Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Jane Bond 008: Operation Karachi (1971)

There's some discussion these days about whether the character of James Bond should be genderswapped (for the record, I disagree, and think he should stay the same, and if anyone wants a female spy, they should just make a new character, like I do). If only people knew that Pakistan and Iran had already beaten them to the punch by over 40 years! That's right, before the official 007 series had even reached its 10th anniversary, out came this genderswapped variation...

Jane Bond is a special agent of British and Pakistani origin, and is dispatched to the city of Karachi to foil a mad villain's plan for world domination. Along the way she enlists the help of a hapless taxi driver, who falls head over heels, and is determined to fight with her...

Operation Karachi is a real disappointment of a movie. If you're familiar with Turkish pulp films, then you can have a pretty reasonable idea of what you're in for, but even on those merits, the movie just isn't as fun as it couldn't been. But where it really fails is in the main concept! Jane Bond 008?? She's barely in the thing!

There is very little story to speak of. The film is predominately made up of characters running from point A to B, or B to A  and it all feels a bit directionless. The climax is ok, but nothing special. It's so unremarkable I didn't even realise it was the climax until the credits rolled. The villains are dispatched without much fanfare, and the whole thing's a bit boring really.

The defacto main character is not Jane Bond herself, despite what lies the title may tell you, but is instead a random taxi driver. In any other film he'd be the useless comic relief sidekick, but because he takes up such a dominant position, he's actually quite a capable scrapper. He's also a hopeless sap, as he fells head over heels for Jane after only 5 seconds, and after she is kidnapped repeatedly over the course of the runtime, he is there time and time again risking his life to save her.

Speaking frankly I'd say the movie does a pretty shitty job of showing off Pakistan. All it does is show off a few barren roads. This is made all the more frustrating because the movie is actually filmed in Karachi! Most zero-budget Asian films do a poor job of overseas locations because they're trying to make Anatolia or Khunduz look like the Daintrees, but here they had access to the location, but make it look like crap.

I'll say this for the movie though, it's got a good runtime in its favour! If this were Indian it'd probably verge in 3 hours, but the Persians must prefer normal film lengths, and so it's a comfortable 90 minutes. Still too long for such a movie? Maybe, but when you're acutely aware of how much worse it could be, you take what you can get.

Operation Karachi was directed by Reza Fazeli. It was also written by Reza Fazeli. And this is probably a coincidence, but it also stars Reza Fazeli. Whether this whole production was a bit of a vanity or ego trip is up for debate. I won't give a concrete answer myself, but I will say: If I was making a movie about Jane Bond, I probably wouldn't make myself the lead, and have the beautiful main actress be hopelessly in love with me.

It's hard to tell, but acting here seems pretty basic. Just decent performances. A little annoying here and there, but generally tolerable. Rakhshanda is a pretty lead, and may have made a cool super spy in a better film.

The music is made up of a few Bollywood style ditties that play every now and then, which are alright, and at the least never dull.

Every review I read of Operation Karachi said that it did not live up to its potential and was an all-round disappointment. I went in with an open mind, hoping to disagree with these assessments, but I can only concur with them. It's a pretty lousy picture. Better quality and subtitles would improve things a little, but not by much, I can't imagine. Avoid, or watch at your own risk...

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