Hammerhead (1968)


Directed by David Miller
Vince Edwards, Judy Geeson, Peter Vaughan, Diana Dors, Michael Bates, Beverley Adams, Patrick Cargill, Douglas Wilmer
Music by David Whitaker
Based on the novel by James Mayo

’There’s something intrinsically honest about pornography. The more perverse, the more honest it is!’

I’ve tried very hard to like Hammerhead but it has this undercurrent of sleaze about it that I just can’t quite get past. You’ve probably got a friend who can say the most outrageous and blatantly sexual innuendo and get away with it because they display a certain amount of style and have that rare twinkle in their eye. Equally, you probably have another friend who says the same kind of things, but because of their personality and delivery it comes off as sleazy. Well Hammerhead has the latter personality.

The film opens at an art ‘happening’, sort of how I picture attending a Theatre Of The Absurd performance. In the show manikins are being shot and dismembered, while a food fight happens around them. One girl gets covered in tomato sauce and placed inside a giant bread roll, while nude violinists and accordion players serenade her out of key. It is truly weird. Loitering at the back is Charles Hood (Vince Edwards). Hood is an American secret agent, who appears to be on loan to the British. At the ‘happening’, Hood is meeting an ageing hippy who is an informant. Hood receives the information he requires just before the police arrive to shut down the obscene theatrical production. The crowd flee as the police cordon off the area. One of the performers, Sue Trenton (Judy Geeson) escapes by hiding in the back seat of Hood’s car. He take’s her back to his apartment. Now we all know what Mr. Bond would have done in this situation, but not Hood. Apparently we doesn’t mess around when he’s on assignment – but I’ll talk more about that later.

Hood’s enquiries see him board a train for Lisbon. On board he meets his controller, Condor (Patrick Cargill). Condor outlines Hood’s mission. Hood is to attempt to sell two boxes of extremely rare and valuable pornography to Mr. Hammerhead (Peter Vaughan). Hammerhead is not only an avid pornography collector, but is described as being: ‘a completely evil man. He deals in human depravity – international narcotics – gambling syndicates – and a string of brothels throughout the Far-East.’

Despite his nefarious business activities, the intelligence community want Hammerhead watched and investigated for another reason. In a few days, the top men from the NATO nations will be meeting to hear a top secret report on a project called ‘watchdog’. It is suspected that Hammerhead will somehow find a way to steal and sell these secrets.

Hood finally catches up with Hammerhead on his private yacht and attempts to sell his porn. But Hammerhead will not be rushed into buying. He takes his time. This results in Hood being virtually a prisoner on the yacht. At first this doesn’t seem so bad, as we are treated to a wild go-go dance by Hammerhead’s mistress, Ivory (Beverley Adams). Of course spy fans recognise Adams as Lovey Cravzit from the Dean Martin Matt Helm films.

Another twist in the story occurs when Sue Trenton turns up as a guest on Hammerhead’s yacht. At this point in the story we don’t know if Trenton is just a silly blonde infatuated with Hood, or if turning up again is not a coincidence.

Earlier I said I’d talk about Hood’s sexual abstinence. It seems very strange to have an action spy hero, who, during the mission is chaste. Especially when the film is filled with such blatant sexuality – everything from the nude performance artists, to rooms covered in nude artwork by the great masters (okay that’s classy), and finally Mr. Hammerhead’s obsession with pornography. It’s weird to have all this titillation served up, but not allowing the main character to indulge.

Reading all this back, it sounds a bit negative, but Hammerhead does have it’s good moments and is one of the more professional mounted sixties spy film productions. Many people will fins a lot to enjoy in this film. Indeed, Matt Blake’s review in the indispensable Eurospy Guide is quite favourable. But as I mentioned at the outset, for me there is an unsettling undercurrent that stops me from enjoying this movie as much as I should.

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Hammerhead (1968)

Murderers’ Row (1966)


Directed by Henry Levin
Dean Martin, Karl Malden, Anne Margaret, Camilla Sparv, James Gregory, Beverly Adams
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Based on the novel by Donald Hamilton

Here’s a quick one. I don’t think too much needs to be said about the Dean Martin Matt Helm films. You either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Fans of Donald Hamilton’s book series generally hate them. And critically they get panned too. But sometimes I think the Matt Helm films get a bad wrap. Sure, they aren’t tough like the books they are based on, but they do have Dean Martin doing what he does best; boozin’ and having a good time. And is there anything wrong with that?

Murderer’s Row is the second Matt Helm film, following The Silencers and while not quite being up the the first movie’s standard, it is still a decent piece of swingin’ sixties espionage cinema.

The plot is simple enough. Julian Wall (Karl Malden), who works for the nefarious ‘Big O’ has kidnapped a scientist who has been constructing a ‘helio beam’. Once Wall has control of the ‘helio beam’ he intends to destroy Washington D.C. Secret Agent Matt Helm (Dean Martin) has to find the missing scientist and save the world. He does this with the aid of the scientist’s wild go-go dancing daughter (Anne Margaret). Yep, the plot is paper thin, but it is only there to hang Deano’s boozin’ jokes on.

Where the film starts to fall down is during the action sequences in the second half. They are all rather uninvolving. Maybe this is because they are mostly filmed as long shots, and even then you can clearly tell that the guy on the screen is not Martin but his stunt double.

At the end of the day you either enjoy Deano’s drunken lounge spy antics or you don’t. If you don’t this film will infuriate you, with some of the lame set ups and jokes. But if you don’t mind Deano’s breezy throwaway style, then Murderer’s Row will be a reasonably pleasant diversion.

One thing that Murderer’s Row has got going for it, is an absolutely fantastic musical score by Lalo Schifrin. The riff from the title tune will get stuck in your head for days. Although relatively short by today’s standards (around 30 minutes), the soundtrack album is well worth tracking down.

The four Matt Helm films are:
• The Silencers
• Murderer’s Row
• The Ambushers
• The Wrecking Crew

Murderers’ Row (1966)

Netforce (1999)


AKA: Tom Clancy’s Netforce
Directed by Robert Lieberman
Scott Bakula, Joanna Going, Xander Berkeley, Kris Kristopherson, Brian Dennehy, Judge Reinhold
Music by Jeff Rona

Originally a two part TV mini-series Tom Clancy’s Netforce is a slightly futuristic look at law enforcement. Made in 1999 but set in 2005 (so time has already caught up with it), Net Force suffers from being padded out with family scenes and red herrings and additional footage that isn’t really necessary. Either this is to expand the mini-series to three hours or director Robert Lieberman couldn’t flesh out the more human elements of the story. All this succeeds in doing is slowing down the narrative.

What is Netforce? Netforce is an arm of the FBI that specialises in policing the internet, but also branching off into any form of computerised crime.

The opening scenes have Netforce storming a mafia wharehouse in order to secure incriminating computer files. The raid becomes a firey shootout and the files are deleted before Netforce can secure them.

In response, the mafia target Steve Day (Kris Kristopherson), commander of Netforce, in an armed assault on his car. Day is killed and leadership of Net Force falls to Alex Michaels (Scott Bakula). But Day’s murder hasn’t stopped him from being a valuable asset to Netforce. You see, before he died he set up a virtual reality website, with an artificially intelligent Steve Day. Whenever Michaels investigations aren’t progressing as well as he’d like, he pays a visit to his old mentor for advice.

As the story progresses, the evidence points in the direction of Will Stiles (Judge Reinhold). Styles is a heavyweight in computer and internet technology, and it appears that he has teamed up with the mafia to sabotage the nations security. I must admit that because Reinhold has so many successful comedic characters under his belt (such as Billy Rosewood in the Beverley Hills Cop movies) that I find him hard to take seriously. As an evil megalomaniac, his casting is almost laughable.

Some of the futuristic ideas and inventions on display in Netforce have come to pass, others are still to be conceived in the future, or are silly contrivances at best. It appears that in the future (being 2005, of course), people have their own personal websites, like the one Steve Day had set up, which can only be accessed by a small optical viewer that sits on your nose like a set of spectacles. These viewers also allow you to visit virtual reality chat rooms and brothels. As these viewers have not been invented yet, they serve to date the film.

Dating the film even further are silly pop culture references to Bill Gates and Star Wars 7 (yes 7), all of which may cause the viewer to snicker (or groan), but ultimately make it hard to believe in the universe the film-makers are trying to create. It sounds like I am being harsh and lack imagination – I want to believe, but every time the film-makers get me believing in their futuristic society, they undo their work by adding something that is very unconvincing.

Despite Tom Clancy’s name on this production, this mini-series is pretty poor. It pales in comparison with the Jack Ryan films. And for a show based around the internet, it is surprisingly low=tech visually. But this series greatest crime is that for the majority of it’s running time, it is boring. I’d skip this one.

Tom Clancy’s Net Force started out as a series of novels created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik. Although Clancy’s name is in large letters on the covers, they were written by Steve Perry. For more information on Netforce or ‘Net Force’ as it is written on the book series click here.

Netforce (1999)

On Dangerous Ground (1996)

Country: UK/Canada/Luxembourg
AKA: Jack Higgins’ On Dangerous Ground
Director: Lawrence Gordon Clark
Starring: Rob Lowe, Kenneth Cranham, Deborah Moore, Jurgen Prochnow, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Daphne Cheung, Claude Blanchard
Music: Leon Aronson
Based on the novel by Jack Higgins

On Dangerous Ground is a poorly executed TV movie based on a Jack Higgin’s novel featuring a character called Sean Dillon. The movie opens in an unspecified war torn European country. A group of dishevelled and battle weary soldiers mill around a Catholic Church. The commander of this group enters the church and heads into a confessional booth. The priest on the other side listens intently as the soldier confesses his sins. At the end of the confession, the priest pulls out a pistol and shoots the soldier through the mesh grille that has been separating them.

The priest steps out of the confessional and discards his priest’s robes. The man is Sean Dillon (Rob Lowe), a mercenary for hire, and obviously he has been hired to kill the commander in this area. The other soldiers outside hear the shot and come to investigate. Dillon exits via the back door with the soldiers chasing and firing after him.

Just as it appears that Dillon is pinned down and fighting a battle which he can’t win, and armed chopper swoops in. The gunner in the chopper makes short work of the first tier of soldiers after Dillon’s hide. But this isn’t a well planned rescue mission. Dillon turns to see who is saviour is. He sees Brigadier Charles Ferguson (Kenneth Cranham). Dillon aims his pistol at Ferguson and says, “I should kill you now!” It would appear that Dillon and Ferguson have a history together – and it would appear not to be a pleasant one. Dillon reconsiders; shoulders his weapon, and gets into the chopper.

Although never truly explained in the movie, it would seem that Ferguson is the head of a British Intelligence unit, and by accepting the chopper flight to freedom, Dillon is now a spy for the British. It seems that Ferguson needs Dillon. One of Ferguson’s operatives, Billy Quigley (Dudi Appleton ) – another ex-IRA boy – has gone missing. His job was to infiltrate a ring of terrorists headed by Michael Ahern (Richard Orr) and Nora Bell (Marie Connally). Ahern and Bell have been employed by an Iranian outfit called The Army Of God to assassinate the President Of the United States, who is due to arrive in London in less than a week. Ferguson wants Dillon to track down Quigley and by association, Ahern and Bell.

Dillon is given a partner, Hannah Bernstein (Deborah Moore) to work with, but that isn’t his style, and at the earliest opportunity he goes off on his own. Naturally this was expected and Bernstein had planted a bug on Dillon. When she catches up with him he is trying to find out the whereabouts of Michael Ahern. Bernstein is taken aback by Dillon’s unconventional methods. That is to say, to acquire information, he shoots his informants ear off.

Meanwhile in the United States, at the Lady Of Mercy Hospital in New York, an elderly man with terminal cancer is admitted. The old man’s name is Jack Tanner (Robert James) and he is man with a mysterious past and a secret. It’s a secret which dates back to 1944 and the last days of the war, and it concerns Lord Mountbatten and Mao Tse Tung. On his death bed he shares this secret with an intern.

Dillon’s methods haven’t been too successful in tracking down Ahern, Bell and an Iranian terrorist called Ali Halabi (Avi Nasser). The U.S. President arrives and his motorcade snakes its way through the cordoned off streets. Along the side of the road is a broken down car. Beside the car stand Ahern and Bell. A recovery vehicle is sent to remove the vehicle before the President’s motorcade passes that location. Behind the wheel of the recovery vehicle is Halabi, and he is suicide bomber. As the Motorcade gets closer, Ahern detonates the bomb in the recovery truck. He sets off the bomb early and misses the motorcade.

Most people now believe the terrorist threat is over, but not Dillon. He believes that the bomb was just a decoy, and he is right. The real attack is planned for the meeting between the U.S. President and the Chinese Foreign Minister. The historic meeting is to take place outside in a garden and both men are to plant a symbolic almond tree as a gesture of goodwill. At the last moment Dillon spots the bomb in the root system of the tree. Everybody panics and runs. Ahern tries to detonate the bomb, but is shot before he can push the button. Bell rushes over and triggers the bomb. Everybody is clear now except for Dillon who is thrown forward by the concussion wave. He falls face down at Bells feet. She produces a knife and stabs him three times in the back. She is only stopped after Bernstein shoots her dead.

Dillon takes quite a while to recover from his wounds. But while he does, other events are transpiring. The intern at the Lady Of Mercy Hospital is the nephew of a Mafia Don – Don Giovanni (Claude Blanchard). And the secret that the old man told concerns a document called The Chungking Covenant. In this document, Mao Tse Tung promised an extended lease on Hong Kong. You have to remember the film was made in 1996 – In 1997 China regained control, of Hong Kong from the British. Obviously this document is very important to many businessmen who have a vested interest in Hong Kong. One such man is Carl Morgan (Jurgen prochow). Don Giovanni enlists his aid in tracking down The Chunking Covenant.

Simultaneously, while recuperating, Dillon begins a relationship with a girl from Hong Kong. Her father, a successful and powerful businessman approaches Dillon to also track down The Chunking Covenant. Naturally Morgan and Dillon’s paths cross in the quest to be the first to find these valuable documents.

The story for this UK/Canadian/Luxembourg co-production isn’t too bad, other than a few contrived instances that probably work better on the printed page rather than on the screen – after all it comes from a Higgins novel. The real weakness is this movie is the acting. Some of the accents of display here are pretty awful. When Mickey Rourke played an Irish assassin in the adaptation of Higgins’ Prayer For The Dying he copped a lot of stick for his dodgy Irish accent. In comparison he would have won an Academy Award next to the actors in On Dangerous Ground.

Rob Lowe as Sean Dillon is terribly miscast. He looks the part and scowls a lot, but Lowe is at his best when he displays a bit of cheeky swagger. I don’t think ‘dangerous hard bastard’ is in his acting arsenal.

With numerous best-selling books featuring Sean Dillon, this film probably has a build-in audience who are interested in seeing it. I have only read two Jack Higgins novels and I must say that enjoyed them enormously. If the Sean Dillon novels are equally enjoyable, then this film would be a real let-down for any fan of the series. I would suggest that you don’t ruin the character for yourself. Enjoy the books but stay clear of this movie.

On Dangerous Ground is a actually the second movie in a four tele-movie series. The first is Midnight Man, also with Robe
Lowe. The third and fourth are the Windsor Protocol and Thunder Point, which starred Kyle MacLachlan as Sean Dillon.

Besides four television movies, as previously mentioned, Sean Dillon is a well established literary hero – hero may not be the right word as he stated out as a terrorist/mercenary. Here is a list of books the character has appeared in:

• Eye of the Storm (1992)
• Thunder Point (1993)
• On Dangerous Ground (1994)
• Angel of Death (1995)
• Drink with the Devil (1996)
• The President’s Daughter (1997)
• The White House Connection (1999)
• Day of Reckoning (2000)
• Edge of Danger (2001)
• Midnight Runner (2002)
• Bad Company (2003)
• Dark Justice (2004)
• Without Mercy (2005)
• The Killing Ground (2007)

On Dangerous Ground (1996)

On Dangerous Ground (1996)

Country: UK/Canada/Luxembourg
AKA: Jack Higgins’ On Dangerous Ground
Director: Lawrence Gordon Clark
Starring: Rob Lowe, Kenneth Cranham, Deborah Moore, Jurgen Prochnow, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Daphne Cheung, Claude Blanchard
Music: Leon Aronson
Based on the novel by Jack Higgins

On Dangerous Ground is a poorly executed TV movie based on a Jack Higgin’s novel featuring a character called Sean Dillon. The movie opens in an unspecified war torn European country. A group of dishevelled and battle weary soldiers mill around a Catholic Church. The commander of this group enters the church and heads into a confessional booth. The priest on the other side listens intently as the soldier confesses his sins. At the end of the confession, the priest pulls out a pistol and shoots the soldier through the mesh grille that has been separating them.

The priest steps out of the confessional and discards his priest’s robes. The man is Sean Dillon (Rob Lowe), a mercenary for hire, and obviously he has been hired to kill the commander in this area. The other soldiers outside hear the shot and come to investigate. Dillon exits via the back door with the soldiers chasing and firing after him.

Just as it appears that Dillon is pinned down and fighting a battle which he can’t win, and armed chopper swoops in. The gunner in the chopper makes short work of the first tier of soldiers after Dillon’s hide. But this isn’t a well planned rescue mission. Dillon turns to see who is saviour is. He sees Brigadier Charles Ferguson (Kenneth Cranham). Dillon aims his pistol at Ferguson and says, “I should kill you now!” It would appear that Dillon and Ferguson have a history together – and it would appear not to be a pleasant one. Dillon reconsiders; shoulders his weapon, and gets into the chopper.

Although never truly explained in the movie, it would seem that Ferguson is the head of a British Intelligence unit, and by accepting the chopper flight to freedom, Dillon is now a spy for the British. It seems that Ferguson needs Dillon. One of Ferguson’s operatives, Billy Quigley (Dudi Appleton ) – another ex-IRA boy – has gone missing. His job was to infiltrate a ring of terrorists headed by Michael Ahern (Richard Orr) and Nora Bell (Marie Connally). Ahern and Bell have been employed by an Iranian outfit called The Army Of God to assassinate the President Of the United States, who is due to arrive in London in less than a week. Ferguson wants Dillon to track down Quigley and by association, Ahern and Bell.

Dillon is given a partner, Hannah Bernstein (Deborah Moore) to work with, but that isn’t his style, and at the earliest opportunity he goes off on his own. Naturally this was expected and Bernstein had planted a bug on Dillon. When she catches up with him he is trying to find out the whereabouts of Michael Ahern. Bernstein is taken aback by Dillon’s unconventional methods. That is to say, to acquire information, he shoots his informants ear off.

Meanwhile in the United States, at the Lady Of Mercy Hospital in New York, an elderly man with terminal cancer is admitted. The old man’s name is Jack Tanner (Robert James) and he is man with a mysterious past and a secret. It’s a secret which dates back to 1944 and the last days of the war, and it concerns Lord Mountbatten and Mao Tse Tung. On his death bed he shares this secret with an intern.

Dillon’s methods haven’t been too successful in tracking down Ahern, Bell and an Iranian terrorist called Ali Halabi (Avi Nasser). The U.S. President arrives and his motorcade snakes its way through the cordoned off streets. Along the side of the road is a broken down car. Beside the car stand Ahern and Bell. A recovery vehicle is sent to remove the vehicle before the President’s motorcade passes that location. Behind the wheel of the recovery vehicle is Halabi, and he is suicide bomber. As the Motorcade gets closer, Ahern detonates the bomb in the recovery truck. He sets off the bomb early and misses the motorcade.

Most people now believe the terrorist threat is over, but not Dillon. He believes that the bomb was just a decoy, and he is right. The real attack is planned for the meeting between the U.S. President and the Chinese Foreign Minister. The historic meeting is to take place outside in a garden and both men are to plant a symbolic almond tree as a gesture of goodwill. At the last moment Dillon spots the bomb in the root system of the tree. Everybody panics and runs. Ahern tries to detonate the bomb, but is shot before he can push the button. Bell rushes over and triggers the bomb. Everybody is clear now except for Dillon who is thrown forward by the concussion wave. He falls face down at Bells feet. She produces a knife and stabs him three times in the back. She is only stopped after Bernstein shoots her dead.

Dillon takes quite a while to recover from his wounds. But while he does, other events are transpiring. The intern at the Lady Of Mercy Hospital is the nephew of a Mafia Don – Don Giovanni (Claude Blanchard). And the secret that the old man told concerns a document called The Chungking Covenant. In this document, Mao Tse Tung promised an extended lease on Hong Kong. You have to remember the film was made in 1996 – In 1997 China regained control, of Hong Kong from the British. Obviously this document is very important to many businessmen who have a vested interest in Hong Kong. One such man is Carl Morgan (Jurgen prochow). Don Giovanni enlists his aid in tracking down The Chunking Covenant.

Simultaneously, while recuperating, Dillon begins a relationship with a girl from Hong Kong. Her father, a successful and powerful businessman approaches Dillon to also track down The Chunking Covenant. Naturally Morgan and Dillon’s paths cross in the quest to be the first to find these valuable documents.

The story for this UK/Canadian/Luxembourg co-production isn’t too bad, other than a few contrived instances that probably work better on the printed page rather than on the screen – after all it comes from a Higgins novel. The real weakness is this movie is the acting. Some of the accents of display here are pretty awful. When Mickey Rourke played an Irish assassin in the adaptation of Higgins’ Prayer For The Dying he copped a lot of stick for his dodgy Irish accent. In comparison he would have won an Academy Award next to the actors in On Dangerous Ground.

Rob Lowe as Sean Dillon is terribly miscast. He looks the part and scowls a lot, but Lowe is at his best when he displays a bit of cheeky swagger. I don’t think ‘dangerous hard bastard’ is in his acting arsenal.

With numerous best-selling books featuring Sean Dillon, this film probably has a build-in audience who are interested in seeing it. I have only read two Jack Higgins novels and I must say that enjoyed them enormously. If the Sean Dillon novels are equally enjoyable, then this film would be a real let-down for any fan of the series. I would suggest that you don’t ruin the character for yourself. Enjoy the books but stay clear of this movie.

On Dangerous Ground is a actually the second movie in a four tele-movie series. The first is Midnight Man, also with Robe Lowe. The third and fourth are the Windsor Protocol and Thunder Point, which starred Kyle MacLachlan as Sean Dillon.

Besides four television movies, as previously mentioned, Sean Dillon is a well established literary hero – hero may not be the right word as he stated out as a terrorist/mercenary. Here is a list of books the character has appeared in:

• Eye of the Storm (1992)
• Thunder Point (1993)
• On Dangerous Ground (1994)
• Angel of Death (1995)
• Drink with the Devil (1996)
• The President’s Daughter (1997)
• The White House Connection (1999)
• Day of Reckoning (2000)
• Edge of Danger (2001)
• Midnight Runner (2002)
• Bad Company (2003)
• Dark Justice (2004)
• Without Mercy (2005)
• The Killing Ground (2007)

On Dangerous Ground (1996)

Live And Let Die (1973)


Directed by Guy Hamilton
Roger Moore, Jane Seymour, David Hedison, Gloria Hendry, Yaphet Kotto, Clifton James, Julius W. Harris, Geoffrey Holder, Earl Jolly Brown, Madeline Smith, Bernard Lee as M, and Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny
Music by George Martin
Title song by Paul McCartney and Wings
Based loosely on the novel by Ian Fleming

After the failure of George Lazenby to win over the public in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the producers went running back to Sean Connery to put bums on seats. The ploy worked and Diamonds Are Forever was a success. But Connery agreed to one film only. So that left the producers with the dilemma of finding a new James Bond. Enter Roger Moore.

Moore already had a strong fan base from the television shows The Saint and The Persuaders. But like all actors who take on the role of 007, he had to overcome the long shadow of Connery. And even for Moore this wasn’t as easy as he had hoped.

While making Live And Let Die, Roger Moore wrote a diary which was published as Roger Moore as James Bond (Pan Books 1973). Here he talks about his son’s response to his casting as James Bond.

The children arrive tomorrow and I wonder if Geoffrey will realize I am Bond when he sees me in action. Just before we left England he asked:

“Can you beat anybody, including a robber?”
“Oh yes,’ I replied confidently.
“Supposing James Bond came in,’ he persisted.
“Daddy is going to play James Bond,’ I explained.
“I know that,’ he sighed impatiently. ‘I mean the real James Bond, Sean Connery.”

I suppose if your son has trouble accepting you in the role, you’re in for a rough old time. But in all fairness, Roger Moore acquits himself rather well. His popularity in the 70’s and 80’s is testament to that.

That’s enough background information. Let’s move onto the story. The pre-tile sequence: The film opens at the United Nations building in New York. An M.I.6 agent is watching the assembly and in particular Doctor Kananga, the President of the Caribbean island of San Monique. The agent’s translation headset is cranked up to full volume. He falls to the floor dead.

Next we cut to New Orleans. Another M.I.6 agent, on loan to the Americans is staking out the ‘Fillet Of Soul’ restaurant as a funeral procession ambles past. As the coffin passes the agent’s location, he is stabbed and picked up off the road through a false bottom in the coffin.

And lastly the film cuts to San Monique, where a voodoo ritual is being carried out. A man (naturally enough, an M.I.6 agent) is tied between two poles. As he struggles helplessly an orgy of black dancers writhe and sway in front of him, while primitive drums are pounded, getting quicker as the tension rises. The lead dancer produces a venomous snake and presses it against the jugular vein of the agent. The snake bites, and the agent slumps forward, dead.

Maurice Binder’s stylised title graphics roll accompanied by Paul McCartney and Wings belting out the theme song. It may not be in the classic Bond style, but the theme song is a good one. In fact the music by George Martin is of a high standard, generally. It has a hint of seventies funk to it, but since the film is clearly influenced by the blaxploitation films the were popular at the time (Shaft, Foxy Brown, etc…), the musical cues seem appropriate. And I am pleased to say it hasn’t dated too badly, like some of the other Bond soundtracks.

After the musical interlude we meet James Bond (Roger Moore) at his apartment. Even though it is early morning, Bond is not asleep. Ever the professional, he is, er…debriefing an attractive Italian agent, Miss Caruso (Madeline Smith). Bond’s work is interrupted by the arrival of M (Bernard Lee) and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) who brief Bond on his next assignment. This is an unusual scene, in that it is one of the few times we get to see Bond’s apartment, and secondly, because Bond is briefed away from the office. This ‘in the field briefing’ is an element that would become more prevalent in the Bond series. I’d guess this is to do with the pacing of the movies. Setting up Bond’s mission in ‘M’s office and then sending him off takes time. But briefing Bond in the field propels the story on more quickly. Anyway, Bond is sent to New York City, where the first agent was killed and also where Dr. Kananga (Yaphett Kotto), the President of San Monique (where the third agent was killed) is currently speaking at the UN.

As Bond arrives in New York an attempt is made on his life. With a bit of help from his old pal, CIA agent, Felix Leiter (this time played by David Heddison), Bond tracks down the the man who tried to kill him. The man’s name is Whisper (Earl Jolly Brown), and he is a minion of a Mr. Big, a big time gangster who runs a chain of ‘Fillet Of Soul’ restaurants. Ah, you may recall that the second agent in the pre-title sequence was killed watching a ‘Fillet Of Soul’ restaurant. All the pieces are slowly fitting into place.

As it is an Bond film, of course it features a bevy of beauties to tease and torment our hero. I have already mentioned Miss Caruso, played by Madeline Smith. The Caruso character is almost a throwaway at the start. I guess she is there simply to say that we may have a ‘new’ Bond, but he is still a womaniser.

The main female lead is Jane Seymour, who plays Solitaire. Solitaire is a voodoo priestess who can divine the future from a deck of tarot cards. The only problem for Solitaire is that for her ‘powers’ to work, she has to remain a virgin, and with Bond on the scene, well…she isn’t going to stay that way for long. I think that Seymour is one of the better Bond girls. Even though the way Bond and Solitaire fall in love is incredibly unbelievable, she ‘sells’ the character’s innocence. You can actually believe that she has fallen for Bond. It’s not surprising that she is one of the few Bond girls who’s career has actually grown from Bond, rather than gradually diminish.

The next Bond girl is Rosie Carver, played by Playboy Bunny Gloria Hendry. Carver is a CIA agent who helps Bond once he arrives on the Island of San Monique. Hendry is quite okay in the lighter more humorous scenes with Moore, but in the dramatic scenes he lack of acting experience shows.

There is an element of the fish out of water story in Live And Let Die. In most Bond films there is; as Bond is a rather stiff, refined English gentleman. The series has often delighted at dropping Bond into different cultures to explore the glaring differences. But in Live And Let Die, this idea is pushed to the limit. Bond is dropped into Harlem – seventies style. The clothes are candy coloured; the flares are wide; and the hats are extremely wide brimmed. This has gone past sixties counter culture. These clothes are not urban hippy wear. These clothes are ‘style’. And Bond is about style too. But while each partly is well dressed and immaculately groomed, sartorially they are a million miles away.

One of the elements in Live And Let Die that always seemed slightly awkward to me is the ending, starting with the descent into Kananga’s underground lair. Syd Cain’s set is impressive, although not quite as imaginative as some of Ken Adams sets, but as far as underground lairs go, this is pretty good. But it is deserted. Kananga appears to have about four guys working for him. There is all this space, and a mini railway of sorts, but there’s no sense of power or control which comes from a mass of humanity being lead by one unmistakeable leader. There’s no army of minions or underlings for Bond to deal with on his way to the final confrontation with Kananga. Sure there’s Whisper, but he’s hardly threatening. Compared to the ending of previous Bond films, there’s a mood of casual insignificance, rather than imminent catastrophe.

Similarly, another element that seems strangely missing is the ‘branding’ of Kananga. This is not intended as a comment on consumerism or global marketing (although I am sure that a few valid points could be made about that), but Kananga does not have a ‘logo’. An evil organsation must have a logo. It says that you are a structured entity with an identity. It is the device that links the lower echelon minions with Kanaga and Mr. Big. No racism intended, but in Live And Let Die, the colour of the villains skin is used to represent those who work on the side of evil. Bond does not battle an evil organisation; he battles an entire race. I believe that this failure to define the villain’s empire, and particularly the people who work for him, is sloppy. Labouring the point; do the dancers on San Monique work for Kanaga – or do they follow Baron Samedi as their Voodoo Priest? Do the stool pigeons who report on Bond’s movement through Harlem work for Mr. Big – or are they street punks who know they can earn a quick buck by dropping a dime. How powerful is Kananga?

Of course, I can say this thirty-five years later as a distant observer. Maybe in 1973, having a black villain was a big statement. Large enough to unsettle the population, without kitting out an entire army of black soldiers in a distinctive and unified fashion. The idea of an organised, highly efficient black corporation may have been very shocking indeed to certain sections of the community. You just have to look at the impact that The Black Panthers had to see my point. Stretching it to Bondian proportions may have been a bit too unsettling for 1973.

Live And Let Die is a flawed film. It will never be considered high art by any stretch of the imagination. But it is extremely entertaining and was a solid enough vehicle for Roger Moore as James Bond to keep the series moving. The film also features some great Bondian set pieces which I haven’t talked about here – just quickly, there is a very impressive boat chase, and a fun sequence at an alligator farm. While this film isn’t high amongst my favourite Bond films, it’s one that I always enjoy when I do take the time to watch it.

Live And Let Die (1973)

The Brazillian Connection (1989)


Director: Ian Toynton
Starring: Simon Dutton, David Ryall, Gayle Hunnicutt, Jennifer Landor, Joseph Long, Niall Padden, Danny Webb. Frédérique Charbonneau
Music: Serge Franklin
Based on characters created by Leslie Charteris

The Brazilian Connection is another of The Saint TV movies, featuring Simon Dutton as Leslie Charteris’ character, Simon Templar. This isn’t really a spy film, but The Saint does come up against an international ring of black market baby traders. They are hardly SPECTRE or THRUSH, but they are pretty despicable people and must be stopped. I have included this review as a companion to some of the other Saint reviews that I have posted, which do cross into espionage territory.

This production has a terrific opening sequence. I can see why it was chosen to be the first in this series. It opens with two thieves climbing a staircase to the top of a multistorey building under construction. These crims have just stolen a priceless jewelled Russian tiara, and waiting on the top level is their fence who will ‘move’ the stolen goods. As the exchange is about to take place, The Saint alights from the elevator. He confidently walks over and picks up the tiara. The crims are baffled. Who is this guy? One of the thieves pulls a pistol from his jacket and is about to shoot The Saint, when Templar announces that they have exactly 55 seconds until the police arrive. And arrive they do. A whole squad of police officers starts milling around at the base of the building, before proceeding to move up the stairs.

The crims begin to panic. Templar makes a suggestion – he’ll take the tiara. That way the police will have no evidence to arrest the crims. But the three crims can’t decide what to do. As The Saint nonchalantly counts down to the police’s arrival, the crims begin to fight amongst themselves. The fence tries to run off with the tiara, but the other two chase and pull him down. At that moment the police arrive at the top. They arrest the three crims as they wrestle on the ground, and then retrieve the case that the tiara was in. Not surprisingly, the case is empty, and Templar is nowhere to be seen. When one of the crims starts babbling about a fourth man who has disappeared into thin air, the police are sceptical. All except one. Claude Teal (David Ryall) has seen this sort of stunt before, and he believes it is the work of The Saint. When we next see Templar, he is travelling away from the scene, riding on the hook of a giant building crane.

It’s a good opening scene and showcases the one thing that I liked about The Software Murders, which I reviewed last week – and that is that The Saint is a criminal. He’s not a malicious cold blooded killer, or anything like that, but none-the-less he is a privateer.

The Saint’s next port of call is Knightsbridge. Exiting a shop, he holds open the door for a lady, Jenny (Jennifer Landor) pushing a pram. The pram is adorned with an American flag. Templar and the girl engage in some innocent banter, before Templar moves on. Next he goes into an art gallery in Knightsbridge. The gallery is showcasing exquisite ancient Chinese ceramics valued at tens of thousands of dollars. Templar drops and breaks a few of these rare treasures, shocking the curator and the buyers gathered in the gallery. Then he denounces the vendor as a fraud. The vendor tries to leave rather hastily, but Claude Teal from Scotland Yard enters the door and blocks his escape.

Meanwhile, outside Jenny enters a shop to buy a magazine. She is a nanny looking after the five month old baby inside the pram. Accompanying her is the babies mother. As jenny makes the purchase, the mother stands watching the pram. At that moment, one of the mother’s friends passes by. For a split second ‘mum’ takes her eyes off the pram to talk to the friend. When she returns her gaze, the pram and the baby have disappeared.

Templar is still in the gallery tying up loose ends. From the second floor window he notices the pram going by in a different direction. He recognises it by the miniature American flag. He also notices that it is being pushed by a different man and woman. Then as he leaves and is out on the street, he see this ‘new’ couple driving off in a small van. Adorning the sides and rear door of the van is a logo depicting the Aztec God Quetzaquotal.

Once information about the baby napping reaches the media, and Simon realises he can help, he approaches Jenny. Initially she is sceptical, wondering what is ‘in it’ for The Saint. He soon convinces her of his good intentions.

This entry in The Saint series is so much better than The Software Murders. Sure it is still encumbered with some of the same problems as The Software Murders, such as a gritty low budget look, and a dreadful score by Serge Franklin. But this production has a decent plot, courtesy of Anthony Horowitz. The script not only has a good central plot, but it also features some great interplay between Teal and Templar.

The Brazilian Connection is far from perfect, but this time I’d have no hesitation in recommending it to Saint fans. It is fast paced, and even though the production isn’t action heavy, it has good and engaging dialogue.

The Brazillian Connection (1989)