Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Scorpio / Emmanuelle in Denmark / Agent 69 Jensen: I Skorpionens Tegn (1977) -**
By 1977, Con Amore and their successors at Happy Film had been cranking out porn comedies in the Sign series at an annual rate for four years, and for three of those years, they’d been mining the same narrow vein of material: comedy of errors set in between the world wars, juxtaposing a roughly period-appropriate comic sensibility with hyper-liberated 70’s sexuality. The most recent installment, In the Sign of the Lion, represented probably the best such film that writer/director Werner Hedman and his associates had in them, so it’s a testament to their discernment that Hedman and his co-writer, Edmondt Jensen, apparently decided that the time had come for a major change of pace. Meanwhile, it’s a testament to their business acumen that the angle they adopted for the final two Sign films was to parody the espionage movies of the 60’s, which continued to be popular even though the genre had long since descended into self-parody on its own. If you ever felt that what The Nude Bomb really needed was the exploitation sensibility that its title misleadingly implies, Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Scorpio is the movie for you. It sure as hell isn’t the movie for me, though.
Professor Neubau, a Denmark-based scientist of German extraction, has been working on a synthetic fuel to replace petroleum, and it appears that he recently succeeded in his efforts. Unfortunately, he also died three days ago, and nobody can figure out how his process works. On the other hand, Neubau did at least have the courtesy to transfer all of his research notes and equipment schematics to microfilm shortly before his death, and the Danish Intelligence Agency has come into possession of that microfilm. It won’t do anybody much good just now, because only the American CIA has the capability to process the type of film that Neubau used, but the scientist also had the foresight to inform President Carter of his triumph, and a CIA agent is on his way to collect the film even now. Responsibility for the handover belongs to a special undercover intelligence outfit that has lately been hunting for terrorists in Copenhagen with the aid of an attaché (Anna Bergman, of Intimate Games and Penelope Pulls It Off) from their Swedish counterpart. The cover for that operation, incidentally, is a health-food shop downtown, and Agent 69 Jensen (Ole Søltoft, who’s been with the Sign series since the beginning) correctly regards his assignment to it as a deliberate bid by his superiors to sideline him with busywork— evidently his last errand in the field did not go terribly well. Nevertheless, Jensen’s direct chief (Poul Bundgaard, from In the Sign of the Gemini and Amorous Headmaster) is going to entrust him with an important subsidiary aspect of the handover caper. The agent from the CIA will come into the shop posing as a job applicant, and when he does, Jensen is to give him a large canvass bag filled with samples of the shop’s wares, including a rye dinner roll into which Neubau’s microfilm has been baked. Then Jensen will set off with an identical bag of his own, in the hope of throwing off anyone who might hope to steal the secrets of Neubau’s synthetic fuel.
There is indeed somebody out to do just that, by the way. The arch-villain calls himself Scorpio (Karl Stegger, of Bedside Highway and In the Sign of the Taurus), and his ultimate aim is to sell Neubau’s microfilm to the Sheik of Obec (André Chazel, from I Am a Nymphomaniac and Bel Ami). Obec, one assumes, has ties to the similarly-named international oil cartel, which would be mightily inconvenienced if the professor’s invention ever fell into non-oil-exporting hands. It was thus a setback for Scorpio when the Danes got to the microfilm first, but perhaps only a temporary one. Scorpio, you see, has bugged the health-food shop where Jensen, Penny (the Swedish attaché), and their boss work, so he knows the general shape of the plan for delivering the film to the CIA.
Meanwhile, living together in comfortable retirement in Copenhagen are a pair of former intelligence agents named Irma Andersen (Judy Gringer, of 1001 Danish Delights and Between the Sheets) and Berta (Else Petersen, from In the Sign of the Lion and I, a Woman, Part II). Andersen is a legend within the agency that now employs Jensen and his colleagues, her exploits including some unexplained thing involving a pack of enemy agents and a public shower stall— for which she acquired the nickname, “Irma la Douche.” Anyway, Irma has a son, a rather hapless hippy by the name of Arnold (Søren Strømberg, of The Daughter: I, a Woman, Part III and Without a Stitch), and Arnold means to spend the afternoon job-hunting. You see where this is going, right? Arnold walks into the health-food store, and coincidentally gives Jensen exactly the spiel that was to serve as the code-phrase identifying the American agent. Jensen sends him in to see the boss, the boss gives Arnold both the bag containing the microfilm and his mission instructions, and Arnold moseys off to catch the train to Bromby and the Northern European Meditation Center (apparently the cover for the CIA’s half of this operation) thinking that his job search went remarkably well. Jensen heads for the Bromby train, too, decked out in a deliberately feeble disguise as a rube tourist. The lousy disguise has its intended effect, and within minutes, Scopio’s most trusted subordinates, Citron-Børge (Bent Warburg, from Justine and Juliette and Bedside Sailors) and Matty Hari (Gina Janssen, of Hellhole Women and Confessions of the Sex Slaves), are on his trail. You can surely imagine, then, the consternation it causes when Hubert W. Horsepower (Bent Rohweder, from Sensations and In the Sign of the Virgin), the real CIA courier, arrives at the shop to pick up the film. The chief jumps instantly to the conclusion that Arnold was really one of Scorpio’s men, and soon he and Horsepower are also hell-bent for Bromby, seeking to intercept Andersen before he can reach the Meditation Center, while Penny goes to feel out the “spy’s” mother for signs that her loyalties have shifted since her retirement.
None of these maneuvers have precisely the intended effects. Irma and Berta have forgotten none of their superspy training, and they make short work of Penny. Even when a third Scorpio agent (Anne Magle, from Hot Cookies and Molly) joins the effort to steal the bag with the microfilm and substitute a film-less decoy bag, things keep getting mixed up so that the baddies wind up with sacks of perfectly ordinary health food instead. And while Hubert Horsepower and the chief do succeed in nabbing Arnold once he finally arrives in Bromby, it turns out that Scorpio has pulled the rug out from under everybody by seizing control of the Northern European Meditation Center! The big black guy who greets the agents at the front door is really Kokonono, the chief of Scorpio’s bodyguards (Doug Crutchfield— and incidentally, his American accent is surprisingly obvious when you have all these native Danish-speakers for comparison), and the “prophet” who he promises will see the guests shortly is really the arch-villain himself. What’s more, the Sheik of Obec is on his way, too, to claim the Neubau microfilm as soon as Scorpio and his staff puzzle out exactly where and how it’s hidden. Of course, Jensen, Irma, Berta, and Penny are also on the way, and while only the two older women are competent enough to be terribly convincing as the cavalry, the sheer number of interlopers is enough to turn the scene at the Meditation Center into one huge, zany free-for-all.
That’s really what’s wrong with In the Sign of Scorpio, if you ask me. All of the core characters have arrived at Scorpio’s lair by the halfway point, and once that happens, the movie loses all sense of direction. The running battle between Jensen and the dwarf bodyguard (The Sinful Dwarf’s Torben Bille, who would return the next year for Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Sagittarius) makes for an amusing parody of James Bond’s clash with Nicknack in The Man with the Golden Gun, and the similarly spun-out sex scene featuring the sheik and a member of Scorpio’s harem might best be described as inventively arousing. Otherwise, though, the entire second half of the film is just a whole bunch of shit happening without much apparent purpose. While that’s hardly unusual for a late-70’s porno movie, it’s a big step down from In the Sign of the Taurus, In the Sign of the Gemini, and In the Sign of the Lion, all of which distinguished themselves with atypically focused writing.
On the other hand, if you’re a fan of “Get Smart” (which I emphatically am not), you might find that Agent 69 Jensen: In the Sign of Scorpio tickles your fancy even despite the hopelessly meandering second half. As I implied with that reference to The Nude Bomb at the beginning of the review, In the Sign of Scorpio is very much like an episode of that show, only three times as long and full of explicit sex. Like Maxwell Smart, Agent Jensen is a blithering incompetent who somehow manages to commit exactly the right fuck-up to accomplish his mission in the end. Poul Bundgaard plays the chief much the way I remember Edward Platt doing it, like a man who reached the end of his patience with the nominal protagonist a long time ago, and who now devotes most of his energy to dreaming up ways to keep him insulated from anything important. Penny isn’t quite an Agent 99 figure, in that she’s a little too failure-prone for that on her own, but since she spends most of the movie working in tandem with the fiendishly capable Irma Andersen, the comparison still holds up to some extent. And of course, posing as a health-food grocery and smuggling microfilmed documents baked into rye-and-brewer’s-yeast dinner rolls is precisely the sort of cockamamie scheme in which CONTROL specialized. As I said, however, I didn’t care for “Get Smart,” and neither replacing Don Adams with Ole Søltoft nor adding vast amounts of nudity and considerable hardcore sex footage strikes me as a significant improvement.