Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

It's late in the evening and no little secret agents with their play guns, martini glasses, and silk pillowcases came knocking at my door for "Trick or Treat" as I prepare for the next three days when I'll be off to Los Angeles to attend Stan Lee's 3rd annual Comikaze. I'll be there looking for spy genre oriented comic books, writers/artists, and anything else that might be of interest here -- maybe even some nods to Bond?? In addition, I'll be working as a freelance writer for a comic books/transmedia news blogsite. I'll be sharing those article links along with my own blog coverage in the coming days.

Reflecting back, October has been a rather busy month for me. The month started out by attending the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhu Con in San Pedro, California in which I wrote an article for Fanboy Comics. The rest of the month has been taken up by my daytime job (got to pay the bills!), writing a couple of blogs (wish I had gotten a couple of more out - sorry about the lack of reading material this month), and managing submissions for my upcoming anthology focusing on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. Those essays are due tomorrow and I have quite a few of the essays already. Of course, I'm still working on my chapter -- expanding on my Spectra*Paris review of License to Kill. Anyway, I'll be in editing mode, along with two other assistants, for the rest of the year. 

And, I have a conference to prepare for and thankfully, the call for presentation proposals has been extended to November 15th for the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association’s annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico next February. I cannot emphasis enough what an excellent opportunity this is to present to like minded pop culture scholars. For more details, have a look at my CFP and to see what the conference is all about, take a look the SWPCA website. 

October has also been a good month for all things spy related. Back on the 8th, for us Yanks, the new James Bond novel Solo penned by William Boyd was released (I still need to order it!). Both Pierce Brosnan and Jason Statham (maybe) will star in spy movies. Some great Archer humor punctuated the month with a youtube video that was in the danger zone. And in comic books, Ed Brubaker (Fatale) has a new series out titled Velvet that is awesome and I'll be reviewing shortly. Codename Action, Brain Boy, and Zero all have second issues out in your local comic book shop. There is much reading and reviewing in the weeks ahead, so please stop back by. Thanks! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Nods to Bond Where You Least Expect, Part II

The nods are back for a second installment as promised here. Although I’ve been keeping a running list, after encountering two in less than one week, I knew it was time to post part two.

Total Party Kill (2013, Short Horror Film)
Now who would have thought a reference to James Bond would be found in a short horror film inspired by the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu? While attending the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & Cthulhu Con the last weekend of September in San Pedro, California, one of the short films shown had a gem of a Bond reference. Total Party Kill is about a group of friends sitting around the dining room table engaged in the role playing game Call of Cthulhu when the game takes a decidedly turn into the realm of reality. Now, I’ve played Call of Cthulhu a couple of times and while there are hit points, similar to Dungeons and Dragons, there are also sanity points that players track. The sanity points drop every time the player encounters unexplained Lovecraftian creatures and events. With that in mind, in the film, the game master asked one of the characters to do a sanity check. He does and responds that his sanity is “shaken, not stirred.”

Have a look at David Milano’s first short film Total Party Kill that was one of fourteen short films included in the Official Selection at the film festival. 

And as a Fanboy Comics guest contributor, here’s an article I wrote about the event as well as my photographs: San Pedro Falls Under Cthulhu’s Spell

The Vampire Diaries (2012-2013, Television Series)
When I’m not researching or writing about spies, I’m usually catching up with one of my guilty pleasures: the world of vampirism. I love the mythos and have been an avid fan from the days of reading Anne Rice novels way back when. Naturally, The Vampire Diaries is on my radar and I collect each season on DVD when it comes out since I don’t watch television. Season four came out recently and I managed to snag it on a pretty sweet sale. I have been devouring the episodes like they were chocolate! I think it was during season three that I noticed that some of the episode titles were lifted from other well known popular culture references such as television show names, famous sayings, song titles, and of course movie titles. It was inevitable that at some point, Bond would come up and sure enough, episode 12 was titled A View To A Kill a reference to Roger Moore’s last outing as James Bond in 1985.

Take a look at the rest of The Vampire Diaries pop cultural references in this wiki entry analyzing episode titles.  

Gone Home (2013, Video Game)
Do you find yourself skewing your head sideways when you get a glimpse of a shelf in a panning shot during a television show, movie or a picture, trying to quickly read and recognize spines of books, games, and movies? I know I do and game trailer reviews are no exception. Gone Home is a first-person interactive story set in Oregon during the mid 1990s. After spending a year abroad, Kaitlin returns to an empty home and a note from her sister telling her not to try to find answers to her family’s disappearance (Yeah right! That warning will go unheeded!). In one review, there’s a pan across a couple of the shelves and bam – there’s a double feature on a VHS tape of Airplane & Moonraker, another Roger Moore era Bond film. Glad the game developer put together two aerospace films!   

Hello 90s! A double feature somewhere in the distant past

Curious about the rest of the game? Have a look here for the entire review by GameTrailers.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell (2004, Literature)
The world of espionage lost a creative spirit last week: Tom Clancy past away from a brief illness at the age of 66. Clancy’s writings focused heavily on the espionage genre – creating gritty, realistic tense-ridden covert operations in his books – during the Cold War years and beyond. He created Jack Ryan’s universe, and then Alec Baldwin brilliantly brought Ryan to life in The Hunt for Red October (1990). I assumed that Clancy had also written Sam Fisher and his Splinter Cell world, however I was mistaken. Back in 2002, Clancy endorsed game developer Ubisoft for the first Splinter Cell videogame to all of the major console systems at the time. Lending his distinctive gravelly voice that would become a trademark for the franchise, Canadian actor Michael Ironside voiced Sam Fisher, the series’ ongoing protagonist.

In 2004, Ubisoft released their follow up, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. The same year, Raymond Benson, American writer of James Bond novels from 1997 through 2003, took on the pseudonym David Michaels and penned Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, based on the videogame series by the same name. Benson wrote a second book for the series, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Operation Barracuda the following year. Although the series continued under the same pseudonym, a new author was hired to replace Benson. This may not be a real nod to Bond, but it is an interesting tie between two successful franchises, and the two central genres that inspire spyfi and superspies.

Image from Wikipedia

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Recap of Bond Reunion Collector's Show in Los Angeles

It was the quite the crowd yesterday at the Hollywood Collector’s Show at the Los Angeles Westin near LAX. My boyfriend and I arrived about a half-hour after the show opened (or 90 minutes after the early bird opening at 9 o’clock). The Baywatch reunion was assembled in the hallway off the ballroom where most of the celebrities were congregated. As we entered, we passed the long queue already waiting to meet David Hasselhoff. Another long line out one of the ballroom doors led to Bo Derek and once inside, we saw another line of fans waiting for Joan Collins. Fortunately for us, the lines for the various Bond stars had not really started yet, but by early afternoon when we left, it was elbow to elbow down each aisle. Many fans were overburdened with oversized movie posters, books with post-it notes sticking out from the pages, and there were a few ardent collectors with wheeled suitcases!

Photo op: me, my boyfriend and the bewitching Caroline Munro

 There were a handful of vendors in the ballroom with all sorts of collectables on sale lining their tables and huge posters hung from the perimeter of the room where most vendors were set up. As seasoned show attendees, we always take a turn of the room to see which celebrities made it and who cancelled. For this occasion as is typical, all of the Bond stars were together: George Lazenby and Richard Kiel headed up at the aisle end cap of tables. Shirley Eaton and Valerie were down one side next two show veterans Caroline Munro and Martine Beswick, who are thick as thieves. Rounding out that side were Tanya Roberts, Trina Parks, and Gloria Hendry. Britt Eklund led the other side of tables. Luciana Paluzzi was chatting with Mary Stavin and Kristina Wayborn, both who were new to the show. And, the show organizers delivered Michael Madsen, who has been a no show for each scheduled appearance over the past few years. Lana Wood was at the opposing end cap. With all these stars, the question was who to start with first?

Just before making the decision of who to will be the first celebrity to approach, I find myself tense and uncertain because I’m hoping for quick easy rapports to develop in the few minutes I will have with each star. While I have seldom run into a star that has been sour to being at the show (thank goodness!), sometimes a star is new to the circuit or is kind of shy, leading to hesitant pauses as either the fan or star takes the lead in the exchange. Or, sometimes, just as you get in front of the celebrity, some person shows up to monopolize their time, taking the attention and time you paid for when purchasing their autograph. And, of course, this happened as I stepped up to the table of my first star of the morning.

Long time in coming, but finally, Michael Madsen - yay!
Michael Madsen looked like he was straight out of Reservoir Dogs, minus the suit, but attired all in black, including his unkempt jet-black hair. Silver rings and tattoos adorned his hands; he had the total bad boy image going on. Mr. Madsen seemed intrigued by my James Bond Archives book, as I opened up the huge book and the pages fanned out before him. I offered him to have a look through the pages of Die Another Day before returning to the title pages for that film where I figured he could sign since there wasn’t a picture of him from the movie included in the book. (I am always a bit worried, especially if the star had a major role but was relegated to one rather small picture in the corner of a page. Sadly, this happened to Tanya Roberts.) I always ask for the autograph to be personalized, which he did, but due to a wannabe-VIP who decided to make Mr. Madsen guess which three films they had been in together (it sounded like the guy had been a stuntman?), Mr. Madsen misspelled my name. I didn’t say anything though because it happens sometimes. I really wanted to wait for wannabe to get through his twenty questions, but my exchange was already in motion. But in this case, there was a silver lining: as Mr. Madsen finished signing his name, he said that since the book didn’t have a photo of him, he tucked one of his stills from Reservoir Dogs into my book. I thought that was very kind and generous of him to do and kindly thanked him.

Luciana Paluzzi was just to Michael Madsen’s right and even though I already had her autograph in my book, we had brought a print of a photograph we had taken with her back in January for her to sign. The thing about Ms. Paluzzi is that she is a bright spot to any Bond reunion and it is not just because of her red hair. Still gorgeous 50 years on from Thunderball, she has a graceful demeanor sprinkled with a hint of shyness that is just so sweet. She mentioned she would not be traveling out for awhile after doing two shows in the same year (I believe she lives in Rome).

Taschen book provides insight to the Eaton's golden transformation
Next, cue Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger and images of a golden Shirley Eaton draped over the edge of a hotel bed in death is one of the most enduring icons of the Bond franchise. By the time we got to Ms. Eaton, the ballroom was buzzing with excitement as fans met and chatted with their favourite stars. My book had a fantastic two-page behind-the-scenes spread of setting up that famous shot, so it was the best place for her autograph. Her assistant cradled my book in his lap as she signed. I think they both mentioned the size and weight of the book, which was beginning to cause fatigue to my carrying arm – a twenty-pound (actually according to Amazon, it’s just shy of fifteen pounds of Bond goodness) book has a tendency to do that!

As hotel receptionist, Valerie Leon checks Bond in
Known for her work in the British Carry On series, Valerie Leon had an impressive array of stills and a rather slick banner advertising her past roles. I haven’t seen any of the Carry On films, but she did star in a Hammer film called Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) that looked interesting (I have a fondness for all things related to Egyptian antiquity) and she did have quite the costume! (Starring in Hammer films did seem to be a recurring theme for a number of the Bond women. I was kind of kicking myself for not taking my Marcus Hearn book The Art of Hammer: Posters from the Archive of Hammer Films along.) Out of the two Bond films, she picked The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) over Never Say Never Again (1983). In the former, she made a brief appearance as a hotel receptionist and in the latter, a fisherwoman who catches more than a fish one afternoon.

Magda's unwrapping departure was unique
Originally from Sweden, Kristina Wayborn was exquisite in her khaki outfit, complimenting her tanned skin and her blond locks were pulled up into a partial bun while the rest cascaded down her back. I think her beauty then and now would give just about any woman a run for their money and any man left babbling incoherently in a pool of drool, such as my boyfriend. Other than her role as Magda in Octopussy, she’s been in one other film, Forbidden Warrior (2004) and several one-off television episodes for a number of the popular American series. She was generous with her time with us, and my boyfriend floated in the clouds when he had his picture taken with her. He had a goofy smile on his face the rest of the day!

The flag marks the spot where Stavin's Kimberly Jones awaits Bond
As I mentioned above, I feel awkward when I meet a Bond star and the book photo of them isn’t flattering or worse, there isn’t a photo at all. If money were no object, I would buy a still, get it autographed, and tuck it in my book. However, in my experience so far at the shows, I have noticed that it seems that being involved with Bond, even a small part, is cherished and an honor. Mary Stavin was an Octopussy girl, then agent Kimberly Jones in the opening sequence of A View to a Kill. Seriously, the photo is of her white sub breaking the icy surface, but she still liked the photo and autographed the opposing page.

Beswick sizzles in Thunderball promo
Martine Beswick (also associated with Hammer films) had returned from some nefarious adventure with Caroline Munro by the time we finished over at Mary Stavin’s table. It was the last autograph of the day and although there were a couple of photos of her fight in From Russia With Love, I picked out the two-page spread spotlighting a photo shoot for Thunderball promos. Ms. Beswick was at the 2009 Bond reunion, so we had met her before. My impression each time is that she seems like the type of person that you could have a good laugh with and has been a willing partner (or instigator) in some devious plan a time or two (I should have asked Caroline Munro!). After getting her autograph, I got my photo with her. Sheer joy!

Photo op: me and the stunning Martine Beswick

Before we took off, I had my picture taken with George Lazenby since the one taken back in 2009 was kind of blurry – that’s the risk when asking a random stranger to take a picture with a camera whose digital display turns out to an image of misrepresentation! Mr. Lazenby is always the gentleman (it’s our third meeting) and indicated he was having a good weekend. He was never at a loss of company or charm – swoon.

Photo op: me and the always charming gentleman, George Lazenby

Rounding out the Bond reunion included Lana Wood, Trina Parks, Gloria Hendry, Tanya Roberts, and Richard Kiel – all were keeping very busy too. I had gotten their autographs in January, so I didn’t spend time at their tables this time. 

My collection of autographs was now up to 23 and I was already plotting who I might be able to secure in the future. There has been the odd Bond star at past shows such as David Hedison who played Felix Leiter twice – Live and Let Die and Licence to Kill – and Robert Dix, the agent killed during the funeral march in New Orleans. Timothy Dalton Bond Girl Virginia Hey has been to one of the shows a couple of years ago as well. And through the various Southern California Cons, I have had the pleasure of meeting long time stuntman extraordinaire Carl Giarfalio who played the warehouse guard who had an “eelectrified” death scene in Licence to Kill. I hope to see them all again and add their autographs to my book. All in all, a productive show! 


My book: Taschen’s The James Bond Archives edited by Paul Duncan.

A special thank you to my boyfriend who, as an early birthday present, purchased all of autographs and photo ops yesterday. Thanks to him, my autograph count is now up to 23!
While researching some of the facts for this post, I did across the tidbit that two Bond girls were featured in music videos with Englishman Adam Ant of Adam and the Ants back in the 1980s. Can you name them? No? Mary Stavin was in Adam Ant’s Ant Rap and Strip, while Caroline Munro was the secretary in Goody Two Shoes

Photo op: me and Caroline's beautiful daughter, Tami