Spy Wise presents: The Final Affair

For fans of The Man From UNCLE, I have just received some great new from Wes Britton at Spy Wise. that he has added into his ‘Spies on Television & Radio’ Files, the final The Man From UNCLE novel, The Final Affair, by David McDaniel.

Wes, in his introduction says:

While a number of writers contributed to this series for Ace Books, none was as significant as David McDaniel. In fact his first, The Dagger Affair (No. 4 in the American series) contained the first use of the acronym for the evil THRUSH–the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.

…McDaniel had written one last MFU story justly called The Final Affair which he unfortunately finished several months past its deadline, completed after the parent show’s demise. Ace Books was no longer interested in further novels beyond a handful of reprints of stories first published in England. The Final Affair would have been the 24th ACE story that would have brought the TV show to a more or less logical conclusion where the battle between U.N.C.L.E. and THRUSH finally came to an end.

To head across to Spy Wise, click here.

Spy Wise presents: The Final Affair

The 'Noughties': A Decade in Review

Spywise.net is delighted to announce the publication of four new articles, the first of our “Decade In Review” features discussing the best espionage-oriented projects released since 2000.

Without question, the Crown Jewels of this series can be found in our “Spies on Film” files:

A Decade in Review: The Best Spy Films, Part I (2000-2004)

A Decade in Review: The Best Spy Films, Part II (2004-2009)

The over 50 pages of insights, opinions, and analysis were written by an international cast of experts from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, and Japan. Craig Arthur, Wesley Britton, David Foster, Anders Frejdh, Amanda Ohlke, and Paul Rowlands each discuss movies you’d expect—the Bourne trilogy, Casino Royale — movies you likely never heard of, and likely some controversial choices.

Then, in the “Spies in History and Literature” files, you’ll find:

A Decade in Review: The Best Spy Literature, 2001-2009

A slightly different team, Craig Arthur, Wesley Britton, Mark T. Hooker, Amanda Ohlke, and Bill Raetz suggest the best spy books of this decade, both novels and non-fiction histories and biographies. Compare your choices with theirs and see if you have some catch-up to do! (Or perhaps some ideas about what we missed . . .)

Finally—for now—the last new article is in the “Spies on Television and Radio” files:

A Decade in Review: What We Brits Saw And What We Didn’t (2000-2009)

by Ian Dickerson

This very lively and personable essay is very different from the other overviews. Here, the longtime Honorary Secretary of “The Saint Club” shares his observations on what U.K. “telly” watchers got to see and why they missed some of the better shows we got in the states.

Coming soon: Wes Britton, Craig Arthur, and David Foster will present the “Top 10” TV programs we’ve seen since 2000. In addition, Armstrong Sabien is preparing his overview of the best spy comics and graphic novels of the decade. In the meantime, the film overviews alone should keep you busy—and hopefully find you matching your own perspectives with fellow fans and experts from around the globe. Let us know what you think—the articles are ready for you as PDF files at—

www.Spywise.net

P.S. The man who handled all the visuals for this series, Peter Lorenz, runs the “Illustrated 007 – The Art of James Bond” blog at–

http://illustrated007.blogspot.com/

Peter didn’t choose to plug himself in the articles, feeling his contributions didn’t match those of the writers. I disagree—he created a great banner, plugged in all the photos, and cleaned up the format. So here’s his bio as thanks for all his hard work:

Peter Lorenz is a veteran Bond collector specializing in 007 artwork from around the world. He lives in London with his wife Mia and constantly runs out of space for his collection.

The 'Noughties': A Decade in Review

Happy New Year

Happy New Year. I’m back after my summer/Christmas break and feeling pretty good — maybe I have put on a few kilos — but they’ll drop off once I get back into my regular routine (I hope).

January marks the third anniversary of Permission to Kill and I am looking forward to serving up some new spy treats…and some old. I still have to review four Bond films, two Matt Helm films, two Flint films, two Harry Palmer films. For those who like films with a more International flavour, I have plenty of Eurospy, Hong Kong and Bollywood flicks to look at too.

But to break things up a little this year, I am also going to looking at a few genres and film series that I believe influenced the great spy boom in the sixties. I have looked at some of these characters before – like Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond and The Saint. But this year I intend to cast the net a little wider, and see what I can drag in, and look at how it relates to spy films. Hopefully it will surprise (and amuse) some of you.

The billboard images were taken by my mother while she was holidaying in Venice. Thanks Bev.

Happy New Year

Deadlier Than The Male (1967)

Even though Bulldog Drummond can be considered a prototype for the spies who would populate films and television throughout the fifties and even sixties, a strange thing occurred in 1966. Bulldog Drummond was revamped and remodelled to become a swinging sixties spy, well an insurance investigator actually, but none-the-less he became an imitation of the very thing he created. I haven’t written up a review for Deadlier Than The Male, but I will entrust you to the very safe hands of Tanner at the Double Section who has written two fantastic pieces about this seminal sixties action spy film.

To visit the Double O Section and read Tanner’s review of Deadlier Thean The Male, click here.

And additionally for Tanner’s article on Lipstick Feminism, click here.

Deadlier Than The Male (1967)

Alphaville (1965)

Country: France /Italy
Director:
Jean-Luc Goddard
Starring: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff, Howard Vernon
Music: Paul Misraki

A Strange Case Of Lemmy Caution

“You wouldn’ know me, wouldya? You never heard of me, didya? My name’s Caution – Lemmy Caution – an’ you never heard a G-man with that moniker, didya? You cheap, lousy, double-crossin’, two-timin’ heel. I suppose you got out of New York because of that McConnigle bump-off, hey? An’ who sent you? Who gave you the dough to break outa there with? Come on, spill it, before I sorta get annoyed, an’ bust you in the pan.” 

 

I sit down an’ light a cigarette. I look at the punk through the flame of the lighter. The boy has got his nerve back. He is rememberin’ that this is England.  

“Hey…hey…” he says. “Well, now, if it ain’t the little fly-cop, Lemmy Caution.”

He takes off his fedora an’ makes a big bow. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he says, “allow me to present to you the big ace G-man, Mr. Lemmy Caution, the guy with the big Federal badge an’ a face like the rear end of a milk delivery truck…” 

From the novel ‘G-MAN AT THE YARD’ by Peter Cheyney

I copied the above passage to introduce you to the character of Lemmy Caution. Actor Eddie Constantine almost made a career out of playing Caution or characters that were so similar that they could be Caution by everything but name. Now having said all that, and given you a passage from one of Cheyney’s Caution novels, I am going to ask you to throw that all out the window. Jean-Luc Goddard’s Alphaville is no ordinary Lemmy Caution adventure. In fact, there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about Alphaville at all. It is one of the most unusual films you will come across.

I can tell you why Alphaville is a spy film – it’s simple – Lemmy Caution is Secret Agent 003 and he’s on a mission to liquidate Professor Vonbraum, who has built a sentient computer called Alpha 60. As simple as that sounds, Alphaville doesn’t play out in the usual way. It is possibly one of the least conventional films of all time.

Despite the espionage trappings, the story is twisted into a dystopian science fiction story – albeit with no special effects. And even though it is science fiction, if you stripped away the dialogue, you could be watching an American detective thriller from the 1940s. There are other nods to the past too – with characters called Dick Tracy, Heckel & Jeckel, and Nosferatu. So the film is a spy film, with a hint of science fiction, wrapped up in a style that is a love letter to the pulp stories of the past. But this is only the tip of the iceberg; but first let’s look at a bit of the plot, so I can put some of the other themes into context.

The film starts off in a fairly straight forward manner. Lemmy Caution arrives in the city of Alphaville in his battered Ford Galaxy automobile. Now Alphaville is a police state ruled over by a supercomputer called Alpha 60. Alpha 60’s law is logic. The inhabitants of Alphaville must live in a logical fashion – for example, later in the film a man is sentenced to death because he cried when his wife died. Crying is not logical, so he is sentenced to die. Alpha 60 has also outlawed love and poetry. So the people of Alphaville are a rather cold lot. They lack emotion.

Caution makes his way to a hotel and checks in. As he unpacks, he goes over two photographs of the parties involved in his current assignment. The first is Professor Vonbraun (Howard Vernon), a renegade scientist who created Alpha 60. Caution’s instructions are to acquire or liquidate Vonbraun. He also has to destroy Alpha 60, which will in turn free the people of Alphaville. The other photo is of Henri Dickson (Akim Tamiroff). He was Caution’s predecessor. Also an agent, he was sent to Alphaville to kill Vonbraum, but has been unsuccessful in his attempts.

Posing as a newspaper reporter for Figaro-Pravda (not a real newspaper but a conjunction of the French Figaro and Russia Pravda newspapers), Caution seeks an interview with Vonbraun, and to assist with the process, he is given a guide to show him around the city, and take him to Vonbraum. The guide is Natasha Vonbraun (Anna Karina), the Professor’s estranged daughter. Now I don’t know is estranged is the right word, because at one point she claims she has never met her father, yet it seems like she works with him every day. As Caution and Natasha work together they slowly fall in love – or rather, Caution falls in love with her – but because love has been outlawed in Alphaville, she does not reciprocate the emotion.

Of the many themes contained in Alphaville, the one that seems most prescient today, are the prophetic allusions to the New World Order. In Alphaville, the citizens are numerically coded and their thoughts and emotions are dictated by Alpha 60. Of course, Goddard was mostly making comparisons with Nazi Germany and the tattooing of identity numbers onto concentration camp prisoners. But it applies equally today, where we see the world be carved up into trading blocks and (justified by terrorism) our movements are being heavily monitored. As a global community, we are moving towards life in a fascist society. Extremists believe that it won’t be long before we are all barcoded and microchipped. Data is being recorded and centralized, and the technology exists for mood control. So how far away are we from being controlled by a computer that is similar to Alpha 60?

It doesn’t matter how many words I use, I will never be able to accurately describe Alphaville because it is such a visual experience. Don’t get me wrong – this film does not feature any futuristic grand sets or sweeping stylish camerawork. In fact most of the camerawork is rather nailed down. Often scenes are simply front on shots of the characters heads. The visual impact comes from the little embellishments throughout the film. As an example, as Caution talks to Dickson in a stairway, he pushes the hanging lightglobe so it swings like a pendulum – or a hypnotists watch. Then there is the constant intercutting of traffic lights and direction signs, symbolizing the structured police state that Alphaville has become. You have no choice; you must follow the directions as presented to you! Towards the end of the film, as the violence increases, the film is displayed in random fragments of negative image (that is: black is white and white is black). It may seem like an error, but it reflects Alpha 60’s imminent loss of control.

Alphaville is an amazing film, but in all honesty, it is not the type of film that will appeal to everybody. The structure and the narrative are confusing at times. In places the film veers off into spoken word surrealist poetry that cripples the story’s pacing and although it provides a framework for one of the films other major themes – ‘All you need is love’, – which, until the end, when it all makes sense, seems like an awful, jumbled plot contrivance.

For the jaded spy film fan Alphaville may just be the tonic that you need. It’s something very different but still presents it’s story within the boundaries of an espionage film But if you don’t like it, well don’t blame me!

Alphaville (1965)

Special Announcement!!!

Don’t you hate when you set up your DVD/Video recorder to record a television show overnight and when you check it the next day you find that you have recorded two hours of the home-shopping network? Do you know why this happens? Because machines are evil!

The COBRAS are sick and tired of machines that don’t operate the way they should, and we’re prepared to do something about it! It’s the COBRAS vs. MACHINES. I know this sounds somewhat like Terminator Salvation, but this is not a new concept. Man has been battling machines since the industrial age, and of course, spies have been at the forefront of this battle. Whether it be unplugging sentient super-computers or tussling with Fembots, spies have been saving us from the horrors of the mechanised world. Why? Because machines are evil!

I am pleased to announce, starting next Monday, the COBRAS are having their first roundtable, where we will each, in our individual ways, look at Spies battling machines.


So be sure to check in next Monday and bear witness as the COBRAS take on the most hideous mechanised horror that the spy world can hurl at them!

Special Announcement!!!

Superman: Doomsday (2007)

Directors: Lauren Montgomery, Bruce Timm, Brandon Vietti
Voices: Adam Baldwin, Anne Heche, James Marsters, Swoosie Kurtz, Adam Wylie, Ray Wise, John Di Maggio
Music: Robert J. Kral

As I started the Costumed Adventurer Week with a review of an animated Superman story, I thought it only fitting to come full circle and close out with another adventure from the Man of Steel. It has very little to do with spies…but I just enjoy watching Superman hit people. And it is interesting comparing the newer incarnations of Superman with the original crimefighter who appeared in the Fleischer and Famous studios animated shorts.

When I saw Superman Returns at the cinema, I thought it was just okay. I had seen most of it before, as so much was re-hashed from the original Superman: The Movie (1978) starring Christopher Reeve. The only positive thing to come out of Superman Returns was Brandon Routh’s performance. He was right on the money. And if they make another film, with a decent script, I am sure he’ll make a good Superman.

That brings us to Superman: Doomsday, a recent feature length animated movie. I am not an avid comic reader (although I have read the first issue of Night & Fog – co-written by fellow COBRAS member Matt Bradford), and I am unfamiliar with the comic trilogy it is based on, so I had no pre-conceptions about the story. All I wanted was a bit of ‘oomph’ injected into the Superman story. And I got it. Superman: Doomsday is fantastic. It is the film that Superman Returns should have been.

I am not going to outline the plot as that would give too much away – all I will say is that the film is about the Death of Superman.

The voices are provided by Adam Baldwin (Superman), Anne Heche (Lois Lane), and James Marsters (Lex Luthor). They all do a first rate job, and imbue their characters with life.

The animation by the Warners animation team is up to it’s usual high standard, retaining that stylised 1940’s feel, so reminiscent of the Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons of that era.

The thing that I like about Superman: Doomsday is that they have concocted a story where Superman doesn’t have to be a politically correct overgrown boy scout. He has great adversaries, which allow the ‘man of steel’ to take the gloves off, and the fight scenes are exceedingly well put together. Don’t be put off by the fact that this film is animated. Sure, kids can watch it, but it isn’t a film just for the kids. In fact, in America this feature was the first of the animated series to get a PG-13 rating. So it is a little bit more violent than usual. Highly recommended.

C.O.B.R.A.S DISCUSS COSTUMES ALL THIS MONTH!

The Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies have teamed up this month to explore the fun and flair of Spy Costumes. Double O Section kicked off the month with an excellent series on costumed heroes. In the second week Spy Vibe followed with a series of articles and video clips: Mods To Moongirls. Next week, the coalition series will wrap up with Armstrong Sabian at Mister 8.

Well that’s the last of my contributions to the COBRAS series of Costumed Adventurer Weeks. Next up is Armstrong Sabian at Mister 8, who promises to stretch the envelope in a new direction.

Superman: Doomsday (2007)

Judex (1963)

Country: France / Italy
Director: Georges Franju
Starring: Channing Pollock, Francine Bergé, Edith Scob, Théo Sarapo, Sylva Koscina, René Génin
Music: Maurice Jarre

As usual, I am coming at this review arse-about. This film is a remake of a silent, twelve-part French movie serial that was released in 1916. I have not seen the original serial, so I have to look at the film as a stand alone piece, without the benefit and knowledge of having seen the original. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because each film should be able to stand on it’s own, without the viewer being a learned student of French cinema.

Since this film is a remake, I guess a little bit of history is required. Judex is the Latin word for ‘Judge’ or ‘upholder of the law’, and the title character is cloaked avenger who rights a few wrongs. The original serial was directed by Louis Feuillade. Feuillade created the character (with writer Arthur Bernéde) as a response to negative criticism of two of his earlier serials, Fantomas and Les Vampires. This 1963 film, shot in black and white, and utilising inter-titles, is a loving homage to the original serial.

The film opens on Mr. Favraux, who is a banker with a shady past. He has just received an ominous letter from somebody calling themselves ‘Judex’. The note reads: ‘Mr. Favraux, I order you to atone for your sins by handing over half your fortune to your victims. You have until six o’clock tomorrow evening to comply. Judex.’ Favraux pays little attention to the note, confident that ‘Judex’ is just a swindler trying to scare him. But non-the-less, Favraux hires Mr. Cocantin, a private detective to look into the matter.

Favraux’s reason for hiring Cocantin is two fold. Not only does he have to investigate Judex, but also provide security for his daughter’s engagement party, which is being held on the following day. His daughter, Jacqeline is set to marry Viscount Amaury de la Rochefontaine. During the celebration, there will be a lot of people at Favraux’s chateau and he doesn’t want any trouble.

Later that day, a vagabond turns up on Favraux’s doorstep. The man claims that he went to prison for Favraux, and in return his family was supposed to be ‘looked after’. Instead, Favraux allowed the vagabond’s wife to die destitute and his son to go missing. Favraux laughs off the man’s claims as that of a rambling lunatic. But later, he gets into his car and follows the vagabond. On a deserted stretch of road as the vagabond walks to town, Favraux runs him down, killing him.

Upon his return to the chateau, Favraux receives his second communiqué from Judex. This time is says that if he doesn’t acquiesce to Judex demands then he will be struck down at midnight, on the following day.

Jacqeline’s engagement party is a surreal affair. It is a masked ball, with many people wearing oversized bird-head masks. Favraux, himself wears a giant eagles head, which he takes off at midnight to make a speech to the assembled crowd. As he talks, he has a heart attack and dies.

Afterwards, Jacqueline is to inherit all of Favraux’s money, but once she finds out how he acquired his wealth, she wishes no part of it. The same cannot be said of all of Favreaux’s servants. Marie Verdier, who worked as a tutor to Favraux’s grandchildren wants to get her hands on the money – or even the information with which Favraux had been able to use as leverage, while amassing his fortune. But this isn’t just a sudden shift in character for Marie Verdier. She is in fact, arch villainess Diana Monti, who controls a small gang of evil doers. When see isn’t tutoring, she is dressed in a black cat-suit and committing crime.

Believing that the way to Favraux’s fortune is through Jacqueline, Diana hatches a scheme to capture her. In town, posing as a nun, Diana injects Jacqueline with a potion that knocks her out. Then acting as a good Samaritan, she offers assistance and then spirits her away in the back of an ambulance.

I have already mentioned that the original Judex was made by Feillade in response to negative criticism to his Fantomas serial. There’s a nice little scene that goes to lengths to point out that Judex and Fantomas are the antithesis of each other. During the scene, Detective Cocantin is reading aloud a scene from a pulp Fantomas novel. The scene he describes features both Fantomas and Commissioner Juvé dressed as nuns. Juxtaposing this scene, with the scene of Diana Monti posing as nun, is it fair to assume that Diana is Fantomas?

But back to the story – now Judex has his hands full tracking down the ever resourceful and beguiling – but totally evil – Diana and rescuing Jacqueline. Judex as a hero, or avenger, is pretty piss-weak. Whenever there is trouble, he sends somebody off to get men from the town rather than handling the situation itself. When later, he actually gets involved in the action – that being smashing through a window to surprise the villains – he immediately gets clocked over the head with a piece of firewood, and subsequently captured.

If you want heroics, you have to wait for the eighty-two minute mark in the film, when a circus acrobat named Daisy enters the picture. Daisy is played by Yugoslavian beauty Sylva Koscina – and for me that sufficient reason to watch this film (over and over). As Judex has been captured, someone must save the day, and it’s Daisy who scales a wall, dressed in her skimpy acrobats costume, and then takes on the diabolical Diana Monti (or should I call her Fantomadame?) in a life and death battle on the roof of an old dilapidated building. The last twenty minutes of this film is pretty good and we ‘finally’ get the payoff that this film has been promising during its whole running time.

Unfortunately, this film is a homage to the original serial, and while it may be considered a fantastic re-envisioning for fans of that serial, for newcomers like myself, the visual shorthand employed in the film, at times renders the plot almost in comprehensible. I guess this is the price you pay when you condense a three hundred minute serial into a one hundred minute film. But I guess similar visual shorthand is used in the Sherlock Holmes films, which many of us are more familiar with. Very little time is taken to establish who Holmes, Watson and even Professor Moriarty are, because we are familiar with the characters. Just a shot of a man in a deerstalker hat and cloak says so much. Maybe in France, seeing a gent, dressed in black, with a long flowing cloak and a wide brimmed hat says volumes, and very little exposition is needed. Personally, in this film, I wanted to spend more time with Judex and find out who he was – why does he do what he does. These elements were not sufficiently explained.

While I am not willing to can Judex, because my knowledge base is poor, and possibly culturally I am not in tune with the character, I found the film to be rather cold, lacking action and adventure – which is what you want from a mysterious cloaked avenger – and its storyline muddled. Its biggest crime though, is that Judex isn’t on the screen enough, righting wrongs.

C.O.B.R.A.S DISCUSS COSTUMES ALL THIS MONTH!

The Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies have teamed up this month to explore the fun and flair of Spy Costumes. Double O Section kicked off the month with an excellent series on costumed heroes. In the second week Spy Vibe followed with a series of articles and video clips: Mods To Moongirls. Next week, the coalition series will wrap up with Armstrong Sabian at Mister 8.

Judex (1963)

Barbarella (1968)


Country: France / Italy
Director: Roger Vadim
Starring: Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O’Shea, Marcel Marceau, Claude Dauphin, David Hemmings, Ugo Tognazzi
Music: Michel Magne and James Campbell
Based on the bestseller ‘Barabarella’ by Jean Claude Forest, published in ‘Le Terrain Vague’

Okay Barbarella isn’t much of a Costumed Adventurer, but she does wear a few costumes (er,…sometimes). Despite its notoriety the film was a critical and box office failure upon its original release. What first drew me to Barbarella was the blurb on the back of the video, which stated that ‘Barbarella was a female James Bond’. Well that’s enough to drag me in. When I first saw the film, as a young teenager I just didn’t get it. It seemed slow and sluggish, and it’s only saving grace as far as I was concerned was that visually it looked like Dino De Laurentiis’ Flash Gordon. You’ve got to realise I was around ten years old when Star Wars (I refuse to call it A New Hope – it was Star Wars when I saw it – and to me that’s what it will always be) was released in Australia. When that marketing juggernaut hit town, all the other science fiction films that had come before it where dismissed as lame and cheesy. Many years later I decided to give Barbarella another shot but I didn’t hold too much hope for the film. Thankfully I was wrong – very wrong – Barbarella is mind blowingly fantastic. It is a fat slice of swinging sixties, sexy, sci-fi adventure.

But before we look at the film, maybe it’s worth recounting a bit of Barabrella’s history. From the official site of Jean-Claude Forest and Barbarella.

‘Jean-Claude Forest created the character of Barbarella for V-Magazine in 1962, at the request of its editor, Georges H. Gallet, who was already familiar with Forest’s work as France’s premier science fiction cover artist and had commissioned an illustrated version of Catherine L. Moore’s classic story Shambleau in 1955. Barbarella was published in book for by Eric Losfeld’s publishing company Le Terrain Vague in 1964, became an immediate runaway bestseller and was soon translated in a dozen countries, including by Grove Press in the United States. Not long after, it was adapted into a 1968 motion picture, produced by Dino de Laurentiis, directed by Roger Vadim, and starring Jane Fonda, for which Forest acted as design consultant.’

Now the film – Legendary film director and horndog, Roger Vadim is famous to two of cinemas most famous erotic moments – the first is from And God Created Woman, and features his then wife, Bridget Bardot dancing barefoot on a table. The other is the title sequence in Barbarella, where Vadim’s third wife, Jane Fonda, while floating in zero gravity, slowly removes all the pieces of her space suit. During the strip tease, the individual letters displaying the cast and crew names in the titles, flitter around the screen covering Barbarella’s naughty bits. Younger readers will recall this technique being borrowed for the title sequence in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Barbarella’s plot – if you can call it that – is quite simple. It is the future, 40,000 AD and the world is at piece. There is no war and no need for armies. But a scientist named Durand Durand (David Hemmings) has left Earth for a distant galaxy and with him are the plans for a new deadly weapon – The Positronic Ray. The President of the Federation of Earth recruits Barabrella to track down Durand Durand. This mission proves no easy task when Barbarella crashes her spaceship on the planet of Lythion. During her quest she meets a swag of interesting characters, including the rather hirsute Mark Hand (Ugi Tognazzi), who catches rogue children in an ice field – Pygar (John Philip Law), who is a blind angel who has lost the will to fly – and the evil Space Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg), who controls an army of black guards who root out all kindness and love in the city.

Barbarella is a flawed film, and while it may not be as stylish and kinetic as Bava’s Danger: Diabolik – with which the film is often compared because both are based on comic strips and feature John Philip Law – it certainly is a breathtaking journey, especially for those who are fond of swinging sixties excess.

But as this is Costumed Adventurer Week it is worth taking a look at the costumes featured in Barbarella (or lack there of).

During the titles Barbarella removes her spacesuit.

Barbarella sans spacesuit.

After a particularly nasty incident with some toy dolls with sharp pointy teeth, Barbarella is rescued by a man in a gorilla suit, Mark Hand (Ugo Tognazzi).

Mark Hand gives Barbarella some furs to wear (her costume had been ripped to shreds). Notice the tail! A fashion device ignored until Iggy Pop’s 1977 European tour!

Barbarella, now dressed in slimline silver space suit meets Pygar (John Phillip Law).

Barbarella captured by the Leathermen. You don’t have to be a psychologist to work out the symbolism in her costume. Silver highlights the breasts, and a bold red ‘V’ takes you directly to her crotch.

Er,…silver boobies!

Milo O’Shea stares pensively, but looks rather regal. Pointy shoulder pieces add to the ensemble. I must admit, had I been the costume designer, I would have added a big gold medallion on the centre of his chest. That’s probably why I am not a costume designer.

Here’s a snippet of information, that may please fans of Barbarella from the official site of Jean-Claude Forest and Barbarella. It also ties the character in with James Bond…after all that’s why I watched the film in the first place…she was described as a female James Bond.

PRESS RELEASE BARBARELLA RETURNS

April 11, 2007

Producers Dino and Martha De Laurentiis have acquired all rights to reinvent the Barbarella franchise with a new feature film, to be based on the ground-breaking comic books by Jean-Claude Forest. Dino De Laurentiis produced the classic 1968 Barbarella film, which starred Jane Fonda, was directed by Roger Vadim, and was scripted by Terry Southern. Says Dino De Laurentiis, “Barbarella is the ultimate science fiction adventure heroine: smart, strong, funny, and sexy. THE FUTURE IS FEMALE, and I’m excited to reintroduce Barbarella to a new generation of moviegoers.”

Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Die Another Day, The World Is Not Enough, Johnny English) will reinvent the franchise, creating a completely new and original story for this iconic heroine. Purvis and Wade most recently co-wrote Casino Royale, which grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide, and have just penned the next installment in the James Bond franchise.

The new Barbarella will be a free and modern woman who lives in a futuristic sci-fi environment and embarks on adventures using her unique intelligence, fighting skills and sex appeal. The film will combine action, adventure, humor and sensuality.
Given the power and recognition of the original character, the search for the new Barbarella has already begun and will involve both established and unknown talent throughout the world.

Film rights were acquired from Jean-Claude Forest’s only son Julien Forest, represented by Hollywood Comics principal Jean-Marc Lofficier and French agent Laurie Roy, and development of the new movie is accompanying the reissue of the first two Barbarella books and the publishing of material never before translated into English.

C.O.B.R.A.S DISCUSS COSTUMES ALL THIS MONTH!

The Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies have teamed up this month to explore the fun and flair of Spy Costumes. Double O Section kicked off the month with an excellent series on costumed heroes. In the second week Spy Vibe followed with a series of articles and video clips: Mods To Moongirls. Next week, the coalition series will wrap up with Armstrong Sabian at Mister 8.

Barbarella (1968)

Diabolik: Track Of The Panther (1997)

(1997) TV series

Country: Italy / France / Japan / United States
Director: Jean Luc Ayach
Voices: Claudio Moneta, Sonia Mazza, Marco Balbi, Marco Balzarotti
Music: Michael Day

Diabolik: Track Of The Panther is an animated series produced by Saban International for FOX Kids. Once the series was completed, the American distributor deemed that the show was inappropriate for younger viewers and chose not to air it. It was still released in Europe though, and apparently was quite successful, particularly in France.

The first thing you should know, however, is that this series is very different to the Diabolik portrayed by John Phillip Law in Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik. In this series, Diabolik is essentially a good guy. He is still a criminal and wanted by the police, but they have concocted an overblown back-story which explains the change in Diabolik’s character. It goes something like this – Diabolik and his brother, Dane worked for a criminal organisation known as the Brotherhood. The head of the brotherhood is Diabolik and Dane’s father, King. Dane frames Diabolik for a crime he didn’t commit, and Diabolik is sent to jail. Years later, King dies, and Dane takes over as the leader of the Brotherhood. Dane also hatches a plan to free Diabolik from jail – but in reality, it is just a small part in a larger scheme to kill Diabolik. Diabolik survives the attempt on his life, but vows that he will bring down the brotherhood and destroy his brother. As I said, Diabolik is still a criminal, but he uses his skills for revenge against the Brotherhood. Essentially it’s just a tool so they can show Diabolik fighting crime – rather than committing it!

Here’s a snippet of an interview (with an un-named insider) which appeared on the Comics2Film website which highlights how Diabolik changed:

One of the first problems was trying to recast the character as a hero. “He’s a bad person. He’s not a super-hero,” our source said of Diabolik. Fox Kids may have jumped to the hero conclusion given it was a comic book character in tights.
Our source said, that attempts to change Diabolik for a young, American audience were met with staunch resistance from the Italian handlers of the character. Understandably, they had much invested in Diabolik and didn’t want the concept harmed for the sake of the show.

Trying to fit the character into the Saturday morning cartoon mold and keep the rights holders satisfied proved a difficult task. Our source told us that pre-production on most animated shows lasts about two weeks. Diabolik was in pre-production for a year.
Eventually they found a format for the show that seemed workable. “They did touch on the fact that [Diabolik] had been a bad person, without actually having to show anything, and he was making up for his crimes by basically going back and setting things straight,” our source said.

However, the show quickly strayed from this premise. “That’s in the story but it’s touched on so lightly that they never really went back to it. So it ends up being these adventures where Diabolik is constantly being chased by the police, but actually saving the day. He’s stealing things that would cause harm in the hands of his brother who is this crime lord named Dane and has the various henchmen working for him and doing his bidding.

Another change, is that of the character of Eva Kant. Previously she had been painted as Diabolik’s accomplice and lover, but here she is an equal. She even dresses in a similar black suit to Diabolik. She too has a personal vendetta against the Brotherhood. So here Diabolik and Eva are united, not because they love each other, but because they both share a desire to destroy the Brotherhood.

Here’s a quick overview of one of the episodes.

As most of you are aware, I do not speak Italian – it has been suggested that my grasp of the English language is pretty shakey – but when it comes to a character like Diabolik, language barriers don’t mean too much. Diabolik is a man of action and very few words. But having said that, I can’t really be too sure of what is going on – but here’s the basic premise.

Furto Corazzo

The story concerns a nasty South American revolutionary, who looks like Che Guevara, and is after a shipment of rocket launchers. To get the weapons he goes to an arms dealer, who I guess is a member of the Brotherhood. This dealer lives in a palatial mansion which just happens to be situated on the top of a mountain. When the story opens, Diabolik has just scaled a sheer rock cliff and planted a videobug in the arms dealer’s home.

Later Eva and Diabolik, in their swanky apartment lair, which is nowhere near as cool as the cavernous underground lair, tune in, via computer to the bug. The dealer is discussing the theft of the rocket launchers from an army convoy with his number one henchman, who is a hard-ass military type with a buzz cut hairstyle. Mr. Buzzcut says he cannot complete the theft without the help of a buddy who is currently in prison.

The story cuts to a prison chain gang who are removing some boulders that have fallen from the cliffs and blocked a mountain road. A helicopter gunship swoops down and shoots up the place killing the guards. Mr. Buzzcut lowers a rope ladder and a burly crim from the chain gang, who looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin, latches on to it and is lifted to safety. But at that moment, who should fly by in their chopper? It’s Eva and Diabolik. Next an aerial gun battle takes place, with both parties firing batteries of rockets at each other. It looks like Diabolik has the upper hand when he fires a cargo net over the rotor of the opposing chopper. His victory is shortlived, however, when a rocket takes out his tail rotor. As Diabolik and Eva spin out of control and plummet towards the earth, Diabolik jettisons the top rotor and suddenly the helicopter becomes a speedboat. Naturally their ‘boat’ lands on the river and our adventurous couple speed away to safety.

Meanwhile our villains are up to no good. The army’s convoy of rocket launchers is winding its way around a mountain road (they are all mountain roads – no stretches of smooth, straight asphalt in this show) – when a group of purple cars pull out in front of the convoy. From the exhaust pipes of the cars, a knockout gas is released, and the drivers of the trucks following behind are affected by the gas. The villains take control of the rocket launcher shipment and attempt to make their getaway. But once again, who should turn up? Yep, it’s Diabolik and Eva, this time on a tricked-up motorbike with a sidecar. Enough of the story – I am sure you can work out where it goes from here.

As I have already mentioned, this animated series is very different to the Bava movie. This version of Diabolik is more akin to Batman. He is the Dark Knight. And the similarities don’t end there. This Diabolik has at his disposal a seemingly endless supply of vehicles and gadgets that could be found in the Batcave (or would be the envy of Q-Branch).

At the end of the day, you’ve got to remember this is a series made for kids, and if I was a seven to ten year old boy, I think I’d find a lot to enjoy in this series. It is fast paced and colourful, with plenty of explosions. As an adult, and already having a connection with Diabolik through Bava’s film, I find this series pretty annoying. It is not faithful to the character. I get the impression that the people who originally commissioned this series did very little homework. They just saw a cool looking guy in a black suit. Possibly Diabolik was not the ideal character to bring to a children’s series, and in doing so, they have had to chop and change the character so much, that apart from his appearance, there is very little of the original character left. Still it’s an interesting curio – and I’d love to see a few episodes in English.

C.O.B.R.A.S DISCUSS COSTUMES ALL THIS MONTH!

The Coalition Of Bloggers wRiting About Spies have teamed up this month to explore the fun and flair of Spy Costumes. Double O Section kicked off the month with an excellent series on costumed heroes. In the second week Spy Vibe followed with a series of articles and video clips: Mods To Moongirls. Next week, the coalition series will wrap up with Armstrong Sabian at Mister 8.

Diabolik: Track Of The Panther (1997)