Mar 31, 2009

New DVDs Out Today: Sean Connery's Stab At Shakespeare

I had no idea that this was coming out! I had no idea that it had even survived the BBC's notorious policy of "wiping" tapes of old programs in the Sixties. It's not a spy movie, but it is one of the rarest, most sought-after (well, by me, at any rate... surely there are others?) early performances by the King of the Spies himself, Sir Sean Connery... as Hotspur! And, as reported by the LA Times (via CommanderBond.net), it's out on DVD in the United States today! (Courtesy of BBC/Warner.) Off the top of my head, I think this is Connery's only filmed take on the Bard. The Times offers up a brief description of Shakespeare's An Age of Kings, which was a fifteen-part BBC series compiling "eight of Shakespeare's historical plays -- all of "Richard II," both parts of "Henry IV" and "Henry V," all three parts of "Henry VI" and "Richard III" -- and spans the history of the British monarchy between 1377 to 1485." It aired in 1960 in England and 1961 in America, on public television. Like most British TV programming of its time, it was shot live on video in black and white, so don't expect Kenneth Branagh production values. Besides Connery, the series also features Bond vets Julian Glover and Judi Dench. Robert Hardy plays Prince Hal. The DVD retails for $49.98, though Amazon has it for $34.99.

Mar 29, 2009

DVD Review: Kiss Me Deadly: A Jacob Keane Assignment (2008)

I reported on Kiss Me Deadly: A Jacob Keane Assignment when it was first announced in the trades: a spy movie (co-starring the great John Rhys-Davies!) featuring a gay hero, made for the gay-oriented Here! Network–and potentially the beginning of a new franchise. I never got to see it on TV, though, and completely missed its DVD release late last year. I just discovered that it was on DVD when I came across its Amazon listing recently while searching for its classic (and fantastic) Mickey Spillane namesake–and I’m glad that I did. Kiss Me Deadly scratched an itch I’ve had for a while for more Robert Ludlum-type made-for-TV spy movies. I know, that’s a very specific itch, but it’s a corner of the genre in which I very much like to wallow! And, unfortunately, nobody makes miniseries anymore the way they did it in the 1980s. So TV movies and cable movies are the closest it’s possible to come. And gay hero or not, Kiss Me Deadly fits the bill for solid, low-budget spy entertainment.

Rather than cramming the conceit down audience's throats, the producers set out to make a spy movie first and foremost, in which it was almost beside the point that the hero was gay. They succeeded. For the most part, it plays just like a regular spy movie, but with a few more scenes than normal of the hero showering! In the making-of featurette, star Robert Gant (Queer As Folk) says, "I just love that it’s taking such a traditionally masculine icon and making him gay. A lot of people when they first hear about it think it’s going to be a comedy. And one of the things that I love is that we play it for real." Director Ron Oliver adds, "The trick to this film was to make sure it wasn’t campy. So we sort of veered away from any ‘hardy-har’ stuff, and we went dead serious." The technique paid off. Another telling fact revealed in Oliver's audio commentary is that the script, co-written by the writer of the second-ever episode of The Wild Wild West, among many other things, did not begin life with a gay protagonist. But just as using Honor Blackman in the early Avengers scripts that had been written for a man resulted in a truly liberated female character back in the Sixties, I think plugging a gay character into a role originally conceived as straight goes a long way to break new ground for gay characters today in traditionally hetero roles–and helps avoid any temptation to go for camp. The result is a compelling, believable and likable character (thanks to an engaging performance by Gant), and not a stereotype.

The action begins in East Berlin, 1989, just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall with a pretty typical–and typically cool–spy setup: agent Jacob Keane (Gant) and his partner Marta (Shannon Doherty, in a truly horrible Sidney Bristow wig for some reason) sit in a battered old car on a cobbled, dimly lit street waiting for a defector to appear. Their third teammate, Jared (Fraser Brown) is perched high above, covering the transaction with a sniper rifle just in case anything goes wrong. Something does indeed go wrong–but its beyond salvage by a mere sniper. The mission is compromised, and the defector is killed.

Later, back in West Berlin, the trio (who work for an organization identified as NIA–Nato Intelligence) rendezvous with their boss, Yale (the always excellent John Rhys-Davies, whose many spy credits include The Living Daylights), as jubilant Berliners celebrate the destruction of the Wall. "I do believe we have just won the Cold War," declares Yale. Cynical, Keane wonders if that means they’ll no longer be needed. "There will always be an enemy," Yale reminds him somberly. "The NIA thinks maybe the Middle East. Oil."

Keane’s not happy with that. "When you recruited me, you promised Paris!" (I imagine many a real-life CIA agent has expressed similar sentiments.)

The credits roll (in the requisite Beepy TextTM) over an effective montage of (presumably cheap) news footage chronicling the next two decades. There are lots of Presidential soundbites, and shots of the destruction in New York and at the Pentagon on 9/11. The world has changed. So has Jacob Keane. When we meet him in the present day, he’s living the good life–the soft life, as a photographer–in Milan, with a committed boyfriend and a young daughter. That life is suddenly shattered when, out of the past, Marta leaves an urgent message for him on his answering machine. She’s coming to Milan, she’s in danger, and she needs him to meet him at the train station.

After dropping off his daughter with her lesbian mother, Keane races for the train station where he sees Marta looking out of it and being followed by a sinister looking fellow wearing a spy’s trench coat but sporting very unspylike bleach blond hair. Keane quickly incapacitates her pursuer, then whisks a baffled Marta off in his car. But she doesn’t know who he is, or who’s after her, or why. She’s got amnesia. As soon as he gets back to his luxurious apartment, Keane dials up his old bosses, cuing a prototypical blue-lit spy HQ environment. "I haven’t heard that line before," comments a newer techie.

"It’s an old analogue line!" explains a more experienced one. Keane has enough time to identify himself as "Nighthawk," but just then the bad guys show up at his front door and the chase is on!

So begins the setup for a classic Ludlumesque hunt across Europe with stops in Italy and Switzerland at the usual sorts of places: the country house of an old friend, a monastery, another train station and a cathedral. The movie was shot entirely in New Zealand, but I’ve got to admit: Aukland does an excellent job of filling in for Europe. (But not quite as good a job playing the Carribean later on.) The locations deliver everything that I expect of them in this type of international chase movie. The vehicles are there, too. Keane and Marta start out on his motorcycle, before changing to a classic red Mustang for the duration of the movie, including a chase scene with a Mercedes.

In trying to solve the mysteries of the present, Keane and Marta end up reconnecting with a lot of old faces from their past, including Yale (who now resides in the aforementioned monastery, attempting to atone for his former life). He delivers some crucial exposition (as such characters are wont to do) and they realize that the money that was paid to the defector back in 1989, ($10,000, plus interest), was never claimed and is presumably still sitting in the Swiss account into which it was initially deposited. (Yes, this is a rather unbelievable conceit, but this is the kind of movie where you just have to go with it.) Marta, Keane and Jared, each had a third of the pin number to access the account. That must be what the bad guys are after! Furthermore, Yale reveals that Marta appears to have been injected with a next-generation truth serum developed by the CIA which has the nasty side effect of erasing all memory from the subject after forcing them to spill the beans.

For now, though, the effect isn’t total... yet. Marta is still having some flashbacks: her and Keane making out. She asks him if they used to be lovers. "It’s complicated," he tries to explain.

"No, it’s not," she asserts. "Did we have sex?" Yes, he admits. It turns out that she was recruited for a very specific purpose, and that he was the honey trap who lured her in. He’s responsible for the direction her life took–and the dire situation in which she finds herself now. It weighs heavily on him. Then again, she may not be as innocent as he thinks. Certain clues lead Keane to question her loyalty as they press on. The villain (and the director admits on his commentary track that if you haven’t figured out who the villain is by the second reel, then you’ve probably never seen a spy movie before) makes things even more personal by killing Keane’s beloved boyfriend and kidnapping his young daughter (of course), setting up a high-stakes finale during which Keane will take another page out of Jason Bourne’s book for the old cell phone trick where the other guy says, "Where are you?" and the hero replies, "Turn around," revealing himself to be right behind him, pointing a gun.

Kiss Me Deadly is not the kind of movie you enjoy for its originality; it’s the kind of movie you enjoy for its familiarity. And in this genre, I do enjoy the familiar. The gay twist, however, does add the right ring of originality to the rigid Ludlum formula–just enough of it. It’s cool to see a slightly different spin on the spy hero. If you’re looking for a low budget, made-for-TV Robert Ludlum-type thriller, you could do a lot worse than Kiss Me Deadly. I hope Jacob Keane returns for other assignments.

Liberation Entertainment’s DVD actually presents a surprising amount of quality bonus material for a TV movie. For starters, there’s a pretty good trailer (viewable here) which gives you a decent taste of the movie and its Ludlumesque tone. There’s also the aforementioned making-of featurette, "Backlot," which is fairly extensive. Sure, it’s an EPK package with lots of the usual ego-stroking, but it also offers some really interesting insights on making a gay spy movie. "It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid to play a spy," shares Gant. "I remember when I was coming out, thinking, ‘oh, this probably isn’t gonna be something that I get to do.' All the superheroes that I was going to play, I was thinking those were now beyond my reach. And all of a sudden, this project comes along.... that dream was fulfilled." He even teases a sequel, which I’d very much like to see happen.

Finally, director Ron Oliver contributes a highly entertaining commentary track. I was only planning to sample it, but got sucked into listening to the rather flamboyant raconteur. It’s one of the most gossipy commentaries I’ve ever heard–and also one of the most frank. Oliver knows what worked and what didn’t work in his film, and he’s good-natured about the failures. In fact, everything bad that I made a note of while watching, he calls out–starting with Shannon Doherty’s appalling wig in the opening ("Truly one of the most unfortunate wigs in cinema history," he says)! He even acknowledges that "the time thing" in the film doesn’t really work, given the actors’ ages and the supposed passage of two decades, but says they concluded "let’s just make it a good spy thriller and hope the time thing doesn’t bug anybody." The strategy paid off. He admits that one early scene is nothing but gratuitous tits and ass (as it obviously is), and does his best to disown it. He also disowns the shocking bleach job on that main henchman, acknowledging that it isn’t very spy-like and claiming the actor made that choice on his own and it was too late to do anything about it. He really sticks it to the poor art director (a first timer), and indeed points out some of his more laughable work. But overall, he sells the film short in that department, since the New Zealand locations really work well as Europe. Clearly, someone in the art department was on top of things!

Oliver is able to laugh off his film’s shortcomings, but his audio track is by no means negative. He ably conveys the fun that they had on set, calling the experience "a hoot," and he goes out of his way to credit the crew members who contributed to its success. (One particular driver seems to have been responsible to the point of saving the movie!) And, as is evident from his film itself, he knows his spy movies–including 007–not just his gay movies. He admits that "the notion here, of course, is to make Robert Gant into the next James Bond, a gay James Bond, if you will." There were some Bondian conceits, however, that he acknowledges don’t translate very well from straight to gay. In one scene, Keane seduces a young man in a club in order to set him up as a decoy. Oliver says it was their attempt at the casual seductions of minor Bond Girls, but admits that there’s simply no way not to come off as a bit sleazy whenever you have two men kissing in a public bathroom. (Maybe they could have put a bit more thought into their location!) Another Bondian scene fares better. Keane attempts to wash away his sorrows in the shower, and Oliver reveals that there was some talk about it being too similar to the scene in Casino Royale with Daniel Craig ("oh my God, he’s so hot!") in the shower. But he re-watched the scene and concluded that Bond was in a tux, so it was totally different.

I already liked Kiss Me Deadly: A Jacob Keane Assignment (within its budgetary limitations), but Oliver’s commentary bought it even more good will from me. It’s impossible not to share his enthusiasm for this enjoyable, Ludlumesque spy yarn.

Mar 26, 2009

Kaleidoscope Also Coming To Region 2 DVD In April

Earlier this week, it was announced that the 1966 mod spy classic Kaleidoscope would be made available on DVD in the United States on a made-to-order basis as part of Warner Brothers' new Warner Archive Collection. Now DVD Sleuth reports that it will also see release in Great Britain–as a "real" DVD. The Region 2 release comes courtesy of Digital Classics DVD. In addition to being real, the British DVD also has a way snazzier cover. It's unclear so far whether or not it's widescreen, though. The US release is, as you can see in the clip (featuring a lovely red Aston Martin) provided by Warner Bros. The Region 2 Kaleidoscope comes out on April 20, and is available to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk for the discounted price of £8.98.
Costumed Adventurer Week Lives On!

It began here a few weeks ago as one themed week that ended up running a bit longer than a week... but one week wasn't enough to contain the awesome might of Sixties spies who wear tights! The C.O.B.R.A.S. continue to perpetuate Costumed Adventurer Week. (Er, month?) After Jason's in-depth examination of the costume side of the equation at Spy Vibe last week, David Foster over at Permission To Kill is looking at some of the Sixties movies I didn't cover originally--and, true to the international mandate of his site, he's casting his net further afield than just Europe! Today he's got an intriguing look at the wild world of Batwoman, a Mexican mini-masterpiece of copyright infringement and costumed wrestlers. Okay, judging from David's review maybe "masterpiece" isn't the right word, but in keeping with the theme I wanted some good Stan Lee alliteration. I've always been curious about Batwoman, and I'm thankful to David for educating me further on it. Go on over and take a look. Earlier in the week, David did a round up of some of his older posts about masked supercriminals, as well as looking at the classic "Japoteurs" Superman cartoon from Max Fleischer and another member of the Diabolik/Kriminal school of Eurospy, Avenger X (aka Mister X).

Mar 25, 2009

Upcoming Spy DVDs: Burn Notice Season Two

TV Shows On DVD reports that Burn Notice: Season Two will hit DVD courtesy of Fox Home Entertainment on June 16, as previously rumored. The four-disc set will retail for $59.99 (although of course it can be found much cheaper), while a Blu-Ray version will be released the same day for ten dollars more. (Season One is not yet available on Blu-Ray.) Extras still aren't confirmed, but are expected to be in keeping with the fairly impressive features on the first season DVDs. The retailer write-up describes the show as "Miami Vice meets McGuyver," which I guess is kind of accurate, but other than the Miami setting and consequent color palette, there's not really too much Vice in Burn Notice. I think The Equalizer or Magnum, PI would be closer 80s matches. But perhaps the Sixties are a better decade to turn to to describe this show that way. I think the perfect logline can be made up from two ITC classics: it's The Saint meets The Prisoner in Miami. Like Simon Templar, Michael Westen uses his unique skill set to help those in need. He and his immediate family also have an uncanny ability to walk into trouble. But while he's doing all that helping, the former spy is also trying to figure out who "burned" him ("Who is Number One?") and escape from the idyllic location in which he finds himself prisoner. Perhaps Burn Notice doesn't quite achieve the esteemed summits of its illustrious forbears, but it's still a damn good show in its own right. I selected the first season of Burn Notice on DVD as my favorite spy TV DVD of last year.

Mar 24, 2009

The Prize Is Still In The Pipeline...

Representatives from Warner Home Video Theatrical conducted their annual online chat yesterday at the Home Theater Forum. Well, I say annual, but there actually wasn't one last year. In the previous year's chat, however (which I reported on at the time here), they had promised the 1963 Paul Newman/Elke Sommer spy movie The Prize in 2008. Well, that didn't happen. But they gave an update on it yesterday, assuring readers that, "The Prize is undergoing remastering at the moment. No date set yet." So... not much information, but at least we know it's still in production. The Prize may be a blatant Hitchcock wannabe (written by North By Northwest screenwriter Ernest Lehman, ripping himself off), but it's got Elke and it's a hell of a lot of fun... all of which makes it a classic in my book. So I'm excited to know that the studio is still working on it.

The other thing they had promised for 2008 that never came to be was a set of the black and white Saint movies, but there was sadly no update on those last night. (I wish I'd logged on in time to ask!) They did, however, promise that we'd see "all" the Tarzan movies in the near future, so hopefully this means an official release for the Sean Connery classic Tarzan's Greatest Adventure...

The Digital Bits has a full transcript of the chat.
New Spy DVDs Out This Week: Bond Bonanza!

I assume that a lot of readers of this site are probably like me. The months following the theatrical release of a new James Bond movie are always trying, because it eats at me that during those months my James Bond DVD collection is not complete. I no longer own all the movies. Quantum of Solace will never rank among my favorite Bonds (far from it, in fact), but that does nothing to quell my anxiety over not owning it. I'm a completist; I have a need to possess all of the James Bond movies for home viewing. So today, I can breathe a big sigh of relief along with legions of other Bond fans, because today is the day that Quantum of Solace becomes available for us to own, and once again our collections are complete. (Of course, now I can't wait until it's not complete again, because that will mean there's another new Bond movie out!)

Anyway, Quantum of Solace is available in several configurations. There's a single-disc bare-bones release, a two-disc version that includes a selection of making-of documentaries previously seen on TV in the UK, and a Blu-Ray that contains the same features. It should be noted that even the two-disc affair is not a "Special Edition"; it's just providing a few extra features to tide fans over. I don't see the point in complaining about the features, as MGM has been pretty up front with the fact that there will indeed be a more lavish Special Edition down the road (but can it possibly equal Son's fantastic Casino Royale one?). Mark Forster has even discussed recording the commentary track. So you know it's coming; no one's playing any tricks. But if you're like me, you can't possibly wait, and will need to own some version of Quantum of Solace as a stopgap until then! Target has an exclusive version that comes packaged with a miniature edition of the impressive DK photography book Bond On Set: Filming Quantum of Solace.

For those who were less than thrilled with Quantum of Solace, there are still plenty of other James Bond releases to thrill you today. Next up is the first ever Special Edition of Never Say Never Again, the 1983 renegade production that marked Sean Connery's return to the role. This Kevin McClory-produced remake of Thunderball certainly divides Bond fans, but personally I love it. And love it or hate it, anyone who likes Bond should be pleased to have a Special Edition. It's got one of the most interesting behind-the-scenes story of any Bond production, and hopefully Steven Jay Rubin's documentary on that will be as engrossing as Robert Sellers' fascinating book on the subject, The Battle For Bond. There's also a commentary from Rubin and director Irvin Kershner (The Empire Strikes Back) which I'm very much looking forward to hearing! This release is a joyous occasion, because just a few years ago an MGM Home Video rep said that we'd never see a Special Edition of this title, and that we were lucky to have any version on DVD! I'm glad that times have changed. For videophiles, this release is also available on Blu-Ray! (Can you believe we're getting Never Say Never Again on Blu-Ray before You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever???)

Speaking of Blu-Ray, today also sees the next wave of classic Bond catalog titles on the format. Moonraker, The World Is Not Enough and Goldfinger are available individually or together as James Bond Blu-Ray: Volume 3. Additionally, Best Buy has an exclusive fourth volume (in different packaging from the other three volumes, sure to irk obsessive-compulsives) containing Quantum of Solace, Licence To Kill and The Man With the Golden Gun. Not only is this a great deal at $59.99, but it's also the only way to get those last two titles for the time being. They don’t get released on their own until May 12.

And speaking of deals, Amazon has an unbeatable offer for today only: get the James Bond Ultimate Collector's Set of all the legitimate films from Dr. No through Casino Royale on DVD for just $89.95 (that's a whopping $200 off the list price for twenty-one double-disc DVDs) or the two previous volumes of Blu-Ray Bonds for just $64.95 (six movies in total, down from $180, if you can believe it). These offers end tonight.

Mar 23, 2009

Warner Bros. Makes Kaleidoscope Available NOW On DVD!

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Warner Bros.' home entertainment division "has come up with an innovative plan to allow custom ordering of 150 films never before released on DVD." They've created The Warner Archive Collection, which burns custom-made DVDs from the studio's library on demand. According to the trade, "upon the selection and purchase of a title -- at $19.95 per disc -- Warners will burn, package and ship the DVD to customers for receipt within an estimated five days." The plan is to release 20-30 new titles a month on the site, with more than 300 titles available by the end of the year. It's a great way to get studio-quality prints of hard-to-find titles legally, similar to Columbia's official "Bootleg Series" of rare Bob Dylan recordings, designed to combat the proliferation of bootlegs of the artist's music with better quality versions. I love this idea!

The only spy title I've discovered so far is the 1966 Warren Beatty film Kaleidoscope... but that's a pretty great one! The film takes the central device of Ian Fleming's novel Casino Royale: British Intelligence sends a man in to bankrupt an enemy by beating him at cards... and Kaleidoscope plays it straighter than the 1967 film of Casino Royale. Kaleidoscope is quite a fun little Swinging Sixties spy movie, co-starring Susannah York and the great spy character actor Clive Revill (Fathom, Modesty Blaise). Memorable Prisoner Number 2 Eric Porter plays the Le Chiffre role. It's certainly essential viewing for Ian Fleming fans for its unauthorized use of his famous plot, which was close enough to warrant coverage in the first published study of the Bond films, John Brosnan's James Bond in the Cinema.

With new titles being added monthly, hopefully some more spy titles will show up. (Other titles of interest to cult movie aficionados include the Anne Francis vehicle Brainstorm, the much sought-after Hammer thriller Crescendo and the 1975 Ron Ely movie of Doc Savage.) "With a cinematic legacy as rich and varied as that found within our library, the challenge has been to meet the voracious demand of consumers who are seeking their favorite films on DVD," Warner Home Video marketing maven George Feltenstein told the Hollywood Reporter. "But the advent of burn-to-order technology has solved the dilemma." I really hope that the model succeeds for Warner Brothers, and that other studios (and even private copyright holders) follow suit and open up their vaults. If that happens, there's a much greater likelihood of niche genre obscurities like Eurospy titles coming onto the market than through standard commercial DVD release.

What's still unclear, however, is what this means for the traditional market. Does the fact that Kaleidoscope is now available on demand mean that there will never be a full-fledged special edition DVD on the market? Probably. But if it sells really well, what then? I would imagine that WB would use online sales as an indicator of interest in titles, and that some might yet emerge in stores. For now, though, all that remains to be seen.

Mar 22, 2009

Paul Rudd: License To Sell

It turns out Duplicity (good as it is) isn’t the only movie of interest to spy fans opening this weekend. The Paul Rudd/Jason Segel comedy I Love You, Man contains a lengthy James Bond reference that pays off later in the film. While it’s just one joke in a very funny movie, it will be a big laugh-getter for Bond fans, so if you plan to see I Love You, Man, you may not want to read any further. For those who weren’t planning on seeing it or don’t mind spoiling the joke, read on for a summary. Rudd’s character, Peter Klaven (who has only had female friends all his life), is searching for a male best friend to be the best man at his impending wedding. Segel’s Sydney Fife seems like just the guy. Sydney accompanies him to shop for tuxes, and when Peter emerges from the dressing room wearing one, he pulls out his camera phone and tells him to strike an "action pose." Peter takes a vague running stance, which Sidney makes fun of. How is that a tuxedo action pose? The only time he’s ever seen someone in a tuxedo in that pose was on the posters for Runaway Bride. Peter still doesn’t know what he means, so Sydney exclaims, "You’re in a tux? What kind of action do you think I mean? Think James Bond." Peter attempts some awkward Bond poses, including a full pantomime of his version of the gun barrel twist. Sydney doesn’t like what he’s seeing, so he directs him to "think Timothy Dalton." That does the trick. "Ah, T-Dalt," says Peter, gripping his imaginary gun with two hands and assuming an approximation of Dalton’s Living Daylights/Licence To Kill teaser poster stance. A lot of attempts at Bondian lines delivered in a bad Sean Connery accent (that Sydney says sounds more like a leprechaun) ensue. The picture posing comes back to haunt (or reward) Peter later in the film when he finds that image of him used without his knowledge on a billboard with the slogan "License to sell."

Mar 21, 2009

Tradecraft: Zigzag And Smart

Agent Zigzag Gets Writer

Variety reports that Race To Witch Mountain co-writer Mark Bomback will pen the previously announced adaptation of Ben Macintyre's Agent Zigzag for Tom Hanks's company, Playtone. The book was acquired by New Line for Hanks to produce during a bidding war in 2007. Macintyre also wrote last year's Ian Fleming Centenary book For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming + James Bond. Agent Zigzag is the true story of a charming criminal who was trained by the Germans to spy on the British during WWII, but instead offered his services as a double agent to the British.

Smart Sequel Delayed

In an article about Get Smart director Pete Segal helming the Ben Stiller threequel Little Fockers, Variety mentions that the Smart sequel has been delayed: "Segal was expecting to return as the director of Get Smart 2 this year but became available when Steve Carell instead made a deal to team with Tina Fey in the Shawn Levy-directed comedy Date Night for Fox." The trade does make it clear, though, that Smart is still a priority for the director. "If the stars align, Segal will direct Little Fockers and have plenty of time to complete his work and be ready to helm Get Smart 2 for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures."

Mar 20, 2009

More OSS 117 Sequel Details Emerge!

As we near the April 15 French release date, the website for OSS 117: Rio Doesn't Answer (sequel to the amazing period spy spoof OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies) has been heavily updated… with bikini girls and Mexican wrestlers, among other things! For starters, there's an awesome new poster that makes me want to see this movie right now!!! There are also new story details (OSS 117 teams up with a Mossad agent and tangles with another former Nazi on the trail of some microfilm, of course) plenty of exciting new pictures and, most informative, a quite lengthy interview (in French) with director Michel Hazanavicius. He discusses his reasons for changing the decade (the world has changed a lot in the twelves years between the two movies, but OSS 117 has not) and cites some of the mid- and late-Sixties films that particularly inspired him this time out. Those include On Her Majesty's Secret Service, The Thomas Crown Affair, Harper (with Paul Newman), That Man From Rio (with Belmondo), Tokyo Drifter and the Matt Helm series. He also speaks hopefully about a third film in the series, acknowledging at least that "for the moment, nobody's tired of the character."
More Hi-Res James Bond Blu-Ray Artwork

Fox have finally made available high-res artwork for the upcoming Blu-Ray release of Licence To Kill, due out on May 12 along with The Man With the Golden Gun. These two stragglers come hot on the heels of the three previously reported Blu-Ray Bond catalog titles released next week along with Quantum of Solace and Never Say Never Again.

Mar 18, 2009

Random Intelligence Dispatches For March 18, 2009

M:I:IV Still in the Cards?

Ain't It Cool has a story that doesn't really contain any specific news, but does confirm that Tom Cruise is still interested in perpetuating his Mission: Impossible franchise. The gist is that Cruise says he's working on a story for the fourth installment. (Surely what he means is that he's working with a writer on the story?)

Clemens Remade

Avengers mastermind Brian Clemens will see one of his early Seventies theatrical thrillers remade. The Hollywood Reporter reports that Karl Urban has joined the cast of a remake of Clemens' creepy classic And Soon the Darkness (co-written with frequent ITC contributor Terry Nation and directed by Avengers director Robert Fuest). Amber Heard and Odette Yustman star, and the action has been moved from France to Argentina but the plot (involving a girl who disappears while on a bike trip abroad) remains the same. The trade doesn't mention Clemens or Nation or Fuest in their story.

New Young Bond Paperback Out in America

The Young Bond Dossier reports that Charlie Higson's third James Bond novel, Double Or Die(full review here), has been released in paperback in the United States. This comes hot on the heels of re-covered reissues of the first two books a week ago. You should be able to find them all at your local bookstore! The hardcover edition of the fourth volume, Hurricane Gold, is set to hit American stores in a few weeks.

In another article of interest at YBD, Zencat mentions that the success of the Young Bond novels for Puffin in England has prompted rival publisher Macmillan to emulate the formula with a series of officially-sanctioned Young Sherlock Holmes novels. This has no relation to the Steven Spielberg-produced movie of that name; it's an original series of books by Andrew Lane. Three have been commissioned. I hope Lane's good, because the reason for the success of Young Bond isn't the concept (which could have easily turned out as terrible as it sounds on paper), but Charlie Higson, who pulled it off brilliantly!

Mar 17, 2009

Costumed Adventurer Week Wrap-Up

So I finally finished my first themed week. From the very earliest beginnings of this blog back in 2006, it's been my plan to do themed weeks. And, two and a half years later, I finally got around to doing one! And it only took about a week and a half to do. Ah, so I didn't quite cram it all into a real week. Oh well. At least I finished. (I have so many scraps of unfinished theme weeks littering my computer!) In the future, I'll be sure to have everything written in advance of starting such an event. In this case, trying to tie it in with the opening of Watchmen precluded that... but then again, it did force me to actually do it! And I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out. For those who came in late (and for the sake of posterity, and easy linking in the future), I'll briefly recap.

In my introduction to Costumed Adventurer Week, I attempted to situate the Sixties European superhero subgenre within the broader Eurospy framework with the help of a pair of posters for Fantastic Argoman, one marketing the picture as a superhero movie and the other as a spy flick. The posters are worth checking out.

Fantastic Argoman was the first movie I watched for Costumed Adventurer Week, and it turned out to be a great beginning! It's still my favorite of the cape-and-tights set.

Of course, there's a whole other kind of costumed adventurer prevalent in this era, one who prefers masks and all-black bodysuits. For my second entry, I examined the granddaddy of this breed, and could hardly stop writing about Danger: Diabolik, one of my all-time favorites.

On the other hand, I could barely write anything about Fenomenal And The Treasure Of Tutankaman, it was so convoluted.

I thoroughly enjoyed Flashman, though, in a beautiful new transfer courtesy of Fin de Siecle Media...

Then I suffered through Satanik, which didn't even really qualify for the Costumed Adventurer label...

...before ending things on a higher note with a double review of Kriminal and Mark of Kriminal, whose awesome conclusion made the ideal finale to the week.

If you watch only one of these movies, make it Danger: Diabolik. If you've already seen that (which hopefully you have!), then try Fantastic Argoman. Avoid Satanik and Fenomenal unless you're a hopeless completist or an unrepentant masochist. In any event, thanks for bearing with me on my little exploration! I hope you've enjoyed it.

If you did enjoy the premise, there's good news: Costumed Adventurer Week lives on! Jason Whiton over at Spy Vibe is going to focus on the Costume part all this week (fashion fans, do not miss this!), and in two weeks Armstrong Sabian will wrap things up with an examination of the Adventurer part at Mister 8. (No, don't worry; I don't mean Gene Barry; I mean comic book heroes!) In the middle, David Foster at Permission To Kill will offer his own highly entertaining and informative opinions of some of the same films I covered, and probably some different ones as well. Then sometime in the distant future, I hope to revisit the concept myself, seeing as there are so many intriguing entries I didn't get to this time, from Mister X and Superargo to 3 Fantastic Superman and the Fantomas saga... It will be fun. In the meantime, shoot on over to Spy Vibe!

Mar 16, 2009

Tradecraft: Brad Pitt Comes In From The Cold

Variety reports that while everyone else is jumping on Robert Ludlum movies, Brad Pitt is going the other way and attaching himself to a John Le Carré property. Paramount has acquired the author's 1993 novel The Night Manager for Pitt's Plan B to produce. According to the trade, the story "centers on the night manager of a European hotel who is recruited by intelligence agents to infiltrate the network of a dangerous international arms dealer." Former army intelligence officer turned screenwriter Robert Edwards is adapting. It's possible, even probable, that Pitt would star in the picture, but he isn't attached in that capacity at this point.

Mar 15, 2009


Movie Review: Kriminal (1966) and The Mark of Kriminal (1968)

After running a tad over schedule, Costumed Adventurer Week comes to a close with a diabolical double feature!

Unlike the morally flawed but heroic Argoman, or even the lawbreaking antihero Diabolik, Kriminal is just plain bad. Diabolik loves and cares for Eva above all else; Kriminal cares only for himself. He is a completely amoral, utterly corrupt psychopath who puts on a skintight black ninja suit with a skeleton on it to appear even more horrific whilst committing his terrible crimes. And he’s the central character! He’s the one we’re supposed to root for, not his nemesis, Scotland Yard Inspector Milton. But Umberto Lenzi’s movie is just so slick and well-made that it doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t say I ever actually rooted for Kriminal, but I did have fun watching him go about his dastardly business for an hour and a half.

The opening moments are confusing. As with Fenomenal, I thought for a moment that I had accidentally put on a sequel, because Kriminal begins with Kriminal in police custody and obviously expects the audience to know who he is. I guess they were just relying on Italian audience’s familiarity with the comic books. Kriminal is set to hang for stealing the British crown. Astute readers will note that the British crown–and accompanying Crown Jewels–is a favorite target of masked criminals. Jenabelle the Queen of the World stole it in The Fantastic Argoman, and later sent it back to Scotland Yard with a note. Kriminal does the exact same thing, although I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, he’s facing capital punishment for its theft, and the gathered police (including Inspector Milton) and government officials couldn’t be happier. Even with him in custody, they still don’t know Kriminal’s true identity. Only that he’s a handsome blond man (Glenn Saxson) who wears a skeleton getup. Milton aptly comments, "no name could fit him better than this, that he himself has chosen, from others!" (What others, I have to wonder? Skeleton Man? Skullface?) But despite that assessment, Milton has contrived to let Kriminal escape, hoping he’ll lead police to the as yet un-recovered crown. Of course, Kriminal eludes his pursuers and escapes for real.

He drops in on his ex-wife, who has no desire to see him, and manages to seduce her and sleep with her. Hours later, when she goes to the police to inform on him, Kriminal feels no remorse about trying to kill her with a bomb. That’s the kind of nice guy he is. He also thinks nothing about seducing and bedding a wealthy widow, plying her for information that will lead him to a big score, and then suffocating her in her sauna! Granted, she was planning to kill him, too–and had murdered her husband, but still... It’s a pretty cruel thing to do–and Kriminal clearly enjoys it.

The information with which she provided him gets Kriminal caught up in a very complicated plot to defraud an insurance company that involves twin couriers (both played by Helga Line) transporting precious jewels and switching briefcases at the airport. Kriminal gets in the way of the hand-off (with the aid of one of those cigarettes you can blow knockout powder through) when he snatches one of the bags. But which one? It turns out both contained jewels–only the one he grabbed had fakes. Nothing angers Kriminal like accidentally being set up to steal fake jewels, so he dedicates himself to tracking down the other courier.

This leads to Istanbul (doesn’t it always?) and the movie takes time to bask in its truly beautiful locations, underscoring how wonderfully shot it is. Its title character may be morally bankrupt, but Kriminal is one good-looking movie. (Particularly on the copy I was watching–a gorgeous widescreen transfer from an Italian DVD with fan-made subtitles by Kommissar X.) Its appealing aesthetics and surprisingly high production values go a long way toward keeping the viewer (at least this one!) engaged despite such a despicable lead.

Once he’s driven by the sights, Kriminal heads straight for the casino, looking right out of a Bond moive in his sharp white dinner jacket. The story turns rather unnecessarily complicated at this point, involving plot and counter-plot to steal the diamonds that Kriminal believes should be his by rights, and get them out of the country. In addition to the aforementioned identical twins, the ridiculously convoluted scheme calls for bandaged faces, faked deaths and plenty of real ones. Finally cornered, Kriminal finds himself on the run and on a train near the end of the film, desperate to get out of the country. When forced to jump off the train, he loses his diamonds (for the time being) and he looks terribly sad about it! It’s the only emotion he demonstrates during the entire movie, and it’s actually a bit touching to learn that he does care about something.

The first movie apparently concludes with Kriminal’s capture, but that’s not acknowledged at the beginning of the sequel, 1968's Mark of Kriminal. The opening moments reveal that Kriminal’s still just as nice a guy as ever when he breaks into an old woman’s room in his skeleton suit and scares her to death. He’s clearly very pleased with himself, too. Turns out Kriminal and his girlfriend are running a retirement home and killing off old ladies, then claiming life insurance on them. Good people, they are. One day, Kriminal realizes that his girlfriend is trying to poison him, so he electrocutes her in the bath, true to form.

Meanwhile, he’s found himself a better score than ripping off old ladies: one of the grannies’ Buddha statue contains a quarter of a treasure map! It’s not an ancient treasure map, but one made by a notorious art thief and murderer (who sounds every bit as charming as Kriminal) just a few years ago before his execution. Supposedly it will reveal the location of his loot. Kriminal sets out looking for three identical Buddhas, each one said to contain another quarter of the map. He finds one at auction but doesn’t win it; in the sort of ironic twist only found in Eurospy capers and soap operas, Inspector Milton’s finace does! Kriminal drops in on their wedding, leaves gift for Milton and steals the Buddha off of the table of gifts. In the spirit of the occasion, the gift he left for Milton is a box with a gun inside rigged to fire. Luckily, it misses. Milton realizes only Kriminal would play that kind of prank, and he dashes off to the old folks’ home, leaving his poor bride at the altar. She follows him to voice her frustration, but of course they’ve all missed Kriminal, who’s already on his way to Madrid.

While Milton shoots off to Istanbul to check in on the prison supposedly containing Kriminal (but somehow actually containing a madman in his stead), the trail has led Kriminal to Spain to see a flamenco dancer who has one of the other Buddhas. Or, more accurately, to break into her apartment. She catches him, though, and is undeterred by his scary skeleton suit. "You know me?" he asks, flabbergasted when she addresses him as Kriminal.

"Who would not recognize you," she points out, "when you go around suited up in that uniform?" She has a very good point.

"The advantages and disadvantages of the press," Kriminal concedes, before laying on his trademark charm: "You are beautiful. How do you use your brain?" Luckily, it works on her and she wants to be his partner. He agrees to meet on a cruise ship bound for Lebanon.
Despite wanting her portion of the map, Kriminal, of course, wants nothing to do with such a partnership. He shows up on the ship with a false beard, and leads her to believe that another passenger is the man she slept with, but never saw clearly. Thanks to that subterfuge, the authorities believe they’ve caught Kriminal when she betrays the wrong man.

The real Kriminal, meanwhile, follows her and her partner (a character we’ve already met) in her sporty red convertible around some stunning Lebanese locations. We know this is the real Kriminal because he’s his usual courteous self. He needs a car to follow his rivals, so he preys on two American lady tourists. "Do you have a car?" he asks politely. They present their keys and he assures them he’s an excellent driver and he’ll show them the sights. Then we cut to them tied up and gagged by some rubble with him explaining that they have an excellent view! Off he goes in their car.

Inspector Milton, meanwhile, finally catches up, and has no trouble convincing the local authorities to aid him because Kriminal has trafficked in hashish, currency and antiquities through Lebanon before. The police show up too late to prevent a showdown in some old ruins (in which Kriminal blows up the entrance to a tomb, sealing his enemies inside forever, leaving them with the hopeful thought that some future archaeologists might discover their remains), but in time to give chase as he zooms away in a Jeep, paintings in hand.

While both look great, Cerchio’s film is more stylish than Lenzi’s. One very interesting technique pioneered in the original is put to better use in the sequel: inserting comic book panels as still frames. The first movie used this device to establish locations, but the second goes much further, freezing on characters and then transitioning to cartoon art of them with thought bubbles externalizing their inner monologues. It’s a really terrific device, and while it turned up in a few fumetti films in the Sixties, I’m really surprised it’s never been developed further by anyone else.

Style, of course, is the main thing that both movies have going for them. They’re great looking films, with cool sets and costumes. But at the same time they suffer for their style to modern viewers, through no fault of their own: they’re simply not Diabolik. It may not have come first, but Mario Bava’s film defined the genre so much that the Kriminal movies just seem a bit too subdued in comparison. Furthermore, Bava and his team figured out how to present a masked supercriminal as a likable character, which also gives that film the edge. It’s possible that Danger: Diabolik’s release between the first and second Kriminal movies influenced Cerchio on The Mark of Kriminal, and he gets points for trying. While neither Kriminal movie is essential viewing, Mark’s finale is so great it makes watching them both worthwhile. Kriminal does indeed get a comeuppance at the end that serves him right. After hating the character through two movies, it’s rewarding to see what happens to him. And since I’m talking about the end of the movie, that of course requires a SPOILER warning before I go any farther. But since so few people have ready access to these rare films, I do feel the need to reveal what happens. So if you do plan to actually watch this one and have the wherewithal to do so, you might not want to read the next paragraph. If you don’t and you’re dying to find out–of if you’re on the fence–then read on!

In the course of the final chase, Kriminal drives his Jeep over a cliff as people tend to do at the end of these kinds of movies. It even blows up at the bottom, but still we’re sure that he’ll turn out to be okay. Sure enough, the camera zooms in on the explosion. We’re going to find out that Kriminal’s still alive, right? The frame freezes and goes to the comic book panel still shot. Okay, that’s how they’re going to show us Kriminal’s skull mask persevering within the wreckage, with a thought bubble announcing his imminent return. Pretty neat, but still predictable. But no! That’s not what happens at all! Instead, as the flames turn into cartoon flames, the shot reveals two cartoon devils waiting inside the hellfire. "At last!" says one of them. "We’ve been waiting for you, Kriminal," adds the other, brandishing a pitchfork. So he did get what he deserved! It’s a surprising and rewarding conclusion–the very fate that I can’t help but wish on a lot of the jerkier Eurospy heroes.

Mar 12, 2009

Taken Sequel In The Works

With the entertaining Liam Neeson-starring neo-Eurospy movie Taken (review here) having, ahem, taken in $120 million at the North American box office (so far!), it's no surprise to hear that there's a sequel in the works. JoBlo points the way to an LA Times interview with screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who confirms this. He doesn't provide any details on the plot though, so we don't know what country Neeson's daughter will next get kidnapped in! (Hopefully they leave the daughter out entirely and just focus on Neeson's badass former CIA agent.) The whole interview is well worth reading, as it paints an interesting picture of Kamen's working relationship with singlehanded neo-Eurospy titan Luc Besson.
Tradecraft: Marvel Superspy Shifts

Deadline Hollywood reports that Emily Blunt (who was previously announced) is out as Russian superspy Black Widow in Iron Man 2 (due to conflicts with a contractually-obligated Fox film), and Scarlett Johansson is in. I like Johansson a lot, but I'm still a little bit disappointed about this. I have an easier time picturing Blunt as Natasha Romanoff... though Johanssen will certainly fill out the catsuit well. I can picture Johansson more as the second Black Widow, blond Yelena Belova, though all indications (including Johansson's recent, newsmaking change from blonde to redhead) point toward her playing Romanoff. And if there's only going to be one Black Widow on film, I'd certainly prefer the original. (Just as I'd prefer the original Nick Fury to the Ultimate Version, but oh well.) Samuel L. Jackson is also signed on to play Nick Fury in Iron Man 2, so the cast is filling up with spies!

But what about the rumored Nick Fury/S.H.I.E.L.D. movie? The Hollywood Reporter's Risky Business Blog speculates that its future is uncertain following today's announcement of a release date shift among Marvel tentpole movies. Marvel's big superhero jam The Avengers (not to be confused with the Steed and Peel version, which we all know is the real Avengers) will move from 2011 to 2012, prompting blogger Steven Zeitchik to speculate: "The other question this opens up is what this means for a potential Samuel Jackson Nick Fury pic: That could have been the 2012 tentpole, but with Avengers that year, those prospects are less clear."

Mar 11, 2009


DVD Review: Satanik (1968)

Okay, I need to be up front about this: despite that appealing (but very misleading) cover and despite the resonant, misspelled with a "k" title... Satanik is not a Costumed Adventurer movie. (Although it is based on a Costumed Adventurer comic book by the creator of the Kriminal comic.) But I allowed myself to be misled by those factors without doing proper research, and it is often lumped in with all the Diabolik imitators, and it is a fumetti movie, so I’ll still go ahead and include it in Costumed Adventurer Week. But only as a cautionary example. I did not like this movie.

Now, I am a fan of all of the various Euro-cult genres that Satanik flirts with: spy (obviously), horror, crime, sex, fumetti... but Piero Vivarelli’s 1968 film never commits to any one of those possibilities long enough to own it. Sure, there’s an inciting incident (the usual one, involving a murdered and/or kidnapped scientist) that could lead in any of those directions, but it doesn’t. In fact, it doesn’t lead anywhere at all.

In Madrid, and ugly, scarred old woman–who is made up like the Wicked Witch of the West in a grade school production of "The Wizard of Oz" but is, in fact, supposed to be a doctor–enters the lab late at night. (Of course.) She talks to the scientist she’s been assisting, and he reveals that he has perfected his formula to regenerate tissue–a veritable "fountain of youth." He’s made crystals that have been successful when ingested by dogs, but with the unfortunate side effect of making them more feral as well as younger. Because the woman, Dr. Marnie Bannister, is so horribly old, she naturally decides to kill the scientist and use the formula herself. Apparently the crystals are really nothing more than some fast-acting form of makeup remover, which probably would have made the scientist a mint anyway. Because Marnie disappears beneath a table, lightning strikes outside, and when she pops up again all the awful old age makeup has been washed off her face and she’s even had regular, prettifying makeup professionally applied. Nifty crystals! Yes, yes, I’m being glib, of course, but not without cause. I have a very high tolerance for bad special effects, but Magda Konopka’s old age makeup is just so horrible that I cannot be forgiving. And it’s inexcusable, too; I’ve seen even cheaper Euro-horrors that at least managed decent makeup effects.

Anyway, she uses her newfound youth and beauty to go out to clubs and seduce local Lotharios who seem to be the actual age that she was made up to look. Has she become Satanik now? I don’t know, because nobody in the film ever uses that name, but let’s say she has, because at least it will spice up this review a bit. So one of the guys Satanik seduces (See? Doesn’t it sound cooler?) turns out to be a big-time jewel thief, giving her the idea of... No. She doesn’t become one. That would have been neat, but no. Instead she just goes home with him, starts to get old again, kills him in a fit of rage and then goes fleeing back to the lab for more crystals. She also manages to get herself in the midst of a big shootout between the cops and the thief’s gang, but takes no active role in it.

The two (or maybe three; I wasn’t counting) tame murders draw the attention of the police, including both a Spanish Inspector named Gonzalez and a Scotland Yard Inspector named Trent, called in because the first victim (the scientist) and the most likely suspect (Satanik) are both English. The inspectors briefly hypothesize that a foreign espionage agency is behind the crime and contemplate turning the whole affair over to "Espionage," but ultimately decide against it. Satanik leads them on a low budget car chase, but manages to lose them when the gates come down at a railroad crossing. That’s right, they’re thwarted by gates, not even a train. Just the wooden gates that police cars smash through all the time in bigger movies that have the budgets necessary to destroy planks of wood.

While waiting for the eventual train to pass (again, nowhere near close enough to be exciting; I mean "eventual" as in it just happened to be passing by as the camera was rolling), the detectives try to reconcile the two different women described at the crime scenes: "One suspect has a monstrous face... this one is a very beautiful girl! I’m beginning to lose my mind," remarks Inspector Gonzalez."

Fortunately, his British counterpart catches on quicker: "The faces! I’m beginning to understand something... Something so horrible... it’s inconceivable!" He may be on the right track, but he’s still stuck waiting at the wrong one in Madrid while the inconceivable horror that is Satanik has made her way to the Spanish Riviera, where she hooks up with the brother of the deceased jewel thief, posing as his moll. The brother looks a bit like Adam Sandler in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, and I never caught his real name, so I’ll call him Zohan.

Zohan likes Satanik’s legs a lot ("You’ve got a nice pair of legs," he announces out of the blue, "and a nice hat to go with them."), and apparently her hat, so he decides to cut her in on his big scam: a fixed roulette wheel at the local casino. Yep, that’s the big scheme. She’s happy about that, and she tells him she’s "prepared a number" for that night. Remember now, this is someone who only a few days ago had a successful career as a doctor. What’s she doing suddenly preparing numbers? Well, the big night rolls around, and with only sixteen minutes left to go in the movie we Costumed Adventurer fans finally get what we’ve been waiting for: she slips into that red Diabolik suit pictured on the poster! (Only it's black.) Alright! Now we’re going to get some... something. If you put on a suit like that, you’re definitely up to something, right? Is she going to sneak into Zohan’s back room and steal the roulette proceeds? Is she going to flounce around on top of a train somewhere? Is she going to do something with counterfeit money, or invisibility, or pull off some sort of ingenious plan that somehow takes advantage of having an old woman’s mind and a youthful body? (Yeah, remember that plot thread?)

No. None of the above. She is going to strip. And she’s not even a stripper.

As an old hag, she was a doctor. Remember? But as a young hottie, all she can do is strip. Why? Has this always been her ambition?

I know, I know. I shouldn’t be disappointed by a striptease in any sort of quasi-Eurospy movie, especially with a hot babe like Magda Konopka. But... really? I wanted some costumed adventuring!

That the striptease is probably the best scene in the movie says nothing at all. It is still fairly lame as chaste Sixties stripteases go, and she takes off that sexy black costume all too quickly. Frankly, I’d prefer one of Jess Franco’s interminable nightclub acts at this point. Luckily, another character has turned up at the casino who points out to Zohan that she isn’t really his brother’s girlfriend, and they chase her onto a boat just as the two bumbling police inspectors show up. There’s a shootout just as Satanik’s starting to show her age again, and she loses her crystals.
She skulks off, the police in pursuit. A local policeman (who doesn’t know her secret) catches up to her, and she turns around... and she’s turned old! He thinks she’s not who he was looking for and lets her go. Then Satanik, now old and ugly again (i.e. again sporting the terrible makeup that makes her look like she’s just been sweeping Dick Van Dyke’s chiminy), steals a car and accidentally drives it over a cliff. Oh, whoops: that was a spoiler. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because there was no point to the whole movie. Don’t watch it, even if you like this stuff–as I do. It’s bad. (And if you're a real masochist, dead-set on seeing everything tangentially in the Eurospy genre, don't worry. It's not really possible to spoil a movie with no plot.) The Retromedia DVD transfer–pan and scan and barely in focus–doesn’t do it any favors, either.

So, are there any redeeming qualities? Um... I guess. Magda Konopka herself isn't bad, but the role gives her nothing to do. I'd like to see some of her other Eurospy roles, particularly Segretissimo, which has long been one of my most elusive Holy Grails. (If you've got a copy, please email me!) She also appeared in some ITC shows, like Department S and Danger Man. Also on the positive side, the music is good. It’s exactly the score you’d expect, and that’s cool. The soundtrack is surprisingly readily available, so if you’re craving something Satanik, just pick that up and give it a jazzy listen–and forget about the film itself.