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May 2010

Maroc 7

cast: Gene Barry, Cyd Charisse, Leslie Phillips, Elsa Martinelli, and Denholm Elliott

director: Gerry O'Hara

90 minutes (PG) 1967
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Network DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
review by Ian Sales

Maroc 7

Secret agents had it good during the 1960s. For one thing, they weren't actually all that secret. James Bond, Derek Flint, John Steed... They had sharp suits, fast cars, and trips to exotic locations, beautiful women for companionship, and they got to save the world every now and again. Not, of course, that anyone was supposed to know about it.

Simon Grant (Gene Barry), the hero of Maroc 7, is not a secret agent per se. And it's not the world he saves. But in all other respects, he almost fits the bill. Initially, he presents himself as a jewel thief, and is introduced in the film in the act of robbing a woman's bedroom safe of her jewellery - which, of course, requires some gratuitous salaciousness as Simon hides in the en suite bathroom, and the woman returns home unexpectedly and, of course, decides to have a shower.

Simon uses the stolen jewellery to blackmail Louise Henderson (Cyd Charisse) into allowing him to accompany her on her upcoming trip to Morocco. Louise is the editor of a fashion magazine who, with photographer Raymond Lowe (Leslie Phillips) and a bevy of beautiful models, travels around the world staging fashion shoots´┐Ż and stealing things; usually jewellery or priceless antiquities. Her target in Morocco is a priceless antique medallion, and she has a contact there who claims to know its location.

The group fly to Morocco. Simon sets about inveigling his way into the affections of lead model Claudia (Elsa Martinelli). Louise and Raymond visit their contact, a professor, but have to strong-arm him into giving up the location of the medallion. Simon goes to visit the professor, but finds him floating face-down in his ornamental pool. At which point, the police chief (Denholm Elliott) appears on the scene and Simon is revealed as a police agent, and he is offered the assistance of glamorous UK undercover officer Michelle Craig (Alexandra Stewart).

The team of Simon and Michelle now try to determine where the medallion is, and how Louise and Raymond intend to steal it. It transpires the artefact is in a grave in a ruined fort, but the fort is guarded by a camp of Berbers who will violently resent any attempt to grave-rob. Nevertheless, Raymond manages to steal the medallion, and Simon - with Michelle's help - stops him.

There's a blithe disregard on display in Maroc 7 to anything but the invented world of Simon, Louise and Raymond. Gene Barry has too lived-in a face, and is too barrel-shaped, to be convincingly Bond-ish. Denholm Elliott's attempt at a French/ Arabic accent bears no resemblance to any known English dialect. And the sensibilities of the Moroccans are not so much ignored as vigorously trampled into the desert sands. The country is treated as little more than an exotic backdrop, as colourful and as real as the scenery in a Disney film.

Having half a dozen scantily-clad women posing for a fashion shoot in a Moroccan suq simply isn't acceptable in an Islamic country. And while Michelle Craig proves a more active participant in the plot than would be the case in an actual 007 film, she's clearly there to chiefly provide a decorative note. The same is true of Claudia - she's part of Louise and Raymond's gang, but that doesn't prevent her from getting into bed with Simon, both figuratively and literally.

Maroc 7 is a film from a very different era. It could never be made now. That's no bad thing... although one small tiny piece of western culture would have been lost had it not. It's entertaining, if not especially original or at all edifying. It's not as fanciful as a Bond film, although it tries to be. It's a cinematic pot-boiler, the celluloid equivalent of a book to be read on the beach or on a long journey. And it's a film whose plot and characters evaporate when the words 'The End' are reached.



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