Modesty Blaise: A Taste For Death

Curt Purcell at The Groovy Age of Horror blog has posted a review of the Modesty Blaise adventure A Taste For Death. This novel sees the return of Modesty’s arch-nemesis, Gabrielle from the first book (and played by Dirk Bogarde in the abhorrent film version – but we’ll talk about that another day!)

To head over to The Groovy Age of Horror, click here.

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Modesty Blaise: A Taste For Death

Flashback No. 3

Octopussy

This review appeared in the magazine New Video Movies in Oct/Nov 1984

This is the thirteenth James Bond film to be made since the series began in 1962 with “Dr. No”. It is the sixth featuring Roger Moore which would have equaled Connery’s outings, except for “Never Say Never Again”, being made by Connery at the same time.

Over one billion people (a quarter of the world’s population) have seen the first twelve Bond films at the theatre and even more than that on television. It is therefore not surprising that the makers would stick to the same successful formula. Non stop action, lovely women, clever villains, incredible gadgets and equipment all blend together to provide two hours of enjoyable viewing.

The plot is set mainly in India, the base of the beautiful Octopussy (Maud Adams), the Head of a far flung empire of hotels, shipping, theatres and among other things a traveling circus. She is served by a group of stunning girls who are skilled in the martial arts, doubling as a formidable attack force and showgirls for the circus. Louis Jordan is the villainous Afghan Prince, Kamal Khan, who conspires with the rebel Russian General Orlov (Steven Berkoff) to steal a priceless Faberge coronation egg and precipitate World War III.

Octopussy maintains and in some areas surpasses the high standards set in the earlier Bond films and whilst I personally find it hard to visualise Moore as 007, I do appreciate the professionalism of the entire film.

Spy Versus Spy

This article appeared in the Herald Sun newspaper in October 1997

James Bond faces his toughest rival yet-
another Bond, writes Bob Tourellotte

James Bond, agent 007 needs a bodyguard. Or better yet, a very good lawyer. The fictional superspy has battled the world’s most diabolical villains on land and sea, in the air, even in space, and he has always won. But now he faces being ripped in two. A second studio has announced plans to make a series of Bond movies even though MGM claims the franchise and actively keeps it going.

Two Bonds could dilute the world’s most successful film franchise as well as confuse moviegoers.
Sony Pictures Entertainment and its deep pocketed parent, Sony Corp, say they want to go into the Bond business big time.

Hollywood is aghast, saying Sony could trigger one of the biggest legal battles in years – complete with rumours of a personal vendetta and lots of money.

In fact the story might make a good movie, if only some studio could get the rights. Sony says it plans to make a series of Bond movies with Kevin McClory, producer of the 1965 Bond picture Thunderball and a 1993 remake Never Say Never Again. The deal is a direct challenge to rival MGM, which, with affiliates, owns the rights to 18 of the 20 Bond movies.

“Any claim that (McClory) can create a James Bond franchise is delusional,” MGM chairman Frank Mancuso says. “We hope that Sony has not been duped by Mr. McClory’s deception.”

Sony executives will not comment on whether they are dupes or victims of a plot or simply know a good deal when they see one. Under the deal Sony’s Columbia Pictures will make a series of movies based on original work by McClory, Bond novelist Ian Fleming and Jack Whittingham, all of whom contributed to the Thunderball screenplay.

McClory still owns the rights to Thunderball and characters in it, including gadget genius M and Bond’s secretary, Miss Moneypenny.

Other Bond rights belong to United Artists, a film unit of MGM, and the heirs of Bond movie producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.

Since debuting in 1962, the Bond movies have generated more than $4.4 billion in revenue around the world, or about $125.3 million a year on average. It is the most successful film franchise ever.

The most recent, 1995’s Goldeneye, hauled in more than $511.7 million for MGM globally.
Perhaps even more important than revenue is Sony’s timing. MGM will launch its 18th Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, starring Pierce Brosnan, in December.

Born to be Bond

This article appeared in the Ezy Entertainment magazine in July 1996

Pierce Brosnan thought his chance to play 007 had long gone. But he was wrong. Now the star of Goldeneye can look forward to many more adventures for Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Pierce Brosnan believes he was destined to play James bond. In fact, he says fate took matters into its own hands when he was just a child. How so? The very first film young Pierce saw was Goldfinger. And it’s an experience that is indelibly etched in his memory.

“I looked up at the big screen for the first time and I saw a naked lady and a cool man who could get out of any situation,” he recalls. “I was captivated, magicked, blown away. It stirred things in my loins I had never known before.”

For years the producers of the popular series have been convinced that Brosnan would make a damn good Bond, too. But it’s taken almost a decade for their vision to be realised. Bond supremo Cubby Broccoli first approached him about the role in 1986, after Roger Moore bowed out, but Brosnan was forced to turn it down because of commitments to the Remington Steele TV series.

“My first reaction was to tell them to shove the Remington contract,” he recalls. “But they had me by the short and curlies. Without doubt they’d have sued. If I’d been on my own I might of said ‘Sod it! Go ahead!’ But I had a family to think about and I do, deep down, believe that if you sign a contract you should honour it.”

Not long after the devastating decision, Brosnan’s life was thrown into complete turmoil. The Remington Steele series was canceled, his career fell into the doldrums, and his Australian born wife, Cassandra Harris, died of ovarian cancer. Tough times, but this gentle 42 year old Irishman is no stranger to personal trauma. His father walked out on his family when he was a baby and his mother moved to England looking for work, leaving him to be brought up by a succession of relatives. Brosnan joined her at age 11 and, after leaving school, worked as a barman, cab driver and labourer to make ends meet. His determination to succeed eventually lead to roles on the London stage, then the popular mini-series The Manions of America, and eventually his breakthrough role as the pseudo detective Remington Steele.

So it’s no surprise that Brosnan fought back from his latest misfortunes with equal determination. he scored supporting roles in Mrs. Doubtfire and Love Affair, as well as the lead in Lawnmower Man. But it wasn’t till Bond that he re-emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood.

For Brosnan, there’s the added thrill to being offered the James Bond role twice. “When something comes into your life a second time it carries a certain significance,” he says. “It’s unbelievable that it did – this was like unfinished business for me.”

More than five years after his wife’s death, Brosnan is eager to use his James Bond role to raise the profile of Women’s health issues. “
Hopefully, my success will increase my ability to have a voice, stand up and be counted in the fight against breast and ovarian cancer.”

With box office receipts for Goldeneye in the millions, he’s well on his way. The first Bond movie in six years, Goldeneye marks a return to form for everyone’s favourite secret agent. previous installments starring Timothy Dalton had seen the Bond formula lose a little of it’s magic. Brosnan’s Bond, however, is more like the smart, hard living rogue that Sean Connery and Roger Moore played with such relish. The film also feature plenty of old fashioned action that fans have come to expect. it races at breakneck speed from Puerto Rico to Switzerland with all the requisite car chases and shootouts. Brosnan even performed many of his own stunts, including a spectacular 35m bungie jump.

That’s another important element of Bond’s appeal, his success as a ladies man, hasn’t been neglected either. Throughout his 33 year reign, James Bond has romanced more than 55 women in locations as diverse as a sauna, a hospital, a tent, an iceberg and a submarine. Goldeneye keeps the score admirably high. Brosnan is surrounded by beautiful women throughout the film, including Izabella Scorupco (who plays a systems programmer who gets her man), Famke Jansen ( a nasty type who crushes her enemies to death between her thighs) and Samantha Bond (Miss Moneypenny).

Still the star laughs at the notion of being a sex symbol. “It’s a hoot, just a bit of a laugh,” he says. “But it’s wonderful, I accept it. If people want to call me a sex symbol, yeah, sure, I’ll run with it – It pays the rent.”

Modesty aside, the future for Brosnan looks bright. He’s signed a four picture deal with the Bond franchise, is dating a former model/actress turned environmental journalist, Keely Shaye Smith, and has become one of Hollywood’s most in demand actors again. But he remains humble about his ability to bring Bond to life as well as at least one of his predecessors.

“Connery is still the man in my books,” he says.

The ‘Flashback’ articles on Permission To Kill are re-printed from original newspaper and magazine articles, and are presented as a piece of history. The article has been posted in good faith, and the original author, publication and date have been listed (where known). If you are the original author or publisher, and would like the this article removed from the blog please feel free to contact me.
Flashback No. 3

Raise The Titanic (1980)

Country: United Kingdom / United States
Director: Jerry Jameson
Starring: Richard Jordan, Alec Guiness, Jason Robards, David Selby, Anne Archer, M. Emmet Walsh, J.D. Cannon, Bo Brundin, Norman Bartold, Elya Baskin, Dirk Blocker
Music: John Barry
Based on the book by Clive Cussler

Ahhhhhhh! I never though I’d start a film review with a scream. But Raise The Titanic has to be one of the worst film adaptations of a novel of all time. Not that Clive Cussler’s book was one of the better entries in the Dirk Pitt series, but at least, as far fetched as it was, it had a logical progression from one plot point to another. The film throws that all out the window, and all we are left with are three distinct parts. A bewildering beginning. Raising the Titanic. And a drawn out ending. All played out with a miscast collection of character actors – fans of the book series will know what I mean. Jordan is NOT Dirk Pitt. Robards is NOT Admiral Sandecker.

The first thing you should know is that Clive Cussler’s book was written in 1976 (but set in 1987), and this film was released in 1980. Despite many expeditions, the actual wreck of the Titanic was not discovered until 1985, when Dr, Robert Ballard and scientists from the Woods Hole Deep Submergence Lab located the wreck 13.5 miles away from where she was believed to have sunk. These days we know that the Titanic broke up as she sank and now lay on the ocean floor in numerous pieces. But this film makes the supposition that the Titanic lay on the ocean floor in one piece, with just a large gash down the side. This film is a fanciful ‘what if’ story. It is best that you ignore what is now known to be fact.

The film opens with archive photos of the Titanic – from her construction in the shipyards to her launch. This is accompanied by a sweeping (and stirring) orchestration by John Barry. Then we cut to present day. An American agent is on the Soviet controlled island of Svardloff in the Arctic Circle. With a small shovel he is digging a hole in the snow. At the same time he keeps a Geiger-counter beside him and continually checks the radiation readings. Eventually he digs himself into an old abandoned mine. He follows the mining car tracks back to the living quarters, where in one of the bunks, he finds a body, frozen stiff. An inscription, burnt into the wood says:
Here lies Sgt. Jake Hobart
United States Army
Froze in a storm
February 10, 1912

The film then shifts location to Washington DC and we are introduced to James Sandecker (Jason Robards) and Dr. Seagram (David Selby). They have a small problem. Seagram is a scientist and he has been working on a project called The Sicilian Project, which is a laser controlled missile shield which will cover and protect the United States from nuclear attack. For this shield to work, each station in the surrounding chain needs a self contained power source.
This power source comes in the form of an extremely rare ore called Byzantium. The only mine where this ore can be found, happens to be on the island of Svardloff, and an agent – who also happens to be a mining engineer – has been sent off to investigate. But this agent is now four days overdue. If he is found or captured by the Russians, there will be an international ‘incident’.

When we next see the agent he is on the ice and running. He is being chased by a Russian soldier, who produces his rifle and fires. The American goes down. The Russian then sets his guard dog upon the fallen man. At that moment a shot rings out and the dog is killed. Another shot takes down the Russian soldier. It’s Dirk Pitt (Richard Jordan) to the rescue. He carries the agent to safety – first a boat, and then a plane back to the United States.

Back in the US, Pitt relays what the agent had told him to Sanddecker and Seagram. It appears that Byzantium was on Svardloff, but they are sixty plus years too late. The ore had already been mined – not by the Russians – by the Americans. The ore was then shipped to Scotland and then across land taken to Southhampton where it was put aboard a steamer heading for New York. The ship happened to be the Titanic. Put simply, the only place on earth where there is any Byzantium is in the hold of the Titanic, which is lying unfound on the seafloor of the Atlantic ocean.

For The Sicilian Project to go ahead, they need Byzantium, and the President of the United States gives the go ahead to a project to find and raise the Titanic. Heading the project is Dirk Pitt. Naturally, the Russians find out about the Americans plan and a limp cold war story plays out in the background.

Despite my hostility towards this film, it does have one saving grace however, and that is the score by John Barry. It is one of Barry’s best sweeping scores. It’s not bombastic like a Bond movie score. This is evocative and melancholy. If this movie effects you in any way, it is due to the music rather than anything that is happening on the screen.

Raise The Titanic is also has one other dubious distinction – it is amongst the biggest flops in British film history. With an alleged budget of around thirty million dollars – which was a staggering amount in the late ‘70’s / early ‘80s – it bombed at the box office. This is the film that nearly sunk Sir Lew Grade (the man behind all the classic ITC television series). Afterward, Grade famously said “Raise The Titanic! It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic.”
Raise The Titanic was such a turkey, and so disrespectful of its source material, that it is well documented that novelist Clive Cussler refused to sell the movie rights to any of his other novels for many years – that is until Sahara – and even that attracted its share of controversy (and law suits).

I know I may have appeared to kick this film while it’s down, and it may not be quite that bad, but I am a big fan of Clive Cussler’s novels – and although I realise books and films are two very different mediums and there must be alterations to the way the story is told and presented – this film is just disrespectful. What is the point of purchasing the rights to a best-selling novel (particularly if it features an on-going character like Dirk Pitt), if you’re going twist that character to the point where he unrecognisable!

Raise The Titanic (1980)

Raise The Titanic (1980)

Country: United Kingdom / United States
Director: Jerry Jameson
Starring: Richard Jordan, Alec Guiness, Jason Robards, David Selby, Anne Archer, M. Emmet Walsh, J.D. Cannon, Bo Brundin, Norman Bartold, Elya Baskin, Dirk Blocker
Music: John Barry
Based on the book by Clive Cussler

Ahhhhhhh! I never though I’d start a film review with a scream. But Raise The Titanic has to be one of the worst film adaptations of a novel of all time. Not that Clive Cussler’s book was one of the better entries in the Dirk Pitt series, but at least, as far fetched as it was, it had a logical progression from one plot point to another. The film throws that all out the window, and all we are left with are three distinct parts. A bewildering beginning. Raising the Titanic. And a drawn out ending. All played out with a miscast collection of character actors – fans of the book series will know what I mean. Jordan is NOT Dirk Pitt. Robards is NOT Admiral Sandecker.

The first thing you should know is that Clive Cussler’s book was written in 1976 (but set in 1987), and this film was released in 1980. Despite many expeditions, the actual wreck of the Titanic was not discovered until 1985, when Dr, Robert Ballard and scientists from the Woods Hole Deep Submergence Lab located the wreck 13.5 miles away from where she was believed to have sunk. These days we know that the Titanic broke up as she sank and now lay on the ocean floor in numerous pieces. But this film makes the supposition that the Titanic lay on the ocean floor in one piece, with just a large gash down the side. This film is a fanciful ‘what if’ story. It is best that you ignore what is now known to be fact.

The film opens with archive photos of the Titanic – from her construction in the shipyards to her launch. This is accompanied by a sweeping (and stirring) orchestration by John Barry. Then we cut to present day. An American agent is on the Soviet controlled island of Svardloff in the Arctic Circle. With a small shovel he is digging a hole in the snow. At the same time he keeps a Geiger-counter beside him and continually checks the radiation readings. Eventually he digs himself into an old abandoned mine. He follows the mining car tracks back to the living quarters, where in one of the bunks, he finds a body, frozen stiff. An inscription, burnt into the wood says:

Here lies Sgt. Jake Hobart
United States Army
Froze in a storm
February 10, 1912

The film then shifts location to Washington DC and we are introduced to James Sandecker (Jason Robards) and Dr. Seagram (David Selby). They have a small problem. Seagram is a scientist and he has been working on a project called The Sicilian Project, which is a laser controlled missile shield which will cover and protect the United States from nuclear attack. For this shield to work, each station in the surrounding chain needs a self contained power source.
This power source comes in the form of an extremely rare ore called Byzantium. The only mine where this ore can be found, happens to be on the island of Svardloff, and an agent – who also happens to be a mining engineer – has been sent off to investigate. But this agent is now four days overdue. If he is found or captured by the Russians, there will be an international ‘incident’.

When we next see the agent he is on the ice and running. He is being chased by a Russian soldier, who produces his rifle and fires. The American goes down. The Russian then sets his guard dog upon the fallen man. At that moment a shot rings out and the dog is killed. Another shot takes down the Russian soldier. It’s Dirk Pitt (Richard Jordan) to the rescue. He carries the agent to safety – first a boat, and then a plane back to the United States.

Back in the US, Pitt relays what the agent had told him to Sanddecker and Seagram. It appears that Byzantium was on Svardloff, but they are sixty plus years too late. The ore had already been mined – not by the Russians – by the Americans. The ore was then shipped to Scotland and then across land taken to Southhampton where it was put aboard a steamer heading for New York. The ship happened to be the Titanic. Put simply, the only place on earth where there is any Byzantium is in the hold of the Titanic, which is lying unfound on the seafloor of the Atlantic ocean.

For The Sicilian Project to go ahead, they need Byzantium, and the President of the United States gives the go ahead to a project to find and raise the Titanic. Heading the project is Dirk Pitt. Naturally, the Russians find out about the Americans plan and a limp cold war story plays out in the background.

Despite my hostility towards this film, it does have one saving grace however, and that is the score by John Barry. It is one of Barry’s best sweeping scores. It’s not bombastic like a Bond movie score. This is evocative and melancholy. If this movie effects you in any way, it is due to the music rather than anything that is happening on the screen.

Raise The Titanic is also has one other dubious distinction – it is amongst the biggest flops in British film history. With an alleged budget of around thirty million dollars – which was a staggering amount in the late ‘70’s / early ‘80s – it bombed at the box office. This is the film that nearly sunk Sir Lew Grade (the man behind all the classic ITC television series). Afterward, Grade famously said “Raise The Titanic! It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic.”
Raise The Titanic was such a turkey, and so disrespectful of its source material, that it is well documented that novelist Clive Cussler refused to sell the movie rights to any of his other novels for many years – that is until Sahara – and even that attracted its share of controversy (and law suits).

I know I may have appeared to kick this film while it’s down, and it may not be quite that bad, but I am a big fan of Clive Cussler’s novels – and although I realise books and films are two very different mediums and there must be alterations to the way the story is told and presented – this film is just disrespectful. What is the point of purchasing the rights to a best-selling novel (particularly if it features an on-going character like Dirk Pitt), if you’re going twist that character to the point where he unrecognisable!

Raise The Titanic (1980)

Eurospy Film Posters

It’s no secret that I am fond of Eurospy films, but you will notice most of the Eurospy films that I (and others) look at tend to be from the ’60s and are usually from Italy, Spain, France or Germany – and most were riding on the coat tails of the Bond phenomenon.

But since that time, many more Eurospy films were made, but without Bondmania to latch onto, they were not distributed or shown in English speaking countries. For many of us outside Europe, the only tangible proof the these films exist (or existed) is their film posters.

I found this amazing poster site called, Terry Posters. The poster category contains 8 000 types of graphic posters from the Terry Posters’ collection, from Czechoslovakia in the period of 1930 – 1989.

Here are some of the selections from the site (including a variation on one of my favourites – That Man From Istanbul)!:











To head over to Terry Posters and view the gallery, click here.

Eurospy Film Posters