“The Manipulator” (Or “The African Story”), is a quirky Italian action film which was released in October of 1971.
Stephen Boyd plays a wealthy music producer Arnold Tiller (played with Howard Hughes-like flair by Boyd) who gets involved in a wild scheme to fake the kidnapping of his star singer Rex Maynard (Michael Kirner) who has eloped to South Africa with Tiller’s daughter. Tiller’s scheming partner (the stunning Sylva Koscina, who had just starred with Boyd in “The Great Swindle”, also in 1971) tries to seduce the hapless Maynard, who uses some amazing stunt man skills to escape his kidnappers, and eventually joins forces with Tiller himself to bring down the bad guys, who are all played by familiar, rugged faces from Italian films at the time.
It is a haphazard, super fast production directed by Italian Marino Girolami and written by the Ralph Anders (“Control Factor”). The scenes move quickly from one to the next, with random car chases and inter-spliced moments where literally Boyd’s mustache changes in the same scene from his true debonair one to an obviously fake gray mustache. Like I said – this is a quick production! Boyd seems to understand this – it’s what I would call a fairly unengaged performance from him. Nonetheless, the film seems to have a bit of a cult following just because it is a fun, ridiculous Italian action movie.
The great score by Francesco de Masi is perhaps the salvation of this project. And the fact that Sylva Koscina is super slinky and gorgeous and Stephen looks handsomely debonair (unless he is battling the fake mustache of course!). Unfortunately Koscina and Boyd have limited time on screen together. They have wonderful chemistry in “The Great Swindle”, and it’s a shame they didn’t exploit that more in this film. However, since the cast literally seem to be filming scenes miles apart from each other, it doesn’t surprise me. Nonetheless, if you haven’t seen “The Manipulator”, it is worth finding!
Stephen Boyd filmed two movies in South Africa sometime in late 1971 to early 1972; “The African Story” and “Control Factor”. Both films feature virtually the same obscure cast members (the incredibly bland Michael Kirner and Marie du Toit) and the same Cape Town setting. “Control Factor” (or “The Big Game”) seems to be the second of the two as Stephen’s mustache is fully grown here and would remain with him for the next couple years! The story was written by Ralph Anders, who also wrote “African Story”. It’s an action/science fiction tale which features Stephen as the main protagonist Leyton Van Dyk who is trying to help implement some sort of government mind-control device which has been invented by a scientist. The scientist has two sons, one of whom is a diplomatic attaché who gets kidnapped and brainwashed in Hong Kong by terrorists who know about this special device. As the device is shipped out to South Africa with Van Dyk aboard, the vessel is attacked by the terrorists who want to seize the device for themselves. It was directed by Robert Day, who was also a prolific television director. The movie features a couple of other well known actors, Ray Milland (the scientist) and France Nuyen (the terrorist). The soundtrack is an excellent example of early 70’s Italian film music by Francesco de Masi.
This is a very low budget production, but it is entertaining to see Stephen as an action hero. This would probably qualify as one of Stephen’s ‘slumming’ assignments (or golf vacations!) for which he was probably paid a nice sum to do very little. But, hey, it’s the irrepressibly handsome Stephen in all sorts of shades of 70’s brown; brown shirts, brown jackets, brown pants. Also, check out the plethora of 70’s wood paneling- everywhere!! It is also refreshing to see a movie filmed in South Africa. The dramatic shoreline and interesting Cape Town setting makes great scenery for the story.
Since it is impossible to find any production material on this film, I made a number of screen shots below.