Double Agent 73 (1974) Review
When I decided to start adding vintage grindhouse films to my reviews I knew female sexploitation pioneer Doris Wishman’s work would turn up at some point, but I thought it would be for her proto-slasher A Night to Dismember, not lethally large breast fest Double Agent 73. But a chance to see this udderly ridiculous spy thriller presented itself so here we are.
Double Agent 73 opens with some guy attempting a daylight break-in at a house somewhere in the burbs. When he can’t force a window open he takes the desperate measure of unlocking the front door and letting himself in. He finds the microfilm he’s looking for but gets caught before he can escape. All of this involves more shots of the character’s shoes than their faces. And you better get used to it, Tarantino may have a foot fetish but Wishman had a fetish for the shoes on people’s feet and she’s happy to share that fetish with us.
It seems that the microfilm belonged to a Mr. Toplar (Louis Burdi, A Night to Dismember, Deadly Weapons) a heroin smuggler who’s in the process of taking over the entire US market. This means that her boss (Peter Savage, Taxi Driver, Vigilante) at whatever government agency she works for has no choice but to call Jane (Chesty Morgan, Deadly Weapons), the titular Agent 73, back from vacation and put her on the case. Since nobody knows what Toplar looks like, her assignment is to kill off all of his gang just to make sure they get him.
And, after every kill, she needs to take a picture of the victim, for identification purposes, and so they can stay abreast of her progress. Do they give her a miniature camera to do it? No, they implant one in her left breast so that every time she has to take a photo she has to get topless. How’s that for genius plotting?
Actually, Double Agent 73’s plotting does seem like the work of a genius compared to the film’s execution. Right from the start when the would-be James Bond steps through a door in the middle of the house into a room with a side wall with a window in it, the film is a collection of mismatched shots, badly chosen camera angles and general ineptitude. We’re not talking about compromises caused by a low budget, this is actual lack of a clue on how to shoot and edit a film.
At one point, one of Jane’s friends is stabbed to death in the shower. Cinematographer Nuri Habib, whose next and final film would be the original I Spit on Your Grave, just holds the shot while the killer obviously rubs a prop knife over the actress, smearing fake blood on her. There’s not even an attempt to hide the fact she isn’t being stabbed. In another scene, Jane looks to her right and sees a dog laying on the grass. A few moments later she looks to the left and the same shot is repeated. That’s the kind of filmmaking on display here.
But let’s face it, the folk who made Double Agent 73 a 42nd Street legend were interested in something else being exposed. And Ms. Morgan does show them off frequently, which is the problem.
We’re talking about 73-inch natural breasts belonging to a woman who was close to forty years old when Double Agent 73 was filmed. Gravity had plenty of time to have its way with them, they aren’t perky, they don’t bounce around, they just sag and hang there. About the only time they move is when she lifts one to take a picture. Did I mention when she takes a picture there’s the sound of a lens and a flashbulb effect? Well, there is, and that helps make sure these displays are among the least erotic things imaginable.
Much like another grindhouse perennial, Shriek of the Mutilated, the entertainment value of Double Agent 73 lies in what, and how much, is wrong with it. The combination of ludicrous plotting and clueless filmmaking makes it almost impossible to look away for fear you’ll miss another unintentionally funny moment like the hitman who gets suffocated with ice cubes. If you enjoy bad movies then this is one you’ll want to make your breast effort to see.
Wishman would go on making films up until her death in 2002 with her last film, Each Time I Kill, being released five years later in 2007. Chesty exited the film business two years later after Fellini, yes that Fellini, left her Casanova scenes on the cutting room floor. She continued to work as a dancer until 1991.
Double Agent 73 has been available on a variety of DVDs and Blu-rays but only seems to be available now as part of a box set from Vinegar Syndrome. It is available on Digital, however. If you’re looking for some other espionage films, FilmTagger may have some clues as to what to watch.