Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Sagittarius (1978)
Keywords: Cold War, Explicit Nudity, Explicit Sex, Female Frontal Nudity, Female Nudity, Nudity, Penis, Pubic Hair, Sex, Sex Clinic, Voyeurism
The depiction of unsimulated sexual acts in mainstream cinema was at one time restricted by law and self-imposed industry standards such as the Motion Picture Production Code. Films showing explicit sexual activity were confined to privately distributed underground films, such as stag films or “porn loops”. Beginning in the late 1960s, mainstream cinemas began pushing boundaries in terms of what was allowed on screen. Although the vast majority of sexual situations depicted in mainstream cinema are simulated, on rare occasions actors engage in real sex. The difference between these films and pornography is that, while such scenes might be considered erotic, the intent of these films is not solely pornographic. This is one of such films produced in Denmark and had many pornographic sex scenes, but was nevertheless considered mainstream film (they all had mainstream casts and crews, and premiered in mainstream cinemas).
Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Scorpio had marked a return to form, in a sense, for the Sign comedies: like the first in the cycle, In the Sign of the Virgin, it was a disjointed and idiotic mess that occasionally managed to be mildly amusing almost in spite of itself. 1978’s Sign film, Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Sagittarius, went that one worse, however, bringing the long-running semi-series into the “Oh, Goddamnit, just stop!” phase of the franchise life-cycle. Fortunately, it was also the last of the bunch— although it does seem like a minor cosmic injustice that In the Sign of Sagittarius should also be the last film of Ole Søltoft’s career.
Somehow or other, the Albanian military has developed a missile worth worrying about. Fired from the torpedo tubes of an attack submarine (so that it can be represented by stock footage of US Navy SUBROC test launches), it can deliver its payload to any major city in Western Europe from the Adriatic Sea, or even strike the American eastern seaboard, assuming that the sub carrying it could survive to reach the central Atlantic. Of course, Albania doesn’t have any nukes, but I’m not sure writers Werner Hedman and Edmondt Jensen are aware of that. In any case, a man named Stanley (Bent Rohweder, from The Blue Balloon and Pornography: A Musical) who had been spying for Albania, is now working both sides of the fence. He has stolen the blueprints for the new missile, transferred them to microfilm, and smuggled them to Tangier in a lady’s powder compact. Together with a pair of none-too-trustworthy conspirators, Stanley has offered to sell the film to Danish military intelligence for $10 million. With that in mind, the chief of the intelligence agency (Poul Bundgaard again) is sending his two newest agents, Arnold Andersen (still Søren Strømberg) and Knud Børge Andersen (Molly’s André Chazel, who had been the Sheik of Obec in Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Scorpio), to Tangier to meet with Stanley and make the trade.
Naturally, Danish Intelligence is not the only party interested in Stanley and his microfilm. The Albanians want it back, obviously, and their master spy, Kraputski (Benny Hansen, from Love Me, Darling and In the Sign of the Virgin), is on the case with the aid of a dwarf assassin (Torben Bille, in a functional reprise of his performance as Scorpio’s dwarf bodyguard), a hulking Swedish mercenary (Ricky Bruch), and our old friend, Matty Hari (Gina Janssen once more), the latter of whom evidently turned freelance when her gig with Scorpio reached its inglorious conclusion. Actually, Matty would like to take her leave of Kraputski, too, but the Albanian has kidnapped her sister and made it quite clear that Matty’s resignation would not be beneficial to the other girl’s health. Meanwhile, China and the Soviet Union have caught wind of the blueprint theft, and they’d also like to have a look at Enver Hoxha’s new toy. The former power has assigned Madame Kom Phur (Lee Fong Wong) to obtain the stolen documents, while the latter has entrusted the task to KGB agent Yuri Snilleroff (uncredited, but don’t worry about that— Yuri won’t be around for long).
Further complicating matters, Stanley has outfitted three decoy powder compacts, outwardly identical to the one concealing the microfilm, with small but powerful explosive booby traps. Even his co-conspirators don’t know which compact is which, and you’d think that would be a potent deterrent to cheating. Nevertheless, Stanley is dead by the time the spies of four nations converge on Tangier, murdered by his female partner on the theory that (1) $10 million split two ways sounds better than the same sum divided threefold, and (2) Partner #3 is both sexier than Stanley and knows this really neat trick involving a shortbow and a rubber dick. Spy-movie fellow conspirators— always thinking with their gonads… The situation devolves further into violence and double-dealing, too, when the competing foreign agents all arrive within moments of each other at the nightclub where the sale was to take place. Still, once all the brawling and shooting is at an end (at which point the Russians are out of the picture), K. B. Andersen is on the way to the airport with all four of the contested compacts.
Unfortunately for the Danes, Matty Hari saw Andersen pocket the compacts, and she arranges to be on the same flight to Copenhagen the next morning. Andersen notices that he has company, so on his next trip to the toilet, he surreptitiously plants one compact each in the belongings of a stewardess and three passengers. The strip-search to which Matty subjects Andersen a few minutes later (the head stewardess’s final words to the passengers upon landing: “And will the gentleman in the last row please dress himself again?”) therefore avails her nothing at all, although she knows the stuff she wants has to be aboard the plane somewhere. When the chief and Agent 69 Jensen (Ole Søltoft) arrive at the airport to meet Andersen, neither man is very happy to learn what Andersen did with the microfilm. They’re even less happy when one of the decoy compacts explodes in response to a customs official opening it— leaving aside the issue of the blown-up customs man and airline passenger, the explosion tips off Matty Hari to the fact that Andersen hid the compacts inside various people’s carry-on luggage. Well, at least this means there’s now one fewer to track down.
Andersen does remember a couple of potentially useful details about his unwitting mules. One of the remaining compacts went into a stewardess’s purse; another into something belonging to one of a pair of fashion models who were talking shop with their photographer; and the third into the jacket pocket of a harried-seeming man arguing with his wife. Andersen thinks he might have heard the man’s name, too, although he can’t remember it at the moment. Obviously, somebody will have to be sent to the airline’s Copenhagen office and obtain the passenger list for the flight. Jensen gets that job, which means he gets to face off against Kraputski’s dwarf, who was given the very same assignment. K. B. Andersen is sent to look up the stewardess, putting him into competition with Madame Kom Phur (who seems to have entered into cooperation with the Albanian agents after the fiasco in Tangier). Meanwhile, massive chaos is about to erupt within the intelligence agency, for the chief has been temporarily reassigned, and his interim replacement, Hans Hivert (Karl Stegger, from In the Sign of the Taurus and Bedside Manner), is a grade-A nutter who makes Jensen look like a genius of espionage in comparison. On the other hand, there’s one bit of good news on the way in the pockets of Arnold Andersen, who’s been stuck in Tangier all this time for a variety of increasingly silly reasons. Arnold had the presence of mind to get the passenger list for his partner’s flight from the airport at the other end, and this document eventually reveals not only the names of the two models (enabling Penny to trace them to their agency) but that of the hen-pecked man as well. His name is Dr. Wolfgang Schmierkäse (Paul Hagen, of Come to My Bedside and The Reluctant Sadist), and he runs a weight-loss clinic right there in Copenhagen. The usual cascade of mayhem eventually leads to everybody on both sides infiltrating the Schmierkäse clinic (inevitably, the doctor’s theories all revolve around the enormous caloric cost of sexual intercourse), and that leads in turn to a bigger cascade of mayhem still.
Now here’s a mystery for you… How is it that two writers sufficiently clued in to geopolitical matters behind the Iron Curtain to know about the Russo-Sino-Albanian antagonisms of the Détente era (the short version: Enver Hoxha, the dictator of Albania until 1985, was an unreconstructed Stalinist, and he believed that first Russia and then China had betrayed the cause of international Communist revolution by mellowing out a bit during the mid-50’s and early 70’s respectively) could be incapable of telling the difference between an Albanian and a Cossack? The Albanians aren’t even Slavs, for fuck’s sake, and you’re certainly not apt to see one bearing a name like “Kraputski,” swearing by Stenka Razin, and downing shots of slivovitz every time something gets on his nerves! No, it doesn’t really matter much as regards the overall quality of the movie, but it’s weird, and it offends my sense of cultural literacy.
What matters a shitload as regards the quality of the movie is that the whole damn script is little more than an amorphous jumble of non-sequitur non-events, sillier and lazier in conception than anything this creative team had ever stooped to before. Most tellingly, Agent Jensen— whose name, let us not forget, is in the fucking title— has almost nothing to do in this movie, and what little he does has next to no effect on anything. Even the best Jensen-centric bit is just a tired recap of the fight with Torben Bille’s character in In the Sign of Scorpio, and it frankly isn’t worth sitting through it twice just to see Bille pop out of a waiter’s cart with a pistol. It really makes you appreciate the wisdom that Hedman and Jansen showed previously in not making any of the earlier Sign movies a direct sequel to its predecessor. What focus there is zeroes in primarily on the two Agents Andersen, and neither Søren Strømberg nor André Chazel possesses a fraction of the charisma that Ole Søltoft can bring to any but the most badly written role. In fact, it’s fair to say that Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Sagittarius represents an all-around pissing away of one of the Sign movies’ greatest strengths, the producers’ tradition of hiring actors who deservedly had long and respectable mainstream film careers for all the roles that didn’t require onscreen beef injections. Not that the usual repertory company isn’t here (although I did find myself missing Bent Warburg, Preben Mahrt, and even Sigrid Horne-Rasmussen)— they’re just saddled with underwritten roles and gag routines that some of them have already run through four times before under Hedman’s direction. Nor does the new talent fare much better; Lee Fong Wong, for example, makes her first appearance in a kung fu training scene, yet never gets to show off those moves when it matters. In the Sign of Sagittarius even flirts dangerously with a more American-style approach to the sex scenes, which in many cases fail almost completely to relate to anything else in the movie, and are filmed in a style suggesting that the folks behind the camera were bored to tears with this shit after six movies in as many years.
June 5, 2011
Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Sagittarius (1978)