When the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, came out in 1962, few would have predicted that every movie industry would go on to make its own versions. Some worked, some didn’t, but it created a fun-filled canon of spy-themed movies that flaunted the statement: Anyone can be James Bond. With the latest 007 film, No Time To Die, set to release on 30 September, here are some copycat Bonds to stir your interest.
Slå først Frede! (1965)— Denmark
In Erik Balling’s goofy comedy, released in the US as “Operation: Lovebirds”, Frede Hansen (Morten Grunwald), a salesman, is recruited as a spy to bring down a criminal mastermind, Dr Pax (Martin Hansen), who is hell-bent on conquering the world through missile-carrying pigeons and other such oddities. The movie won a Bodil Award for Best Danish Film and got a sequel, Slap af Frede! (Relax, Freddy!) (1966).
James Tont operazione U.N.O. aka Operation Goldsinger—France/Italy
One of the better-made parodies, directed by Bruno Corbucci and Giovanni Grimaldi, this film lifts everything from the Bond film Goldfinger (1964). James Tont Agent 007 1⁄2 (Lando Buzzanca) takes on the megalomaniac Erik Goldsinger (Loris Gizzi), hired by China to blow up the UN headquarters for refusing it entry. The best moment is the entry of a white mouse (CIA Agent SOS 117) that saves Bond.
James Batman (1966) & For Y’ur Height Only (1981)— The Philippines
The Filipino film industry has long been producing Hollywood-inspired movies, so a Bond-inspired one was perhaps inevitable. In James Batman, directed by Artemio Marquez and starring the legendary comedians Dolphy and Boy Alano, we see two icons of pop culture, James Bond and Batman (with Robin thrown in), collaborating, albeit a bit reluctantly, to save the world from an evil organisation called CLAW (probably inspired by SMERSH) that is set to use a nuclear weapon unless its demands are met. Another Filipino film, Eddie Nicart’s For Y’ur Height Only, gave us a Bond-inspired secret agent who was only 2ft, 9 inches tall (played by the brilliant Weng Weng).
Altin Çocuk (1966)—Turkey
Along with the Philippines, Turkey was a hot spot for iffy and incredible Hollywood remakes. So, of course, it had its own version of James Bond. In Altin Çocuk aka Golden Boy, directed by Memduh Ün, we see our titular character (played by Göksel Arsoy) return to action from London, after bumping off his evil lookalike, when Turkey is threatened by a Blofeld-esque baddie (Altan Günbay) ready to use his nuclear weapon on Istanbul. The movie is high on violence and the relatively fast pace is bound to charm any Bond fan.
Gerak Kilat (1966)— Singapore
As Bond-mania took over the 1960s, local variations emerged from the oddest of places—like Singapore. Produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers, mainly for a Malay audience, Gerak Kilat sees secret agent Jeffri Zain (Jins Shamsuddin) outwitting a devilish villain in the form of Commander Zeaman. Zeaman wants to find a microfilm that Zefri has retrieved from his dead colleague. The best part of the movie: Jeffri’s secret headquarters, which is located beneath his bathtub.
The Spy With My Face (1966)—Hong Kong
Unlike other industries that were churning out male James Bonds, Hong Kong gave us the Jane Bond films, highly popular from 1965-68. It all started with Chor Yuen’s The Black Rose (1965) but it was the sequel, The Spy With My Face, that makes the premise more Bond-like. In it, the protagonists from the first film, the Robin Hood-esque sisters Chan Meiling and Chan Meiyu (played by Nam Hung and Connie Chan), take on a sinister villain called Golden Yanluo and his organisation that want to rob the city of all its jewels.
Mat Bond (1967)—Malaysia
If Singapore had Gerak Kilat, Malaysia has Mat Bond (the movie was produced in Singapore). But this was a more straightforward parody featuring comedian Mat Sentul, who also directed. Mat Sentul is your regular bum, who dreams of becoming a spy. To his aid comes a suitcase with magic pills that turn him into a superhuman. The generic Bond villain uses every means possible to get hold of these but Mat has an able supporter in Agent Lisa and an incredible multi-purpose umbrella that can become a gun, among other things.
Help! It's Vengos Visible Agent '000' (1967)—Greece
Directed by Thanasis Vengos, who also plays the lead character, this brilliant spoof sees Thanasis (playing Thou Vou) as a spy school student tasked with three missions to graduate and become the Greek James Bond. The movie does a great job of dismantling the machismo associated with Bond; Thou Vou does everything Bond wouldn’t. He can’t shoot straight, he lacks Bond’s charm; instead of stirring a martini, we find him bingeing on a cake and getting into a cake brawl.
O.K. Connery (1967)—Italy
This is one of the weirdest films in the Euro-spy genre. Sean Connery’s brother, Neil, is cast as a Bond-like figure (also named Neil Connery, and a brother of a super agent) who has to save the world from THANATOS, a group led by Mr Thayer aka Beta, who has a magnetic-wave generator ready to destroy the world. Neil Connery, a plasterer in real life, uses his expertise in plastic surgery and hypnosis to try and rescue a woman who might have the information needed to stop this madness.
The End of Agent W4C (1967)—Czechoslovakia
This was an attempt to subvert the character of James Bond by using it in a movie made in the communist bloc during the Cold War. So we have agent Cyril Juan Borguette alias W4C (Jan Kačer), assigned to go to a hotel in Prague and get hold of a salt cellar that has secrets related to a mission to Venus. His greatest nemesis turns out to be agent 13B (pretending to be an accountant). The movie does well to throw in a civilian among the spies while attacking the decadent legacy of a “Westernised” Bond. It was a massive success in erstwhile USSR.
James Bond 777 (1971)—India
India joined Bond-mania in the 1960s itself. James Bond 777, which uses the revenge trope we are so used to, is one of the best to come out of the country. We have Kishore aka Bond 777 (played by superstar Krishna) out to stop Boss (Kaikala Satyanarayana), a criminal who has killed his parents. There’s help at hand, in the form of Sopa (Vijayalalitha). The best thing about this movie is the lovable and extremely efficient group of dog-nappers.
Masud Rana (1974)— Bangladesh
Masud Rana, a character created by the writer Qazi Anwar Hussain, is considered the greatest Bangladeshi spy ever. Adapted from Bishmaron (Amnesia), the film has Sohel Rana playing the title role. Rana loses his memory in Kandy, Sri Lanka, where he is holidaying. He becomes a pawn in the hands of Rita (Olivia Gomez), a femme fatale. Sabita (Kabori Sarwar) plays his love interest. Unlike other Bond knock-offs, this film has no villains trying to destroy the world. Filled with romance and action, it takes inspiration from Bond’s relationship with Kissy Suzuki in the novel You Only Live Twice (1964).
James Band 007 (1980)—Thailand
There’s no shortage of cult classics from Thailand. So it was no surprise that they came up with James Bond in the form of a pedicab driver (played by Thep Tienchai) who has to take up the mantle after the famous spy gets killed while travelling in his cab. He now has to save the world from a villain (iconic comedian Lor Tok) who has many aces up his sleeve, the best among them being two henchmen in the form of R2D2 and C3PO.
Agentti 000 ja kuoleman kurvit (1983)—Finland
A parody of James Bond is the last thing you might expect from Finland, known for directors like Aki Kaurismäki. Despite budget constraints, director Visa Mäkinen followed the path carved out in Help! It’s Vengos Visible Agent 000. So we see another Agent 000, Joonas G. Breitenfeldt (Ilmari Saarelainen), trying to stop a villain with a mind-control device.
Nems Bond (2008)—Egypt
Directed by Ahmed Elbadry, Hany Ramzy plays officer Sherif Nems, trying to imbibe the spirit of the spy, rather ineptly. When he is assigned a murder case and meets the victim’s wife (Dolly Shahine), he’s inspired to try harder. It works up to a point but someone like Egyptian comedian Ismail Yassine may have done better.
Sayantan Mondal is a Pune-based writer.