July 25, 2017

REVIEW: THE PRISONER VOL 2

Upcoming release: Big Finish is back with a new set of amazing audio dramas based on the 1960s cult classic, The Prisoner. Written by story maestro, renaissance man (and part-time Dalek) Nicholas Briggs, Volume 2 includes four stories based on original episodes. And like Volume 1, Briggs has mananged to both capture the tone of McGoohan's masterpiece and to bring listeners into interesting new territory. Alan Hayes of Hidden Tiger Books dropped by the Spy Vibe lair this week to review the new Prisoner set and to give us a taste of what to look forward to (spoiler free!). Welcome Alan!


In January 2016 I looked at the first volume of Big Finish’s “The Prisoner” for Spy Vibe and The Unmutual. In the review, I noted that I had been against the idea of anyone trying to revamp Patrick McGoohan’s television masterpiece, and was somewhat trepidatious when I heard that the series was going to be adapted for audio. I was however aware of the company behind the project, Big Finish – my shelves are weighted down by a good few of their CDs – and I’ve always had a great respect for Nicholas Briggs, who was announced as writing the adaptations.

I’m pleased to say that my concerns were pushed quickly aside as soon as I heard the first four audio episodes – “Arrival” (adapted as “Departure and Arrival”), “The Schizoid Man”, “Your Beautiful Village” (an absolutely cracking original story) and “The Chimes of Big Ben”. The treatment afforded to my favourite television series was both faithful and respectful, and yet constantly surprising and inventive. This wasn’t a slavish adaptation in which the writer would add dialogue simply to explain what the listener could not see (“Oh look! A giant weather balloon, bouncing this way! I wonder if it’ll be nice to me?”); this was a ground-up rethink which broadened the canvas of the series without compromising it and incorporated unexpected twists and turns to wrong-foot listeners over familiar with the source material. In short, I adored Volume One. In fact, I considered it the best thing that I’d ever heard from Big Finish – which is some accolade considering the quality of their many ranges, most of which I have experienced to some degree or other.

My one serious complaint was that I’d have to wait a whole year for Volume Two. As it happens, I didn’t know when I was lucky, for the new release was soon put back in order to tie in with the series’ 50th anniversary celebrations, debuting instead in August 2017. While I can understand the marketing reasons behind this move, it is a shame as I feel the series has lost impetus as a result – and, let’s face it, I was impatient to hear more of the audio “Prisoner”. Much more.

The good news about Volume Two is that once again Nicholas Briggs is on board as the writer of all episodes. A long-term fan who understands what makes the series tick, Briggs proved himself in Volume One to possess an extraordinary ability to take the work of McGoohan and other “Prisoner” writers and present it afresh for the 21st century without losing what made it so distinctive and absorbing in 1967. I fear that opening out the scriptwriting duties to other writers would dilute this series, so I hope that Briggs’ association with “The Prisoner” continues and that he remains the only scriptwriter of the audio series.


The big question, of course, is does Volume Two live up to the remarkably high standards of Volume One? For sure, it’s a big ask. It’s like going to the cinema to watch the sequel to your favourite movie; expectation is set so high that it’s almost impossible not to have it fall short. In the case of “The Prisoner”, listeners will now expect clever twists on the familiar stories, presume that bold choices will be made, and will approach the new set of episodes with a heightened expectancy. Fortunately, the standards already established are absolutely maintained, and those bold choices are far bolder this time than I ever expected. Each adapted episode feels not so much a copy of its source, more an inspiration based upon it, and the original story included in Volume Two is unexpected, audacious and exhilarating.

In Volume One, Briggs performed what I thought would be nigh on impossible, when he adapted “The Schizoid Man” for audio. Somehow, he managed to tackle a doppelganger story on audio! And, rather than put it to one side as a difficult episode that could be tackled further down the line, he dealt with it straight away – and added a whole new layer of intrigue to the plot in doing so. Volume Two kicks off with another episode that seems distinctly a bad idea for audio, “Many Happy Returns” (adapted as “I Met A Man Today”), which for a large part of its running time on television features no dialogue at all! Furthermore, it is not even the craziest thing about Volume Two!


By setting the audio adaptation after Number Six’s escape from a deserted Village, rather than beginning with it, “I Met A Man Today” riffs instead on his meeting and getting to know the woman who now lives in his London house, even though he fears that the whole scenario could be a trick on the part of the Village. We also meet Number Six’s bosses in Intelligence, as we do in the televised version. All told, it’s an enjoyable, intriguing mix of the old and the new, and despite its extended running time of 71 minutes, it simply whizzes by.

With no slight whatever meant to Mark Elstob, the absolute star of this episode from my perspective is Lucy Briggs-Owen, an actress with whom I am familiar from her performances as Carol Wilson in “The Avengers” audio series. Due to the restrictions imposed on that series – that only the original 1961 scripts can be used – I’ve long felt that Briggs-Owen deserved a better, more developed role, and as Kate Butterworth in “The Prisoner” she has got it. The character is greatly fleshed out compared to how it appeared in the television episode (in which Georgina Cookson took the part), and Briggs-Owen brings Kate to life beautifully, capturing every last nuance of the script.

Elstob, meanwhile, completely inhabits the role of Number Six across this set of four plays. He is so good that you find yourself forgetting that he is not Patrick McGoohan, or even that you used to think that no actor other than McGoohan could ever be Number Six. It’s not a mimic’s impression that he delivers, more a performance that has McGoohan’s rhythm, his acting heartbeat, and it is absolutely scintillating to listen to. Occasionally, I find myself picturing Elstob in my mind, and other times McGoohan, but neither association jars. They merge in my head as a gestalt Number Six!

If there’s anything negative to be said about “I Met A Man Today”, it concerns its positioning to the fore of the second set of plays. For starters, it is a non-Village episode, and therefore rather atypical in “Prisoner” terms, particularly early on in the run. Perhaps an episode in more recognisable “Prisoner” territory would have worked better in its place? More unfortunate is that the last episode on Volume One was “The Chimes of Big Ben”, the other episode of the series in which Number Six escapes the Village (or believes that he has) and heads for London. Perhaps “I Met A Man Today” would have worked more successfully if placed second or third on Volume Two for these reasons – though characters introduced here do carry on into subsequent episodes, so I assume the order was decided upon for this reason. However, when considered in isolation, “I Met A Man Today” is without a doubt a thoroughly good listen.


The second CD, “Project Six” – a new, radical adaptation of Terence Feely’s “A. B. and C” – segues directly from the previous episode. This innovation (for most “Prisoner” television episodes were standalone stories), making each volume a set of linked episodes, was one of the aspects of Volume One that really appealed to me, so I’m delighted to see this practice continue. The episode itself takes Feely’s concept as a basis and then runs free with it. In my opinion, it is all the better for it. “A. B. and C” has never been among my favourite “Prisoner” episodes, despite featuring arguably one of the most interesting Number Twos in the series (played by the marvellous Colin Gordon). His tendency to push too hard to extract the information the Village needs is explored further here in “Project Six”, with the episode’s female Number Two seemingly willing to risk Number Six’s life in order to succeed. The scenarios into which Number Six is projected do not match those seen on screen, though one certainly has distinct parallels. The looseness of the adaptation certainly keeps the listener on their toes, particularly ones like me who think they know what’s going to happen! This adaptation constantly surprises, being thrilling, daring and clever, without ever losing sight of its inspiration.


The third play in this set is adapted – without change of title – from Roger Woddis’ sublime episode “Hammer into Anvil”, which has always been among my favourite episodes of “The Prisoner”. This follows the television episode a little more closely than either of the other adapted episodes on this volume, but still there are plenty of twists and tweaks that prevent it from becoming predictable. As in the source material, Number Six is inventive in how he destabilises the new Number Two (John Heffernan), though his methods of doing so are slightly different to those which “Prisoner” fans will be familiar with.

John Heffernan does well as the tough Village overlord who becomes increasingly paranoid as a result of Number Six’s endeavours. I must be honest and say that I can’t ever see Patrick Cargill’s astounding performance in the original television episode being eclipsed – without a doubt, the single most impressive acting turn in the series, in my opinion – but bearing in mind my prejudices regarding this specific role, Heffernan does remarkably well.


As with the first volume, one episode here – the fourth – is a completely original creation from the mind of Nicholas Briggs – and it’s a real doozy that takes one helluva risk. It goes by the title of “Living in Harmony” but has nothing to do with its television equivalent (Briggs playing with our preconceptions once again) other than that it is certainly its equal in terms of genre-hopping. Briggs’ “Living in Harmony” is probably best described as a wildly ambitious mix of “The Prisoner” and “Out of the Unknown”, with dashes of “2001 - A Space Odyssey” and “Space: 1999” thrown in for good measure, but I’ll leave it at that for this non-spoiler review. Suffice it to say that it takes “The Prisoner” in new directions but still feels absolutely connected to the series as we know it. In common with “Your Beautiful Village” in Volume One, “Living in Harmony” is a fearless experiment, akin to the direction that McGoohan himself took in the second production block of the television series with episodes such as “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling”, “Living in Harmony” and “The Girl Who Was Death”. The difference here is that these stories are woven into the fabric of Big Finish’s “The Prisoner”, whereas back in 1967/8, those episodes seemed strangely out of kilter with what had gone before. My only reservation with the audio “Living in Harmony” is that it now seems unlikely that the television episode of the same name will be adapted, which is a shame.

In terms of its casting, it was a pleasure to welcome Sara Powell back, so memorable from Volume One, and the same can definitely be said of the marvellous, fruity-voiced Michael Cochrane in a cameo reappearance as Number Two. Always a joy.

Following on from the exemplary sound design and music on the first volume, these new plays are abuzz with rich soundscapes and superb incidentals, and even a jazzed up version of the theme when you least expect it. Iain Meadows (sound design) and Jamie Robertson (music) have, if anything, excelled themselves on Volume Two. It all feels recognisably “Prisoner” but with a twist, which of course parallels Brigg’s contributions as writer.

It’s well worth buying “The Prisoner” Volume Two direct from Big Finish as, repeating the offer they made with Volume One, ordering Volume Two from their website (www.bigfinish.com) will secure you incidental music downloads and script PDFs for each episode. Additionally, a bonus behind the scenes documentary is included on the fifth CD in the set, and this is also well worth a listen.


The biggest drawback with the set, as far as I am concerned, relates to its packaging, in that it does not follow the lavish design of the first volume, which was presented in a book-style box. The Volume One package was quite glorious, visually exciting and highly collectible. Clearly, I was alone in thinking this, or at least it didn’t capture the imagination of others in quite the way it captured mine. Consequently, Volume Two is contained in jewel cases surrounded by a card sleeve. Thickset and cumbersome, despite the attractiveness of the cover designs. I do wish Big Finish would spare a thought for how their releases are to be stored. If I collected all their ranges, I’d have to move out and live in the shed! Small is beautiful. Chunky is clunky.

Rant over… It’s what’s inside that really counts, and these plays are really something special. These “Prisoner” releases are to be applauded for how they have breathed new life into a fifty year old television series – a show that continues to be relevant and popular but which has become as familiar to me as an old armchair. As a fan since the very early 1980s I feel very sure of what “The Prisoner” is, what its stories are, and when I watch it, I know what is coming next; every line of dialogue, every camera movement, every sound. What Nicholas Briggs and Big Finish have done, with the help of many talented actors and production people, is give me a new “Prisoner” which is just as intelligent, immersive, ground breaking and risk taking as the original, but which is fresh and repeatedly takes me by surprise. Big Finish take the “Prisoner” stories back to basics and reinvent them in clever ways, paying homage to McGoohan’s creation while never betraying it.

The next volume of “The Prisoner” simply can’t arrive soon enough for me. I look forward to Nicholas Briggs’ inspired reinventions of another batch of episodes… But come on guys and girls, let’s not have an eighteen month wait for our next visit to The Village!


Thank you, Alan! Great to hear more about this new set. Spy Vibers can pre-order it directly from Big Finish (August release). Photos courtesy of Big Finish. Below: the beautifully designed first Prisoner box set. Related posts: Interview: The Prisoner Guide Portmeirion Photography 1Portmeirion PhotographyThe Prisoner London Flat, Alan Hayes Prisoner Audio ReviewInterview: Ian OlgivyInterview: Brian GormanPrisoner SupergrassPrisoner XTCPrisoner XTC 2Prisoner DC Fontana.


Selected Spy Vibe Posts: Roger Vivier FashionSpy Vibe Radio 41960s Pop ModelsBatman GallantsAdam West R.I.P.Village TriangleRoger Moore R.I.P.Spy Vibe Radio 3Sgt Pepper 50thSatanik Kriminal OST60s OverdriveMake Love in LondonSpy Vibe Radio 2Spy Vibe Radio 1James Bond StripsPropaganda MabuseFahrenheit 451 50thInterview: Police SurgeonXTC Avengers1966 Pep SpiesBatman Book InterviewExclusive Fleming InterviewAvengers Comic StripsRobert Vaughn RIPUNCLE FashionsThunderbirds Are Pop!, Interview:Spy Film GuideLost Avengers FoundThe Callan FileMission Impossible 50thGreen Hornet 50thStar Trek 50thPortmeirion Photography 1Filming the PrisonerGaiman McGinnins ProjectIan Fleming GraveRevolver at 50Karen Romanko InterviewMod Tales 2Umbrella Man: Patrick MacneeNew Beatles FilmThe Curious CameraEsterel Fashion 1966Exclusive Ian Ogilvy Interview007 Tribute CoversThe Phantom Avon novels returnIan Fleming FestivalArgoman DesignSylvia Anderson R.I.P.Ken Adam R.I.P.George Martin R.I.P.The New Avengers ComicsTrina Robbins InterviewThe Phantom at 80007 MangaAvengerworld BookDiana Rigg Auto ShowThe Prisoner Audio Drama ReviewDavid McCallum novelAndre Courreges R.I.P.Who's Talking on Spy VibeUFO Blu-rayAvengers Pop Art.

July 24, 2017

FASHION MYSTERY 2: JOHN BATES

In my last post on Spy Vibe I featured Bruno Benini, a well-known Australian-Italian photographer. One his best-known works is an image of model Jan Stewart in a mod geometric mini-dress that is always credited to Simona for Sportsgirl. It's a beautiful photograph and Stewart is absolutely stunning. Yet the design seemed awfully familiar to me. Indeed, we all know this design! Stewart was actually posing in a famous outfit designed by John Bates (Jean Varon) for Diana Rigg in The Avengers. His designs were in high demand. According to Richard Lester's (not the movie director) book, "By the summer of 1969 John's designs were appearing in the fashion press under five different labels, and a decade of relentless promotion meant the profile of Jean Varon was at a high, exporting to forty-four countries across the globe and with twenty-eight boutiques in the leading stores across the country." Simona was established in 1963 just before The Avengers fashions were about to hit, so I must assume John Bates licensed his design to them. Or was this simply a case of easy borrowing in the 1960s? I've written to Simona and will let you know if I receive further information. See for yourselves below: John Bates' original design for Diana Rigg, Jean Shrimpton dressed in the outfit with Avengers stunt director Ray Austin (see upcoming event!), and Jan Stewart photographed by Bruno Benini from my previous post. In other Australian news, have you heard Spy Vibe's segments on the Cocktail Natiion radio show? I introduce a spy film or series each month and play rare soundtracks and covers. Episode #1 (Danger Man) and Episode #2 (The 10th Victim), Epsiode #3 (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) Episode #4 (Roger Moore/The Saint). Related posts: Avengers Pop Art Interview, Diana Rigg Auto Show, Avengers Interview: Alan Hayes, Jaz Wiseman Interview, Avengers Interview: Mike Richardson, Casino Royale Interview: Mike Richardson, The Saint Interview: Ian Dickerson, Avengers Interview: Rodney Marshall, Avengers Interview Rodney Marshall 2, John Buss Interview, Farewell Steed, Shakespeare Spies: Diana Rigg, Lost Diana Rigg Interview, Diana Rigg BFI Screening, Avengers Season 5 Titles, The Avengers Sing, Lost Avengers Vol 2-7, Richard Sala Interview: Super Enigmatix, Adventures of Richard Sala Interview, Avengerworld, Integrity Toys Dolls, Enjoy!





Selected Spy Vibe Posts: Roger Vivier FashionSpy Vibe Radio 41960s Pop ModelsBatman GallantsAdam West R.I.P.Village TriangleRoger Moore R.I.P.Spy Vibe Radio 3Sgt Pepper 50thSatanik Kriminal OST60s OverdriveMake Love in LondonSpy Vibe Radio 2Spy Vibe Radio 1James Bond StripsPropaganda MabuseFahrenheit 451 50thInterview: Police SurgeonXTC Avengers1966 Pep SpiesBatman Book InterviewExclusive Fleming InterviewAvengers Comic StripsRobert Vaughn RIPUNCLE FashionsThunderbirds Are Pop!, Interview:Spy Film GuideLost Avengers FoundThe Callan FileMission Impossible 50thGreen Hornet 50thStar Trek 50thPortmeirion Photography 1Filming the PrisonerGaiman McGinnins ProjectIan Fleming GraveRevolver at 50Karen Romanko InterviewMod Tales 2Umbrella Man: Patrick MacneeNew Beatles FilmThe Curious CameraEsterel Fashion 1966Exclusive Ian Ogilvy Interview007 Tribute CoversThe Phantom Avon novels returnIan Fleming FestivalArgoman DesignSylvia Anderson R.I.P.Ken Adam R.I.P.George Martin R.I.P.The New Avengers ComicsTrina Robbins InterviewThe Phantom at 80007 MangaAvengerworld BookDiana Rigg Auto ShowThe Prisoner Audio Drama ReviewDavid McCallum novelAndre Courreges R.I.P.Who's Talking on Spy VibeUFO Blu-rayAvengers Pop Art.

July 23, 2017

FASHION MYSTERY 1: BRUNO BENINI

Fashion mystery part one: Today our spotlight is on Australian-Italian photographer Bruno Benini. An archive of his works was acquired by the Powerhouse Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney about ten years ago. Museum curator Anne-Marie Van de Ven expressed just how vital fashion images can be as both time capsules and records of our changing culture when she wrote: "Fashion photographs are good indicators of social change. By their very nature and purpose, fashion photographs are created and designed to document and promote change by capturing or creating the total look, mood or attitudes of the moment. Within their frames (if they’re not shot in the studio which is the case for so many post-WWII photographs) they also frequently document (by capturing) natural, urban, rural, built and interior environments. These images then become highly evocative references to people, places, social, technological, environmental and industrial change at different points in time. With many of Benini’s shots also taken overseas, change of another nature is also revealed - that of Australia’s complex, multicultural society, it’s global aspirations and it’s trade, manufacturing and cultural links with the rest of the world." The highlight for me in the Benini collection is this image of model Jan Stewart (1965 Mannequin of the Year and 1967 Model of the Year). Note that the original negative was a medium-format square image, but the final print was cropped into a vertical. For the photo Stewart wore a drop-waste Mondrian-inspired mini dress- credited to Simona for Sportsgirl. But Spy Vibers will surely recognize the outfit from another source! Tune into my next post for details! As with many Mod designs, the geometric lines helped accentuate that slim, stick-figure vibe of the era. Dressed in this outfit, Stewart would have been right at home beside Elsa Martinelli in The 10th Victim. The Powerhouse museum mounted a large exhibition of Benini's photographs in 2010-11. More info here. Incidentally, the museum is currently running the international Sherlock Holmes exhibit, so check it out if you are down under. In other Australia-related news, my episodes of the Cocktail Nation radio show are now live: Episode #1 (Danger Man) and Episode #2 (The 10th Victim), Epsiode #3 (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) Episode #4 (Roger Moore/The Saint), Episode #5 (The Avengers).



Selected Spy Vibe Posts: Spy Vibe Radio 41960s Pop ModelsBatman GallantsAdam West R.I.P.Village TriangleRoger Moore R.I.P.Spy Vibe Radio 3Sgt Pepper 50thSatanik Kriminal OST60s OverdriveMake Love in LondonSpy Vibe Radio 2Spy Vibe Radio 1James Bond StripsPropaganda MabuseFahrenheit 451 50thInterview: Police SurgeonXTC Avengers1966 Pep SpiesBatman Book InterviewExclusive Fleming InterviewAvengers Comic StripsRobert Vaughn RIPUNCLE FashionsThunderbirds Are Pop!, Interview:Spy Film GuideLost Avengers FoundThe Callan FileMission Impossible 50thGreen Hornet 50thStar Trek 50thPortmeirion Photography 1Filming the PrisonerGaiman McGinnins ProjectIan Fleming GraveRevolver at 50Karen Romanko InterviewMod Tales 2Umbrella Man: Patrick MacneeNew Beatles FilmThe Curious CameraEsterel Fashion 1966Exclusive Ian Ogilvy Interview007 Tribute CoversThe Phantom Avon novels returnIan Fleming FestivalArgoman DesignSylvia Anderson R.I.P.Ken Adam R.I.P.George Martin R.I.P.The New Avengers ComicsTrina Robbins InterviewThe Phantom at 80007 MangaAvengerworld BookDiana Rigg Auto ShowThe Prisoner Audio Drama ReviewDavid McCallum novelAndre Courreges R.I.P.Who's Talking on Spy VibeUFO Blu-rayAvengers Pop Art.

July 21, 2017

TIKI OASIS

Event Alert: Spy Vibers, do you have your passes to Tiki Oasis 2017? Every year jet setters gather in San Diego to steep in Tiki pop culture, cool exhibits, cocktails, and fun entertainment. From the press release: "Intrigue abounds at Tiki Oasis this year. Imagine sampans drifting across the Banda Sea. Expect spies and their agencies to conduct counterintelligence resulting in entertainment for all. Our agents have traveled the world bringing back art, rum, and entertainment from countries around the globe. You might envision yourself to be Marco Polo traveling the Silk Road; executing an impossible mission as an agent of T.I.K.I. en route to Constantinople via The Orient Express; touring your Jensen Interceptor or a Monteverdi High Speed over the Alps; riding a Rickshaw through Tokyo chasing agents of A.L.O.H.A.; crossing The Black Sea, the Red Sea, the Caspian Sea, or the Bay of Bengal; or hopscotching the globe from Stockholm to New Amsterdam to Shanghai. If you seek International Intrigue and aspire to join a den of spies, then Tiki Oasis in San Diego is your destination. Don appropriate duds, grab your favorite Tiki mug, hop in your hot air balloon and join us for three days and four nights of fun." August 10-13. More info at Tiki Oasis. In other news, my episodes of the Cocktail Nation radio show are now live: Episode #1(Danger Man) and Episode #2 (The 10th Victim), Epsiode #3 (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) Episode #4 (Roger Moore/The Saint). Enjoy!


Selected Spy Vibe Posts: Spy Vibe Radio 41960s Pop ModelsBatman GallantsAdam West R.I.P.Village TriangleRoger Moore R.I.P.Spy Vibe Radio 3Sgt Pepper 50thSatanik Kriminal OST60s OverdriveMake Love in LondonSpy Vibe Radio 2Spy Vibe Radio 1James Bond StripsPropaganda MabuseFahrenheit 451 50thInterview: Police SurgeonXTC Avengers1966 Pep SpiesBatman Book InterviewExclusive Fleming InterviewAvengers Comic StripsRobert Vaughn RIPUNCLE FashionsThunderbirds Are Pop!, Interview:Spy Film GuideLost Avengers FoundThe Callan FileMission Impossible 50thGreen Hornet 50thStar Trek 50thPortmeirion Photography 1Filming the PrisonerGaiman McGinnins ProjectIan Fleming GraveRevolver at 50Karen Romanko InterviewMod Tales 2Umbrella Man: Patrick MacneeNew Beatles FilmThe Curious CameraEsterel Fashion 1966Exclusive Ian Ogilvy Interview007 Tribute CoversThe Phantom Avon novels returnIan Fleming FestivalArgoman DesignSylvia Anderson R.I.P.Ken Adam R.I.P.George Martin R.I.P.The New Avengers ComicsTrina Robbins InterviewThe Phantom at 80007 MangaAvengerworld BookDiana Rigg Auto ShowThe Prisoner Audio Drama ReviewDavid McCallum novelAndre Courreges R.I.P.Who's Talking on Spy VibeUFO Blu-rayAvengers Pop Art.

July 15, 2017

OSS 117 EVENT

Event alert: Spy Vibers in Los Angeles can see two classic 1960s OSS 117 Eurospy movies on the big screen this month- in glorious 35mm film! Quentin Terantino's New Beverly Cinema is presenting Secret Agent Super Dragon: "Blondes, brunettes, redheads, murderers, smugglers or master criminals – his fire could take them all! Ray Danton is Secret Agent Super Dragon in this thrilling Eurospy adventure filled with espionage excitement, evil super-villains, daring fisticuffs and deadly vixens. After his colleague is killed, Super Dragon is called back into action to unravel the mysteries of an international crime syndicate and their potent new drug designed for world domination." Readers might remember the MST3K version! Second on the bill is Murder For Sale: John Gavin stars as OSS 117, a super secret superspy tasked with infiltrating a diabolical organization of ruthless killers trying to hijack the Middle East peace process. Along the way he’ll come across heavies (Curd J├╝rgens of The Spy Who Loved Me, Italian genre star George Eastman), beauties (Thunderball‘s Luciana Paluzzi), and dodge death at every turn while stopping to inject himself with a daily antidote to the poison coursing through his veins. Murder For Sale is a deliciously entertaining plate of spyghetti and an interesting look at what could have been – Gavin was originally tagged to play James Bond in Diamonds are Forever before Sean Connery was lured back to the series." Screenings are on July 26-27. More info at New Beverly Cinema. In other news, my episodes of the Cocktail Nation radio show are now live: Episode #1 (Danger Man) and Episode #2 (The 10th Victim), Epsiode #3 (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) Episode #4 (Roger Moore/The Saint). Enjoy!



Selected Spy Vibe Posts: Roger Vivier FashionSpy Vibe Radio 41960s Pop ModelsBatman GallantsAdam West R.I.P.Village TriangleRoger Moore R.I.P.Spy Vibe Radio 3Sgt Pepper 50thSatanik Kriminal OST60s OverdriveMake Love in LondonSpy Vibe Radio 2Spy Vibe Radio 1James Bond StripsPropaganda MabuseFahrenheit 451 50thInterview: Police SurgeonXTC Avengers1966 Pep SpiesBatman Book InterviewExclusive Fleming InterviewAvengers Comic StripsRobert Vaughn RIPUNCLE FashionsThunderbirds Are Pop!, Interview:Spy Film GuideLost Avengers FoundThe Callan FileMission Impossible 50thGreen Hornet 50thStar Trek 50thPortmeirion Photography 1Filming the PrisonerGaiman McGinnins ProjectIan Fleming GraveRevolver at 50Karen Romanko InterviewMod Tales 2Umbrella Man: Patrick MacneeNew Beatles FilmThe Curious CameraEsterel Fashion 1966Exclusive Ian Ogilvy Interview007 Tribute CoversThe Phantom Avon novels returnIan Fleming FestivalArgoman DesignSylvia Anderson R.I.P.Ken Adam R.I.P.George Martin R.I.P.The New Avengers ComicsTrina Robbins InterviewThe Phantom at 80007 MangaAvengerworld BookDiana Rigg Auto ShowThe Prisoner Audio Drama ReviewDavid McCallum novelAndre Courreges R.I.P.Who's Talking on Spy VibeUFO Blu-rayAvengers Pop Art.

July 13, 2017

BOND JAPAN LOCATION

You Only Live Twice made its debut on the big screen 50 years ago on June 12th 1967. As someone who lived in Japan, I was always curious about how Bond author conducted his research that generated the original novel (published March 26, 1964). One of the rare photographs in my collection offered a clue to go behind-the-scenes at the creation of the eleventh James Bond novel, You Only Live TwiceIan Fleming had been sending his secret agent 007 around the world since Casino Royale in 1953. And when it came time to plan the twelfth book, the author chose Japan as the main setting. Fleming's timing couldn't have been better. The country was booming with economic and technological growth, and a new international fascination would soon blossom with increased tourism around the Tokyo Olympics. Fleming had visited Japan once before, when he was writing Thrilling Cities in 1959, and he returned in late autumn of 1962 to find elements that would suit the next James Bond thriller. Meeting up with journalist Richard Hughes and editor/architect Torao "Tiger" Saito, Fleming hoped to soak in "local color, factual detail, spiritual inspiration, and carnal folklore." (Hughes/Foreign Devil). They stopped in Tokyo and Kobe during a two-week journey that took them down the inland sea to Kyushu. But where exactly did he visit? The rare photo held the answer. Posing next to a demon statue, Fleming playfully pulled at its belly button for the camera. In the background are signposts that provided clues to Fleming's route. Continues below.

For those who haven't read You Only Live Twice, Bond's nemesis Blofeld turns up in Japan, where he lords over a castle surrounded by a macabre garden of deathly delights. Fleming needed to find dramatic and deadly elements for the setting and his research reportedly contained detailed taxonomy of all manner of poisonous fauna and flora. Kyushu is renown for its hot springs and live volcanoes, and he couldn't have picked a better location than Beppu, Mt. Aso, and the Fukuoka area. Based on testimony in the author's biography and intel gleaned from the signposts in the photo, I was able to create a map of Fleming's route (below). His first stop on the island was the small city of Beppu. If you have ever been to the area, you will know why the author and his friends made such an effort to get there. In the heart of the hot springs rests a special attraction. I can imagine Fleming's eyes lighting up upon hearing its name- "Mt. Demon Hell"! It must have sounded tailor-made for a diabolical mastermind. Visitors to the mountain are greeted by the statues of giant demons, who overlook an assortment of bubbling pools of mud and scalding water. It is a rocky terrain, where the air is thick with steam and sulphur. There is even a place where crocodiles are bred! One demon statue in particular rests on a rock and wields an ominous club. Ian Fleming is seen in the image above at this site in 1962, posing for a photograph presumedly by one of his two traveling companions. Incidentally, Fleming's guides found their way into the novel as the Dikko Henderson and Tiger Tanaka characters. Fleming returned from the trip to complete the book during the early winter of 1963 in Jamaica. The novel was published by Jonathan Cape in March, 1964. Fleming died five months later in August. The book was adapted for cinema by Roald Dahl in 1967. Story continues.


I lived in Japan for a number of years to teach English in a northern farming town and was fortunate to be able to travel the country. During my own trip to Kyushu, I had a chance to follow Ian Fleming's path. We sampled the baths in Beppu and Oita, spent two days photographing wild monkeys on Mt. Takasaki, and made our way to Mt. Aso, Mt. Unzen in Nagasaki Prefecture, and to Fukuoka. Amazingly, Mt. Unzen erupted unexpectedly a couple of weeks after we left, killing many people- including a few volcano specialists. It would seem Fleming's intuition about the dangerous vibe of the area was correct. Below: You Only Live Twice, Mr. Bond, but Fleming's great novel has lived on through numerous editions around the world. Enjoy! Our Ian Fleming image archive hereSpy Vibers, please consider making a small donation in our Paypal tip-jar at top-left of the page. Thank you! In other news, my episodes of the Cocktail Nation radio show are now live: Episode #1 (Danger Man) and Episode #2 (The 10th Victim), Epsiode #3 (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) Episode #4 (Roger Moore/The Saint). Enjoy!


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