Category Archives: James Bond

Roger Moore, RIP.

Sir Roger Moore
October 14, 1927 – May 23, 2017

Sir Roger Moore, who played James Bond throughout the 70s and 80s — and who did a lot of great work for UNICEF, has passed away at 89.

He took over the role of 007 after Sean Connery got sick of it, adding his own tongue-in-cheek flavor to the series. Live And Let Die (1973) was his first Bond movie. Mine, too. And his passing feels like the end of an era.

Of course, Moore’d been on Maverick and The Saint and many other things. He came across as so likable, no matter what he was doing. I really enjoyed Shout At The Devil (1976) and The Wild Geese (1978).

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Filed under 1973, James Bond, Roger Moore

King Kong Escapes (1967).

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Directed by Ishiro Honda
Written by Takashi Kimura
Special Effects: Eiji Tsuburaya

Cast: Rhodes Reason (Commander Carl Nelson), Akira Takarada (Lt. Commander Jiro Nomura), Linda Miller (Lt. Susan Watson), Hideyo Amamoto (Dr. Who), Mie Hama (Madame X), Susumu Kurobe (Henchman)

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The highly-radioactive Element X can only be found at the North Pole. Madame X (Mie Hama) wants the element for her country, so she enlists the evil genius Dr. Who (Hideyo Amamoto) to retrieve it. Dr. Who knows the only creature capable of digging up the dangerous element is the mighty King Kong, so Dr. Who builds a robot Kong that he can control. The mechanical ape’s circuitry gets zapped by the radiation, leaving Dr. Who with no alternative but to journey to Mongo Island and capture the real King Kong — much to the dismay of the increasingly impatient Madame X.

Dr. Who and Madame X

Dr. Who’s plan becomes even more complicated when Cmdr. Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason), Lt. Susan Watson (Linda Miller) and Lt. Jiro Nomura of the UN become involved. You see, Kong has a thing for Lt. Watson. Only she can control the beast — which makes her a valuable asset to Dr. Who and his scheme. So he kidnaps her and her cohorts. Before it’s all over, King Kong and Mechani-Kong battle it out atop Tokyo Tower.

King Kong Escapes (1967) is a crazy movie, even by Japanese Kaijū (“strange beast”) movie standards. From the logic of using King Kong to mine radioactive material to the mad scientist and his nagging sponsor, it’s just plains nuts. But these movies exist in a world all their own, where the laws of reason and science are of very little concern.

Linda Miller and some fake monsters

The story of how the movie came to be is almost as crazy. Toho had been very successful with King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962), which was released (heavily modified) in the States by Universal in 1963. In 1966, Rankin/Bass, the stop-motion Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer people, produced a King Kong cartoon, The King Kong Show, animated in Japan. The cartoon featured both Dr. Who and Mechani-Kong. Rankin/Bass entered into a joint venture with Toho, combining story elements from the Rankin/Bass Kong series with Toho’s outstanding technical people and mangy-looking gorilla suit.

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Rhodes Reason, who plays the American commander, is the younger brother of Rex Reason from This Island Earth (1955). Reason dubbed his own voice for English-language prints, while the American model Linda Miller was upset that hers was not used. The great Paul Frees (of Disney’s Haunted Mansion fame) provided the voice of Dr. Who and a number of other characters.

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Mie Hama, who plays Madame X, had just appeared with Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice (1967), the fifth James Bond movie, which was filmed in Japan. Hama, Hideyo Amamoto and Susumu Kurobe can also be found in Key Of Keys (1965), the Japanese spy movie Woody Allen re-worked for What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966).

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In theaters, Universal paired the picture with The Shakiest Gun In The West (1968), a remake of The Paleface (1948) starring Don Knotts. That’s a double feature I would’ve loved as a kid — I was precisely the demographic Universal had in mind. Incidentally, the Japanese version of King Kong Escapes (called Kingu Kongu No Gyakushû) is longer than the US cut.

Ishiro Honda between takes with Mechani-Kong and King Kong

What is it about these movies? They’re ludicrous and obviously aimed at kids. The special effects are both accomplished and pitiful at the same time (consider that Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey was in theaters that same summer). The Technicolor and TohoScope cinematography is gorgeous, and some might say it’s wasted on something like this. There’s a sense of wonder to these movies that I attribute to the director, Ishiro Honda, and the special effects crew headed by Eiji Tsuburaya. As a kid, I really liked this one because the monsters had a sizable amount of screen time — back then, my enjoyment of such things was often based on the monster-to-people footage ratio.

By the conventional idea of what constitutes a good movie, King Kong Escapes is way off the mark. But there’s nothing about it that’s conventional. Japanese monster movies are their own thing, and that thing can be pretty wonderful.

Here in the States, you’ll find King Kong Escapes available on both DVD and Blu-Ray, sometimes paired with King Kong Vs. Godzilla. It always looks splendid. The color is eye-popping and it’s sharp enough to reveal every wire on every toy helicopter. For those attuned to this type of nonsense, it comes highly recommended.

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Filed under 1967, Don Knotts, Ishirō Honda, James Bond, Kaiju Movies, Sean Connery, Toho, Universal (-International)

RIP, Ken Adam.

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Sir Ken Adam
(5 February 1921 – 10 March 2016)

Ken Adam, the production designer of the James Bond films of the 60s and 70s, has passed away at 95.

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Adam’s volcano rocket base for You Only Live Twice (1967, above) is jaw-dropping-ly cool — especially on the big screen in Panavision and dye transfer Technicolor. It absolutely floored me the first time I saw it.

He worked for Stanley Kubrick twice: Dr. Strangelove (1964), with the incredible War Room, and Barry Lyndon (1976). Oh, and an early credit came for Night Of The Demon (1957).

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Filed under 1964, 1967, 1976, George C. Scott, George Lazenby, James Bond, Peter Sellers, Sean Connery, Stanley Kubrick

James Bond Is Back.

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Spectre opens in the U.S. today, and the whole world seems to be a little James Bond crazy. This seems like a good time to name-drop my favorite 007 movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).

I highly recommend this one and urge you to check out a terrific blog post on it from Jeff Flugel. Click on the title card and away you go.

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One of these days, I’m gonna get around to writing about it myself. But Jeff’s coverage of it has me a little intimidated.

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Filed under 1969, George Lazenby, James Bond

Screening: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) At The TCM Festival.

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ohmss poster sizedGeorge Lazenby will introduce my favorite James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), during the TCM Film Festival in March. This was just announced, so there’s no date or time yet.

There are so many things that make this a special Bond film. Lazenby himself, who I wish had stuck with the franchise. A great Blofeld (Telly Savales) and a terrific Bond girl (Diana Rigg). John Barry’s best Bond score. Peter Hunt’s tight direction. The incredible ski and bobsled sequences. The 1969 Aston Martin DBS. And a mean streak a mile wide (a guy falls into the path of a snow plow). It seems weird to call a James Bond picture a cult film, but this one fits the bill.

The Stalking Moon offers up a great blog post on the many merits of OHMSS.

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Filed under 1969, George Lazenby, James Bond, Screenings, TCM

The Harry Palmer File.

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Kino Lorber’s recent Blu-ray release of the third, and last, Harry Palmer film, Billion Dollar Brain (1967), got me thinking about the series as a whole.* They made a huge impression on me as a kid, and it’s about time to revisit them. Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman gave us an anti-Bond with Harry Palmer, based on Len Deighton’s novels. Michael Caine was perfectly cast as the sarcastic spy.

So where are they on video? Here in the States, they’re kind of a mess. Ken Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain, of course, has this new Blu-ray. The second, Funeral In Berlin (1966) from Guy Hamilton, is available from Warner Archive in an exact copy of the old Paramount DVD. But the first one, Sidney J. Furie’s The Ipcress File (1965)? You can get it on Blu-ray all around the world, but it’s been missing in the US since the Anchor Bay DVD went out of print a decade ago (hard to believe DVDs have been with us that long).

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I was 10 and had just gotten my first pair of eyeglasses when I came across The Ipcress File, and a smartass secret agent with glasses and a machine gun (and Sue Lloyd) gave me hope. Maybe it was going to be OK after all.

A post on The Ipcress File is in the works.

* I don’t count the two non-theatrical Palmer/Caine films of the 90s.

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Filed under 1965, 1966, 1967, DVD/Blu-ray News, Guy Hamilton, Harry Palmer, James Bond, Ken Russell, Michael Caine, Sidney J. Furie