Cross-Cultural Bonds: From Russia, With `Toons

You don’t know his name, but you know his number. Meet Secret Agent 00X.

In 1979 the Ukrainian film-company Kiev-Nauch-Film made the cartoon The Adventures of Captain Vroungel, based on A. Nekrasov`s novel. It`s a funny story about Naval Captain Christopher Vroungel and his crew – Petty-Officer Lom (Crowbar) and sailor Fooks. They take part in a round-the-world voyage, and their rivals constantly try to spoil everything, but Vroungel is hard to beat: the Captain has something in common with the resourceful Robinson Crusoe AND the boastful Baron Munchausen. Describing his daring, unbelievable adventures, Vroungel slightly embellishes them, and that`s where his second name, Vroungel, comes from: in this context, the Russian word vroun means fibber.

The scriptwriters modernized the story, and made drastic plot changes, and added new characters, including the secret agent 00X. The cartoon began resembling a pastiche, even a parody of thrillers.

The director of a Western country yacht club organizes a round-the-world regatta. The famous Russian Captain Vroungel and his colleague, Petty-Officer Lom, are invited. Nobody links the regatta to the outrageous theft of the Venus sculpture which occurred the day before. Nobody knows that the yacht club director is a big-time gangster, or that the regatta is just a ruse to smuggle the Venus sculpture, out of the country. Moreover the director/gangster had forced Fooks, a guard at the Royal Museum, to steal the sculpture. Now Fooks, hiding the Venus in his Contrabass case, is to board the yacht Black Barracuda, which will take part in the regatta. But somehow Fooks spoils everything and becomes a sailor on Vroungel`s yacht, where a third crewmember is needed. Captain Vroungel knows nothing about the priceless sculpture in Fooks`s case. Having discovered Fooks`s failure, the director of the yacht club sends two of his top Italian gangsters – Juliko Bandito & De La Voro Gangsterito to capture Fooks and get the Venus back by any means. These guys are resourceful and ruthless; you wouldn`t want to meet them in a dark alley. The small one, Juliko Bandito is the brain. The other, De La Voro Gangsterito, is all muscle. And here the secret agent 00X enters the scene. Some powers-that-be send him to arrest the gangsters and find the Venus.

00X is just a supporting character, but his personality will interest Bond fans, because he resembles 007. So I`ll focus on him instead of Captain Vroungel`s crew and his fantastic naval adventures (I`ll just say that the cartoon has a HAPPY ENDING).

00X is an extraordinary spy with an extraordinary companion/transport: a dog-helicopter. This creature has a human brain, a dog`s loyalty and a helicopter`s flying ability.

Nobody gets close to him. Like James Bond, 00X dresses stylishly. Like a real spy, 00X is a master in close combat, a sharpshooter and has various spy gadgets, all of which miraculously fit in his jacket`s inner pockets and his valise. One of those gadgets, a “handy” tape-recorder, is almost as big as 00X himself.

Another gadget that might interest Bond fans – a petty cobra. 00X uses it to get into the castle of the yacht club director who masterminded the theft of the Venus. In Q`s laboratory in Octopussy, there`s a similar climbing device, only it`s mechanical. Nevertheless, the idea is the same, even though this cartoon was made in 1979, four years before Octopussy.

There are further Bond movie similarities. Some of the story takes place in an Egyptian pyramid. The scene where 00X chases the gangsters in the tomb corridors, somewhat resembles the scene in The Spy Who Loved Me where Jaws chases Bond & Anya amidst ancient Egyptian ruins. 00X`s unique “habit of surviving” mixes the similar abilities of 007 and Roger Rabbit. Throughout the cartoon, the Italian top-gangsters, Juliko Bandito & De La Voro Gangsterito, unsuccessfully try to kill 00X. In the cartoon, 00X was dropped into the ocean, incarcerated, electrified, blown up and buried alive in an Egyptian tomb… It didn`t help. Only once did the gangsters get rid of 00X briefly: a building fell onto the famous secret agent knocking him unconscious and temporarily flattening him (literally!). But it didn`t help either: 00X survived and soon continued to investigate. 00X is really hard to kill, just like James Bond. And like Roger Rabbit he has the fantastic ability to recover. 00X is as brave and fearless as 007. Once he followed the gangsters while sitting on the tail of their helicopter and luxuriously smoking a cigar. Who else can do this with a similar smile but Bond? However, the deadly team of gangsters are a real match for 00X, and while the gangsters constantly try to kill him – and fail – the secret agent tries busting them – and also fails.

For a supporting character, 00X is very remarkable, and he definitely resembles 007. 00X has James Bond`s essential features: he`s irresistible, invincible, has unique spy gadgets and super transport. He`s brave and always ready for danger. He`s devoted to his cause. And the Bondish “cruel smile” never leaves his face.

Note: in 1979, the average Russian still hadn`t seen the Bond movies and thus most of the in-jokes were lost upon them, although it`s almost a guarantee that the people who made this cartoon had.

Screenshots aretaken from The Adventures of Captain Vroungel. Copyright (c) 1979 by Kiev-Nauch-Film.

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