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OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (DVD Review)

28 Sep, 2008 By: David Greenberg

OSS 117

Street 9/30/08
Box Office $0.3 million
$24.98 DVD

Seemingly coming out of nowhere but just in time to capitalize on the theatrical release of the latest James Bond movie, this French production has stealthily dodged all cultural radar and is poised to make a well-deserved big splash in the American home entertainment market.

In a perfect world, OSS 117 would attract a stateside audience, people will love it, tell their friends, everyone will see it and the film will develop the strong word of mouth and adulation that it so richly deserves. OSS 117 is a must see.

An odd mix of sequel, remake and spoof, the film is a period piece and an update of a long-dormant, little-known series of spy films that, believe it or not, predates the Bond franchise. Author Jean Bruce first introduced suave ladies man secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath (alias OSS 117) in a 1949 novel. The character made it to the big screen in 1956 and spawned six sequels (featuring a number of different actors in the lead role), the final one in 1970. None were released in the United States.

While the original series played it straight, going for espionage, cloak-and-dagger thrills, action and, of course, beautiful women, the new film does all of the above but tempers it with both a savage, subtle, satirical wit and moments of gut-busting humor. 

Set distinctly in the 1960s and benefiting from staggeringly accomplished production design and cinematography, it is frequently hard to believe that this film was actually produced in the 21st century. Clearly from the “Austin Powers,” “Get Smart” and “Naked Gun” school, “OSS 117” is way at the head of the class and, big surprise, there are not one, but two, sequels already in the works.

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