The Encyclopedia of TV Spies

Here’s something I am excited about. As you know, I think I have a pretty broad knowledge of the spy shows and television series that are out there, but even I am constantly amazed at the shows that I have missed – or I am simply unaware of. Where do you learn about these shows?

Well maybe this will help me – on the television front anyway. Bear Manor Media has announced they will shortly be shipping pre-orders for Wes Britton’s major new contribution to television history, The Encyclopedia of TV Spies!

It’s due out on March 1, 2009, and the Encyclopedia covers just about everything a spy fan could ask for!

Since 1951, in over 200 programs, TV spies have been cultural trend-setters from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to The Six Million Dollar Man. They’ve been espionage blended with science-fiction, gritty and realistic, docu-dramas, mini-series, comic spoofs for adults and entertainment for the very young. And, as Wes Britton demonstrates in his new Encyclopedia of TV Spies, the genre is full of nuggets and rarities even the most devoted spy-watcher may have missed.

What do you know about The Piglet Files, Doomwatch, The Sandbaggers? Has your DVD diet included Passport to Danger, Man in a Suitcase, Sleepers? That’s what The Encyclopedia of TV Spies is all about—the icons of TV past, the obscure, the neglected classics, and the misfires. If you’re a spy buff or a fan of TV history, this is one that belongs on your bookshelf!

For more information click here.

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Arriva Dorellik

AKA: How To Kill 400 Duponts
Director: Steno
Starring: Johnny Dorelli, Margaret Lee, Terry-Thomas, Alfred Adam, Jean-Pierre Zola, Rossella Como, Riccardo Carrone, Agata Flori, Didi Perego
Music: Franco Pisano

Arriva Dorellik is a very, very broad comedy spoof based on Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik starring Johnny Dorelli. Dorelli is the stage name of Giorgio Guidi, who is an Italian actor, singer and showman.

A shadow of fear hangs over the Cote d’Azur. Master criminal Dorrelik has been perpetrating a string of audacious crimes. In an attempt to bring the masked fiend to justice, Inspector Green of Scotland Yard (Terry-Thomas), the world’s foremost authority on Dorellik has been called in to help.

As the Inspector is played by Terry-Thomas, you can expect another over-officious but bumbling characterisation, and not too dissimilar to his role in Danger: Diabolik. It’s Thomas’ usual schtick.

No sooner has Inspector Green arrived at Nice airport and there is a robbery at a jewellers in the city. Green and his French colleagues quickly make their way to the scene of the crime. Dorellik has made off with one of the world’s largest diamonds, and in it’s place he has left a letter to welcome the bumbling inspector.

But Dorellik hasn’t fled the scene just yet. He has stayed around to taunt Green. Once Green hears the madman’s laugh the chase is on. The chase sequence is in the tradition of the Keystone Cops with silly loud brass music and sliding whistle. Just as it appears that Green has his man cornered, Dorellik disappears between two palm trees.

We next see Dorellik in his underground lair. As far as underground lairs go, it is not too exotic. In fact it looks like a windowless apartment. It’s here that we meet Dorellik’s accomplice, Baby (Margaret Lee). Yep, ‘Baby’ is her name! It seems that Baby isn’t impressed with Dorrelik’s current string of crimes, particularly as it has only netted them a profit of eight dollars. When Dorrelik clumsily destroys the priceless diamond that he has just stolen, Baby walks out on him in frustration.

Now broke, Dorellik places an ad in the paper, selling himself as a criminal for hire. One man responds, Raphael Dupont. He explains, in Rio, Multi-millionaire Jacques Dupont has just died. The millionaire had no direct descendants so his fortune is to be divided up amongst the numerous Duponts in France. Raphael wants to inherit it all, and for that to happen all the other Duponts must be dead. He hires Dorellik to kill them all at one thousand dollars per hit. So Dorellik stands to be a rich man – that is if he can kill all the Duponts – and that isn’t an easy task, especially with Inspector Green on his trail.

Arriva Dorellik is a broad comedy in the strongest sense, and your opinion of the film will depend on your acceptance of Johnny Dorelli. His style of comedy is rather juvenile and those with little tolerance for low-brow humour will find this film tough going. Personally, when the mood strikes me, I don’t mind a trip down ‘dumb street’ and this film is pretty entertaining and what’s more it features the gorgeous Margaret Lee. I can sit through any of Margaret Lee’s films – yes, even Hercules Vs The Fire Monster. As an added bonus, Dorellik has her performing a show stopping musical number. What more could you ask?

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Funeral In Berlin (1966)

Country: United Kingdom
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Michael Caine, Paul Hubschmid, Oscar Homolka, Eva Renzi, Guy Doleman,
Music by Konrad Elfers
Based on the novel by Len Deighton

The IPCRESS File was a great film, so it comes as no surprise that the team behind it decided to make a sequel – or at least ‘some’ of the team. Harry Saltzman was back as producer, but taking over directorial duties was Guy Hamilton. Hamilton’s credentials couldn’t be questioned at this time, as he had successfully helmed Goldfinger – undoubtedly one of the landmarks in sixties espionage cinema. He seemed a fine and appropriate choice to entrust the second of the Harry Palmer films. Strangely, Hamilton puts in a rather workman like performance as director. Everything you’d expect to see in a film like this is on the screen and there are quite a few good sequences, but the film does not have the same visual flair that Sydney J. Furie brought to The IPCRESS File. There are one or two shots filmed on odd angles, but these lack the composition and atmosphere of the earlier film. They are almost offered as a token gesture.

Another departure is the music. John Barry’s score for The IPCRESS File is one of the finer examples of sixties spy film scoring. For Funeral In Berlin, Konrad Elfers provides the score. It is brassy German ‘oom-pah’ music and while it suits the film in some ways, it isn’t a fat slice of cool spy jazz – mores the pity.

Despite the changes behind the camera, in front we still have Michael Caine as Palmer (well that’s a given); Guy Doleman as Colonel Ross; and returning in minor roles are David Glover as Chico, and Freda Bamford as Alice.

So Funeral In Berlin is a film that is very different to its predecessor, but has the same people in it – which grounds it and gives the series a modicum of continuity. The plot itself is quite simple. Wiley old Russian General Stok, (Oscar Homolka) wants to defect to the West. He is in charge of the Berlin Wall, and a few embarrassing incidents have had him questioning his future in the Communist States. Colonel Ross, the head of M.I.5 sends Harry Palmer to Berlin to make the arrangements for Stok’s defection.

Now here’s where I am going to get into trouble. I may need someone to explain this to me. As I just mentioned, Colonel Ross is in charge of M.I.5 which is ‘Home Office’. That is to say, if an incident happens in the United Kingdom, ‘Home Office’ has to handle it. M.I.6 on the other hand are ‘Foreign Office’. If an incident happens outside the United Kingdom and it is deemed that there should be British involvement, then a ‘Foreign Office’ agent would be sent to handle or investigate the situation. The fantastic television series, The Sandbaggers, in its storylines, made tremendous use of the bureaucratic boundaries that exist in the British Intelligence communities. Now Harry Palmer is ‘Home Office’. At one point he even mentions that his new doctored passport, is far superior to the shoddy ‘Foreign Office’ forgeries. Why would Palmer be sent to Berlin? Surely that falls under ‘Foreign Office’ jurisdiction.

But back to Stok’s defection. Stok has some conditions that must be met before he defects. One of them is that the escape is to be handled by a gentleman named Otto Kreutzman (Gunther Meisner). Kreutzman has been behind many successful crossings over the wall. He is considered the best in the business, and if Stok is to go, he wants to know that the plan to smuggle him out of the East will be successful.

Adding to the plot convolution, Palmer manages to get caught in the middle of an investigation by the Israelis who are searching for a war criminal called Paul Louie Broom. The Israeli agent, Samantha Steel (Eva Renzi) and her team of vicious henchmen believe that Palmer will lead them to Broom. At first glance, the two missions appear not to be connected and Palmer appears to be an unwitting pawn in a much larger picture. Another fly in the ointment is Palmer’s West German contact, Johnny Vulkan (Paul Huberschmidt). Vulkan is less than trustworthy – certainly not the type you’d want to rely on when you’re in a scrape, and Harry manages to find himself embroiled in a few of them.

At the end of the day, Funeral In Berlin is a big step down from The IPCRESS File. But The IPCRESS File is a masterpiece, so slipping down a level brings you back to a bloody good film – and rest assured Funeral In Berlin is a good film.

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The Iron Petticoat (1956)

Country: United Kingdom
Directed by Ralph Thomas
Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn, Noelle Middleton, James Robertson Justice, Robert Helpmann, Sidney James
Music by Benjamin Frankel

Here’s a film from a gentler time (well in terms of movie making, at least). What we have in The Iron Petticoat is a delightful comedy farce that features two of cinemas biggest stars, Bob Hope and Katherine Hepburn. The film lets you know it’s a light piece of fluff from the very get go, when the words ‘Once upon a time…’ flash upon the screen. So the story is a fairy tale.

The film opens at the US Air Force Headquarters in Germany. On the radar a Soviet MIG flies into US airspace. Two planes, Foxtrot Red and Blue are sent out to intercept the hostile craft. It turns out that the MIG isn’t so hostile, and the American pilots sheppard it to the airfield where it is forced to land. The Russian pilot is taken prisoner and marched off to be interrogated. When we first see the pilot, Catpain Kovelenko, he is wearing a leather flying helmet, goggles and a large overcoat. The interrogator asks that the Captain removes his flight paraphernalia, which he does. It is only then that we realise that he, is in fact a she. The Russian pilot is played by Katherine Hepburn, and once again the film-making team of producer Betty E. Box and director Ralph Thomas are presenting us with a story that features strong female characters breaking out from the traditional stereotypes. Box and Thomas’ films always have strong female characters which is often overlooked in criticism of their films. In Deadlier Than The Male, two girls, Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina are the most physically aggressive and deadly characters in the film. Prior to that, Kocina also appeared in Hot Enough for June where she played a Russian Intelligence officer who refused to kowtow to the male officers around her. Before the Women’s Liberation movement changed public perception of a woman’s role in society, Box and Thomas were making films that highlighted the equality of the sexes, but wrapped it up in genre films that had hitherto been solely the domain of rough misogynist men. The Iron Petticoat was made in 1956 and right from the beginning they are letting us know, that flying ace, Captain Vinka Kovelenko is every bit as strong and capable as any of the men in the movie. Those of you who are more perceptive than I, may have gleaned that little bit of information from the film’s title, The Iron Petticoat – it just screams ‘strong woman’.

It appears that Captain Kovelenko has defected because she was overlooked for a promotion – the position went to a bloke – those dirty sexist commies! The powers that be decide that she will be a great propaganda tool and decide to convert her to the wicked ways of Western capitalism. To do this they need a man to sweep her off her feet. Someone she can relate to. They choose one of the American pilots that brought the Captain in, Major Charles ‘Chuck’ Lockwood (Bob Hope). But Chuck has other things on his mind. He is all set to go on leave to London where his fiancee is waiting. And this will come as no surprise to fans of Bob Hope, once again he plays a conniving little character who is looking to marry into the easy life. That is to say his character is penniless, and the girl he intends to marry is filthy rich.

Lockwood’s leave is cancelled, and he is forced to chaperon Captain Kovelenko – I keep referring to her as Captain Kovelenko rather than just Vinka or Kovelenko because she is always in uniform, and as Bob quips ‘Women in uniform bother me. I don’t know whether to kiss them or salute them.’ Lockwood goes to work on Captain Kovelenko, trying to convince her of the superiority of the Western way of life. In turn, she starts to work on Lockwood and convince him the Communism is the better way of life – she wants him to defect with her back to Moscow. Lockwood, on the other hand, simply wants to get to London and will do anything to do it. He tells Captain Kovelenko that he’ll defect if she’ll go to London with him. I know that seems weird on paper, but Captain Kovelenko, as an honoured guest, who they are trying to convert, can demand to go anywhere – and the Americans will agree. If she demands to go to London, then Lockwood would have to go to. So they do.

In London the Russians, headed by Colonel Sklarnoff (James Robertson Justice) get involved and try to kidnap Captain Kovelenko back. All the time, Lockwood is sneaking around behind Captain Kovelenko trying to seal his marriage deal. And as you would have no doubt guessed, eventually Captain Kovelenko and Major Lockwood fall in love. The Iron Petticoat is a very entertaining romantic comedy, slapstick farce. It’s not quite Bringing Up Baby, but it does the job. Hope gets to fire off a few of his trademark one-liners. One of my favourites is after Captain Kovelenko suggests that American women are all nail polish and fake bosoms – Bob quips ‘Yeah, they’re inclined to make mountains out of molehills’. Don’t groan. That’s comedy gold!

The films biggest conceit is that you have to accept that Bob Hope is a top-gun Air Force pilot. Once you get past that, and it takes a bit of doing because Bob plays the buffoon so well it’s hard to believe he could handle any piece of hi-tech equipment, then the film is good fun. It’s an old fashioned film, and if you can relate to films of this vintage, and farcical comedy, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy in The Iron Petticoat. Younger viewers, who are used to more aggressive forms of comedy may find that this doesn’t hold their attention.

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Cazadores de Espias (1969)

Time for some more Mexican Madness! Here’s another review from Todd, this time wearing his Teleport City hat. Here’s a snippet:

‘The Mexican film industry’s contributions to the 1960s spy craze tend to be on the whimsical side. If they don’t feature a masked wrestler in a pivotal role, they tend to be something along the lines of Agente 00 Sexy, in which heroine Amadee Chabot spends a lot of time wearing a Frederick’s of Hollywood-style cat costume. Given the overall zany-ness of the field, then, I do not say lightly that Cazadores de Espias (Spy Hunters) may very well be the silliest of them all.’

To me, it sounds like another winner. To read the rest of the review click here.

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Spy Tunes – No 4

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Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)

Country: United States
Director: Joseph Sargent
Starring: Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent, William Schallert, Leonid Rostoff, Georg Stanford Brown, Willard Sage, Alex Rodine, Martin E. Brooks, Marion Ross
Music: Michel Colombier
Based on the novel Colossus by Dennis Feltham Jones

During the paranoia of the Cold War the world was on the brink of nuclear war. By pressing a button, one man (American or Russian, hilariously called a ‘World Leader’) could send a shower of missiles down on his enemies. The enemy would retaliate, sending their own wave of missiles. Nuclear fallout would engulf the planet and a toxic cloud would block out the sun, and all life on the planet would cease to exist. Well, that’s what I was taught at school. But at least the decision to push the button would be made by a human being. And maybe, just maybe common sense and human compassion would stop the ‘World Leader’ from pressing the button. But ‘what if’ the decision was taken away from a human. ‘What if’ compassion and humanity were taken out of the equation and the decision was made by a computer? That is the question posed by the film, Colossus: The Forbin Project.

The film starts out as a fairly typical cold war thriller. Dr. Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden) has just put together the worlds largest super-computer. It’s job will be to defend the United States from attack by the USSR. The computer, named Colossus will be in charge of the United States nuclear weapons. If the data Colossus receives indicates that a nuclear strike is warranted against and enemy aggressor, it will fire the missile. It is assumed that Colossus, unlike a human, will make a rational decision based solely on the facts surrounding each individual incident. Colossus itself, which is sealed into a mountain, has it’s own highly advanced defence system, so the evil Commies cannot over-ride the system.

Colossus is brought on line, supposedly ushering in a new era of peace. After all, a supercomputer that can read the enemies every move should be the ultimate deterrent, right? After Colossus has been unveiled to the world, the computer displays a message proclaiming that ‘there is another system’. Colossus is referring to ‘Guardian’, which is a Soviet super-computer that has been made for the exact same reasons as Colossus. It is in charge of the USSR’s nuclear arsenal.

Colossus demands to be linked to the Soviet computer, and the two machines begin to communicate. It starts off all quite simply. The machines exchange child-like mathematical equations. But the equations become more difficult and the speed of the communication between computers increases. Eventually the two computers are spiralling off into hitherto unknown levels of mathematics, at incomprehensible speeds. In essence the computers are creating their own form of communication – or language if you prefer.

The President of the USA doesn’t like the fact that no human can understand the communication between Colossus and Guardian. He demands that the connection be severed. It is. Colossus isn’t happy and throws a ‘hissy-fit’. He demands that the connection be re-established or he will ‘take action’. The powers-that-be chose to ignore Colossus’ warning. As punishment, both Colossus and Guardian each launch one of their nuclear missiles at their opposite targets.

Cinematically speaking the Doomsday Machine has many guises, but usually it is a computer which has been set up for the betterment of all mankind, but somehow malfunctions and the people it is meant to serve are now it’s target. It’s a theme that is more prevalent in science fiction (The Terminator is a great example), but there are numerous forays into man vs. machine territory in spy movies. The most obvious example is The Billion Dollar Brain, the Brain of course, being a computer. Another great example appears in the television series The Prisoner. In the episode The General, No. 6 (Patrick McGoohan) is once again being pressed to find out why he resigned by No.2 (Colin Gordon). This time No. 2 is using a super computer, named The General to assist in his scheme. No. 6 stops the computer by asking it one question. But what question could disable a whole computer system? Ah, that would be telling!

But back to Colossus: The Forbin Project – it’s a great little film. Obviously for a film of it’s age, all the hi-tech wizardry looks pretty ridiculous today, but the surveillance and communications ideas presented in this film are quite visionary, and considering how we are all wired up together these days, it’s almost scary. Not Hellraiser scary, but scary in that it could really happen.

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Con Licencia Para Matar (1967)

I am starting to resent Todd over at Die Danger Die Die Kill. Every time he reviews one of the amazing spy films from India, Thailand, Hong Kong or whichever part of the world that Todd is cinematically traversing – this time it happens to be Mexico – I feel compelled to track down a copy of the movie that he has presented. That in itself may not be a bad thing – but I don’t think my bank balance can stand the strain… and besides, where does he find these films?

Needless to say, this is another one I really want to see!
To read Todd’s amazing review click here.

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Callan (1974)

Houseinrlyeh has posted another interesting review. This time he has tackled Callan: The Movie, which of course, was a spin off from Callan: The Television Series. I’ve got tucked away a couple of seasons of Callan which I have meant to drag out and claw my way through, but finding the time (un-interupted) to devote to a whole series has been a big ask lately. But maybe this will force me to do something about it. Until then, enjoy House’s review on The Horror Blog.

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The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World (1965)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Starring: Tom Adams, Karel Stepanek, Peter Bull, John Arnott, Felix Felton
Music: Herbert Chappell (as Bertram Chappell)
AKA: Licensed to Kill

The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World is the first of three low budget Bond imitations starring Tom Adams as Charles Vine. The other two films are Where The Bullets Fly and Somebody’s Stolen Our Russian Spy. As the title The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World suggests, Vine is the agent that the British Secret Service turn to when 007 is actively engaged on another mission. The next thing you should know is that this film was directed by Lindsay Shonteff whose cinematic vision and sense of humour parallels that of a sixth grader with a cam-corder. To be fair though, out of all the Shonteff schlock I have seen, this is the most professional and watchable – far better than his later work on The Million Eyes Of Sumuru and No. 1: Licenced To Love And Kill.

It is also my duty to advise you that there are two versions of this film. The original is the English version, which is called Licensed To Kill. The second version, which they repackaged for American audiences is called The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World, and that is the version I am reviewing here. The most obvious difference between the two versions is that the US version had a Sammy Davis Jnr. theme song and new titles.

The film opens with Swedish Professor August Jakobsen enjoying a stroll through South Hill Park in London. The setting is idyllic. As Jakobsen stops to observe some ducks swimming in a pond, he is passed by a lady pushing a pram with her twins in it. She stops to adjust their blanketing, then pulls out a bloody great machine gun that had been nestled between the infants. She mows the Professor down; packs the weapon away and continues her walk through the park.

After a rather static title sequence the story is unveiled. Professor August Jakobsen was working with his brother Henryk on a project they called ‘Re-Grav’. The purpose of ‘Re-Grav’ is to provide technology (at this early stage it is only a blue print) that will reverse the gravitational field. On a low level this could revolutionise transport, with cars and planes able to hover above the land. Applying a military application, ‘Re-Grav’ could make countries safe from nuclear missile attack, as it would repel the missiles.

Now that August is dead, Henryk is to carry on and complete their research which he intends to sell to the British. The official handling the purchase of Jakobsen’s research is Walter Pickering of the Foreign Office. Pickering approaches Rockwell, the head of the British Secret Service and demands protection for the scientist. Due to budget restraints, the Secret Service can only spare one man to babysit Jakobsen. Pickering wants it to be the agent that handled that ‘gold smuggling’ operation (get it?) Rockwell says that he is unavailable, but he has another agent who can do the job, Charles Vine (Tom Adams). Rockwell describes Vine as being ‘tough, discreet and dedicated’.

As the film cuts away to Vine, we find out that he is very dedicated. Dedicated to the moral corruption of swingin’ sixties British dolly birds. He is in bed when he receives a phone call requesting that he returns to headquarters for a mission briefing.

Vine’s mission is to protect Professor Henryk Jakobsen and his research assistant, Julia Linberg as they complete the ‘Re-Grav’ research. This isn’t quite as simple as it may seem, because the Russians are interested in acquiring Jakobsen’s research, as is another secret private organisation. Vines first test is upon his return from the airport with the Professor and his assistant where they are ambushed by a carload of fake police officers. It gives Vine his first opportunity to show off his shooting prowess.

Naturally, over the course of the movie there are numerous attempts on the Professor’s life, but Vine always intervenes. Some of the assassins sent to do their worst include Vladimir She-He. With a name like ‘She-He’ it will come as no surprise that this villain likes to cross dress. Director Shonteff liked the idea and character so much that he would recycle him/her in No. 1: Licenced To Love And Kill, which starred Gareth Hunt as Charles Bind. Vine also has to battle an evil doppelganger, Major Kroptkin, a Russian agent who has had plastic surgery and taken voice lessons to appear as Vine. Finally there is another Russian killer called Sadistokov. He is so tough and loves to kill so much that he moonlights as a supervisor at a slaughterhouse.

Like I mentioned earlier, Shonteff’s work is pretty crude and this film does have a few rough edges. But in spite of that The Second Best Secret Agent In The Whole Wide World isn’t too bad. This is mainly due to the enthusiasm of the cast. Tom Adams is athletic and throws himself around with suitable vigour. He may not move like a cat-like Connery, but he looks like he could handle himself in a stoush. The other cast members, even though their characters are little more than broad stereotypes, acquit themselves reasonably well too – enough to sell the scenes they are in, despite the non existent set and production design. I guess the fact that this film was received well enough that they followed it up with two sequels, probably indicates that this film punches a little bit above it’s weight. It’s no masterpiece, but as another Bondian knock-off it does the job.

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