That Man in Istanbul aka Estambul 65; L’Homme d’Istanbul; Unser Mann aus Istanbul (dir Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi, 1966)
Basic plot: Atomic scientist Professor Pendergast has been kidnapped. The US government have handed over a $1M ransom for his release but the helicopter on which Pendergast and two top agents were travelling explodes on its way back to the US. The post-mortem reveals that the “hostage” handed back to the US was a double and not actually Pendergast at all. With Chinese agents also on the hunt for Pendergast, and a gang of crooks holding him on behalf of their bosses who want him to help them build an atomic laboratory on their island in order to become the biggest world power, the pressure is on for the US government to find Pendergast and his kidnappers. Can FBI agent Miss Kenny handle this case with some help from a charming crook called Tony Mecenas?
Cast: Dr Schenk – Klaus Kinski; Tony Mecenas – Horst Buchholz; Kenny – Sylva Koscina; Bill – Mario Adorf; Elisabeth Furst – Perrette Pradier; Bogo – Álvaro de Luna; Brain – Gustavo Re; Gunther – Agustín González; Professor Pendergast – Umberto Raho.
Filming locations: Istanbul; Barcelona; Garraf; and Costa Brava.
Release date: 9 May 1966 (UK)
Availability: At the moment this film only seems to be available officially on a Spanish language DVD with no subtitles in other languages. I got my copy via ZDD – it runs at 111 minutes, although IMDB indicates that the German release was 114 minutes and the US and UK versions were both 117 minutes. Not sure what has been cut from the copy I have but hopefully the film will have an official full-length release at some point…
The film – *SPOILER ALERT*:
Anyone who reads Du dumme Sau! regularly knows that I’m no fan of action movies, but I really enjoyed this action / spy film, which is very much along the lines of a cut-price James Bond film.
The film starts with a hostage handover, complete with the usual gang of criminals barely disguised by the nylon stockings stretched over their faces:
An atomic scientist, Professor Pendergast, has been kidnapped and his captors have agreed to hand him over in return for a $1M ransom from the US government. Two top agents have been flown in to do the handover but in an attempt to track down the kidnappers after the handover one of the agents surreptitiously takes photographs of the gang members with his tie-pin camera. Meantime the mysterious Dr Schenk reports that the operation has been completed – but the next phase takes place just moments later, when the helicopter on which the two agents and Pendergast are boarded explodes killing all passengers. A post-mortem of the passengers’ remains reveals that the man handed over as Professor Pendergast was in fact a double; the US government have handed over $1M for nothing – they don’t have Pendergast back, they have lost two top agents and what’s more the tie-pin camera has disappeared when the passengers’ belongings were returned to the government so they don’t even have any leads on those involved in the crime.
The FBI believe that the Chinese government might have an interest in Pendergast but due to the delicate nature of the US’ relationship with China any investigations have to be conducted through diplomatic channels. But Miss Kenny, a rather attractive FBI agent (played by Sylva Koscina), wants to go over to Istanbul where the handover took place as she believes that a character called Tony Mecenas (Horst Buchholz) may have been on the scene at the time and he has previous convictions for collecting a ransom and handing over a double. Kenny requests two weeks’ “leave” for a “vacation”, promising that she will not interfere with diplomatic channels. Her request is denied but Kenny heads off to Istanbul anyway.Tony is a kind of playboy-criminal – the repetition of the line “Ciao, Tony!” every time a pretty girl appears on screen is used to indicate that Tony is a bit of a player – who spends his time dodging police enquiries at his club The Four Aces, where he runs an illegal casino. When one of his henchmen is looking for a 4-letter solution to a crossword clue of “trouble”, Tony offers up the answer: cops. But Tony is also a 4-letter word and agent Kenny knows that he has been involved in gambling houses, forgery, smuggling, extortion and theft – he’s definitely trouble but is Tony behind the Pendergast kidnapping? It doesn’t take Kenny long to track down Tony to his club where she hopes to investigate the case on the sly. Kenny goes to see Tony and tells him that she lost all of her money on his roulette tables and needs a job to make some money. Tony offers Kenny work but he is no fool and he asks one of his henchmen, Brain, to do a bit of digging around to find out about Kenny and what she is doing sniffing around.
Tony arranges to meet Kenny the next day to discuss work but instead of the anticipated meeting, Tony arrives at the location Kenny is checking out for evidence. His arrival is in the nick of time as Kenny is being pursued and attacked by a Chinese man. Kenny says she can take care of herself but it’s clear that Tony knows something is afoot so she has to tell him that she is there investigating him and his involvement in the Pendergast case. Somehow this doesn’t seem to prevent Tony from kissing Kenny, or vice versa.
But although Tony claims he’s not involved in the Pendergast kidnapping, his interest is piqued by the mention of the $1M ransom paid out. This said, the viewer is not supposed to think too badly of Tony because he tells his sob story about his father being killed for something he did not do and how consequently he was forced out onto the streets himself and was later deported from the US for something he did not do either. Whether you believe that little story or not is another matter but it’s just been put out there as a kind of “heartbreak forced him into a life of crime” kind of sub-plot.
Kenny steals Tony’s apartment keys and lets herself in, using her sex appeal to make Tony change his mind about offering her some assistance with getting Pendergast back. Whatever she does must be pretty good as somehow Tony seems to have come around to her way of thinking – the next thing you know he is off investigating the Chinese agents and this is where all the action begins.
Tony is fighting people off left, right and centre, cracking safes, leaping out of windows, dodging bullets and escaping through underground tunnels – all to get the tie-pin camera for Kenny. With a “Ciao, Tony!” moment along the way for added humour, and his explanation for taking his time, “Sorry, ran into some people”, Horst Buchholz makes a very entertaining anti-hero for the story.
The snaps from the tie-pin camera don’t offer much help until Brain notices that one of the crooks has a steel hand. He can’t quite recall who it is, but Brain knows a woman who will – Josette, a dancer. Tony and Brain go calling on Josette and she spills the beans; the man with the steel hand who they are looking for is called Hansi (is that irony or what?) and he lives in a boat on the waterfront.Tony goes straight over to see Hansi, but Hansi is not exactly welcoming to visitors so Tony is turned away from the houseboat. Moments later Hansi leaves the premises and by ear-piece he tells a fellow gang member, Gunther, that he suspects he is being followed. They arrange for the gang to meet at the mosque to stop Tony from pursuing them any further.
The mosque tower is where the second real piece of action takes place – Hansi tries to shoot Tony and they fight at the top of the tower, Hansi revealing his steel hand flick-knife attachment (curiously enough, a few years later in Enter the Dragon Bruce Lee also battled a villain called Han who sported a steel hand knife attachment): The fight continues and Hansi eventually manages to throw Tony off the tower. He imagines it’s all over but Tony grabs onto a wire and is looking for a way down to safety when the wire breaks and he has to hastily shimmy down onto a lower floor. Let’s not even trouble ourselves with the fact that this is impossible, it would just detract from the enjoyment of the film. So, Tony is on a lower floor – he doesn’t make his escape though, he heads straight back up the tower to finish off what he started with Hansi, beating him to a pulp and asking him where the money is. Why bother asking about Pendergast when there’s $1M involved, eh?Then, to stop Hansi from talking, a gang member called Bill shoots him. Knowing that Tony will be listening in from Hansi’s ear-piece Bill makes arrangements for the gang to meet in half an hour. Taking the bait, Tony drives over to the rendez-vous where Gunther tries to force his car off the road. He would appear to have succeeded in this as there is an almighty crash as the car smashes against the cliff and bursts into flames. But is that the end of Tony? No. The Chinese agents watch from their vantage point and wait long enough to see Tony clambering onto the back of Gunther’s truck, then they follow in the hope that Tony will lead them to Pendergast. Gunther and the gang sit around at their headquarters listening to and talking to a pair of spectacles – yes, I know, it sounds odd but it’s one of those special devices they always have in these action / spy films. The spectacles inform them that they need to wait for the arrival of Dr Schenk who will give them the final instructions – so we will see KK again! (Don’t hold your breath though because the film is about 85 minutes in before KK turns up again…)Meantime Tony is sneaking around outside in the warehouse and unbeknownst to him he has set off a sensor that raises the intruder alarm, with the alarm signalling the gang turn on yet another device – a table-top CCTV camera: The gang, seeing Tony on the CCTV camera, inform Gunther that he has made an “unforgiveable error” in assuming that Tony had not survived the car crash. But Tony’s not the only one invading their quarters – the Chinese gang are skulking around too and they also set off the alarms. At this the spectacles inform the gang that they need to get the Professor off the premises.
Tony spots the Chinese agents and looks on as a big fight ensues between them and the kidnappers, letting them duke it out amongst themselves so he can escape unnoticed. But as he sits, cool as a cucumber, sucking on a sour ball, he hears a moaning noise and goes to investigate – it’s a woman, an attractive one at that, bound and handcuffed. Of course Tony has to be the hero and rescue her…
The woman claims her name is Elisabeth Furst and that she was kidnapped from her father’s yacht by the gang – she lets slip that there was “an old man” with the gang and that they were preoccupied with him.
Meantime, the gang are gunning for Gunther but he knows this and he decides to call Tony, asking for a meeting with him – he wants his help to get out of the country and away from the gang, in return he will give him information on Pendergast’s whereabouts. Elisabeth listens in as Tony makes arrangements to meet Gunther at 10pm – she does not look like she should be trusted, but she claims that Gunther and Hansi were engaged by her father to work on the yacht. Tony appears to believe her story and entrusts Bogo to take her back to her hotel.
Kenny, now dubbed “Babyfat” by Tony for no apparent reason, wants to go with Tony when he meets with Gunther but to thwart her plans of participation Tony locks her in his wardrobe (with some sour balls – in case she feels the need, you know…) and then makes a dash for it. When Tony arrives at the designated meeting point, Gunther shines his flashlight to indicate where he is concealed, but unfortunately his fellow gang members are there to pay him back for his unforgiveable error. Bill shoots Gunther and Tony sees him fall to his death.Suddenly several cars are racing towards Tony from all angles – Tony looks to be a goner, yet again, but he handles the situation by shooting at the car headlights to cause multiple head-on car crashes. In one of the many comments addressed directly, and rather cheekily, to the viewer / camera, Tony says “What? Me worry?” as he moves out of the way of a car just in time. Tony sneaks off with Gunther’s wallet, dodging bullets as he goes, heading directly for an excavator which he drives straight at the gang, lifting up one of the cars with the scoop to throw it onto the other cars – then he drives off into the night doing up his tie.
The next day Tony is relaxing by the pool with Elisabeth Furst, asking her about her kidnappers. But Elisabeth seems keener on finding out whether Tony is doing the bump with Kenny; if you trusted her you’d think she was jealous when she says of Kenny: “She’s not fat – and she’s no baby.” But Elisabeth is not to be trusted.
Tony spots the Chinese gang but he doesn’t seem to have spotted the guy in the swimming pool who is spying on him and Elisabeth. The man shoots at Tony and Elisabeth and misses his target, instead hitting the glass in Elisabeth’s hand (spot the mannequin hand!): Tony dives into the pool to take on his assailant but he seems to be at a disadvantage as the guy has a gun, a knife and breathing apparatus at his disposal – despite all of this he seems to be trying to escape Tony via a vent in the side of the pool. Tony doesn’t let him though and they have an extended underwater fight, which is really quite spectacular.
A crowd gathers around the pool, including at least a couple of policemen, who look on as Tony grapples with his attacker and eventually manages to force the guy’s knife into his own back. As Tony begins to surface he sees the policemen and heads straight back underwater, taking the breathing apparatus with him as he heads off out of the vent, coming up just a matter of a few feet away in a smaller water feature on the premises. He tries to make off undetected but he is spotted and has to leg it away from the hotel. Tony jumps onto an external lift, loaded with dining chairs, and sits atop a chair as the lift rises – “Ciao, Tony!”, calls out another of Tony’s female friends as she sees him pass her window. Clearly it’s not at all surprising to see Tony scaling the side of the high-rise building in such a way. What is surprising though is that Tony does not stop Elisabeth Furst when she kisses him upon his arrival at her hotel room. I am very disappointed with Tony, but probably not as disappointed as Babyfat who looks like she is chewing on a wasp when she next sees him. Maybe it’s Babyfat who suggests he should dress as a woman when they go to the Venus Baths, just to get him back, but this just provides another of the film’s comedy moments when, this time, a man calls out, “Ciao, Tony!”, wetting himself laughing at the sight of Tony dressed rather badly in a dress and a lady-hat. Not at all convincing, Tony!As Tony enters the female baths, where he can access the back of the kidnappers’ quarters, he fails to notice that Babyfat has already been grabbed by the kidnappers. He finds himself back in the warehouse where the kidnappers were previously holding Pendergast. This time Tony opens up some of the crates being stored in the warehouse and he discovers huge gas canisters and atomic plant explosives (rather helpfully marked up as “atomic plant explosives” so we will all know what they are).The next thing you know Tony has a knife held to his back and he is being offered $100,000 to leave Istanbul – now Tony turns this down as a “lousy 10%” of the ransom fee but me, I’m thinking that a gang of kidnappers is hardly likely to be offering 10% of their money just to pay someone to go away. But when they say that they’ll throw in Miss Kenny, alive, Tony starts to consider the offer saying, “You seem to have a point” (ha ha, they are holding a knife in his ribs, do you see what he did there, etc, etc?!).
But Tony doesn’t want the lousy 10% after all – he turns on a steam tap, aimed at his attackers, and then escapes back into the Turkish baths. Ever the gentleman (ahem!), Tony tells the women in the baths to protect themselves and, losing his robe, steals a towel from a woman to cover himself up. In order to comedy up his fight with the kidnappers Tony goes around tweaking noses and karate chopping his attackers into the pool. In his haste he is just about to karate chop a woman when she Ciao, Tonies him. Ha ha!
Tony says ciao to one and all as he makes his escape, fooling the police at the entrance by saying, “Quick! Cover the exits, there’s a woman in there!”, and then getting a lift from a posh old lady by telling her that some men are trying to kill him – seeing Tony is dressed in just a towel, the old lady says to her driver, “Edward! Drive on!” But her thrills are cut short when Tony jumps out of the car and makes a run for it.
You would think that even Tony would find it difficult to escape dressed in only a towel but he manages to trade his watch for some clothes from some chap in the WCs. It’s not long before he’s being pursued again though by both the kidnappers and the police. Somehow he manages to brush them all off and gets Brain on the telephone. Brain tells him that Bogo called from the Hilton (where Elisabeth Furst is staying) to tell him something about Kenny and a yacht but that they got cut off and he hasn’t been able to contact Bogo since.
When Tony arrives at the Hilton he finds Elisabeth’s room is empty, bar a few packed cases. One of the cases is labelled up with the name SCHENK.Suspicious, Tony calls the desk and asks when Elisabeth checked out – they confirm she left over an hour ago, with “some gentlemen”. Then Tony notices that water is spilling through from the bathroom to the bedroom. He is just investigating when he sees Schenk reflected in the mirror behind him.Schenk tells Tony to turn around – “I am considered a good shot by those I’ve killed,” he says. I’ve got to say, Klaus is not only looking good, but he also gets all the best lines in this film too.In a bit of a tight spot Tony clutches at straws and pretends that he is part of the kidnappers’ gang and when he thinks Schenk is distracted he makes to grab for a vase but Schenk is on to him and shoots the vase before Tony can pick it up. Schenk tells him that there is a man in Istanbul whose antics are becoming a nuisance to them. Tony agrees with him, yes, this Tony Mecenas guy is becoming a nuisance – but he’s not Tony Mecenas: “I’m Bill, you know, just plain Bill.” In one of the best lines from the film, Schenk replies: “You smile too much, Just Plain Bill.”
Playing along with Tony’s game Schenk tells him that the orders had been to report to the yacht and asks why he did not obey. Typical Tony, he says he was running late because he was just popping in to say ’bye to a girl. That’s totally believable, of course, but what’s not believable is that he is part of Schenk’s gang. To take the attention away from himself Tony asks Schenk who he is and Schenk tells him: “All you have to know about me is I hold the gun.” Schenk opens up a case and cranks up his comms equipment to make contact with the gang and check out Tony’s story. Schenk asks Tony for his number, which he gives him but when it’s checked out it turns out that the number belonged to Gunther who is long dead. Schenk says he doesn’t need assistance when asked, and that’s his first mistake – the rest of the scene is full of mistakes, especially from someone considered to be “a good shot”. But before his errors can come back to bite him on the bum, Schenk manages to throw another great line at Tony: “Whatever your number is – it’s up.” With that he turns the radio on, loud, and gets going on Mecenas. Or Mister Mecenas, as Tony corrects him. Even though he is facing Tony head-on, Schenk still manages to miss him with a direct shot. Then Tony hides under a glass table for protection and Schenk still manages to cock it all up – shooting at the table rather than the protruding parts of Tony’s body, causing bullets to ricochet around the room. Tony then stands up, using the glass table as a shield, Schenk again makes the same mistake repeatedly shooting at the table causing ricochets but no injuries whatsoever. Then the bullets run out and Schenk no longer has the advantage. Tony throws the table at Schenk and then they fight it out. Schenk is strangling Tony at one point but the fight moves into the bathroom and then Tony notices his henchman, Bogo, lying dead in a bath full of water and suddenly he is re-energised with anger. He is beating Schenk to a pulp when Schenk manages to grab a cable and starts to strangle Tony with it. Then, inexplicably, Tony somehow manages to force Schenk’s head towards the sink, where he turns on the tap and forces Schenk’s face under until he has drowned. It’s all over for Schenk – and for Tony it’s all pretty much over too, bar the shouting.
Tony leaves the hotel and heads to the port only to see the yacht pulling away. The Chinese gang, always watching from a distance, see Tony lowering himself from the bridge and jumping onto the yacht. Shooting a gang member, Tony shows the Captain he means business and then demands that he switch the yacht to auto-pilot and order all hands on deck.
“Shore leave, boys – all over the side!”, Tony tells the gang, and then he starts shooting when they take no notice of his orders. Suddenly they take notice. Before demanding that the Captain follow suit, Tony asks him where the others are and, finding Babyfat and Pendergast below deck, he makes the Captain jump ship too. Pendergast tells Tony that the yacht is loaded with dangerous materials, because the crooks are trying to build an atomic laboratory. Elsewhere on the yacht, apparently not having heard the gun shots and the orders for all hands on deck etc, the crooks (and, I’m sorry, I don’t even know these people’s names – who are they?!) are trying to make contact with Schenk. And failing, of course.
These anonymous crooks – who, I guess, the kidnappers were working for – discuss how their atomic laboratory they are going to build on an island somewhere in the South Atlantic is going to mean a shift in the balance of world power. They think they are going to take over everything, with the help of Schenk and Pendergast. But Schenk is floating in a sink at the Hilton and Pendergast is making an escape as they speak with the assistance of Miss Babyfat Kenny. Tony finds the crooks and shoots at them all – they are all dead, bar one who is concealed behind a curtain. Who is this anonymous crook? Why it’s Elisabeth Furst, of course. Is Tony surprised? No, he says he’s been onto her for some time. In one last ditch attempt to save her life Elisabeth pretends she is in love with Tony and wants to get out of this whole mess. But really she’s put on the special gadget spectacles and activated an alarm on them which seemingly awakens some guy with a cast on his arm. He’s not much help, I’d say, as he’s not woken up when much louder noises have been sounding on the yacht – and he has a cast on his arm… But I guess he’s the only hope Elisabeth has now so she might has well try before it’s too late for her – in the meantime as she waits for arm cast man to respond to her call for assistance she tries to convince Tony that she wants to go away with him, and the $1M. Tony looks like he might be considering it, but in fact he’s looking at the reflection in Elisabeth’s spectacles lens. Her final mistake – Tony can see arm cast man entering the room behind him and he ducks just in time as he shoots; the bullet hitting Elisabeth rather than Tony. Meanwhile Babyfat has taken care of arm cast man by shooting him. But Elisabeth is not quite dead – she grabs Tony’s ankle as he goes to leave with the case of money. She tells him he’ll never do it, that he’ll die with her. Tony ignores her and leaves as she shoots at the explosives which she had intended for her atomic laboratory. Now Tony and Babyfat and Pendergast need to ensure they get far enough away from the yacht before it explodes. Tony somehow cuts the ropes on the dinghy boat with enough time for them to get far enough away from the yacht, to safety. Pendergast says of the crooks: “Poor fools, they thought they could conquer the world.”
Suddenly a boat is approaching but it’s the Chinese gang, so Tony hides in the water with the case of cash and tells Babyfat and Pendergast to go aboard their boat. When the Chinese gang see it is Pendergast they are delighted, but their delight turns to disappointment when Tony surfaces with a gun and orders the Chinese gang onto the dinghy boat, taking their boat in return for a more speedy escape.
It all looks to be a happy ending but then Tony goes and spoils it all by telling Babyfat that he has to go, with the cash. She thinks the US government will be grateful and they will let him keep the cash but he says he has to go and that they will “run into each other again. Maybe… You’re the only cop I ever loved.” With that he leaps into the sea and he is off.Babyfat is aboard a train heading back to the US with Pendergast and some of her fellow FBI agents and her Chief. They say that they will be forgetting the whole thing as far as Mecenas is concerned – as unbelievable as that sounds. But, even so, what follows is even more unbelievable. Brain is aboard the train and he has got a message through to Babyfat to say that Tony is on his way and will be boarding the train. But the final stop-off has been and gone and Tony is nowhere to be seen – that’s because Tony is flying above the train in a hired helicopter, he asks the put-upon pilot to drop him off at the fourth car from the front.
Tony leaps from the helicopter onto the roof of the train, narrowly misses having his head chopped off by a tunnel, and another, and finally he manages to shimmy down to Babyfat’s carriage where he knocks on her window waiting to be let in. With a face covered in soot, he stands before Babyfat and looks disappointed when he realises he has somehow lost his sour balls on the leap from the helicopter to the train. Oh, Tony, what are you like!
Tony kisses Babyfat and looks straight into the camera for one last break of the fourth wall: “Happens to us all sooner or later”, he says. The film ends with a gun-shot to the carriage window and Tony’s voice off-screen saying: “Oh! Don’t you guys ever take a day off!” It seems the adventure is far from over for Tony and Miss Babyfat Kenny…
What an excellent little film! Klaus as Schenk was great (ein Geschenk des Himmels!), but so was Horst Buchholz as Tony – I think he made a great action (anti)hero and I was very impressed by how much he seemed to do in the film. During all the key scenes he actually seemed to be participating in the action and made it all look very realistic indeed. He also made a very charming character and brought a lot of humour to it. I would definitely recommend seeing this film.
Other information about the film: Well, for once I can find no additional information – I have looked through all my KK books and can’t seem to find anything specifically about this film, which is a real shame. I have just one thing to offer up.
Markus B. contacted me some time back providing me with a translated transcript of the Hans Leutenegger über Klaus Kinski interview from the Kinski Talks 1 DVD, just to feed my Leutenegger obsession! In the interview there is a great (although rather sad) story about Klaus Kinski and Horst Buchholz – I am including the extract below. Many thanks to Markus for providing me with this translation:
HANS LEUTENEGGER: “After Cannes we arrived at the airport in Rome. There came a man, Horst Buchholz, towards me and he said: “Hello, Klaus Kinski’s lieutenant!”
I shook his hand. Respect! Horst Buchholz! I knew him from the movies; he was one of my boyhood idols in my early years. I shook his hand – just at this moment Kinski turns around and shouts: “HANS! DON’T BOTHER WITH THIS FRUIT! YOU ARE A FRUIT!” And he insulted him.
I felt ashamed, like a dog! Horst Buchholz shook my hand and just at this moment Kinski looks back and offends him; I felt ashamed. This was Kinski. He couldn’t stand that Horst Buchholz would shake hands with me first – and also because he was a great star too. He couldn’t stand celebrities around him; only the starlets. The great celebrities were all nobodies for him. In this regard Kinski was a very bad egomaniac.”