Film: Agent for H.A.R.M.
Agent for H.A.R.M. is a 1965 American Spy Movie.The plot concerns the development and distribution of a biological warfare compound referred to as "spore." Said spore turns humans into "living fungus," rather quickly and is apparently painless. Comrade Basil Malko is developing the spore to destroy the population of the United States by dusting the crops. The only man that can stop him is Dr. Jan Stefanik, a biologist from behind the Iron Curtain.After Stefanik defects from behind the Iron Curtain to the United States, his assistant is killed at his makeshift lab outside San Diego. The eponymous H.A.R.M. sends one of its agents, Adam Chance, to help protect the scientist. Unfortunately, there's various and sundry baddies led by the evil Malko, who would love nothing more than to turn Stefanik into guacamole.The film was intended for television as a pilot, but was inexplicably given a theatrical release. Even the director was surprised.For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.
Agent for H.A.R.M. contains these tropes:
- Artistic License – Sports: The "judo range".
- Abnormal Ammo: The spore guns in the movie. They shoot spores.
- Accidental Misnaming: A meta-example. The poster for the film — which you can see at the top of this page — misspells lead actor Peter Mark Richman's name as "Mark Richmond."
- Bittersweet Ending: Very heavy on the bitter. Adam manages to stop the villain's plan to dust American crops with the poisonous spores, but that's about all that goes right. Adam fails to find an antidote to the spore, he fails to protect Jan Stefanik, and he fails to notice that Eva is The Molenote until after she'd already killed two people. He did manage to save potentially millions of lives, but it's hard to think about that when you've just watched the pretty girl get arrested and the likeable old scientist get melted into slime.
- Body Horror: The spore infects living flesh in a disturbing, pulsating way.
- California Doubling: A drainpipe somewhere in the LA hills is supposed to be Eastern Europe.Crow: Ah, it's the Eastern Europe part of southern California!
- Came from the Sky: A bit of exposition near the beginning of the film explains that the spore was collected from a meteor that fell somewhere in the Soviet Union.
- Cold Open: The film opens on Stefanik's escape from Southern California—err, behind the Iron Curtain.
- Covers Always Lie: As it says on the poster shown above: "They used the world's deadliest weapons against this super-secret agent! ...Women! ...Women! ...Women!" There's actually only ONE female main character, and Adam doesn't seem to be all that interested in her. The movie also makes a point of showing that the Duel of Seduction doesn't really work, so clearly women aren't that deadly of a weapon.
- Danger Takes A Back Seat: Adam strangles one of Malko's cronies with a wire hanger from the back of the van he's driving.
- Deconstruction: Of James Bond style spy movies. Unfortunately, it mostly just showed why regular spy movies usually do rely on those tropes.
- Adam dresses in everyday clothes (mostly cardigan sweaters). He does wear a business suit once too, but never a tuxedo... which makes sense considering as a spy the goal is to blend in. Looking like a badass just makes you stand out.
- For that matter, the movie shows that in real life the spy doesn't always win. Neat, though a bit depressing.
- There aren't a whole lot of special gadgets. About the closest thing is Adam's recording device which happens to look like an electric razor, and Ava has a communication system built into a portable record player. Aside from that, it's pretty much just guns (albeit the spore guns are neat) and whatever's lying around, the latter of which could have been cool if it was handled better.
- There are multiple scenes dedicated to showing that the Duel of Seduction doesn't work. Adam explains this to a potential contact at the start of the movie ("Rely on charm, you're liable to get your head blown off. I want to see you on the Judo Range!") and later to Ava as well. Ava also tries using her sexuality to distract Adam when her allies show up to kidnap Stefanik... but since Adam had already set a trap for them it doesn't work out.Ava: Are you coming, or do I swim alone?
Adam: Angelface, that's not the way cases are solved.
Ava: I swim alone then.
- Duel of Seduction: Heavily Deconstructed, as mentioned above. There are multiple scenes dedicated to showing that sexuality is not a viable weapon in the spy game. Specifically...
- Conversed in an early scene. Adam is attempting to train a new female recruit who seems thoroughly uninterested. Adam explains that trying to charm the enemy is likely to get her killed, which leads to the infamous "Judo Range" line.
- This is also Ava's favorite tactic, and it doesn't work for her at all. It doesn't manage to distract Adam, nor does it manage to stop him from having her arrested at the end of the movie. To be fair, it's not that he isn't attracted to her, he's just very good at keeping his mind on his job.
- Failed a Spot Check: Since Ava was stupid enough to register for the Vienna Archery Competition using her real name, Adam easily caught her...after it was too late to actually do much. By that point she'd pretty much done everything she set out to do short of killing Adam and/or escaping. So both of these morons get a round of applause for their ineptitude at their jobs.
- Fun with Acronyms: Of the Desperately Shoehorned variety. H.A.R.M. stands for Human Aetiological Relations Machine. For the record, aetiology is the study of causation and origins of diseases. That explains why they're investigating the spores, but "Relations Machine" is pure nonsense.
- Good Is Not Nice: Adam Chance, definitely.
- Guttural Growler: Adam does this when attacking the henchman in the car. He was probably speaking weird because he was straining with the coat hanger, but it was still weird.Adam: Drive.note
- Hero of Another Story: Or rather, Sacrificial Lamb of Another Story. Adam's first meeting with Da Chief is suddenly interrupted by a distress call from another agent, who is swiftly killed. Adam's ready to go, but his boss already has him assigned to the spore case; he tells his secretary to assign another agent to clean up after the dead one.
- Hot Scientist: Ava, maybe. In one scene she offers to help Stefanik with his experiments and claims to know a little about biochemistry, but she never shows any further propensity for such and confesses to Adam that she is "not the intellectual type."
- Improbable Aiming Skills: In sharp contrast to Eva, Chance gets off some truly implausible shots using a pistol small enough to have a key ring attached.
- Informed Ability: Subverted. Ava is supposedly an expert archer and also claims to know about biochemistry. The latter was almost certainly a lie, and as for the former... Adam actually Lampshades her terrible archery skills at the end of the movie, after she shoots at him and misses from almost point-blank-range.
- MacGyvering: Adam strangles one of Malko's henchmen using a coat hangar as a makeshift garrote. Later on he kills a henchman using an electric trap made by wiring Stefanik's television to his doorknob.
- Metaphorgotten: Adam's extended "apple pie" metaphor is a little... opaque. And not nearly as cool-sounding as he thinks.Mike: Okay, I'm just going to need an hour to figure out your metaphor...
- The Mole: Ava, who is pretending to be Stefanik's niece. She's really a Soviet spy working for Malko.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Done quite subtly in the opening scene. Dr. Stefanik's friend, who was supposed to smuggle him out of Russia, betrays him instead and shoots his assistant in the face with a spore gun. Stefanik wrestles with the man and beats him, taking the gun in the process, but declines to shoot the man, instead deliberately smearing his opponent's hand over the infected spot on his dead assistant's face, so that he'll dissolve slowly from his hand up. One Hell of a way to go, even for a traitor.
- The Pilot: At least this was the original plan; the movie was meant to pitch an idea for a spy television show, but at the last minute the producers decided to release it theatrically instead.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: Malko's minions include a guy that bears an uncanny resemblance to Prince and an odd Englishman.
- Smug Snake: Our hero, unfortunately.Mike: Here's the wind-up... [Chance smirks] and there's the smarm!Tom: Level 5 smug alert!
- Sociopathic Hero:
- While the modest cast list prevents him from racking up a significant bodycount, Adam is still pretty nonchalant when it comes to killing. At one point he sets up a lethal electric trap on Dr. Stefanik's door, which anyone could have blundered into, and he shoots two henchman who were trying to escape... even James Bond only kills when the situation demands it!
- Dr. Stefanik as well. He smears his traitorous friend with spores at the beginning of the movie, and later makes a point of dumping spores on Malko, getting himself dusted with them too in the process.
- Tap on the Head: One of the characters is knocked out with a chop to the neck. This was later featured as the stinger in the MST treatment of the movie.
- Thanks for the Mammary: Adam appears to accidentally cop a feel of Ava. It's actually just the camera angle that makes it look that way.
- Unexplained Recovery: As mentioned in Danger Takes A Back Seat, at one point Adam strangles a henchman with a coat hanger from the back of his van, then jumps out just before the van goes off a cliff and catches fire. Somehow, this henchman survives that, only to be killed by Adam's electrified door trap later. (You'd be forgiven for not realizing it's the same guy, though, as the actor is so bland-looking and the comment from Adam confirming it is blink-and-you'll-miss-it quick.)
- The Unreveal: The film reveals quite early that Ava is The Mole.
- Useless Protagonist: Adam doesn't do much of anything aside from killing a couple henchmen and getting tricked. He doesn't even save the day.
- You Just Told Me: Ava's real name. Even given that Chance called the Vienna Archery Competition to verify it, it's played as a damning self-incrimination when he addresses her with her real name and she responds. Despite the fact that they are completely alone in the room.
- She's arrested for assaulting Adam after he did so, so it was more of a Batman Gambit by Adam.