May 28, 2009

More On New Young Bond Short Story

Charlie Higson's conclusion to his first cycle of Young James Bond novels, By Royal Command, came out in paperback in England this week, complete with an exclusive excerpt of Higson's brand new Young Bond short story, apparently titled "A Hard Man To Kill." (For those with short memories, that will be included in November's Young Bond companion book.) As usual, the Young Bond Dossier has the scoop on all the details!
Recent Blog Chatter

There's a lot happening around the web right now, spy-wise!

Spy Vibe Contests

Jason Whiton over at the Spy Vibe blog is celebrating his birthday by giving away presents rather than collecting them! He's running a series of contests, offering some excellent spy prizes to the lucky winners. So far up for grabs are a copy of Network's Prisoner soundtrack (that one ends June 1, so hurry!), a Thunderbirds DVD set featuring the episode "The Man From M.I.5" (which Jason wrote a very tantalizing piece about that can be found here), a Golgo 13 comic book and a Man From U.N.C.L.E. novel! Head on over to Spy Vibe to enter them all! One winner will be announced each week.

Open Channel Spy-Fi

I've always enjoyed comic book writer Christopher Mills' posts about spy things on his terrific blog Atomic Pulp, and now he's started a new blog devoted to just that subject matter. Furthermore, he's already collected all of his old spy-related pieces on the new Spy-Fi Channel, so you can read them all in one convenient place! Highlights so far include his review of the new DVD release of the Eurospy classic Lightning Bolt, episode reviews of the Robert Conrad spy series A Man Called Sloane, and a look at Mills' own (sadly aborted) spy comic book, Knight and Gale. The Spy-Fi Channel looks set to be a very worthy addition to the C.O.B.R.A.S. league of spy bloggers.

Quantum of Bond

Quantum of Bond is a very cool, copiously illustrated new French James Bond blog. It's got a unique take and manages to cover things that aren't just more of the same. Recent topics include a retrospective of Bond promotions at the Cannes Film Festival (with a great picture I'd never seen before of Roger Moore and Barbara Bach promoting The Spy Who Loved Me), an eye-opening, shot-by-shot comparison of car stunt coordinator Rémy Julienne's chase sequences in Goldeneye and the unbelievably forgettable 1974 Michael Caine spy caper The Marseille Contract, examinations of popular actors from other series or genres in Bond movies and my personal favorite, an ongoing series exploring the myriad connections between the Bond movies and the OSS 117 movies. (I had no idea how many OSS 117 actors had turned up in Moonraker alone! Nor had I made the connection that the main Nazi from OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies was Gettler in Casino Royale.) This is a very cool blog worth browsing even if you can't read French.

Cinebeats Revamped

Cinebeats, Kimberly Lindbergs' excellent blog devoted to Sixties and Seventies cinema, has undergone a recent facelift. It's got a cool new feel and the same great content with the usual top-notch writing. Kimberly hasn't had many spy-related posts lately, but chances are that era of film will be of interest to most people who read this blog nonetheless. My favorite recent posts have been a series on the gorgeous Marianne Faithfull film Girl On a Motorcycle, including a fantastic gallery of the film's advertising from around the world. Check it out.
Network Announces Rivals Of Sherlock Holmes On DVD

UK distributor Network has announced a DVD of the 1971 Thames TV show The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: The Complete First Series, set for release on June 15. While Derek Jacobi wouldn't appear as William Le Queux's gadget-using proto-Bond "Duckworth Drew of the Secret Service" until the second season, the first season is sure to offer plenty of entertainment for spy fans as well. Based (unofficially) on the popular anthology books edited by Graham Greene's brother Hugh, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes featured a different detective each week solving a different crime adapted from stories by various contemporaries of Arthur Conan Doyle. John Neville, Robert Stephens, Roy Dotrice and Blofeld himself Donald Pleasence were among the series' many guest stars. Acorn will be releasing this series on DVD in the United States this fall, as part of their overall deal with FreemantleMedia announced last year. The Region 1 DVD is due out September 1 and can already be pre-ordered from Amazon. It's unclear at this point whether either version will feature any extras.
Tradecraft: 24 And Bond

Can Bond Break the Bank?

The Hollywood Reporter reports the troubling news that James Bond's home studio, MGM, is searching for "any sort of capital restructuring that can avert a forced Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. One big motivator: MGM's long-standing hold on the 007 franchise could come into play in a court-supervised reorganization. To avoid that, MGM's owners might consider giving up a sizable portion of their equity holdings." Ironically, United Artists (since swallowed up by MGM's lion) acquired their stake in James Bond when co-producer Harry Saltzman faced bankruptcy himself. A clause in his contract with partner Cubby Broccoli stipulated that he couldn't put up his share in their Bond company, Danjaq, as security. This led to lengthy legal proceedings, delaying production on The Spy Who Loved Me, before an equitable solution was reached by which the studio became equal partners in 007 with Broccoli. (Their cost in 1976? A scant $20 million, clearly recouped many times over in the past three decades.) Now MGM faces bankruptcy and clearly doesn't want to lose the lucrative cash cow that is Bond. Therefore, the trade speculates they'll be willing to part with a number of lesser properties in order to cling to the golden goose. The last thing they want is a judge deciding how to divvy up assets, which might well result in the studio losing its grasp on 007. "None of this is to say that [creditors] would come away with rights to Bond -- or even The Pink Panther or other core MGM film assets. But if [the] major debtholders are able to convert their holdings into equity, it could provide leverage to secure film-development rights of various lesser properties. And it would keep MGM -- and 007 -- out from under the gavel of a bankruptcy judge."

CTU, Where Are You?

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Freddie Prinze Jr. will join the cast of 24 next season as Davis Cole, "a recently returned Marine who runs CTU Field Ops and wants to follow in Jack Bauer's footsteps." Following this year's sojourn to Washington D.C., the eighth season will take place in New York.
Tradecraft: Cruise Forsakes Ludlum For Diaz

Remember all those spy movies that Tom Cruise was weighing as his next star vehicle? Variety reports that the actor has passed on David Cronenberg's adaptation of the Robert Ludlum thriller The Materese Circle (co-starring Denzel Washington) in favor of another one of the many, many other spy projects he was considering: Wichita, opposite Cameron Diaz. Says the trade, "Cruise will play a secret agent who pops in and out of the life of a single woman." The article also promises "several action scenes." Besides Wichita and Materese, Cruise had been considering The Tourist and the Black List favorite Secret Service actioner Motorcade. The cryptic last line of the Variety story teases that "it is possible that Cruise might do one of the other projects down the line." So what does that mean? Do all of those projects get held up because of Cruise? I really, really hope that The Materese Circle doesn't get waylaid by this. I'm really excited for that one, and Washington is definitely a big enough star to carry it himself. Of course, the story calls for a Russian agent as well. I'd rather see the part go to Viggo Mortensen (who's done a very admirable Russian accent for Cronenberg before). The trade does not mention the ITC remake The Champions in this story. Presumably Cruise is still mulling that one for next year, as we heard back in February.

May 26, 2009

Matt Helm Movie Update

A story in The Hollywood Reporter in April with big news about the latest attempt to bring Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm back to the big screen somehow escaped my attention at the time. The story was about producer Bobby Cohen being hired as president of Kurtzman/Orci Productions. And, yes, that means that Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the script masterminds behind the excellent Star Trek reboot that's currently raking in the dollars, are now officially producing Matt Helm! But the Star Trek scribes aren't writing it. Those duties fall to screenwriting heavyweight Paul Attanasio. All involved have impressive spy CVs already. Kurtzman and Orci wrote for and executive produced the 1800s-set Bruce Campbell tongue-in-cheek spy series Jack of All Trades early in their careers, then went on to write and produce on Alias, one of the best spy series of the modern era. They also wrote Mission: Impossible III. (That's the good one.) Attanasio co-wrote the screenplay for the most recent Jack Ryan movie, The Sum of All Fears, and also penned the infinitely superior Steven Soderbergh film The Good German, an underrated black and white tale of espionage and intrigue in postwar Berlin. So, in my opinion, Matt Helm appears to be in good hands. Attanasio moderated a panel with Kurtzman and Orci at the WGA tonight in Beverly Hills, and all three confirmed their involvement in the Matt Helm movie afterwards. The target date is Summer 2010, and they're aiming for a tone somewhere between Dean Martin's goofy spoofs and Donald Hamilton's gritty novels, but leaning more toward the latter. Serious, but fun.

May 21, 2009

Swedish Company Announces New Eurospy DVD

Magnus from Fin de Siecle has posted on his blog, DVD Sleuth, and on the Eurospy Forum that the Swedish company behind this year's excellent releases Secret Agent Fireball and Fury In Marrakesh has acquired the rights to put out the final film in the "Bob Fleming" Eurospy trilogy: Killers Are Challenged (1966). Killers Are Challenged reunites Secret Agent Fireball writer and star Ernesto Gastaldi and Richard Harrison under the direction of Lightning Bolt's Antonio Margheriti. According to The Eurospy Guide, it's a particularly good one. They did such a good job with the other two Bob Fleming movies (and with Flashman) that I can't wait to see how they handle Killers Are Challenged! The only down side is that we all have to wait... until February or March 2010. Oh well; I'm sure it will be worth it!

May 19, 2009

New Spy DVDs Out This Week

Two major spy releases from Fox this week: 24 and Man Hunt. Just one day after its season finale aired on TV, 24: Season 7 debuts on DVD! That's got to be some sort of record, right? I wish every TV season would hit DVD this quickly; it makes way more sense than releasing a season immediately before the next one starts up on TV. You'll probably recall that the real-time series' seventh season was fraught with complications throughout its two-year journey to the screen. Despite all that, though, and despite a lacklustre TV movie "prequel," critics generally agree that the season marked a remarkable return to form for the Kiefer Sutherland vehicle. I only saw the (admittedly impressive) season premiere, but I'm looking forward to checking out the rest on DVD. As usual, there are oodles of extras, including commentaries, deleted scenes, and a documentary called "24-7: The Untold Story." If they actually go into all the troubles that plagued the season (from a writers' strike to a star's arrest for DUI to a showrunner quitting), this could turn out to be every bit as compelling as the show itself!

One interesting thing to note that first occurred to me when billboards of this wonderful Season 7 artwork started popping up around LA last winter is how Daniel Craig's James Bond has altered spy iconography. Earlier 24 promotional material (including the cover for the Season 5 DVD) depicted Jack Bauer in the classic "gun held close to face" spy pose popularized by Sean Connery in From Russia With Love publicity stills way back in 1963 and frequently embodied by Pierce Brosnan in posters and stills for his Bond films. But Daniel Craig didn't just reboot the character of James Bond in Casino Royale; the movie's clever marketing campaign also rebooted the way that Bond–and consequently the spy in general–is portrayed. The shorthand for "spy" was re-written with the film's one-sheet (below), which presented a full-body shot of Craig walking casually away from the casino, tie undone, gun by his side and–crucially–coat billowing. It's that new iconography that's reflected in the 24: Season 7 packaging: the billowing coat. It's the new look for spies everywhere!

Fox's other major spy release this week is Fritz Lang's WWII spy movie Man Hunt, starring Walter Pidgeon and George Sanders. This release has been rumored for over a year, but now here it is, for real! Man Hunt, based on the novel Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household, follows a British big game hunter (Pidgeon) who decides to put his talents to use by taking a shot at the biggest prize of all: Adolf Hitler. Upon returning to England, unsuccessful, he finds himself in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with Gestapo agents (including Sanders and John Carradine) who want him to sign a confession saying he was acting on behalf of the British government in his assassination attempt. Special features include the featurette "Rogue Male: The Making of Man Hunt," a trailer, a stills gallery and an audio commentary by film historian and author Patrick McGilligan.

The release of Lang's Man Hunt also reminds me of a recent British spy DVD release I overlooked: an ITC series called Manhunt–one word. Network released Manhunt: The Complete Series on Region 2 DVD in the UK in February. The critically-lauded 1970 series stars Peter Barkworth, Philip Madoc and Robert Hardy. It follows a downed RAF pilot in occupied France who hooks up with some resistance agents. They have to navigate treacherous waters, never sure of who to trust–even within the resistance movement. French freedom fighters as well as the Gestapo and Abwere agents all have secret agendas and murky loyalties. The eight-disc set includes all twenty-six episodes.

May 16, 2009

ALERT: OSS 117: Cairo Nest Of Spies On American TV This Weekend

This is a surprise! American cable network The Sundance Channel is airing the excellent retro French spy parody OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies this weekend and other times throughout the month. If you get this channel and haven't yet seen it, here's your chance to check out a wonderful movie for free! (If you can tear yourself away from Sean Connery month on TCM, that is.)

OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies airs today (Saturday, May 16) at 1PM and 6:25PM Eastern/Pacific, on Wednesday, May 27 at 7AM and 2:40PM, and on Sunday, May 31 at 2:45PM. Set those DVRs!

Read my review of OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies here.

May 14, 2009

Network Unleashes Jason King Soundtrack

Network has announced the next release in their utterly fantastic line of CD soundtrack collections for classic ITC shows: Jason King! (Past announcements have yielded scores for Danger Man, The Champions, The Prisoner and others.) The music for Jason King was composed by Laurie Johnson, perhaps best known for his Avengers Theme and incidental music for that series. According to Network's website, "Never previously released and compiled from the original master tapes, this two-CD set comprises the themes and incidental music for Jason King, containing around 70 pieces of music which were specially composed for the series." The soundtrack to the high-camp Peter Wyngarde spin-off from Department S will be available to order from Network starting May 25. And they were even able to find a shot of Wyngarde wearing an open leather jacket over a bare, hairy chest to show off his pendant for their cover! Oh, wait; that probably wasn't very hard. Still, it's certainly appropriate! The series is probably best remembered today for Johnson's music, Wyngarde's irresistibly flamboyant performance, and the parade of garish fashions he clotheshorsed week after week. Oh, and his hairdo, of course. Anyway, the cover captures all of that, so it's awesome.

I realize that not all spy fans are as enamored of Jason King as I am. And I admit that if you watch it in order, the first few episodes are rather terrible, which is never encouraging. Especially since they particularly pale in comparison to the series it was spun off from, Department S. But if you stick with the series, you'll find a lot to like, especially if you enjoy the hedonistic side of the spy genre. King is John Steed's more dandyish side carried to the extreme. He wallows in luxury wherever he goes--including over the Berlin Wall. When King needs to cross to the East, he does so in style, riding inside a crate equipped with luxurious upholstery and, of course, stocked with champagne. It's a very fun, very over-the-top show with some fantastic music I'll be glad to finally have on CD. Then again, I know there are those who feel that Network seems intent on releasing the scores to every minor ITC show before it finally brings out the heavy-hitters, namely The Saint and The Persuaders! All I can say is, I have faith that our patience will eventually be rewarded. In the mean time, why not enjoy some terrific Laurie Johnson music?
Deep Deep Discounts On Wild Wild West

Deepdiscount has The Wild Wild West: The Complete Series on sale for just $54.97. That's nearly half price. In addition to all four seasons of the spy Western, The Complete Series also includes the two Wild Wild West TV reunion movies, so if you don't have any of the seasons yet, this is an excellent bargain. (Despite the crappy packaging.) If you do have some and want to fill in the rest cheaply, the site is also offering individual seasons for just $21.97 each. (You can also get the movie for six dollars, but who'd want that?) Read more about The Wild Wild West: The Complete Series and the TV reunion movies here.
Little Drummer Girl On DVD From Warner Archives

The price point is five dollars too high, the website is crappy, the search engine is bad, and there don't seem to be press releases announcing new titles (or any other real effort to get that word out), but I still really like the Warner Archive DVD-on-demand concept. I'm not sure when it was added, but I only just noticed another spy title the company is now offering in this format: The Little Drummer Girl, George Roy Hill's 1984 adaptation of John Le Carré's novel starring Diane Keaton and Klaus Kinski. Keaton plays an actress who gets caught between the Israelis and the Palestinians in a high stakes game of Middle East espionage when she's manipulated by Mossad officer Kinski in order to route out a terrorist. I've neither seen nor read The Little Drummer Girl, but I've long been curious to. I guess this is my chance... You can order Warner's DVD-R of The Little Drummer Girl and even watch the trailer here.

May 13, 2009

New Eurospy Revival Jerry Cotton Starts Filming

A press conference in Berlin yesterday marked the commencement of filming on the new Jerry Cotton movie, which was first announced back in 2007. Jerry Cotton, originally played by American star George Nader in a series of Sixties Eurospy movies like Death In a Red Jaguar and Deadly Shots On Broadway, was a New York-based FBI agent in his original incarnation. (They're available in Germany without English subtitles, although the Dutch DVDs do offer those.) The new version, from the makers of the popular Wixxer films (which parody the Edgar Wallace crime movies so popular in Germany during the Fifties and Sixties), reimagines Cotton in much the same way that the new OSS 117 films reinvent that Sixties Eurospy hero. Whereas the Sixties movies were serious, the new version is a comedy. Fifty-three-year-old German actor and comedian Christian Tramitz (who also starred in Der Wixxer) steps into Nader's shoes as Cotton; Christian Ulmen plays his sidekick Phil Decker (originated by Heinz Weiss). Monica Cruz (sister of Penelope) plays the newest "Cotton Girl," Malena, who producer Christian Becker describes as a femme fatale who turns Cotton's head.

I'm not sure if that poster image at left (which apes the look of older Cotton book and DVD designs) is official or not, but it's all over German-language websites, including plenty of seemingly reputable news sites, so I would guess it's legit.

Becker told Screen Daily that the new film (called, simply, Jerry Cotton) will be "a fantastic new interpretation which will be like the way people approached Starsky & Hutch. It won't be a parody because we take the character of Jerry Cotton very seriously but we see him a bit like Inspector Drebin in The Naked Gun." So, despite not being a parody... it sounds like a parody. What's unclear is whether it will recreate the Sixties milieu of the original films, as OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost In Rio did so successfully, or if the character will be contemporized. The red Jaguar E-Type on hand at the press conference would seem to indicate the former, although such a car could obviously make an appearance in a modern-day movie as well. Jerry Cotton is due out in Germany at the end of this year. Hopefully international distribution will follow, although the Wixxer films still remain unavailable on DVD in English-speaking countries.

Tradecraft: Fantomas Returns To The Big Screen

Possibly spurred on by the success of the revived OSS 117 series, director André Hunebelle's other big Sixties franchise is getting a new lease on life. Variety reports that Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) is writing and directing a new $60-70 million dollar film based on the masked supercriminal created in 1911. Fantomas has been a fixture of French cinema since the silent era, but is probably best known to spy fans through Hunebelle's campy Sixties trilogy, which I would lump squarely in with the "costumed adventurers" offshoot of the Eurospy genre. While the OSS 117 and in-the-works Jerry Cotton revivals have been comedic takes on series that were more or less serious in the Sixties, the new Fantomas will go the opposite direction. Hunebelle's Fantomas movies, starring Jean Marais in dual roles, were very tongue-in-cheek; Gans' version will be much grittier and closer to the series of books that spawned the character. Fantomas won't the the first Sixties masked avenger Gans has tackled, either; immediately following Brotherhood of the Wolf the director planned a new version of Diabolik starring Mark Dacascos, but for better or worse it never came to be. (While no one will ever top Mario Bava's masterpiece, I do think the character has a lot more to offer and would have personally welcomed Gans' interpretation.) According to the trade, Gans' Fantomas adaptation is inspired by The Dark Knight and "sees Fantomas facing off with a villain of equal or even more dastardly dimensions. Pic will shoot in French and English, and begin casting shortly." The plan is to roll cameras in late 2009 or early 2010.

May 12, 2009

New Spy Comics From Titan: Bond And Blaise

Today sees the release of Titan's latest volume of Modesty Blaise comic strip reprints, The Lady Killers. The graphic novel collection features three adventures of the unfazeable female adventurer: "The Lady Killers," "Dossier On Pluto" and "Garvin's Travels." As with every volume in this remarkable series, author Peter O'Donnell provides insightful introductions to each story. While the last volume, Green Cobra, featured some of his artwork, The Lady Killers is the first volume in Titan's series to entirely showcase the work of new Modesty artist Neville Colvin. Next up for Modesty are two more Colvin-era volumes: The Scarlet Maiden in August and Death In Slow Motion in October.

Titan have also revealed what is presumably the final cover artwork for their next volume of James Bond newspaper strip reprints, The Girl Machine by Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak. This volume (which is due in July) fills in some crucial gaps in Bond's comic history by reprinting three Seventies stories that Titan skipped over in their otherwise chronological publication schedule: "The Girl Machine," "The Nevsky Nude" and "Beware of Butterflies." Next up for 007 from Titan is The James Bond Omnibus Volume 1: The Graphic Novel Collection, a 300+ page bumper edition due out in September collecting the first eleven Fleming stories in chronological order. (That goes up through the abruptly-truncated "Thunderball" strip.) has all the details. It's unclear what the format will be, but I'm a fan of Marvel's Essential line and Dark Horse's Omnibuses, so I'm looking forward to this mammoth collection even if I already have all of the material already! (In some cases, in several previous editions.)
New Spy DVDs Out This Week

Lots of spy DVDs out this week! Liam Neeson leads the charge in Taken, not only the surprise sleeper hit of the winter, but also one of its biggest pleasures. (Movie review here.) Once you get past the incongruously atrocious first fifteen minutes, Taken develops into a non-stop cavalcade of righteous ass-kicking. Neeson is a former CIA operative whose daughter is kidnapped in Paris (as he predicted would happen if she travelled abroad!), thus setting him on this course of violence. To find her he'll destroy big chunks of Paris, even vowing to "tear down the Eiffel Tower" if he has to. Neeson's Bryan Mills does things that would even make Jack Bauer flinch. This hard-edge neo-Eurospy movie is a must for fans of Bourne or 24. And on DVD, it's available in an extended, "harder" cut previously seen in Europe! As usual with these things, there are several configurations from Fox, including single-disc DVD, Blu-Ray, and that annoying "Digital Copy" double-disc DVD that adds all the special features (including a making-of doc and an audio commentary with director Pierre Morel and screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen) onto the first disc, but then charges you more for the digital copy disc that most people will never use.

After being available for a few weeks in an exclusive bundle at Best Buy, two James Bond movies make their wider Blu-Ray debut this week as well. Neither Licence To Kill (1989) nor The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) are among the most famous or respected of Bonds, but each one has its charms. As a big-time Dalton Booster, I love his second movie almost as much as his first. Highlights include scenes (and villain Milton Krest, here assayed by frequent Mission: Impossible baddie Anthony Zerbe) freely adapted from Ian Fleming's short story "The Hildebrand Rarity" and that spectacular action sequence where Bond launches a one-man assault on Krest's yacht and ends up waterskiing barefoot behind a seaplane. I've had a strange relationship with The Man With the Golden Gun over the years. As a kid, it was one of my very favorites, thanks largely to the presence of returning comic relief character Sheriff J.W. Pepper. By college I disdained the movie for the very same reason, although I always appreciated Christopher Lee as one of the series' best villains. Now, no longer the stickler for seriousness in my Bonds that I once was, I enjoy Golden Gun for its utter strangeness. (Consider the scene in which Bond infiltrates a villain's compound only to be assaulted by a Sumo wrestler and a midget with a pitchfork who had been posing as statues. Or the false third nipple Q provides him. Or the bizarre means by which he ends up acquiring a golden bullet from a belly dancer.) It may be weak Bond, but I choose to view it instead as the Ultimate Eurospy movie!

Finally, we have a new Blu-Ray edition of the 1978 WWII spy/commando movie Force 10 From Navarone, a sequel of sorts to the David Niven classic starring Harrison Ford and a whole slew of Bond alumni including Robert Shaw, Edward Fox, Barbara Bach and Richard Kiel, the last two fresh off The Spy Who Loved Me.

May 7, 2009

New Spy CDs: Quantum And Sebastian

Two new spy CDs are available today at Jerry Goldsmith's score for Sebastian (1968) and Christopher Lennertz's score for the Activision videogame of Quantum of Solace (2008). The latter (which is entirely different from David Arnold's score for the film), unfortunately, is a rare promotional CD available only as a premium for shoppers who spend $100 or more on the site. That's really too bad, because the track samples they make available sound great. I would love to have this CD! (But, like many fans, I'm sure, I sadly don't have $100 to spend there.)

For those who haven't seen it, Sebastian is a rarity well worth seeking out. The always fantastic Dirk Bogarde plays a British codebreaker whose department (comprised entirely of beautiful women) is infiltrated by a Russian spy. Is it the lovely Susannah York, who Bogarde's slowly falling for? It's got a cool LSD sequence, but despite that it's very much not one of those Modesty Blaise-type Swinging Sixties spy trips. It's kind of hard to categorize, but it's entertaining (check out David's review) and it's got a really great Jerry Goldsmith score. I'll be happy to replace my copy that I burned from LP with this new release from Harkit, the same label that put out the Modesty Blaise score a few years ago. (If only they'd deliver on that mooted Fathom release that never materialized!)

May 6, 2009

New And Upcoming Spy Novels Of Note

Yesterday saw the release in the United Kingdom of a very noteworthy new spy novel: Free Agent by Jeremy Duns. Why is it so noteworthy? Well, firstly because it's been getting very positive advance buzz. Secondly, though (and of especial interest to net-savvy spy fans), because the author is one of us. He's a fan. Jeremy Duns is familiar to anyone who frequents the forums at where he posts as "spynovelfan." And according to David Foster at Permission To Kill, Duns also moderates a Yahoo discussion group on spy novels. Now this fan has channelled his accumulated expertise in the genre into a novel of his own, and the results are said to be phenomenal. Free Agent is a Cold War spy thriller set in 1969. On the CBn Forums, Duns even promised a mention of SMERSH! It's the first in a projected trilogy focusing on double agent Paul Dark. Free Agent is out now in Britain with a very cool retro cover and in June in America with a typically less-cool American cover. David has an excellent interview with Duns up at Permission To Kill, which is recommended reading for fans eager for a taste of what's in store for Dark. I'm looking forward to digging into this one.

Also out in June (the very same day, in fact) in both the US and Britain, is a spy novel we've been hearing a lot about lately thanks to its pre-release acquisition by Warner Bros. for Terminator: Salvation and Charlie's Angels director McG: Dead Spy Running by Jon Stock. Every time it's in the trades, this one is described as "John Le Carré meets Jason Bourne." Stock qualified that logline by calling himself more of a Le Carré reader and a Bourne watcher, so that gives us some idea of what to expect. The book has certainly generated a lot of heat with publishers and studios, so it's another one I'm eagerly awaiting.

One of my favorite contemporary spy novelists, former top spook Stella Rimington, also has some new books in the pipeline. Her latest Liz Carlile novel, titled Present Danger and drawn (as always) in equal parts from her experience at MI5 and from her impressive skills as a writer, will come out in Britain on October 1. We still haven't even gotten the previous book, Dead Line, in America, but the one before that, Illegal Action, is due out in paperback in the States from Vintage/Black Lizard on June 2. Hopefully we'll see a hardcover release for Dead Line sometime this summer.

May 2, 2009

REMINDER: James Bond Movies On The Big Screen In Los Angeles This Weekend!

The American Cinematheque's Aero Theater in Santa Monica, CA, is screening "The Best of James Bond: Agent 007" from May 1-3. The mini-fest kicks off on Friday, May 1 with Dr. No and From Russia With Love starting at 7:30. Saturday brings us the ubiquitous Goldfinger and Thunderball, also beginning at 7:30. And Sunday wraps things up with a rare Roger Moore double-bill of The Spy Who Loved Me and Live And Let Die, also beginning at 7:30. Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia author Steven Jay Rubin (who also hosted the Aero's 2007 Bond event) will be on hand to introduce both Connery nights. Visit the Aero's website for full details and advance ticket sales.

The Cinematheque's superb Hollywood theater, the Egyptian, will host a rival spy night on Saturday, May 2, with Patrick McGoohan in Ice Station Zebra.
OSS 117 Threequel News

If there's a third OSS 117 movie (in the modern parody series, I mean), it looks like it will follow the lead of the third Austin Powers movie and be set in the Seventies. It's not a decade widely thought of for spying, and indeed the original cycle of OSS 117 movies only made it as far as 1970 theatrically (and then under the auspices of a different producer) before being relegated to TV for a pilot that was aired only once and didn't lead to a series. Of course, Roger Moore might disagree; the Seventies were his heyday as Agent 007, and indeed the decade produced one of the series' best films, The Spy Who Loved Me.

OSS 117 star Jean Dujardin said in an interview with French magazine Cine-Live that a third film, should there be one, would take place in Africa and would find OSS 117 being assisted by a beautiful, twenty-three year old black woman. Furthermore, he promised it would continue to push boundaries. "I would really like to do a third one - and the last - with a growing old OSS, carrying a signet ring and wearing half-moon glasses. The film would be set at the end of the Seventies, under Giscard and Bokassa." (Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was President of France from 1974-81 and for much of that time his administration was in bed with the Bokassa regime in the Central African Republic, although France ultimately backed Bokassa's ouster. Bokassa himself is a fascinating figure who declared himself first Emperor and later, apparently, the 13th Apostle.)

Last weekend director Michel Hazanavicius confirmed this in a Q&A following a Los Angeles screening of his newest film. "If there's a third one," he said, "I think it would be set in the late Seventies in Black Africa." The object would be to send up the hero's racist attitudes about black people in the same way the first movie addressed his views on Muslims and the second his casual anti-Semitism. (Jean Bruce's paperback hero, by the way, made several trips to Africa.)

While the purist in me would rather see OSS 117 remain forever in the Fifties/Sixties Golden Age of Spying, I could actually see the early Seventies working quite well as a setting. I can picture Dujardin decked out in Roger Moore's safari suits or the cravats and turtlenecks espoused by The Persuaders!, Mister Jerico and the Mission: Impossible team of that decade. Fashion-wise, it's a good period to parody. But the late Seventies seem less fertile, less original in that respect. Leisure suits and disco? I feel like that's been done. Still, this creative team has already struck gold twice in this series, and I have no reason to doubt they can do it again, no matter what decade they choose to send up. Furthermore, the Giscard/Bokassa scandals do seem like ripe territory to mine. I'd gladly put down money right now to see Dujardin's French secret agent in any decade. Because no matter what era he's operating in, we know that his own wolrd view is sure to remain rooted in outdated postwar values, and therein lies the comedy.

May 1, 2009

Young Bond Companion Book Release Moved Up

The Young Bond Dossier (the website, that is, not the book) has some more information on the previously reported upcoming companion volume to Charlie Higson's Young Bond novels. The site reports that the release date for Danger Society: The Young Bond Dossier has been moved up from late November to October 29. (This is a UK release date, of course; as with all the Young Bond books, a US release is probably still years away, after the entire series of books has been published.) Furthermore, YBD touts the companion's brand new Bond short story by Higson as "the longest James Bond short story yet written, surpassing the previous record holder, 'For Your Eyes Only' by Ian Fleming." The title of the story is still being kept under wraps, but a preview of it will appear in next month's UK paperback release of Higson's fifth and (for now) final Bond book, By Royal Command. The high-res cover artwork comes courtesy of YBD.