Ah, the life of a secret agent—women throwing themselves at you nonstop, cool gadgets that beep a lot, offices with sliding wooden panels that reveal world maps emblazoned with flashing lights, crazy acronyms, and, of course, a demeanor that veritably defines cool. Man, what I wouldn’t have given to have been a secret agent…but the Cold War ended and it’s just not as glamorous a gig as it used to be. But, oh, in the mid-1960s…
Agent for H.A.R.M. was released in 1966, during the heyday of all things secret-agenty. The James Bond franchise had been around since 1962, but it didn’t really reach critical mass until Goldfinger in 1964, thus starting a worldwide love affair with anything having to do with secret agents. Television wasn’t immune from this sickness, either—The Man from U.N.C.L.E. debuted in 1964, and Get Smart! showed up in 1965, among many other secret-agent type shows.
From what I can gather, Agent for H.A.R.M. was shot as the pilot for a proposed TV series that didn’t sell, but Universal decided that they could maybe make a few bucks off of it if they released it theatrically.
The plot has to do with bad guys who want to spray American crops with a spore that, when introduced into the human body, causes the tissues to turn to fungus. And it’s up to H.A.R.M. to stop them. Mark Richman, who has guest-starred on just about every television series ever produced in America, plays secret agent Adam Chance. He’s sporting this rather bizarre, Pepe Le Pew kind of white stripe in his hair which I guess is supposed to be attractive, but I just find it distracting. The ever-inebriated Wendell Corey plays his boss, and Martin Kosleck, best known (at least in cult film circles) for his role in The Flesh Eaters, is the head bad guy. Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire), Donna Michelle (Beach Blanket Bingo), and Barbara Bouchet (72% of all European horror films made in the 1970s) are also on board.
It seems that this film is almost universally despised, with a lot of that hatred stemming from the mere fact that it was fodder for the MST3K gang, so it MUST be awful and mocked derisively, right? Well…wrong. I find Agent for H.A.R.M. to be actually quite entertaining. It’s low-budget, sure, but high production values do not make a good movie—see the films of Michael Bay for any number of examples.
Oh, by the way, H.A.R.M. stands for “Human Aetiological Relations Machine,” just in case anyone asks. And, no, I have no idea what that means.
Here’s the awesome trailer, courtesy of our pals at YouTube: