JFK [1991)

There is very little doubt in my mind that this is the most important film ever made.

For once in American history, someone stood up.

That man was Jim Garrison.

When I used to spend time in New Orleans I shuddered at the courage this man had.

He had the courage to take on everything.

But this epic would not have received its rightful place in history without the auteur Oliver Stone.

Making this film was an immense act of courage.

Search your heart.

Sit alone at 2:00 a.m. on the outskirts of Nola.

3:00 a.m.

Later.

The deepest, darkest part of the night.

Oliver Stone captures the beauty of humanity in the story of Jim Garrison.

Few dramatic performances have ever affected me so much as Kevin Costner’s here.

But you must look deeper.

Look to Jim Marrs.

Long ago I heard Alex Jones proclaim on air that JFK was his favorite film.

Long ago I saw JFK as a first-run film in the theater.

But I didn’t see this 3-hour-8-minute version.

I’m pretty sure of that.

Because I was just a child.

I heard the drums.

I heard the moving music of John Williams.

But, alas, it was 3’08” which was before me.

It takes a lifetime to appreciate what Mr. X is getting at.

It is packed tight as a can of sardines (even at 3’08”).

Eisenhower’s farewell address.

Really listen to it.

The nervous glances aside.

What is he announcing?

Does he not have immense testicles to yell such from the tower?

But let’s take a trip…

Acting.  Real fucking acting.

Joe Pesci.

God damn!

If Costner didn’t have the Garrison role, Pesci might have taken it.

Stole the show.

Kevin Bacon at Angola.

In Angola.

Leadbelly, not Neto.

IS THIS THE MPLA?

I THOUGHT IT WAS THE UK!

Donald Sutherland.

You can see the parallel now in Dr. Steve Pieczenik.

You gotta watch it.

Vietnam.

Donald Sutherland gets even closer than Pesci.

It’s that moment he says, “bubba”.

Yeah, that’s the right track.

That’s a lifetime of work.

That’s putting your ass on the line.

Have you ever put your ass on the line?

Really laying it all out there and staring into the void.

That’s the encouragement.

The words you need to hear from someone who’s paying attention.

Someone who’s saying, “Don’t be afraid of the bastards.  Hit ’em back.”

Contrasted with Pesci as a walking pot of coffee.

Yeah.

Feel that fear for a moment.

You don’t live in a bubble

You have family.

You have people you love.

You risk it all because you know it is the right thing to do.

To ask questions.

To object.

To use your mind where none dare tread.

Who’s the Jim Garrison of today?

Yes, it is Alex Jones.

He has earned that.

But it is also very much James Tracy.

Sissy Spacek cannot compete with Costner.

And she shouldn’t.

But she’s indispensable.

The back and forth in the hallway.

She ain’t walking down that hallway anymore.

Watch JFK and you’ll understand why Anderson Cooper is a coward.

Watch the hit piece directed at Garrison.

Sad, sad men (the SAD/SOG).

Yeah.

Come to know Lyman L. Lemnitzer.  Very few LLLs in history.

Don’t stop at Operation Mongoose.

Know the much more important Operation Northwoods (otherwise known as 9/11).

For all of the bigots out there, come to understand just how many things Israel COULD NOT have done (which were essential to 9/11).

And yet they are no doubt involved.

On the wrong side.

Just like their appalling treatment of the Palestinians.

Notice I didn’t say Jews.  And I didn’t say anti-Semitism.

Pesci’s character nails it.

But we still need Gary Oldman as Oswald.

What’s on the gravestone?

Oswald.

Maybe it’s not rogue elements after all.

It’s the whole damn thing.

But who warned us?

They were inside the machine.

Eisenhower.

Garrison.

Kennedy.

Martin Luther King.

Go to Dallas.

Feel the evil.

Unsolved.

Covered.

Covered over.

Like a pothole filled with steaming shit.

Thanks Michael Ovitz.

Did you really convince Costner to take the part?

More importantly, thank you Costner.

Yeah, that’s some method acting.

And it’s far too important not to feel.

With every fiber of one’s being.

Stone took the right take.

There could be only one like that.

In the courtroom.

We don’t even notice the cuts.

Academy Award for editing.

Including a chap named Scalia.

Tommy Lee Jones as the incarnation of evil.

Dainty.  Subtle.  Shades of James Mason from NXNW.

Tommy Lee Jones from my hometown.

San Antonio.

I seen him at a Mexican restaurant.

And we hold out hope that the planet remembers us.

Ed Asner.

Ed Asner who stood up when the shit hit the fan after 9/11.

Where were these other fuckers?  Still basking in the glory of JFK?

That’s too bad because their words then ring hollow.

How about Field of Dreams?  Go the distance.

Back, and to the left.

Back, and to the left.

Back, and to the left.

John Candy as perfection.

A serious role.

Fuck all you motherfuckers!

Martin Sheen is for real.

Charlie Sheen, while not in this movie, put so many social activists to shame.

Real testicular girth.

Jim Garrison as Earl Warren.

The glasses.

The Coke bottle disorientation.

But the erudition.

The evil erudition.

Sean Stone is what we’re fighting for.

The kids.

That’s real shit.

Mohrenschildt in Pappy Bush’s pocketbook.

A directory.

Not the whole Rolodex.

Just the kind of thing you’d take on an ice-skating trip in a thunderstorm to Houston.

It’s always raining.

And a little hunting.

Parse that.

It comes back to Cuba.

Zachary Sklar.

Ellen Ray.

Enough to write a book.

And publish it.

Jack Lemmon.

The fear.

Naïveté.  Étouffée.

A lot of work for a little piece of meat.

Oliver Stone’s not the genius.  Jim Garrison is.

Always will be.

But Garrison needed Stone.

Counter gangs.  Webster Tarpley.

Frank Kitson.  Low intensity.

Critical mass.

Where Jane Rusconi and Yale University come in.

Impressive.

I take it all back.

A dick-measuring contest about how many books one has read.

Garrison.  Stone.  Rusconi.

Impressive.

District attorney.

Ok, I take it back again again:  Oliver Stone is a genius.

But we need it again.

 

-PD

 

Made in U.S.A. [1966)

Primary colors.  Walt Disney with blood.  Bogart as a woman.  Bing!  Machine gun………———–.-.-.-.-.-.-.–.–.  No no no.

It’s like it never existed.  Why steal the plot from a pulp novel?  There is no plot.  Mise-en-scène translated as charade.  Bing!  Rat-a-tat-tata-a-a–a-a-a–a-a-a-!

We remember Robert Strange McNamara.  No no no.

Everything dies…baby that’s a fact.

No, it doesn’t matter the pop art.  It doesn’t matter the palette.

She wants to write a book about Oswald…and the 17 murdered after J.F.K.’s assassination.  The witnesses.  As reported in P—- ——.  Honk honk!  Zoooooom!  Swoosh!!!

Why pump the little guy full of lead when you can use a shoe?  Stiletto.  ^^^

The author, who is not the author (who is not the author [who is not the author]), is killed.

Stop making sense.

Anna Karina’s last movie with Godard.  They both live.  That’s it.  And so long to Marianne…captured for a moment in time.

She doesn’t fit the color scheme.  She is all pastel rose.  Ochre.  Light, watery hues.  She is a reflection.  She doesn’t fit.  Please:  take inventory of my bar.  One pop singer?  The song is singing the singer.

No.  It is much more likely that it never happened.  Remember:  use Ockham’s Razors for that manly-close shave!

Yes.  You’re trying to find out what I know without telling me what you know, eh?  Whaddaya know?  Dontcha know?

No, it was shown.  It is contradictory in such a short expanse.

All my lovers, backstage, hungry for men…about Sally and Annette.  The girls were willing.  A called honey.  B mercenaries.  So summer…virgin wife next door.  Sinner me, passion plaything.  Brother and sister (off limits).  Young, innocent campus doll killing time.  Strange McNamara.  361.  Strange killy hunter affair.  Lovers prowl sin.  Getaway face score the mourner outfit.  Pity the fugitive pigeon afterwards.  AH!!!

Here we are:  The Jugger!

No, nothing to do with that.

You want a real film review???

Better to talk of Florestan und Eusebius.  Fidelio.

OK.  We shall try again.

Take 2!!!  Quiet on the laptop!!!  (Quiet!)  Quiet please!! [Quiet everyone!]

Roll thoughts…and:  criticize!

Ok, yes…well…this is worse, but even better.  It’s not LOL starring Miley Cyrus.  Kevin Costner is not in the film.  It’s not American Pie:  Band Camp.  It’s not Wild Wild West with Will Smith.

There’s only two Dalmatians because the other 99 weren’t available. The Backstreet Boys did not make a cameo.

Yes, but there is an American flag burning.  Not in the film, you understand.

Ummm…  That guy from Ray…Jamie Foxx.  He is also not in this.  Lara Croft:  Tomb Raider?  I don’t know.

Yes, ok.  We like Clint Eastwood.  John Waters for New Balance.

Oh!  OK, yes:  the staged photo of the situation room…where they are “watching” “Osama bin Laden” get killed…but they’re actually not watching anything at all.  Right.  Getting warmer.  LOL.

Hot Tub…Time Machine…2?

Chuck Norris Planet of the Apes Wizard of Oz.  Patrick Swayze and Obama.  eBay.  G.I. Joe and Yoda.  Getting warmer.  Warmer.  Burning.

Liz Taylor G.I. Blues Ron Howard with wrinkles.  Colder.  South Pole.

Chaplin porn Kodak.  What would Nixon do?  Warmer.  The Hobbit Bud Light Black Dynamite Smurfs miniskirts rock and roll?

That may be as close as you ever get.  The static cling of foreign intrigue.  View Master red MGM lion Technicolor beef sirloin top butt.

-PD

Fathom [1967)

Stay classy, San Diego.  That’s right…Raquel Welch was indeed a weather forecaster for KFMB in San Diego before she moved to Dallas, Texas in the early 60s.  She was a cocktail waitress at the Cabana Hotel:  the same hotel Jack Ruby visited (multiple times?) the night before J.F.K. was assassinated.

This is the sort of logic which strings together (like a lime-green bikini) the film Fathom.  For those unfamiliar with the visual presence of Welch, this is a good place to start.  Indeed, I feel sympathy for Serapkin (Clive Revill).  He stood no chance up against such an explosive honeypot as Fathom Harvill (Welch).

Ah, but there isn’t much substance here. I mean, this is really a forgettable film on many levels.  And so the best question then becomes, “Did Welch ever cross paths with Ruby or J.F.K.?”

Yes, this film is that bad.  Watching the portion with Welch in the green bikini on loop might be a solution.

So let’s return to the Babushka Lady.  Was it Beverly Oliver?  Carcano or Mauser?

“[Oswald] was employed by the CIA and was obviously drawn into a scapegoat situation and made to believe ultimately that he was penetrating the assassination. And then when the time came, they took the scapegoat—the man who thought he was working for the United States government—and killed him real quick. And then the machinery, disinformation machinery, started turning and they started making a villain out of a man who genuinely was probably a hero.”

–New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison

And we all know this chestnut [or should]:

“On Wednesday, Nov. 20, 1963, an advertisement under “Club Activities” was published in the Dallas Morning News stating that George Bush, president, Zapata Off-Shore Co., would be speaking for the American Association of Oilwell Drilling contractors at 6:30 p.m., the next day at the Sheraton-Dallas Hotel.

The advertisement places George H. W. Bush in Dallas the day before JFK was assassinated; there is no public record indicating when Bush left Dallas on that trip.

Hoover’s warning

Further, an FBI memo written by J. Edgar Hoover on Nov. 29, 1963, advised that the FBI office in Miami warned the Department of State on Nov. 23, 1963, one day after the assassination, that “some misguided anti-Castro group might capitalize on the present situation and undertake an unauthorized raid against Cuba, believing that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy might herald a change in U.S. policy, which is not true.”

image: http://www.wnd.com/files/2013/09/JFK-photo-GEORGE-H-W-BUSH-cia-memo-1-256×300.jpg

In the last paragraph of the memo, Hoover noted that “Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency” furnished the background information contained in the report. Spokesmen for George H.W. Bush have said the reference might be to a different George Bush.”

[credit to Jerome Corsi and World Net Daily]
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/09/did-george-h-w-bush-witness-jfk-assassination/#UrCTKJ6hUSGkQzHC.99

Can you fathom that?  Fathom=six feet.  Under.
-PD

The Living Daylights [1987)

It has been famously noted that it took thinkers Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell 86 pages (not to mention the entire Volume I) of their three-volume Principia Mathematica to prove that 1+1=2.  The James Bond franchise is similarly long-winded due in part to its serial nature, yet some poignant geopolitical nuggets of knowledge do “explode within the spectacle” to quote Guy Debord.  However, we are best served for this Bond installment to remember those words of Ira Gershwin from George’s “Love Is Here To Stay” that “in time the Rockies may crumble/Gibraltar may tumble.”  George Gershwin wouldn’t live to see the fruit of his labors as he died from a brain tumor at the tender age of 38 before The Goldwyn Follies (1938) was released with Kenny Baker singing the classic melody which George had crafted…

Our film begins in the skies above Gibraltar.  Yes, that strange entrance to the Mediterranean which traces its present “ownership” back to a Hapsburg pretender and the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).  Though it is a picturesque start, it may seem rather inconsequential to the movie as a whole.  However, it is a germ–a microcosm of what the film proceeds to spin out.  Down on “the Rock,” an MI6/SAS drill is “flipped” by a Soviet infiltrator.  Flipping drills (going “live”) has been a noted hallmark of false flag terror attacks in the past 15 years, however the ones doing the flipping have almost certainly been the ones running the drills (military/intelligence).  Drills serve “nicely” to provide a net of plausible deniability…i.e., “Hey, we were just running a drill.”  In flipping a drill, simulated elements (such as a fake bomb) become real elements.  [“Real bullets” as they say in The Three Amigos.]  This sort of funny business has been going on at least as early as the 1993 WTC bombing.  Other, more sophisticated operations would follow.

The salient point for our film is false flag activities.

I must take pause a moment to note that my computer shut itself down as I was delineating a particularly pithy detail of false flag operations.  This gives me pause because it calls to mind all number of the dark arts…from Stuxnet to the obviously fake “North Korean” hacking of Sony.  Ah, yes…  We all walk a thin line.  Who am I to be preaching about scruples?

Ah, well…what we have here is a film.  I was apprehensive about Timothy Dalton, but he really was superb in this (thus my fears were unfounded).  Maryam d’Abo is so stunning and adorable in this flick.  The living daylights…fear.

Scare.  Bully.  Frighten.  Sometimes a good scare can me merciful.  Kyrie.  But take a look back at the “strategy of tension” in Italy.  Take a look back at those falsely-attributed bombings (false flags).  Look up Gianfranco Sanguinetti.  Learn how Aldo Moro was threatened by Henry Kissinger.  Learn how the Italian government found out that the bombings were actually carried out by NATO intelligence.  It was called Operation Gladio.

Yes, in the service of protecting “liberty,” many atrocities have been committed.  If you have never drawn even a momentary parallel between the state of Israel and the Nazis (that would be, to clarify, the Palestinians now in the role the Jews occupied circa WWII), then your imagination may not be operational.  This aspect of imagination is not one of fantasy, but rather conceptualization.  Abstraction.  Analogy.

But really, I’m just a bloke with a crappy laptop, so what do I know?  One person can’t change the world, right?  Every platform from Facebook to WordPress is infiltrated and screened…keywords which don’t make it through the digital sieves then mark a person or blogger as insurgent.

Ah, that word.

But what we have here is a film which goes from Gibraltar to Afghanistan.  We see the raw opium.  We hear the phrase mujahidin.  We see an Oxford-educated character leading a branch of resistance against the Soviets. We see Operation Cyclone in full effect.  And thus, we see what 9/11 was really about (as regards Afghanistan).  Of course some other details must be alluded to, such as when our Soviet defector is smuggled out of Czechoslovakia via the Trans-Siberian Pipeline into Austria.  And the cherry on top would be to read today’s front page news that according to some estimates the U.S. “war on terror” has cost $14 million an hour since its inception.  Where do you think all of that money is going?

Brad Whitaker.  The character played by Joe Don Baker.  That is the final detail.  Weapons.  Arms.  Planes.  Helicopters.  Any intelligent person incapable of drawing some startling conclusions based on the simplest of displays (a double feature of Wag The Dog and J.F.K. for instance) really has a problem with logic.

Ah, but it’s no use against normative/positive purists.  The battle lines have been drawn.  What you are reading is one of the closest things to what was formerly known as “the media.”  In deference to Ralph Waldo Emerson, I will be willing to admit I was wrong (in the strongest of language) should that prove to be the case.  My zeal from watching a rather vacuous-but-enjoyable adventure film stems from an urgency that something is exceedingly rotten in “Denmark.”

I could mention a dozen books which would make The Living Daylights more poignant viewing, but none of them are film criticism.  And so I shall leave you with but one…the best on the subject.  9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA by Webster Griffin Tarpley.

-PD

Dr. Strangelove [1964)

…and you will know us by the title which follows the colon.  Yes, Dr. Strangelove is indeed a mouthful when its title is cited in full.  Some years ago I proffered that this film summed my personality up better than any other single motion picture.  Whether or not that remains true, I still hold it to be one of the two perfect or near-perfect films which Kubrick made (the other being Lolita).

I won’t labor over the plot details too much.  Indeed, some may not yet have seen this masterpiece.  I suppose it would behoove me as a critic “of the people” to not always give away the ending.  But when I last viewed this piece of cinema, some things struck me which had previously slipped unnoticed under my nose in the fray.  Perhaps I am most ashamed to admit that I never realized one of the principal characters was named Jack D. Ripper.  He is, indeed, the problem child of this movie.

Played by Sterling Hayden (Johnny Guitar, anyone?), Ripper sets in motion a string of events which define the drama over the course of 94 minutes.  Neither had I recognized the humor in his operating base:  Burpelson AFB.  Perhaps there’s not as much meaning in the place, but the character is indeed aptly monikered.

The film really gets going as we see Peter Sellers (the true star(s) of this film) for the first time in one of his three roles.  As Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, he is the proper Brit whose tact makes him unable to quite fix the snafu in progress (a rogue launch against the U.S.S.R.), but whose diplomacy nearly staves off a most dreadful outcome.

There is an interesting element of this film which is approached tongue-in-cheek, but which nevertheless perhaps deserves further investigation at length.  That element is fluorine…in the form of fluoride…as in fluoridated water.  It just so happens that our resident kook (who has singlehandedly endangered all of civilization by ordering his bomber wing to attack) is very much against water fluoridation.  The year, we must remember, is 1964.  Ripper explains to Mandrake that fluoridation began in the U.S. in 1946.  He takes this (along with his rabid anti-communism) to indicate that water fluoridation is a grand Soviet plot.

Indeed, water fluoridation in the U.S. is said to have begun in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1945.  By 1951, the U.S. Public Health Service had made water fluoridation public policy.  In 1960, it is estimated that 50 million Americans were the recipients of fluoridated water.  In 2006, the percentage of the U.S. population receiving fluoride in their water was at just over 60%.  Any thought outside this narrow swath of inquiry is said spuriously to be the conjecture of conspiracy theorists.  Funny how the villain of Dr. Strangelove is one such fellow–a real doozy at that…inept at expressing himself…always talking about “bodily fluids.”  Indeed, something strange is going on with this subplot.  I will leave it to the reader to investigate the merits of pro-fluoridation and anti-fluoridation.  I myself avoid fluoride at all costs.

Back to cinema (and Peter Sellers), we next encounter another funny name:  President (of the U.S.) Merkin Muffley.  Merkin, of course, is the name given to “public wigs.”  And the muff in Muffley, well…  Again, I urge the reader to let their imagination guide their inquiry.

It would be germane to introduce my own bit of conspiratorial evidence at this juncture.  There is, of course, the oration of Gen. Turgidson (George C. Scott) where he urges the President to (thank you Rahm Emmanuel) not let this tragedy go to waste.  Yes, it is that age-old stain on humanity which Webster Tarpley so eloquently sums up as “cynical.”  Gen. Turgidson (another apt name) asserts with bombastic cynicism a plan so heinous (while holding his megadeath statistics) that it could only be concocted by Hollywood, right?  Wrong.

Case in point:  Operation Northwoods.  With apparent thanks to author James Bamford (and those who have railed against the Kennedy assassination as being something far different than it was characterized), documents from 1962 show the very real psychosis of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (of which, no doubt, Gen. Turgidson would seem to be part…if not the head).  No, Kubrick was not simply out to discredit conspiracy theorists.  Perhaps the fluoridation subplot is a smokescreen, but Gen. Turgidson shows verily that he shares a certain simpatico with our rogue Gen. Ripper (who launched the insubordinate attack).  Oh…what would Kubrick make of our post-9/11 world had he lived to see it?  Indeed, the timing of Dr. Strangelove couldn’t have been better (or worse, depending on how one looks at it), considering that just two months before its release J.F.K. was murdered in Dallas.

Ah, but President Muffley’s voice of reason prevails (just as J.F.K.’s voice of reason categorically refused the Operation Northwoods plan which was agreed upon and signed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff…including their head, Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer).  I won’t deviate too far from the plan, but suffice it to intrigue the reader that Northwoods was a false-flag terror attack which would have used remote control planes, fake passengers (with “carefully prepared aliases”) and other such stratagems (including the death of American citizens) which certainly could have no bearing upon events in say, I don’t know, the past 15 years or so, could they?  Or course not.  How silly of me.

And while some ideas such as cobalt bombs seem preposterous today, in 1964 they must have seemed quite nerve-wracking indeed.  The Soviet doomsday device which figures in the movie is, of course, humorously inserted, but the technology was (at the very least) tested by the British in Australia in 1957.  Nevil Shute’s novel On The Beach (also 1957) leans heavily on this technology being quite real and not in the least silly.  Even the Eon series of Bond movies takes up the idea somewhat (in 1964, no less…same year as our film) in that Auric Goldfinger intends to use a device which incorporates cobalt to render the gold of Fort Knox uselessly radioactive for 58 years.  All experiments aside, the theory seems to indicate that radioactive cobalt would be a hazard for far longer than 58 years (as Dr. Strangelove himself points out in the odd segment just before the end of our film).  Indeed, 100 years is more like it (for all practical purposes).  Perhaps even 142 or so…

But I dare say the only name one needs remember in this piece of cinema is Col. “Bat” Guano.  The writers (including Terry Southern) were really having a larf by that point.  Our team aboard the one aircraft which didn’t get the recall “memo” head to what seems to be a made up locale in Soviet Russia:  Kodlosk.  By the end of this romp we are not only questioning the mental capacity of L.B.J. (newly sworn-in President when this came out), but also that of dear old George W. Bush.  One can’t help interpreting the role of Slim Pickens as symbolic of the cavalier disrespect for human life wrapped up in all of America’s nuclear ambitions.  And he just so happens to be a rural gent–a cowboy, if you will.  No matter that the real life Pickens was not only born in California, but died there (in Modesto, to be exact).

“Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?,” sing Pink Floyd in the song “Vera” from 1979’s The Wall.  Going on to reference the very song which ends Dr. Strangelove (“We’ll Meet Again”), it’s an appropriate way to broach how Kubrick’s masterpiece will go down in history.  I personally find only the ending to be a bit clumsy and, thus, the film as a whole (at least) near-perfect.

Sellers’ third role in the film is that of Dr. Strangelove himself.  An obvious remnant of Operation Paperclip, Strangelove is the former (?) Nazi who is wheelchair-bound (with a gimp arm to boot).  This really is Sellers at his surreal best, no doubt doing a good bit of visual improvising (as his bum arm seems to have a mind of its own–at one point choking the neck to which it is attached).

There is one (and only one) female character:  and she is a tightly-wound symbol of power.  Played by Tracy Reed in a bikini, she mainly figures into just one scene (that in which Gen. Turgidson is indisposed in the “powder room”).

Speaking of (and to) power, one would be remiss not to mention the RAND Corporation.  It has been ventured that Herman Kahn, John von Neumann and/or Henry Kissinger might have been templates for the character of Strangelove.  To that I would add Albert Wohlstetter.  All four were part of the aforementioned “think tank.”  Another possibility is Wernher von Braun.  Indeed, it is worth some study to learn how this former Nazi SS member became head of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Likewise, it is interesting how the International Institute for Strategic Studies played a role in the genesis of Dr. Strangelove.  It was, in fact, the director (Alastair Buchan) of this organization (ostensibly formed in 1958) who suggested to Kubrick the book upon which the film would be based.  That book was Red Alert by Peter George.  Silly me, all of these think tanks have me in a quandary.  I was quite sure Mr. Buchan was of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (a.k.a. Chatham House, formed 1920), but I see that I was mistaken.  I do, however, congratulate myself upon noticing that Kubrick’s chum Buchan was son of Hitchcock’s Buchan (author of The Thirty-Nine Steps).  Interesting also that the aforementioned Herman Kahn was a consultant on Dr. Strangelove.

As was noted in my article concerning Dr. No (1962) [see “Bond” section], Ken Adam went from that Eon Production’s set designer to being Kubrick’s man concerned with the same on Dr. Strangelove.  Indeed, that iconic table in “the war room” is covered in green baize.  One need not look further than Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale for the previous symbolic nature of this fabric (consider M’s door, for instance).

Back to Herman Kahn…  He coined the term “megadeath.”  But it took Kubrick and Peter Sellers and God knows who else to concoct the only line ending with which I can feel assured (the feeling is mutual, I’m sure) a sense of finality:  “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”

 

-PD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Russia With Love [1963)

James Bond came back to the big screen in his second Eon Productions (Everything Or Nothing) appearance with twice the budget of 1962’s Dr. No.  A smash success, its $2 million budget was heartily recouped (and fast) with $78 million in box office receipts.  Dr. No itself had been a hugely profitable venture at $1.1 million budget and $59.5 million at the box office.  The extra budget was evident (and worth it) even if the profit percentage was less.  It was clear that Eon had a hit series on their hands (and rightly so).

The series starts to stretch out–venturing from author Ian Fleming’s adopted writing retreat of Jamaica to exotic Istanbul.  The gypsy camp scene is particularly memorable and full of the gratuitous sexual aspects which some critics found distasteful as early as the previous Eon Bond production.  Apparently those in charge weren’t listening to the critics, but rather to the theatregoers.

Geography buffs will be happy to have the setting shift to the Cold War locale of Zagreb.  And fans of thrillers and nearly-escaped imbroglios will find high entertainment in Bond’s fistfight with Grant (the SPECTRE agent tasked with killing our hero).  Terence Young does a masterful job of framing the scene with a tension befitting a Houdini stunt.  Just as it seems Bond has no chance for escape, he finagles an opportunity for survival.  Bond’s apparent martial arts skills somehow prevail in the ensuing hand-to-hand combat with Grant.  We find Bond to be a super-human super-spy:  brilliant and physically miraculous.

It is, indeed, in this second installment of the Bond series (the “official” Eon series) which we encounter an absolute whole-cloth lifting of ideas from Hitchcock.  There is no crop duster, but rather a bubble-windowed helicopter which buzzes Bond repeatedly in what might be described as a flattering imitation of (and reference to) North By Northwest.  But Terence Young had a talent of his own and that becomes evident in the boat chase which ends with the once-again-brilliant Bond using a flare gun to ignite the oil-barrel jetsam which had been punctured and leaking petrol before Bond cut them loose to float in the vicinity of SPECTRE’s pursuing attack fleet.

We find in this film many archetypes which would be taken up humorously in the Austin Powers series.  The homely Number 3 (played by Lotte Lenya), the presence of Number 1…always stroking his cat (the man’s face is never seen in the film), etc.  Desmond Llewelyn makes his debut as Q (or, more accurately, head of Q branch).  The innovations were made possible by the largesse of United Artists (working with Eon Productions…even giving Connery a personal bonus which was equal to roughly 200% of the salary he was to make).

It is interesting to note that J.F.K. himself was impressed enough with Fleming’s novel From Russia With Love (upon which the film, of course, was based) that he named it one of his ten favorite books in Life magazine.  The film was the last viewing Kennedy would do in the White House as he was murdered two days after seeing it.

Dr. No’s production designer Ken Adam went on to do production design for Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove rather than work on From Russia With Love.  1960 Miss Universe runner-up Daniela Bianchi was cast as the “Bond Girl” Tatiana.  Though Topkapi was considered a potential location for the filming of the gypsy camp, this and most other scenes were actually executed at Pinewood Studios in Britain (mainly to qualify for U.K. government funding assistance).

The many flourishes of the film include the character Kronsteen closely replicating Boris Spassky’s chess match victory in 1960 over David Bronstein.  Indeed, Kronsteen is the mastermind whose plans go awry when they encounter the unaccounted-for intangibles of the incredible James Bond.  Another nod to director Terence Young should be made for his help in choreographing the fight scene between Bond and Grant.  Young was, himself, a boxer while at Cambridge.  That single fight in the train stateroom took three weeks to film.  It really is a memorably evocative struggle.  Young’s own mettle was tested during filming when a helicopter from which he was filming crashed in 40-50 feet of water and sank.  He resumed filming the same day.  Another calamity would befall a filming vehicle when a boat filled with cameras sank in the Bosporus during the boat chase scene.

Once again, the Bond films should not be discounted as mere fluff.  Cambridge man Young managed to have opening credits (by Robert Brownjohn) reference Moholy-Nagy.  I will leave it to the reader to decide if this is as impressive as Hitchcock’s Vertigo opening with geometric shapes attributable to Jules Antoine Lissajous (by way, naturally, of Saul Bass).

J.F.K. saw this film before U.S. audiences as it was not released in the States until 1964.  Meanwhile, critics like Richard Roud continued to level accusations of immorality at the Bond movies upon its release.  At least he acknowledged it as, “fun.”  Indeed.  Several reviewers finally realized that the Bond series in fact had tongue wedged firmly in cheek.  It is cheeky.

Young was indeed doing something similar to the French New Wave in “exploding a genre from the inside-out” to paraphrase James Monaco (the genre in question being “thriller”).  And so it is that the enthusiasm for cinema (whether high art or low brow) should and does live on.  In reevaluating Terence Young and giving such directors as Wes Anderson an invitation to immortality, film history plods onwards by way of thinking…”deeper into movies,” to quote Yo La Tengo quoting Pauline Kael.

 

-PD