The Italian James Bond (Starring Sean Connery’s Brother)
Deja View is a Telly Award-winning series that explores foreign remakes of popular American films.
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The 1960s: the Golden Age of the world’s most extraordinary gentleman spy. His globetrotting adventures featured such memorable characters as Miss Moneypenny, M, the villainous Emilio Largo, the beautiful Tatiana Romanova, and of course the suave secret agent himself played by Connery. Neil Connery.
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By 1967, French and Italian imitations of the James Bond formula were so common that they’ve been christened with their own subgenre: “Eurospy.” Ersatz secret agents like 008, 077, and 117 popped up all over the place. Some played it straight, others played it for laughs. But none had quite the audacity of “Operation Double 007,” which roped in James Bond star Sean Connery’s lesser known brother Neil to play its super spy.
“Operation Double 007,” originally “OK Connery” or “Operation Kid Brother,” follows reluctant spy Dr. Neil Connery, brother of Britain’s top agent, who is coyly referenced but never by name. Dr. Connery – a plastic surgeon, hypnotist, archer, linguist, lip reader, lieutenant in the British Armed Forces, and occasional physicist – is recruited by the secret service to stop an evil criminal organization from detonating an electromagnetic pulse.
The first thing Bond fans will notice is that “OK Connery” is a cavalcade of legitimate stars of the 007 franchise. Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell – M and Miss Moneypenny, respectively – have nearly identical roles here. Daniela Bianchi, leading lady of “From Russia With Love” plays this film’s femme fatale. And Adolfo Celi, the yacht-owning Number Two of international terrorist organization SPECTRE in “Thunderball,” here plays the yacht owning number two of international terrorist organization THANATOS.
But where the casting becomes truly ingenious is in appointing actor Anthony Dawson as THANATOS leader Alpha. That’s because Dawson previously played – in a completely uncredited role – the boss of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld!
Even the marketing plays it cheeky, with Neil’s pose imitating his brother’s from the poster of contemporary Bond adventure “You Only Live Twice.” And the film’s tagline, “Operation Kid Brother is too much for one mother” was a riff on Bond spoof “Casino Royale,” which claimed “Casino Royale is too much for one James Bond.”
Everything about the film, then, promises a rollicking Ian Fleming style adventure. And the truly delightful thing is that “OK Connery” delivers exactly that. The story finds Connery globe hopping from Monte Carlo to Spain to Morocco and finally Germany. There are the requisite spy gadgets, beautiful women, and elaborate secret hideouts. And of course, there are all the familiar faces.
The film offers up other subtler allusions to James Bond as well. In one scene, for example, the villain watches an image projected onto one of his scantily-clad female crew, evoking the title sequences from “From Russia With Love” and “Goldfinger.”
The music, too, will feel familiar to 007 aficionados. Written by the legendary Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, the score unmistakably emulates the style of Bond composer John Barry.
Incidentally, the title of the film, “OK Connery,” was actually a bit of an in-joke. During Neil’s screen test at Cinecitta, in which he had to sing, dance, perform a love scene and execute a hand-to-hand fight, the producers would say “OK, Connery, OK” – and the phrase stuck.
Unfortunately, fans hoping to hear the signature Connery accent will be disappointed to discover that brother Neil’s voice has been replaced with that of another actor. After production, Neil was hospitalized for an appendectomy and the producers were worried he’d be too weak to dub his voice in post-production.
Nevertheless, “OK Connery” is a must-see for any spy movie enthusiast. It’s lively, outlandish, and some of the most fun in the Eurospy collection. Indeed, for the novelty factor alone, it just can’t be beat.
Interestingly, “OK Connery” was picked up for theatrical distribution by United Artists, the same company that produced the official 007 movies. It’s now part of the MGM library, but its only official DVD release to date is the episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” on which it appeared.
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