Double Agent 73

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Mistress of the Apes

Picasso Trigger

Laser Mission

Double Agent 73

Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

The search for WMDs is about to end.
Here’s a fun little experiment.

Use a nail gun to attach your tongue to a moving freight train. Let the train drag you along the tracks until something gives. At the first opportunity during your recovery, watch the movie Double Agent 73. The experiment part is to see how far you get into Double Agent 73 before you begin to look back at the freight train incident as “the good times.”

Double Agent 73 is that punishing a film. The titular character (pun so very, very intended) is played by Chesty Morgan, a novelty burlesque act from the 1960’s. Ms. Morgan’s big attraction (yep, intended again) was that her "vital measurements" were 73-24-36. However, Morgan was in her mid-forties by the time she made Double Agent 73, and the place where she would measure 73 had sunk lower than where the 24 would be. Even in her prime Ms. Morgan was only sexually attractive to those specific fetishists who value quantity over quality in every respect, but by the time this movie was made that period was long past. Her only value to this picture is as a freak show attraction. She certainly has no screen presence as an actress; her face barely moves. She looks like a prop, barely moving. We would guess this is because she was doped out of her mind when the movie was shot, probably due to back pain.

"I hope Huggy Bear doesn't
find out I stole his hat."
If the movie was handicapped by the casting, it was doomed by the director: Doris Wishman. Wishman wrote and directed an extended series of nudie cuties and roughies in the 1960s and 1970s. We suspect that her entire training in the art of film was that she showed up at film school on the day that a professor praised Alfred Hitchock’s unique approach to introducing the characters at the beginning of Strangers on a Train – and that’s it. Consequently Wishman’s films are almost immediately recognizable for their many shots of characters’ feet and shoes. Wishman also made a cottage industry of using Florida nudist colonies for her locations and filler material; heaven only knows what sort of films she told the nudists she was making. (For more representative Wishman fare, see Nude on the Moon or Bad Girls Go to Hell.) These trademarks alone, however, would not place Wishman in the company of Ed Wood or Albert Pyun. Rather it is her uncanny ability to create confusion for her viewers by choosing the path of least resistance every single time that earns her such disrespect.

Why shoot coverage for a scene when a simple two-shot, complete with fumbled lines, will do the job? And if you must shoot coverage, Doris, be sure to avoid any nasty sound-sync problems by shooting the speaking character from behind so we can't see their lips move. Used sparingly these techniques might be shoestring-cinema genius, but Wishman splatters every scene with obvious cost-cutting gimmicks. After a while, watching a Doris Wishman film is like listening to a symphony played solely on kazoos and harmonicas: amusing at first, but ultimately annoying as hell.

It's like a game: can you find two things
wrong in this picture?
The plot of Double Agent 73 aspires to the same high standards as everything else. Morgan plays Jane, a secret agent tasked by her boss to ferret out Toplar, a drug dealer who brings "low grade heroin" into the U.S. with the help of certain communist countries. To complete this task, the nameless intelligence agency implants a camera in Jane's left breast. Precisely why she needs a secret camera (especially one in such an inconvenient hiding place) is unclear, but it admirably succeeds in requiring Jane to doff her top in every single scene. Personally we wondered why, if they were stowing stuff in her prodigious mammary glands, they didn't add some more useful tools – like a gun, or an ice chest – but this mystery goes unexplored as well.

The basic scene structure of Double Agent 73 is this: Jane receives an encoded note which tells her which suspect to visit next. (The dissolve from handwritten symbolic gibberish to handwritten mission objective is especially amusing.) She does so, convincing the person to meet her somewhere alone, because extras cost money. As they talk some "intrigue" will occur, and after a lame James Bond type fight Jane will kill the other person. (In one memorable scene she uses ice cubes to suffocate a man, which seems inefficient and wasteful, but we suppose it is at least imaginative.) Finally, she will take off her top in order to photograph the dead person. It is at this point blood will begin flowing from your eyes. The only variation on this pattern is that sometimes Jane will sneak into a place before meeting someone and takes her top off to photograph some documents.

"I should never have let Mrs. Finkle's
3rd grade class decorate my
bathroom. Or pick out my wardrobe."
A word about Jane's photographic equipment: we could perhaps forgive the fact of the camera, and its placement (if one must have a secret camera secreted on one's person, it's tough to think of a more obvious place to put it), and even the absence of an obvious lens. (What, you've never heard of a pinhole camera?) The insertion of a popping-flashbulb effect to indicate the camera's activation, however, is a bit much. Where is the – aw, hell. Forget we even asked. Rounding out the parade of cockamamie concepts is the film's final twist: if Jane doesn't return to the agency headquarters by the specified mission deadline, the camera in her bosom will explode. This is fairly stupid to begin with, but it is pushed beyond eye-rolling levels of ridiculousness when it turns out that no one has told Jane about the bomb. Wishman should have cut out the middleman and simply filmed herself waving fistfuls of ticket money while calling the members of the audience morons.

"I don't know, I woke up here. It's
either an episode of Scooby-Doo
or the waiting room in Hell."
If the spectacle of Chesty Morgan weren't enough to make you want to claw our own eyes out, the movie has an emergency back-up plan: '70s fashion. It's difficult to imagine that Wishman would build and dress sets or buy a wardrobe for her star, so we're going to assume that the locations and clothes on display were owned by Morgan and Wishman themselves or their friends. Nothing will prepare you for Morgan's clown/golf ensembles, which prove once and for all that the red-with-white-polka-dots combo isn't slimming. Either Morgan bought her clothes at a circus close-out sale or her self-esteem had hit absolute rock bottom. Even worse are the locations, which often appear to have designed specifically against the concept of harmonious decor, no matter how many clashing patterns, colors, or animal prints are needed. That's what's truly terrifying. This isn't just bad taste; this is bad taste that required effort, money, and agression.

We know what you're thinking: Double Agent 73 would be the perfect movie for your next bad movie night. For the love of all that is holy, let us dissuade you from actually screening this crime against the optic nerve. This is the kind of movie you only show to people if you want to hurt them, and even then it's probably not worth it when you take into the account the damage you will do to yourself. It is the cinematic equivalent of mutually assured destruction.

Review date: 08/11/2005

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