The international film business is wild. Once a winning formula is discovered, the market will covet that format in anyway possible. Spy movies in the wake of James Bond’s success were legion and though some are classics, fun parodies or even fun drivel, only one featured Sean Connery‘s brother Neil as “our top agent’s brother.”
O.K. Connery (aka: Operation Double 007, aka: Operation Kid Brother) is a 1967 Italian film built to complete with Bond by poaching a number of Bond elements. Bernard Lee, M in the official Bond series, plays station chief “Cunningham.” Lois Maxwell, Moneypenny in fourteen of the Bond movies, appears as Miss Maxwell. Neither tries very hard to play anything but their better known characters. Adolfo Celi — SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo in Thunderball — plays the big bad “Mr. Thayer.” Even From Russia with Love‘s Daniela Bianchi appears as part of Thayer’s mostly female gang.
The plot is a mishmash of spy tropes. When a top field agent is killed by a remote car, operatives of the terrorist organization Thanatos attempt to kidnap his girlfriend Yashuko. Badly burned in an earlier incident, she recently underwent reconstructive surgery performed by Dr. Neil Bo– er, “Connery.” During his presentation on her rebuilt face, Dr. Neil explains that he used “the hypnotic process of total recall” to obtain the woman’s complete cooperation while he operated.
There’s a joke about how brother Sean also gets “complete cooperation” to be made here, but this is Neil’s story.
Connery’s performance is … hard to gauge. He appears to have been entirely dubbed throughout the film. It is unclear if it is Connery’s own voice or an American actor, but the character has no trace of a Scottish or British accent. Considering Sean Connery’s famous vocal sound — even when playing an ancient Egyptian or Soviet Russian — it’s not inconceivable that Neil might do likewise. The film likes to play up that he is supposed to be the brother of Great Britain’s “top agent,” which makes a “neutral” American accent a baffling decision. As a screen presence, he’s a non-starter. Looking more like Dr. Benton Quest than his famous brother, he’s slightly less animated than a 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Dr. Neil accidentally kills one of the goons in the kidnapping attempt and is forced to stay in Monte Carlo until he’s rescued by Cunningham and Maxwell. They begin an absurd international chase for Thanatos agents, Yashuko when she is eventually kidnapped, and some Thunderball-esque MacGuffin that is pretty much forgotten the moment it’s mentioned.
As this is a quick-and-dirty James Bond knock-off, the plot hardly mattered to the producers. They did care about the surface level Bond features they could easily steal. The locations tend to be great, if poorly shot. Celi and Bianchi, essentially playing Largo and Tatiana again, are quite watchable. And of course, Maxwell and Lee are effortless at their jobs. While the curiosity of Neil Connery might get you to sit down and watch the first half-hour, dependable Bond elements keep it from completely turning into tedium. The set pieces — including Bianchi stealing a nuclear device with a team of can-can girls — tend to keep the viewers attention as well.
The film features a handful of trippy music queues provided by the legendary Ennio Morricone. They play more to the Our Man Flint qualities of the movie than the musical lexicon emerging in John Barry‘s official Bond scores. But one musical choice cribbed from the official series is the theme song. “O.K. Connery — The Man for Me,” also written by Morricone, is a terrible song on a first listen, but it also burrows into your mind and finds a place of comfort. It extols the virtues of Neil, but it is unclear if they mean the character or the brother of Sean.
Honestly, a man could do worse than to have this as his official song:
The film is only available in the US as part of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXV with Joel and Bots offering plenty of funny commentary, but it is easily found on the internet. Its worth a watch, if only to see how some of the successful Bond elements can be used on the cheap and for the curious notion that casting someone’s brother can repeat success.
That only works for Frank Stallone.