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TIFF BELL Lightbox - Beyond Bond

01 Nov 2012

BEYOND BOND (Nov 9 - Jan18)

This series of spy films, some serious some spoofs rode on the wave of the popularity of the spy genre in the 60’s and 70’s. Like James Bond, many other secret agents emerged and were successful enough to spurn more than one or two sequels.  Dean Martin as Matt Helm started off with THE SILENCERS followed by MURDERERS’ ROW, then THE AMBUSHERS and THE WRECKING CREW.  OSS 117 had a reboot from the serious Frederick Forsyth to comical Jean Dujardin of THE ARTIST fame.

Several other cheeky spinoffs arose such as agent Hugh Bulldog Drummond in DEADLIER THAN THE MALE which spawned one bad sequel, SOME GIRLS DO.  Anthony Hopkins had his run with the Alistair McLean novels and so did others like Richard Burton (THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD), Paul Newman (Alfred Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN) and Christopher Jones (THE LOOKING GLASS WAR) in mores serious cold war spy films.

THE SPY WITH THE COLD NOSE and THE SPY IN LACE PANTIES (with Doris Day) are also funny comedies that arose from the spy genre.

TIFF Cinematheque brings nostalgia to Toronto with a lot of favuorites including one of my all time favourites, Monica Vitti in Joseph Losey’s MODESTY BLAISE.  For the complete program, show times, venue and ticket pricing, check the website at:




Directed by Ralph Thomas

 The first of two films featuring the character of secret agent Hugh ‘Bulldog’ Drummond (Richard Johnson who was director Terence Young’s first choice to play Bond) is camp action comedy with lots of sex and a bit of nastiness. ·The sex comes in the form of two sexy assassins played by Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina at the height of their fame. ·They are employees of diabolical mastermind Carl Peterson (Nigel Green) who plans to make more millions by assassinating King Fedra who owns many oil fields.· Johnson makes a suave enough hero, getting all the ladies just as Matt Helm does, minus the singing. ·The film has bits of uncomfortable torture as in the scenes in which Drummond’s nephew (Steve Carlson) get burned by a cigarette and a match when he refuses to provide information. ·The climax when Drummond fights Peterson using giant motorized chess pieces is impressively executed as is the hilarious end of the two bombshells when they literally blow up.

THE IPCRESS FILE (UK 1966) ****1/2

Directed by Sidney J. Furie



The first and best of the 3 Harry Palmer films based on Len Deighton’s 1962 novel shows the super spy in a different vein.  Unlike his 007 James Bond counterpart, Palmer (Michael Caine) is a spectacled bloke who takes London Transport than travelling in Aston Martins.  Producer Harry Saltzman and film editor Peter Hunt of the James Bond films are involved in the same capacity in this film, as if they are making a proper serious spy film with no-nonsense.  The plot involves the brainwashing and kidnapping of British scientists.  Palmer whose job is to solve the problem finds that he has to deal with bureaucracy, a cranky egotistic boss (Nigel Green) and the fact that he thinks he has been chosen because he is expendable.  Even the bird (Sue Lloyd) who has moved in with him could be a spy.  The vulnerable super spy is also subject to weeks of cruel torture including the brainwashing process which he eventually overcomes credibly.  The climax is more suspense than action.  THE IPCRESS FILE was the voted the Best British Film of the year and deservedly so.  THE IPCRESS FILE is compelling from start to finish.

OSS 117: RIO NE REPOND PLUS (France 2009) ***
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius

OSS 117 is the codename for Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, a fictional secret agent from the novels by French author Jena Bruce.  Films have been made on the adventures of OSS 117, the character played by various actors, the most recent being Frederic Stafford and the last by Jean Dujardin and directed by Michel Hazanavicius (THE ARTIST).   In this film, agent OSS 117 is depicted as a self-centred, racist, dimwitted and politically incorrect oaf.  But 117 still gets the ladies and the job done.  So, considered by his superiors to be the best in the business, he is sent on a mission to Rio de Janeiro, to find a former high-ranking Nazi who went into exile in South America after the war.  His eventful investigation takes him all across Brazil, from Rio to Brasilia and the Iguazu Falls, accompanied by a charming Mossad agent (Louise Monot) who is also looking for the Nazi.  This is the second entry of the series, and not as funny as the original (OSS 117: CAIRO NEST OF SPIES).  But this spoof of Bond still has its moments, the best being the agent unsuccessfully roasting a crocodile in order to impress his lady.  The success of the two 117 films allowed Hazanavicius to get funding for THE ARTIST which went on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

Directed by Phil Karlson

This is American James bond in the form of a continuously drinking and self assured playboy spy Matt Helm (played by Dean Martin) based on a series of novels by Donald Hamilton.  The plot could be something right out of an Ian Fleming novel but the film is one of the most camp the Americans have ever done.  Helm is coaxed out of retirement by ex-girlfriend Tina (Daliah Lavi) to save the world from Tung-Tze (Victor Buono) from the Big O Organization who wants to control the world by sabotaging atomic missiles.   Buono looks as Chinese and is as outrageous as Joseph Wiseman in the first Bond film DR. NO.  And Roger C. Carmel looks like Oddjob SAKATA in GOLDFINGER.  But THE SILENCERS, the first and best of the Matt Helm series is a bit tardy in direction but by no means less entertaining.  The song and dance numbers are out of this world.  Dean Martin occasionally croons songs as if right out of his Dean Martin Show.  But the filmmakers have done something right, as the film spawned 3 sequels after this one.


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