One Down, Two To Go (1982)

One DownCountry: USA
Director: Fred Williamson
Starring: Fred Williamson | Jim Brown | Richard Roundtree | Jim Kelly | Paula Sills | Laura Loftus | Joe Spinnell
Written by: Fred Williamson
Music: Herb Hetzer | Joe Trunzo

Featuring four of the biggest and baddest blaxploitation stars of the 1970s, Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly, One Down, Two To Go is a kick-ass action adventure, written and directed by Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.

Watching movies is such a subjective thing. Reaction to, and appreciation for a film can be affected by so many factors. Where you alone or in packed cinema? Was the film viewed on a worn VHS tape, DVD, or Blu-ray disk? Did you see it at the cinema? Or did you see it on the big screen at 5:00 o’clock in the morning, the fifth film in an all-night Fred Williamson marathon? I ask these questions because they can truly change your perception of a film.

I have read some negative reviews of One Down, Two To Go that criticize the prolonged opening of the film, in which two of the film’s stars, Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, don’t appear for the first half hour or so. I understand that frustration. However, my experience, which was at a Fred Williamson marathon, is that the tension generated in that lead up is pivotal to enjoyment of this film. It is perfect timing. There was almost a tangible sense of electricity in the air, waiting for Jim and Fred to tun up on screen. I knew, when they stepped out of their cars – looking sharp and ready for business – ass was going to be kicked and the rulebook thrown out the window. I had to restrain myself from punching my fist into the air and whooping for joy. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s have a look at the story.

The film opens at the L.A. Tournament of Champions – a karate competition – and the two final teams are competing for the grand prize, four hundred thousand dollars. One of the teams is run by Chuck (Jim Kelly – Enter The Dragon), and as the first bout takes place, he notices his fighter is taking a lot more punishment than he should. He becomes suspicious – believing something fishy is going on. Chuck leaves his team in the care of his good friend, and promoter, Ralph (Richard Roundtree – Shaft), and heads back to the changerooms to investigate. There he discovers the opposition is loading their gloves with pieces of iron. It appears the manager of the opposition team, who has ties to a mobster, Rossi (Peter Dane) is looking to ensure he collects the grand prize.

However, before Chuck can report his discovery to the match referee, he is spotted and set upon by thugs working for Rossi. Chuck fights his way clear, but in the carpark, one of the thugs draws a pistol and shoots him in the shoulder. Though bleeding and in pain, Chuck manages to avoid capture and goes into hiding.

Meanwhile in the auditorium, when Chuck doesn’t return, Ralph realizes something has gone amiss. He searches for Chuck but cannot find him anywhere. Hiding in the shadows, Chuck makes his way to a bar, where his girlfriend, Trei (Paula Sills – who appeared in No Way Back with Williamson) works. Chuck knows mafia hoods will be watching and waiting for him, so he hides out back. When Trei steps outside to empty the trash, he asks her to contact Ralph, to arrange transport, so he can slip away. He also asks her to make two other phone calls. He has two friends (guess who?), whose help he is going to need if he is going to get out of this alive.

Trei makes the calls, and Ralph collects Chuck and Trei, and spirits them away to a safehouse on the edge of town. Unfortunately, that night, Ralph’s car is spotted by informers, and a cadre of goons is sent to the location to silence Chuck for good. When they arrive, Ralph is knocked unconscious, and Trei is sexually assaulted, but Chuck, once again, manages to escape disappearing into the woods.

But the hoods don’t intend to let up. They know Chuck will show up sooner or later. But what the hoods don’t count on is the arrival of Jay (Jim Brown – The Dirty Dozen) and Cal (Fred Williamson – Black Caesar). Jay and Cal don’t know what’s goin’ down, but know their friend is missing and needs help. They intend to get to the bottom of the mystery in their own unique way. Fists and bullets fly. Cars explode. General mayhem ensues.

As I mentioned at the top, sometimes One Down, Two To Go gets a bad rap. I thought it was an absolute blast from first frame to last – but I did watch it under different circumstances to most, and I am sure that colours my perception. My perception may also be clouded by the fact that so many of the current breed of action heroes are aided and abetted by CGI and special effects. I find it enjoyable, almost refreshing, watching a film such as One Down, Two To Go, where I see old school heroes doing their thing without the aid of visual trickery.

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The Land of the Pharaohs (1955)

LandofPharaohs3Country: USA
Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: Jack Hawkins | Joan Collins | Dewey Martin | James Robertson Justice | Alexis Minotis | Luisella Boni | Sydney Chaplin
Writers: William Faulkner | Harry Kurnitz | Harold Jack Bloom
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin

The Land of the Pharaohs is a film I have been trying to track down for years. Not that it was particularly hard to find, but I didn’t know its name. It’s one of those films I saw as a youngster on Saturday or Sunday afternoon television – and the ending has remained indelibly burnt into my brain ever since. I am relieved to have finally tracked it down, and I am pleased to say the film didn’t disappoint.

The Land of the Pharaohs is a big sprawling epic – with a cast of thousands – as they used to say. It is directed by the legendary Howard Hawks – although it is a very different type of movie to his usual output. Jack Hawkins stars as Khufu, the Pharaoh – the living god – the ruler of Egypt. As the film begins, he returns to Thebes, having won a war in Kush. It is an occasion of great pomp and ceremony. People line the streets as the Pharaoh and his men make their way into the city. Trumpets and horns blare and rose petals are thrown into the air. It is a celebration.

Not only has Pharaoh won the war, but he has increased his wealth – plundering riches and acquiring many slaves. It is revealed that Khufu is obsessed with acquiring gold. He believes it will serve him well in the afterlife (or second life as it is referred to in the film).

Leading the slaves brought to Thebes is a man named Vashtar (James Robertson Justice). Khufu has kept Vashtar alive because he is a master architect and wishes for him to construct a thief proof pyramid. If Vashtar does this, Pharaoh will let the slaves go free. Vashtar’s idea is simple – seal the corridors to the tomb with stone blocks. The stone blocks are engineered to hydraulically move into place (but rather than fluid to move the blocks, dessert sand is used).

LandofPharaohs1

Work on the great pyramid begins, and for fifteen years workers toil away constructing the great stone edifice. Pharaoh becomes frustrated at the slow progress. He is told for the work to be completed faster, they will require more workers and more food to feed them. Pharaoh vows to get both – calling upon the surrounding kingdoms to pay tribute.

One kingdom doesn’t have the food to spare, and send Princess Nellifer (Joan Collins) instead. Pharaoh has a choice – he can either insist on tribute being paid (resulting in famine and starvation) or he can have Nellifer. Nellifer is spirited and defiant, but he chooses to keep her. That night, when he calls for her, she bites him. So much anger and hatred can only lead to one thing. Marriage. Yes, she becomes his second wife.

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However, Nellifer soon learns of the vast amount of treasure Khufu has accumulated and begins to plot and scheme to acquire it for herself. Aided of Treneh, the Captain of the Guard (Sydney Chaplin), a man infatuated with Nellifer, she puts in motion a chain of deadly events – moving her from number two wife, to number one.

The Land of the Pharaohs is a flawed film to be sure, some stilted dialogue, poor acting etc., but it is a big Hollywood spectacle that delivers on most fronts. It looks great, the score by Dimitri Tiomkin is rousing, and the climax… the climax to the film is just perfect, exactly the way I remembered it from all those years ago.

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Atomic Eden (2015)

Atomic EdenCountry: Germany | USA | Ukraine
Director: Nico Sentner
Starring: Fred Williamson | Mike Möller | Hazuki Kato | Lorenzo Lamas | Wolfgang Riehm | Nico Sentner | Everett Ray Aponte | Dominik Starck | Josephine Hies
Written by: Nico Sentner | Dominik Starck

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend the world premier of the thriller Atomic Eden at the Lido Cinema in Hawthorn. The movie was proceeded by an introduction by action superstar Fred Williamson, and a Q & A afterward. While many of Williamson’s contemporaries are in mothballs, at 78, he proves he still has the charisma and charm to entertain a crowd, and carry an action movie of this kind.

The plot for Atomic Eden asks more questions than it delivers, but it is pretty straight forward. It appears that at the end of the Second World War, the Nazis had a secret underground bunker in Chernobyl, where they were building a doomsday weapon called Eden. It is suggested nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, was to cover-up the Eden device’s location, so no-one would go looking for it. But now almost 30 years later, people can enter the site for short periods of time. The worry is, that someone may now try to retrieve the weapon. Of course the weapon can not fall into the wrong hands. An international team of mercenaries is sent in to retrieve it.

The team consists of Stoker (Fred Williamson) – the Team Leader, David (Mike Möller) – The Fighter, Reiko (Hazuki Kato) – The Samurai, Heinrich (Wolfgang Riehm) – The Priest, John (Nico Sentner) – The Sniper, Darwin (Everett Ray Aponte) – The Texan, Brenner (Dominik Starck) – The Blade, and Laurie (Josephine Hies) – The Rookie. The characters themselves are little more than broad stereotypes – but this works in keeping the story moving forward. In many respects, viewers already know the characters – for example Heinrich, the fighting priest is cut from the same cloth as Friar Tuck, and Darwin, the Texan gets to mouth ‘Don’t mess with Texas!’ after blowing someone away.

As the team head into the bunker to retrieve the weapon, they are set upon by an army of faceless killers – all wearing radiation suits and masks. The film then becomes a battle – eight against eight-hundred. Despite the modern trappings, this story is essentially a western – like The Alamo, a small desperate band trapped inside a building, trying to fight off a much larger force outside. Bullets and bombs fly. Blood is splattered. Ass is kicked.

The film is a low budget B-grade actioner, and knows it, so it works within its limits. The script doesn’t try to be more than it ever can be, simply pushing the story on. In it’s favour, it features no (or little) CGI. Filmed in ruins in East Germany, the crew were allowed to blow a lot of shit up – giving it a layer of authenticity not found in most modern action films.

But most of all, this film is fun. Great art, it aint – but as a low-budget kick-ass adventure film, it punches above its weight.

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The Ark of the Sun God (1984)

SunGodOriginal Title: I sopravvissuti della città morta
Country: Italy | Turkey
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony M. Dawson)
Starring: David Warbeck | John Steiner | Susie Sudlow | Ricardo Palacios | Luciano Piggozzi | Achille Brugnini | Aytekin Akkaya
Writers: Giovanni Paolucci | Giovanni Simonelli (AIP DVD lists Tito Capri | Gianfranco Couyoumdjian)
Music: Aldo Tamborelli (AIP DVD lists Carlo Savina)

Made by the same team that made Hunters of the Golden Cobra (original title: I cacciatori del cobra d’oro) in 1982, The Ark of the Sun God, as you may have guessed from the title, is another Raiders of the Lost Ark knockoff – but it is not without its own unique B-grade charm. Directed by the legendary Antonio Margheriti – you can find my review of Margheriti’s Eurospy classic, Lightning Bolt hereSun God is a fast-paced treasure hunting romp.

The film begins with our suitably square jawed hero, Rick Spear (David Warbeck) arriving in Istanbul with his girlfriend, Carol (Susie Ludlow). As they check into the hotel, Spear is told the suite has been paid for. He doesn’t question this, instead he goes about his job – he happens to be a master thief. While Carol sleeps, Spear heads out to a lavish villa. He fires a zip line over the wall, and glides down into the yard. Next he’s up the wall, in through the window and cracking open the safe. As he pries open the door and retrieves an unusual stone tablet from within, the light flicker on, and he finds himself in the company of five men. They applaud his efforts. The break in was a test of Spear’s skills – one he has passed.

His soon to be ‘new’ employer, is Lord Dean (John Steiner), an old acquaintance, who is willing to put up $25,000 for Spear’s next job. Dean explains the tablet in the safe is the key to the Temple of the Sun God – which is the sacred resting place of Gilgamesh – an ancient ruler who was supposed to be half man and half demon. The temple also houses Gilgamesh’s septre – a relic of in-estimable worth – and of course, great power! If it should fall into the wrong hands, the consequences would change the face of the modern world.

As an adjunct here, I will quote a section from the back of the DVD cover.

He has been tricked by an old friend who is need of Rick’s skills in his quest for the legendary lost treasure of Semiramis, Queen of Babylonia, and the most coveted artifact of all – the Ark of the Sun God.

I post this snippet of the synopsis because, as a foreign film, there may be other versions out there. However, my sneaking suspicion is, whoever wrote the DVD spiel, did not bother to watch the movie and made up the details. But of course, I could be wrong.

But either way, Rick is on a quest to find … something. And other nefarious parties are willing to do anything to get their hands on it. Much adventure and mayhem ensues. As I mentioned at the top, the film has a modicum of charm, and features all the genre tropes – snake pits, big furry spiders, lava pools and booby-traps. Also, the miniatures and modelwork are of a reasonable standard – and aren’t too distracting. All-in-all, The Ark of the Sun God is a harmless old-fashioned pulp adventure that will entertain undemanding viewers.

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‘And Then… The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Stories’

Lost Loot

Last week saw the launch of the IndieGoGo campaign for ‘And Then… The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales’, which features my story ‘The Lost Loot of Lima’. While the story is fiction, I tried to – at least – ground it in a little reality. That is to say, many people believe ‘The Lost Loot of Lima’ exists and could well be buried in Australia. For the Indiana Jones types, I have uploaded a few newspaper articles – and other snippets of information – I stumbled upon while doing my research… they are fascinating reading (with a grateful tip of the hat to the Queenscliff Maritime Museum). Click on the images for an expanded view.

Advertiser Sat 20 Aug 1938Advocate Tues 2 Aug 1938

Kerosene JackPirate Gold

Swan BaySyndicate

The Ark has been Raided, and the Stone has been Romanced, now get ready for ‘And Then… the Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales’. But first we need the funds to get this mammoth project off the ground [more details – and some sweet perks can be found on the IndieGoGo page – click on the image below]. If rollicking High Adventure is your thing – check it out and consider offering your support.

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Under the Spotlight: Paul Bishop

LAPD+DETECTIVE+BADGE

BISH LOW RES
Recently, I had a chance to throw a few tough questions at my friend and mentor, Paul Bishop, about his latest novel, Lie Catchers, which has just been released by Pro Se Productions. From my hollowed out volcano, I grilled him on the story, and his writing career.

David Foster: Firstly, Paul, welcome to P2K, and congratulations on the publication of Lie Catchers. It’s a sensational story, and readers are in for a real treat. Before we talk about your book, I thought we should begin with your influences. Who are the authors that inspired you to become a novelist?

Paul Bishop: Dick Francis taught me about plot and pace. At one point early in my writing career, I tore all the pages out of a Dick Francis paperback, laid them out on the floor of my office, and painstakingly charted the development and resolution of his plot.

Robert Parker showed me a lot about character and dialogue. He taught me to strip down my writing to the skeleton and then to add back on just what is needed.

However, when I joined the LAPD in 1977, Joseph Wambaugh was my writing idol. He was and continues to be the gold standard against which all other police writers are judged. Wambaugh’s early novels, including The New Centurions, The Onion Field, and The Blue Knight, influenced both my writing and my police career. Wambaugh is a great storyteller. He also tells stories in a complex, layered, provoking manner which elevates his prose into the stratosphere of literature. Wambaugh knows cops at a primal level. He also knows how to capture them on the page in all their flawed glory. I was already on track from an early age to pursue both of my chosen professions, LAPD detective and writer, but Wambaugh’s books were the light in the window guiding me home.

DF: Many readers will be familiar with your police procedurals, such as the Fey Croaker, and the Calico Jack Walker-Tina Tamiko series, but some would not know about the young pulp writer who cut his teeth writing stories for adventure magazines. Can you tell us some of your memories of your early writing career?

PB: There were more rejections than acceptances in those days. I was very derivative as I was trying to find my voice. When I stopped copying others and just wrote, the voice was there. It wasn’t developed yet, but it was strong enough for me to sell stories to Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine and some of the other digest sized pulps that were the last of their kind.

I’ve always been proud of the fact I started out in the pulps. I admired the guys from back in the day who wrote prodigiously for the pulps. They could be at a party, realize they had a story deadline, go off in a corner with a battered typewriter, rip through a 3,000 to 5,000 word story, and be back to the party before they were missed.

DF: What is your writing process? Is it organic, or do you outline the plot in advance?

PB: Went I first started writing novels, I outlined heavily. I needed to have a map to where I was going. I might change the destination as the story opened up, but I needed an outline for the confidence to begin.

Eventually, I moved away from outlining and would start writing if I had the characters, two or three turning point scenes, and the climax in my head. I worked that way until Lie Catchers, which I started with just a deep understanding of the characters and the decision that interrogation was going to drive the plot. I just started writing and let the story unfold as I went. The process was both frightening and exhilarating at the same time.

DF: Do you do any rewriting?

PB: I’m a firm believer in the Robert Graves quote, there is no such thing as good writing only good rewriting. I have a tendency to rewrite as I go along – if I write five pages, I go over those first the next day. By the time I type the end on the manuscript, I’ve already gone over it two or three times, so one last polish is all it takes before the copyeditor tears it apart.

DF: Let’s move on to the here and now. Tell us about your latest novel, Lie Catchers, and the lead characters.

Lie Catchers Cover imagePB: Lie Catchers features two top LAPD interrogators, Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall. A few years earlier, Pagan has made a bad mistake in the box. As a result he banished himself to handling only deep freeze case – cases so frigid even the Cold Case Squad won’t go near them. Calamity Jane Randall is a Robbery-Homicide detective trying to come back after a gunfight, in which she killed the suspect, but got a chunk taken out of her leg by returned fire.

The LAPD chief wants Pagan back working his magic in the interrogation room and he wants Jane to get him there and work with him. Unbeknown to Jane, Pagan has singled her out. He has been waiting for a long time for somebody with her special gift – a gift she doesn’t even know she has.

When two five-year-olds – one with serious special needs – disappear on the same night in different parts of the city, Pagan and Randall have to hit the ground running to solve what appears to be two unconnected and impossible cries.

I didn’t want Pagan and Randall to be a riff on Holmes and Watson. I wanted the Pagan/Randall dynamic to be a symbiotic, equal partnership. Randall wasn’t just there to assist and marvel at Pagan’s brilliance – a foil used to listen while Pagan explained his cleverness. Randall is her own woman with her own strengths. Yes, sometimes Pagan acts as a mentor, but I wanted there to be an equal number of times when Randall’s actions saved the day. Jane couldn’t just follow, she also needed to lead sometimes.

In the end, this novel I started with no solution unfolded in the hands of these two characters who I came to admire and trust.

DF: The old adage is ‘write what you know’, and your thirty-five year career in the LAPD, and more recently presenting interrogation seminars, clearly influence this novel. But how much truth is in Lie Catchers? 

PB: Everything Pagan and Randall do in Lie Catchers, I have either done or know somebody who has. I’ve never read a novel that gets interrogations right. TV certainly doesn’t get interrogations right – not even reality cop shows like 48 Hours (I usually pull my hair out when watching). With my background, I wanted to write a novel that would be as close to what an interrogator really does as fiction would allow. Lie Catchers is the result.

DF: Lie Catchers is written from the perspective of ‘Calamity’ Jane Randall. Do you find it difficult writing from a woman’s perspective?

PB: I’d written the Fey Croaker novels in the third person. Those books obviously featured a strong female character, but I was once removed from her by perspective. However, Fey and Jane are very different characters and I needed to approach them differently.

I knew Lie Catchers needed to be told in the first person because of the intense intimacy between characters and readers the story demanded. Telling the story from Ray Pagan’s perspective just didn’t feel right. One of Pagan’s qualities is the unusual ways in which he approaches situations. This was best experienced from the point of view of another character who would come to understand Pagan along with the reader. That put me, as the writer, inside the head of Calamity Jane Randall – a very good detective, but still a woman who doesn’t truly understand herself. To become a great detective, a great interrogator, she needs Pagan to lead her on the path to self-discovery. But he also needs her to save him from himself.

As a male, writing in the third person about a female main character like Fey Croaker was one thing. Actually getting inside Jane Randall’s head to tell the story from her perspective as a woman was entirely another.

DF: Do you have any more interrogations planned for Ray Pagan and Jane Randall?

PB: The second novel in the series, tentatively titled Lie Killers, is moving along, and I have the glimmer of an idea for the third.

DF: What’s coming up next from the battered keyboard of Paul Bishop?

PB: I’m working hard on Lie Killers and have three or four short stories for anthologies I have to jump on. I’ve also been caught up in some non-fiction work with article appearing in the Huffington Post and elsewhere.

DF: Thank you for your time, Paul, and best of luck with Lie Catchers. I’m sure it will be a big success.

BIOGRAPHY: Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was twice honored as Detective of the Year. He continues to work privately as a deception expert. His fifteen novels include five in his LAPD Homicide Detective Fey Croaker series. His latest novel, Lie Catchers, begins a new series featuring top LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall.

ON THE WEB

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Vengeance: Cutter’s Law

G’day folks. Here’s the press release for my latest story – Cutter’s Law, which was released about a week ago. It is part of the Single Shot series, which are short, sharp stories that can be read in one sitting, such as on a plane, train, during your lunch break, or sitting in a waiting room.

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Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.54.59 amPro Se Productions, a leader in Genre Fiction, announces the debut of yet another action packed series as a part of its Pro Se Single Shot Signature imprint. The Single Shot Signatures are recurring series or writers’ imprints that focus on digitl single short stories released on a set schedule. Author James Hopwood takes readers back to the adrenaline fueled, pulpy tales of adventure and danger with his series, Vengeance and the debut tale- Cutter’s Law!

Scribed by James Hopwood (pen name of rising pulp adventure writer David J. Foster), the series features Nathan Cutter, an Australian soldier whose life is turned upside down when his family become innocent victims in a gangland war. Written in the style of the men’s action-adventure stories of the 1970s and ’80s, such as The Executioner, these fast-paced stories ratchet mayhem and excitement to new levels.

“The Men’s Adventure novels of the 1970s and ’80s have a special place in my heart,” Hopwood said from Melbourne, Australia. “I know some of the imprints were verging on ultra right-ring fanaticism, but in their favor, they were always fast-paced with over-the-top situations and characters. Where else could you find stories about gun-toting heroes battling dirty Commies who plan to bring the west to its knees by firing atomic missiles from the turrets of 16th century European castles?”

“Of course, times have changed – enemies have changed (or have they?) – and story-telling has changed. Consequently the Men’s Adventure novels have waned in popularity. But I don’t think the genre has to go the way of the dodo bird. As a reader, the appeal for me was always traveling along with a hero who would never say die – no matter how heavily the odds were stacked against him. I think that trait is something that today’s readers can relate to. That’s where Nathan Cutter come in – he’s from that old-school tradition of never giving in.”

Cutter was first launched on the unsuspecting public in Matt Hilton’s Action: Pulse Pounding Tales in 2012 and 2013. Now he is back, in new expanded editions of the original tales, plus an explosive new story – never before published.

“I am excited to be able to re-invent these stories for a new audience, packed with new twists and turns and overflowing with gun-smoking action.”

“The Pro Se Single Shot series is a fantastic vehicle for stories such as this, and I am proud to be a part of the initiative. Before it came along, short stories such as these only existed in anthologies. And hey, that’s great too – I mean, that’s where I got my start, but now there’s an opportunity to expand on the universe created in those shorts. Readers can now follow a series, or a character like Cutter, and can be updated with regular instalments. It’s great from writers, and great for readers.”

Vengeance: Cutter’s Law features an exhilarating cover and logo design by Jeff Hayes and ebook formatting by Russ Anderson. The story is available for only 99 cents for the Kindle at http://tinyurl.com/qd8ndns and for most other formats via Smashwords at http://tinyurl.com/omcbscp.

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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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