroes, who would otherwise have been none the wiser, to his evil schemes. Meanwhile, Klux has gotten wise to who the true culprit was, and forges with Adrian one of those super-villain alliances that you just know is going to end with one party getting shot in the back. Soon it is revealed that Adrian is using her nightclub’s promise of wine, women and the watusi to lure in hapless single men, whom her minions then kill and assume the identities of. Unfortunately for all involved, one of her most recent victims turns out to have been Diana’s fiancé, Raul. Once this is discovered, the Tigresas don their slinky spy gear and set out for blood, leading to a climax that is far more grimly violent than any finale of a movie so otherwise filled with fluff has any right to be.
Both Munecas Peligrosas and Con Licencia Para Matar were directed by Rafael Baledon, who was also responsible for the flat out insane spy spoof Cazadores de Espias. Despite Cazadores de Espias’ 1969 release date, it’s obvious that all three films were made in very close proximity. Espias not only boasts a number of sets that were common to the other two — as well as the presence of Monti and Ochoa — but also features musical numbers by the group Los Rockin’ Devils that were clearly shot at the same time as those in Con Licencia Para Matar. It’s too bad, then, that the earlier films don’t share with Espias that film’s sense of manic absurdity. As is, the tone of both is a little uneven, veering ungracefully from broad comedic episodes to moments in which it seems that a sincere attempt to make a serious spy film is actually being made, and a sense of freewheeling anarchy might at least have helped us to glide over the bumps a little.
While it’s certainly a fun film, Con Licencia Para Matar, given its concept, is nowhere near as fun as it could have been. It probably benefits most from the fact that we folks who are drawn to movies about catsuit-wearing female superspies fighting green-faced androids are a pretty undemanding lot. But really, why should anyone be unsatisfied by a film that features a revealingly attired Maura Monti karate chopping robots, mad scientists, and lots of go-go dancing – I mean, other than the fact that those elements are contained in pretty much every other Mexican spy movie from the sixties? It does afford the opportunity for a little discretion, I have to admit. But, hey, since when was that an issue for connoisseurs such as ourselves?