Dec 20, 2010

The Spy Fan's Guide To (Last Minute) Holiday Shopping 2010

The Spy Fan's Guide To (Last Minute) Holiday Shopping 2010

Would you believe I started–and very nearly finished–this list way back after Thanksgiving?  But you know how things go. So here it is again, late as always, but not quite as last-minute a shopping guide as last year's... which never happened. Here are lots of spy-happy ideas for your Christmas lists, or ideas for what to get for the spy fan in your life, or just a handy list of all the things you need to get.  And if you're anything like me, you probably haven't even started your Christmas shopping yet.  Rather than just sticking with new and recent items this year, I'm accompanying each entry with a "classic" related suggestion. And, as usual, if you buy through the Amazon links here you'll help support the Double O Section, support for which I'd personally be very grateful this holiday season!

Books: Fiction

Free Agent and Free Country
Jeremy Duns burst onto the scene last year with his debut novel, Free Agent.  Duns was a life-long fan of spy fiction, an expert on the subject published in numerous newspapers and magazines, and an avid contributor to online forums on the subject who proved himself to also be a top-notch practitioner of the genre!  Seriously, Free Agent, set in the Golden Age of spying of the late 1960s, was the best new spy novel I'd read in years, achieving the rare feat of successfully combining the globe-trotting thrill of Ian Fleming's Field Man novels with the rivetting political intrigue of John Le Carré's Desk Man novels. The paperback came out this year.  The sequel (and second in Duns' projected trilogy about the same character), Free Country, was released in Britain.  It's due out in the USA next year, but anyone who's read the first entry will probably be so eager for the next one that they'd appreciate the import from Amazon.co.uk.
Also try: A Dandy in Aspic by Derek Marlow, which was clearly a big influence on Duns.

Our Kind of Traitor
Speaking of practitioners, how about a new novel by the greatest living practitioner of the genre, John Le Carré himself? Yes, please! This is probably the most obvious gift for fans of spy fiction this year.  I haven't read it yet myself, but I'd be very happy to unwrap this book come Christmas morning.
Also try: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  You can't go wrong giving someone Le Carré's very best novel, which just might be the greatest spy novel ever written.  And it's timely, too, with the new movie version starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley due out next year!

The Last Run: A Queen & Country Novel
At last!  Tara Chace is back in Greg Rucka's new Queen and Country novel!  (And he's really putting her through her paces.) While the series hasn't been too active in either comics or novels since I started this blog, it remains one of my very favorite contemporary spy series in any medium.  Ideal for fans of The Sandbaggers in particular or any of the more serious takes on British Intelligence, this is an amazing world to open up to the spy fan on your list.
Also try: Queen and Country: The Definitive Edition Vols. 1-4.  These comic book collections are the place to start if you're new to Queen & Country.  (Although you can't go wrong with any of the novels, either.)

Dead Spy Running
Jon Stock's opening salvo in a new spy trilogy made news here when it was optioned for a movie by McG well in advance of its publication, and then when it came out in the UK last year.  Now it's finally available in America.
Also try: The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum's classic of the genre, to which no movie version has yet lived up.

Dead or Alive
Tom Clancy (probably the bestselling spy writer of the 90s) returns to shelves after years of absence along with new co-writer Grant Blackwood to resurrect Jack Ryan and his whole family of covert operatives in a new 848-page brick of a book. Whether he finds a good way to bring the Ryans and John Clark into the modern world or the whole thing proves to be an excercise in nostalgia, this book should make a great Christmas gift.
Also try: Clear and Present Danger–classic Clancy at the peak of his powers!

James Bond: Choice of Weapons: Three 007 Novels
The second of two hardcover anthology volumes collecting all of author Raymond Benson's James Bond adventures, Choice of Weapons compiles the novels Zero Minus Ten, The Facts of Death and The Man With the Red Tattoo and the elusive short stories "Live at Five" and "Midsummer Night's Doom." Even if you've already got all the novels on their own, Bond fans will still want this collection for the inclusion of those two rare short stories, originally published in TV Guide and Playboy, respectively, and never before collected anywhere.
Also try: James Bond: The Union Trilogy, collecting Benson's other three original 007 novels and the short story "Blast From the Past."

The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Surely there are still a few people in the world who haven't yet caught onto the worldwide phenomenon of Stieg Larsson's bestselling "Milennium Trilogy."  And if someone on your list is one of those people, well the paperbacks make great stocking stuffers.  You really have to start at the beginning with the dark, dark mystery thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  That first book reads like a combination of Agatha Christie and Robert Ludlum (though focusing on darker material than either of those writers tapped into), but it's clearly a mystery and not a spy story.  If you stick with the series, however, it morphs into full-on spy thriller territory by the last book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  The spying starts in the second book, though, which bridges the genres as half murder mystery, half spy story/conspiracy thriller.  I never knew anything about the Swedish secret service (Sapo) before, and I was excited to learn something about it while reading these thrilling page-turners about deeply compelling characters in a setting exotic to me (Sweden).  Sure, it's easy to disdain the thing that everybody's reading, but these books are really good. 
Also try: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (That's the one to start with, even if it's not a spy story.)

James Bond Omnibus Volume 001
Okay, this one was out in time for Christmas last year, but it's just too perfect a gift for Bond fans not to mention.  Collecting Titan's first three James Bond newspaper comics strip collections in one conveniently-sized volume, this first Omnibus amounts to eleven Bond adventures based on Ian Fleming novels and short stories. And what a handsome volume it is!  This is the ideal presentation for these strips.  It's much better than the oversize editions they were originally published in.  It's a perfect gift size, and delivers the good contents-wise, clocking in at over 300 pages.  The newspaper strips are one of the less well known incarnations of 007, and any fan of the movies or particularly the original novels will be thrilled to discover them.  It's a great introduction to James Bond in a whole other medium.
Also try: James Bond: Nightbird, the latest volume in Titan's collection of oversize James Bond newspaper strip reprints.  The stories in this volume are orginal adventures, not adapted from Ian Fleming titles.

Agents of Treachery
I've been meaning to write about this book since it came out last summer, but that half-written review is one of the many stories per year that end up buried in the Word document where I write this blog.  I'll get to finishing it eventually, but I'm glad for the opportunity to talk about the book before then, because it's a great collection of short stories by some of the top spy writers in the business today.  Noted spy fiction afficionado and James Bond collector Otto Pensler edited this Black Lizard anthology, and he attracted some great authors.  Lee Child's 10-page story "Section 7(A) (Operational)" was far and away my favorite of a very good batch.  I'd never read any Child before, and I hope this is exemplary of his work, because I'm very eager to read more after this one! That's the great thing about this book.  It can serve as a perfect introduction to writers you haven't tried before (or have been meaning to try, but just haven't gotten around to) while also offering some fresh nuggets from your long-time favorites.  Other contributors include the great Charles McCarry (who contributes the volume's second-best piece), Stella Rimington (whose first stab at a short story sadly falls far short of the high mark established by her novels), Olen Steinhauer (an author I was completely unfamiliar with, but very impressed by), Gayle Lynds (a sometime collaborator with the late Robert Ludlum who stands quite steadily on her own), Joseph Finder (who proves less adept at the short story format than the novel, but whose story is still entertaining, if predictable), John Lawton (another impressive entry), Andrew Klavan, Robert Wilson, Stephen Hunter, David Morrell, James Grady, John Weisman and Dan Fesperman.  Some stories are better than others, but every one of them is an entertaining and rewarding read.  Agents of Treachery succeeds far better than other spy anthologies, and is sure to please any fan of the genre.  This book is the ideal stocking stuffer for the spy fan on your list!
Also try: full-length novels by some of the authors included, like Rimington's impressive debut At Risk, McCarry's The Tears of Autumn or Lynds' latest, The Book of Spies.

Books: Non-fiction

The Making of On Her Majesty's Secret Service
This is the perfect Christmas gift for any serious James Bond fan.  Do you feel like all the new books on Bond regurgitate the same material you already know?  Eager to learn something new?  You'll learn it here, in Charles Helfenstein's exhaustive tome dedicated to every facet of the greatest 007 movie of all and the novel that inspired it.  The most brilliant aspect of this in-depth book, though, is its breadth of scope.  Using OHMSS as a jumping-off point, Helfenstein treats us to fantastic nuggets of information about many, many more subjects in the world of James Bond, from Ian Fleming to Pierce Brosnan and beyond.  This is a great book, and I guarantee you will learn something new from it, even if you think you know everything there is to know about 007.  It's been out for a year, but it's really flown under the radar, so that means that the Bond fan in your life is probably unlikely to have it yet, and you'll make his or her holiday with this fantastic gift. 
Also try: The Battle For Bond, another book that uses the production history of one particular Bond film (Thunderball) to explore the entire history of the character.

The Avengers: A Celebration
Titan's brand new, lavishly illustrated hardcover book on the greatest spy show of all time celebrates the series' fiftieth anniversary in style with scads of glossy, never-before-seen images accompanied by insightful text by Marcus Hearn.  This book has "Christmas gift" written all over it!  Any Avengers fan would be thrilled to find it underneath the tree.
Also try: Saints and Avengers by James Chapman, for a very different approach to the subject matter: no pretty pictures you haven't seen before, but highly informative and thought-provoking text that proves equal parts academic and entertaining. I really must write more about this wonderful book one of these days!  Like The Eurospy Guide, it was instrumental in setting me on the course that ultimately led to this blog. An absolute must for every fan for Sixties spy television.

DK's Bond Quartet: The Book of Bond, Bond Girls, Bond Villains and Bond Cars and Vehicles
These four books, each focusing on a single aspect of the Bond mythos, were made to be Christmas presents.  Individually or as a set, they really make ideal gifts for casual and obsessive Bond fans alike.  Nobody's going to learn anything new from these Bond books, but what you will get is (true to the publisher's signature) a great visual presentation.  And everybody likes a pretty collection of pictures of Bond Girls or Bond cars!  Also worth noting, oddly, is the texture of these books. DK has created a truly unique look and feel for this set.  Read more about it in my full review here.
Also try: DK's James Bond: The Secret World of 007, the ideal gift for younger Bond fans. Read my review here.

Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI-5 by Christopher Andrew
Published last year but new in paperback this week, Andrew has penned a definitive history of Britain's domestic spy agency.  The author's unprecedented access to declassified papers from the Security Service's earliest days makes this a must-read tome for scholars of real-life espionage.
Also try: The Secret History of MI6, Keith Jeffery's authorized history of Britain's foreign spy agency. Jeffery's similar access makes this book the ideal companion volume.

Seductive Espionage: The World of Yuki 7
This is a book from 2009, and it was already featured on last year's Holiday Shopping Guide.  But it's just so awesome that I can't help mention it again.  Seriously, if you still haven't picked this up and you're a fan of Sixties spy movies or the amazing art that graced their posters or the amazing fashions that graced their stars, you need this book.  Put it at the top of your Christmas list this year.  Likewise, if you're looking for the ultimate gift for the spy fan in your life that they're not likely to already have, this is it.  Fans of Sixties spy movies will be thrilled to find this underneath their tree.  As far as I know, it's only available from the publisher's website, Fleet Street Scandal.  Get a better idea of how awesome this book is by reading my full review here.

DVDs and Blu-rays

Oh man, there are so many choices this year!  We've been blessed with an abundance of spy movies on the screen in 2010, and most of them are now out on DVD and Blu-ray.  In addition, there have been tons of classic television series released this year, and even some obscure films making their way to home video for the first time. 

Green Zone
Paul Greengrass's follow-up to his two Bourne movies, also starring Matt Damon, is every bit as thrilling as their previous collaborations.  In fact, the put-you-in-the-middle-of-the-action shaky cam (a style of action filmmaking only Greengrass has managed to master) works even better in Green Zone than it does in Bourne. If you're shopping for a Bourne fan, get them this on Blu-ray or DVD. It's almost like having a fourth Bourne movie. Read my full review here.
Also try: The Bourne Ultimatum, Greengrass's best Bourne entry.

OSS 117: Lost in Rio
I've written about this title pretty extensively this year, so most regular readers will probably know all about it. The short version, though, is that this Sixties-set Eurospy send-up starring the great Jean Dujardin is a hilarious and loving homage to James Bond and the genre at large. It's the ideal gift for the spy fan with a sense of humor. The long version is here, in my full review.
Also try: OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies, Dujardin's first outing as suave buffoon OSS 117.

Knight and Day
2010 was a big year for fun spy movies, and Knight and Day is nothing if not fun.  It took a bad rap from the media for a soft American opening, but the fact is Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are both pretty great in this over-the-top action comedy. Read my review here.
Also try: Mission: Impossible III, the best entry in Cruise's more serious action spy franchise.

Salt
Out just in time (and I mean just in time, cutting it even closer than this shopping guide!) for Christmas is this summer's hit spy movie with Angelina Jolie as a female Jason Bourne. I wasn't a huge fan of this one (review here), but the first half is really solid and Jolie is good.
Also try: director Philip Noyce's earlier spy movies like Patriot Games (just $8.99 on Blu-ray right now on Amazon!) and The Quiet American.

From Paris With Love
Another very entertaining neo-Eurospy thriller from Luc Besson's EuropaCorp and the director of Taken. I was fully expecting to hate John Travolta in this, but ended up finding his performance the highlight of the film. Lionsgate has churned out a surprisingly feature-laden DVD and Blu-ray. Read my review here.
Also try: Taken: Extended Edition, Pierre Morel's previous neo-Eurospy hit.

The Girl Who Played With Fire
See above where I talk about the books. If you know someone who read and loved them, the Swedish movies are the logical next step for them–and a great gift. I haven't seen the second movie yet (where the series first veers into spy territory), but the first one was damn good.
Also try: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first film in the series.

Night Train To Munich: Criterion Edition
Criterion always puts out a good spy movie in time for the holidays. This year it's a great one set in the opening days of WWII from the same writers as the Hitchcock classic The Lady Vanishes. Read my review here.
Also try: The Lady Vanishes, another great Criterion release of a film very much in the same vein, and even featuring a few of the same characters.

Charade: Criterion Blu-ray
This one, one of the all-time classics of the genre, has been available on Criterion DVD for quite some time. But the Blu-ray, featuring a stunning new high-def transfer, is new this year and ideal for the discerning videophile on your list.
Also try: North By Northwest, a perfect gift for anyone!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The kids' classic from the producers of the James Bond films and based on the novel by Ian Fleming is new on Blu-ray this holiday season. Get the children hooked on the world of Ian Fleming at a young age with this terrific stocking stuffer!
Also try: The James Bond Blu-ray Collection: Vol. 1... obviously!

Toy Story 3
Here's another good one for the kids... and, well, for everyone. Pixar's sequel is one of the best movies of the year. So what's it doing on a spy shopping list? Well, it co-stars Timothy Dalton as the voice of the Shakespearean hedgehog Mr. Prickleypants.
Also try: The Incredibles, Pixar's very best film and very much a spy movie with its Ken Adam-inspired sets and John Barry-inspired score from the director of the next Mission: Impossible movie.

How Europe Does Babes, Bombs, and Guns
What a great introduction to the Eurospy genre! Dorado's new box set collects three of the best starring Ken Clark (including the great Special Mission: Lady Chaplin with Bond Girl Daniella Bianchi) plus bonus film Electra One available for the first time ever on DVD–all for the unbeatable bargain price of just $24.95! This strictly limited edition is available only from Dorado's website.
Also try: Deadlier Than the Male, the greatest Eurospy movie of all time.

DVD-Rs

Something Weird Eurospy Titles
Speaking of Eurospies, Amazon has expanded their inventory of Something Weird Video titles on DVD-R.  These aren't beautifully restored prints like those in the Dorado set, but they're dirt-cheap and pretty much the only way to see many of these rare and obscure spy titles.  Some of the movies new to Amazon in 2010 include Matchless (aka Mission Top Secret), Agent For Panic, Spy CatcherThe Spy I Loved, Assassination, and Target For A Killing. Other titles available can be found in my comprehensive guide to Eurospy movies on DVD.
Also try: poking around the web for the many amazing things that are going on in the world of fan-created subtitle tracks for even more obscure Eurospy movies never before available in English!

The studios themselves are offering much more professional transfers on the DVD-R format through programs like the Warner Archive and Columbia Classics and the MGM Limited Edition Collection.  The MOD (Made On Demand) format means that shipping will take longer and might cut things a little close for Christmas, but many of this year's most exciting catalog spy releases are MOD titles. 

Otley
This is one of my favorite spy movies ever, and a real rarity.  Chances are the spy fan on your list hasn't seen it before–and if they have, I bet they love it! So you really can't go wrong here. Tom Courtenay plays an ordinary guy caught up in espionage in this fun spy comedy set in Swinging London and full swing.

Duffy
More of a caper than a spy movie, but the Swinging Sixties South of France setting delivers all the tropes you expect out of a good Eurospy movie–and the star is James Coburn, cementing Duffy's place on a spy list like this.
Also try: Coburn's best spy movie, The President's Analyst, or his most famous, in The Ultimate Flint Collection.

The Executioner
George Peppard stars in this dark, gritty Eurospy outing in the vein of John Le Carré instead of Ian Fleming.
Also try: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, available in an amazing Criterion edition.

Man on a String
Future OSS 117 Kerwin Mathews co-stars with Ernest Borgnine in this gripping 1960 spy movie based on a true story.
Also try: OSS 117 se déchaîne (review here), starring Mathews.

The Satan Bug
I'm not a huge fan of this race against the clock to stop a madman with a deadly virus, but I seem to be in the minority there, so many spy fans would be glad to find this George Maharis rarity under their Christmas tree.
Also try: co-star Anne Francis's best work in Honey West.

TV On DVD


24 Season 8: The Complete Final Season
The latest and last season of the real-time spy series that came to define the genre on TV for the last decade is also one of the best, and a real return to form for a show that had lost its way.
Also try: 24: Season 1, where it all begins.

24: The Complete Series
Lots of Jack Bauer fans will be clamoring for this massive set collecting every episode of every season of 24–plus the TV movie 24: Redemption (review here) and exclusive special features.
Also try: Alias: The Complete Collection, collecting the past decade's other most iconic spy series.

Callan: Set 2
The North American debut of the final season of one of the best spy series ever.  Ever!  If you've never seen this fantastic Edward Woodward show, do yourself a favor and make sure it's on your Christmas list! If you're still not convinced, read my full review here.
Also try: Callan: Set 1, which isn't actually the show's first season, but probably makes a slightly better starting point than Set 2. Review here.

Secret Agent aka Danger Man: The Complete Collection
Another one of the greatest spy series of all time, and often wrongly overlooked because it's become eclipsed by star Patrick McGoohan's subsequent series, the iconic and surreal The Prisoner. If you or someone you're shopping for likes that series, show them where it all began, here. Even if they don't like The Prisoner, they're still likely to enjoy this much grittier and more down to earth series that set the blueprint for all the Sixties spy shows to follow. This set, containing every single episode of both the half-hour and hour-long incarnations of Danger Man, is a bargain at Amazon right now at just forty bucks!
Also try: The Prisoner. Of course.

Mr. Palfrey of Westminster
Mission: Impossible meets Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy in this highly enjoyable and rather obscure 1980s spy series starring Alec McCowen. I hadn't heard of this one before this year's DVD release, and found it a most rewarding discovery. Read my full review here.
Also try: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the benchmark for serious spy television of the late Seventies and early Eighties.

A Cold War Spy Collection
This set from Acorn Media caught me by surprise this year, offering two obscure Eighties British miniseries full of Cold War intrigue. Both are entertaining and sure to please hard-core genre fans, though many won't have heard of them. (Which is, of course, a bonus when selecting the perfect Christmas gift.) Read my full reviews of the individual miniseries, The Glory Boys and The Contract.
Also try: Smiley's People, the equally impressive (or maybe even better) follow-up to Tinker, Tailor, again starring the incomperable Alec Guinness.

Chuck: The Complete Third Season
The cult spy show of Now. This quirky action-comedy hybrid has legions of fans, all of whom will be delighted to receive the latest season on DVD or Blu-ray.
Also try: Chuck: The Complete First Season, a better starting place for the uninitiated.

Scarecrow and Mrs. King: The Complete First Season
This 2010 DVD release was my first exposure to this Eighties spy classic, though I'd heard about it for year and long wanted to see it. The DVDs delivered! It's lightweight fluff, but it's the most entertaining breed of lightweight fluff. Bruce Boxleitner stars as secret agent Lee Stetson (codename Scarecrow) and Kate Jackson is the DC housewife swept up in his world, Mrs. King. Together, they do basically what The Avengers did in the Sixties. Undercovers, which attempted and failed to capture the same dynamic, proves they really don't make 'em like this anymore. Read my full review here.
Also try: Remington Steele: Season 1, starring Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist, for similar romantic Eighties action.

MI-5: Volume 7
The latest volume of this terrific contemporary British spy drama makes a great Christmas gift to get spy fans all caught up for MI-5: Volume 8 in January!
Also try: MI-5: Volume 1. The first season may also be the best season, and is certainly the best place to start. Get it for 24 fans.

Marple: The Complete Geraldine McEwan Collection
It's not spy, no, but this collection of the latest UK television take on Agatha Christie's immortal sleuth Miss Marple parades all sorts of spy stars before our eyes, including Timothy Dalton, Jane Seymour, Keeley Hawes and Mark Gatiss. While it might rub Christie purists the wrong way, most contemporary mystery lovers should get a huge kick out of this set. The Dalton episode, "The Sittaford Mystery," may take the most liberties with the source material (which doesn't even feature Miss Marple), but for my money it was the best of the bunch–and one of the most entertaining things Dalton's done since 007. The actor's fans should definitely seek this out. (It opens with him robbing an Egyptian tomb in 1927 in khakis and pith helmet and mustache!)
Also try: Foyle's War, far and away the best contemporary British mystery series, from the mind of Anthony Horowitz, creator of Alex Rider. Not only does it star Pierce Brosnan's Bill Tanner, Michael Kitchen, but at least half the episodes of this wartime detective show involve espionage. In the latest set, Foyle even takes on SMERSH!

Sherlock: Season 1
Man was this a great show! A contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes, with Holmes and Watson (Benedict Cumberbatch and The Office's Martin Freeman, both wonderful) operating in modern-day London. No, it's not a time travel thing; like the wartime Basil Rathbone movies, series creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have simply relocated Holmes to a different era. With Gatiss involved, it should surprise no one that espionage and Mycroft Holmes play a large role in the proceedings, with the third episode partially adapting Arthur Conan Doyle's best spy story, "The Bruce Partington Plans."
Also try: Sherlock Holmes, the Sixties BBC series starring Douglas Wilmer new to DVD, and A Study in Terror, a great Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper movie from the same era, available as a DVD-R from Columbia. 2010 was very good to Sherlock Holmes fans, DVD-wise!

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: Set 2
Speaking of Holmes, I'd be remiss not to mention this excellent Seventies TV series which adapted the short stories of Conan Doyle's contemporaries that were collected by Hugh Greene. About half the episodes in Set 2 involve spying. Read my full review here.
Also try: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: Set 1. Less espionage, but equally great. Reviews here and here. (Yes, I reviewed it twice.)

Hawaii Five-O: The Tenth Season
The tenth season of the seminal Sixties and Seventies (and even slightly Eighties) cop show features two Bond Girls among its guest star line-up–Maud Adams and Luciana Paluzzi–and a return to espionage and international terrorism-themed plots. And, of course, it stars the screen's first Felix Leiter, Jack Lord. If you know someone who's into the new version on CBS, give them this to show them how it's really done!
Also try: The Wild Wild West, another fantastic Sixties series slated for remake on CBS. (And this one is a straight-up spy show... with cowboys.)

Mission: Impossible TV Seasons
There are no new ones out this year because Paramount wrapped up the original series last year with Mission: Impossible: The Final TV Season (Season 7), but that doesn't mean they don't make great gifts!  If you're a big spender, go ahead and splurge for the complete series in Amazon's Mission: Impossible: Seasons 1-7 bundle.  You can't go wrong.  That's seven rock-solid seasons of first-rate spy entertainment.  But chances are you'll want something a little bit smaller for gift giving purposes.  There really isn't a bad season in the whole bunch, although if you're trying to stir nostalgic feelings, I'd probably recommend opting for something after Season 1, as most people remember the iconic image of silver-haired Peter Graves as team leader Jim Phelps, and he didn't join the show until The 2nd TV Season.  My own favorite season constantly changes.  Lately I've been favoring the wrongfully-maligned final seasons, because I love their wretched Seventies fashions and despite favoring the Syndicate storylines in place of toppling Eastern Bloc governments, the plots are still airtight.  But if you want more classic Missions, I'd probably recommend either The Complete 3rd TV Season, which features the classic line-up of Graves, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris and Peter Lupus at the top of their games, or The Complete 4th TV season, which sadly loses Bain and Landau, but adds the great Leonard Nimoy and his wide-collared fashions. 
Also try: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete Series, probably the second most famous iconic American spy showhe Sixties–and just as enjoyable. I know first-hand that this attache case-shaped collection makes a great Christmas gift; it absolutely delighted me two years ago!

Region 2 Titles

Interpol Calling
Network's latest ITC offering is this early adventure series, which spans the gap between Fifties detective dramas and Sixties spy shows. Mainly for ITC completists and television historians.
Also try: Dangerous Assignment, an American spy series from the same era.

The Avengers Special Editions: The Complete Series 2-6
Optimum's Region 2 Avengers special editions (Series 2 and what's left of Series 1, Series 3, Series 4, Series 5 and Series 6) are manna from heaven for fans of Sixties spydom. They're just packed with awesome special features, including commentary tracks and documentaries and reconstructed lost episodes and even rare early TV appearances by Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. They're also fully remastered, and make my favorite spy show of all time look better than it's ever looked before.
Also try: Mister Jerico (review here), a great Patrick Macnee ITC TV movie, and The Sentimental Agent (review here), which features a rare and wonderful early performance by Diana Rigg.

The Four Just Men: The Complete Series
Another early ITC adventure series with plenty of spy-centric episodes released by Network this year.
Also try: Ghost Squad: The Complete Series, one of ITC's first stabs at hourlong espionage-based adventure.

Codename: Kyril
It's not perfect, but if you're into Eighties spy miniseries, you'll find a lot to like here. Especially if you're an Edward Woodward fan. Read my full review here.
Also try: Harry's Game, another well-regarded Eighties miniseries starring The Sandbaggers' Ray Lonnen.

The Corridor People: The Complete Series
Wow, this is a weird one! A wonderfully weird one. I can't begin to explain it in just a few sentences, so read my full review here.
Also try: There's nothing in the world quite like this!

Callan: The Monochrome Years
Remember how I said up above that the Region 1 Callan: Set 1 wasn't actually the show's first season? That's because it starts with the first color episode. The first two seasons of Callan were in black and white and every bit as good as the color years that followed. Unfortunately, many episodes from these seasons have been lost. Network's set collects all the surviving ones, and happily that seems to cover all the big turning points. If you've got an all-region player, this is the place to start with Callan. It's the only place to find these rare monochrome episodes.
Also try: Callan: The Colour Years, Network's Region 2 follow-up release. This contains all the same material as Acorn's Region 1 Callan Sets 1 and 2, but not the commentaries from the R1 Set 2. However, all the episodes are fully uncut in the R2 version, which sadly can't quite be said for the R1 version. Whew! It's very confusing, but ultimately I'd probably just recommend buying whatever version you're in for simplicity's sake.

Music

The Saint: Original Soundtrack
After releasing lots of fantastic, multi-disc archival sets of soundtrack music from classic ITC adventure series of the Sixties and Seventies, Network finally got around to what might be the crown jewel of their library (though personally I'm still holding out for my own Holy Grail, The Persuaders!), The Saint.  While most of the music from the monochrome series has apparently been lost (surviving tracks appear on the 2-disc set The Music of ITC), there's clearly a plethora of material by Edwin Astley available from the color series--enough to fill five discs!  Besides fantastic score music, there are also some wonderful songs from various nightclub scenes.  (My favorite is "Out to Get You," which also turns up on The Music of ITC.)  Read my full review here. The Saint: Original Soundtrack is available directly from Network's website
Also try: The Protectors: Original Soundtrack, one of the best of Network's previous ITC soundtrack collection.

Fair Game
As I just wrote about in my Fair Game movie review, John Powell has really redefined the sound of the spy movie like no other composer since John Barry defined it to begin with in the 1960s.  Fair Game is a great example of Powell's pounding, propulsive, percussion-heavy style, which served the Bourne films so well, among many other contemporary spy movies.
Also try: Green Zone, another fantastic 2010 spy score by Powell. Don't blame me, though, if playing this one in your car earns you a speeding ticket!

Ypotron
There have been several interesting Eurospy CD releases this year, mostly on Italian labels, but the most interesting one, Agent Logan Missione Ypotron (also known as Operation Y or simply Ypotron), is also one of the easiest to get, because US online store Screen Archives Entertainment stocks it.  Nico Fidenco's Spanish-flavored score for this psychadelic 1966 Eurospy movie starring Luis Dávila is pretty wild, as is the titular theme song by The Sorrows. 
Also try: OK Connery (Operation Kid Brother) by Ennio Morricone, one of my very favorite available Eurospy scores with a fantastic theme song!

Black Box Affair
I've never seen this Eurospy movie and haven't heard its Gianni Ferrio score, so I can't really comment on it, but SAE has a pretty descriptive write-up on their page
Also try: Special Mission Lady Chaplin, another great Eurospy soundtrack (by Bruno Nicolai) for another great Eurospy movie.

Hawaii Five-O
The original Sixties soundtrack album by Morton Stevens, featuring mostly music from the series very espionage-heavy pilot, "Cocoon" (review here), was released for the first time on CD this year to tie in with the new remake series on CBS.  This is great Sixties television music!
Also try: The Best of Mission: Impossible: Then and Now, which in my opinion offers the best sampling of Lalo Schifrin's fantastic music from the original Sixties TV show.

Human Target
There's a new limited edition, 3-disc set of Battlestar Galactica composer Bear McCreary's pulse-pounding orchestral score music for the Fox action show Human Target available from SAE, where it's much cheaper than on Amazon.
Also try: Leverage, by Joseph LoDuca, another great contemporary TV soundtrack whose jazzy sound pays homage to the show's inspiration, Mission: Impossible.

Marathon Man/The Parallax View
Film Score Monthly recently issued a double feature CD with these two Michael Small scores from two great paranoid Seventies spy thrillers.

Casino Royale (1967)
I know, you already have this on one of the previous Varese Sarabande releases. But you don't have it like this! Kritzerland's new limited edition CD release of Burt Bacharach's wonderful score to the spoof version of Casino Royale much more closely replicates the sound of the original LP, which is highly sought after by audiophiles.  It also sequences the tracks in film order for the first time ever, and adds three bonus cues. In other words, you need it!

6 comments:

megasuperawesome said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan P said...

Thank you for the rather comprehensive write up. I'll certainly be ordering that Acorn "Cold War Spies Collection" - I appreciate the heads up! Keep up the great work.

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

" Lately I've been favoring the wrongfully-maligned final seasons[of Mission: Impossible], because I love their wretched Seventies fashions and despite favoring the Syndicate storylines in place of toppling Eastern Bloc governments..."

LOL Welcome to my world, Tanner! The seventh season has been my favorite for ove a year now.

Merry Christmas and all that jazz.

Jonathan Melville said...

Thanks for the post - somehow The Making of OHMSS completely passed me by so I've just rectified that.

As I mentioned once before, your reviews and recommendations have led me to spend a small fortune over the last 12 months and more,so you're doing something right!

Another Christmas present I'd add to the list is situated on the BBC Archive site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/james_bond/

I've just written up an overview of the collection for anyone who can't see it outside the UK: http://adventuresinprimetime.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/the-bbc-james-bond-archive/

Have a great Christmas!

Tanner said...

Thanks, guys. I'm glad you liked the post!

Ryan, I'm happy to have pointed you in the direction of those miniseries. I hope you enjoy them!

CK, yeah, I parsed out the 7th season over a whole year since it was the last one. Sorry that's meant a long delay in a review here, but, hey, sometimes I have to think of myself! :) I watched the last episode about a month ago and it made me sad that there weren't anymore. (Except, of course, there are... but not QUITE.) Ever since I've been ordering YA books and Annuals and anything else M:I I can get my hands on to fill the void. Eventually I'll be covering all that stuff here.

Jonathan, thanks for that link to your review! I'd heard about the BBC's Bond Archive, but knowing I couldn't access it all from the USA I hadn't fully explored it yet. I really appreciated your in-depth summary of the contents. I'll try to do a proper post on the subject linking to your review later. Meanwhile, I'm happy I was able to connect you with some cool spy stuff throughout the year, even if it meant parting you with some precious coin. And Merry Christmas, yourself. In fact, if I may get cheesy for a moment and quote Clement Moore, Merry Christmas to all!

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