Friday, January 21, 2011

Operation Mantis

When I learned Paul Naschy directed a James Bondian spoof containing a scene in which he himself dons a leather jacket, head to toe studs, and a neon pink Mohawk and fronts a punk band (well, more of pop synth outfit) in which he sings a covert warning to his fellow operatives, I nearly died. Thus began my very difficult search for a playable copy of this, OPERATION MANTIS (1984). Sam managed to track down a Spanish language version on R0 DVD with no subtitles and we settled in for a pretty mediocre spy crime comedy starring Paul as a luchador turned special agent of the Spanish government hired to take down an all female secret organization hell bent on unleashing a toxic agent that will wipe out all the males on the planet.

It sounds wonderful, but in practice, eh, not so much. And some subtitles would have helped, being as how my Spanish is relegated mainly to the kitchen at work. I can ask for clean silverware but I'm afraid I can't really keep up when evil masked and corseted women toting machine guns plot to take over the world.

Highlights for this viewer include:

-Paul in a cape and red tights, showing off his body-building career pecs, fighting a guy with a hook for hand!

-The aforementioned masked women toting machine guns

-Paul in sheik garb smoking a hookah

-A fish caught in a swimming pool

-A topless girl-fight in a sauna

-Paul as suave and debonair as ever, even in a stupid comedy

-Gong ringing

-Paul in chains in his luchador outfit brought to a bevy of the evil women. The best part about this is that the girls are dressed as Indians, Little Red Riding Hood, and a Gypsy, accept slutty, topless versions

-Paul sucking on a pacifier

-Paul dressed as a sheik (again) in a cologne commercial

-Paul dressed as a mad monk in a candy commercial (I think)

-Paul refusing to snort cocaine from a poison ring

-A drunk in a Santa suit for no real reason, except who doesn't love a drunk in a Santa suit?

-Paul dressed as a clown (complete with red nose) fighting a man with a blender for a hand

-And of course, the punk scene! And it looks like Paul has actually shaved is head into the Mohawk! That, or otherwise it's a damn good bald/Mohawk wig.

This all sounds completely unhinged, and it is, but it doesn't succeed like I would have liked. The comedy is sophomoric; almost like a Spanish PORKY's, without the really overt sex humor. Despite its premise, it's still completely misogynistic and as the women parade around topless and fight each other, there seems no real point to all the nudity. There's no real feminist statement here, but why would there be? The plot is sloppy and it's all just supposed to be for fun. But honestly, without Paul, this would have sucked more than anything could have ever sucked.

Naschy himself loathes the film and calls it the 'biggest mistake of my life.' It was apparently a very expensive ordeal and thusly, a box office flop. It bankrupted the production company and Paul never recouped his losses. Paul's father died shortly after the film was a financial disaster, thus beginning a great downfall in Paul's career. He is also noted describing the picture as, 'the great failure of my career; the film that ruined me and was for me a disaster, nearly fatal for the tremendous displeasure it brought me.' That certainly sums it up.

It could be viewed as ahead of its time, as a spoof, but it really does fail on all fronts. If it didn't have a damn punk Paul Naschy in it, I would have never sought it out. It was worth the price of admission based on this ridiculous scene and it's fun to see Paul out of his usual horror element. It's a testament to his talent that he can carry such a ridiculous thing all the way. Then again, I'd probably watch a tape of Paul sleeping for eight hours and not get bored, so I might perhaps be a bit biased.


  1. I'm sure it sucks, but from your highlights list, it still sounds like a must-see film for me!

  2. Wow. I mean, WOW! But Jenn Jenn Jenn...we need screengrabs! :)

    I had a similar experience watching EL ULTIMO KAMIKAZE without subs. I could tell there was a lot of stuff I was missing, but there was enough Paul magic to keep me interested.

    Luckily, a bunch of international linguists have made it a pet project to fansub a bunch of the never-released-in-English stuff. In fact, I think I may actually have a copy of MANTIS somewhere, possibly with fansubs. I'll let you know. :)

  3. Oh my. How do I NOT own this yet? Thanks for the head's up, I'm acquiring this immediately.

    Paul sucking on a pacifier?! Mind blown.

  4. @Vicar. I know! Maybe I can do a separate screen grab post for this. Some of it is just too amazing to believe! I've watched some El Santo stuff with out subtitles, as well, and was able to keep up moderately well, given some great visuals. I haven't seen EL ULTIMO KAMIKAZE yet, but it's on the list. As is EL TRANSEXUAL.

    @Duke. You will love it! Plenty of shots of Paul's pecs, too. And there's a pic of Paul sucking on the pacifier in his memoirs, which I know you guys must have!

  5. Just that list of highlights made my day. Definitely screengrabs please.

  6. Wow, you've been busy, plumbing the depths of cinematic madness that most of us can barely even conceive of!! :)

  7. @Jinx. It's a good list. Screengrabs it is!

    @Astro. I do what I can for the sake of ART! hehehahha