Saturday, June 20, 2009

FATHOM (1967)

Raquel Welch is a skydiver named Fathom Harvill--the story behind her first name becomes a running gag--who after a successful jump with a team of parachutists, is recruited by two British secret agents (Ronald Fraser and Richard Briers) from an outfit called HADES to help them plant a radio transmitter in the island villa of playboy Anthony Franciosa, suspected of having stolen a gadget called the Fire Dragon which can trigger an H-bomb. She parachutes onto his terrace, pretending to have missed her target, but as she's prowling around the house, she runs across a dead body which she assumes is that of another HADES agent. Franciosa plays dumb about the body but seems to buy her cover story, and helps her get back to the mainland. Next, Fraser sends her out to the yacht of Sergi Serapkin (Clive Revill), a colorful character who wouldn't have been out of place on an episode of The Wild, Wild West. After she sets off a bomb on the yacht and gets involved in a motorboat chase, she runs into Franciosa again, who tells her that the Fire Dragon is actually a priceless Ming Dynasty relic and he's a private eye trying to retrieve it for the Chinese government, and that Revill knows where to get hold of it. Who's telling the truth? More complications include Welch trapped in an arena with a raging bull, a car chase, shenanigans on a train, and a hunky bed & breakfast owner named Senor Mike (Tom Adams) who might be good, bad, or just an innocent bystander.

When I was a teenager, a poster of Raquel Welch coming out of the surf in a dripping-wet bikini shared wall space in my bedroom with The Beatles, Peter Max, and Elton John. But truth be told, I've seen few of her movies. This spy spoof with a light touch was a pleasant surprise; Welch doesn't exactly *act* here (one problem is that many of her lines have that awkward post-dubbed sound), but she looks good in her body-hugging wardrobe which includes, yes, a dripping-wet bikini. The twists and turns of the plot are clever, if eventually predictable, and the colorful settings (on location in Spain) are gorgeous. Briers, as the second-in-command Brit, is likable, and Franciosa is handsome and charming, though I was also quite taken by Tom Adams in his supporting role (pictured). This is no classic for the ages, but a solid 60's action flick that you won't feel guilty about having watched the next morning. [FMC]

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

I have a soft spot for Raquel Welch. She was good in a small role in The Three Musketeers, and she was brilliant in Myra Breckinridge. She suffered from the fairly common "anyone that pretty or that hot or with breasts as spectacular as that can't possibly be talented" syndrome. In fact she was a fine comic actress.