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Cartes sur Table

Cartes sur Table (1966) Movie Poster
France / Spain  •    •  92m  •    •  Directed by: Jesús Franco.  •  Starring: Eddie Constantine, Françoise Brion, Fernando Rey, Mara Laso, Dina Loy, Aida Power, Lemmy Constantine, Alfredo Mayo, Marcelo Arroita-Jáuregui, Vicente Roca, Ricardo Palacios, Ramón Centenero, Antonio Padilla.  •  Music by: Paul Misraki.
       Pereira is on the trail of robotic hitmen murdering a series of important people. The agent romances a go-go dancer and breaks a Chinese espionage syndicate headed by the wily Lee Wee before being kidnapped. The real culprits are Sir Percy and his lover Lady Cecilia, who plan to turn their Rh-negative victims, including Pereira, into robot assassins.


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Image from: Cartes sur Table (1966)
Image from: Cartes sur Table (1966)
Image from: Cartes sur Table (1966)
Image from: Cartes sur Table (1966)
Image from: Cartes sur Table (1966)
Image from: Cartes sur Table (1966)
Enjoyable early Franco film (which I watched via a recording off Italian TV), an espionage tale with tongue-in-cheek and the first of Franco's several Al Pereira adventures.

It is given an extra edge by the presence of tough-guy Eddie Constantine who effectively parodies his image here, and seems to be having a ball doing it! Another major asset to the film was the screen writing credit of Jean-Claude Carriere who contributes intermittent touches of wacky humor, satirical barbs and wonderful dialogue ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ as in the scene where the Chinese statue 'speaks' to Al, and he thinks he may be hearing voices like Joan of Arc; or when his superiors showcase the various improbably lethal devices he will have at his disposal on his mission, and he quips that it's evident they've been watching the James Bond movies a lot lately! Robert Monell's 'Dark Waters' review captures this essence extremely well, I think:

'ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS is a Spanish-French co-production made by the same creative team responsible for THE DIABOLICIAL DR Z (1965). Both movies were given a tremendous boost by the imaginative screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere (who had worked for the great Luis Bunuel on many of his French productions). This perhaps explains the sarcastic French-style humor in ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS, which differentiates this from the more slapstick orientation of Franco's later Eurospy efforts (such as LUCKY THE INSCRUTABLE and KISS ME MONSTER [both 1967]). For instance, the opening assassination scenes include the murder of an ambassador and then a high church official, scenes that are staged with a slightly absurd, surreal touch which anticipates similar scenes found in future Carriere-Bunuel projects, THE MILKY WAY [1969] and THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE [1972].'

Unfortunately, the film loses steam around the middle where the basically dreary (and fairly silly) plot takes center-stage. In fact, the 'robots' are the film's least successful element: amusingly attired but also lacking a distinct air of menace; this was perhaps intentional but I felt it weakened the suspense considerably, because in this way Pereira was never really in any danger! Still, there are plenty of other diversions on hand, not the least of which are the film's two leading ladies ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ Francoise Brion and Sophie Hardy ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ who manage quite a nice contrast between them, apart from providing the obligatory (albeit chaste in this case) eye-candy!

Curiously enough, the film was shot in color but released outside Spain in black-and-white (which fact is given away by the plot-point of having the robots change their skin color when they die, but this element obviously does not register on-screen!). Still, as it stands, the film elicits comparison with any number of internationally-produced film noirs of the 50s and early 60s, and especially the work of Orson Welles as well as Jean-Luc Godard's almost-contemporaneous ALPHAVILLE (1965) ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ no doubt Paul Misraki's scoring credit was no mere coincidence ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ which also starred Constantine as another detective, Lemmy Caution, who was featured in a long-running series of films on the big screen.

The climax is hurried and hardly exciting (despite some lavish interiors, the film's production was all-too-obviously a cheapjack affair) ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ but the sight of super-villain Fernando Rey (not quite in his element here) getting his just desserts Moreau-like is reasonably satisfactory, in my opinion. Put simply, CARTAS BOCA ARRIBA is good, unpretentious fun most of the way and I certainly would not turn down an opportunity to watch some of the other films Franco made featuring his favorite detective ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿ Al Pereira!

Review by MARIO GAUCI from the Internet Movie Database.