Monday, September 17, 2012

Introducing Eurospy, Spyfi & Superspies

           Bond. James Bond. Uttered with suave confidence in a smoke-filled exclusive London club, these three words would come to define a Cold War era secret agent into a world recognized character. Originally birthed from the novels of Ian Fleming, to date, the almost sixty-year old literary franchise has spawned twenty-two movies (over a 50 year span!), countless novels by a handful of authors within and outside of Bond canon, translated into videogames several times, theme songs that have been popularized on the radio, and even a James Bond Jr. cartoon! While the books were well received, it was the re-interpretation of Bond in film that made the agent a household name. In the 60s, where it would take years before a film was rebroadcast on television (the age of distribution to the home market was decades away), coupled that Bond films were initially released once a year, audience just could not get enough of Bond – they wanted more!
           Given that insatiable demand, various production companies throughout Europe responded to audience demand and created knock-off Bond films. The genre became known as Eurospy, for the European-centric films, as well as the more general, all inclusive term, spyfi and superspies. These films blatantly rode on the edge of Bond’s martini glass: sporting an agent moniker very similar to 007, such as agent 077 and OSS 117. Plots for many of these movies incorporated the easily recognizable tropes of Bond: the sophisticated secret agent with a fast car and a pocket full of gadgets fighting the insane bad guy seeking world domination or annihilation, while still finding time to mingle with numerous beautiful, scantily clad women in exciting, exotic locales.
Hundreds of movies were made in this ilk, however they have all but been forgotten in part due to a lack of availability on DVD, Blu-Ray or even VHS formats and therefore, likely to not be found through on-demand services. Matt Blake and David Deal’s The Eurospy Guide (Luminary Press, 2004), which is currently in circulation, provides a brief history of the Eurospy genre followed by an A to Z plot synopsis guide of approximately 250 movies. This armchair guide does provide a good starting point to expand and develop a discourse, where a scholarly dialogue is presently lacking. It is my intent to have this blog chip away at that gap and build a conversation that pushes beyond the label of being knock-off Bond flicks, to discover their social and historical significance to the 1960s world and their place in cinema studies as a whole.
In my blog next Monday, I’ll provide a historical perspective of the Eurospy as a genre, born out paranoia taking root on the eve of World War I, shaped by the Second War, and both peaking and dying during Cold War climate of the1960s only to find a resurgence once again in contemporary cinema.