The Host (2006)

Country: Korea
Director: BOON Joon-ho
Starring: SONG Kang-ho, BYUN Hee-bong, PARK Hae-il, BAE Doo-na, KO A-sung
Cinematographer: KIM Hyung-ku
Editor: KIM Sun-min
Writers: BOON Joon-ho, HA Won-jun, BAEK Chul-hyun
Music: LEE Byung-woo
Producers: CHOI Yong-bae, Junyoung Jang, JOH Neung-yeon, Lewis Kim, KIM Woo-Taek, Jeong Tae-Sung

What makes a great monster film? I think there’s two main ingredients (beyond plain old simple competent film making). The first is the depiction of the monster itself, and here there are two schools of thought. One is to hide the monster from view, believing that what the audience doesn’t see, is actually more scary than anything that can be shown on the screen – the theatre of the mind at work. The other approach is to put the monster front and centre. Of course this only works if you’ve got some damn fine special effects and make-up artists working on the film. The Host takes this second approach, having the monster on the go from the very outset. The second crucial ingredient to a great monster film, is the story and the characters who inhabit it. I know, it sounds simple doesn’t it – but if you don’t give a fuck about the characters, are you going to care when the monster comes a calling and a chompin’ and a chewin’ – me thinks not.

The Host, a film from Korea, has a good central unit of characters, the PARK family, who appear to live and work from a small food-seller’s van, in a park beside the Han River in Seoul. First there’s the patriarc of the family, played by BYUN Hee-bong, known simply as Grandpa or Father, depending on the character speaking. As the head of the family, he tries to keep his three grown children in check, which is not that easy. His eldest son, PARK Gang-du (SONG Kang-ho) is a little bit simple. As the eldest child, before the food cart, in the hard times, he suffered from malnutrition – and it is surmised that it has effected his brain. Gang-du also has a thirteen year-old daughter named Hyun-seo, whose mother disappeared straight after giving birth. Gang-du struggles to bring her up, and the other family members help out. Gang-du’s younger brother, Nam-il (PARK Hae-il) is a highly educated college graduate, who cannot find a job, and has subsequently become something of a drunk. Finally there is their sister Nam-joo, who is a competitive archer.

So the PARK’s are a pretty dysfunctional family- in fact they make the Simpsons seem average.

The film starts with a Scientist – possibly American, judging by the accent – demanding that his junior assistant, Mr. Kim, pour down the sink, a stockpile of formaldehyde bottles. The reason disposing of the chemical, is that the bottles have been sitting around for so long, that they have acquired a coating of dust – and in a laboratory, dust is the enemy. Mr. Kim suggests that disposing of the formaldehyde is such a manner, is not only a breach of regulations, but is also downright irresponsible as the drain leads directly to the Han River. The lead scientist doesn’t care, and demands that his instructions be carried out to the letter. Mr. Kim reluctantly agrees to pour out the bottles, and there are a lot of bottles.

You recognise this old monster movie cliché don’t you? Sure you do. The weird thing here, is this opening scene is based on an actual incident that happened in Korea in 2000, known as the McFarland Case, where a morgue attendant on a U.S. military base dumped a whole load of toxic chemicals down a drain which lead to the Han River. Of course this is filmdom, not real life, and something in the river mutates, and one fine afternoon by the Han river, as people go about their leisure activities, a group of people notice some kind of ‘thing’ hanging from a bridge that crosses the river. This creature is hanging by its tail, and sort of looks like a grey salamander. Suddenly it slides down and drops into the water. The crowd who have been watching, move to the river’s edge to track its progress. Among them is Gang-du. As they peer into the water, all they can see is a dark shadow, which appears to be sitting stationery, just a few metres from the river’s edge.

Gang-du, who was in the midst of serving some cans of beer to a customer on the river’s edge, decides to lob one of the cans into the river, near the dark shadow of the creature. After the can lands, a giant spear-like tail darts out, encircles the cans and drags it back underwater, to what most people presume is its mouth. This playful antic delights the crowd no end, so all the onlookers decide to throw out more food and drink for the creature – of course, all their mobile phones are out recording footage and taking photos of the action. But it appears that the creature is bored, and the shadow moves away from the shore, much to the disappointment of the crowd.

Before the crowd has a chance to disperse, having jumped up somewhere out of sight, running along the pathway beside the river, is the creature. As it runs, it bites, tramples or swats everybody in its path. The crowd run away screaming ‘Gojira! Gojira!’ – No they don’t, but that paints a nice mental picture for you – it’s the same thing. Hundreds of people are scrambling for their lives, before being turning into a meal for the giant rampaging monster.

Into the monster’s path, Gang-du’s daughter, Hyen-seo walks, almost oblivious to the carnage that the beast has been causing. Gang-du runs past and grabs her hand attempting to drag her to safety. She looses her footing and falls. Gang-du reaches back and grabs her hand again and rushes forward. Only the thing is, it wasn’t Hyen-seo’s hand. It was another young girl’s hand. Hyen-seo has been left behind in the path of the creature. He has saved the wrong girl.

As the creature bares down, it veers off to the side and it looks like it is going to run straight past Hyen-seo, paying her no attention. But then, at the last second, the creature’s tail shoots out, and curls around and scoops her up. Before anyone can come to her aid, the creature runs to the river’s edge and dives into the water.

If Gang-du had a shallow grasp of reality before, well now that he has lost his daughter, he’s complete mess. In fact, the whole PARK family is traumatised by Hyen-seo’s death.

The area around the river goes into lockdown with the military and the police cordoning off the area. Then the boffins turn up wearing yellow contamination suits. It is discovered that if you come into contact with the creature, it transmits a virus to your skin. Earlier, during the beasts rampage, as Gang-du had attempted to fight off the creature, his face had been covered in a spray of blood. Naturally the boffins want him, and drag him off for examination and a battery of other invasive tests.

While locked away in hospital, Gang-du recieves a call on his mobile phone. It is Hyen-seo. She says ‘Dad, listen to me! I can’t get out!’ She is in a sewer somewhere in the city – then before she can share any more information, the battery on her phone cuts out. Now, Gang-du, the simpleton, has to come good and save his daughter. Of course he can’t do it alone, and with the aid of his family he breaks out of the hospital and quarantine and goes searching for his daughter.

Once Gang-du escapes, it is feared that an epidemic- from the creatures virus, transmitted by Gang-du and his family, will sweep the country, and then spread across the world. The United States Government chooses to intervene, and plans to douse the whole city, with an anti-viral dust know as ‘Agent Yellow’. It has been said that ‘Agent Yellow’ has severe side-effects, and protest marches occur through the city, but this does not deter the boffins from implementing their viral defence program.

The Host is possibly the best big dumb monster movie since the original Tremors. The film realises the cliches in its script and actually embraces them in a big warm group hug. Make no mistake, we have all seen the plot threads on display here, and variations on the action sequences. I am sure that many of you, from the simple plot synopsis I jotted out above, can guess where this story is going – and most of you would be right. Story originality, is not The Host’s strong point. But what The Host does well, is gleefully round up all these familiar plot devices, then add a dash of comedy, a pinch of drama, a teaspoon of white-knuckle suspense, and a goodly serving of mild horror – providing the recipe for a damn good time in front of the television.

But unlike the aforementioned Tremors, which was just good fun, The Host has a few interesting observations to make about ‘World Health’ such as the SARS outbreak and the Chicken Flu epidemic, also about Human Rights, and finally some social commentary about the current Korean/American relationship. But the film doesn’t whack you over the head with these issues, it simply allows them to simmer under the surface. If you wish to apply them to your appreciation of the film, well, that’s up to you. For me, that’s just gravy on top of an already hugely satisfying meal.

If there is a weakness in The Host, and this will not surprise many readers in this day and age, it is that the creature is CG monster. And while the effects are pretty good, it renders (pardon the pun) the monster a trifle cold. At least a man in a suit gives a performance, but even the best CGI is lifeless creation. In some way that works – in that there’s no real empathy for the creature what-so-ever. It is simply a killing machine. We don’t know why it kills, beyond the fact that it is a mutant and that’s what mutant fish do – kill people. The the coldness of the digital monster, adds to this aloofness. But by the same token, if you are going to put the monster front and centre, as this film does, then you want to understand what drives or motivates the creature – beyond the fact that this is a monster movie and monsters run around killing people. I only say this, because there is some intriguing questions to be asked about the creature. I haven’t outlined the plot to the nth degree in my ramblings above – I don’t like my reviews to have too much extrapolation and spoil the film – but there are quite a few scenes that make you ask why is it doing that? And they are never really explained – like there a scene where the creature vomits up all these skeleton pieces. Why? Apart from the yuck factor.

Maybe some secrets should remain secrets. Anyway, that’s only a small quibble. The Host, is a pretty entertaining film, and on the ‘Rox’ or ‘Sux’ barometer, I would resoundingly say that The Host ‘Rox!’

The Host (2006)

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

The next review in the Teleport City espionage festival is up and it is Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever written by David Thomas.

In addition, some exciting news just in from Teleport City HQ. The communique reads:

I know I’m not the only one around here who was a big fan of David Thomas’ cult film review site STEAMED PRAWN BUNS, and I know I’m not the only one who has been lamenting its passing. Well, after an exchange of bribes, some kidnapping, blackmail, and a shootout that took place over a series of rooftops and terraced trails lined with lemon trees and olives in Cinque Terre, Italy, Dave has been kind enough to let Teleport City give his reviews a new home.

Starting…NOW…we’ll be reposting Dave’s reviews at Teleport City, with they’re very own Steamed Prawn Buns tag so you can dig them all up as they appear. I’m pretty psyched that he’s letting us do this, and hell…maybe we’ll even sneak a new review or two out of him if he isn’t too busy with the Royal Wedding.

My memories of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever are hazy at best, and not particularly favourable, but enough time has passed, that I think that I should watch it again. Not that I expect that time will have improved it, but any film with Lucy Liu and Talisa Soto in it cannot be all bad. Can it?

Here’s a snippet from Dave T’s review of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever:

There is much discussion among film aficionados as to what is the worst videogame to movie adaptation. For some, it’s the unloved sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Others speak of the searing pain of Super Mario Brothers. Based on the poor box office and critical brickbats that came its way, 2002’s Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever seemed determined to give them all a run for their money. Given that the movie is based on of all things a Gameboy game, it was obvious from the get-go that the screenwriters were going to have to create the plot from scratch. What they came up with was the old ‘rogue agent gone bad, burned-out agent reluctantly returns to track her down’ chestnut, but were able to add a few utterly baffling twists of their own.

To read the full review, click here.

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

Field Reports: 3

There must be something in the air this December. I don’t know about you, but this summer (it’s Summer Down Under – apologies to those who are suffering through extreme blizzards at the moment) I am going to sit at home in my underwear armed with a remote control and indulge in filmdoms most sexist, suave, psychedelic, fast and furious forms of entertainment. I will put on a white dinner jacket, a fez, mix myself a vodka martini (shaken not stirred – of course), pull up a candy coloured beanbag and be blasted back to a time before political correctness. Ah, the good life.

But as an aperitif, the internet is already being inundated with superspies. Teleport City continues it’s espionage month, and for the latest installment Keith reviews Lupin III: Elusiveness of the Fog, which unfortunately doesn’t have too much espionage in it.

Meanwhile, Tanner at the Double-O-Section appears to have launched his own one-man Eurospy festival, with reviews of Scorpions and Miniskirts (AKA: Death on a Rainy Day), followed up with Spies Strike Silently. Both are films I have been meaning to check out – I mean ‘Scorpions and Miniskirts’ – a film with a title like that just has to be watched ‘right’?

For those who missed them, on Teleport City the other reviews have included Golden Eyes: Secret Agent 077, Si Muore Solo Una Volta, Superseven Calling Cairo, Lightning Bolt and The Devil’s Man.

Field Reports: 3

Zero Woman: Final Mission (1995)

Zero WomanCountry: Japan
Director: Kenji Enokido
Starring: Naoko Iijima, Wataru Takasagi, Misayo Haruki, Hidetoshi Okamoto, Miho Suzuki, Toshihiko Hino
Music: Shigeru Umebayashi

Zero Woman returns once again, and despite this film’s title, this would not be her final mission, just another in the long line of cheap, exploitative ‘semi-spy’ films from Japan. I say ‘semi-spy’ because Japan seldom makes straight spy films. Their operatives are usually police officers working for special ‘secret branches’ of the force. In this instance, Rei or Zero Woman if you prefer, works for Section Zero – an ultra secret division of the police force that takes on the criminals that the regular police cannot tackle.

The film opens in a nightclub and a table of shady looking types are thanking a gentleman named Mr. Ogato for his assistance in obtaining some work visas for a few men. Ogato gratefully accepts a wad of cash for his efforts. Then a gorgeous woman walks into the club, dressed in a figure-hugging white dress, with a feather boa wrapped around her shoulders and neck. This is, as you would have no doubt guessed, is Rei, Zero Woman (Naoko Iijima)

Ogato asks, “Who is the babe?”

“Your date,” she responds, and removes the feather boa, revealing a low cut top.

Tucked in her cleavage is a pistol. The table of thugs panics. She shoots one minion, and another scarpers. She then places her gun on the table in front of Ogato. It turns out he is not a gangster but a crooked cop from Division Four. Ogato reaches across the table and picks up her gun, but is too slow, as Zero Woman drops to one knee, and retrieves another pistol from her garter belt. She shoots and kills the corrupt cop.

Naoko Iijima as Rei (Zero Woman)

Afterward she reports to HQ, and assigned to track down a serial killer who escaped while the police were transferring him to a maximum security prison. He tracks him down by staking out his daughter. When he returns to see her, Zero Woman confronts him. He grabs his own daughter and holds a knife to her throat. Zero Woman once again gives up her gun, but as the killer reaches for it, she produces another pistol, which she had hidden on her personage somewhere, and shoots him dead.

Next day, Zero Woman takes the serial killer’s now orphaned daughter to a special school where she will be looked after. Upon arrival, however, a press conference is going on. Yumi Ogasawara heads a charity which supports the school. Yumi also happens to be the daughter of an overprotective politician.

We find out a bit more about Yumi – in particular, her social life. When we next see her she is in a hotel room with a guy, and she asks him to torture her. We next see her bound to the bed.

Then later, we see her with a new guy. She drives him somewhere secluded and disrobes. Once again, she asks to be tortured. But this guy balks at the kinky stuff. He calls her a ‘perverted bitch’ and walks away. Still naked, she slips behind the wheel of the car, and then pursues him, finally running him down.

This vehicular homicide happened to be witnessed by Detective Oda and Zero Woman, but by the time they arrived at the scene, Yumi had driven off and disappeared. When the case is handed over , for others to investigate, rather than murder it is cited as a simple hit and run. Both Oda and Zero Woman are told that they are seeing things.

Zero Woman doesn’t take it to heart. She has been around a while, and knows that some cover up or conspiracy taking place. Oda, however, feels that justice is not being served and begins to look more deeply into the matter. Suddenly the hitmen come out of the woodwork gunning for both Oda and Zero Woman (even though she is staying away from the case).

But when Oda is killed, and a hitman comes calling on Zero Woman when she is taking a shower (a perfect opportunity for some gratuitous nudity), she realizes that she has to find out what is really going on, if she is going to survive.

Gratuitous nudity is a hallmark of the Zero Woman series

This film really has very little to recommend it, and once again, like many of the other Zero Woman films, it doesn’t really feature that much espionage, in this case it is more of a story about a corrupt politician. But there is one sequence that is so bat-shit insane and surreal it almost makes the film worth viewing for this sequence alone. In the scene, Zero Woman has been captured, and rather than just killing her, the bad guys have on their payroll a malignant little dwarf named Mr. Renfield. Renfield seems to be a jailer and torturer, and it is his job to have as much twisted pleasure with his captives as he can. This involves a lot of twisted B&D scenes which I won’t outline here, and some automated binding machine. When Renfield starts humping the leg of a deformed statue, while one of his devices goes to work on Zero Woman, the film presents one of the great WTF moments. If it wasn’t for the presence of Zero Woman, I would almost suggest this scene belongs in another film.

The Zero Woman films that have been given an American release are not shown in order – not that I think that really matters. However, when watching this film, I was wondering if I had missed an episode which explains the change in the Zero Woman universe. In this film, Rei actually seems like a normal cop, and is seen and known by the other members of the police force. They may not know exactly what she does, but they know about her, which seems at odds with the films I have seen, where she operates as somewhat of an outsider.

Furthermore, if you’ll pardon this minor spoiler, it turns out that her boss, the head of Section Zero is in cahoots with the bad guys. The part that irks me is not that he turned bad, that’s a good old tried and true story device for a film like this, but that he sends off a couple of goons to finish her off. As her boss, and the controller of Section Zero, he should be totally aware of what she is capable of doing. He should send an army after her. Maybe he has not only turned bad, but turned stupid also.

This sloppy story continuity within the series, coupled with the fact that it appears that no actress has played Zero Woman twice (I may be wrong there – it’s hard to find information on some of the later films which haven’t received an international release), means that these movies are stand alone features and not really a cohesive series. There is no real intention to build on or extend the mythos of the character. These films seem to exist solely as a bit of cheap titillation with an overdose of boob, bums and blood.

Realistically Zero Woman films are exploitation pictures of the cheapest and nastiest kind. Zero Woman: Final Mission is the type of film that you really need to take a shower after watching. Not a cold shower, but a hot one, with plenty of soap, because after watching this, you are going to feel quite ‘dirty’.

Images from Videowatchdog’s Hong Kong Digital

Zero Woman: Final Mission (1995)

Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974)

Zero WomanCountry: Japan
Director: Yukio Noda
Starring: Miki Sugimoto, Eiji Go, Tetsuro Tanba, Hideo Murota, Ichiro Aki
Music: Daisuke Okamoto
AKA: The Tigers From Osaka

The first thing you should know about this film is that it is violent and repugnant. But to me, there are two types of exploitation pictures. One that serves up its violence and leering sex in cheap and unsatisfying manner. These movies are made simply to make money and pander to an audience. Generally these films disappear of the face of the earth pretty quickly. Then there are the ones that are trying to push boundaries, or present taboo subjects in a stylish manner. These are few and far between. Japan’s cycle of Pinku Eiga or Pinky Violence films seem to straddle these two styles. The films can be incredibly stylish with some truly amazing visuals, but there is an unhealthy dose of muck-raking sleaze too.

Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs is certainly stylish. Some of the mayhem, death and destruction on display almost have a poetic touch to them – that is if you can appreciate the poetic qualities of a naked woman just being stabbed to death and falling into a bathtub, with the ensuing blood cloud encircling her body until only her face and the tips of her breasts break the surface of the blood red water. Yep, it is violent and creepy, but visually it has a certain sense of style and power.

The film opens in a nightclub, and a woman (Miki Sugimoto) in a red outfit is dancing. A foreign businessman, who has been watching appreciatively offers to buy her a drink. In fact he buys her several, because he wants to get her drunk. And it appears like he has succeeded. He takes the young woman back to his apartment. She appears to have passed out from all the alcohol. He places her on the bed, and then takes off all her clothing. Next he retrieves a suitcase, and opens it. Inside is a selection of sex toys, whips and lengths of rope. While he is selecting his implement of pleasure, the girl wakes up and bounds into action. First she checks his pockets and retrieves a passport. It says the gentleman’s name is Richard Saxon, he is from the country of Almania (obviously fictitious), and he works at the embassy.

When he returns, whip in hand, she confronts him with an envelope full of photographs. These are other girls with whom he has carried out his perverted schemes with. In two instances, the girls involved died. Saxon charges at her and attacks with the whip. She produces a set of red-handcuffs – her signature weapon – which will be used throughout the film. She throws the cuffs through the air, with one bracelet locking around a support beam and the other clasping around his neck. Gasping for breath, he reaches for a gun, but she retrieves a bright red pistol first and shoots. The bullet catches him in the groin, and a bloody geyser erupts from the towel wrapped around his waist. He then falls back into a bath-tub dead.

This mysterious woman, who is not named in the film – later on when asked, she calls herself ‘Zero’ and hence the moniker ‘Zero Woman’ is a police officer. And her murder of the diplomat from Almania is too much for the Japanese police force. Her superiors are outraged, and she finds herself arrested and sent to prison on a count of Murder. You can imagine what happens to a cop in prison. She is beaten an brutalized.

Meanwhile, a vicious criminal, Nakahara is released from Kangawara Prison after a stint in the big house. Outside his gang of misfits is waiting for him. The first thing Nakahara and his gang do, is find a young couple in a car. The pull the man out of the vehicle and knock him into tomorrow. Then they drag the girl out and brutally gang-rape her. The boy-friend regains consciousness and rushes to his girlfriends aid, only to be stabbed to death by Nakahara.

The gang bring their rape-victim, who is unconscious, back to their hideout, which happens to be a brothel run by a lady known as ‘Big Sis’. The gang members offer the girl – to be forced into prostitution – to Big Sis as payment for their lodgings. However Big Sis recognizes the girl’s face from a newspaper article. She is Kyoko Zengo, the daughter of a powerful politician. Kyoko is also engaged to be married to the President’s son. The gang change their plans. Instead they are going to demand a ransom of 30,000,000 yen for her return.

Kyoko’s father, played by legendary Tetsuro Tanba (from You Only Live Twice and countless Japanese spy television shows), is informed by the police that most likely he will never see his daughter again. He asks that police do the best that they can, but he insists that the story does not get leaked to the media. The news would destroy the wedding plans in place.

So the operation to retrieve Kyoko must be carried out in secret. Furthermore, they cannot simply capture and arrest the kidnappers – they must kill them and destroy all evidence so that the story does not come out.

The chief of police discreetly goes to the prison, and offers the job to Zero Woman. Zero Woman accepts the job, but she is not quite the person she used to be. Being sold out by her superiors and brutalized in prison has made her cold and detached. She is almost like a robot.

When the money exchange goes wrong, Zero Woman steps in and saves Nakahara from the police. Nakahara is grateful for her intervention and brings her back to the hideout. The other members of the gang are not so trusting however, and decide to test her allegiances – to see if she is a spy. By testing her, I mean they rape and humiliate her. It’s is all pretty repugnant stuff. But Zero Woman doesn’t seem affected by the abuse. As I intimated earlier, all of the brutality that Zero Woman has had to endure has enabled to switch off her emotions. However on a positive note, Zero Woman has managed to get herself inside the gang, where she can slowly pick off each of the gang members and bring Kyoko back to her father safely.

It is a massive understatement to say, that this is not a film for everyone. It is extreme in every way. Sex and violence are paraded unashamedly across the screen. Director Yukio Noda has trod this path before – that being ultra secret departments within the police force who use extreme methods – in films such as the Yakuza Deka pictures with Sonny Chiba. I guess, that it is only logical that he’d want to push the envelope as far as it could go with this type of story, and I would say he has succeeded. Chiba’s films are tough, but don’t hold a candle to the extremes on display here.

As a spy film, Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs doesn’t really have too much to offer, and if you’re coming at the film as a spy film fan I’d have to say, give this one a big miss. However, if you are interested in Pinky Violence films, then this film is probably one of the premier examples in what is a pretty messed up film genre, and as perverted as this may sound, I’d have to recommend it very highly. Needless to say, this is not a film for the feint hearted.

Zero Woman would return in the 1990s in a series of shot on hi-def video features, which too are pretty beastly, but do not have the sense of style that this feature exhibits. The films are:

  • Zero Woman: Keishichô 0-ka no onna (1995) aka “Zero Woman: Final Mission
  • Zero Woman 2 (1995) aka “Zero Woman
  • Zero Woman III: Keishichô 0-ka no onna (1996) aka “Zero Woman: Assassin Lovers
  • Zero Woman: Namae no nai onna (1997) aka “Zero Woman: The Accused
  • Zero Woman: Kesenai kioku (1997) aka “Zero Woman: The Hunted
  • Zero Woman: Abunai yûgi (1998) aka “Zero Woman: Dangerous Game”
  • Zero Woman: Saigo no shirei (1999) aka “Zero Woman Returns
  • Shin Zero Ûman-0-ka no onna: futatabi… (2004) aka “Zero Woman 2005
  • Zero Woman R (2007)
Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs (1974)

Golden Eyes: Secret Agent 077 (1968)

The espionage festival continues at Teleport City.  Today however, I step back into the shadows and allow Todd to carry the ball – and carry it he has – all the way to India! And you know what that means folks! Yep, not only wild and crazy spyjinx, but wild and willfully energetic dancing.

Uploaded to youtube by: amitajai22

Today’s feature presentation is the Bollywood spy caper Golden Eyes: Secret Agent 077, featuring Mumtaz, Sailesh Kumar and genre favourite, Helen. Here’s a brief snippet:

The 1968 film Golden Eyes: Secret Agent 077 is the sort of movie where bare-walled sets are dressed by way of colored lighting (it’s amazing what 1960s movies could accomplish with just a couple lights and some primary colored gels) and a super villain’s high-tech lair is represented by having what looks like the contents of an old Radio Shack “Build Your Own Ham Radio” kit strewn on a wooden table. In another villain’s hideout, the only decoration is a giant inflatable whiskey bottle. People speaking into common household fixtures and furnishings — lamps, radiators, etc. — as if they were communications devices replaces the fancy gadgets that had become prerequisites of the genre by this time. Scientific torture gizmos are so advanced scientifically that they are invisible, their effects only perceptible from the pained grimaces on the faces of their otherwise manifestly unmolested subjects. And yes, it’s all pretty delightful.

To be beamed directly to Teleport City and bathe in the candy-coloured excess that is Golden Eyes: Secret Agent 077 click here.

For those who crave more cheap-jack spy thrills, you can also:

• Kick back with ‘Rampaging’ Ray Danton in Si Muore Solo Una Volta.
• Globe-trot like a superspy with Superseven Calling Cairo.
• Strike like a ball of thunder with Lightning Bolt.
• Ponder the odd, and incredibly cheap The Devil’s Man.

For those who like their spirits – and like James Bond, check out Keith’s rambling, insane primer on how to drink whiskey like James Bond – Bottled in Bond.

Golden Eyes: Secret Agent 077 (1968)

Si Muore Solo Una Volta (1967)

Country: Spain / Italy / France
Starring: Ray Danton, Pamela Tudor, Sylvia Solar, Dada Gallotti, Francesca Rosana, Fernando Cebrian, Marco Guglielmi, Julio Pena
Director: Giancarlo Romitelli
Music: Carlo Savina

Teleport City continues its espionage festival, and today’s contribution is another Eurospy feature: Si Muore Solo Una Volta.

The sub-genre of spy films, known as Eurospy has its own group of superstars. Many of them are forgotten names now, such as Tony Kendall and Brad Harris (from the Kommissar X films), George Nader (from the Jerry Cotton series), Richard Harrison, Ken Clark and Rampaging Ray Danton. Rampaging Ray bludgeoned his way to Eurospy immortality in genre classic such as New York Calling Superdragon, Code Name Jaguar and Lucky the Inscrutable. With his smirk, he was Europe’s answer to James Coburn as Derek Flint. In fact, Danton even landed the role of Flint when they tried to revive the character for a television series in the mid 1970s. Unfortunately for Danton (and Flint fans), the script was crap, and the character was completely unrecognizable as the one who had appeared in two films in the 1960s.

Eurospy Superstar - 'Rampaging' Ray Danton

In Si Muore Solo Una Volta we have one of Danton’s more obscure Eurospy efforts. As far as I am aware, it was never released in an English language version – although it could have been re-edited and repackaged, and re-named for American television by someone like American International Pictures, who so often picked up packages of films from Europe and re-jigged them to suit their scheduling (it wasn’t just the Hercules films that received this special treatment) – although I can find no information to back this up.

To head across to Teleport City, click here.

Si Muore Solo Una Volta (1967)

The Man With the Iron-On Badge

Author: Lee Goldberg
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Published: 2005

2010 has been a good reading year for me. After people have read some of my reviews, and noticed the generally positive slant to them, I get a few comments along the lines of “What, you like every book you read?” Well this is how it works. If I don’t like a book, I rarely finish it (unless I am reading to learn or understand a particular point of view). So if I don’t finish the book, I don’t review the book. It’s that simple.

What appears on this site, is essentially the books I have enjoyed – and this year, I think there has only been about three that didn’t win me over.

Having explained my methodology, I guess it’s rather predictable for me to say that The Man With the Iron-On Badge is another book I thoroughly enjoyed.

It’s very rare that a book lets you know what you are in for in its first few paragraphs. The Man With the Iron-On Badge by Lee Goldberg is one such book. These few opening sentences tell you more about the book than I can in ten paragraphs, so I’ll let Mr. Goldberg paint the picture.

The story opens with:

I don’t know if you’ve ever read John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books before. McGee is sort of a private eye who lives in Florida on a houseboat he won in a poker game. While solving mysteries, he helps a lot of ladies in distress. The way he helps them is by fucking their brains out and letting them cook his meals, do his laundry, and scrub the deck of his boat for a few weeks. These women, McGee calls them “wounded birds” are always very grateful that he does this for them.

To me, that’s a perfect world.

I wanted his life.

Those few simple sentences explain that this is a first person detective novel, it’s witty and it owes a whole lot to the great detective stories of the past. Not only is Travis McGee named checked, but throughout the story, practically every detective whose battered brow graced the covers of hundreds of pulp novels, or who stalked television’s mean streets is given a nod. It also tells you that the story’s hero (and I use the word loosely), Harvey Mapes craves a better life – a life like a literary detective.

The story concerns Mapes, who is a security guard at a private estate in the Spanish Hill area of Camarillo, California. He works the graveyard shift from midnight till eight a.m. His life isn’t going anywhere fast, that is until one of the residents, Cyril Parkus asks Mapes to do a little work on the side. It appears that Parkus’ wife, Lauren has been acting strangely, and he would like her followed for a few days to find out what is going on.

Harvey enthusiastically agrees. This is his chance to do more than just sit on his ass for eight hours in a tiny shack, watching video screen. Of course, Mapes doesn’t have any real investigative experience. His knowledge comes from pulp novels and television show re-runs, and basically he makes a mess of his surveillance stint. But still, despite his mistakes, he is dogged and keeps at it, his confidence growing with each day.

Of course, a story like this, cannot be allowed to run smoothly, and pretty soon Mapes finds himself with cracked ribs and paid off by Parkus. His services are no longer required. But Mapes now has had a taste of life as a detective, and he doesn’t want it to end… and furthermore, he has questions that he needs the answers to. So he begins to dig deeper, flying out to Seattle, to question Lauren Parkus’ mother. Talk about opening a can of worms…

Apart from being highly entertaining, The Man With the Iron-On Badge is author, Lee Goldberg’s love letter to detective fiction and television shows of the past. And as such, a knowledge of these shows is a boon when reading this book. Don’t get me wrong, the references aren’t obscure and you don’t have to be a detective story boffin to appreciate the story, but the subtle in-jokes, and allusions to Shaft, Spenser, Shell Scott, Travis McGee, Mannix, Rockford and many others, simply mean that if you are familiar with those characters, then this book offers that extra bit of ‘knowing’ enjoyment.

Ultimately, The Man With the Iron-On Badge, delivers exactly what the title and the opening paragraphs promise, being a fast paced, first person thriller – about an under achiever who has to strive to be more than he ever thought he could be. More than just a ‘man with an iron-on badge’.

The Man With the Iron-On Badge