Bardot – Poster of the Day – Shalako (French)
Country: United Kingdom
Director: John Paddy Carstairs
Starring: Roger Moore, Honor Blackman, Anthony Dawson, Elspeth March, Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Tony Wright, Anne Sharp, Gordon Tanner, John Arnatt, John Carson
Music: Edwin Astley
Based on the story by Leslie Charteris
‘I am the Saint – you may have heard of me. Just a twentieth-century privateer. In my small way I try to put right a few of the things that are wrong with this cock-eyed world, and clean up some of the excrescences I come across.’
Time for a little more of The Saint, and as always, it could be argued that The Saint is a jewel thief and not a secret agent and has no place on this blog. As portrayed in Leslie Charteris’ books I would have to agree with you, but the TV series with Roger Moore is a different matter altogether! Simon Templar’s criminal activities are only hinted at and he spends most of his time solving mysteries, battling international villains and generally fighting for truth, justice and the Empire.
But having said that, The Arrow Of God is not much of a spy story, but it has a cast that will be familiar to fans of the Bond series, showcasing Honor Blackman, who would go on to be Cathy Gale in The Avengers, and, of course, Pussy Galore in Goldfinger – and Anthony Dawson who played the duplicitous Professor Dent in Dr. No.
This episode is set in the Bahamas and opens with a selection of stock footage clips to give you a sense of location – beaches, nightclubs with musicians playing the bongos, water skiing – all things associated with a good life in the tropics.
Simon Templar is in Nassau for the weekend at the request of an old friend, Lucy Wexall (Elspeth March). She is a wealthy lady who has a luxurious mansion by the beach, which she shares with her husband, Herbert (Ronald Leigh-Hunt), who is a reformed drug addict. But Templar is not the only houseguest staying at the Wexalls. There’s Arthur Gresson (Gordon Tanner) who is an American businessman who is working on a deal with Herbert. Also staying for the weekend is Herbert’s confidential secretary, Pauline Stone (Honor Blackman). It is rumoured that Herbert and Pauline are having an affair. Next there’s Janet Blaise (Anne Sharp), who is Lucy’s spoilt step sister. Tagging along with Janet, is her fiance, John Herrick (Tony Wright). Herrick is a keen sportsmen and intends playing at Wimbledon later in the year. Another face at the Wexall homestead is an Indian mystic named Astron (John Carson). He was invited to stay by Lucy, but she is unaware that he had been deported from the United States for fraud.
But the real fly in the ointment over the weekend is the presence of Floyd Vosper (Anthony Dawson). Vosper writes a grubby syndicated gossip column that dishes out the dirt on the social elite. Early in the episode, The Saint describes Vosper as ‘a schoolboy who writes dirty words on a backyard fence’. Vosper is not a liked man. And it’s not just his gutter-press journalism that rubs people the wrong way. He is a cruel and arrogant man who delights in taunting and bullying people. He was invited to the Wexall’s by Herbert, who thought that if Vosper were to say positive things about his imminent oil deal with Arthur Gresson, then maybe other investors would come aboard.
Upon arrival at the Wexalls, Vosper insults everyone, then later, he goes to the beach for a nap. When he fails to turn up for dinner, Templar goes to investigate only to find Vosper dead with an arrow through his chest. The question is whodunnit? Each of the houseguests had a reason to hate, possibly even kill, Vosper. And each had the opportunity too. To unravel the mess, Major Fanshire (John Arnatt) of the Nassau police is called in to sort out the mess. Naturally he recieves a little help from The Saint.
At the start, I pointed out that this episode featured two stars from the Bond series, but the other players in this show are not exactly ‘unknowns’. Practically everyone featured, has had a long and varied career, and has put in appearances in espionage related television shows and films. Anne Sharp appeared on The Saint on three different occasions – in fact she did the rounds for ITC appearing on The Baron, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and a recurring role as Nicola Harvester in Jason King. Ronald Leigh Hunt appeared in a couple of episodes of The Avengers, and in the films The Liquidator and Where The Bullets Fly. Tony Wright, also appeared on The Saint on three separate occasions. He also appeared on The Avengers and The Persuaders, as well as the movie The Liquidator. Elspeth March went on to appear in A Dandy In Aspic and Charlie Muffin. Gordon Tanner would appear on the TV series Espionage, and as a town elder in The Prisoner (Living In Harmony). His film work included Where The Spies Are and Alistair MacLean’s Caravan to Vaccares. John Arnatt would play Charles Vine’s superior Rockwell in Licensed To Kill (AKA: The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World) and Where The Bullets Fly – and similarly played Merlin, the gadget master in Lindsay Shonteff’s No. 1 Licensed To Love And Kill (AKA The Man From S.E.X.). I have probably laboured the point there, but you can clearly see what I mean. These actors and actresses did the rounds and were right at home doing this kind of material.
I enjoy, practically any episode of The Saint, and this is a pretty snappy entry. It wont change your life by any means, but it is a pleasant enough way to while a way an hour.
Lobster Quadrille is one of the most popular episodes of The Avengers for a couple of reasons. The first is that is the episode where we bid a fond farewell to the character Cathy Gale. The second reason is that Honor Blackman, who played Gale, left the show to film the James Bond film Goldfinger with Sean Connery. To reflect this, at the end of the episode, their are a few subtle in-jokes, which suggest she will go ‘pussy’-footing around on the sun soaked shores of the Bahamas. For those who don’t ‘get it’, the character that Blackman played in Goldfinger was Pussy Galore. So this episode is really one for the hard-core fans. Not that the story is inaccessible to ‘regular’ people. Far from it, it is simply the bigger fan that you are, the more you’d get from this episode.
The episode starts with a man waiting in a fishing shack. At his feet is a dead man. The body is John Williams. He was an agent for the Ministry, who operated out of France. Recently he had been working on breaking a narcotics smuggling ring, but his investigative days are over. A second man, named Bush (Gary Watson) enters the fishing hut. The first guy explains what happened, then smashes a kerosene lamp. The two men leave as the hut goes up in flames.
Two of the Ministries top agents are assigned to find out what happened. Enter John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman). Their first port of call is the morgue. Among Williams personal effects, Cathy finds a very rare and valuable chess piece. She decides to follow that lead and find out more about chess. But Steed heads to the scene of the crime.
At the hut, he meets the pathologist, Dr Stannage (Norman Scace). He has ascertained that Williams was shot and is now looking for the bullet. He doesn’t find it and moves on. This leaves Steed to his own devices. He starts poking around the hut, examining some charred pots of lobsters, when he is interrupted by Bush. Bush enquires as to Steed’s purpose at the hut. Steed says he is working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and is looking into the case. Steed also arranges a time to interview Bush in more formal surroundings, along with his boss, Captain Slim. Slim runs a fishing fleet that specialises in catching lobster, which it then sends all over the world.
Meanwhile, Cathy arrives at the aptly named ‘The Chess Shop’, an establishment run by an oriental gentleman called Mason (Burt Kwouk). Cathy asks about acquiring a chess set in the same style as the piece she has acquired from Williams. Mason doesn’t have one in stock, but says to call back in a few days.
Steed interviews Captain Slim and Bush, and both men assure him that they had never met Williams before and had no idea how a fire could have started in one of the fishing huts. Soon after, as the interview winds up, the Captain’s daughter in law, Katie Miles (Jennie Linden) arrives at the house. She was married to the Captain’s son, who tragically died in a boating accident a year ago. Now she works as an entertainer at a nightclub in London. Naturally Steed takes a shine to her, and arranges to meet her after work.
I won’t outline any more of the plot, because the astute among you will have already pieced together this puzzle. It is exactly as you’d expect.
Lobster Quadrille features chess motifs throughout the show. Black and white chequered floors abound, whether it be in the morgue, Steeds apartment or in Katie’s nightclub. Equally, on the walls, there are images of knights, kings and queens. It’s the kind of surreal environment that would become a feature of The Avengers in future episodes, and would dominate the shows with Cathy Gales successor, Emma Peel.
Lobster Quadrille, like all the earlier episodes, doesn’t have the polish of the Emma Peel or Tara King era episodes, but it still is a good example of the show. These days, because Diana Rigg was so popular and successful as Emma Peel, she sort of overshadows Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale. But let’s not forget, in her time Cathy Gale was quite groundbreaking for a female lead in a television show. She wasn’t simply an appendage to Steed. She was an equal. In this particular episode, in fact Steed fails to rescue her. But that doesn’t matter, because Cathy is smart, tough and resourceful, and can get out of any trouble that she gets into.
Lobster Quadrille is one of the core episodes of The Avengers. If you are a fan of The Avengers and haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to track it down. If, on the other hand, you’re just a casual observer who likes the colourful costumes and offbeat stories, well then, I suggest that you skip forward to the episodes from 1967. That’s the year when The Avengers went ‘colour’ and by this time the formulation of outlandish plots had been honed to perfection.
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Cec Linder, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn Lois Maxwell, Nadja Regin, Margaret Nolan
Music by John Barry
Theme song performed by Shirley Bassey
Based on the novel by Ian Fleming
Many people consider this the best Bond film of them all. Maybe it is. It certainly is the film that set the style for all Bond films to follow. The first two movies, Dr. No and From Russia With Love were a bit harder than Goldfinger and they took on the flavour of the locations Bond was visiting – in Dr. No when Bond lands on Crab Key the film takes on an old fashioned (boys own) adventure tone. In From Russia With Love, the scenes in Turkey, and in particular the Gypsy Camp, have a certain feel which has never been replicated. But by the time Goldfinger came around, the Bond style was finely honed. It didn’t matter where Bond travelled to, wherever the location, the style of the films did not change.
Another element that changed with Goldfinger was the increased amount of humour. Although there was humour in the previous two Bond movies, Goldfinger really is ground zero for the double entendres, and the occasional sight gag. For example the opening scene features James Bond in SCUBA gear approaching a dock. Attached to his headpiece as camouflage is a artificial duck. With that, I’ll move on to the plot overview – it starts with a rip-roaring pre-title sequence in Latin America.
‘Shocking! Positively Shocking!’ After James Bond (Sean Connery) has blown up an Oil Refinery, which was actually a heroin processing plant, he stops off at nightclub to pay his respects to Bonita (Nadja Regin), a dancer he has been seeing. Backstage, as he holds her, reflected in her eyes, Bond sees an assassin sneaking up from behind. At the last second, as the assailant brings down his blackjack, Bond spins and the girl receives the blow meant for him. Ouch! Bond and his adversary duke it out in the small backstage room, until Bond gets the better off his attacker and sends him flying backwards into the bathtub. Unfortunately for Bond, next to the bathtub, is Bond’s Walther PPK (for the un-initiated – his gun). The assassin grabs Bond’s gun and takes aim. Simultaneously, Bond flings an electric fan heater into the bathtub and electrocutes his attacker.
Then we launch into the title sequence. The song Goldfinger is sung with gusto by Shirley Bassey. If you haven’t heard it, you must have been living on another planet. Accompanying Miss Bassey’s vocal are Robert Brownjohn’s visuals, images from the film projected onto the golden body of Margaret Nolan (who will turn up later in the movie as ‘Dink’). Trevor Bond is quoted in Emily King’s book “Robert Brownjohn: Sex And Typography”:
“I think Goldfinger were the only titles that ever went to the censor. We were going to project objects on her body, but that was too difficult, it was hard to make them stand out. It was Bj’s idea to project scenes from the film. The golf ball down the cleavage is pure Bj. It was brilliant.”
After the titles we land at the Fountainbleau Hotel in Miami. Beside the pool, Bond is receiving a massage from Dink (the aforementioned Margaret Nolan), when he is interrupted by old friend and C.I.A. agent Felix Leiter (this time played by Cec Linder. Leiter was previously played by Jack Lord in Doctor No).
Leiter passes on a message from ‘M’. Bond is to observe Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). Each day Goldfinger plays gin with Du Pont, and each day Goldfinger has won. Bond observes this from a far, but is suspicious. His suspicions take him up to Goldfinger’s hotel suite. Inside he finds Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton), clad in black underwear, peering through a pair of binoculars. From her vantage point she can see the cards, Du Pont is holding and via a small two way radio, she passes this information to Goldfinger. His receiving device is disguised as a hearing aid. Bond isn’t impressed with the scam. He takes the microphone and threaten to tell the Miami Police unless Goldfinger starts to lose. And lose he does.
Meanwhile Bond takes Jill back to his room for a bit of ‘slap and tickle’. But while searching the fridge for another bottle of champagne, Bond is knocked unconscious. Now the Bond series has a few iconic moments, and the next scene is one of them. When Bond comes to, he sees Jill dead, spread eagled on his bed. But what makes this different, is she is covered from head to toe with gold paint. She has died from skin suffocation. The scene is dazzling and original and now indelibly etched into the minds of anyone who saw this film when they were young.
Back in London in ‘M’s office, Bond is reprimanded. He was supposed to watch Goldfinger, not borrow his girlfriend. Later, he is briefed on what his mission is about. Goldfinger is a gold smuggler. He buys gold in undeveloped countries for a small price and sells it in developed countries for a high price. But nobody knows how he does it. Bond’s mission is to find out. Naturally there’s more to Goldfinger, than just gold smuggling. That’s just the tip of the ice-berg. But these are things that Bond and the viewer finds out along the way.
Onto the Bond girls (I am sure there’s a Bondian quip there, but I’m not game to use it). Bond has quite a few conquests throughout this film. Above I have already mentioned Nadja Regin as Bonita, and Margaret Nolan as Dink. The three main Bond girls, are Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson, Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterson, and most famously Honour Blackman (Cathy Gale from The Avengers) plays Pussy Galore.
Goldfinger doesn’t feature too many gadgets. Bond only has one. And it’s a doozy. It’s the very famous Aston Martin DB5. It comes equipped with every assault and defence device imaginable. Amongst the devices are revolving number plates, a rear bullet proof shield, front and rear machine guns, smoke screen, oil slick, and a passenger side ejector seat. It’s riot, when Bond finally gets to put the car through its paces. But Bond isn’t the only person allowed to have gadgets. Goldfinger possesses an industrial laser. Goldfinger demonstrates its capabilities in a very uncomfortable scene (for male viewers), where Bond is strapped to a table, and Goldfinger has his laser moving between Bonds legs, slowly up towards his genitals. At this point Bond asks, “Do you expect me to talk?” And to this Goldfinger glibly replies, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” It’s classic cinema.
As with most Bond movies, a few notes about music are in order. The musical score is by John Barry, and the classic Bond sound starts here. Sure, Barry worked on Dr. No, and composed the score for From Russia With Love. But here is starting line for the true Bond sound. Barry has composed a terrific score, with an equally memorable title song performed by Shirley Bassey. This is the soundtrack to which all other Bond soundtracks are compared. It’s bold, it’s brassy. It’s Bond.
So that’s Goldfinger, the third film in the Bond series. It has to be the most fun of all the Bond films. It’s story isn’t the strongest, and Bond falls into more traps than he sets. Actually he doesn’t do that much at all in the end, but he is the centrepiece; and because of this film, an iconic one at that. When this film was released, people queued around the block to see it at cinemas. Its success launched Bondmania around the world. Bond became a brand. There were everything from jigsaw puzzles and toy cars to talcum powder and vodka labelled with the 007 logo. If it was Bond, it was sixties cool. Countless imitators and rip-offs began springing up. Particularly in Europe where a whole industry popped up making Eurospy films. Even in Asia, Bond was popular; and they had their own attempt at making spy films. It seems like there wasn’t a place on the planet where Bond’s influence wasn’t felt. Even behind the Iron Curtain. The average Soviet citizen may never have had the opportunity to see a Bond film, or read a Bond book, but they knew who Bond was.
Before I sign off on this review, I thought I’d share a little bit of trivia: Before Goldfinger Harold Sakata was a Hawaiian pro-wrestler called Tosh Togo. He also won a silver medal in the 1948 Olympics in the light – heavyweight weightlifting division.