It was a chance discovery I made on Facebook. Apart from the English version of Guide (1965), Dev Anand had actually done another International Film, The Evil Within (1970). The film, directed by Lamberto V Avellana from the Philippines, starred Dev Saab along with Vietnamese actress Kieu Chinh, best known for The Joy Luck Club (1993), and Rod Perry (S.WA.T.), who made his on-screen debut with this film and also sang the film’s title number. What’s more, the film also starred Zeenat Aman, her first ever appearance on the silver screen, and was photographed by well-known Indian cinematographer, Fali Mistry (Mela (1948), Babul (1950), Taj (1956), Guide (1965), Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971) and many more). According to senior journalist Sidharth Bhatia, who interviewed Dev Saab extensively, Zeenat Aman had already been cast for Hare Rama Hare Krishna and so was added to the cast of The Evil Within to give her some experience of being in front of the camera.
The Evil Within is set against the opium trade of buying the drug from mountain tribes and shipping it worldwide. When a Syndicate Enforcer, ‘The Fat Man’ (Albert Fitzpatrick) is killed signifying a power change in the Opium business, crime fighter Dev (Dev Anand) enters the scene. Among other things, he has to deal with is the family-feuds-driven clan that controls the drug trade and a lesbian love triangle!
The film was presented and distributed by 20th Century Fox, but like The Guide, it did not quite prove to be Dev Saab’s passport to the West. Quoting from an an online review of the film at Mondo 70, “If this English-language picture was intended to put Anand over globally, it didn’t work. The actor was fluent in English, earning a college degree in English lit, but his delivery is blandly urbane, almost more philosophical than witty, and he was probably too old for his action-romance role by this time.” Elaborating more on the film, the review goes on to add, “More colorful are the locations used, especially the luxurious fortress where the film’s final act takes place, but Avellana never manages to make the action live up to the setting. All the materials are here for an exotic, eccentric spectacle, and it isn’t hard to envision a Bollywood director, a blaxploitation specialist or any number of other Filipino filmmakers making more of it than this crew does.”
Sadly, the film did not release in India much to the disappointment of Dev Anand fans. According to Faroukh Mistry, the son of cinematographer Fali Mistry, the film was, in fact, not cleared by the India censors. It has, however, been shown on the Fox Movie Channel. Also known as Passport to Danger in some circles, the film was dubbed and released in the Philippines, no doubt thanks to Avellana being from there. Faroukh, who was present during the shooting in Rajasthan, also recalled that his one vivid memory during filming is Dev Saab toppling off a camel and landing hard on his back!
With The Evil Within going into oblivion, Dev Saab had much better luck back home playing a crime fighter, an undercover cop to be precise, the same year. The film? The hugely successful and evergreen classic Johny Mera Naam!
Oh lest I forget, here is the opening scene of The Evil Within.
Header photo courtesy Imprints and Images of Indian Film Music