Operación Carambola [Operation Carom or Operation Richochet]

(Prods. Zacarías-Prods. Tamanaco-América Cinematográfica, 1967

Prod: Miguel Zacarías; Assoc Prod: Lorenzo González Izquierdo; Dir: Alfredo Zacarías; Adapt: Roberto Gómez Bolaños; Story: Alfredo Zacarías; Photo: Raúl Martínez Solares; Music: Gustavo César Carrión; Prod Mgr: José Llamas Ultreras; Admin. General: Anuar Badín Zacarías; Prod Chief: Fidel Pizarro; Asst Dir: Felipe Palomino; Film Ed: Gloria Schoemann; Art Dir: Javier Torres Torija; Decor: José González; Camera Op: Cirilo Rodríguez; Lighting: Miguel Arana; Makeup: Rosa Guerrero; Sound Supv: James L. Fields; Dialog Rec: José B. Carles; Re-rec: Galdino Samperio; Sound Ed: José Li-Ho; Union: STPC

CAST: Gaspar Henaine "Capulina" (Capulina), José Díaz "Joselo" (Joselo), Alicia Bonet (hotel clerk), René Cardona [Sr.] (leader of evil organization), Amedée Chabot (Gloria), Chespirito [Roberto Gómez Bolaños] (Carlitos), Alfonso Arau (Román Ayala), Elizabeth Dupeyrón and Leticia Rodríguez (female secret agents), Fabricio (Fabricio, injured man), Nothanael León Moreno "Frankestein" (henchman), Ricardo Adalid (chief of Seguridad Latinoamericana), Carmen Ruiz del Río, Alejandro Joujer Calderón, Mario Cid (secret agent), Velvet Ambert, Milena Morones, July Janssen, Linda Ranel, Lucía Moed, Brigette Herold, Roxana Contell, Margaret Breadley, Lynne Haskind, Sara Benítez

NOTES: this is one of the numerous Mexican films inspired by the international success of the "James Bond" series, and thus is a little more interesting than more mundane Capulina films of the era like El zángano, Mi padrino and El mundo de los aviones. The cast includes Venezuelan comedian Joselo and René Cardona, who appeared together in Un extraño en la casa, Amedée Chabot, and future director Alfonso Arau (back in Mexico after spending several years in Cuba). Roberto Gómez Bolaños, still several years away from becoming a television star, wrote the script and plays a supporting role.

Operación carambola has its moments, but it also has three long slapstick scenes which are quite tedious (at least today's viewers can use the fast-forward button). There are a few humorous bits, including several which are slightly off-color, but director Zacarías--in this and other Capulina vehicles he helmed--had a bad habit of letting scenes run on too long, and trying to make them amusing by having "funny" music played on the soundtrack. While Capulina's comic shtick is pitched at a very low common denominator, at least one can see he is trying to be funny, but Joselo doesn't really do anything, and he's only a comedian by reputation, not by demonstration (here, at least). Arau is a little better but he mugs quite a bit, while Gómez Bolaños shows his penchant for running gags and catch-phrases (he plays a hired assassin whose attempts always fail; he then says "But he won't escape the next time!"). Amedee and 

On the distaff side, Amedée Chabot looks good (and-- illogically--wears a bikini in all of her scenes except one). In one sequence towards the end of the film, she is accused of being a secret agent, and says in Spanish "I don't know what they're talking about," in what sounds like her real (slightly accented) voice. Otherwise, she's dubbed in the usual breathy but unaccented Spanish.

For reasons never explained, all of the members of the villainous organization except Cardona, Arau, Gómez Bolaños and "Frankestein" are shapely women who wear white shirts and hot-pants with black military-style caps. The employees of the motel where most of the film is set are also all young women who wear very short mini-skirts. I'm not complaining, however. (There is one good gag which goes with this: Capulina is confronted by an armed female guard: he holds up a mirror, she fixes her hair, and then walks away!)

Capulina, who flunked out of a correspondence course in "how to become a secret agent," is hired by mad scientist Román Ayala. Román is working for a villainous organization to develop a secret weapon which will be used to destabilize the countries of Latin America (hence the film's title, which refers to the way one billiard ball collides with others). Capulina thinks he is working for "Seguridad Latinoamericana," the good guys, but Román wants to use him to expose the undercover agent that SL has planted in his group.

Capulina, "Agent 13," meets up with two attractive female assistants (he's disguised as a cow standing in a field). They give him a special car equipped with rocket launchers, and a ring that contains a miniature bomb. Posing as a gringo tourist, he goes to the motel María Bárbara in search of the undercover agent. However, his disguise is easily penetrated when the hotel clerk asks him in English: "How long are you going to stay?" Capulina replies (in English): "Oh, yes. To the pencil. To the book. To the window. Any water closet."

The leader of the spy ring tells Román that Capulina has to be eliminated. Assassin Carlitos has been imported for the job. The hired killer apologetically says, "If I didn't have children to support, I'd kill him for free." Capulina discovers a microphone hidden in a banana in his hotel room: he makes flatulent noises with his armpit (not heard on the soundtrack), which disgust the eavesdropping Carlitos ("Grosero!"), and then shoots off his pistol, causing Carlitos to rip off his headphones in pain.

The blonde Gloria arrives at the motel, with hitchhiker Joselo. Joselo is a Venezuelan friend of the hotel manager (who has just been murdered), in Mexico on vacation. He and Gloria are suspicious of Capulina. Joselo says secret agents can be identified by a tattoo on..."Well, when they're sitting down, they can't be identified." When he starts to drink a poison (intended for Capulina), one of Capulina's female assistants saves him. She admits she is a secret agent. "Can you identify yourself?" Joselo asks, which earns him a slap on the face from both the agent and Gloria.

Carlitos tries to kill Capulina with a deadly snake in a basket (there is a long, unfunny sequence as Joselo and Capulina repeatedly steal the basket from each other), and with explosive billiard balls, but fails. Joselo and Capulina discover a massive laboratory (actually some sort of real factory or plant) run by Román. Gloria is accused of being the undercover agent; she and Capulina's two assistants are captured. However, the real spy is the hotel clerk. Capulina, the clerk, and Joselo are locked in a room which turns into a giant oven, but escape using Capulina's bomb-ring.

Disregarding all continuity, the laboratory--which was apparently underneath the motel--suddenly relocates to the countryside, so that Capulina, Joselo and the clerk have to drive there when they escape from the oven. Before they reach the entrance, Capulina stops the car and gets out: "I have something very important to do." He takes a roll of toilet paper out of his shirt, but this turns into a telescope, and he spots Carlitos, about to ambush the clerk and Joselo (Joselo is also an agent of Seguridad Latinoamericana). Carlito is forced to take the trio into the lab. Gloria and Capulina's two assistants are about to be impaled by a moving wall of spikes, but are rescued at the last moment. After a long, boring slapstick fight sequence, the lab blows up. Gloria, Joselo, Capulina, the clerk, and Capulina's two assistants escape (along with, presumably, Román's female assistants), but Román, the ringleader, and Carlitos all perish.

Operación Carambola isn't the worst Capulina vehicle ever made: the James Bond aspects make the picture a little more adult than some of the comedian's solo efforts. The worst sequences are the three extended slapstick chases and fights, which go on much too long. None of the dialogue is particularly scintillating, but some of it isn't too bad. In one scene, Joselo is on the floor of the motel lobby when Amedée Chabot appears; there is an extreme low-angle shot of her (wearing a yellow bikini, of course), and she says "Le falta algo?" ("Is anything missing?", a clear double-entendre). Later, a pistol-packing Carlitos shouts "Alto!" and Capulina replies "Chaparro!" (a pun on the two meanings of "alto," "halt!" and "tall," with Capulina replying to the second, mistaken meaning by calling Carlitos "chaparro," which means "short").

Overall, not too bad.

Posted 20 December 1999 by dw45@umail.umd.edu

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