In case you hadn’t heard, Bond is back! Of course, he’s “back” every 2 or 3 years these days. Still, it’s pretty impressive that James Bond has been a part of our movie landscape for 50 years now. And, of course, during that time there have been a lot of wannabe’s. Enter secret agent Simon Grant, out to thwart some fashion model jewel thieves in 1968’s “Maroc 7.”
As the film begins, Grant (Gene Barry) is breaking into the home of fashion magazine editor Louise Henderson (Cyd Charisse). He’s out to steal some jewels he knows he’ll find in her safe. Why does he know they’re there? Because he knows she stole them in the first place. See Grant’s assignment is to stop this ring of jewel thieves which Henderson operates under the guise of her fashion magazine. See, when she and her crew of photographers and models head to some exotic locale to shoot fashion spreads, they actually take the opportunity to smuggle jewels as well. When Grant shows Ms Henderson that he’s helped himself to the contents of her safe, he convinces her the his safe cracking abilities would come in handy on her upcoming trip to Morocco.
Not everyone in Ms Henderson’s gang is thrilled with this new addition to the team, especially her right hand man, photographer Raymond Lowe (Leslie Phillips). But the crew of jewel smuggling models are quick to want to get cozy with Grant. One model in particular, Claudia (Elsa Martinelli), seems to have caught the agent’s eye. Since Ms Henderson herself is somewhat suspicious of Grant, she instructs Claudia to find out as much as she can about him.
Meanwhile, Ms Henderson sets about trying to locate the medallion she is out to swipe. This involves Raymond roughing up the sickly Professor Bannen (Eric Barker) until he reveals the location of the item. When Grant ends up finding the Professor drowned, he attracts the attention of the local police inspector (Denholm Elliott) who assigns a lovely young investigator (Alexandra Stewart) to keep an eye on Grant.
But the thieves plans are moving forward. One day, while photographing the models at some ruins, Raymond locates the spot where they expect to find the medallion. But Raymond also becomes wise to Grant’s true identity, which leads to a confrontation between the two in a dark dungeon of sorts. When Grant ends up killing Raymond, Ms Henderson insists that Grant retrieve the medallion….or Claudia will pay the price.
“Maroc 7” does have some great makings of a suave 60’s super spy film. I mean, you’ve got exotic locations, sexy models and wild 60’s fashions. The whole premise of having fashion models double as jewel thieves is also fun. But where the film falls short is that it’s missing the primary ingredient…the cool super spy! Gene Barry is no Sean Connery. Heck, he’s not even George Lazenby! Simon Grant comes across more like your cranky old uncle than the ultimate spy any lady would gladly disrobe for. It doesn’t help that Barry was already gettin’ pretty close to the age Connery was at when he made “Never Say Never Again” here.
The supporting cast is a lot more enjoyable. Leslie Phillips actually makes a good henchman. It would’ve been a lot fun, though, had they taken advantage of that fact that he was a villainous photographer. Come on, give him a camera that doubles as a gun, at least! I also really enjoyed Elsa Martinelli, who proves here she might’ve made a pretty solid Bond girl, herself. And, of course, there’s the always dependable Denholm Elliott. Though his appearance is brief, he does bring some fun to the proceedings.
I suppose the mark of any true movie classic is that copycats will follow. So “Maroc 7” can be seen as a testament to the greatness of Bond. But Mr. Simon Grant…I know James Bond, and you sir, are no James Bond.