Oct 31, 2010

Repost: Seductive Espionage

One of the things I'm doing as part of this week-long blogiversary celebration is to spotlight some older posts that have slipped into the ether.  You can always explore months gone by in the Archives section on the right, but I'm aware that the Blogger format is slightly deficient in the convenience of carrying out such archaeological expeditions.  I'm working on that, but whenever I have time to spend on the blog content always trumps format and I'd rather spend that time writing a new post.  I do intend to fix that problem in the future, but for now I'll address it be re-posting certain posts that I want to showcase.  First up in this series is a review I wrote last year for an amazing art book about a series of Japanese spy movies from the Sixties that never actually existed.  Had I ever gotten around to doing a year end Best Of list in 2009, this surely would have been my top book pick.  It's a book I love dipping back into, and I could easily enjoy many more volumes of this.  Enough introduction.  Here's the original post–or at least the first half of it.  Click the link at the end to read the whole thing.

Book Review: Seductive Espionage: The World of Yuki 7 By Kevin Dart And Ada Cole

If you consider yourself a fan of Sixties spy pop culture, then you need this book!

When I first posted the link to Stephane Coedel’s fantastic animated trailer for Kevin Dart’s fictional Sixties spy heroine Yuki 7, I commented that I was dying to see the movie and that it was frustrating that A Kiss From Tokyo didn’t actually exist. Now I’ve read the book, Seductive Espionage: The World of Yuki 7, written by Ada Cole, based on Dart’s creation and overflowing with his amazing illustrations (as well as contributions from others), and as much as I’d like to see those Yuki 7 movies, it simply doesn’t matter that they don’t exist. It doesn’t matter because Dart and Cole have captured the essence of the Sixties spy genre, everything I love about it, and packed it into this book–not just a beautiful art book, but a thorough history of a series of movies that never was.

Often, the movies themselves almost feel like afterthoughts. Sometimes the poster captures the true essence of the Sixties spy genre better than the movie ever could. Take, for example, the majority of Eurospy posters. I love them. I collect them. I decorate my walls with them and I stuff the ones that won’t fit into tubes and sleeves and portfolios that litter my apartment. They’re all dripping with the best elements of James Bond: exotic locations and impeccable fashions, heroic leading men and sultry, sexy, frequently bikini-clad women clutching guns or–better still–spearguns, fast, exotic sports cars, helicopters, airplanes and even more exotic forms of transportation, amazing gadgets, exciting action and explosions galore. On paper, every movie is equal, regardless of the budget. How exciting a movie looks is limited only by the artist’s imagination, and the guys who created these posters had pretty good imaginations.

I’m looking right now at my very favorite poster in my collection, the German one-sheet for Deadlier Than the Male (or Tödliche Katzen), which hangs in my living room. Besides the gorgeous Elke Sommer, who can’t really be improved upon, there’s a man diving forward at me, out of the poster, clutching a gun. He doesn’t really look like Richard Johnson, but his pose is dynamic. There’s a man getting shot by some thugs in a car–not a scene that actually happens in the movie, but an exciting poster image. And there’s an exploding yacht and a flaming jetliner plummeting towards Earth. Those things do happen in the film (more or less), but in much less spectacular fashions. There’s a frame where a model of a jetliner suddenly stops being a model of a jetliner and is instead a modest detonation, and later on there’s a bomb that goes off, off screen, near a large-ish boat. On film, those incidents are limited by the production’s budget–but not on the poster. I love the film–love it!–but I might just love the poster even more. It’s like the director’s cut: what Ralf Thomas would have done if he’d had Broccoli and Saltzman money to work with.

Another German poster I love is the one for Lightning Bolt. After first seeing the image in The Eurospy Guide (whose caption points out the unmissable and nearly unbelievable phallic imagery of the swimsuit-clad girl perched atop the hero’s giant gun), I purchased the poster long before I’d ever seen the movie. Once again, there are explosions. There’s even a rocket launching! The poster played its own movie for me, and it was one I loved. When I finally saw the film Lightning Bolt, it certainly didn’t let me down. (I quite enjoyed it, in fact.) But it also didn’t live up to that poster image. How could it? While the second half of the film really made the most of its limited budget, the first half showcased mainly plywood sets and those ubiquitous Eurospy walls made of curtains. (There are no curtains on the poster.) The rocket launch, naturally, was a piece of grainy stock footage rather carelessly inserted into the proceedings. There are other Eurospy posters that I’ve bought and still haven’t gotten to see the movies of, but that doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the poster images. I sincerely doubt that Password: Kill Agent Gordon can possibly live up to the incredible one-sheet (though I’d dearly love to see it try!), and while the authors of The Eurospy Guide are fairly dismissive of Goldsnake, that didn’t stop them from using its iconic poster artwork as the cover to their book–or stop me from buying the poster! It won’t stop me from watching the film, either, whenever I finally get the chance. But for now, the poster tells its own story. Segretissimo is a poster I haven’t been able to get my hands on yet, but from the tiny, tantalizing jpegs that I have seen, I want to acquire the poster just as much as I want to see the film!

My point is that it’s possible to capture everything wonderful about Sixties spy movies in two-dimensional images, and that’s exactly what Kevin Dart has done in Seductive Espionage. The spy posters he’s created–French, Japanese and UK Quads–painstakingly capture the spirit of the Sixties spy phenomenon. Dart’s ultra-cool style, laden with jittery brush strokes and ragged line work, isn’t an approximation of famous Sixties poster artists like Robert McGinnis or Frank McCarthy, but each layout might well have been for a real movie poster, and Dart perfectly captures the nuances that differentiate the advertising from each of those different countries. He’s created an ideal synthesis of actual Sixties movie poster styles and his own style.

Click here to read the entire review and see more images from the book.
Upcoming Spy Screenings: Pierce Brosnan In Person In Los Angeles

The Aero Theatre in Santa Monica hosted George Lazenby last month; next month they will play host to another James Bond: Pierce Brosnan.  Brosnan will appear in person to conduct a Q&A between screenings of his two best post-007 films on November 20.  The Ghost Writer (review here) screens at 7:30 followed by Brosnan's Q&A and then a screening of The Matador.  The American Cinematheque, who runs the theater, bills the event as "an in person tribute that includes two of Brosnan's finest performances," and they're certainly not wrong.  Picking his top two, however, I personally would have substituted John Boorman's The Tailor of Panama for Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer, but since the event is probably intended to raise Brosnan's profile with Academy voters for well-deserved Best Supporting Actor consideration for this year's The Ghost Writer, that wouldn't make a lot of sense.  It should be a great night nonetheless. Tickets should be available soon through Fandango if they're not already.

Oct 30, 2010

The Double O Section Is Four Years Old Today

I can't believe I've been doing this for four years.  That's like college!  It's a long time.  And I think 4 might equal 80 or so in Blog Years.  So it seems appropriate to celebrate–and possibly even to celebrate all week long.  To do so, and to thank all the readers who continue to peruse the Double O Section in record numbers, I'll be running a number of contests throughout the week.  Some of them will run for the whole week, as usual, and others will have shorter durations. There might even be some lightning prizes of the "first person to email me" variety rather than the regular random selection.  So check back frequently for the best opportunity to win some really cool books, DVDs and Blu-rays featuring your favorite superspies like James Bond, Jim Phelps and Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, among others!  I'll be interspersing these contests amidst reposts of some of my favorite posts from the past four years that more recent readers might have missed (mostly reviews and not news, as the latter has a tendency to date rather quickly) and, if all goes according to plan, lots of new content as well.  It's going to be a good week on the Double O Section!  Just like it's been a good four years.  Thanks for reading.  Be seeing you!

Oct 29, 2010

Bargain Alert: Network Halloween DVD Sale This Weekend

UK DVD company Network (a name well known to spy fans) is having a Halloween sale this weekend.  (At least I think it's a Halloween sale... but it's couched in what appear to be British sitcom references that go way over the head of this American.) They bill this as their last sale of 2010, so don't expect another one before Christmas.  (However, I'd be willing to bet we'll see their annual winter sale at the end of January.)  It's a good sale: 35% off the already discounted prices on pretty much their entire inventory, excluding pre-orders and recent releases.  (The fine print also gives Network the right to exclude whatever they feel like excluding, but that doesn't seem to be very much as far as I can tell.)  For American spy fans with multi-region DVD players, be aware that the company's usual overseas shipping caveat applies with a hefty £40 surcharge on orders over a certain weight.  But if recent sales are any indication, this is easily avoidable by ordering your items seperately.  If you want to get a huge set, it might kick in though. 

Network has churned out a steady flow of amazing spy releases over the summer. This is a great opportunity to pick up many of those DVDs and soundtrack CDs cheaply.  Some to consider (although I haven't checked all of these to see if any might be excluded): The Saint: Original Soundtrack (review here), The Zoo Gang: Original Soundtrack (review here), Codename: Kyril (review here), The Corridor People: The Complete Series (review here), Saracen: The Complete Series (review here), The Four Just MenMr Palfrey of Westminster, The Protectors: The Complete Series, The Prisoner: The Ultimate Set or any of Network's many other spy DVDs or impressive ITC series soundtracks. International buyers, please be aware that all of Network's DVDs are PAL Region 2 releases, and you need a multi-region player (or at least a computer equipped with the free software VLC Player) to watch them.

The sale runs through midnight (GMT, presumably) on Sunday.

Oct 28, 2010

Your Mission: Ghost Protocol! 

Do those words make any sense to you?  Probably not, but that's kind of how it should be.  The new Mission: Impossible movie finally has a title, and, as we've been expecting, it is not Mission: Impossible 4.  Fortunately, though, it does feature the brand name.  There had been talk of dropping the M:I from the title altogether, citing The Dark Knight as precedent.  That would have been stupid.  And, since the film series has long since eschewed all other facets of the TV show on which its based, it also would have meant that Paramount was essentially paying what I assume are huge royalties for nothing more than a piece of music.  An awesome piece of music, to be sure, but that's all.  Anyway, that's not happening, so all that editorializing is moot.  Paramount execs have evidently come to their senses and realized that when you're trying to extend a brand, the brand name is important.  So the next title, officially (as reported by both The Vulture and Deadline) is Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol.  Yes, that's apparently how the punctuation officially shakes out right now, which is weird.  It needs something between "Impossible" and "Ghost," unless it's actually about Impossible Ghosts and their protocols, which I doubt.  A dash, maybe?  As in M:I-2?  Hopefully that will happen.  But colons aside, it's not a bad spy title.  As my friend who pointed me to this news pointed out, it has that generic nonsense word combination that rings of Ludlum, which is all good for this sort of thing.  Kind of generic, but not bad....

Oct 27, 2010

Tradecraft: Knight And Day Vindicated

After being branded such a flop that it warranted a radical rethinking for the new Mission: Impossible movie (the positive upshot of which is that we might finally end up with more of a team movie instead of a star vehicle!), it turns out (as I've contended before) that the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz spy parody Knight and Day (review here) didn't do so badly after all.  In a Deadline story about another, unrelated Cruise project, Mike Fleming reports:
[It's] worth nothing that by the time Knight and Day completes its run in Japan, the film will wind up grossing better than $264 million worldwide. Because the picture did only around $69 million domestic, Cruise and Cameron Diaz got a pretty good drubbing. But the number is comparable to films like the Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups, which was considered a summer hit. That film had a strong opening weekend and did most of its business domestic, but  Knight and Day did better overseas. That overseas launch came later because of the World Cup.
Good to set the record straight, anyway. As previously reportedKnight and Day (which was a lot of fun!) comes out on DVD and Blu-ray on November 30.

Oct 26, 2010

New Spy DVDs Out This Week

The biggest spy release this week comes from across the pond–and concerns my favorite of all spy shows.  Optimum's latest digitally remastered (and they mean that legitimately, not just in a low-budget, "hey, it's on DVD, isn't it?" kind of way) special edition Avengers set, The Avengers: The Complete Series Five, hits UK shelves as a 7-disc PAL Region 2 DVD set.  Don't be deceived by the cheap-looking cover art. These releases are amazing! Not only the remastering (which is top-notch; see some screen comparisons at The Avengers Declassified), but also the plethora of amazing special features.  This set comprises the color Diana Rigg season, which is probably the best gateway era for new fans.  Overall I'd say the earlier black and white Riggs are my very favorite period, but the psychedelic late-Sixties colors really make Series 5 pop.

Among the many, many extras included here are multiple audio commentaries, episode introductions, cut scenes, archival television presentations, and more. Brian Clemens contributes a commentary track for "Murdersville," as does scriptwriter Richard Harris on "The Winged Avenger." Diana Rigg sadly doesn't do a commentary, but her stunt double, Cyd Child, does, on "Return of The Cybernauts." And possibly best of all, we get a commentary from scene-stealing guest star Peter Wyngarde on his greatest, most scenery-chewsing Avengers role in the classic episode, "Epic," one of my personal favorites! But that's not all... Clemens provides filmed episode introductions to "The Bird Who Knew Too Much," "The Living Dead," "Epic," "The Correct Way To Kill," "The Superlative Seven," (love those two!), "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Station," "The Joker" (oh, another favorite!) and "Murdersville." There's also a German TV interview with Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg, ATV newsreel footage of Rigg receiving a TV Award, "film trims" (short cut bits) from "The Fear Merchants," "Escape in Time," "From Venus With Love" and "The See-Through Man," a "They're Back!" archive trailer, original Sixties German titles, "Granada Plus Points" for each episode (previously released as "Follow the Hat" on the old UK Contender DVDs), stills galleries, copious PDF material (scripts, TV Times, etc.), an insert reprint of the original Series 5 promotional brochure, more painstaking "episode reconstructions" for lost Series 1 episodes ("One For The Mortuary," "Death on The Slipway," "Tunnel of Fear" and "Dragonsfield") and the 1993 documentary presented by Patrick Macnee, "The Avengers – A Retrospective." Whew!  The Avengers: The Complete Series 5 retails for £59.99 but is available from Amazon.co.uk for £42.99 right now.

Stateside, Music Box Films (who have released the two excellent recent OSS 117 films on DVD) bring us the Swedish thriller The Girl Who Played With Fire, second in the film series based on Stieg Larsson's "Milennium Trilogy" of novels, on both DVD and Blu-ray. The first movie, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (like the book it was based on), was a dark mystery thriller involving an unsolved decades-old disappearance and a serial killer. The second one follows the same main characters, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist, who will appear in the next Mission: Impossible movie) and Lisbeth Salander (the excellent Noomi Rapace) as they're plunged–unexpectedly–into a Ludlum-esque conspiracy thriller involving the Swedish Intelligence Service and a Cold War-era Soviet defector.  I haven't seen this film yet, but like most of the world, I loved the book, so I'm looking forward to it.  The movies are of course being remade in English with Daniel Craig playing Blomkvist.  The third novel is a full-on spy thriller, so its American film will probably mark Craig's first foray into the genre outside of the 007 series since becoming the most famous spy of all.  I have no doubt that Craig will be great and look forward to David Fincher's take on the first book, but see these Swedish films first. 

Finally, VCI Entertainment brings us an obscure early Cold War thriller, Four in a Jeep.  This is another one I haven't seen, but it sounds pretty cool.  Set in post-war Vienna, when the city was occupied by the Americans, the British, the French and the Russians, Four in a Jeep follows a police patrol comprised of one sergeant from each nationality as they undertake a mission to capture a prisoner recently escaped from a Soviet POW camp.  Cold War tensions quickly heat up as the policemen disagree about how to handle the situation.  Ralf Meeker stars.
Tradecraft: Shawn Ryan Tackles Tom Clancy

Well, not literally, although that would be kind of fun to see. Trade blog The Vulture reports that Paramount has hired the mastermind behind what for my money was the best cop show ever to adapt Tom Clancy's 1994 novel Without Remorse. The Shield creator Shawn Ryan is the latest writer to take a stab at a movie the studio has wanted to make pretty much ever since the book was published.  (Am I crazy, or was a post-Forrest Gump, pre-TV Gary Sinese attached at one point?) Without Remorse follows Jack Ryan's "dark side" Mr. Clark (aka John Kelly) in his formative years during the Vietnam War on both a covert mission and a personal vendetta.  According to the blog, though, "there's no definitive plan to make the film a period piece."  I guess that would make sense, if the studio wants Clark to remain a contemporary of their new Jack Ryan, played by Chris Pine in Jack Bender's upcoming movie, but I think it could be really cool as a gritty 70s-set action movie.  Willem Dafoe played Mr. Clark in Clear and Present Danger (starring Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan) and Liev Schreiber played him opposite Ben Affleck's Ryan in The Sum of All Fears.

Oct 24, 2010

Tradecraft: CW Picks Up Nikita For A Whole Season

I guess that controversial ad campaign worked. Deadline reports that the CW has given a full season order for its freshman spy show Nikita, the second TV incarnation of Luc Besson's classic female assassin character.  Nikita is apparently the second-highest rated show on the CW (which is sort of like being the second tallest person in Liechtenstein), but that doesn't stop the network from wanting to tinker with it.  Deadline reported last week that Noah Bean (Damages) has joined the cast as a recurring character, handsome and flirty CIA case officer Ryan Fletcher, a potential romantic interest for Nikita (Maggie Q).  EW's Michael Ausiello warned that this would happen earlier in the month, saying the network wanted to tone down the show's somber mood and "jack up its title character's love life."  These changes come, according to Ausiello, because despite the show's good ratings, there's high attrition among the CW's core audience: females 18-34.  It's hoped that adding some new characters, including another potential love interest, will fix that.  Actually, it might not be a bad idea, because from what I've seen, Maggie Q isn't generating much chemistry with Shane West.

Oct 23, 2010

Russian Spy Blows Her Cover... Again

Who didn't see this coming?  Months after being exposed by the FBI as a member of a cell of Russian sleeper spies and being subsequently deported from the United States, tabloid sensation Anna Chapman is on the cover of the Russian edition of men's magazine Maxim.  And, naturally, she's in a provocative Bond Girl pose (albeit a freakishly Photoshopped one), complete with pistol.  The title of the layout/interview is, unsurprisingly, "For Your Eyes Only."  Read more at The Washington Post.

Oct 22, 2010

Tradecraft: 24 Veteran Developing Pinkerton Series

Deadline reports that 24 co-creator Bob Cochran is concocting an 8-10 episode limited series for STARZ about Allan Pinkerton.  Pinkerton, of course, is famous for starting America's first and biggest detective agency, which would go on to employ Dashiell Hammett, who would base his Continental Op character on Pinkerton men he worked with.  So what does that have to do with spies?  Well, apparently, Pinkerton was also Abraham Lincoln's spymaster, heading up the Union Intelligence Service (precursor to the Secret Service) during the American Civil War.  (I never knew that!)  Those years will feature prominently in the STARZ series, including a true occasion on which he saved Lincoln from an early assassination attempt.  (Unfortunately he was no longer in charge of the President's security years later when John Wilkes Booth succeeded where the former assassin had failed.)  Furthermore, Pinkerton was also involved in the Underground Railroad.  Sounds like fascinating stuff!  This could be a great miniseries (or series; the trade blog reports that Cochran is leaving the door open for a second series), potentially combining the mystery/detective genre with spies and Westerns and even historical dramas.  Gerard Butler, who, like Pinkerton, is Scottish, is also involved as a producer–but only as a producer at this time.  However, I find it hard to believe he's not at least considering starring as well... 
Then We Take Berlin: Another Liam Neeson Neo-Eurospy Movie!

Actually, I can't really tell from the trailer if the conspiracy in Unknown turns out to have spy overtones or not, but it definitely looks likely.  Either way, this Dark Castle film is clearly capitalizing on Neeson's success in the EuropaCorp neo-Eurospy hit Taken (review here), and after that I'm definitely game to follow the actor back to Europe as he tears up another city–this time, Berlin! (Is he going to threaten to tear down the Reichstag if he has to?) Blondes Diane Kruger and January Jones are the latest Eurospy babes, and Frank Langella rounds out the cast–presumably as a baddie. I'm pretty sure this is the film we heard about earlier that's co-written by John Le Carré's son, although then it was called Unknown White MaleCheck it out:

Oct 21, 2010

Archer DVD Art Mimicks Bond

A few weeks ago Fox announced Archer: The Complete Season One on DVD (along with a host of cool special features), and I expressed hope that they would use the promotional art inspired by Robert McGinniss' Live and Let Die poster for the cover.  Good news: they did!  TVShowsOnDVD posted the image yesterday.  How awesome is that?  It really nails what I love about this show: crisp, striking animation and design that draws from 007 in the Sixties through the Eighties.  The half-hour animated comedy takes place more or less today, but in a world of perpetual Cold War, allowing the creative team to pick and choose their favorite design elements, costumes and vehicles from various eras.  Be warned, though: as pretty as this FX show is to look at, it's an extremely raunchy comedy and definitely not to all tastes.  Personally, though, I love it.

Oct 20, 2010

Special Features Announced For Final Avengers Season On DVD

The ever-reliable Avengers Declassified has once again scored the list of special features on Optimum's latest remastered Special Edition Region 2 Avengers DVD set.  According to the site, the extensive extras on The Avengers: The Complete Series 6 (comprising all the Linda Thorson episodes) will include audio commentaries on "Split!" with the recently late director Roy Ward Baker and writer/producer Brian Clemens, on "Love All" with scriptwriter Jeremy Burnham and guest star Veronica Strong, on "Killer" with guest star Jennifer Croxton, on "The Morning After" with director John Hough on "Game" (one of my favorite Tara King episodes) with director Robert Fuest and on "Noon Doomsday" with Linda Thorson's stunt double, Cyd Child. Linda Thorson provides filmed introductions for "The Interrogators" (guest starring Christopher Lee), "Love All," "Take Me To Your Leader," "Thingumajig," "Requiem" and the dreamlike "Pandora." Also included will be the Linda Thorson promotional films "Girl About Town" and "Introducing Linda Thorson" (don't think I've ever seen that one), the American shooting gallery opening credits on "Split!" and American end credits for "Invasion of The Earthmen" (never seen those, either!), variant end credits for "The Forget-Me-Knot" (the final Emma Peel episodes wherein Diana Rigg passed the torch to Thorson), a filmed introduction to "Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?" by director Cyril Frankel, UK animated bumpers, textless extended closing credits, German opening and closing credits and (this one sounds particularly intriguing) "Artists' test footage to find the replacement for Diana Rigg - featuring Lyn Ashley, Diane Clare, Susan Engel, Jane Murdoch, Valerie Van Ost, Toby Robins, Susan Travers and Wanda Ventham plus James Maxwell and Moray Watson in the role of Steed." The usual stills galleries, PDF material (don't overlook this stuff, as previous editions have included some real gems) and first season episode reconstructions (for "The Springers," "The Yellow Needle," "The Far-Distant Dead" and "The Deadly Air") round out the set, along with an insert reprint of the original Series 6 promotional brochure.  As you can see, this is yet another Optimum release chalk-full of extras!

The Avengers: The Complete Series 6, a Region 2 PAL DVD set, comes out December 6 in the UK and retails for £59.99 (though it can currently be pre-ordered on Amazon.co.uk for £42.99).  Series 5, featuring the color Emma Peel episodes, comes out next week.
Tradecraft: NBC Gives Chuck Full-Season Pickup, Orders More Undercovers Scripts

Chuck fans have long learned to live always on edge, wondering when the axe might drop on their favorite series and they might have to spring into action and eat a lot of Subway sandwiches or organize rallies and letter writing campaigns to save their show.  Well, now they can rest easy!  (Until May anyway, when we have to worry about renewal for another season.)  Deadline reports that the network has given the series a full season order for this year. After an initial 13 episode order for Season 4, NBC has now given the greenlight to an additional 11 for a complete 24-episode season.  Meanwhile, the network has also commissioned four additional scripts for J.J. Abrams' Undercovers despite that show's unimpressive ratings.  Hopefully those scripts will make it to production.  And hopefully they mark some of those improvements I wished for in my review of the pilot.  I'm still enjoying the series, but it could really stand a little bit of character development. 
Tradecraft: HBO Develops Cold War Spy Drama

Now this is what I've been waiting for!  With period dramas all the rage on cable, like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, I keep hoping we'll see a taut, serious, Le Carre-esque Cold War-era spy series pop up on one of the cable nets.  And now comes word from Deadline that HBO is developing just such a show!  The trade blog reports that Boardwalk Empire executive producers Stephen Levinson and Mark Wahlberg, New Yorker writer/best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and film/TV writer Charles Randolph (The Interpreter) have concocted a spy show for the channel. "Set in Cold War Berlin, the untitled project, to be written by Randolph, centers on a missionary who becomes involved in the CIA." Well, that's not too much info, but the setting alone is enough to have me highly excited for this project.  I hope it goes to series! 

Oct 19, 2010

Tradecraft: Terry George Rewrites Safe House

Deadline reports that Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda screenwriter Terry George (who most recently worked on the Michael Mann/David Milch HBO horse racing drama Luck with Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte) will rewrite David Guggenheim's script (which sold as a debut spec for an impressive amount last spring) for director Daniel Espinosa.  As previously covered (a lot, it feels like), the CIA thriller teams Denzel Washington with Ryan Reynolds.  Wouldn't it be cooler if it teamed Denzel Washington with Burt Reynolds?  Yes, it would.  Rewrite that, Terry George!
Today's Mission: Impossible 4 Picture: First Glimpse Of Jeremy Renner

Slowly but surely we're getting a look at each of the impressive cast members in Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible 4Yesterday we saw Josh Holloway, and today, courtesy of AceShowBiz (via Dark Horizons), we get our first glimpse (and it really is just a glimpse) of Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner alongside returning secret agent Tom Cruise.  And they're up to their necks in trouble... er, water.  Brrr! Looks cold.  See more at AceShowBiz.

Oct 18, 2010

Eurospy Box Set Coming From Dorado Includes Electra One

After nearly a year's silence, Eurospy DVD distributor Dorado is back in action! DVD Sleuth sounds the alert that the company has announced a Eurospy box set called How Europe Does Babes, Bombs and Guns. It will include previous Dorado Eurospy releases Mission Bloody Mary (1965), From the Orient With Fury (1965) and the great, great Special Mission Lady Chaplin (1967)... as well as a rare, never-before-available title, Electra One (1967). That's great news for relatively new fans of the genre who don't already own the three Ken Clark movies (the last of which co-stars Bond Girl Daniella Bianchi), but not as good for seasoned Eurospy buffs who probably already bought them.  However, it's not nearly as bad as it could be, because the box set will retail for just $24.95, which is only about five bucks more than you'd probably pay for the one movie on its own. At any rate, there will be no time to dither because the set is strictly limited to just 250 copies, so you'll have to act fast.  As to when you should act fast, well, that's kind of nebulous at the moment.  Dorado hasn't announced the street date ("coming soon"), and their fans have long learned to wait very patiently for their releases.  (Hopefully this new activity means that the long wait is almost over for their previously announced Fantastic Argoman DVD, though!)

Unlike the three "077" movies, however, Electra One (listed in The Eurospy Guide as "Elektra 1") will not be widescreen.  It's a 4:3 full-frame release.  Electra One follows a suave cat burglar known as "the Lynx" (George Martin - not the Beatles producer) who becomes embroiled in one of those plots to sell a designer freak-out drug to the Chinese while staying one step ahead of the CIA and the KGB.  Rosalba Neri and Vivi Bach co-star. 

Go here to read about all Eurospy titles currently available on DVD in Region 1.
Upcoming Spy(ish) DVDs: Edward Woodward In Whodunnit?

It's not "Wet Job," but it's a Callan reunion of sorts in Whodunnit?, a unique panel gameshow from the Seventies hosted by Edward Woodward on which Russell Hunter (Lonely on Callan) is one of the guests.  And it's coming to Region 2 DVD this fall from NetworkWhodunnit? challenged celebrity contestants to solve a fictional murder mystery.  I'm not familiar with the show myself, but UK readers who were around in the Seventies probably remember it.  Here's Network's description: "The show’s brilliantly original formula, devised by comedians Lance Percival and Jeremy Lloyd (and revived in the 1990s for Cluedo), presented short dramas laden with clues to be pieced together by the panellists, who would then question the characters involved and finally point the finger at the most likely suspect; lively repartee was the order of the day." Other guests appearing on the first season (which is what you get, along with the pilot, on this 2-disc set) include James Bond author Kingsley Amis and real-life private eye Anne Summer.  The PAL Region 2 DVD comes out on November 29 and retails for £19.99, though it will be available from Network's website discounted to just £11.99.
First Pictures Of Josh Holloway In Mission: Impossible 4

Fanpop (via Dark Horizons) has the first images of Lost star Josh Holloway in his new role as Impossible Missions Forces agent in Brad Bird's Mission: Impossible 4.  Of course, we already know it's not necessarily going to be called Mission: Impossible 4, and AICN has some of the supposed alternatives, all of which sound pretty dumb and require too many colons.  But apparently M:I-4 is still in contention, and that's probably the smartest way to go.

When I heard there were pictures of Holloway on set, I was hoping he'd be doing something cool and spyish like dangling (as we saw Tom Cruise doing a few weeks ago) or pulling off a mask or at least clutching a gun.  But he actually manages to look cool–and even spyish–just standing there.  Especially since his cold weather clothes are such a contrast to the island wear Lost fans are used to seeing him in.  And I see he has the regulation IMF haircut: floppy. 
Upcoming Spy DVDs: Man In A Suitcase Arrives In America!

Early next year, Acorn Media will release one of the crucial Sixties ITC spy series hertofore absent from U.S. shelves: Man in a Suitcase, starring Richard Bradford. Bradford plays McGill, a disgraced former CIA agent now exiled to Europe where he sells his services as a detective, bounty hunter and freelance spy–albeit one with a strict moral code.  The series has a harder edge than most ITC adventure shows like The Saint and The Champions, though it does feel like a logical follow-up to Danger Man, for which it was envisioned as a replacement when Patrick McGoohan quit to make The Prisoner instead.  Despite the darker tone, lots of regular ITC faces show up as guest stars including Stuart Damon, Donald Sutherland and Bernard Lee, as well as Hammer beauty Barbara Shelley. 

Man in a Suitcase lasted one thirty-episode season and also spawned one of those "movies" made by editing a two-parter together for theatrical release in Europe, To Chase A Million. I think the film (or at least its titles and any original bridging material) was included on Network's Region 2 release, but we have no word yet on whether that or the interview with Richard Bradford (or any of Umbrella's Region 4 extras) will be ported over to the Region 1 set.  In fact, we don't even know price, date or configuration.  It seems likely that Acorn will divide the series into at least two sets given their previous releases.  All we know is that the first(?) release will occur in early 2011, and we should have more details soon. 

Man in a Suitcase also boasts an awesome soundtrack by Albert Elms and Ron Grainer, and it's one of Network's best ITC soundtrack releases to date. Highly recommended!
Upcoming Spy DVDs: Knight and Day & Salt

This summer's two big Hollywood spy movies have both been scheduled for DVD releases in time for the holidays.  Fox Home Entertainment has announced that the highly entertaining Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz spy spoof Knight and Day (review here) will be released in several configurations on November 30: a single-disc DVD, a 3-Disc DVD/Blu-ray Combo Pack with Digital Copy, and a "limited time Holiday Gift Set," which seems to be the same as the Combo Pack, but without the stupid digital copy. If you ask me, that makes it the version to buy. (I really hate those digital copies and everything they represent. Movies are not meant to be watched on tiny cell phone screens!) Special features on all three versions include the featurettes "Wilder Knights and Crazier Days" and "Knight and 'Someday': Featuring the Black Eyed Peas and Tom Cruise" (which sounds downright apocolyptic to me), the viral videos "Soccer" and "Kick" and the theatrical trailer.  The Blu-ray configurations will include all that plus the BD-Live Extras "What’s New, "Live LookUp," "Exclusive: Not Your Regular Spy" and "Highlight: Excerpt from Wilder Knights and Crazier Days." (No, I'm not quite sure what the advantage is of having an excerpt from a featurette also included in its entirety, but there you have it.)  SRP is $39.99 for the 3-disc Combo Pack, $34.98 for the limited Holiday Gift Set and $29.98 for the DVD, but of course all three will be findable much more cheaply, and indeed are available for pre-order more cheaply on Amazon and other sites. I wish they'd had the courage to stick with the film's really cool theatrical poster design for the cover, but given its poor box office reception it was probably a good idea to switch to a more traditional show-the-stars'-faces look. And as far as star face DVD covers go, this one's actually not bad.

Knight and Day isn't the only big spy movie coming out in time for the holidays.  DVD Active reports that Salt will be out one week later from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in an equally baffling assortment of configurations.  Phillip Noyce's Angelina Jolie spy thriller (review here) will be available December 7 (although there's some discrepency on that street date) in rated DVD, unrated DVD and unrated Blu-ray versions. According to the site, there will be no special features on the rated DVD, but the various unrated versions will include a filmmakers' commentary, an unrated filmmakers' commentary, an unrated extended filmmakers' commentary (Huh? I'm guessing these multiple commentaries indicate that multiple cuts of the film will be included on the discs, and not just the unrated one...), the featurettes "The Ultimate Female Action Hero" and "Spy Disguise: The Looks of Evelyn Salt," and Phillip Noyce's interview from the NPR radio series "The Treatment." (I caught this when it first aired, and it was a really good interview wherein Noyce spent a lot of time discussing his fascination with spies and why he keeps returning to espionage themes in his movies.)

The Blu-ray release will also offer a "Spy Cam: Picture-in-Picture" function and several additional, spy-centric featurettes: "The Real Agents," "The Modern Master of the Political Thriller: Phillip Noyce" and "False Identity: Creating A New Reality." SRP is $28.96 for the theatrical cut and unrated cut on DVD, and $34.95 for the unrated Blu-ray; obviously all can be found for considerably less. 

Oct 12, 2010

New Spy Books Out This Week: John Le Carré's Our Kind of Traitor

I've been seriously lacking in my coverage of spy novels lately (particularly in failing to cover the UK release of Jeremy Duns' new novel, Free Country after such a stellar debut; I'll be rectifying that soon), but I have to mention when the foremost living practioner of the genre releases a new book. John Le Carré latest novel, Our Kind of Traitor, hits American shelves today. (It came out in Britain a few weeks ago.) Our Kind of Traitor tells the story of a vacationing couple caught up in a global war of wits between an murderous Russian gangster/arms dealer and various unscrupulous factions within the British Secret Service.  As previously reported, a film version is already in the works. 

October is a huge month for spy novels in the US.  On the 26th, Greg Rucka's eagerly anticipated new Queen & Country novel, The Last Run, will be released, and the same day sees (at last!) the long-awaited American publication of Jon Stock's Dead Spy Running.

Our Kind of Traitor, published by Viking, retails for $27.95 but can currently be had for the bargain price of $14.98 from Amazon.
New Spy DVDs Out This Week: Dollhouse

It's rather slim pickings for spy DVDs this week.  The only contender, Dollhouse: Season 2, isn't even a straight-up spy show, but a spy/sci-fi blend from Joss Whedon–and not even one of Whedon's best shows.  But it does star a smoking hot spy girl in the person of Eliza Dushku, pictured on the cover in a pretty classic spy pose!  The studio's copy sums up the show's premise fairly succinctly:
Joss Whedon’s take on the ultimate identity theft follows a cast of Actives, or Dolls, who serve as agents of Dollhouse, an illegal underground organization providing elite clientele with programmable human beings. Personality imprints allow Actives to temporarily become anyone or anything—the perfect burglar, lover, spy or assassin. When the mission is completed, memories are wiped clean.
Of course, since these Dolls can assume any identity, they're a lot more than just spies.  But the premise clearly lends itself well to a spy story (just check out The CW's take on Nikita, which rather shamelessly swipes the premise and simplifies it by paring it down to the two most interesting possibilities: spy and assasin), and the best episodes tend to be the espionage-themed ones.  (The "lover" category basically amounts to prostitution, so those episodes are actually kind of creepy.)  Besides all thirteen episodes, the Fox DVD and Blu-ray sets include a retrospective with Joss Whedon, a cast roundtable about the series, a gag reel and deleted scenes. There's also an exclusive, limited-edition Dollhouse comic book from Dark Horse, only available in this set.  Dollhouse: Season 2 retails for $49.98 on DVD and $59.99 on Blu-ray; of course both are available much cheaper online. 

Oct 11, 2010

Gilroy: Damon Won't Return For The Bourne Legacy

New Bourne director (and returning screenwriter) Tony Gilroy has told Hollywood Elsewhere (via Dark Horizons) that Matt Damon will not be back for the next Bourne movie, and indeed that his character (known best by the moniker of Jason Bourne, even if that's not his real name) won't appear.  He set the matter straight on some other things, too, and basically confirmed what I've speculated here before.  The title will be The Bourne Legacy, but the film will bear no resemblance to Eric van Lustbader's continuation novel of that name, just as The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum bore no resemblance to the plots of Robert Ludlum's novels of those titles.  "It's a completely original screenplay," Gilroy told the website, adding, "This is not a reboot or a recast or a prequel. No one's replacing Matt Damon. There will be a whole new hero, a whole new chapter... this is a stand-alone project."  He goes on to further clarify that Jason Bourne is still "very much alive," though he won't be a character in this film.  "What happened in the first three films is the trigger for what happens. I'm building a legend and an environment and a wider conspiracy."  Head over to Hollywood Elsewhere to read everything Gilroy had to say. 

Personally, I've got to say I'm a tad disappointed.  I had really hoped that Damon would see reason and return to the role that solidified his stardom, but he appears to be ingrateful.  Gilroy stipulates that this story will leave the door open for Damon's Bourne to return again in the future, so perhaps he'll still get a Never Say Never Again moment down the line.  Failing Damon's return, I would have preferred to see the role simply recast, Bond-style (not rebooted or remade), with the supporting players all returning and no one commenting on Bourne's "new face" or anything silly like that.  Instead, we get a sequel without the titular character, and it will be interesting to see how audiences respond to that.  I guess the title The Bourne Legacy is very much appropriate, though, to what Gilroy is proposing...
Tradecraft: Enjoy ECHELON On Your TV

Ever since the NSA's massive eavesdropping apparatus ECHELON went online, it's fascinated film and television writers as much as it's fascinated privacy advocates.  ECHELON, which aggregates all the various data signals flying through the ether for intelligence analysis, featured heavily on later seasons of Alias (around the time Terry O'Quinn came into the picture, if memory serves) and inspired thrillers like The Echelon Vendetta (a novel by David Stone, currently being adapted into a movie), Echelon Conspiracy (a Jonathan Pryce thriller more memorable for its hilarious "talk to ECHELON" website) and Eagle Eye.  Now it's getting its own TV show, which is probably a first for a SIGINT program.  According to The Hollywood Reporter, 300 writer Michael Gordon has sold a drama to NBC called ECHELON.  But it's not a straightforward spy show.  The trade reports that there's a supernatural twist: "The show will center on a fictional team called G.H.O.S.T. (Global Hierarchical Observation Strategy Taskforce) whose assignment it is to investigate [the] paranormal data [that sometimes turns up on ECHELON]." Huh.  Spooky spooks.  As if an all-knowing computer program spying on our every phone call and email isn't scary enough already! 

Oct 9, 2010

More Saint News: Comics And Radio Show

With TCM airing a Saint movie marathon next week, it seems like a good time to check in on what's new in the world of Simon Templar.  After a relatively quiet summer for halo fans, The Saint website announced a couple of pieces of exciting news last month. 

First, a company called Radio Spirits has issued twenty remastered episodes of the Saint radio show on CD in a 10-disc set called The Saint is Heard.  The majority of these episodes, which come from the 1949 and 1950 seasons, feature the most famous voice of the radio Saint, Vincent Price, though a few feature Barry Sullivan filling in when Price was off shooting a movie.  Chances are most Saint fans have heard at least a few of these, but if you haven't, they're a lot of fun.  Leslie Charteris' immortal character seems to be slightly different in every medium he's adapted into, and radio is no exception.  These episodes sometimes sway a tad closer to the later-era Shadow radio programs than the RKO Saint films or Charteris' novels, but they are certainly a whole lot of fun and a great way to pass a long commute in your car.  Perhaps best of all, The Saint is Heard includes a Program Guide written by Ian Dickerson, author of The Saint On TV and noted Leslie Charteris expert, featuring photographs and a series history! The Saint is Heard, a 10-CD set, retails for $39.98–though of course it's considerably cheaper on Amazon.  Listeners can order directly from Radio Spirits' website (though they only ship domestically) or from Amazon

A more recent (1995) BBC radio version that hews much closer to Charteris (it certainly should; it's based on his novels Saint Overboard and The Saint Plays With Fire) starring Paul Rhys has been available on CD since last May. The Saint: Saint Overboard & The Saint Plays With Fire: Two BBC Radio Crimes Full Cast Dramatizations, a 2-disc set, retails for $24.95 but can be had for slightly cheaper on Amazon.

In even more exciting Saint news, the Saint website reports that Moonstone Comics (the same company that's developing a new Honey West series) has acquired the rights to the character and intends to publish brand new Saint comic books and graphic novels!  Unfortunately, there isn't much information available yet, but this is certainly something I'll be keeping an eye out for.  I believe (though I could be wrong, and I'm sure some of my more Saint-savvy readers will correct me if I am) that this will mark the first time The Saint has appeared in comics since the Sixties, when there was a Scandanavian series that featured Roger Moore's likeness.  Moonstone's website certainly doesn't provide any indication that this might be the case, but I sure hope that the company's license also allows them to reprint those and older Saint comics.  I'd love the chance to read them!