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The Last of the

Secret Agents?

Part One of Operation: 00-OddBalls

     "Schubach, surrender to us now, peacefully, and I'll make sure you only get the guillotine."

--  J. Fredrick Duvall / GGI   




Gonzoid Cinema




At long last the best Secret Agent in the whole film finally reveals himself!


Watch it!



Sights &
Last of
the Secret

A Spy in the
For Your Laughs
Only, a Few More

The Ambushers

Last of the Secret Agents?




Code 7 ... Victim 5

2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World

The Venetian Affair

Deadlier than the Male

Spy in Your Eye


Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine


Our retro-spy retrospective opens with perhaps the oddest of oddball spies of all time. The film itself opens in Cannes, France, at the height of spy season, where a man in trench coat clandestinely passes on a secret note to a beautiful woman in green pumps. She, in turn, shoots the man dead, and then knocks on a nearby manhole cover, which opens, revealing a scuba-diver, who takes the note before shooting her dead, too.

Next, a milkman delivers a fresh quart to the middle of the street. Answering another knock, the scuba-diver takes the new bottle and leaves an empty, with the ill-fated note taped to it. Keeping the chain going, the milkman retrieves the empty bottle, and the note, and then empties his pistol into the open hole ... This pattern continues as several more spies keep passing on the note, only to get plugged for their troubles, until it winds up in the hands of a monkey, who turns the note over to his master, the organ grinder. (How come he didn't shoot the monkey? Now that would have been funny!) Of course, once he turns it over to the next man, he is shot dead, too. This last man then takes a seat at an outdoor cafe and begins to scan the paper. Suddenly, a shot rings out! The man clutches his chest, and, recognizing who shot him, we pan left to reveal the organ grinder's monkey holding a smoking gun. (Okay, that was funny.) 

This pan then reverses, past the victim, and then settles on two bumbling boobs headed toward the same cafe. Apparently, these two vagabonds, chisel-chinned Steve (Steve Rossi) and pickle-barrel-puss Marty (Marty Allen), are here to see a man about a job. And our initial assessment is confirmed when they assume the soon-to-be-a-corpse is the proprietor and ask if he's still hiring. As he nods a yes and hands them the secret note, the two men thank him and leave before he keels over. Then, while the camera zooms back, revealing a street littered with over two-dozen dead spies, Nancy Sinatra cranks up our theme song as the credits roll...

When one thinks of borscht-belt comedians, and Ed Sullivan Show regulars, Marty Allen and Steve Rossi, the subtle, suave and debonair skills of a super-spy really don't spring to mind. Splutter, maybe. But not spring. Basically, picture Joe Besser, with Larry Fine's wild hairdo, and Marty Feldman's googley eyes (-- Allen often claims to be the illegitimate son of Jackie Mason and Phyllis Diller), and then team him up with carbon-copy of Dean Martin from a vintage copier that's a little low on toner and you'll have a pretty good mental picture of our dynamic duo. 

As the legend goes, Rossi was "discovered" by Mae West while acting in a production of The Student Prince in 1953, who then incorporated the singer into her Vegas show. After the tour ended, Rossi formed the Robinaires, a musical group, who wound up as part of Nat "King" Cole's entourage. But by 1957, the singer was ready to try something different. Maybe some comedy, he confided with his boss, who knew a guy, who new a guy that he felt would be a perfect fit. Allen, meanwhile, after a hitch in the Army Air-Corps, used the GI Bill to attend USC, majoring in journalism. But while in college, Allen spent most of his nights honing a comedy act at several clubs that soon had him opening for the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Allen had also toured with Cole, who, remember, knew a straight-man who needed a comedian and gave Rossi the funny-man's number. 

The two had chemistry, hit it off, and over the next decade the duo made over 700 guest-appearances on the tube -- including three of the four Sullivan episodes which featured The Beatles -- and hammered out 16 comedy albums on top of all the touring and live performances, providing the opening act for the likes of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. As for Allen's famous "Hello dere!" catch phrase, apparently, one night in the middle of the act, the mad-quipper suffered a bad case of brain-lock and couldn't remember his lines and just kept blurting out "Hello dere" over and over. The audience loved it, chimed in, chaos ensued, and he's been using it ever since. As with most comedy teams, alas, they were destined to split up, and split up they did in 1968. But before the break-up, the duo had enough of a following to land them the lead in a feature film, a spoof, naturally, on the current spy and espionage-addled box-office boom called The Last of the Secret Agents? 

And to be honest, the unlikely heroes both have their moments in the film to come. And remember, it could be worse. We could be dealing with Sammy Petrillo and Duke Williams. Yoinks! Now there's a scary thought.

Anyways, we pick up the action with Steve and Marty delivering a piano. (Wait ... that's what the deadly note was about?!) And while Steve rigs a block and tackle to hoist the massive instrument to a second story window, Marty tries to push the heavy load off the trailer -- grumbling the whole time over how the fat guy always does all the work while the skinny guy always winds up with the girl in the end. (Yeah, Why is that?) Here, the frame freezes, allowing the narrator to point out two figures, lurking in the background, and he assures us they are relevant to the picture. As is a nearby automobile, complete with a chesty brunette in a bikini. But she has nothing to do with the movie, he says. Just a close and personal friend of the producer. Hubba-hubba! Then, the action unfreezes with the expected disastrous results as the attempt to hoist the piano ends in it's total destruction. It also should be noted that the two mystery men use this distraction to nab our two goofs, toss them into car, and speed away.

Now, in the middle of all that action, a note from the theater manager is imposed over the screen, asking a Dr. Stringberg to please call his exchange. Uh-oh, I smell a running gag...

Later, in a secluded warehouse, we find Steve and Marty tied-up and blindfolded. But a man with a fussy British accent orders them untied before introducing himself as J. Fredrick Duvall (John Williams). Despite the apology, our boys are indignant; they're Americans, after all, and this doesn't happen to Americans -- especially Americans from Pittsboig. But as they try to fight their way out, our blundering pair do more damage to themselves than anyone else, and, after wearing themselves out, quietly return to their seats. Duvall then explains how he is one of the good guys. In fact, he's the head of GGI -- The Good Guy Institute; an international police force dedicated to the recovery of lost and stolen art treasures; most pilfered by their arch enemy; the mysterious, and evil group of art thieves known only as THEM.

Apparently, the GGI has had Steve and Marty under surveillance for quite some time as every delivery job they've had over the past few months has unwittingly helped THEM smuggle more stolen art. To prove this, Duvall shows a film of them destroying that piano. And after they're hauled off, someone recovers a piece of the piano and ducks into a doorway. You see, says Duvall, secreted inside was an ancient Sumerian Dagger. Next, Duvall shows film from some of their musical gigs. (Did I mention Marty is a trumpet player and Steve is singer? No? Okay, well, Marty is a trumpet player and Steve's singer. Now lets move on...) Sure enough, hidden amongst their equipment is more stolen art. When the film ends, Duvall finally gets to the gist of it: he wants to recruit Steve and Marty into the GGI to help bring an end to THEM. When the duo waffles at the offer, Duval cues up some footage of what happens to THEM's unwitting accomplices when they're of no further use. And several stock-footage shots of massive explosions later, GGI has two new, ready, willing and able recruits.

Not one to mess around with the piddly stuff, Duvall plans to sic our boys on THEM's most notorious agent, Zoltan Schubach (Theodore Marcuse). GGI knows Schubach is an art thief of the highest order, but they have no proof because they can't figure out where he keeps his stolen goods. Now, all the new recruits have to do is go about their business as usual, as entertainers, and spy on Schubach to sniff out where he hides all his stolen loot. And since they're now officially spies, these Double-O Oddballs are gonna need some spy gadgets. 

Led to a refrigerator, really a door to a secret passage, which leads down to the weapons development lab, where Professor Von Cluck (Sig Ruman) is sleeping with his eyes open. (Who a lot of us will recognize as Sgt. Schultz from Stalag 17.) Startled awake, Von Cluck shouts in a German "I vas only vollowing orders!" (-- a line and delivery that had soda pop coming out my nose.) Recovering from this slight faux-pas, the kooky scientist demonstrates the M6-37, which, Marty rightfully proclaims, looks just like an umbrella. But, Von Cluck answers, that's exactly what he wants the bad guys to think. And so, a crash course on the M6-37 begins; it can serve as a two-way radio; a fountain pen -- with lemon-juice invisible ink; a gun that can shoot metal spears; and it also has an escape device that inflates a helium balloon so the owner can fly to safety. The weapon also has a failsafe feature in case it's stolen. For if used improperly, it will form a cocoon around the user. Moving on, while Von Cluck shows Marty another threatening looking device, designed for his granddaughter to shoot roasted marshmallows, Steve asks Duval if a Papa Leo is involved with THEM, since he's the one who always got them those side-gigs. No, Duvall says; Leo is an unwitting dupe, as well. Meanwhile, despite Von Cluck's warnings, Marty triggers the M6-37's defenses and is wrapped up in a neat little bundle.

Later, Steve and Marty head for Papa Leo's bar, The Topless A-Go-Go. Against all conceivable logic, Steve is letting Marty carry the M6-37. He also has to constantly remind his bumbling companion to keep their new job a secret. But as they walk along, it appears everyone knows it already as they pass several couples who speak in different languages -- the subtitles revealing their treachery; except for a Chinese couple, who ask Why are you always hungry a half hour later after eating French food? (Okay, that had soda pop coming out my nose, too.) Meantime, inside the bar, Papa Leo (Lou Jacobi) is harassing his daughter, Micheline (Nancy Sinatra), wondering if she'll ever get married and give him some grandchildren. To rebut, Micheline says, in what I think is a French accent, that she's waiting for Steve to finally pop the question. To this Leo groans, and begs her to marry anyone but that idiot. 

Speaking of that idiot, when Steve and Marty arrive Leo won't let them in until their bar tab is settled. But they manage an end run, allowing Micheline to grab Steve and they kiss for an eternity while Marty takes in the floor show. Like I said, Papa Leo's is a topless bar, and several gals are go-going away, but, due to some nifty camera work and some strategically placed objects, we never get to see anything. (It's not like I did a frame by frame search or anything. I'm not that big of creep.) When Micheline and Steve finally stop swapping spit, she begs him to marry her; but he's still not ready to take the plunge. To help remedy this, Micheline tries to recruit Marty to help but it's too late; Leo finally spots them and kicks these moochers out. Following the rushed bums, Micheline, fearing her reluctant beau might be seeing another woman, asks where the boys were earlier because she couldn't find them. Of course, blabbermouth Marty starts to tell her about GGI until Steve abruptly stops him. Taking what cock-n-bull she heard as a sure sign of infidelity, Steve assures his lady there is no other woman, and then tries to explain how financial constraints are the reason why he won't marry her yet (-- and the reason for all those side jobs). What follows next is a calamitous comedy of errors which culminates with Papa Leo getting them another gig while Micheline is stripped down to her bra and panties.

Now, the gig in question is a high society party held at Schubach's mansion. With Steve and Marty inserted in the house band, they spot Schubach among the guests, giving a covert nod to two other men. When they all converge at an elevator heading down, since he's in the middle of a song, Steve sends Marty, alone, to see where they went. Heading downstairs, Marty beats the elevator to the next floor, hides, and then watches as Schubach uses a remote control to open a secret passage to a hidden vault. Thinking this must be where Schubach is hiding all the stolen artwork, Marty heads back to the party and reports it all to his partner, who thinks they better pass it on to Duvall. Thus, they roust a couple of revelers out of a closet and use the M6-37 to call in ... Meanwhile, down in the not-so-secret vault, Schubach reveals his latest diabolical caper to his two henchmen (-- one wears and eye-patch and the other has a clubbed hand so we'll be referring to them as Patch and Lefty). The plan is to hijack and steal the Venus de Milo while it's on the way to London. Why does he want the de Milo, you ask? Simple. He already has the statue's missing arms and wants to complete the set. Standing on the pedestal where the soon-to-be-pilfered statue will go, Schubach orders Patch and Lefty to go get it -- at all costs.

Ordered by Duvall to stick with the henchman, Steve and Marty trail Patch and Lefty to a train bound for Paris. Contacting Duvall again, they're told to stay put. Seems there's another, more experienced GGI agent already on board the train by the name of Fred Johnson. Later, there's a knock on their compartment door. It's Johnson, but Johnson's manly voice doesn't match her shapely body. Gob-smacked Marty is immediately smitten and compliments him/her on the disguise. All business, Johnson (Thordis Brandt) says Schubach's men have made arrangements for a helicopter once they get to Paris, and their orders are to stick with them and find out what the transport is for. Alas, they stick too close and are caught. But just as Steve and Marty are about to be executed, the train reaches the next stop and takes on more passengers. With too many witnesses, Patch and Lefty hide their guns as the other passengers quickly fill up the compartment (-- including the Producer's buxom special friend making a welcome return appearance).

As the train continues on to Paris, each tunnel along the route plunges the compartment into total darkness. And when the train emerges everyone has mysteriously changed into someone else's clothes. Another tunnel, and everyone's wearing a large hat. Things get a little absurd from there as the last tunnel turns the compartment into a Tarzan movie; complete with natives, pith helmets, and an elephant! Marty then punctuates the joke by giving a Tarzan yell. When the train finally reaches Paris, during the confusion of debarkation, the dorkish duo manages to give Patch and Lefty the slip. But the absurdity continues as the two are mistaken as extras for a movie, and then herded into a costume trailer. Seems the next scene for A Train Is Missing is set up, and when the cameras start rolling a Nazi commandant (Harvey Korman) dresses down his troops for losing a whole train. (I'm assuming this is a dig on Frank Sinatra's Von Ryan's Express.) The commandant also takes extreme pleasure in ripping into the slovenly Marty, eventually telling Steve, who's dressed as an SS agent, to take him away for summary execution.

As Steve drags Marty off scene and off the set, they pass an actor who is screaming at his agent about being typecast. Seems he can't get any other kind of work and threatens to get another agent. The actor turns around revealing he's a dead ringer for Adolph Hitler. (And, yes, soda came out of my nose for a third time.)

But Patch and Lefty take up the chase and corner them in a alley, where their prey is hiding, rather obviously, in two barrels. So, Patch starts up a truck and tries to run the barrels over, but they keep moving until he finally crushes them into a wall. After the baddies leave, assuming they're dead, we spy, under the truck, that Steve and Marty escaped into the sewer. And thought Marty is relieved they finally lost them, Steve reminds him how they're supposed to be following -- not running from them THEM guys. Crawling out of the sewer first, Marty bumps into someone who reveals which airport the bad guys were headed for. Passing that info onto Steve, asked who told him so, Marty says Hitler told him. (Man this movie needs a rim shot machine.) At the airport, while Patch warms up the helicopter, Lefty spots the pursuing agents, removes his fake hand, and reveals a lethal looking metal claw that he tries to sink into Steve. And after a brief battle, with no help from Marty, Steve actually overpowers Lefty. Unfortunately, this allows Patch to get the drop on them, who then herds the whole party onto the helicopter

Next, we cut to a truck trundling down a road with a police escort; the Venus de Milo clearly crated up for shipment strapped to the bed. But the whole convoy comes to halt when a herd of sheep blocks the road -- three of them packing heat, and the faux critters quickly subdue the escort. Up above, in the helicopter, Patch orders Steve to fly the chopper (-- and isn't there anything this guy CAN'T do?), so he can hook Marty up to a harness to be lowered over the side, via a winch, to hook onto the crate so they can reel in the statue. High hilarity ensues as Marty is lowered and bounced off the truck several times. Meanwhile, back in the cockpit, with the help of some animated Batman sound-effects, Steve manages to take out Patch. (The guy is good.) He then takes up the M6-37, fires, and dispatches the evil sheep before finally reeling Marty in ... With the plot foiled, Steve contacts Duvall and reports Schubach's failed plan to steal the Venus de Milo. But Duvall disagrees as he hits upon a plan of his own: they'll pretend the thieves succeeded. Of course, with that seeming success, Schubach will want to celebrate at his favorite spot -- Papa Leo's Topless A-Go-Go. And with the help of GGI's latest recruit, Daisy Mae Salty (Carmen), Schubach's former second in command, they can seize the villain's remote control and recover all the stolen artwork.

And so, later that evening, all the players in our drama congregate at Papa Leo's. It's Greek night, and the bouzouki players have the crowd in a swell mood as Steve, Marty, Leo, and Micheline start a traditional line dance. Others join them, including Daisy Mae and Schubach, and during this Greek slam-dance, Marty somehow manages to pick Schubach's pocket of the remote control. With that, Steve, Marty and Micheline amscray, with Duval and his men right behind them. Also, when Schubach realizes he's been robbed, he heads back to his mansion, too.

Here, the film is interrupted again as the theater manager begs Dr. Stringberg to call his exchange -- and that it's extremely urgent that he do so.

Leaving his men to guard the entrance, Duval watches as Marty uses the pilfered remote to open the door to Schubach's secret art stash. And thanks to their efforts, with all these treasures destined to be returned to their rightful owners, Duvall tries to thank our boys for a job well done but Schubach interrupts, saying, over a loudspeaker, that the artwork will be staying put. Seems his goons have dispatched all of Duvall's agents, the place is surrounded, and all that's left is a little mopping up. And that begins when Schubach seals the chamber, trapping our heroes inside. They split up, trying to find another way out, and Micheline and Duvall find an air vent that will do the trick -- if they can get the grate off. Meanwhile, Steve and Marty are playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with Schubach and his goons. And after a couple of brilliant sight gags, Marty manages to dispatch the goon who was after him by squirting lemon juice in his eyes with the M6-37.

During the bedlam, another call for Dr. Stringberg flashes on screen -- only this time, Marty interrupts the interruption and yells at Dr. Stringberg, somewhere in the audience, to just do it already.

But Steve loses his fight with Schubach and is herded into the ventilation room, where Duvall and Micheline had managed to get the grate off and were about to climb out. Alas, Schubach is now about to ventilate them. Well, he was until Marty breaks in and interrupts. With the M6-37 pointed right at him, Schubach deftly cranks up the ventilation controls and Marty is sucked up a tube before he can fire. Locking the others inside the room, Schubach escapes. (And why doesn't he just shoot them? Ask yourself why no one ever shot 007? Exactly. That would make sense -- and if this movie does anything, it definitely doesn't make any sense.) Marty, meanwhile, is still being vacuumed up the shaft, that ends at a manhole cover in the middle of a busy intersection, which he crashes through and pops out like a cork. He recovers in time to spot Schubach making his escape in his Rolls Royce -- a Rolls Royce that's coming right at him! Ah, but Marty triggers the failsafe on the M6-37, which inflates and carries him to safety, leaving Schubach, suffering from a bad case of target fixation, to wreck the car and be arrested, blaming his misdeeds on the overcrowding of the public school systems as he's led away. Up above, Marty is still ascending, unsure of how to get down, as he hollers for help while the screen fades to black...


...We fade back in, in New York, at the Ed Sullivan studios as Mr. Sullivan reminds the audience of that great caper over in France that concluded a few weeks ago. He then announces the heroes who foiled the plot are here, in the audience, with their new wives; Steve with Micheline and Marty with agent Johnson. Telling them to take a bow, Mr. Sullivan keeps heaping on the praise, saying with the likes of these men on the job, the world's art is safe. But while the audience applauds, we move out to the harbor, where a fleet of helicopters tows off the Statue of Liberty as the end credits begin. Here, the producers remind everyone that a good cast is worth repeating. So we'll be getting the credits for All's Quiet on the Western Front.

The Ever Loving End

Well, that was fun, wasn't it? Uh, Folks? Hello? Hello dere?!

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Marty Allen and Steve Rossi threaten to be even bigger than [Dean] Martin and [Jerry] Lewis. They are already better and funnier. Marty is infinitely more lovable than Lewis ever was and a zany clown. Steve is a handsome leading man with a fine singing voice and a pixyish sense of humor. The ingredients are all there, leaving it only for the public to decide.

-- a Press-kit excerpt for The Last of the Secret Agents?

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Despite the claims of this over-zealous Paramount publicist, the viewing public didn't buy it as Allen and Rossi's big screen debut flopped. Outside of this movie, I've only seen the pair work together in a couple of YouTube clips and found them amusing enough. And I do remember seeing and laughing at Marty Allen when he was on The Hollywood Squares, and one particularly funny appearance on The Mike Douglass Show. Allen's shtick can be funny but it's only funny in prescribed doses as prolonged exposure to his preening and spastic routine has been known to cause brain damage. Rossi seems fine as a straight man and was a pretty good crooner but he's barely allowed to sing during the chaos, here, making the dull and tired results in The Last of the Secret Agents? a bit of conundrum. Truthfully, Allen appears to be having fun, and his surprising physicality in a lot of sequences and sight gags (-- the film's true strength --) will be a surprise to some, while Rossi looks very uncomfortable bearing the weight of a leading man, and even has trouble finding his mark on several, very noticeable occasions. Then again, the duo was destined to break up in a few short months, and, sadly, the chemistry just ain't there anymore.

As for their main co-star, Nancy Sinatra, she's only here as window dressing and barely breaks ten minutes of actual screen time. Her accidental striptease is one of the highlights of the film, though. But what she was doing at Schubach's for the climax is beyond me. Apparently, Sinatra was supposed to have a more prominent role, with a featured song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David that was scotched and scuttled when the production basically ran out of money. However, when Sinatra's These Boots Were Made for Walking hit big during the film's post-production phase, producer Mel Tolkin immediately commissioned Sinatra's arranger, Lee Hazelwood, to pen a new title song to cash in. And as with all of Hazelwood-Sinatra collaborations, the tune is quite catchy in a hideously infectious kind of way.

Now, the film's weapon of choice is the running gag ... Whenever they'd call Duvall on the umbrella, he would answer on any number of objects, including an egg, a candle, and a bar of soap. The page for Dr. Stringberg gets a lot of mileage, too. Another running gag is poor Marty's inability to get into a car without falling down several times. This is used best when Duvall's men first nab them as they keep throwing Marty in but he flies right on through the other side, out the other door, into the street. This is lathered, rinsed and repeated several times. But this lather, rinse and repeat motif of the gags ultimately leads to the film's downfall. As an example, Mike Myers drew inspiration from a lot of these oddball spy flicks for his recent Austin Powers movies. One idea he stole from The Last of the Secret Agents? was to repeat the same joke at least three times. That way you hear the same joke three times just in case you missed it. That way you hear the same joke three times just in case you missed it. That way you hear the same joke three times just in case you missed it. Annoying after awhile isn't it?

Tolkin co-scripted the film with his director, Norman Abbott. Tolkin had written for Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows, and went on to be the head writer for All in the Family, so we know he can be funny. Abbott, Bud's nephew, had directed several episodes of Get Smart so he was very familiar with this spy spoof business. But their combined results is a mixed bag of missed opportunities and truly inspired and funny moments that are marred with too many equally tired and unfunny moments that are repeated again and again and again. Unfortunately, since they're so engrained, it's only the unfunny moments that we seem to remember after the dust settles. There is potential here, that occasionally makes it to the screen, but Allen -- and especially Rossi can't pull it off. I'd love to see what Bob Hope and Bing Crosby could have done with this script ten years before. 

So, it all boils down to your patience for these kind of things. If you can stand Allen's buffoonery and shtick, Rossi's wooden performance, and repeated gags, ad nauseum, you can mine some nice comedy gold nuggets out of The Last of the Secret Agents?. But if you have very little patience for that kind of thing, then, by all means, avoid it all costs. Seriously, avoid it all costs. And by all costs avoid it. Avoid it, that is.

The Last of the Secret Agents? (1966) Paramount Pictures / P: Mel Tolkin / D: Norman Abbott / W: Mel Tolkin, Norman Abbott / C: Harold E. Stine / E: Otho Lovering / M: Pete King / S: Marty Allen, Steve Rossi, Nancy Sinatra, John Williams, Theodore Marcuse, Carmen, Lou Jacobi

Back to Operation: 00-OddBalls!

Originally Posted: 03/02/03 :: Rehashed:  07/15/2012

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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