One of the somewhat more subtle highlights of the recently released Wolf of Wall Street is the performance of Jean Dujardin as Swiss money-launderer Jean Jaques Saurel. The film marks the versatile French actor’s biggest return to U.S. screens since his Oscar turn in The Artist (2011), and will soon be followed by a role in George Clooney’s Ocean’s WWII caper The Monument Men. In the two-year gap, many have discovered on cable or DVD two of Dujardin’s hilarious earlier French-language ‘tours de force’, as Agent OSS 117 in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006) and OSS 117: Lost In Rio (2009) — and it is for those, who clamor for more, or for the sources of the hilarity, that I present Maroc 7 (1967).
This revelatory British production officially stars Gene Barry (fresh off his titular role in cult ’60s series Burke’s Law) as secret agent Simon Grant, who infiltrates a Morocco-bound ‘swinging’ London modeling agency that is suspected as serving as a cover for international jewel theft. Barry plays it more like Dos Equis’ ‘Most Interesting Man In The World’ than ‘Belmondo-Bond,’ allowing the lush and mod allure of his impeccable supporting cast, sets and locations to swirl about him — and in that regard, Maroc 7 compares quite favorably to its much bigger-budgeted mod/spy contemporaries, Casino Royale (1967) and You Only Live Twice (1967).
In fact, two of the agency’s models also appear in Royale as enemy agents (one of these, Tracy Reed, step-daughter of director Sir Carol Reed, also made cinematic history as the bikini-clad Miss Scott in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964), while a third model, Maggie London, had been in the Beatles’ Hard Days Night (1964) and soon would appear as a space-stewardess in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), while marrying Manfred Mann/Jesus Christ Superstar singer Mike D’Abo and giving birth to future Star Trek and Bond Girl Olivia D’Abo. Claudia, the lead model and Grant’s doomed love interest is played by Elsa Martinelli, known to many a cult film connoisseur from her roles in The 10th Victim (1964), The Belle Starr Story (1968) and Candy (1968), as well as a 1970 French-Brazilian production, very curiously-titled if you’re still looking at this all from a Dujardin perspective: OSS 117 Takes A Vacation.
Meanwhile, stunning mystery agent Michelle Craig is played by Quebecois Alexandra Stewart, who also performed in films such as Arthur Penn’s 1964 Mickey One (with Warren Beatty), Black Moon (1975) by Louis Malle (who fathered Stewart’s daughter), Goodbye, Emmanuelle (1977), Prince’s (1986) Under The Cherry Moon (playing Kristen Scott Thomas’ mother) and Roman Polanski’s Frantic (1987). An unfortunately scant reference must be made to further must-see veteran performances in Maroc 7 by Cyd Charisse (the wondrously-leggy film oft-dancing partner of Astaire and Kelly) as the modeling agency’s maven/mastermind; Denholm Elliott (Alfie, Raiders of the Lost Ark films, Room With A View), over-the top as a Herbert Lom-ish yet suave Moroccan police chief and Leslie Phillips (Carry On and Doctor films, Empire of the Sun, Scandal, Mountains of the Moon) as an alternative to David Hemmings as David Bailey in Blow-Up (1966), while the local Moroccan performers keep it real (yes, jajouka!) and there’s a stylishly anomalous appearance by a 1963 grey Chevy Impala coupe.
Classic movies are available on The Hollywoodland Channel on FilmOn:
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