Madame Sin (1972)
Serving as both star and executive producer we find Robert Wagner attached to this rather bizarre yet eerily effective at times thriller.
From the opening scenes we find Wagner shadowed and dodging a rather twitchy Denholm Elliott. When Wagner won’t give in to the pleas of Denholm to join in on some sort of espionage business Robert soon finds himself overtaken, drugged and whisked off by chopper to the headquarters of a master criminal. Enter Bette Davis as our title character.
Bette would like nothing better than to have Wagner join her organization of his own accord. She gives him the grand tour of her beautiful estate filmed on location on The Island of Mull. It seems that Bette has a group of genius scientists working for her in a rather zombie like state. They have created a machine that allows her to wipe memories clean. Put any memory cells she chooses into a subject’s head. This also gives her the power of suggestion which she intends to use in an upcoming caper aimed at the British Fleet.
While more or less a prisoner under guard at Bette’s retreat, Wagner puts a few plot points together and discovers that Bette is capable of evil deeds towards mankind. When his girlfriend Catherine Schell thought dead turns up at the retreat he’s blackmailed to comply in the scheme of stealing a newly minted British Submarine. In order to do it he must kidnap the sub’s commander Gordon Jackson before it is launched and have Bette’s machine imbed new orders and directions for Jackson to issue to his crew. It’s all going to be a smooth operation for Wagner’s first rate agent but he’s soon about to realize that Bette and her right hand Denholm have little use for our super agent once he accomplishes his task.
Like any super spy film with a well known leading man it’s all a matter of how will the script is work out having our misled hero correct the situation and save the day. In this case the high powered submarine from the evil hands of Bette’s very Spectre like organization.
As the film concludes you just might be in for a bit of a surprise as the plot deals it’s final twist.
Though the budget is on the low side there are plenty of scenic location shoots going on for the films 86 minute running time. Bette has a few gadgets at her disposal but Wagner is not a Bond like super agent. He’s burned out and lured into another caper in the tradition of the genre.
Bette is under a rather bizarre outfit and make up but she was never one to worry too much about her looks on film. That alone is one of the reasons why I have always felt she was the screens greatest actress from the classic years in tinseltown. I can’t help but think of her as a female Fu Manchu this time out as the evil Madame Sin.
Turning up briefly in smaller roles are Roy Kinnear and Burt Kwouk. Kwouk was in between gigs here as Clouseau’s house boy Kato but would soon be back stalking his employer when The Pink Panther returned in 1975. Joining him for that effort is also Wagner’s love interest here Catherine Schell.
I have championed Denholm Elliott here in the past and for good reason. He brings that little extra to practically any role he appears in and he’s wonderful here as Bette’s slimy cohort who knows his place.
Madame Sin was apparently released as a television film in it’s North American debut but played theatrically overseas which was and is not an uncommon practice. It’s one of those titles that I knew existed but until recently acquiring a copy on DVD don’t believe I had ever come across it before.
Passable for the three main leads and for the Bette Davis collector a must have.