Golden Eyes December 8, 2016
From botched crossover Monica Vitti vehicle Modesty Blaise (1966) to the near forgotten Dean Martin starring Matt Helm franchise of the late 1960s, fascinating it is to see the impact the James Bond films had on the action genre after the juggernaut saga introduced itself in 1962 with Dr. No. Never having really been a category of films much focused upon during the Hollywood Golden Age, which was in its final stages following the mod lifestyle’s game-changing collision with modern culture, production companies, internationally based or otherwise, scrambled to capitalize on the success kicked off by 007 champions Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli.
The paying homage to, or, depending on your generosity, ripping off of, Bond remains such an intriguing pattern of the decade due to the many pale imitations largely being lost in the sands of time — Sean Connery (and maybe even Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer) is still the only super spy audiences endlessly manage to tirelessly devote two or more hours to on a semi regular basis. You can forget about all your cinematic secret agents who aren’t partial to sighing that they prefer their drinks shaken but not stirred. Most, as time as shown, don’t stay in the memory.
And I suppose Jun Fukuda’s Golden Eyes (1968), which perfectly calculated its release less than a year after the smash-hit of the Japan set 007 extravaganza You Only Live Twice, is pretty throwaway itself. But that doesn’t stop me from acclaiming it as likable escapism to be left behind in the theater rather than kept stored in the mind. The sequel to 1965’s Ironfinger (unbeknownst to me until the closing credits rolled and research for this review began), the film follows hitman Andrew Hoshino (Akira Takarada) as he races against time and ruthless baddies for both a valuable gold coin and also the life of a kidnapped little girl.
Because Golden Eyes is generally a simplistic enchilada of cat-and-mouse tropes (more a caper than a straight-faced thriller), there’s much to like, despite not being much more than a typical Bond wannabe. Takarada’s a genial leading hero — a little Mike Hammer and a little Bob Hope — and Bibari Maeda, as the sexy female assassin he inevitably teams up with, is a cheeky femme fatale who knows a thing or two about authoritatively carrying a prop gun and keeping a straight face when confronted with casual trouble.
At only seventy-nine minutes, Golden Eyes temporarily provokes more than it sticks, but with its ‘60s swagger so outrageous and its action sequences so surprisingly apt, complaining about its feathery memorability isn’t much an option. We enjoy it too much to notice that there’s neither an original frame in its low-budget strip nor a line of dialogue we’re bound to remember. Fact of the matter is is that it's rambunctious and wondrously light, and occasionally devouring cinematic junk food never hurt anyone. B-