Monday, December 28, 2009

New Spy-Fi Poll

Shortly after the first of the year, I plan on devoting a theme week here at the Spy-Fi Channel to the films based on author Tom Clancy's "Jack Ryan" character/novels. I'll be re-watching and reviewing the first three movies - The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger - and watching 2002's The Sum of All Fears for the first time, courtesy of the convenience of Netflix.

Man, I haven't even seen the first three in a very long time; I last watched them back when I bought them on laserdisc... so that should give you an idea of just how much time has passed.

While I'm preparing those posts, I'd be curious as to the opinions of our regular Channel visitors regarding those films, so if you get a moment, please cast your vote in the poll. You'll find it over there in the left-hand sidebar, as usual.

And, just in case I don't get back here before then, Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Season's Greetings from the Spy-Fi Channel

Whatever holiday you celebrate, here's wishing you the most sincere season's greetings and a great new year. I hope you'll keep tuning in the Channel through 2010 and beyond.

Now, I've got to get back to watching my new Mission: Impossible discs!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weekly Debriefing 016

Begin Transmission.

Well, it looks like I'm going to have a spy-fi holiday after all.

Originally, it didn't appear that my wife and I were going to have any gifts under the tree this year, but courtesy of my generous in-laws and a few giftcards, I was able to order a handful of items to fill a few gaps in my spy-fi collection. For one, I'm finally going to get my hands on Matt Blake and David Deal's The Eurospy Guide, which I've had on my Amazon wishlist for at least four years.

I'll confess - not having a copy of this book on my shelf made me feel a bit like a fraud as a spy blogger. I'm glad I'll be able to rectify this now... and I can't wait to dive more deeply into the Eurospy waters, since I know I've only barely broken the surface with my explorations to date.

I don't know if it's in the book, but at the same time I ordered a really inexpensive disc called Code 7 Victim 5, which appears to be a Eurospy-esque crime thriller starring Lex Barker. I got it yesterday. It's a pretty crappy pan & scan print, but it still looks like it might be fun.

Finally, thanks to low sale prices at Best Buy, I was also able to order the seasons of Mission: Impossible (Seasons 1, 2 & 5) and I Spy (Season 3) that I was missing, so now I'll finally have complete DVD runs of those 60s genre essentials. I'm especially looking forward to filling the holes in my Mission: Impossible library, as it's become one of my favorite spy-fi shows ever, combining - as it does - both the espionage and "caper" genres. I've never seen any of the first season episodes, and I'm eager to do so.

Hopefully, this means I'll have some new stuff to write about here in the new year.

Whatever you celebrate this season, I wish all readers of the Spy-Fi Channel, my fellow C.O.B.R.A.S. and pretty much everyone else, a great holiday and a happy new year. Thanks for visiting my site and reading my ravings, and I look forward to sharing more Spy-Fi goodness with you all in 2010!

End Transmission.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rare OHMSS Screen Test Photos Unearthed

In honor of On Her Majesty's Secret Service's 40th anniversary, Life.com has posted a selection of rare, previously unpublished, photographs taken for Life magazine during the pre-production of the first non-Sean Connery James Bond film. These photos, by Loomis Dean, show the top five contenders for the coveted 007 role, taken during their screen tests for director Peter Hunt.

We all know that George Lazenby won the part, but this is a fascinating look at the other men who might have been Bond, James Bond: John Richardson (pictured above with Hunt and an unnamed actress), Anthony Rogers, Robert Campbell, and Hans de Vries.

To see all of these amazing pix, click here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE '88


Now that CBS/Paramount has released all seven seasons of the original Mission: Impossible television series on DVD, next, hopefully, they can put out the two seasons of the late Eighties revival. This was actually the first Mission: Impossible I ever saw, and while I'm certain that it's not nearly as good as the original series (at least its early seasons), I'd really enjoy seeing it again.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Alex Rider Week @ Double O Section

Fellow COBRAS agent Tanner is looking at Anthony Horowitz' "Alex Rider" series of young adult espionage adventures this week over at his Double O Section blog.

It looks like he'll be giving the franchise his usual in-depth examination, and has kicked off his latest theme week with a review of the latest Alex Rider novel, Crocodile Tears.

I'm a fan of the Rider series, and am looking forward to reading the latest installment, as well as Tanner's no doubt exhaustive essays over the next week. Horowitz' books may be written and marketed for tween/teen boys, but they're about as enjoyable as any other spy-fi available today. If you haven't yet sampled the series, I recommend getting your hands on the first volume, Stormbreaker, and giving it a shot.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obit: Gene Barry, R.I.P.

Gene Barry, star of Amos Burke, Secret Agent, has passed away at age 90. I've never seen the "secret agent" incarnation of the show, but I have the first season of Burke's Law on DVD, and it's an astoundingly entertaining series, driven almost entirely by Barry's star power.

Burke's Law debuted in 1963 as a mystery series about a suave millionaire playboy named Amos Burke who also happened to be a Los Angeles Captain of Homicide, who always showed up at murder scenes in his chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. The Aaron Spelling-produced series was notable for its witty writing, big name guest stars and the formidable charm of its lead actor. In 1965, at the height of the 007/U.N.C.L.E.-fueled spy-fi craze, the format of the series changed, and Burke became an agent for the United States government.

Barry also starred in Bat Masterson and The Name of the Game on television, films like Forty Guns and The War of the Worlds, and was a Tony-nominated Broadway performer.

R.I.P. Mister Barry.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Burchett Cries U.N.C.L.E.

My pal and collaborator Rick Burchett (Gravedigger, Skorpion) recently sent me this unpublished page of U.N.C.L.E. art, and when I asked him if I could share it with the readers of the Spy-Fi Channel, he graciously consented.

According to Rick, he's been working on expanding his portfolio recently, and has been taking the opportunity to draw some things that he's always wanted to try his hand at - especially subjects that are unlikely to actually come his way professionally. (Aside from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. sample above, he's also drawn a Have Gun Will Travel Sunday newspaper strip!)

I want to be clear - this is not from an actual comic book. It's simply an art sample that Rick drew for fun and his portfolio. Hope you enjoy this peek at some U.N.C.L.E. fan art by a pro!

Art © by Rick Burchett and used with permission.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

SECRET AGENT SUPER DRAGON for Free!

Of course, it's the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, but if you've never seen this 1966 Eurospy adventure starring Ray Danton (Our Man Flint: Dead on Target) and the lovely Margaret Lee, then you can watch it for a limited time over at Hulu, where it's part of their holiday promotion.

"I've gotta go drain the super dragon..."

It's a funny episode of MST3K, and the movie itself is a pretty goofy and entertaining slice of Eurospy. And it's got both Margaret Lee and Danger Diabolik's Marisa Mell for eye candy.

Here's the link.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spy-Fi Poll 008: Results

Wow. That's the largest "turnout" for one of our polls yet! After a long hiatus, inspired by the Saint celebration over at Permission To Kill, the Spy-Fi Polls returned a week ago with the question: "Which actor portrayed the best Simon Templar (The Saint) on film or TV?"

With 18 out of an astounding 33 votes cast, the clear favorite was Sir Roger Moore, who portrayed the gentleman rogue in the eponymous ITC television series from 1962 to 1969. For millions of people who'd never even read a Leslie Charteris novel, the charming, handsome and athletic actor was and will always be Simon Templar.

Coming in second, with a respectable 7 votes was droll George Sanders, who portrayed the character in five Saint features for RKO between 1939 1nd 1940.

Ian Ogilvy, who starred in the 24-episode TV series The Return of the Saint in 1978-79, garnered four votes for third place, while 80's television Saint Simon Dutton and Val Kilmer, star of the 1997 feature film, manged two votes apiece.

Neither Louis Hayward nor Hugh Sinclair, both of whom portrayed the hero in 30s movies, managed a single vote, and Andrew Clarke, of 1987's The Saint in Manhattan TV pilot, was also snubbed in the voting.

Ogilvy was actually the first Simon Templar I ever saw, back when CBS was running Return late nights in the 70s. But Moore is definitely the man I think of as being the definitive Saint. I'm a big fan of George Sanders' films, too, and really wish Warners would put them out in a boxed set.

As always, feel free to explain (or defend - Kilmer? Really?) your choices in the comments, and if anyone has suggestions for other Spy-Fi polls, please send 'em along!

Spy Vixen Week - Day #7: Elke Sommer

Truly Deadlier Than The Male, statuesque Elke Sommer, a 36-22-36 Teutonic stunner, made a huge impact on 60's spy-fi even though she only really made a small handful of notable appearances in the genre. But as I said before, it only takes a couple of spy-fi credits to qualify as a Spy Vixen on this site.

Of course, one of those credits was the aforementioned 1967 Bulldog Drummond adventure, Deadlier Than The Male where she proved (along with the equally lovely Sylva Koscina) to be a formidable opponent for star Richard Johnson. The same year, she appeared with Robert Vaughn (and Lucianna Paluzzi) in The Venetian Affair, and was the primary femme fatale in Dean Martin's last Matt Helm outing, The Wrecking Crew. She played sexy foil for Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau in A Shot In The Dark and co-starred with Paul Newman in The Prize.

Her IMDb page lists just over a hundred appearances in both European and American productions. I'm most familiar with her spy films and horror roles for director Mario Bava (Danger: Diabolik), but she's acted in almost every film and television genre, including comedy.

Fellow COBRAS comrade Tanner has written quite eloquently about the beautiful Ms. Sommer several times over at his Double O Section blog. Check it out.

Well, this wraps up the first Spy-Fi Channel theme week. I certainly had a pleasant time searching the interweb for just the right photos of these lovely women, and I hope you enjoyed my choices. Like I said in an earlier post - they just don't seem to make unique beauties like these anymore....

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Spy Vixen Week - Day #6: Daniela Bianchi

After her historic role as the girl who came to Sean Connery's 007 From Russia With Love in 1963, Italian beauty queen Daniela Bianchi appeared in several notable Eurospy flicks before retiring from the screen just five years later.

The most well-known of these is Operation Kid Brother (OK Connery) where she starred opposite Sean's brother Neil in an all-out spoof of the 007 film phenomenon. But her best genre appearance - in my opinion - was as the titular villainess of Special Mission Lady Chaplin, the third and best of Ken Clark's 077 trilogy. As the eponymous Lady Chaplin, Miss Bianchi was a delightful femme fatale, employing a vast repertoire of deceptions and double crosses to keep her opponents off balance - and looking great doing it!

Other spy-fi flicks that she graced with her elegant beauty include Code Name: Tiger, Operation Gold, and Requiem for a Secret Agent.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Spy Vixen Week Day #5 - Martine Beswick

Friday's seductive siren is the always memorable Martine Beswick. Though a veteran of two James Bond films, Martine's spy-fi credits are relatively slim. Still, with appearances on Danger Man and It Takes A Thief, plus those aforementioned 007 roles, I've decided to include her. Hell, it's my list, after all.

A tall, striking, raven-haired beauty, Martine was frequently cast as "bad girls" - especially when those bad girls were required to be scantily-clad. She was a savage cavegirl in Hammer's One Million Years B.C. and the imposing leader of a tribe of brunette amazons in the same studio's Prehistoric Women. She was even the ultimate femme fatale as Ralph Bates' seductively evil female alter ego in Doctor Jeckyll and Sister Hyde!

But it's her small but unforgettable roles as a fiery, catfightin' gypsy girl in From Russia With Love and as Sean Connery's luscious bikini-clad assistant Paula in Thunderball, that secure her position here as one of the Sixties' premiere Spy Vixens.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Spy Vixen Week - Day #4: Senta Berger

Today's Spy Vixen is sultry Senta Berger, the statuesque Austrian beauty who, by her very presence, almost managed to save Dean Martin's otherwise disappointing third Matt Helm picture, The Ambushers.

With her 38-26-36 figure and simmering, Teutonic sexuality, Senta was a memorable femme fatale not only in the previously-mentioned Helm film, but in 1966's The Quiller Memorandum, the Eurospy caper Our Man in Marrakesh, and in episodes of the American spy-fi shows It Takes A Thief and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Her IMDb page lists over 140 screen appearances, and she's still active as an actress today.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Spy Vixen Week - Day #3: Luciana Paluzzi

As I wrote at the beginning of the week, the women I'm choosing for this "Spy Vixens" theme are actresses that I associate primarily with 60s spy-fi. It doesn't mean necessarily that they made a lot of films in the genre, but when I see them, my immediate reaction is one of recognition from their espionage cinema credits.

For example, the lovely Luciana Paluzzi. The voluptuous Italian redhead is best known for her role as sinister SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in 1965's 007 spectacular, Thunderball. But she also made memorable appearances in the 1968 OSS 117 adventure Murder For Sale, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and (again with Robert Vaughn) in The Venetian Affair. She also appeared in a wide variety of other films and television shows, from cult sci-fi faves like The Green Slime and Captain Nemo's Underwater City to blaxploitation thrillers like Black Gunn.

She's always been a personal favorite, with her lush figure, flaming hair, penetrating eyes and air of class and sophistication. Today's actresses tend to all look alike, as if they were ejected from the same three or four molds. Luciana - like the other Vixens on this list - was a unique beauty and a powerful, sensual screen presence. They just don't seem to make 'em like that anymore....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obit: Tony Kendall, R.I.P.

Our man in Sweden, Pidde Andersson, reports:
Tony Kendall died sunday night at the age of 73 after a lengthy bout of cancer.

Kendall (born Luciano Stella) rose to fame in Europe in the mid-sixties as the lead in the movie adaptions of german pulp novel series "Kommissar X". He starred in 54 films over the years (with his last one in 2007), among them The Return of the Evil Dead, The Loreley's Grasp (both part of the "Blind Dead"-series) and Yeti - The Giant of the 20th Century.

Just a few months ago, this last september, Kendall reunited with his friend and "Kommissar X" co-lead Brad Harris and director Gianfranco Parolini (aka Frank Kramer) at an event in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
Rest in peace, Joe Walker....

The Spy-Fi Poll Returns!

At least for one week, anyway. Inspired by fellow COBRAS David Foster's celebration of Leslie Charteris' inimitable Simon Templar, alias The Saint over on his Permission To Kill blog, I thought it would be fun to see who Spy-Fi visitors thought portrayed the best Simon Templar on film or television. So, take a second and cast your vote - as usual, you'll find the poll question over there in the left-hand sidebar.

Poll closes on December 7.

Spy Vixen Week - Day #2: Margaret Lee

Sexy blonde bombshell Margaret Lee was a prominent Eurospy siren, who appeared in such continental cloak-and-dagger thrillers as From The Orient With Fury (with Ken Clark's 077), Murder for Sale (with John Gavin's OSS 117), Secret Agent Super Dragon (with Ray Danton's, uh, Super Dragon) and Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die, among many, many others.

In fact, skimming her IMDb page gives one the impression that she was European producers' first choice for any and all spy-fi films produced on the continent between 1964 and 1968!

It's no surprise, really, because she was not only gorgeous, but charismatic and charming as well, with sex appeal to spare. And although I've only ever seen her on film with her voice dubbed, she seemed to be a pretty fair actress, too.

It's rather surprising that Eon Productions never tapped her for a Bond film, actually....