The Girl From Rio (1969) / The Million Eyes Of Sumuru (1967) (Blue Underground) color. Blu ray- release date April 26,2016. $29.98
I have to admit that I had often heard about but never seen THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU (A.I.P.). Maybe because it had very little television air play, or that I had trouble with the idea of
Frankie Avalon of Beach Party film fame as an action hero, bedding women and tossing hand grenades at gun totting female assassins (both of which he does in the film).
However, it does have a great cast that includes Wilfred Hyde White (TEN LITTLE INDIANS, WB/1964), Klaus Kinski (NOSFERATU, Fox/1979), George Nader (ROBOT MONSTER Astor/1953) and of course, Shirley Eaton (the golden girl of GOLDFINGER, U.A./1964) as the title villainess, Sumuru.
Producer Harry Alan Towers had at the time been having great success with his series of Fu Manchu films starring Christopher Lee, and so turned to another Sax Rohmer character. The character first appeared in “Shadow of Sumuru “for the BBC radio in 1945 in eight half hour episodes. Rohmer turned the episodes into a novel in 1950 called “The Sins of Sumuru”, though the title was changed to a more exploitive “Nude In Mink” for its American publication.
Towers, jumping from country to country since jumping bail in NYC in 1961 (he was accused of running a vice ring!), amazingly was able to set up various multinational productions while still staying one step ahead of authorities (the charges were dropped in 1980). MILLION EYES was one of five films he produced in 1967, including THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (WB)and many other A.I.P. releases.
Director Lindsay Shonteff (best known for DEVIL DOLL, Gordon Films/1964) does a serviceable job of directing this tale of crazed world domination. Intoning lines that echo Fu Manchu (“For I am Sumuru!”) , the female arch villain plans on a world ruled by women, and will kill for world peace! Sumuru (Eaton in a dark wig) rules remotely, letting her female assassins do all the actual work.
Opposing her plans are Colonel Sir Arthur Baisbrook (Wilfred Hyde-White), CIA agent Nick West (George Nader) and rich playboy Tommy Carter (Avalon). Both West and Carter seduce Helga (producer Towers wife Maria Rohm) to help them in battling the distaff megalomaniac.
The film plays out at about 79 relatively painless minutes, resembling an average television spy thriller of the period, but with some actual foreign locales rather than back lot work. Still, there is not much else to differentiate this theatrical release from similar tv fodder of the time. Sadly, Sumuru is missing from a great deal of the story, letting her bikini clad henchwomen drown a traitor (no not Avalon!), or strangle someone to death with their thighs. Nader seems more in line with the Euro Spy Dramas of the period rather than a man from UNCLE or a License to Kill, but he acquits himself well in the role (so well he ended up in a similar role in another Tower film that year, HOUSE OF A 1000 DOLLS, AIP/1967). Some of the temples used seem similar to those used in the Fu Manchu films, but the sets seem much smaller, especially the cave tunnels where a major part of the final action scenes take place. Keep an eye out for Klaus Kinski in black face as President Boong !
For a film of the period, it looks pretty good. Having checked out a clip on YouTube, it looks like BLUE UNDERGROUND found a fairly clean print for their BLU RAY. The only extra on this title is the original trailer.
Two years later, Towers had begun his relationship with Jess (sure I can shoot two movies for you by Tuesday) Franco. Obviously having funds frozen in Brazil, the two cranked out three films, THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (1968), 99 WOMEN (1969), and THE GIRL FROM RIO/RIO 70(1969).
Jeff Sutton (Richard Wyler, star of the 1958/59 British lensed T.V. series THE MAN FROM INTERPOL), a poor man’s international playboy and thief, is in Brazil due to their lack of extradition laws. Almost immediately, he is putting the moves on Leslye (Maria Rohm again) Leslie, it seems is in the employ of Sunanda (Shirley Eaton, clad in a ridiculous green outfit with a large S emblazoned on the front ,playing Sumuru in all but name ).
Also after Sutton’s fortune is master criminal Sir Masius (George Sanders), who is also hoping to relieve Sunanda of her wealth as well.
The film has an intentional high camp value to it, with a production design along the lines of a DANGER DIABOLIK (1968, Paramount) or BARBARELLA (1968, Paramount) with a great deal more nudity. I have to admit that I while I am not a big fan of Franco’s oeuvre, I thought that this was one of his more entertaining films.
The print is quite sharp with great 60s colors that pop and probably has not looked this good since it was first run through a projector during its original theatrical run
Extras for this movie include interviews with Shirley Eaton (who had wanted to retire from filmmaking, the sex scene of her character using a body double confirmed her decision), Jess Franco (with subtitles) describing his comic book film, and even producer Harry Alan Towers on how the film came to be. Also included is a poster and still gallery.
Both films are presented in 1080p HD.
Now while not the type of film I might have sought out, I have to admit that the co bill Blu Ray was an entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon, especially with all the lovely ladies in various stage of undress in Franco’s film.
–Entertaining mindless fun. Thanks to the fine folks at Blue Underground.
By the way, Towers was not finished with Sumuru. In 2003, Towers produced SUMURU (no official U.S. release ,2003) as well as contributing to the script (under his Peter Welbeck pseudonym). This version had less to do with Rohmer and more to do with John Norman’s “Gor “novels (of which Towers had produced two films for Cannon in the 1980s). The South African lensed SUMURU is set in a far flung future ruled by women where men do all the grunt work.
–Kevin G Shinnick