’60s Spy Stories: Gila Golan

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Gila Golan in Our Man Flint (1966)

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I love ’60s spy movies! They typically contain more style than substance and seem to delight in ridiculous plot lines, campy performances, sexual innuendoes and questionable morals but that’s part of their appeal. Next Monday viewers who tune into TCM in the evening hours will be treated to an assortment of “’60s Spy Stories” beginning with Arabesque (1966) at 8PM EST/5PM PST followed by The Ipcress File (1965), Our Man Flint (1966), Our Man in Havana (1959 -not exactly a ’60s production but it will fit right in), The Prize (1963) and Our Man in Marrakesh aka Bang! Bang! You’re Dead! (1966). I’ve written or referenced most of these films here at the Movie Morlocks in the past but today I wanted to focus my attention on one of my favorite female undercover agents, the gorgeous and deadly Gila Golan who takes on James Coburn in Our Man Flint.

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Movie Book Round-Up: The Holiday Edition

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Since I began writing for the Movie Morlocks five years ago I typically compile a blog post with summer reading suggestions or a list of favorite film related books released at the end of the year. This year I’ve had access to so many great books that I decided to compile two book lists.

My first was “Midsummer Reading Suggestions” where I covered The Lives of Robert Ryan, Sex, Sadism, Spain, and Cinema: The Spanish Horror Film, Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind, So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films and Audrey (Hepburn) at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen along with other titles. What follows is my “Holiday Edition” where I share some of the best books (pictured above) that I’ve encountered since July. I hope both lists will encourage you to do some reading during the holidays or provide you with some shopping suggestions while you’re purchasing gifts for fellow film buffs.

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Men Among Monsters: Remembering Christopher Lee & Richard Johnson

leejohnsonChristopher Lee & Richard Johnson

Horror fans received a double blow this week. It started with the news that Richard Johnson (1927-2015) had died and today we woke up to the news that Christopher Lee (1922-2015), arguably the last of the great classic horror film icons, had shuffled off this mortal coil to join his old pal Peter Cushing in repose.

Both Lee and Johnson worked in a variety of film genres and played remarkably similar roles throughout their careers including soldiers, kings, adventure seekers, fortune hunters, cops, criminals, doctors, professors, investigators, government spies and spy villains. But for myself and many others, it is their distinct body of work in horror films that has made the most impact and will undoubtedly survive them for many decades to come.

Before learning about Lee’s passing I was preparing a written tribute to Richard Johnson, which you’ll find below, but I couldn’t possibly let Lee’s death go unmentioned. He remains one of my favorite performers and a giant among men both figuratively and literally. The tall, dark and strikingly handsome actor will undoubtedly receive many well-deserved accolades today and in the weeks to come but I hope you’ll make time to watch TCM’s touching video tribute.

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Beware! Louis Jourdan is Here

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Louis Jourdan in COUNT DRACULA (1977)

We lost Louis Jourdan on Valentine’s Day and since then there has been an abundance of considerate obituaries and tributes to the debonair French actor who stole film fan’s hearts and swept many of his leading ladies off their feet. Jourdan was strikingly handsome but I’ve always found him a bit intimidating on screen. In real life Jourdan had fought Nazis as an active member of the French resistance and by most accounts was a loyal husband to his wife (Berthe Frédérique “Quique”) for 68 years until her death in 2014 but something about his smoldering intensity and somber eyes made me uneasy. The characters he played were often hard to read and I found myself constantly questioning their motives. This is undoubtedly due to his exceptional performances in films such as LETTER FROM AN UKNOWN WOMAN (1948) where he plays a self-absorbed pianist who breaks Joan Fontaine’s heart and THE BEST OF EVERYTHING (1959) where he drives the gorgeous Suzy Parker mad with jealousy or JULIE (1956) where he stalks and terrorizes poor Doris Day. In retrospect Jourdan was incredibly apt at portraying men with questionable motives and he had a viper-like way of honing in on naive young women who became easy prey. It doesn’t surprise me that he eventually ended up playing a comic-book villain in SWAMPTHING (1982) and a James Bond baddie in OCTOPUSSY (1983). But if I had to select his most fearsome role I’d single out Jourdan’s outstanding turn as the infamous bloodsucking Count in COUNT DRACULA (1977).

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Spy Games: Recalling DR. NO

cretrodrnoAs I was getting ready to wrap-up my year long celebration of ‘60s spy films, I received something extraordinary in the mail; the new special issue of Cinema Retro’s Movie Classics magazine celebrating “50 years of James Bond in Cinema.” The issue boasts a spectacular cover image of Sean Connery and Ursula Andress taken in 1962 to help promote the first Bond film, DR. NO. The image literally jumped off the page and into my heart reminding me of how magnetic the two actors were in those iconic roles. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more memorable screen couple from 1962 but at the time that the photo was taken Connery and Andress were relatively unknown. DR. NO would catapult them both into cinema history and eventually make James Bond one of the most recognized film characters in the world.

Today it’s hard for modern audiences to fathom the impact that DR. NO had. The film was made for just one million dollars but its unique visual style and pop art sensibility made it seem light years ahead of its time. It took audiences to exotic locations while introducing them to a handsome, well-dressed international man of mystery who could easily outwit and outmuscle fiendish villains hell-bent on world domination. Sean Connery’s James Bond may have dressed like a million bucks but his roguish manner and rumbling Scottish accent hinted at his working class roots and that gave him universal appeal. He was exactly what film audiences needed to combat the Cold War jitters and help usher in the swinging sixties.

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Spy Games: James Bond is back in SKYFALL (2012)

Warning! There are spoilers on the road ahead.

When the first promotional photo for SKYFALL (2012) was released earlier this year it caused a minor uproar. It was an azure-tinted picture of Daniel Craig’s muscular back as he sits poolside, solitarily contemplating his next move. It was reminiscent of a promotional photo from Craig’s debut as James Bond in CASINO ROYAL (2006) that showed him emerging from the ocean like a Greek god, much like Ursula Andress’ enchanting entrance in DR. NO (1962), which had embedded itself into the minds and imaginations of countless men and adolescent boys decades earlier. The public’s response to Daniel Craig’s wet torso was somewhat mixed but women (and some men) seemed to love the unusual direction that the publicity campaign for SKYFALL took. They openly swooned over Craig’s imposing physique while many male fans of the Bond series were left wondering where was the designer suit, the gun and the girl? Craig’s nudity seemed casual and unrestrained making the character of James Bond appear exposed and defenseless. His body was being artfully used to sell the Bond mystique and in the past that was a job usually reserved for beautiful women. The Bond girls are renowned for their physical assets and have been used as promotional tools for decades but they’ve got competition now. And while it’s true that previous Bond actors including Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan had their fair share of female fans, the character’s masculine charms have never been exploited in such a direct way. 007 is back, quite literally, but he’s not your father’s James Bond and the first publicity photo from SKYFALL illustrates that point beautifully.

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James Bond vs. Dr. Mabuse

Speaking of faux-James Bond thrillers of the 1960s. . . didja hear the one about the British secret service agent, his slutty girlfriend, the death ray, and the man who could cheat death?  Sounds good, huh?  Well, think again, sucker!

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Warren Beatty Is (Not) James Bond!

I am writing this before having seen Skyfall, so I can’t talk directly about the latest James Bond film, but I can flirt about its edges. I am one of those who have greatly enjoyed the rebooted series with Daniel Craig—and am especially impressed that they managed to find a way to make Casino Royale into a genuinely dramatic visual spectacle. It’s not an easy book to film—which didn’t stop people from trying.

There was the 1954 TV version with Barry Nelson as James Bond, which completely failed to set the world on fire. Wikipedia claims that Howard Hawks considered directing a 1962 adaptation with Cary Grant in the lead—and the very thought of it makes me wish I’d brought it up in my earlier post about unmade treasures. And of course there’s the 1967 trainwreck in which a number of otherwise capable directors and actors squandered a giant pile of money on an insane mess.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the version starring Warren Beatty!

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Buggin’ Out with Buggies

I’ve been thinking a lot about dune buggies lately. It all started a few weeks ago while I was watching HEAD (1968) on TCM starring The Monkees. This psychedelic blast from the past has many memorable moments including a scene where the iconic pop band drives a bright yellow buggy through some sand dunes while being chased by a giant-sized Victor Mature.

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Spy Games: 6 Months and Counting

We’re 6 months into the year-long celebration of James Bond’s 50th anniversary and I thought it would be a good time to take another look at the various worldwide tributes and festivities that have accompanied it. Here at the Movie Morlocks I’ve been regularly sharing new posts about various espionage films under the title “Spy Games” but I’m not the only one observing the 50th anniversary of the Bond film franchise. Below are a few of the highlights from the last 6 months as well as some exciting things Bond fans can look forward to before year’s end.

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