The Silencers [1966)

If you wanna know why Austin Powers was a “photographer” (strange bit of dilettantism that), then look no further than the beginning of the four-film spy-spoof series starring Dean Martin.

Matt Helm (Martin) is very much in the Derek Flint vein.

A couple of interesting possibilities exist in these films.

First, Martin’s parent agency in the spooky, alphabet soup world of espionage is ICE:  Intelligence and Counter-Espionage.

Second, the SPECTRE-like organization he fights is called The Big O.

obama.png

bigO

bigO2

Which brings us to #QAnon.

Sleeper.

…all of a sudden.

Hussein.

Tung-Tse might drink egg foo yung out of a can–might be a Dr. No knockoff, but it brings up the question:

Is QAnon real?

Fortunately, we have Stella Stevens to reassure us.

Just as magical as she was in the Jerry Lewis masterpiece The Nutty Professor.

But even hotter here.

Heat among friends.

Furnace.

Learn our comms.

Cyd Charisse drops in…festooned with pasties.

Twirling like an Amish stripper.

Now comes the pain.

Panic in DC.

 

-PD

bowie

Sunset Boulevard [1950)

This is the story of O.J. Simpson.

This is the story of Phil Spector.

Too much foreshadowing?

Scramble.  Scramble.

Scramble the meaning.

This is Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon come to life.

Fifteen years before anger published.

In France they have Angers.

And every George is a multiple.

Georges.

But what passion!

Yes, dear friends…

Sunset Boulevard is one of the strangest films ever made.

If you want to know from whence Mulholland Drive came, start here.

SUNSET BLVD.

Mulholland Dr.

If you’re really daft (and I am), you’ll think you’re watching that guy who played The Professor on Gilligan’s Island in one of the best films you’ve ever seen.

But there’s a big fucking difference between Russell Johnson and William Holden.

Or is there?

Just let the wind blow through the bellows of the pipe organ for a moment.

And imagine yourself in a dream so dark it could be a nightmare.

But it’s merely spooky.

The great art.

Has mystery.

What was director Billy Wilder groping for?

Never mind, for a second, the bursting cast.

Every extra a novel in themselves.

Just the story of Sunset Boulevard is enough to make a thinking person stagger into the intersection on the Rue Campagne-Première.

But there are so many intersections…

Mon ami.

It starts bad.

Like a second-rate Raymond Chandler ripoff.

But it compels you to stay with it.

A little underwater photography.

Novel.

The adjective.

So much hinges on Paramount Pictures.

The gate.

The arch.

And how criticism can thwart a career.

The straw that broke the needle in the camel’s eye.

It’s like something out of Breathless or Dr. No.

The precipitous turn.

Kicking up dust.

Before the boulevard was broken dreams and crack vials.

Syringes.

Just ordinary fascism.

Triumph over violins.

And we trace the line.

A shoulder.

A chin.

A palazzo.  A collection of post-Impressionists.

Because we want to know.

For nothing could be more mysterious.

Lost a husband to the Spanish flu.

Lost two more, too.

But one lives as a ghost.

And his monocle groove is strangely vacant.

Erich von Stroheim.

Unreal.

Whether in a Jean Renoir picture or here.

Whether behind the camera or acting in his own film.

In two places at once.

Like Schrodinger’s cat.

But nobody remembers Schrodinger’s chimpanzee.

And a little coffin.

And the steps Stroheim has to take to stand in a hole.

This is the story of Michael Jackson.

This is the story of Emmett Miller.

Not gone, but forgotten.

And it is the true way entertainment worked.

When mass media was born.

At a million miles an hour.

1900.

Or 1898.

Churning out pictures.

From the dream factory.

And wax cylinders.

And who cares about these young girls…we can always find more.

But Buster Keaton sits in for Miller.

Because there is nothing more sad than a sad clown.

The waxworks…

The rogues gallery.

It could have been Elektra.

But it had to be Richard Strauss.

1909.  1911.

Great silence on one coast.

And great noise on the other.

Direct from Europe.

This is the story of Thora Birch.

The greatest star who ever was.

And I am just a humble servant.

Max.

There will be Max.

Always a sadness over beauty.

When beauty is counted in but one way.

One dimension.

3-D clustered, but without 4 time.

But you can’t bullshit a bullshitter.

And actors are all full of nothing.

Must empty out.

Each time.

To fully fill.

May the best shell win!

So that she stalks the shit outta him.

Like some Transylvanian octopus.

And Igor schleps his stuff in the middle of the night.

Like some dream from Dreyer’s Vampyr.

What the fuck?!?

Poor William Holden is living in the decline of the West.

The sagging tennis court.

The bowling alley in the basement we never see.

Because it would be like the Biltmore on hard times.

Truly grotesque.

Decay.  And decadence.

Taken separately.  Different connotations.

A piece of rotting fruit in the trash.

And champagne supernovas of drunken, naked excess.

But they are one and the same.

When rooted word-wise to rot.

Gloria Swanson is the hysterical car-wreck-of-an-actress here.

You can’t look away.

Bride of Frankenstein.  Hell, Frankenstein himself.  Sex changed.  Sexless.

More hideous internally than externally.

And more nuts than the peanut gallery of an old picture house.

But no locks.

Perhaps a lock of hair…

But no gas.

No blades.

No.

It’s quite a spooky thing to be trapped in such luxury.

Such trappings.

Camelhair.  Vicuña.

What the hell!

She’s paying, right???

Tails.

For godsake, man…Valentino danced the tango here!

But now the tarantula hums.

Manipulative receives new meaning.

An actress.  A star!  And that Roaring Twenties, gilded, cocksure, brassy optimism.

Unfazed by decades of disuse.

“She’s doin’ the ballet on/both of her wrists”

Goddamn…

If Echo & the Bunnymen were around in 1950…

William Holden has been sucked in.

To a vortex.

And it ain’t no fun.

No funny business.  No funnymen.

Plenty of echoes.

Of his past life.

Mingled with her omnipresent portraiture fecundating the stale mansion.

“He could die happily ever after”

Bob Dylan knew about the pillars.

And the pillory of fame.

And so C. B. DeMille was a natural choice.

To depict the heartbreak.

Of a washed up life.

Hate to break it to you, kid…

But the diva is in denial.

Yes, the bitch is back.

Take Elton and a whole gaggle of crocodiles…and the Isotta Fraschini with the leopard seats.

Several leopards died for your ass(es).

How’s the weather up there?

And so she rides a white swan because she’s born to boogie.

With the swagger of Bolan.

Norma Desmond.

Monomaniacal about beheading the past.

On a platter.

American montage shows the unwieldy devices–to make young again.

Strobo-oscillo-sonic skin tauteners.

Franju had a less frightening story sans yeux.

Face without eyes.

Ah! […]

But the eyes have it all!!!

The fire of once-great dominance.

Champagne.  Caviar.

The eeriness of Sunset Boulevard is that Gloria Swanson WAS once a great star (sort of).

And even more so, Erich von Stroheim WAS (REALLY FUCKING WAS) a great director!

And so Billy Wilder managed to tell their stories.

Only the names were changed to protect the guilty.

Devotion till the end.

Love for cinema.

Love for a woman.

A woman is a drum.

Where’s Duke Ellington when you need him???

Jealousy.

Jalousie.

Film noir.

Horizontal shafts of light.

But shadows all the more prominent.

This is our Rembrandt.

Our chiaroscuro.

How insensitive…

Norma with bitter, vindictive precision.

And then the curtain is pulled back on the waterworks.

And the fucking Pompidou explodes in hideous reds of dysfunction.

Yes.

Come and see where I live.

In a lonely place…

Maybe it’s better you don’t know me.

But he really wants to say, “Will you marry me?”

On this night.

What sadness.

We think such overwrought misery only exists in the movies.

But the intersections of real life sometimes make such tragedy possibly.

And we shouldn’t wish such on our worst enemies.

She can’t stand the shock.

But cinema is the ultimate beauty.

So fragile at the end…

We give thanks to see such a picture.

To see Stroheim one more time.

“Alright, boys…  Let’s rev up those cameras!”

To see the silent era stagger down the stairs one more time.

Like a wrought-iron flower.

With a green patina.

Nickelodeons penny on the dollar.

Kicked to the curb.

Save for Langlois.

She just needed one more shot at youth.

It was too much, too soon.

One last shot in the arm of that excitement!

That camaraderie of Hollywood.

Before it became a drag.

Her youth.

Memory is scary as hell.

-PD

Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut [1956)

I wanted to write last night, but the Internet fell asleep.

This is one of my favorite films ever.

But I needed to rewatch it.  As I always do.  Every movie.

Real fear.

Real danger.

A long project.

Extracting yourself from the superjail.  The prison planet.

A Man Escaped.  We have it easy in English.

But witness the fullness of the French title.

It speaks to care.  Rope.  Hooks.  Months.  Of planning.

And it all started with a spoon.

Tin nor aluminum will do.  Neither.

We must wait for iron.

Steel?

Iron.  Hardness.

It’s World War II.

Today.  World War III.

And for the CIA, World War IV.

Chemists.  Physicists.  And now mathematicians.

Computer scientists.  Statisticians.

No, that’s post-War.  Japan.

But for now we are locked in a room of our own making.

If we can only get through the door.

tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

tap tap tap tap

tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

Which isn’t to say, taps.

We must succeed at this chess game.

Playing against an adversary with few weaknesses.

Multiple layers of defense and surveillance.

Doors and locks and gates and bars.

And silence.

It is the silence which will betray us.

And so, Dr. No, we must slip our shoes off for a little putting practice.

It is a real battle.

CIA vs. FBI.  Refereed by the NSA.

NGA vs. NRO.  Chantilly lace vs. a pretty face.

A girl and a gun.

ASIS vs. DIGO.  Or dingo.

Rich.

ASCAP vs. BM.I

But let me back up to the kebab organization known as SHISH.

Apologies to Belgium.

But it is worth noting SV/SE vs. CSIS/SCRS.

Scissors.  Suckers.  A scissor.

A pair of scissors.

He would need more leverage.  The most overused word in business.

And as meaningless as “innovation”.

What they mean is “interesting”…that’s innovation.

And by false flag, “not what it seems”.

Dear NEADS in Rome (NY) uttered collectively the phrase of Baudrillard’s lifetime:

“Is this real-world or exercise?”

But we have remembered it as simulation.

Going over his escape a million times in his head.

With poor reconnaissance.

Except the dead would-be escapee.

“He’s practically free.”

“No one’s practically free.”

Jessica Lange, incredulous.

But she’s not in this movie.

She’s headed to Roswell.

Named after Yale graduate Roswell Rudd.

A little town in New Mexico.

Out of time.  Mind.

CSE vs. GCHQ.  Or CSEC.

An animal with five eyes has no competition.

Within himself.  The owls are not what they seem.

Fifth wheel.  Hokey pokey.

Valuable antipodes.

And RCMP vs. FBI.  Horses.  Or moose.

Hippopotamus.  POTUS.  Not amused.

DND seems incorrect.

What was Fontaine in for?

And Jost?

DIPOLCAR.  Position.

MSS vs. RSS.  Seems so simple.  Really simple!  And so complex.

Pledged ΚΥΠ.

But the division.

ÚZSI vs. UZI.  Sounds dangerous.

With PET we get to canned milk or breaking wind.

A lovable Lego intelligence agency.

Of one.

Just one?

KaPo vs. capo.  Vs. ligatura.

Hitchcock’s rope vs. Bresson’s rope.

For this is Robert Bresson.  The movie.  Under consideration.

SUPO vs. sumo.

But we really get fired up by DGSE.

And it’s only appropriate.

DGSE vs. BND.

The only war which has ever been fought.

Das Fenster vs. la fenêtre.

The most delicate element of escape.

A crack in the breeze.

SIN vs. voodoo of all sorts.

GRLS.  Girls?  Gorillas?  Scalded ape?

When you need headache relief quick.  Choose BAINTELKAM!

A Buddhist temple with a surrounding population 95% Muslim.

Amazing.  Elton John.

MOIS.  Ooh…  Now we are getting serious.

Putting the me in month.

And of course “the Institute” (moving alphabethically).

Lisping along.

How will you project your escape.  Like Desargues.

And Poncelet.

The movie camera.

Go directly to jail.

Whale song matryoshka.

AISE.  Must be the coolest.  Standard issue Ferraris.  And meals in Modena.

Like Matthew Broderick’s brief moment of cool in Election.

Gid Tanner and his Skillet-Lickers…coming to the Kingdom of Jordan…real soon.

SREL.  Sreally?  That’s SRAL.  Like SalvaDali.

CISEN as sí señor.

Not quite hermeneutics.

FIB vs. SIN.

PST.  Masters of recruitment.

And FOST vs. SIE.

The big daddy ISI vs. ailleurs.

The canal of SENIS.  Central American zipper.

Could have been Lake Nicaragua.

AW 🙂 Georges Sand approaching Chopin with flowers.

He was a woman.  Mr. Sandman.

SIRP vs. usurp.

SVR vs. GRU. [now we’re making some sense]

And DEVGRU vs. GRU.

GIP is priceless.  One letter from perfection.

VOA vs. VOA.

NISA vs. NASA.  And the incomparable skills of PIS.

In joint operations with SENIS.

CITCO vs. Citgo.

Must it be?  It must be.  It MUST be.

And back to our MI6 and DIA and ONI.

These are the thoughts of a man in jail.

Where having a pencil is punishable by firing squad.

And so he builds his hope on escape.

From the mundane.

He is a true soldier.

Though he be stripped of any recognition.

Wisdom is that final step.  On a journey which started with mere data.

 

-PD

Twin Peaks “May the Giant Be With You” [1990)

For instance, I could tell you that George Hunter White

of the CIA

killed the first Secretary of Defense

James Forrestal

and I might be right.

Or I might be wrong.

Because the method was the same as for Dr. Frank Olson.

THrown from a high window.

Ruled a suicide.

Think about that for a second…

What kind of precedent would that set?

That the first SecDef was whacked.

They say Hobe Sound, but do they mean Jupiter Island?

This will all sound incredibly boring if you don’t know about Frank Olson.

Fort Detrick.

Slipped some acid.

Not very nice.  To experiment on a government employee.  And a medical doctor (to boot).

It is the ridiculous dance of death.

Staggering, staggering, walking like an Egyptian.

Boots and coke.

We don’t remember the label.

We just remember the Boni & Liveright colophon.

Propaganda.

Sophocles, tragedian.  Bernays.  Pure evil.

That’s the big question of Twin Peaks as season two kicks off.

Does evil exist?

Science doesn’t allow such.

But if anyone can convince us, it’s David Lynch.

Never a more awkward television episode than this.

A hulking oddity.

Beautiful!

As Ajax sits in the diner eating a piece of huckleberry pie.

Particularly fresh.  And particularly…  That’s classified.

Takes a long time to die from such a wound.

Dr. No says just a stupid cop.

With the stolen painting.

Hank Worden destroys television.

Turned on its head.

The most beautiful destruction.

Of the shallowest medium.

Montana.  Stanford.  White hair.

J. Geils?

And then Boban Marjanović makes his appearance.

Bohemian Club Moloch David Gergen.

Diane…

I would like to make love to a beautiful woman.

For whom I feel genuine tenderness.

tendresse

THe most longwinded rephrasing of “I am Spartacus” in the history of OSINT.

He was chopping wood INSIDE?

Wait a minute…

He was chopping wood INSIDE??

Miguel Ferrer is priceless 🙂

He is the dialectic.

A show having a conversation with itself.

Predicting the incredulous urban take on yokel homespun rerun.

Mask of Ivan IV’s comrade.

Dancing to await the unfolding of a plot.

Coy joy.

Spider bite at Paranormal Activity.

Slow news day?

Mairzy Doats comin’ thro’ the rye.

Tells Samuel Beckett to leave it in.  The interjection.  [offstage]

Same hair.  And Warhol.

The evil is grease.

And Donna’s all Double Indemnity.

Exploding genres à la James Monaco à la François Truffaut.

As bathetic as Wayne’s World.

Genre explodes.

And no author.

Just Army of God (thanks to FBI curation).

Curare cure air.  Volare.  Hugh Laurie?

Silence of the Lambs got in a little late with Buffalo Bill.

But right on the heels of BOB.

And the psyop B.o.B.

Felt good to burn.

But most touching is Mendelssohn.

SS.

Camera bobbing up and down like ROman Polanski’s buoy.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 2

Carol Reed would have been ruined with such attendance.

But still the theme.

The credits are worse.

No late-period Godard waterfall slow-motion on Boyle and Fenn names.

The most terrifying moment in U.S. television history.

 

-PD

Johnny English [2003)

What to say…  A witty beginning, perhaps?

An arresting turn of phrase?

No, I shan’t deign preface my critique with decorum.

Rather, one needs must hold steadfast to the cocked-up tone of this talkie in order to convey its essence.

Johnny English.

Take three measures of Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films, one of Sean Connery in Dr. No, half a measure of Joseph Beuys.  Shake it very well until it’s gasp-inducingly funny (might take quite a bit of shaking, er…), then add a surprisingly adept turn by Natalie Imbruglia.  Right?  Right.

What could go wrong?

Well, in contrast to this film’s beginning, pleasantly little.

It’s true:  the opening credits of this picture have not aged well at all.

They make the kitsch titles of Austin Powers’ first film (which also suffers from clunky mise-en-scène) seem positively polished in comparison.

It’s a shame neither of these spy spoof franchises sprung for a Maurice Binder.

But I digress…

My point is that Johnny English gets better over the course of its 88 minutes.

Coming into this experiment I figured that Rowan Atkinson clearly had the superior comedic chops vs. Mike Myers.

And he does.

But Johnny English suffers from some strange virus of general incompetence.  Something doesn’t quite click in the process of potentially calling the film under review a masterpiece.

Not that I expected as much…

Happily, Johnny English is a tremendously enjoyable flick.

I laughed harder and more earnestly during this picture compared to Austin Powers’ debut, yet Jay Roach delivered a more seamless spy spoof for Myers than the film under consideration.

But let us not throw Peter Howitt under the double-decker quite yet…

Howitt turned in a quite an admirable film.

In actuality, the story of Johnny English is stronger and more convincing than that of Austin Powers:  International Man of Mystery.

But back to comedic chops…  When Mike Myers is good, he’s very good.  When Rowan Atkinson is good, he’s great.

And so, there are moments in this film which I wouldn’t trade for anything in the Austin Powers opener.

I can’t say the converse is true.

Natalie Imbruglia is as good in this film as John Malkovich is bad.

I know, I know…

Sounds impossible…

I have a feeling that Malkovich cherished (in some perverse way) the clunky role he was given.

He plays it as if he’s in a high school musical.

I am not doubting Malkovich’s acting skills.  They are world-class.

Yet, for some reason, he is the acting equivalent of a Styrofoam cup herein.

Imbruglia, on the other hand, amazingly (!) out-acts Elizabeth Hurley.

Notice, if you will, the fact that I did not even mention Hurley in my piece on Austin Powers.

That was because her performance was largely limp.

Sure…she’s exquisitely beautiful.  Yes, she has acting chops…

But Imbruglia took a small role in a cursed film and turned it into a moment in which to really shine.

But but but…

Let’s not get too lost in the praise.

Really this whole thing would be lost at sea were it not for Rowan Atkinson.

He indeed approaches the genius of Harpo Marx.

That is no small feat.

I, for one, wish Atkinson’s oeuvre was larger so that I could devote more attention to his talent.

Perhaps the best is yet to come.

We can certainly hold out such hope!

-PD

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery [1997)

I imagine I’m the only film critic in the world simultaneously engrossed in the oeuvre of Godard and the semi-genre of spy spoofs.

Yet it’s true.

And this film sets a sort of modern standard.

When I first saw this picture it didn’t have the same effect on me which it does now.

The difference?

Total immersion in the James Bond series.

This brings me back to my first statement…stated differently:

How could a person delve into the deepest recesses of French intellectual film and yet appreciate a notoriously shallow succession of pseudo-cinematic pap?

The James Bond franchise succeeded in its early years on sheer will of confidence (expressed in the nonchalant swagger of Sean Connery).

And so for those of us who are drawn to films such as Dr. No like moths to a flame Austin Powers provides just the right measure of fun to mercifully deflate our nonsensical ambitions.

Truth be told, most average citizens (myself included) would make horrible secret agents.  We can’t keep secrets.

We can’t outrun a young assassin.

But we like to dream.

There are always analyst jobs.  Perhaps…

But let’s get on with it…

What makes this film special?

It is that outsider/outcast aspect which plagues Austin “Danger” Powers.

The most poignant (poignant?) touch is Austin in the casino bar flashing a peace sign (V) of naïvete to a tableful of unsympathetic twits.

It should be noted that Mike Myers actually does a formidable job of not only referencing the various minutiae of Bond films but also of evoking the humanism of Chaplin embodied in the closing speech of The Great Dictator.

Put simply, this is a very smart movie.  Don’t let the fart jokes fool you.

Sure…some aspects of this film have not aged so well, but it was made in a spirit of fun.

Did this opening installment in the franchise pander to the mediocre intelligence of American movie-going audiences?

Of course.

But hey…that spirit has powered (no pun intended) some of the great films of all time.

What Austin Powers brought to the world was really a reawakening of the American comedy zeitgeist from the 1980s.

Think of those great, enjoyable films like The Three Amigos (and especially Spies Like Us), Trading Places, the National Lampoon movies, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles…  I don’t care what anyone says:  those were great movies!

Those are the films I grew up on.  Airplane, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure…heck, even Romancing the Stone pulled me in every time it came on TV.

Director Jay Roach did a really nice job of providing that enjoyable experience with this film.  We all need some laughs.

Life is too hard; too sad.  Too serious!

But Austin Powers is most of all the gold standard of Bond spoofs.  When you can’t watch Goldfinger for the umpteenth time, give yourself a break with this film.

It will feel like a masterpiece.  We all need a funhouse mirror in which to see our own reflection and laugh.

There’s no shame in that 🙂

-PD

The World is Not Enough [1999)

I was ready to proclaim this the fourth great Bond film…until Devil’s Breath.  Suddenly, the world turned on its head.  No, it wasn’t so much a clumsy bit of storytelling (though that would soon follow), but rather a defective disc.  Perhaps a defective computer.  Yes, my night turned into one big, giant, heaping ball (?) of excruciating film criticism.

Here’s what I found:  I am a sucker for a good story.  I must admit:  Michael Apted had me.  Guy’s got talent.  But the rigmarole entailed in finishing this viewing was epically taxing.

I downloaded at least five (5!) separate DVD player software packages.  I’m a cheapskate so, yes, they were all freebees.  I should start by saying that my go-to (Cyberlink PowerDVD) wouldn’t even read the disk.  That’s only about the third time such has ever happened, though one of the two others was recently.  Also, my Spotify account is on the fritz.

So I went through BS DVD Player (appropriately named), VLC Media Player (the best of the lot, but still…), Real Player (epically shite), GOM Media Player (complete waste), and UMPlayer.  This last one is worth noting because it was with this “tool” that I spent a good hour trying to get back to “Chapter” 14:  Devil’s Breath.  This particular player is so crap that I had to resort to watching the film at 32x normal speed.

It was during this chipmunk “exercise” that it finally hit me:  all James Bond films are the same.  [Yes, I am an idiot.]

And even though I knew Bond would get the girl (ok, maybe there’s the Lazenby exception), I was hooked like a fucking fish by Michael Apted.  In such a predicament, a further truth emerged:

this is the best propaganda money can buy.

So much noise about American Sniper…from people who have probably never seen Battleship Potemkin.  I’m sorry, dear critics, but you are disqualified.  I know it is snobbery, but you cannot judge a film’s place in history unless you have a more thorough grasp of the cinematic medium.  It’s not that hard.  Film is barely 100 years old.  If your frame of reference only stretches back 10 or 20 years, then I can hardly take you seriously.

And yet, I am the dupe.  I admit it.  I am just as susceptible to the grandeur of this propaganda as anyone.

Just what IS the message?

In most Bond films it is messy.  That’s what makes them watchable.  It is not a “hit-you-over-the-head” propaganda.  No.  It actually creeps up on you…like Fabian socialism.

Ah, now we are getting somewhere!

You see, every James Bond movie is a code.  I know that makes me sound like a Mel Gibson quack for saying so (and I am), but it’s true.  The World is Not Enough is no exception.

One thing is undeniable:  the premonitions of 9/11 are inescapable in this film.  But the critical question is:  where are these geopolitical signals coming from?

Azerbaijan.  Baku.  Caspian Sea.  A villain (Robert Carlyle) who’s the spitting image of Vladimir Putin.  Terrorism.  Post-Soviet states.  And to the film’s credit:  false flags.

Yes, Elektra blows up her own pipeline.  Remember The Pentagon!  A battle cry.  An employee emerges from the hole to the scent of cordite.  We know.  If you do not know, you should know:  battlefield damage assessment indicates missile.  One can feign innocence when one gratuitously attacks oneself.  No real damage.  Recently renovated.  Almost empty.  Cook the books.

Elektra even disfigures her own ear…to make it look like she was tortured.  I hear Richard Strauss.  Nazis.

But let us discuss why this is not a great film. It’s not Denise Richards’ fault that the dialogue sucks.  It’s not Pierce Brosnan.  He’s great!

No, things really start to go off-track when the film shifts to Kazakhstan.  Every cut, every edit, every segue is worse than the last.  The mise-en-scène becomes straight soap opera…and the dialog (whoa…the dialogue!).  There is a faux urban “hip” in the phraseology which speaks to just how dumb audiences had become by 1999 (or at least how dumb “Hollywood” presumed them to be).  It is both grating and ingratiating.

The beauty of early Bond films like Dr. No and From Russia With Love is that they are little more than B-movies.  There is as little pretense as there is budget. This was before the series had become completely hijacked as a vehicle for propaganda.  It’s just another case of Hollywood destroying what Hollywood subsumes.

From UA to MGM…more and more globalist…more and more “new world order.”  Yes, in case you were wondering:  that is in whose name the propaganda breathes…the devil’s breath.  This becomes a shabby mashup of Titanic and Leni Riefenstahl.

-PD

Licence to Kill [1989)

It may sound like heresy to say it, but this is the third great James Bond movie up to this point in the series.  Furthermore, it is particularly rich that it came out during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.  The pleasant surprise is that Carey Lowell takes the cake as hottest Bond girl through the first 16 films.  These are controversial claims and allusions.  Buckle up.

1974.  The first great Bond film.  There is no denying the palpable rush of Dr. No–no topping the exotic sensuality of From Russia with Love.  It has less to do with Connery, perhaps the best Bond, than it does with cinema.  The first great James Bond film came under the watchful eye of auteur Guy Hamilton.  He lives.  The Man with the Golden Gun.  Yes, it was a Roger Moore film.  So sue me.

1985.  The second great James Bond film.  Travesty of travesties!  He’s going to name two from the 80s.  Yes, that’s right.  A View to a Kill.  John Glen made an auteurist bid with this flick.  Again with the Roger Moore.  John Glen lives.

1989.  The third perfect Bond film.  John Glen achieves immortality.  Hyperbole.  Hyperbole.  This is to take nothing away from our cherished Guy Hamilton.  He too made more that just Golden Gun.

But let us stretch out a bit…  What makes these three films so strong?  Answer:  the villains.  Christopher Lee.  Christopher Walken.  And Christopher…er, Robert Davi.

George H.W. Bush.  There was a book from 1992 called The Mafia, CIA and George Bush written by Pete Brewton.  That’s back when there was only one George Bush known on the world stage.  Middle initials were unnecessary.  I haven’t read the book in question, but it bears mentioning that I remembered the pithy title mistakenly…as The CIA, Drugs, and George Bush.  There’s more than an Oxford comma’s difference between the two…obviously.

1998 brought the world a book called Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion by Gary Webb.  I have not read this book either.

So what, you may be asking, is my fucking point?

Let me note a few poignant books I have read.  9/11 Synthetic Terror:  Made in USA by Webster Griffin Tarpley.  Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert.  The Big Wedding by Sander Hicks.  9/11 The Big Lie (L’Effroyable imposture) by Thierry Meyssan.  Pentagate also by Meyssan.  The Shadow Government:  9/11 and State Terror by Len Bracken.  The Arch Conspirator also by Bracken.  Body of Secrets by James Bamford.  America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky.  The 9/11 Commission Report:  Omissions and Distortions by David Ray Griffin.  The Bilderberg Group by Daniel Estulin.  Inside Job:  Unmasking the 9/11 Conspiracies by Jim Marrs.  The Terror Conspiracy also by Marrs.

If you’re still reading you are likely laughing or transfixed.  And again I can sense the question:  what is the fucking point?

Well, dear reader, it is that I can wholeheartedly agree with Mark Gorton’s reservations regarding George H.W. Bush.  I used to think Dick Cheney was the scariest guy in the world (thanks Mike Ruppert).  Donald Rumsfeld always seemed in the running.  But after reading Gorton’s fastidious research, I concur that the prize should probably go to Poppy Bush.

At wikispooks.com, one can find the following articles by Gorton:

Fifty Years of the Deep State

The Coup of ’63, Part I

and

The Political Dominance of the Cabal

Gorton is not your average conspiracy theorist.  His degrees are from Yale, Stanford, and Harvard (respectively).  His business successes include founding LimeWire and the Tower Research Capital hedge fund.

And that brings us to sex.

Carey Lowell.  With her androgynous hairstyle, she still (because of?) manages to be the hottest Bond girl through the first 16 films.  Sure, Timothy Dalton is great, but Carey Lowell is fan-fucking-tastic.  The message of the establishment is that if you don’t play by the rules, you don’t get the sex cookie.  Carey Lowell is not an establishment actress in this movie.  Her character is the anti-Bond girl in some respects.  For this series, anyway, that’s as good as it gets.  Until Anamaria Marinca is cast alongside (or as) 007, the bar is memorably set by Lowell.  Perhaps as I critically watch the more recent films I will find other Bond girls who truly stand out in a believable way, but Lowell takes the cake through the first 16 films.

Lowell lived in Houston for awhile.  Back to Bush.  Right down the road is the scariest man in the world?  Dear readers…the Internet remains free for only so long.  Soon we may have to get all Bradbury and become book people.  If Carey ever gets tired of Richard Gere, maybe she’ll meet us in the forest.  I’ll be Histoire(s) du cinema.  The book.

-PD

You Only Live Twice [1967)

And here we start to drift…

Sure…we finally see the face of the man petting the cat (Donald Pleasence as the archetype for what would become Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers series), but I can’t say I was overly impressed with the directing of Lewis Gilbert.  In a series thus far dominated by the underrated Terence Young, even Guy Hamilton had turned in an admirable film with Goldfinger (1964), but You Only Live Twice might better have been allowed to only live once (or not at all).

When I saw Roald Dahl’s name in the opening credits, I was reassured.  And I am always glad to see production designer Ken Adam’s name.  But something is awry with this film.  It is a bit of a limp fish (and not, sadly, fine sushi).

From the beginning (Bond’s burial at sea) the modern viewer might be thinking of another figure supposedly buried at sea:  Osama bin Laden.  Perhaps the two deaths are equally credible.

Karin Dor might have saved this movie, but sadly she is eaten a bit prematurely by piranhas.  And while the piranhas fit with the methods of past Bond movies (sharks in Thunderball, for instance), there are some troubling details which make it clear the creators of this film might have been well-served to stick closer to Fleming’s novel than they did.

Bond flies a miniature helicopter to an island between Kobe and Shanghai:  somewhere along an 829-mile-long route.  Little Nellie (the chopper) could hardly have made it much outside of the bay before running out of fuel, but with all the gadgetry on board we might just suspend our disbelief.  Perhaps it is even Tokyo from whence Little Nellie departs:  an even greater haul.  It really isn’t made very clear (or else I missed it).  Maybe “Tiger” Tanaka had a base close to Blofeld’s island that I failed to register.

Karin Dor’s (Helga Brandt–#11 in S.P.E.C.T.R.E.) abrupt reversal from sleeping with Bond to disposing of him by parachuting from a plane in which she traps him really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Why didn’t she just go ahead and use the plastic surgery tool in the first place?  Her interrogation is weak.  For what it’s worth, her threat of torture only got half the truth:  Bond admitting to being a spy (but an industrial spy after a measly $300,000).

At least the scene in the autogyro is somewhat entertaining, but nothing compared to the underwater battle in Thunderball.  Seems the Eon franchise was running a bit thin on ideas by this point.  Mercifully, the scenery of Japan is nice (the wedding, the passing funeral, etc.).

The overall premise of the movie is good.  It is believable.  It is only the execution and the details which mar what could have otherwise been another classic in this series.  The ninjas are a bit funny, but when in Tokyo (as they say)…  Perhaps the funniest part is Connery as a Japanese man (by way of Lon Chaney methods).

Kissy Suzuki takes the prize as the best name.  Score another for the Bond girls in the “memorable name” category.  But part of the confusion is that there are three possible Bond girls:  one who dies by poison, one who is  promising (and pleasing to the eye) until stripped to the bone by omnivorous fish, and Kissy.  It’s typical of a movie which doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants to be.  It is formulaic, but that didn’t stop the first four Eon-produced Bond movies from being generally fantastic.  The error comes in tentative experimentation, not enough experimentation, and the setting-in of creative lethargy as regards the Bond series’ “tricks.”

No doubt, for 1967 this was some ambitious filmmaking.  Ken Adam did a reasonably good job of trying to take the series to the next level with his set design, but the overall product is just not convincing.  Truth be told, Adam and the main persons responsible for this film could have all died aboard BOAC Flight 911 had they not been convinced to stay in Japan on the scouting trip a bit longer and watch some ninjas.  Perhaps having the ninjas in the film was a bit of thanks for the disaster they narrowly escaped.  All on board the flight they were scheduled to take died when it crashed 25 minutes after takeoff.

Roald Dahl (whose name I mentioned earlier) wrote the screenplay.  He had been a close friend of Ian Fleming.  Despite their friendship, Dahl considered the novel upon which the movie was based to be Fleming’s worst.  Indeed, Dahl resorted (due to apparent lack of plot in the novel) to aping Dr. No to a significant extent.  Dahl was, however, quite complimentary of director Lewis Gilbert.  Perhaps the deck was just really stacked against the auteur in question.

There’s no doubt that great effort went into making this film.  A cameraman (John Jordan) lost his foot, for God’s sake!  No, the dearth wasn’t in physical “energy,” but in mental excitement.

Editor Peter Hunt went on to direct the next Bond film (due to his successful sorting and sifting of the footage from this gargantuan blob).

At least the title song is great (thanks to Nancy Sinatra).

 

-PD

 

 

 

Dr. No [1962)

Strangways, here we come.  We shan’t be arriving at Ian Fleming International Airport.  It doesn’t exist yet.  Nay, not till 2010 would the quite-real airport process its first international passenger (the singer Jimmy Buffett, as it turns out) under its newly christened name.  When James Bond arrived in the history of cinema, he disembarked at Palisadoes Airport (now Norman Manley International).

The year was 1958.  The place Jamaica.  Dr. No operates his guano mine on an island nearby to Kingston.  In the film it would become a bauxite mine.  Indeed, by the time Fleming wrote Dr. No (his sixth James Bond novel) he had been enjoying a yearly retreat to his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica to write for some years.  He first purchased the land for the estate in 1946 and, after having a house built from his own personal sketch, began spinning Bond tales in 1952.

A centipede becomes a tarantula.  Mafia-severed hands become radioactive-experiment-casualty hands.  These are the changes of creative license.  One might call it “the Hollywood version,” except that this and almost all the other Bond films made to date have been produced by Eon Productions based in Piccadilly, London (and operating from Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire).  No, Hollywood can’t be blamed directly.  This is simply a case of too many brilliant details to pack into one film (and some details which were either not cinematic enough or rather too complex to neatly tie up over the course of 109 minutes).

In the book Dr. No himself quotes Clausewitz.  Quite an erudite flourish for an author who was, in his time, attacked for being an unethical hack writer on the order of John Buchan or Raymond Chandler.  Film historians will no doubt realize the compliment contained in that shortsighted slight.  For it was John Buchan to whom Alfred Hitchcock looked when he needed a story in 1935 (The 39 Steps).  And it was Raymond Chandler’s ’39 novel (his first) The Big Sleep to which Howard Hawks gravitated (eventually making the 1946 masterpiece film adaptation with Bogart and Bacall).

No, Fleming was no hack writer.  Of all the contributions which the Cahiers du cinéma crowd made to film philosophy, one must not overlook their bold esteem for authors like David Goodis.  Truffaut’s Tirez sur le pianiste was based on Goodis’ novel Down There.  Even Godard acknowledged the writer by naming a character in Made In U.S.A. after the author. 

No, there was something special about Fleming.  Paul Johnson of the New Statesman eviscerated Fleming and surmised that the author had, “no literary skill.”  Yes, Ezra Pound had it right when speaking of Tropic of Cancer.  There are “unprintable” books which are “readable,” but far too few.  Thank God for Henry Miller and Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

It’s funny now to imagine that Dr. No (the novel) could have truly ruffled feathers as being immoral, but the year was (after all) 1958.  The aforementioned Paul Johnson keyed in on sadism, “sex-longings” (oh my) and snobbery.  Not exactly the stuff of offence nowadays.

But I’ve hardly spoken of the film…

Yes, four years later Dr. No came to the big screen.  Some details had changed.  Honey Rider appeared as Ursula Andress in a white bikini.  And the world got its first glimpse at the New World Order in its most grotesque form:  SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion).  Yes, 1962.  Bay of Pigs had been 17 April 1961.  By November 22, 1963, J.F.K. had been mysteriously assassinated.  But what did Fleming know?  He was just a hack writer, right?

Fleming was, in fact, not just a hack writer (if at all a hack writer).  He was British Naval Intelligence and specifically involved in planning and oversight for two intel units (during WWII).  Sure, he did in fact write Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (yes, that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), but he had been recruited to be the personal assistant of Britain’s Director of Naval Intelligence in 1939.  The guy wasn’t just pulling stuff out of his ass (pardon my frankness).

Yes, indeed…it would take a man named Broccoli (“Cubby” Broccoli) to bring (together with Harry Saltzman) the world what Hollywood apparently thought was simultaneously too British and too sexual.  How’s that on the oxymoron scale?  No, this wasn’t Georges Simonon (nor even Agatha Christie’s Poirot).  This was Ian Fleming:  Brit.  And an agent with a name so uninteresting that from any other voice than that of Sean Connery it would have fallen flat and flaccid.  But it didn’t.  Excuse the fragments.  Bond was white-hot shrapnel.

All of this brings me to a crucial point:  the reconsideration of Terence Young as an auteur.  The Cahiers crowd managed to canonize Hitchcock (rightly so) and Hawks (likewise).  A close study of Godard reveals more filmmakers who became sublime upon passing through the French imagination…names like Nicholas Ray, Samuel Fuller, etc.  What, I would like to know, makes Terence Young any less of an auteur than, say, Fuller?  Fuller no doubt had moments of brilliance…from Shock Corridor to The Big Red One–engaging film noir (some even in color) like House of Bamboo and The Crimson Kimono…  I can get behind The Steel Helmet…even Hell And High Water.  But what about all of those schlocky noir films like Underworld U.S.A. (not to mention the dire Westerns like The Baron of Arizona)?  Even The Naked Kiss is a little dodgy as regards auteurist pretensions.  Perhaps this is why by the time Godard made Histoire(s) du cinéma in the 1990s (1988-1998) he had seemingly dispensed with his admiration for Fuller.  Indeed, there is not a single Fuller film referenced in that gargantuan 4 1/2 hour epic.

So…Terence Young.  Aside from the three early Bond flicks he did, his filmography doesn’t exactly read like a John Huston’s.  It is even alleged that Young was the editor for a six hour Iraqi telenovela about the life of Saddam Hussein in 1980.  Hard times indeed.  How bleak was the Young house in and around 1980?  Fleming, for his part, had been commissioned in 1960 by the Kuwait Oil Company to write a history of Kuwait and its oil industry.  The government Sheiks eventually found it unpalatable and it was never published.  Perhaps Fleming is the auteur after all in the case of Dr. No (the film).  One thing is certain:  this is a highly-entertaining and visually engaging film which has kept moviegoers entranced now for half a century.  It would be the first of many such triumphs owing a debt to “the British disease”–that now transcendent fascination with espionage which has conquered lands and minds far and wide for the Queen by way of the James Bond franchise.

 

-PD