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Secret Agent Fireball (Var Man I Beirut) 
Written by: on December 29th, 2008

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1965
Director: Luciano Martino
Writers: Ernesto Gastaldi, Sergio Martino
Cast: Richard Harrison, Dominique Boschero, Luciano Pigozzi, Aldo Cecconi, Wandisa Guida, Franco Freda, Clément Harari, Jean Ozenne, Alcide Borik, Audry Fisher, Bruno Carotenuto, Goffredo Unger

DVD released: December 10th, 2008
Approximate running time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English, Dolby Digital Mono Italian
Subtitles: Swedish
DVD Release: Fin de Siècle Media
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (Sweden)
Retail Price: SEK129,00

Synopsis: Robert Fleming an American agent is sent on a mission to find a top secret microfilm. The microfilm’s last known whereabouts was with a scientist who recently died. To complicate matters Russian operatives are also looking for the microfilm and they always seem to be one step ahead of Fleming.

Secret Agent Fireball was directed by Luciano Martino one of the more prolific producers to emerge out of 1970’s Italian cinema. The screenplay for Secret Agent Fireball was co-written by Ernesto Gastaldi and Sergio Martino. The score for Secret Agent Fireball was composed by Carlo Savina whose other notable scores include Lisa and the Devil and The Killer Reserved Nine Seats. Secret Agent Fireball’s cinematographer Riccardo Pallottini has long and varied resume that includes films like The Witch’s Curse, The Virgin of Nuremberg, The Maniacs, Castle of Blood, War between the Planets, Man from Deep River and The Killer Must Kill Again.

Visually Secret Agent Fireball takes full advantage of the film’s many locations. Like so many “Euro” Spy films from this era the comparison to James Bond is going to be made. There are a few things that bear a striking resemblance to the aforementioned James Bond films, like the use of high tech gadgets. One of the most obvious James Bond connections would have to be the lead characters name Robert Fleming (James Bond was created by Ian Fleming).

The plot for Secret Agent Fireball features a familiar “Cold War” nemesis, Russian spies. The villains in the film are never menacing as they never really pose any real threat to American agent Robert Fleming. Another essential ingredient to “Euro” Spy films is that they contain plenty of eye candy and this film delivers as it has an assortment of beautiful ladies. The action sequences are all well done including several exciting car chases. The film’s standout action sequence involves a duel between American Agent Fleming and the leader of a gypsy clan. They are tied together with a rope which keeps them in close proximity and given knifes.

Richard Harrison is cast in the lead role of American secret agent Robert Fleming. Before starring in Secret Agent Fireball, Richard Harrison was primarily known for work within the Peplum genre starring in films like Gladiators 7 and Giants of Rome. Performance wise Richard Harrison is surprisingly good and convincing. He would reprise the Robert Fleming character in a sequel titled Killers Are Challenged. Performance wise the rest of the cast are merely adequate with the only memorable performance being Richard Harrison. Ultimately Secret Agent Fireball is an action packed adventure that has enough twists and turns to keep things interesting throughout.

The DVD:

Secret Agent Fireball is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors and flesh tones look accurate throughout. Details and black levels are reasonably good with only a few minor instances where the image looks a tad too soft. The source materials used for this transfer are free of any major print damage and edge enhancement is kept to a minimum. This transfer has been flagged for progressive playback.

This release comes with two audio options Italian and English. Both audio mixes are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Out of the two audio mixes the Italian audio mix is the better of the two mixes. Outside of some minor instances of background noise the English audio mix is more than adequate in getting the job done. Also included with this release are Swedish subtitles that are forced during playback and cannot be removed.

Extras for this release are limited to an image gallery that includes posters, stills, lobby cards and a press book. The image gallery plays like a featurette with music from the film playing in the background. There are a total of thirty four images. Overall Fin de Siècle Media gives Secret Agent Fireball a good DVD release that is on par with its DVD release for Flashman.

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