Friday, August 28, 2009

Weekly Debriefing 011


Begin Transmission:

• Been watching Joss Whedon's Dollhouse on DVD through Netflix. Not bad, but not quite the show I thought it was going to be, either. I'm a bit more than halfway through Season 1, and mildly intrigued, certainly enough to want to see the rest of the season.

• With the covert cooperation of fellow COBRAS, Tanner, I also obtained copies of and watched the Eurocrime flicks Kriminal and Mark of Kriminal. I considered this research for my Skorpion project. I enjoyed both movies a great deal, and was impressed at how slick and polished the productions were. Of course, the both co-starred the lovely Helga Line (in Kriminal she even played twins!), so that increased the entertainment value considerably.

• This week's All-Bonds-In-Order Friday night feature was the 1967 Casino Royale. It's the first time I've watched it all the way through in probably fifteen years, and the very first time I've seen the entire film in widescreen. (I have the first MGM DVD, not the newer special edition.)

I will say that I found it slightly funnier than I remembered, chuckling more often and even laughing out loud once or twice. Afterwards, I told my wife that I'd never ask her to sit through it again, but she surprised me by admitting that she "didn't hate it."

• No spy-fi purchases this week, nor have I begun reading any espionage novels. I hope to finish a couple of overdue assignments this weekend, so hopefully I'll have a bit more time next week to devote to this blog's theme.

How was your week?

End Transmission.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sean!

Happy 79th birthday to the first - and arguably best - James Bond of them all, Sir Sean Connery.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Video: Spy Vs. Spy - "Defection"


They're reprinting the original Spy Vs. Spy strips by Antonio Prohias from MAD Magazine in digest-sized trade collections. J. Caleb Mozzocco reviews the first volume at the Newsarama Blog:

When two nations go to war, neither one wins. Well, actually, one side usually wins, but that victory is fleeting. In the next encounter, the winner is just as likely to end up the loser, and that cycle of conflict can continue forever. That seems to be the message of Antonio Prohias’ Spy Vs. Spy strips: One day you’re clubbing/shooting/poisoning/bombing/dropping a boulder on your foe, the next you’re being clubbed/shot/poisoned/bombed/having a boulder dropped on you.
Read the entire review at the link above.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Video: OUR MAN FLINT


A rather decently-edited "music video" set to Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful Our Man Flint theme.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: A MAN CALLED SLOANE - "Architect of Evil"

I don't know if it was because I was groggy and watching it at four in the morning, but I really enjoyed the penultimate episode of A Man Called Sloane, "Architect of Evil."

Worthington Pendergast (Michael Pataki) is the titular architect, who has conceived a "perfect city" for KARTEL to build and rule in an undisclosed location. Who will construct – and ultimately, live in – this city? Well, Pendergast has a typically complicated and insane plan to solve that problem: using a ray projector that can increase the mass of objects, he intends to sink a ship carrying nuclear waste which will then contaminate a large portion of the West Coast of America. This will dispossess millions of people, who KARTEL (will somehow) then draft as slave labor to build their city.

Unfortunately for Pendergast, the unique "blue crystal" that makes the ray weapon work, has been stolen from his home safe along with his other valuables, by a cat burglar named Harry Helms (John Aprea), who has no idea what it is and thinks it's worthless. Fortunately, UNIT had Pendergast under observation and caught the thief on film, so Sloane is able to track him down, and ultimately impersonate him (an impersonation which, as usual, isn't very effective) in order to infiltrate Pendergast's operation...

The story is nonsensical, but for some reason, it plays out pretty well. Pataki's villain is suitably over-the-top, executing his own henchmen with sonic deathtraps and playing Bach's tocatta and fugue in D minor on the organ to relieve stress. There's a sequence set in a health club where burglar Helms attempts to kill Sloane in a manner highly reminiscent of the Shrublands scene in Thunderball, and an interesting – and unusual climax featuring Sloane, Torque, a helicopter, and a lot of soapsuds.

Well directed by veteran TV and B-movie (Cujo, Alligator) director Lewis Teague, "Architect of Evil" is a satisfyingly silly but entertaining hour of spy-fi adventure, and is probably one of the best in the series.

Only one more episode to go!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: DANGER: DIABOLIK

Danger: Diabolik is one of my all-time favorite films in any genre.

Mario Bava, the accomplished cinematographer, special effects artist and director best known for such stylish Euro-horror classics as Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, Planet Of The Vampires and Blood And Black Lace was hand-chosen by legendary movie mogul Dino DeLaurentis to direct this 1968 adaptation of the popular Italian fumetti (comic book), Diabolik. Budgeted at a generous three million dollars, the frugal maestro Bava – using economical camera tricks and his legendary ingenuity – ended up spending only $400,000 of his budget (much to DeLaurentis' delight). Yet, he still created one of the most visually stunning films in the entire genre.

The film follows the episodic escapades of master thief and super villain Diabolik (John Phillip Law, Barbarella, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) as he carries out a series of audacious heists, constantly making the police and civil authorities look like incompetent buffoons. At one point, the law even covertly recruits a ruthless gangster (Adolfo Celi, Thunderball) to kidnap Diabolik's girlfriend, Eva Kant (the gorgeous Marisa Mell), figuring to pit the two criminals against each other. But Diabolik – clad in a striking all-black costume – is more than a match for the mafioso.

Diabolik isn't a super hero by any definition, nor is he a Robin Hood-styled "thief with a heart of gold." In the commentary, star Law admits bluntly that his character's "basically a terrorist." He's a refreshingly genuine antihero, out for all he can get, and innocent bystanders be damned. If you're looking for a role model, look elsewhere. Personally, I find these sorts of characters fascinating, and am always interested in how the creators of such characters manage to manipulate their audiences into rooting for such despicable people. In Diabolik's case, it's pure style – he's just so much more audacious, fearless and admirable than the cops and other crooks around him.

Beautifully shot, and awash in bright primary colors, Danger: Diabolik is among one of the "truest" comic book adaptations ever filmed. Not only does Bava nail the tone and character of the original comics, but he successfully translates comic book storytelling from one medium to another, with brilliant results.

Paramount Pictures released the film on DVD a few years ago, presenting the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, with a fine, startlingly sharp anamorphic transfer. The Dolby Digital mono sound is clear and free of hiss, but one wishes they'd been able to do a new sound mix, as the mono doesn't do justice to Ennio Morricone's wonderful, lounge-y score.

Among the bonus features is an informative documentary "From Fumetti to Film," which details the origins of the movie and examines it from the perspective of Sixties psychedelic filmmaking and as a comic book adaptation. The documentary includes interviews with star Law, comic book creator Stephen Bissette, filmmaker Roman Coppola, and Diabolik fan Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys. The disc also includes The Beastie Boys music video, "Body Movin'," which incorporates footage from the movie, two trailers and a commentary track by Law and Bava expert Tim Lucas, editor of the excellent Video Watchdog magazine.

The commentary is one of the best I've heard in a long while, with Law obviously very fond of the movie and the character and full of reminisces. Lucas is a fount of knowledge on Bava and the production of the film, and prompts Law whenever necessary to keep the trivia and gossip (Law cops to a having a hot and steamy affair with his co-star Mell during filming) flowing. The track is never boring, and is fascinating to listen to.

If you've never seen the movie, it demands a Netflix rental; better yet, try and track down a copy of the DVD. It's technically out of print, but can still be found with a little diligence.

Weekly Debriefing 008-009

Begin Transmission.

Well, really, I've got virtually nothing to report. Since the beginning of August, I've been devoting most of my time to catching up with writing and editing assignments, and have had very little time to indulge in my various pop culture obsessions.

One rare exception is that my wife and I have started watching all of the 007 films in order, one each Friday. Tonight the feature is Goldfinger on Blu-Ray. I'm really looking forward to seeing it in hi-def, especially considering how amazing Dr. No and From Russia With Love look on their respective Blu-Ray discs.

• In other random notes, I've been listening to the internet radio station A Fistful Of Soundtracks a lot on iTunes these days while I'm working. It's a great channel devoted solely to film/television scores and songs, and they play an awful lot of spy music (right this second they're playing "Deep Deep Down," from Danger: Diabolik). It's a great station, and I highly recommend it.

• Yesterday I received the latest DVD in Synapse Films' 42nd Street Forever series of exploitation film trailers. Both Volume 4 and Volume 5 include a few rare Eurospy trailers. Vol. 5 includes trailers for Lightning Bolt and James Tont Operation O.N.E., which features a wonderful theme song about a guy named "Goldsinger!"

• This week, I'll make a point of at least watching and posting another A Man Called Sloane episode review, 'cause I know you're all eagerly awaiting it. Maybe I can squeeze in a Nick Carter or Butler paperback, too.

How was your week, agents?

End Transmission.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dead Air

Yeah, it's been quiet here at the Channel for the last week or so. Been busy trying to catch up with various freelance gigs, and have indulged in virtually no spy-fi nerdom in days.

The exception being that the wife and I are trying to work our way through the Bond films one-by-one, and have watched Dr. No and From Russia With Love over the last two consecutive Fridays. Despite being with me for ten years, she still hasn't seen every frame of every 007 epic, and she's making the effort to go the distance with me.

That's love.

Updates soon.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spies Speak Lark

Several of our favorite secret agents have made commercials in Japan for Lark cigarettes...

James Bond – Timothy Dalton:

James Bond – Roger Moore:

Derek Flint – James Coburn:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spy-Fi poll 007: Results

Ironic that this was poll number 007, as the question at hand was about one of the more successful and well known spy-fi film series to follow in James Bond's cinematic footsteps.

The question was: "Which Dean Martin Matt Helm movie was the best?"

Now, while the character portrayed by Dean Martin in these four flix may bear no resemblance to the tall, thin, rugged outdoorsman of Donald Hamilton's excellent paperback novels, there is still much to enjoy in the Matt Helm movies. The comic book plots and Rat Pack-flavored humor can be fun, and the feminine eye candy on display is frankly exquisite.

The first movie in the series, The Silencers, won this one in a landslide with ten out of sixteen votes going to it. In second place was the second movie, Murderer's Row, with four. The final film in the four-flick series, The Wrecking Crew, picked up two. The Ambushers, the third and least of the Matt Helm quartet garnered no votes at all.

I voted for Murderer's Row. I like the Riviera setting (even if Dean never actually went there), I like the hovercraft chase, and I really like watching Ann-Margaret go-go dance. So sue me. The Silencers is right up there too, mostly because of the presence of spy-fi vixen Dalia Lavi.

By the way – in a distantly related note, apparently Steven Spielberg has passed on directing the new Matt Helm film. Oh well.

Anyway, no poll this week because I can't think of any questions. It's been a rough few days, which also accounts – in part – for my decreased activity here. Anyway, if I should come up with an interesting question (And I'm open to suggestions!) between now and then, I'll post a new poll next Monday.