Sunday, January 20, 2013

Movie Review: Code Name: Diamond Head (1977)

I finally finished the last three movies of MST3K Volume XXIII (I discussed the first film in a previous review). Of the three movies, two were merely average while the third (and the only one with a relatively well-known actor) was absolutely terrible. The first of the three, Code Name: Diamond Head, was actually meant to be the pilot for a new TV show produced by Quinn Martin. Like so many failed pilots before it, Code Name: Diamond Head ended up as a forgotten TV movie.

We begin our film with the arrival of an ersatz priest in Oahu, Hawaii. The man is quickly spotted by a counterintelligence agent who suspects that he is actually an enemy agent known only as "Tree". While the agent follows him, Tree meets up with two assistants: an assassin and... well, I don't know what the other guy does. The agent eventually follows Tree to a church only to be ambushed and killed.

Suspecting that Tree intends to infiltrate a military or intelligence project, the counterintelligence agency (I assume it's the CIA, but the movie isn't very specific) activates "Diamond Head"; a top notch agent who is posing as a gambler and a drifter. Unfortunately, a surprisingly large number of secret projects are active in Oahu and no one knows which one is Tree's target (although that doesn't cause anyone to consider beefing up their security). Diamond Head's task is therefore to determine what Tree is planning and to stop him. Our protagonist enlists the help of Zulu (a large Hawaiian gentlemen who makes for an absurdly conspicuous agent) and Tso-Tsing (an agent whose cover was blown years before and is therefore easily compromised).

Diamond Head follows the two henchmen for the bulk of the movie while learning absolutely nothing about Tree's plot. In the meantime, Tree impersonates an Army General in order to infiltrate the world's worst protected chemical warfare laboratory. By the time our hero even figures out what's going on, the villain has stolen the formula for a chemical weapon, he's kidnapped Tso-Tsing, and his henchmen are about to kill Zulu.

Code Name: Diamond Head doesn't have much going for it. The main character is pretty useless as an agent; he discovers Tree's plot pretty much through dumb luck and when it's nearly too late. The Hawaiian locale is completely wasted since so much of the story takes place in the kinds of locations that could have been filmed anywhere in the United States. And the movie's conclusion seems like the unimaginative end to a lackluster TV pilot. Oh wait, it is the unimaginative end to a lackluster TV pilot. No wonder the networks weren't interested in it.

Next time: a b-western whose plot is almost entirely driven by outrageous coincidences...

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