The Falcon’s Adventure (1946)

FalconCountry: United States
Director: William Berke
Starring: Tom Conway, Madge Meredith, Edward S. Brophy, Robert Warwick, Myrna Dell, Steve Brodie, Ian Wolfe
Music: Paul Sawtell
Based on characters created by Michael Arlen

In spy stories, whether it be in books, film or television, there is one formula that gets repeated time and time again. It features a scientist who has invented a design or device that will change the world – you can substitute politician for scientist and information/knowledge for the device or formula. The point being, a man of learning has something that evil forces wish to acquire. This man is either kidnapped or killed at the beginning of the story.

Invariably, this scientist or politician has a beautiful daughter, grand-daughter or niece. She either wants him back, or is entrusted to get the device or plan into the hands of the good guys. Forgive the sexism in the next statement (I’m just reporting what I see and read), but she cannot do this on her own. She needs the assistance of a rugged male to do this. This rugged male can be a spy, but more often than not he is an innocent bystander who just gets drawn into the tangled web of intrigue.

Of course the bad guys come after the girl and the hero and a running battle takes place to ensure that goodness wins out in the end.

This story formula covers about 60% of all Eurospy films made in the ’60s. It was in the Nick Carter film, License to Kill, which I reviewed the other day. But it also in modern fare like The DaVinci Code. But the real heyday for this formula was the old black & white studio B-movies featuring characters such as The Saint, Bulldog Drummond and The Falcon. Which of course, brings me to The Falcon’s Adventure.

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The film opens at the Bradshaw Hotel, and within one of its rooms, the Falcon, Tom Lawrence (Tom Conway) and his pal, Goldie Locke (Edward Brophy) planning a fishing vacation. Goldie makes the Falcon swear that on this trip, he will not get tangled up with any dames – ‘cos we all know ‘dames is trouble’. The Falcon agrees. Armed with fishing rods, they leave their suite, but before they have even made it the length of the hall, the Falcon bumps into a young lady who is leaving her room. The young lady is Louisa Braganza (Madge Meredith), who happens to be the daughter of a Brazilian scientist, who has invented a new formula for creating industrial diamonds. Of course, the Falcon does not know this.

Goldie reminds the Falcon of his vow – no dames! So they head their separate ways. The Falcon and Goldie get into their car with their equipment, while Louisa hails a taxi. However the driver of the cab works for a criminal organisation who are after the formula. She gets in the vehicle, but quickly realises the driver is not taking her to the travel agency as requested, but out onto a country road.

But as the cab overtake the Falcon, Louisa calls for help and signals out the back window. Realising she is in trouble, the Falcon flattens his foot on the accelerator and gives chase. He catches the taxi and forces it off the road. The driver gets out and scarpers into the surrounding undergrowth.

Louisa asks to be taken back to the hotel, which of course, the Falcon does. There he meets Louisa’s father, Enrico Braganza, who explains everything. The formula and the villains after it. Within minutes of that meeting, Enrico Briganza is dead and the Falcon is the prime suspect, with the police hot on his trail. He is also entrusted with the formula, which he has to get safely to Miami.

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Over the film’s short one hour running time, The Falcon’s Adventure packs in a lot of action, albeit, as discussed above, in a predictable and formulaic fashion. But there is still a lot to enjoy – car chases, fist fights, crocodiles, villains to hiss, and a damsel in distress. What’s not to like?

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Tiffany Memorandum (1967)

tiffany 3Country: Italy | France | Germany
Director: Sergio Greico (as Terence Hathaway)
Starring: Ken Clark, Irina Demick, Jacques Berthier, Luigi Vannuchi, Gregoire Aslan
Music: Riz Ortolani

The plot for the Tiffany Memorandum is more twisted than a bag of pretzels, with every character, with the exception of the blond haired square jawed hero, Dick Hallan (Ken Clark), presenting as someone different to who they truly are. As for the memorandum of the title, if you analyse the plot, it doesn’t even make sense. There is no memorandum as such – and if you’ll forgive the minor spoiler – the maguffin is a piece of videotape that has been used, like a ribbon, to decorate a negligee designed by Madame Tiffany. Yeah, you’re reading that and thinking I am speaking jibberish. Videotape! Wouldn’t that rub against the skin? As I said, it doesn’t really make sense, but let’s go with the flow, shall we? And maybe start at the beginning.

The Tiffany Memorandum starts in Paris. Dick Hallan, a reporter for the Herald Tribune, walks through the neon jungle to a swinging and infectious theme tune by Riz Ortolani. He ends up at an illegal gambling house and after casing the room, takes a seat at the roulette wheel. Whether Hallan is working a story or just there to blow some of his hard earned cash is never explained. He places a bet. As the wheel spins the croupier reaches for a secret button under the table – a device to ensure there are no winners. Hallan grabs the croupier’s hand before he has a chance to activate the device. The ball runs its natural course, and what-do-you-know, Hallan’s number comes up.

140324-tiffany-memorandum-0-230-0-341-cropAnother gambler also benefits from Hallan’s intervention – this gentleman just happens to be Francisco Aguirrez (Michel Bardinet) – the highly favoured democratic candidate for the Republic of El Salvador. Hallan and Aquirrez become friends and leave the club together. As they walk back to their hotel, hoods from the casino come after Hallan – trying to get back their money. While Hallan engages in some brutish fisticuffs, Aguirrez is assassinated in a drive by shooting.

There is naturally enough a police investigation. At the police station, Hallan notices that Aquirrez’s chauffeur, is brought in for questioning. For some reason, to Hallan, that makes him the prime suspect, and he chooses to follow him. The chauffeur boards a train to Berlin – with his travelling companion, Sylvie Maynard (Irina Demick). Hallan also boards the train. On route, the train is derailed – you really have to see the model used for this, it is little more than a standard Hornby train set. The end result of this calamity is that the chauffeur is killed and in the confusion, Hallan is mistaken for him.

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From here on out, the film gets confusing with multiple parties all after the macguffin. There are car chases, fist fights and a crazy climax at a television studio.

In the past I have enjoyed Ken Clark’s other spy outings – Mission Bloody Mary, From the Orient With Fury and Special Mission: Lady Chaplin – but apart from one or two stylish touches, Tiffany Memorandum falls flat. It tries too hard to keep the viewer guessing, twisting and turning every which way, but by the 97th plot twist most viewers will have given up trying to follow the plot – and arty visuals do not a film make. This is one for the hard core EuroSpy fans only.

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License To Kill (1964)

aff_nick_carter_casse-01Country: France | Italy
Director: Henri DeCoin
Starring: Eddie Constantine, Daphné Dayle, Paul Frankeur, Barbara Somers, Jean-Paul Moulinot, Charles Belmont, Mitsouko, Yvonne Monlaur
Music: Pierick Houdy – although not credited on the print I viewed.

License To Kill, despite it’s title is not another James Bond ripoff. The roots of this film are much older. In the film Eddie Constantine plays Nick Carter. Carter these days may not be a household name, but he is one of modern literature’s oldest surviving characters. He started life in three dime store sleuth detective magazine stories penned by John Russell Coryell in 1886. Although Nick Carter was part of a double act in these stories, he was the protege of Seth Carter, it wasn’t long until the Little Giant, as he was known, took off on his own in a series of amazingly popular adventures penned by Frederic Marmaduke van Ransselaer Dey. But as they must, times change. Nick Carter detective fell out of favour – but he was reborn again at the height of spymania as the Killmaster – a secret agent N3 working for AXE. Between 1964 and 1990, there were a staggering 261 Nick Carter spy novels written.

Having said all that, this film isn’t about the Killmaster. It goes back to the old Nick Carter detective stories. The film opens – possibly in France – with a distinguished looking gentleman being shown to his car by the valet attendant. No sooner has the attendant walked away, and the car explodes in a fireball. A newspaper report the following day explains that a renowned scientist has been assassinated. Next we see another academic type (Horn-rimmed glasses / Van Dyke beard) walking the street. A car rushes past with goons leaning out the window with guns. The academic is shot down. A newspaper report informs the viewer he was a physicist named Von Brantchitz. On both occasions, as these men were killed, an Asian lady (played by Mitsouko) watches on from a balcony above.

The film skips to the USA. World famous detective, Nick Carter (Eddie Constantine) is about to go on holiday. To that end, he is refusing to take any cases, or phone calls. His long suffering secretary, Gladys (Barbara Sommer), a Moneypenny type character who loves Nick, but whose affections are not reciprocated, valiantly attempts to fend off all phone calls. Then a French journalist arrives in person. Gladys shows him around, pointing out the pictures on the wall, mementos of previous cases undertaken by Nick Carter’s father (it is never mentioned if his name is Seth). One of these old cases was the case of the Shanghai Stranger – and the case was solved with the assistance of a man named Fromentin. When Nick receives an urgent telegram from his Father’s old friend, Fromentin, he cancels his vacation and finds himself traveling incognito on a plane to Nice, on the French Riviera.

In Nice, Nick hires a car and races around the scenic coast road to Fromentin’s home. However news of Carter’s arrival has leaked and somebody is watching and waiting with a rifle, and as Nick rounds the corner, they open fire. The car goes over the edge and rolls down the embankment, crashing into some rocks beside the ocean. The car bursts into flame. Surely Nick’s goose is cooked!

Miraculously Nick survives. Although it is never stated, he may have been wearing some protective trenchcoat – later on in the story it is revealed that Nick does have a few gadgets on his person. Nick climbs out of the car and quips, “Wow, we start with a bang!” Luckily, he crashed right next to a small bar. Despite it being mid morning, it is packed with youngsters frugging and grooving out to the latest beats. Nicks arranges a lift to Fromentin’s home. There he also meets Fromentin’s grand-daughter, Catherine (Daphné Dayle).

Here Fromentin explains why he sent the telegram to Nick. Fromentin, like the gentlemen killed at the start of the movie, is a scientist working a top secret device – much like a miniature, remote control flying saucer – named Gyros Number One. Fearful that the killers will target him next, he wishes for Nick to find out who is behind it all. Before you can say sacré bleu, Nick’s up to his armpits in trouble.

license-to-killLicense To Kill is pure pulp – as it should be. Although it could be classed as a ’60s Eurospy flick, it plays like a serial from the ’40s, with Nick finding himself in one scrape after another. I found this film to be a hoot from go to whoa – but it won’t be for everyone. It is a French Italian co-production, so it will either be dubbed or subbed (the version I watched was dubbed), and it’s in black and white. And truth be told, it is rather formulaic – I happen to like the formula – however if originality is your thing, it would be best to steer clear of this one.

Eddie Constantine made at least one other Nick Carter film, Nick Carter and the Red Club in 1965.

Hat tip to MB.

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Delta Force 2 (1990)

delta-force-2-poster3Country: United States
Director: Aaron Norris
Starring: Chuck Norris, Billy Drago, Paul Perry, John P. Ryan, Richard Jaeckel, Begonya Plaza
Music: Frédéric Talgorn
AKA: Delta Force 2: The Columbian Connection

This follow up to Delta Force is in reality a loose reimagining of the James Bond film, Licence to Kill, which was released a year earlier.

As the film opens, the DEA is out to catch notorious South American drug baron, Ramon Cota (Billy Drago). Cota operates out of the fictitious country of San Carlos, which the US have no extradition treaty with. However, as luck would have it, Cota leave the safe haven of San Carlos for Rio, where he is to attend a masquerade ball. The DEA plan to catch him once and for all, and have a surveillance van is on hand to watch his every move. Cota arrives in a limousine, wearing a silver masking enters the ball and mingles with the guests. The DEA agents surround him and close in. They remove the mask and find that it is not Cota, but a decoy. The real Cota, and several of his heavily arms goons take up a position behind the surveillance van. As the goons open fire, the team inside the van are cut to ribbons. Cota sends a message, saying that was only a warning. It is pointless to trey and capture him.

It appears the DEA need a little help. They call in two members of Delta Force, Colonel Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris) and Major Bobby Chavez (Paul Perri). Their superior is General Taylor, played by Cannon Film regular John P. Ryan (Avenging Force / Runaway Train / Death Wish 4). Taylor has found out that Cota will be flying to Switzerland to deposit his money into a numbered account. The plane will fly over US air space for just a few minutes, near the Florida Keys.

McCoy and Chavez manage to smuggle themselves onto the plane, and when it passes over US airspace, they arrest him. Of course, they have to get him off the plane before it is out of their jurisdiction, so McCoy pushes Cota out of the plane. Anyone who has seen Moonraker, will recognise what follows. Later, Cota is brought before a judge, and his bail is set at ten million dollars – which is pocket change to a man like Cota. Chavez, frustrated by a system which will see Cota go free, loses his temper and punches Cota as he leaves the court room. As I mentioned at the top, this film borrows heavily from Licence to Kill, so if you haven’t worked it out yet, Chavez is the sacrificial Felix Leiter character. Cota gets his revenge – and McCoy vows to go in and bring the drug lord down.

While being entertaining in a low brow way, the derivative story content detracts from what may have been a serviceable action flick. Instead the viewer is constantly reminded of better films. Apart from the aforementioned Bond films (Licence to Kill / Moonraker), as Billy Drago is the villain – and he came to prominence as Frank Nitti in The Untouchables, the film also borrows some elements from that film as well. The courtroom scene at the start is reminiscent of the closing of The Untouchables – but here the villain gets away. There is also a replay of the round table scene – sans baseball bat – but non-the-less, you’d have to be blind not to miss the connection.

I have a soft spot for Chuck Norris’ action flicks – but this one doesn’t cut it.

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The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982)

HoundCountry: United Kingdom
Starring: Tom Baker, Terence Rigby, Christopher Ravenscroft, Caroline John, William Squire
Director: Peter Duguid
Music: Carl Davis

Some quick thoughts on the 1982 four-part BBC television series of The Hound of the Baskervilles, starring everybody’s favourite Dr. Who – Tom Baker – as Sherlock Holmes. Over the years, this version has developed a reputation for being pretty bad. I am guessing a part of the reason for this is that is hasn’t been available – many people concluding that it must be bad if it has never been released. As one of the few people who could sit through the entirety of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, I wondered just how bad could it be?

The answer is, it is not bad at all. It may not reach the heights of some of the other versions – the Hammer version with Peter Cushing being my favourite – but none-the-less tells the oft told tale in a professional way. Baker is a fine Holmes – but as people familiar with Hound already know, Holmes is absent from the story for a sizable amount of time. But Terence Rigby is not the worst Watson to carry the story (Robert Duvall, with his dreadful accent and voiceover in The Seven Percent Solution gets my vote for worst Watson). Like many other versions of Hound, it could be said that the ferocious canine of the title lets the series down – but I don’t believe any version has really nailed the Hound.

On the plus side, if you are a Tom Baker fan, the recent Madman DVD release has an entertaining audio commentary by Baker over all 4 episodes, which in itself almost makes it worth the price.

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The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)

In Melbourne, Australia it is just ticked past 9:00am on the 11th of November. 134 years ago, on this day, Ned Kelly was hung at Old Melbourne Gaol.

And here is, what many people consider the world’s first feature film – and remember this was only made 26 years after Kelly’s death, so many of the people involved in the story were still alive.

The first dramatic narrative to run over 60 minutes in length, but now only fragments remain, many of which are as badly decomposed as Ned Kelly. It also marks the beginning of the film industry in Australia but was banned in Benalla and Wangarratta, Australia, in 1907, and then again in Adelaide in 1911.

Kelly’s actual suit of armour was borrowed from the Victorian Museum and worn in the film.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0000574/

Uploaded by Films of the Public Domain.

old paper or parchment

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Such is Life: Led to the gallows

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An image from the State Library of Victoria shows Ned Kelly making the walk to the gallows at Old Melbourne Gaol.

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A (Very) Brief History of Bushranger Ned Kelly – Brickfilm

The Ned Kelly story – in Lego! It runs just over 9 minutes.

Uploaded by hali9

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Ned Kelly (2003) – The Last Stand

Uploaded by 14DANESSJ

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Ned Kelly (1970) – The Last Stand

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