There’s a problem often faced by those of us who chose to both watch and write about the Eurospy films of the 1960s: as enjoyable as they can be, and fun and breezy and cool, there is often very little that can be said about them in the form of an article. When you try to put finger to key and review one of these movies, you suddenly realize just how much of its run time — which was probably under ninety minutes to begin with — was taken up by fluff and filler. Travelogue footage, nightclub scenes, guys just walking through hotel lobbies while swinging music plays — all great stuff, but the visual appeal of these de rigueur accoutrements of swingin’ sixties spy cinema doesn’t often translate to having very much to say about a film, even when you’ve enjoyed it. Such is the case with Ypotron, a light and airy espionage adventure with sci-fi elements and almost no interest whatsoever in its own plot, so enamored is it instead with low-budget globe-trotting and extremely large hats.
Like many Eurospy movies, Ypotron‘s lack of plot can sometimes fool you into thinking it has a really complicated plot. A couple of times during the movie, I looked away or was distracted for under thirty seconds. When my attention returned to the film, I found in that very brief amount of time I had become hopelessly lost as to what was going on. However, after I rewound the movie and picked up where my focus flagged, I realized that no, I hadn’t missed anything. The plot just doesn’t care to keep itself front and center, not when it could itself get distracted by bikini girls, gratuitous Riviera type shots, and the donning of futuristic sunglasses.
As was the case with Scorpions and Miniskirts, the opening scene wastes no time in establishing the film’s disdain for logic, and if you can roll with it then you will probably be, like me, rather delighted throughout the movie even while recognizing how sloppy it is. Anyway, a futuristic door slides open to admit our hero, good-looking, rock-jawed Lemmy (or Robby, depending on your dub) Logan (Luis Davila, Mission Stardust, Espionage in Tangiers), to a room across which he slowly stalks whilst clad in a tuxedo and some weird sci-fi eyeglasses. Behind him, a slot opens in the metal wall, the barrel of a machine gun emerges from it…and Logan is mercilessly riddled with bullets.
Of course, he is OK, and it is soon revealed that he was simply helping to test out a new type of bullet-proof vest using the sort of test that would absolutely never, ever make sense. There is nothing about the testing of said vest that would require your top field agent to pretend to sneak around in a room until a hidden assailant cuts him down with live ammunition, but in the world of Ypotron, you will quickly discover that this nonsense is the most sensical of the nonsense with which you are about to be assaulted.
When it comes time to develop some sort of plot, Ypotron goes with the tried and true Eurospy chestnut about a kidnapped scientist with (naturally) a gorgeous young daughter. Said scientist is Professor Morrow (or Leikman, again depending on which version of the movie you have) played by Alfredo Mayo (Mission Bloody Mary, Special Mission Lady Chaplain, Espionage in Lisbon), and his daughter, Jeanne, is played by Gaia Germani (Hercules in the Haunted World, Castle of the Living Dead with Christopher Lee, and the Lemmy Caution film Your Turn, Darling with Eddie Constantine). Logan is assigned to track down the missing scientist, which naturally leads him all over as much of the world (or Europe) as the production can manage to afford. Along the way, he acquires the help of Eurocult staple Janine Reynaud (Two Undercover Angels, Succubus), forever plagued to have movies slather way too much make-up on her face.
After a seemingly endless (but not unwelcome) and ultimately pointless series of twists and turns, the plot leads Logan and Jeanne Morrow to the Sahara, where they discover a rocket base cleverly disguised as, well, a huge rocket launchpad. It turns out the shady SPECTRE-like organization that kidnapped Professor Morrow has designs on ushering in a new era of…oh, you know, the usual really vague and ill-conceived villain notions of what they’ll do after they hold the world hostage. Luckily for Logan and all mankind, they went to the “now I shall bring you into my sanctum sanctorum and explain all my plans to you while not really keeping an eye on you” school of villainy.
Ypotron is a slight film, even by the forgiving standards of the Eurospy genre, but just because it’s slight doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. I am always up for an espionage fantasy that throws a little science fiction into the mix, and although Ypotron doesn’t come close to the crackpot insanity of Operation Atlantis, where the plot is so far-out that I can barely even explain it (suffice to say it has to do with the Chinese building an entire underground Atlantis civilization, complete with wizards in shiny robes, just to cover up a clandestine mining operation), Ypotron still delivers candy-colored confectionary satisfaction. Many Eurospy films suffer from a lack of decent prints in circulation, which means the genre’s stock in trade — exploiting Europe’s many scenic locations — doesn’t come across, and renders cheap films even cheaper looking. Luckily, Ypotron is in relatively good shape, and thus we can indulge in its travelogue footage as Logan trots around in pursuit of the missing scientist. The villain lair may leave a little to be desired — it looks like they set up shop in an old boiler room — but there’s enough on-a-budget jet-setting throughout to keep the film looking more expensive than it actually was.
Luis Davila makes an excellent and handsome square-jawed hero, while Gaia Germani is simply stunning, if largely useless. Jeanine Renault (Kiss Me Monster, ) adds a flash of life on the female side of the equation as a femme fatale, albeit one on the side of the good guys. She’s always a welcome performer. There’s a fair amount of action, and director Giorgio Stegani (who also directed the Eurocrime film The Last Desperate Hours) keeps everything snapping along so that you don’t notice (or barely notice) how silly it all is. It’s a shame he didn’t direct more Eurospy films, or more films in general. Screenwriter Remigio Del Grosso’s script may be slight on plot, but he heaps on the outlandishness to keep things interesting. He was an old hand at this sort of thing, and he wrote a number of highly entertaining movies, including Journey Beneath the Desert, The 300 Spartans, Secret Agent Super Dragon, and the gothic horror classic Mill of the Stone Women. Together, it’s a cast and crew that managed to eke out a mild victory with Ypotron.