Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

Country: United States
Director: Mike Nichols
Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Writers: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) / George Crile (book)
Music: James Newton Howard

Charlie Wilson’s War cops a lot of flack for being revisionist view of America’s involvement (or lack thereof) when the USSR invaded Afghanistan. It’s sort of along the lines (and of course this is a very simplified version) – the Mujahideen warriors who fought the Soviets, believed that the Americans idly sat by when the Soviets invaded. However this movie shows that the U.S. did take action, but an under the table action that wouldn’t draw attention, and cause the conflict to escalate to a showdown between the two super-powers. The thing is, the Mujahideen evolved into the Taliban, yep, those guys. One of the principal enemies in the war against terror.

The movie appears to be saying ‘Hey Taliban guys, I know you think Americans are the enemy, but in fact, they’re not. They helped you guys out – but just didn’t tell anybody’. I guess it is a pretty ham-fisted message. None-the-less, politics aside, Charlie Wilson’s War is a great film. I don’t think it is going to cause any terrorists to re-evaluate their war, but as far as entertainment goes, the film is top notch.

This is primarily because of the big name Hollywood stars in front of the camera. Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, do what they do best – entertain, in a movie that is briskly paced and thoroughly engaging.

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

From Hong Kong With Love

From Hong Kong With Love (Original Title: Bon Baisers De Hong Kong) is a film I have been trying to track down for years. It is naturally enough, a Bond spoof, and it features Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell (which makes it an interesting curio for Bond fans).

I have never found an English version of it – but on Youtube, there is this French version. I have only watched the first five minutes (I have to hit the road today, and return to Melbourne), but the set up at least, is very easy to follow. Enjoy.

From Hong Kong With Love

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Country: United States
Director: Frank Tashlin
Starring: Doris Day, Rod Taylor, Arthur Godfrey, Dom DeLuise, Dick Martin, Eric Fleming, Theo Macuse
Music: DeVol
Songs: ‘The Glass Bottom Boat’ by Joe Lubin, ‘Soft As The Starlight’ by Joe Lubin and Jerome Howard

Has the world changed so much in forty years? The Glass Bottom Boat is a lightweight romantic comedy that has dated badly. The fact that it has dated, is probably a sad reflection on the state of the world. We should be still able to laugh at Doris Day’s silly pratfalls, but today’s audience has seen all this before. This sort of shenanigans can be viewed on any night by watching re-runs of Bewitched or I Dream Of Jeannie – not that there’s any hocus-pocus in The Glass Bottom Boat – I am referring to the style of comedy. In fact there are a few very subtle similarities between The Glass Bottom Boat and I Dream Of Jeannie. First both of them are centred around NASA and the space program, and in Jeannie Larry Hagman’s character was Tony Nelson and in The Glass Bottom Boat Doris’ character is Jenny Nelson. Purely co-incidental, I am sure.

The film opens at sea, off Catalina Island. A Glass Bottom Boat carrying a group of tourists is sailing over the undersea gardens of coral and kelp. The tour guide, Axel Nordstrom (Arthur Godfrey) cheesily suggests that the tourists keep an eye out for mermaids. That’s the cue for Jenny Nelson (Doris Day) to dive into the water dressed in a mermaids costume, much to the delight of the passengers. But on this day, Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor) is doing a spot of fishing in the area. His hook snares the tail end of Jenny’s costume and he reels it in. Rather unhappily, Jenny surfaces and gives Templeton a verbal spray. He is in a ‘no fishing’ area.

After a poppy animated title sequence, with Doris singing the theme song, we head to NASA headquarters and a press conference. It seems that Templeton is a big shot scientist and he has just invented a gravity device which will help astronauts in space. Also working at NASA as a girl Friday is Jenny. As she leads a gaggle of reporters through the facility, she gets her high heeled shoe caught in a grate. Who should happen along to help her? Templeton tries to assist, but she refuses to have anything to do with him after the mermaid incident. Strangely, Templeton becomes infatuated with this clumsy, hot tempered girl.

Jenny is in fact a widow and her only companion is a dog named Vladimir which stays locked in the house all day. Vladimir goes berserk when the phone rings in the house, so to give the pooch some exercise, Jenny calls the house about three times a day. When the phone rings, the dog starts to run around excitedly jumping over all the furniture. One of the security guards happens to witness Jenny’s calls and finds it all rather suspicious. She counts to ten and then says ‘that’s all for now Vladimir’. The guard thinks it is a code.

Outside of work hours, Jenny fills in her time with night courses at the local college. She studies everything from ceramics to map making. She is also studying creative writing. Templeton sees Jenny’s writing abilities as an opportunity to drag her into his life. As his new gravity device (Codenamed G.I.Z.M.O.) is about to launch him into the ‘big time’, he wants Jenny to act as his biographer. This entails following him around all day.

At this point, you’re probably thinking this doesn’t sound very ‘spy’ – it sounds like ‘schmaltzy’ romantic comedy – and you’d be right. But now the spy stuff starts. Templeton’s intends to hold a party at his swinging, hi-tech bachelor pad. After a security check by the CIA, Templeton’s plans go into action. Hired to install a P.A. system to pipe music throughout the house is Julius Pritter (Dom DeLuise). As Pritter connects the wiring, he has a little accident with a banana cream cake which Jenny has brought to the house.

Pritter is in fact a dirty spy, and as he recovers from the banana cream cake incident, he ransacks the house searching for Templeton’s top secret equation. Inside Templeton’s jacket pocket, he finds a mathematical equation scribbled on a piece of paper. Pritter produces a miniature camera and takes photographs of the information. Next link in the spy chain is Theo Macuse. Pritter hands over the microfilm at a carnival shooting gallery. As each of the spy sequences takes place, the music changes to big ‘bombastic’ Bond style music.

The villains of the piece, transmit the equation to their superiors, but the signal is intercepted by the C.I.A. The blame, naturally enough as you would have guessed, falls on Jenny. After all, as Templeton’s biographer, she has access to the latest advances and secrets that NASA has developed, and she has been making coded telephone calls to a man named Vladimir.

At the end of the day, the The Glass Bottom Boat is a lightweight affair. But it does go to show how pervasive the James Bond influence was. Even America’s favourite light comedienne, who at the time of this film’s release was entering her eighth consecutive year as a top 10 box office draw, felt the need to make a spy film. Okay, it isn’t a hard core spy film, but none-the-less it features spies, more gadgets than you could poke a stick at, and a glamorous leading man and lady. Now if you’re a fan of Doris, and to a lesser extent, Rugged Rod Taylor, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in The Glass Bottom Boat. Although the film isn’t a musical, Doris sings a couple of numbers, including a brief comical snatch of Que Sera. However, those seeking sixties Bondian style thrills will be sadly disappointed.

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Austen Tayshus: Phantom Shuffle

Uploaded to youtube by: guelfenbein

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Minions of M.O.S.S. check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page or the Twitter feed.

Austen Tayshus: Phantom Shuffle

Napoleon Doble: @ 4DK

My knowledge of Filipino cinema is admittedly poor. I have heard of the Tony Falcon, Agent 44 series, starring Tony Ferrer, but I have never actually seen one. At least sixteen films featuring Falcon were made (possibly more), from 1965 till 1980. As many these films were little more than imitations of Bond, very little effort was made to preserve these films for future generations. They were banged out quick, then pushed around the market, hoping to generate as much cash in as short of time as possible. The films were then neglected and left to rot. As such many of these films are lost to us forever. The prints that do survive are scratched and faded and barely resemble their former colourful and psychedelic selves.

Then there was Weng Weng, the diminutive star of For Your Height Only, The Impossible Kid and D’Wild Wild Weng. I have seen and attempted to review For Your Height Only, but apart from that, I am still rather ignorant of Weng Weng’s career.

Then there’s Dolphy. Once again, I am sad to confess that my knowledge of Dolphy is limited to a few posters from films in which he parodies James Bond. But James Bond wasn’t the only sixties spy who was parodied. Napoleon Solo and The Man From UNCLE also came under fire. Once again, the intrepid cinematic explorer, Todd from Die, Danger, Die, Die Kill, has ventured into the unknown, macheted his way through the dense Filipino jungles and dug up Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six.

Here’s a snippet

Surviving examples of Filipino pulp cinema from the 1960s are so few and far between that it’s always exciting when one turns up — even though, admittedly, I was less excited about the prospect of actually watching Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six than I was by the mere fact of its existence. Like the previously reviewed James Batman, Doble is one of many spy spoof/action comedies from the period that starred the (still!) massively popular comedian Dolphy, and, having seen James Batman, I felt that I had already pretty much gotten what those movies were all about… more

Napoleon Doble and the Sexy Six, is not exactly the type of tribute that UNCLE fans would want or expect, but it is out there, and a reminder of just how popular UNCLE was across the world in the 1960s.

I forget where I found these Dolphy posters on the net many months ago – but I thank the person who uploaded them – they are a great visual timecapsule of films that are almost forgotten.

Napoleon Doble: @ 4DK

The Spy With the Blue Kazoo

Author: Dagmar
Publisher: Lancer
Release Year: 1967

The Spy With the Blue Kazoo is more silly swingin’ sixties style smut from Lancer Books – the fine people who brought the world The Man From ORGY. The title says it all really. Well, maybe it isn’t quite as smutty as some of Lancer’s other publications, and that is probably because it was written by Dagmar.

I must admit I didn’t know who Dagmar, the author, was (although it wouldn’t surprise me if it was ghost written – Lou Cameron (?)) – so I had to do a little bit of research. My first port of call was that indispensable font of all knowledge Wikipedia , which informed me that:

Dagmar (November 29, 1921 – October 9, 2001) was an American actress, model and television personality of the 1950s. As a statuesque, busty blonde, she became the first major female star of television, receiving much press coverage during that decade.

Also

Dagmar became one of the leading personalities of early 1950s live television, doing sketch comedy on Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theater, The Bob Hope Show and other shows. On June 17, 1951, she appeared on the Colgate Comedy Hour with host Eddie Cantor and guests Milton Berle, Phil Foster and Jack Leonard. In 1951, she made a TV guest appearance with Frank Sinatra, which prompted Columbia Records producer Mitch Miller to record a novelty duet with Frank and Dagmar, “Mama Will Bark”. That same year, she was featured in a Life cover story with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photo of her on the July 16, 1951 issue. For the interior photo essay, Life photographers followed her to rehearsals and accompanied her on a vacation back to her home town in West Virginia.

The Spy With the Blue Kazoo concerns a female super spy (and musical entertainer) named Regina, known as the Blue Queen. Her assistant is a fellow named Randy Kidd. Regina is a freelance agent, who in the past, has mysteriously just happened to be in the world’s hot spots when a major incident has gone down. Coincidence? Not likely. Kidd is ex-army. In fact he is ex-everything – CIA, Police Force etc. He has worked for all sorts of law-enforcement agencies but keeps losing his job after sleeping with his superiors wives.

As the story begins, Kidd is being interrogated by the police after a night of passion. A  girl has committed suicide by hurling herself from Kidd’s seventh floor hotel window, onto a wrought iron fence below. Making matters worse, the girl was actually a French Secret agent, Marie Arnould,

It seems the girl was coerced into doing this by an evil genius known as Dr. Fang. Regina and Kidd were not working on an assignment to bring Dr. Fang in, but it appears that Dr. Fang is not aware of this, and is now trying to set Kidd up on a trumped up murder charge.

The story then moves to central America, and to Los Perros, which is a veritable ‘nest of spies’. Regina and Randy don’t have to do much investigating, as all sorts of thugs, and secret agents come after them from all sides – Russian, Chinese and even American. Despite being a spy story, the story plays out like an old-time, wise cracking detective novel, with each new character introduced, either coming to a strange end, or being used for a few quick laughs.

There is a twist toward the end as our dynamic duo finally track down the arch-fiend Dr. Fang, but really it is so obvious that if you don’t see it coming then you are not really paying attention.

As the title, and the celebrity author would indicate, this is a novelty book – and to be truthful, not a very good one. The pacing is patchy with odious passages of dialogue, readers are expected to find funny. Maybe forty years ago, it was funny. I understand and appreciate how times have changed, and humour has changed with it. I guess humour is subjective, and you have to make up your own mind. Here’s a brief sample of the hijinx in The Spy With the Blue Kazoo.

From page 63:

“…How are you coming with that drink, Randy darling?”

“Found the gin and the tonic,” he answered. “Got any ice?”

“Should be some in the fridge.”

Randy went over to the small refrigerator, opened it, and said a most unprintable word.

Regina looked up and said, “Randy! That was hardly called for -” And then the Blue Queen saw what was in the refrigerator and added a few unprintable thoughts of her own.

Seated in a fetal position, starring out at them glassily from the interior of the otherwise empty refrigerator, was the man that Randy had shot with the blue kazoo. Hennesy was very pale, very dead, and, for some reason, grinning from ear to ear!

If that passage tickled your funny bone, then maybe The Spy With the Blue Kazoo may be the book for you. I am afraid it seemed rather forced to me, and as such, even as a light piece of throwaway smut, I couldn’t really recommend this book to you.

And to finish – a SPOILER for those who are curious and just HAVE to know what the blue kazoo is. Despite any suggested innuendo that may suggest there are spies running around in this story with blue penises, the blue kazoo is actually… well, it is a blue kazoo – the annoying musical instrument. However these kazoos have been modified to fire poison darts, which cause the target to engage in aberrant, and ultimately fatal, sexual behaviour.

The Spy With the Blue Kazoo

Love in Four Easy Lessons (1976)

Ursula Andress FestivalSex With a Smile IICountry: Italy
Director: Sergio Martino
Starring: Ursula Andress, Barbara Bouchet, Johnny Dorelli, Aldo Maccione, Alberto Lionello
Writers: Sandro Continenza, Raimondo Vianello
Music: Enrico Simonetti
AKA: Sex With a Smile 2
Original Title: Spogliamoci così senza pudor

I am nothing if not predictable – and it appears, a glutton for punishment. It’s obvious that I have an obsession with Ursula Andress (one that stops only fractionally short of stalking), but recent viewing – The Sensuous Nurse and The Slave Of The Cannibal God – have not been among my my more rewarding film watching experiences. Foolishly, here I am again watching another Italian sex comedy, featuring Andress, this time directed by Sergio Martino – the man behind ‘Cannibal God’. I don’t know what strange force drives me towards these films when I should know better…but…!

Love In Four Easy Lessons, as the title may suggest is comprised of four unrelated segments. Three segments deal with adultery, and the other deals with er,… Soccer!

The first segment is The Detective which features Aldo Maccione as a private detective. This allows him to say, throughout the episode, “I’m a Professional Dick, y’now!” And by the end of the segment, you can’t help but agree with the guy. In the story, he specialises in cases of adultery. When a husband suspects his wife of having an affair, they come to him, and he proves it. Even if the wife isn’t having an affair.

The second story is The Ringer, and for me was the best story of the four. It’s a tale about a ladies soccer team, whose star player injures herself just before the finals. The coach, who stands to collect a 10 million lira bonus if the team wins the next game, makes a deal with a con man friend (Enrico Montesano) of his, to find a replacement. In a variation of Some Like It Hot, the con man takes on the role of female soccer star. This leads to some mildly amusing shower scenes, and a particularly painful conclusion as our cross-dressing hero tries to protect his, er….goal.

The third and weakest story, which features Barbara Bouchet and Alberto Lionello, is The Trojan Wardrobe. The wardrobe in question is delivered to the villa of a rich couple as they head off sailing for the weekend. The groundskeeper allows the delivery guys to place the wardrobe inside the villa. But these delivery guys aren’t your run of the mills delivery guys. In fact they are burglars. And their scheme involves hiding a man inside the wardrobe who can move about the villa freely at night and steal all the valuables. The burglar places the valuables in the wardrobe, and then waits to be collected the next day, when the delivery men return, and claim a mistake has been made, and take back the treasure laden wardrobe. Okay, the scheme is contrived, but in all the caper films I have seen, this scenario seems like a new one.

But naturally, it isn’t all as simple as that. Alberto Lionello doesn’t want to go on a sailing trip with his wife. He has arranged a dirty weekend with a French actress. Before the yacht sets sail, he fakes a telephone call from his office, claiming that there is a problem and he must return to Rome. He does so. Then picks up his French tart and heads back to the house. Meanwhile, the Trojan burglar, has to put back all the items he has stolen before he is discovered. Adding to the convolution, Lionello’s wife, Barbara Bouchet, didn’t go sailing either, and has returned home early.

One Step To Paradise, the final episode features Ursula Andress, and naturally the one I had been waiting for. The tale is actually quite similar to a forties style farce, but with boobs. That is, if you can picture Ursula Andress as a adulterous Katherine Hepburn, and Johnny Dorelli as a libidinal Cary Grant.

The story features Ursula Andress as a lawyer’s wife who is waiting for her secret lover, Johnny Dorelli to meet her for an afternoon in “paradise” on the fourth floor of the apartment building that she lives in. To get past the doorman, Dorelli pretends to be seeing the Notary who lives on the third floor. It just so happens that the Notary had a heart attack and died that morning, and Dorelli is mistaken for a dead man’s long lost bastard son.

I hate to admit this, but I kinda liked Love In Four Easy Lessons. It still is loud, over the top, arms waving Italian humour, with a lot of smutty puns. But at least by breaking it into four stories, the gags aren’t drawn out. Obviously in a production of this kind, there is nudity in it, but the film isn’t particularly sleazy. It is closer in style to a situation comedy. I wouldn’t spend too much time tracking the film down, but it is a pleasant enough diversion for 98 minutes.

To view the Italian trailer: click here

Love in Four Easy Lessons (1976)

The Sensuous Nurse (1975)

Ursula Andress FestivalOriginal Title: (L’Infermiera)
AKA: I Will If You Will, The Nurse, The Secrets of a Sensuous Nurse.
Director: Nello Rossati
Starring: Ursula Andress, Jack Palance, Duilio Del Prete, Luciana Paluzzi, Marina Confalone, Mario Pisu, Lino Toffolo, Carla Romanelli
Music: Gianfranco Plenizio

I struggle with Italian comedy. True, my experiences have been limited to a few Franco & Ciccio films, but the experience has scarred me so deeply that I have no choice but to right off all Italian comedies. Against my better judgment I watched The Sensuous Nurse, which is an Italian sex comedy from the mid seventies. It takes something pretty special to make me overcome my prejudice, and in this instance the appeal is that Ursula Andress spends quite a bit of the movie’s running time cavorting around naked. In fact there is quite a bit of ‘cavorting’ from all the actresses in the film, including Lucianna Paluzzi and Carla Romanelli

As a bit of smut, I’d say The Sensuous Nurse delivers, but as a comedy, the film is a bit of a failure. It may be that the humour doesn’t translate too well, or it could be a generational thing too. I find myself quite bored with the British sex comedies from that era too (I wont say ‘bored stiff’ or you’ll start throwing things at the screen).

Count Leonida Bottacin (Mario Piso) is a lecherous old man and an old school wine maker. But he has a heart attack and is on his death bed. In the interim, the business is temporarily taken over by Benito Varotto (Duilio Del Prete). Benito makes a shady deal with American entrepreneur Mr. Kitch (Jack Palance), but this deal can only go through once the Count is dead.

Unfortunately for Benito, the unthinkable starts to happen – the Count begins to get better. And if he gets better, then Benito can not go through with his deal with Kitch. Now Kitch is not a man you can renege on.

So Benito hatches a plan, which he hopes will speed the old lecherous Count on his way to his maker. This plan involves employing a seductive nurse named Anna (Ursula Andress). She is to take care of the Count. Her nurses outfit and bedside manner is intended to raise the old Count’s blood pressure so much, that he will have another heart attack (and die). As this is a farce, all sorts of complications arise, but I didn’t think it was too funny. Some of the situations make The Benny Hill Show look highbrow in comparison.

The Sensuous Nurse probably isn’t worth your time and money, but if you are a huge fan of the James Bond films, and therefore a huge fan of Ursula Andress (Dr. No) and Luciana Paluzzi (Thunderball), and you have money to burn, then by all means seek this out. I can’t promise that you’ll enjoy it, but you’re probably only watching it for the nudity anyway. Hey – that’s okay by me – it’s your life!

The Sensuous Nurse (1975)