Slash and Burn

Author: Matt Hilton
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Release Year: 2010

Slash and Burn is the third novel in Matt Hilton’s Joe Hunter series following on from Dead Men’s Dust and Judgement and Wrath. Is Joe Hunter a spy? No, but that brings up an interesting question. What constitutes a spy story. If you’ll forgive me as I talk about spy films for a moment – here’s a little guide that I am sure I have posted before which relates to the different styles of spy films and the characters that populate them. The same is true for spy novels. I have edited it slightly to make it more relevant. In my view, the seven main spy story styles are:

the globe trotter

Funeral in Berlin
Funeral in Berlin

This is the most easily detected espionage story style. It features international globe trotting secret agents fighting crime and evil masterminds all around the globe. In some case the stories are barely more than glorified travelogues, but it makes for some fantastic backdrops to the action. This style of story proliferated in the sixties, when the jet-set age really took hold. Beautiful people in beautiful locations doing particularly nasty things seemed to be the maxim here. Perfect examples of these are the James Bond or Matt Helm stories, but even many of the lesser known tales of espionage liked to work in foreign locations. In fact, the locations used were often a selling points for these films or novels. If a spy story utilised an exotic location then it wasn’t unusual for that location to be mentioned in the title. The role call of destinations included, Our Man In Havana, Funeral In Berlin, That Man In Istanbul, Espionage In Tangiers, The Girl From Rio, Assassination In Rome, Our Man In Marrakech, Fury In The Orient, Hong Kong Hot Harbour, From Beijing With Love, Our Man In Jamaica and many, many others.

the innocent bystander

The Thirty-Nine Steps
The Thirty-Nine Steps.

This is the classic wrong place at the wrong time scenario. The innocent bystander is the sneakiest, but probably the most common of the espionage story conventions. It is harder to detect because the hero is not a highly trained secret agent but anybody or everyman/woman. It is the innocent person who stumbles in on an incident or who gets caught up in the web of intrigue by accident. The classic example would have to be, The 39 Steps where Richard Hannay by shear happenstance gets caught up with foreign spies. Or The Russia House, where Boozey Barley Blair, a book publisher, is contacted by a Russian defector whilst at a book fair in Moscow. Also, the Innocent Bystander is the least male biased of the espionage conventions. Often it is woman who gets caught up in the conflict.

the sleeper

The Manchurian Candidate
The Manchurian Candidate

The sleeper is an enemy agent that is hiding in plain sight. They live amongst us, appearing to live a normal life. In reality they are lying dormant, just waiting for a trigger to send them off on their mission of destruction. The triggers that send the agents off can be phrases, such as poetry, or images, such as playing cards. The best example of films in this style is The Manchurian Candidate (1962), based on the best selling book by Richard Condon. It’s an absolutely amazing film starring Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Harvey. In the film, Harvey plays Raymond Shaw, the all American son of a prominent politician. During the Korean War, Shaw is brainwashed in Manchuria, and set to become a killer. His trigger is a playing card. Practically any story which features brainwashing is a sleeper story. In reality, by brainwashing somebody, you are trying to get the subject to complete a task that is against their will and not in character. This, I guess, makes them a sleeper agent. The final scenes of The IPCRESS File (the film ,that is) feature a mind altered Harry Palmer battling the instructions that he has been programmed with. Quite different, but with the same intent, the lovely ladies at Blofeld’s allergy clinic in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service have all been brainwashed and given instructions to unleash a deadly toxin at various locations around the world. The Sleeper is one of the most dangerous of enemy agents because they seem the most unlikely.

the soldier

All Quiet on the Western Front

Wartime spy dramas usually feature ‘The Soldier’. It’s always a thin line to tread, between some War stories and Spy stories, but generally the nature of the mission, helps separate them into their appropriate categories. For example there is no mistaking that films Saving Private Ryan, The Longest Day and Platoon – or the novel All Quiet on the Western Front are solely a war stories. Whereas stories such as Eye Of The Needle, Where Eagles Dare, The Eagle Has Landed, The Counterfeit Traitor, belong to the Spy genre.

the assassin

The Assassin is an interesting sub-genre of the usual secret agent movie, where the glossy veneer has been removed, and all that’s left is the ruthless bastard. Let’s face it though, most secret agents are paid killers, even the James Bond’s of the world are sugar coated assassins. The world of the assassin is an interesting one, and a topic that has been visited again and again. But there’s quite a bit of confusion over which films are in fact spy stories, and which are crime stories. I suggest it is the employer of the assassin that defines whether the character is a spy or crime story. But this category isn’t for the well manicured, well dressed gentleman spy. It is reserved for the men who specialise in ‘wet work’ – the HARD men of the genre.

the idiot

Our Girl From Mephisto
Our Girl From Mephisto

From the travesty that was Casino Royale in 1967 to more recent fare like the recent updates of I, Spy and Get Smart, there have been plenty of comedic attempts at capitalising on the success of spy films (spy novels too – look at the Clyde Allison 0008 stories or Alligator by I*n Fl*m*ng). Unfortunately few of them are very good. Most, to be honest are quite painful. Johnny English, Austin Powers and Le Magnifique are among the more successful attempts of the genre, but even they have their detractors. Many of the children’s spy films are clearly intended to be comedy films as well. Condorman and The Double ‘O’ Kid are prime examples. Both of them are bad films, but they were never intended to be taken seriously.

the retiree

Icon
Icon

There are two variations on the retiree spy film. The first and most obvious variation is where the old retired masterspy is called back into action for one final mission because he has a skill set that is essential to the successful completion of the mission. There are a whole swag of films like this, such as Firefox with Clint Eastwood, or even the Matt Helm films with Dean Martin. In the Helm films, Dino has retired and wants to be left alone with his camera and coterie of dolly birds, but somehow gets dragged back into the action time and time again. The mini-series, Icon based on Frederick Forsyth’s book, with Patrick Swayze also trots out the formula once again. Swayze’s character is called out of retirement because of his knowledge of antiquated biological agents.

The second variation, which could almost be called the ‘messed with the wrong guy’ spy film, usually features a band of villains picking on a person or group of civilians (often a family). It just so happens that these people have been befriended by or related to a retired bad-ass spy. To the villains, the spy just seems like an old codger (or a nobody), but we know, despite the wrinkles, this guy is a lethal weapon. If the plot device sounds familiar, it is. The 1987 film, Malone, starring Burt Reynolds is essentially an updated version of the classic western, Shane. Television shows in particular have latched onto this style of story, with Man In A Suitcase, The Equalizer, and even Burn Notice featuring agents who have been ‘retired’ from active duty, and now spend their time helping out average Joes with their problems. On a more personal level, both Belly Of The Beast with Steven Seagal and Taken with Liam Neeson feature stories where they play retired spies, but their daughters have been foolishly kidnapped by evil doers. Once this happens the gloves are off, and the old retired spy is once again up to his usual tricks doing everything possible to get their loved one back. As you’d expect with this kind of storyline, generally these films tends to play more like a revenge flick and have a tendency to be rather violent.

slash and burn

And that now bring us back to Slash and Burn and Joe Hunter. Is Joe Hunter a spy? No. But he does have a lot of the same characteristics as ‘The Retiree’ as listed above. Let me tell you a bit about Joe. Hunter’s employment history reads as follows (pg. 360 Slash and Burn):

Joined British Army at age 16. Transferred to the Parachute Regiment at age 19 and was drafted into an experimental coalition counterterrorism team code named ‘ARROWSAKE’ at age 20. As a sergeant, Joe headed his own unit comprising members from various Special Forces teams. Joe retired from ‘ARROWSAKE’ in 2004 when the unit was disbanded and has since supported himself by working as a free-lance security consultant.

So that’s Joe Hunter. A retiree who now works freelance. He could be compared to Robert McCall in The Equallizer or if you prefer a more cartoonish comparison, maybe Hunter could be described as the one-man equivalent of The A-Team. But by now, you’re probably wondering about the book. Well Slash and Burn delivers everything that at book called ‘Slash and Burn’ should deliver and more. In fact I thought it was better than Dead Men’s Dust which I thought was fantastic – but Slash and Burn surpasses it. It is simply breathless reading.

Dead Men's Dust
Dead Men's Dust

When I read Dead Men’s Dust a year ago, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a fast paced thrill-ride. But it did have its flaws. In particular, during the middle chapters, the story crawled away from Joe Hunter – and for a while he struggled to keep up. Let me explain: Hilton constructs his stories in a fashion where (almost) every chapter alternates in viewpoint. For example, the first chapter may be from Joe Hunter’s point of view and is written in first person. The second chapter is from the villain’s point of view and is written in third person. Now this works pretty well, as it gives Hunter a unique voice, but also keeps the story rocketing along, keeping the reader in the loop – so to speak. But in Dead Men’s Dust, for a short while, Joe Hunter was left to play catch-up to information that readers already knew. The good news is, in Slash and Burn, Hilton has really mastered that writing technique now, and rather than waiting for Hunter to catch up, the reader has to breathlessly keep up with Hunter who rockets through the story.

The story opens with Imogen Ballard running for her life in the rugged countryside near the town of Little Fork in Kentucky. She is being chased by a cadre of killers who are determined to track her down.

Meanwhile in Pensacola in Florida, Joe Hunter is catching some sun of the deck of his beach house, when he is approached by a woman named Kate Piers. She needs his special type of help with a little problem. Hunter is wary at first, until she explains that she is the sister of Jake Piers, who Hunter knew from his days in the Special Forces.

Hunter agrees to help, and Kate outlines her problem. It appears that her sister Imogen, has gone missing. Furthermore, she may have become involved with some mobsters and corrupt officials. Consequently she may be in hiding.

Together Kate and Hunter make the journey to Little Fork and into the mountains to Imogen’s home. Within moments of their arrival, the couple are ambushed to two gunmen who believe in shooting first and asking questions later. Of course, Hunter is no stranger to gunfire, and can hold is own in a gun battle, but the real surprise package is Kate, who proves to be particularly adept with a pistol.

The hostile reception committee indicates that Imogen’s predicament is a little more serious than first perceived. And now Hunter and Kate have stepped into the fray, they are also targets for the killers who are seeking Imogen.

Along the journey, in their quest to find and protect Imogen, Hunter and Kate have to contend with plenty of life-threatening situations and aggressive characters, not the least being the seven-foot tall Bolan twins, Trent and Larry. These boys are just mountains on meanness, and once they have a target in sight, they don’t give up.

The situation gets so hot, Hunter has to call in his friends Jared ‘Rink’ Rington and Harvey Lucas to even the odds a little. But only just a little. You see, the man behind all the mayhem is a business man who goes by the moniker of ‘Quicksilver’. This is not because he is mercurial, but because he is a skilled technician with a cut-throat razor. Quicksilver also doesn’t believe in fair fights. He wants the odds stacked heavily in his favour, and calls in five of the most ruthless assassins that the syndicate has on its payroll.

The sound of gunfire is so loud in this book, that you almost need earplugs when you read it. Slash and Burn is relentless in its escalation of the action sequences – each passage building and improving on the previous passage.

From the blurb:

Joe Hunter is always ready to help a lady in distress. Particularly when Kate, the lady in question, is the sister of a dead Special Forces mate.

Robert Huffman pretends to be a respectable businessman. But the psychopathic twins he uses as his enforcers give the lie to that. Huffman is a player in the murky world of organised crime and needs Kate as bait for one of his schemes.

Joe is way outnumbered by the bad guys, but since when did that stop him? He’ll rescue Kate if he has to slash and burn to get her…

Obviously a book called ‘Slash and Burn’ is never intended to be high art. It’s popular fiction, and on that level, the book delivers, and I for one, am looking forward to Joe Hunter’s next adventure (which if memory serves me, will be called ‘Cut and Run’).

Slash and Burn

Kiss Kiss Kill Kill

Here’s something I should have posted a few weeks ago, but I got caught up with other things. This should be especially of interest for readers in Britain (or jetsetters in Europe).

Kiss Kiss Kill Kill:
The Graphic Art and Forgotten Spy Films of Cold War Europe
10 September – 16 October 2010

University of Hertfordshire Art and Design Gallery
College Lane
Hatfield AL10 9AB
United Kingdom.

Kiss Kiss Kill Kill is a touring exhibition, film program and symposium devoted to “Eurospy”. The project opens a forgotten chapter in the history of post-war European film and poster design to public scrutiny for the first time.

The project provides the opportunity to see rare espionage films made on both sides of the Iron Curtain as well as to study a range of approaches to poster design.  Different graphic styles in East and West provide an expansive portrait of European taste, national identity and politics during the Cold War, with the brash super-kitsch of the Italian cinema posters juxtaposed compellingly with the lo-tech minimalism of Czech film posters of the same era.

Kiss Kiss Kill Kill unearths films tarnished by the legacy of state control in Eastern Europe and films that have fallen into obscurity as a by-product of Western Europe’s overkill of the spy film genre in the 1960s. Presented as a chronology of Eurospy cinema, Kiss Kiss Kill Kill explores Espion Noir, Czechoslovakia Before and After ’68, Spaghetti Spy, Paella Spy, The Polish and Czech Design Schools and Fritz Lang.

This is the first ever exhibition drawn from The Kiss Kiss Kill Kill Archive – a private collection of 3000 examples of spy film artwork from the Cold War. Included here are original artworks, cinema exhibition posters and a series of specially commissioned friezes pasted directly to the gallery walls in the manner of the originals.

The exhibition will be a showcase for both the ‘trashiest’ fruits of 1960s European co-production and the leaden propaganda of communist film. Equally, it will also provide a platform for some real gems: films from both sides of the Iron Curtain, which have escaped both the academy and the censor.

For more information, check out the website.

Thanks to RRD at the Eurospy Forum for the heads Up about this amazing event. I wish I could be there.

Kiss Kiss Kill Kill

Temptress of a Thousand Faces (1969)

Temptress of a Thousand FacesOriginal Title: Qian mian mo nu
Country: Hong Kong
Director: Chang-hwa Jeong (as Cheng Chang Ho)
Starring: Tina Chin Fei, Liang Chen, Pat Ting Hung, Carrie Ku Mei, Hsi Chang, Yu Chin Chang, Hsin, Yen Chao, Yi Ling Chen
Music: Wang Foo Ling (plus John Barry and others – most likely without permission)

If you are a fan of Diabolik or Fantomas, then the Shaw Bros. Studios Temptress of a Thousand Faces is a film that you must track down. Unfortunately at the moment, that is a little tricky to do, because the Hong Kong VCD is now out of print (apparently there is also a French DVD but it doesn’t have subs). But do what you have to do to track this down – eBay / Grey market /whatever… believe me, you need this film in your life. This film is a riot of sixties style light, colour, action and movement.

While Temptress is not a spy exactly a spy film, anyone who loves space age underground lairs, villains in rubber masks, outrageous torture devices, beautiful women in mod fashions, car chases, armies of ninjas, will appreciate what is on display here.

Like so many of Shaw Bros. films from the period, Temptress opens with a stylised animated title sequence, then wasting no time, jumps straight into the action. The Hong Kong police arrive at a bank to find the vault door open and the guards trussed up inside. On on of the shelves is a business card announcing that the theft is the work of an arch villainess who calls herself the Temptress of a Thousand Faces. At this moment there is a musical sting lifted directly for the Goldfinger soundtrack.

The film then cuts to a Rolls Royce cruising through the traffic. Inside is Miss Jin, who happens to be one of Hong Kong’s most wealthy women. As she puffs on a cigarette in a long thin holder, she is poured a drink of brandy or cognac from the bar by her assistant – it’s the good life! They arrive at a Jewellers and proceed inside. An array of stunning jewelled necklaces and bracelets are paraded for Miss Jin to inspect. She chooses to purchase three of the most expensive pieces then signs a cheque for 576000 HK dollars and leaves with her boodle.

After the purchase, the salesman is gloating over the commission he has just made from the sale, but at that moment, the words on the cheque begin to disappear — like they were evaporating. Then in their place, new words begin to form on the cheque – it says: ‘greetings from the Temptress of a Thousand Faces’. It wasn’t Miss Jin at all who had attended the jewellery store. The real Miss Jin had died earlier in the morning. The impostor was the mysterious Temptress in a lifelike rubber mask.

Li Mao is a reporter for a newspaper that is in decline, but the editor and chief has noticed that sales pick up after the Temptress has committed a crime. The Temptress is news, and more importantly, she sells papers. Li Mao is assigned to do a story on the Temptress. But that’s not so easy. Nobody knows who the Temptress is, and even then, it is not likely that she’d be the type to give interviews.

To get around this small inconvenience, Li Mao decides to concoct her own fabricated story about the Temptress. She enlists the aid of the papers photographer, Yu-da to help her out with some photos. The photos are supposed to be the Temptress, but instead she plays the role herself, dressed in dark clothes and hidden behind a cape.

The story is published and the police aren’t too happy about it. They are sure that Li Mao has fabricated the story to increase the newspaper’s circulation. The officer assigned to bring down the Temptress is Ji Ying (Tina Chin Fei) also happens to be the girlfriend of Yu-da, the photographer (now there’s a nice little love triangle).

To alleviate the damage done by Li Mao’s newspaper article, Ji Ying goes on television and threatens to bring the Temptress to justice. After the television appearance, Ji Ying returns home, and then her phone rings. The caller claims to be the Temptress, and demands to see Ji Ying. Ji Ying passes the call off as a joke that she believes that Yu-da is playing on her, and hangs up. Then the door bell rings. She goes to the door and opens it. There is nobody there, but there is a boxed rose of the doorstep. She picks it up and opens the box, smelling the rose. She passes out (it is drugged) and wakes up in the wonderful subterranean secret lair of the Temptress – chained to a circular stone altar in a transparent negligee.

Many of the Shaw Bros. spy films were a little bit saucy – and while there is no actual nudity, this film has a leering quality that almost beggars disbelief. The film features an array of transparent gowns and candy coloured negligees. It also showcases plenty of upskirt and panty fetish photography — and with that, I’d like to welcome all the new readers to this site who have accidentally ended up here after googling ‘upskirt panty fetish’ – the screen caps above are just for you.

The Temptress’s underground lair is amazing. It is filled with outlandish torture chambers, trapdoors, cages that drop from the ceiling and most importantly a hot-tub. A hot-tub is so much more fun than a pool filled with piranhas. It is also bathed in that sixties style glow of red and green lights. The Temptress has no shortage of minions either. First there are a company of veiled handmaidens – who I am not sure if the are just for decoration or to provide some kind of security. Not that security is an issue, Temptress also has a small army of incompetent black clad masked ninjas, and a number of machine gun toting female guards.

Ji Ying is tortured for a while and warned not to meddle in the Temptress’ affairs again. Then strangely she is released. This is strange because the Temptress is not above a bit of cold blooded murder, and furthermore as some of the other plot contrivances are revealed later in the film (I won’t spoil them here), it just doesn’t make any sense. Oh well – it doesn’t really matter. It’s all grand entertainment. Just let it sweep over you. Once Ji Ying is free, she simply re-doubles her efforts to capture the Temptress. And the arch-villainess kindly provides plenty of opportunities for her to do so. Unfortunately for Ji Ying, most of these opportunities result in her being captured by the Temptress once more – but that is all part of the fun.

Fantomas
Fantomas

If this synopsis is sounding a little familiar to you, then you may have seen the first film in André Hunebelle’s French Fantomas series, which featured Jean Marais as a villain who was able to change identity with a series of lifelike rubber face masks. Temptress, is what would be politely called a ‘re-imagining’ of that film (that’s so much nicer than ‘ripoff’). But there are differences. The main change is that Temptress has a female in the role of the villain, whereas the French original had a male. Temptress also focuses on the police officer as the villain’s main protagonist, whereas in the French film, it was the reporter, and his falsified newspaper story that incurred the ire of the villain. The other major difference is the ending. Fantomas ends with an inspired (if somewhat slapstick) chase sequence where where Fantomas uses a train, a car, a motorbike, a boat, and a submarine to make his escape. Temptress reverts to a more familiar Bondian setpiece, in her spectacular underground lair – I guess Shaw Bros. figured that they had gone to the trouble and expense of creating the sets; why not use them?

What makes Temptress such a fascinating film is that the two main protagonists are women. Apart from the perv factor, when you think about it, it is quite unique. I am not talking about femme fatales or henchmen (or henchwomen as the case may be), but the main characters – hero and villain are both women. Okay maybe Modesty Blaise had a female hero, but her main villain was Gabriel (Dirk Bogarde), a man. Even the Sumuru pictures, which featured a strong female villain, had a male for the hero (George Nader in Million Eyes and Richard Whyler in Seven Secrets). So to see a film, at the height of the male dominated spy craze, where the two leads are women is quite groundbreaking (maybe there’s some Women’s Prison films out there that may prove me wrong – but women’s prison films aren’t generally geared up to be main stream entertainment). I guess though, the underlying question with Temptress is simply if the film became a showcase for the female leads because the film-makers had to twist the original Fantomas story enough so it wouldn’t look like outright plagiarism. Or where they deliberately pushing the gender stereotype boundary?

I think the answer lies in Shaw Bros. previously made Angel films , particularly the first film, Angel With Iron Fists, which featured Lily Ho as Agent 009. Angel was a strong female heroine and in Iron Fists she goes up against the villainous Mrs Jin – co-incidentally played by Tina Chin Fei. But whereas Ji Ying pretty much goes it alone, Angel had the manly assistance of Tang Ching to help her out – during both of her missions. I almost see the Angel films as a test run for Temptress – a test run that wasn’t quite prepared to go all the way.

Credited as Cheng Chang Ho, Temptress was directed by Chang-hwa Jeong, who is probably best known for directing King Boxer, aka Five Fingers of Death. But prior to Temptress he earned his espionage credentials directing Special Agent X-7 in 1967 (Yan die shen long) – a film that to my knowledge still remains curiously M.I.A. – IMDb lists it as a production of the Kam Hoi Film Company and intimates that there was some South Korean funding too, but I can find no information to verify this. The flyer below would indicate that the film was a Shaw Bros. production – but for all I know, it may have just been a distribution deal.

Special Agent x-7
Special Agent x-7

Temptress of a Thousand Faces, while being derivative of Fantomas, and borrowing heavily from other spymania films (there’s a car with revolving number plates, for example) is a quite a good film, possibly eclipsing some of the lessor films it was trying to imitate. The film is lightning paced with plenty of fights, car chases and a mod pop-art sensibility that make it perfect entertainment for those with a penchant for sixties spy cinema.

Now here’s where it gets a little weird – and most of this is sheer guesswork I my behalf. But to preface my thoughts, here’s a ramble I posted (slightly edited) on the Eurospy Forum some months ago:

Here we go again. I am on one of my investigative quests and am casting out my long tendril like feelers for information.

Before I go any further – credit where credit is due. Most of the information I am about to recite (or link to) has been discovered by Todd at the blog Die Danger Die Die Kill and Todd cites Dave at Soft film for providing some leads.

Passport to Hell
Passport to Hell

It’s best I start at the beginning and the Eurospy film – Sergio Sollima’s Passport to Hell. I am presuming that most of you have seen (or will see) this film. Passport to Hell is a good film, and of the hundreds of Eurospy films that were made in the sixties, it is possibly one of the best, buoyed by the sincerity of Giorgio Ardisson’s performance and a script that refuses to collapse into goofy genre conventions.

Now about 18 months ago, on Die Danger Die Die Kill, Todd reviewed a Shaw Bros. Hong Kong film called The Black Falcon. What Todd discovered, which nobody had mentioned before, was that The Black Falcon was essentially a remake of Passport to Hell.  Well, that put The Black Falcon on my radar, and I figured in time I would pick up a copy and compare it for myself. It took me a while, but I finally obtained a copy of The Black Falcon.

Now Todd reviewed a VCD version of the film, whereas, the only copy I could get was on DVD. With the DVD I got a few extra features that Todd wasn’t privy to. One of these was a photo gallery. In the gallery there are two shots that are the same, but featuring different actors. The text explained that one was the Hong Kong version of the film; the other, filmed simultaneously with a different cast, was an ‘international’ version.

So that had me thinking that there were ‘two’ remakes of Passport to Hell. Of course I have searched for the second ‘International’ remake, but so far without any luck.

Then a couple of weeks ago, on Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill, Todd posted a review of  Gerak Kilat, which featured a swinging sixties spy named Jefri Zain. You can read Todd’s review here.

It appears the Gerak Kilat was made by Shaw Bros. Malay studio in Singapore. And it was the first of 3 (possibly more?) Jefri Zain films. In Todd’s review he said that other films in the series were filmed in Hong Kong, simultaneously with other Shaw films. That made me think that possibly the ‘International’ Passport to Hell film I was seeking, may have been in fact a Malay film.

Bayanga Ajal
Bayanga Ajal

This was borne out by a follow-up post Todd made concerning the two sequels to Gerak Kilat. You can read the post here (with screencaps). Here it is revealed that the first sequel Bayangan Ajal is a version of Lo Wei’s Summon to Death. The next sequel,, Jurang Baraya is a version of Angel Strikes Back.

And to take things further, Angel With The Iron Fists was versioned as, Nora Zain: Woman Agent 001 which featured Nora Zain (most likely Jefri Zain’s secret agent sister).

So that’s the tale of the tape so far. Now what I am looking for is a bit more information on this. And here are a few of my assertions which I have no proof for at all – guesses at this stage which need some confirmation (or denial). Firstly, as 3 of Lo Wei’s spy films at Shaws were made into Malay versions, I am guessing it wouldn’t be too weird for The Golden Buddha to have also had simultaneous versions made (it too could be a Jefri Zain film?) In fact practically any Shaw Bros spy film could have a Malay cousin out there.

Saazish
Saazish

Another of the Hong Kong Shaws Bros films that is of interest to me (I haven’t seen it yet), is The Temptress of a Thousand Faces, which from the reviews that I have read, would appear to be a remake of Andre Hunebelle’s first Fantomas film, but with a female lead character. This too, may have been a prime candidate for a Malay version – so I am possibly looking for two remakes of Fantomas. (Actually I am looking for 4 Fantomas films – must track down Turkish Fantomas in Iron Claw the Pirate and Bollywood Fantomas in Saazish but that is another story)..

Below are some links to a few Youtube clips:
Nora Zain
Jurang Bahaya
Gerak Kilat

So there it is. If you have any comments, information or thoughts…?

As you read, at the time of writing I had not seen Temptress of a Thousand Faces. Now that I have, the question still remains – was a Malay version filmed at the same time? It would make sense. After all, the sets are pretty impressive, and it would make good economic sense to use them again (and again). I am sure, Shaw Bros. would like to get double the bang for their buck.

So if you’re a fan of Asian spy cinema and know of any alternate versions to this film (or in fact any of the Shaw Bros. spy films), feel free to drop my a line.

Temptress of a Thousand Faces (1969)

Agent on Ice

Release Year: 1986
Country: United States

Here’s another poster I found [click on image for larger view]. Once again, it’s another film I know nothing about. Consider these recent poster images as a visual ‘things to do’ list. Having said that, simply because I have put the poster up on my blog is not an endorsement of the film. In fact on IMDb, Agent on Ice rates 3.6 out of 10 – so it is probably a turkey.

But I like the spy imagery – a man on the run in a trenchcoat – and a bloody big gun. The gun seems more befitting for Dirty Harry than a spy, but it still is a striking image.

Agent on Ice

The Major and Death

Original Title: Maiorui si moartea
Country: Romania
Release Year: 1967
Director: Alexandru Boiangu

Here’s a another striking spy poster for the Romanian spy thriller Maiorui si moartea (The Major and Death) click on image for larger view. Of course, I have never seen the film, and can find out little about it beyond in director and cast. The imagery used would suggest that it is a Romanian take on James Bond – the gun barrel motif is quite blatant – but that could be deceptive marketing too.

See the original (and many other great spy posters) at Terry Posters.

Below is the Film für Sie Nr.96/68  program from the Virtual History Film site – click on image for larger view.

The director, Alexandru Boiangu appeared to specialise in documentary and short film subjects, so I would guess that the film is a rather sparse affair – but none-the-less, it would be fascinating to watch this spy thriller from the other side of the Iron Curtain made at the peak of the Cold War.

The Major and Death

Teheran 43

Teheran 43 (1981)

Also Known as: Assassination Attempt and The Eliminator

Don’t know too much about this one. I found this poster while scouring the net, and I liked the Dali-esque touches [click on image for larger view]. It was a Russian film, but it received a substantial international release (apparently it was released on video in Australia as The Eliminator). The stars were Curt Jurgens, Alain Delon and Evelyne Kraft (who I always remember as the scantily clad jungle girl in Mighty Peking Man (AKA: Goliathon).

The plot concerns a plan by the Nazis to assassinate Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill.

Teheran 43

Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow

Artist: Sheryl Crow
Single: Tomorrow Never Dies
1997 A&M Records

There is only one thing wrong with Sheryl Crow’s theme song for the film Tomorrow Never Dies – and that is k.d. Lang’s song Surrender was so much better, and slotted in nicely with David Arnold’s musical score throughout the film. But let’s pretend we live in an alternate universe where Lang’s version doesn’t exist, and then I think you can appreciate that Crow’s song is a good, poppy little number with enough Bondian flourishes to keep most Bond music fans happy. And the lyrics are pretty good too…and hey, let’s be honest, lyrics are not always the strong point of a Bond theme tune (cases in point being The Man With the Golden Gun and Another Way to Die).

Darling I’m killed
I’m in a puddle on the floor
Waiting for you to return
Oh what a thrill
Fascinations galore
How you tease
How you leave me to burn
It’s so deadly my dear
The power of having you near

[CHORUS]
Until the day
Until the world falls away
Until you say there’ll be no more goodbyes
I see it in your eyes
Tomorrow never dies

Darling you’ve won
It’s no fun
Martinis, girls, and guns
It’s murder on our love affair
But you bet your life
Every night
While you chase in the morning light
You’re not the only spy out there
It’s so deadly my dear
The power of wanting you near

Chorus

Until the day
Until the world falls away
Until you say there’ll be no more goodbyes
I see it in your eyes
Tomorrow Never Dies…

Until the day
Until the world falls away
Until you say there’ll be no more goodbyes
See it in your eyes…

Until the day… Until the day… Until the day…….

Actually, most of the lyrics don’t even make sense, but there one or two nice couplets, and even then a Bond song is never really about the words — it’s about the imagery and the conviction in which it is sung. And Crow sounds pretty convincing. Despite her conviction, Tomorrow Never Dies cannot be considered one of the classic Bond songs, but I don’t see it as a misfire — once again, I just think it is a poor marketing decision to go with this ahead of Surrender.  The CD single has four tracks on it, the other three being completely unrelated to the Bond franchise and coming from Crow’s albums Sheryl Crow and Tuesday Night Music Club.

Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow