Amid the avalanche of overproduced and overmarketed films that flooded movie theaters in the summer of 2006 (Poseidon, Miami Vice, Lady in the Water and Snakes on a Plane to name a few), a gallic import flew in under the radar and delighted any moviegoer willing to give in to its droll sense of humor and fond appreciation of the spy thriller genre of the sixties. OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies was a huge box-office hit in France and Europe but it barely lasted a week in many of its U.S. playdates.Continue reading
Swiss filmmaker Jean-Louis Roy only made two feature films and two made-for-TV movies during his lifetime but, on the basis of his debut feature L’inconnu de Shandigor (English title: The Unknown Man of Shandigor, 1967), he should be famous among cinephiles. The reason you probably haven’t heard of him is because The Unknown Man of Shandigor vanished after its premiere at Cannes in 1967 and never received a theatrical release in the U.S. Only in the past few years has the film resurfaced as a DVD-R from Sinister Cinema and most of those who have seen it have been delighted and amazed by this pop-art curio from the sixties.Continue reading
Who would have ever thought that a television show starring a cast of marionettes would be a huge hit? Thunderbirds, conceived by the writer/producer team of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson as a children’s show, unexpectedly proved to be popular with older audiences as well. But what was the attraction? Was it the meticulously detailed toy sets and sci-fi gadgetry? Or perhaps it was the novelty of watching puppet thespians who ran the gamut from boy toy pin-up Scott Tracy to high-society secret agent Lady Penelope and her Cockney manservant, “Nosey” Parker. Whatever the reasons, the surprise success of the 1964 TV series inspired the Andersons to produce a full-length feature – Thunderbirds Are GO (1966) – which continued the adventures of the Tracy family, an International Rescue team operated by millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his five sons. Continue reading
When cinema buffs talk about their favorite movies from that brief period known as the “angry young man” phase of the British New Wave movement, one title is usually overlooked – The Angry Silence (1960) – and that might be due to the film’s more overt focus on labor unions, working conditions and corruption. Directed by Guy Green, The Angry Silence (1960) shares many similarities with others of its ilk with its harshly realistic depiction of a specific working class milieu, all of it captured in a gritty, documentary-like approach that was partially shot on location (Ipswich, Suffolk) using local nonprofessionals and real actors. Continue reading
Not all of the spy thrillers that followed in the wake of the James Bond craze, which began in 1962 with Dr. No, were pale imitations or grade B action-adventure fare. There were exceptions in this burgeoning genre and one of the best was Agent 8 ¾ (1964, aka Hot Enough for June). Instead of relying on high tech gadgetry, special effects and slam bang action sequences, this British import took a droll, tongue-in-cheek approach to the spy genre and had fun parodying the politics of the Cold War era in its tale of an aspiring novelist being used by British Intelligence as a pawn in their spy games with Communist foes in Prague. Continue reading
The James Bond film craze of the 1960s was responsible for launching a secret agent/spy movie sub-genre that thrived for more than a decade. Some of the imitators like Our Man Flint (1966) and The Silencers (1966) even spawned mini-franchises but the majority of them were strictly B-movies with international casts and exotic locations. One of the more obscure and unusual entries is Operation Kid Brother (1967), which is an entertainingly bad knockoff and sports a genuine Sean Connery-007 connection. It stars younger sibling Neil Connery in his screen debut. Continue reading
Imagine a science-fiction influenced spy thriller about humanoid assassins directed by Jess Franco with a screenplay adaptation by Jean-Claude Carrière (a frequent collaborator with Luis Bunuel), a cool jazz score by Paul Misraki (Alphaville, Le Doulos, Les Cousins) and an international cast featuring Eddie Constantine, Fernando Rey and Francoise Brion. It sounds like a film buff’s fever dream but it actually exists. Released in 1966 during the height of the James Bond craze, Cartes sur table aka Attack of the Robots is a stylish and amusing entertainment that takes a standard world domination-by-madman scenario and infuses it with a cheeky sense of humor. The film will come as a surprise to those who only associate Jess Franco with Eurotrash favorites like 99 Women (1969), Vampyros Lesbos (1971) and Wanda, the Wicked Warden (1977).
Ealing Studios. The name conjures up memories of the great British comedies such as The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers, The Lavender Hill Mob and Kind Hearts and Coronets. Film noir, however, is not the genre that usually comes to mind although Ealing rubbed shoulders with it occasionally in It Always Rains on Sunday (1947) and Pool of London (1951). Oddly enough, one of the studio’s final releases, Nowhere to Go (1958) was pure, unadulterated noir and a stylish, terse little thriller to boot. Sadly, it has been overlooked and unappreciated for years even though it marks the feature film debut of director Seth Holt and gave actress Maggie Smith her first major screen role. Continue reading