The "Red Lips" duo of Diana (Janine Reynaud, here billed as "Janine Reynault") and Regina (Rossana Yanni) are back in a companion piece to director Jesus Franco's Kiss Me Monster.

With this tape and DVD release, Anchor Bay has now accounted for all three parts of Franco's 1967 "Aquila Trilogy": his films for that studio consisted of the two "Red Lips" entries and the unrelated Succubus (which also featured Reynaud). Both Succubus and Kiss Me Monster have previously been reviewed here.

While Two Undercover Angels preceded Kiss Me Monster into theatrical release, the order in which the films are watched is unimportant. In fact, neither film actually introduced the "Red Lips." 1960's Labios Rojos featured two female super-sleuths by the names of Christina (Suzanne Medel) and Lola (Ana Castor), who are generally accepted as the prototypes of Diana and Regina. However, this black-and-white item was never released in America, and no print is available for comparison to the better-known 1967 entries.

This time around, a rash of disappearances involving young female models and performers spurs the Red Lips into action. Their investigation leads them to a trendy art gallery in which the morbid exhibits all suspiciously resemble the missing women--but the artist is a notorious recluse who won't be easily found.

What Diana and Regina don't know is shown to the audience early on--the mad artist Claus Tiller (played by producer Adrian Hoven) is indeed behind the abduction/murders for the sake of his craft--though his werewolf-like servant Morpho (a stock name for the sidekick in many a Franco film) does the actual dirty work.

Given the gruesome premise (and the film's alternate title "Sadisterotica"), this could have been quite a disturbing chiller had it been played seriously. But those familiar with Kiss Me Monster will correctly expect the opposite approach from Franco here. The cheerful irreverence of the Red Lips again extends to not only the case they're solving but to the rules of the spy film itself. When Diana's attempt to surreptitiously tape an important conversation fails, she brazenly enters the room and holds her microphone out in plain view. When the agents play back a recording made at the scene of a very recent crime, they pause to laugh at the noise the tape makes as it rewinds. Body disposal? A minor inconvenience at best. A near-miss assassination attempt? If only Diana hadn't just been to the hairdresser!

Complementing the film's playful nature is the fact that, despite the many murders and the atrocities suggested by the plentiful artwork on display, there is no on-screen blood at all. Nevertheless, family fare this is not. The agents' use of sexuality as a tool of the trade makes James Bond look positively chaste--and their investigation allows plenty of time for Franco's then-customary visits to wild, jazzy nightclubs featuring many a novel twist on adult entertainment. The director's passion for jazz ensures that the lively score doesn't confine itself to these club scenes, one soon learns.

Some viewers may find the depictions of violence against women to be disturbing: the opening moments seem like the work of an utter misogynist. However, the misogynist isn't the filmmaker in this case: it's the villain in his story. The true attitude of the film is embodied by the Red Lips themselves, who counter the unflattering treatment of women with their own observations concerning men--none of whom will ever get the better of them.

Reynaud and Yanni are as likable and watchable as ever. Franco himself joins the party via an amusing turn as a particularly clueless security guard. The extremely irregular "Red Lips" series continued with 1974's Les Emmerdeuses (with Lina Romay and Pamela Stanford as "Pina and Tina") and 1978's Opalo de Fuego (Romay and Nadine Pascal as "Cecile and Brigitte")--but the two 1967 entries will remain definitive for most viewers.

Anchor Bay has released Two Undercover Angels in fullscreen. The American theatrical trailer follows the film on both VHS and DVD.

Two Undercover Angels is now available on DVD and VHS from Anchor Bay Entertainment. Suggested retail price: $24.95 for DVD and $14.95 for VHS.