5. Eddie Constantine’s Nick
Nick Carter certainly isn’t just an American phenomenon. Europeans love them some Nick Carter too. The first Nick Carter film, for instance, is believed to have been a French serial from 1908, directed by Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset.
But in the ‘60s, the American-born French star Eddie Constatine, best known as Secret Agent Lemmy Caution in Godard’s sci-fi noir Alphaville, among other films, took a turn as Nick Carter in two atmospheric adventures: Nick Carter va tout casser (1964) and Nick Carter et le trefle rouge (1965). The clip above features, for those of a particular enthusiasm, a “nice Asian smoking with a cigarette holder.”
6. Robert Conrad’s Nick
While we’re in a jolly Gallic mood, let’s savor the pleasure of hearing French come out of Robert Conrad’s mouth. It’s from the French dub of The Adventures of Nick Carter, a TV movie of 1972 with a Gilded Age setting. It was almost certainly intended as a pilot for a new show in the Wild Wild West vein of period intrigue.
No such show materialized. But if you think about it, the original Nick Carter is around the right age that he could have been mentored in steampunk-ish secret agent skills by Jim West and Artie Gordon.
7. Dinner for Adele
Then there’s the Czechoslovakian Nick Carter, possibly the weirdest of all. Also known as Adele Hasn’t Had Her Supper Yet, and Nick Carter in Prague, 1977’s Adela jeste nevecerela has the gumshoe, played by Michal Docolomansky, investigating the disappearance of a dog.
The early Nick Carter tales often included science-fictiony elements, and even the later Killmaster novels featured gadgetry. Dinner for Adele likewise has some marvelously contrived contraptions designed by the great Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, but it goes farther into strange than that, with an unusually out-there premise, even by Nick Carter standards. Like Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, the Adele of the title is, you see, a predatory plant, brought to life (unlike Audrey) in beautifully haywire stop-motion. This one isn’t well-enough-known among nerds.
8. Nick Carter, Italian style
One more European manifestation, and this one might be my favorite. A segment of the ‘70s-era Italian cartoon show Gulp! featured the exploits of Carter (here curiously short and gnome-like) minimally animated from comic-strip drawings. Very minimally animated. As in, the camera pans or zooms around static drawings, and the dialogue, though spoken by actors, still appears in balloons over the heads of the characters. Sound effects appear onscreen too.
This technique proves surprisingly lively, because the art, by Franco “Bonvi” Bonvicini (of Sturmtruppen fame) has a bristling wiseass vividness reminiscent of the work of MAD’s Jack Davis. The stories, scripted by Guido De Maria, would send Nick, along with his sidekicks, the oafish, aptly-named Patsy and the stereotypical Japanese sage Ten, into pop-culture parodies with targets ranging from real-life political figures to The Godfather to Murder on the Orient Express to King Kong. These adventures were then promptly recycled into print comic strips, with no need to add lettering.
The question remains, however: If (and it’s a substantial if) the new franchise does indeed materialize, who out of today’s crop of studly stars should play Our Hero? There are obvious choices, like Daniel Craig or Matthew McConaughey, but if the franchise daringly took the route of the Italian cartoon they could go with somebody like Paul Giamatti or Danny DeVito. On the other hand, maybe for simplicity’s sake they should just go with Nick Carter. And this time I do mean the Backstreet Boy.
Previously by M.V. Moorhead: