Hello, and welcome back aboard; I’m your conductor and today we will be wrapping up our Very Merry Espionage Christmas. And yes, I get it, the holidays have been long gone for a month or two already. Though for me, as long as it’s still winter, the show must go on! Ever heard of the phrase, “If you remember the 60s, you weren’t there”? The decade was filled to the brim of psychedelic bizarro, with groundbreaking films and television that demonstrated how sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll really do sell to the masses. A very popular craze that swept the nation along with counterculture and Beatlemania was James Bond films, so there was no doubt that many hitched on the bandwagon themselves. Consider this a 60s Spy ‘Poster Potpourri’, if you may. Let’s get started!
Here Comes U.N.C.L.E!
Ah yes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Airing for a substantial 4 years on cable television, it evolved into such a cultural phenomenon that it soon had king-sized episodes spanning one consecutive story arc repackaged as a b-feature for cinemas. These were also smashing hits, proving that the missions of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin were the so-called U.N.C.L.E’s to beat.
Dimension 5 (1966)
Here’s a real stinker… not even Sakata could save this one! A huge chunk of the difference from the copy-and-paste espionage cutouts was that this one they time-traveled. You interested? Not after you’ve actually seen the loony plot and bored set design and acting, you won’t.
Danger: Diabolik & Barbarella (1968)
Okay, Barbarella might not be a costumed spy exactly, but Jane Fonda and its stylistic relation to the additional movie in this blurb are enough to draw me in. Even despite its infamy later on, the feature was not a huge critical or commercial success. Furthermore, following the juggernaut that was the original Star Wars in 1977, most sci-fi movies before was credited as ludicrous or cheesy. But in our modern times, people tend to be rather odd, especially in their tastes. Thus, thankfully Barbarella was raised to cult status. Mario Bava’s directorial work on Danger: Diabolik is worthy of noting as well for being another thick slice of stylized, Swinging Sixties spy fiction. Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik are commonly paired because of their comic book foundations and a lead performance by John Phillip Law, hence explaining why I put them in the same section. Kinetic and off the wall, surely these exploitation gems will never be forgotten.
Seeing Double 007!
Fun fact: In his autobiography Back to the Batcave, Adam West described most of pop culture in the 60s as “the Three B’s; Bond, Batman, and the Beatles”. And it’s true, saying James Bond was “at large” is something of an understatement. Bargain bin Bond’s popped up everywhere, occasionally imported from Europe. This established the phrase “Eurospy”, which transitions to this film here. Yep, definitely your generic Eurospy!
Ice Station Zebra: Espionage Below Zero!
Hear me out — the IMDb page credits this as ‘espionage’ so I do have an excuse on this one, unlike Barbarella. The film premiered at the iconic Cinerama Dome in ’68, although because of this Stanley Kubrick’s masterwork 2001: A Space Odyssey had to be removed prematurely from its still fruitful run at the cinema. That is a shame, since 2001 is a far better film than Ice Station Zebra generally; the former is usually regarded as one of the best of all time, and this Cold War lackluster thriller is more on par with a stretched thin Saturday morning cartoon. Although Rock Hudson, who leads as Commander James Farraday in the feature, has labled it as his personal favorite work. So… at least he likes it?
Fiendish! Fantastic! Frightening!
Who else but Fu Manchu, my old nemesis. If the handful of you are aware, I have talked about this diabolical Mongol of Misery beforehand on my forgotten film franchises post. The dude’s slim mustache strand is legendary. But today in our conceptually more “civilized” society, Fu Manchu (the Chinese villain) versus Nayland Smith (the White British Hero) would not fly among our culturally insensible nation. But back in the day if you just came searching for laughable evil genius storylines, you were in good hands! And considering the meager budgets associated with them, they unconventionally kept the design primarily in the 20s rather than updating the period, much like what the German krimi movies at the time did also. Bravo!
Enjoy the Fine Arts of Venice…
“Murder! Spies! Women!”, exclaimed the tagline of our final poster featured this evening. With Robert Vaughn as a former CIA agent, The Venetian Affair joined the ranks as a recognizable title in the Eurospy index. A justifiable falsehood is that this motion picture was another The Man from U.N.C.L.E adventure. How come? Well, every episode of the series ended with “affair” (however, none of the films did) and Vaughn was commonly corresponded with his role as Napoleon Solo. Was it a ploy, perhaps?
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