OUR MAN IN DENMARK: THOMAS PEDERSEN
An exciting journey for all Spy Vibers is when we take that first step from the mainstream spy canon (007, ITC, etc) into the world of international, low-budget spy movies. It was the mid-1960s. Thin black ties, Wayfarer sunglasses, and spies were in! Italy was one of the most notable markets for copycat film productions, where any genre that proved itself with a hit was quickly followed by endless imitations: Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, itself an adaptation of Kurosawa’s samurai success Yojimbo, rustled up hundreds of grizzled dudes on the screen with itchy trigger fingers; Mario Bava’s Black Sunday inspired an onslaught of Gothic horror; And the third James Bond film, Goldfinger, ignited a new world of film adventures based on the proven formula of gadgets, girls, guns, and cocktails. Though reportedly not a great movie itself, the actual title of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1966), sums up why the genre was, and is, so popular and fun. The 307-page Eurospy Guide by Matt Blake and David Deal is literally filled with hundreds of spy films from the 1960s which were often international co-productions between companies in Italy, Spain, Germany, and countries around the world.
The movies are low-budget and usually campy. A number have enjoyed the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment, including one of my favorites, Operation Kid Brother (Operation Double 007, O.K. Connery) with Bond alumni Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Adolfo Celi, Daniela Bianchi, Anthony Dawson, and... Sean Connery's kid brother Neil (see Cinema Retro issue #12 for more info). There is an irresistible charm and Spy Vibe cool that comes, I believe, from the fact that filmmakers distilled the spy genre down to its essential conventions. You will not find fast-paced scripts and Ken Adam sets, but you will see Fab fashion, classic sports cars, truly genre-defining soundtracks (often by giants like Morricone, Umiliani, Nicolai, Wilden, and Piccioni), and action!
The real challenge is tracking down these gems. Few are commercially available. Double O Section has kept us abreast of upcoming releases from Dorado and other distributors. License To Kill has reviewed many rare titles. Otherwise, we rely on fellow fans and collectors to share segments of Eurospy movies on-line. One valuable archive for me has been the pet project of Thomas Pederson, who has uploaded over two hundred clips on Youtube on his channel thmace. Pederson is more than a spy movie maven, he is also an aficionado and collector of great design. Last week he took some time out from a busy week to speak with Spy Vibe before leaving for his summer adventure.
How did you first become interested in spy films? What was your introduction to EuroSpy? Well I am actually a “latecomer.” I have always loved spy films, especially the Bond films. I had a taped from television copy of The Quiller Memorandum that I watched so many times that the tape stopped working. I mean seriously first the sound went – but I still watched it – and then finally it just gave up the ghost. I always read a lot of spy novels: Adam Hall, James Leasor, etc. Films I enjoyed: The Harry Palmer series, Ice Station Zebra, Where Eagles Dare, The Eiger Sanction, Once Upon A Spy, The Tamarind Seed, Telefon, and more of the mainstream stuff.
Around 1980 I saw a trailer of The Double Man with Yul Brynner. It came on a VHS rental of You Only Live Twice. My local video store did not have a copy of the film, so I never managed to actually see it. Then came 1992 and I happened to find a copy in a local rental store. This was before the big revolution of the net -where all of a sudden everything became semi-available. I immediately asked if I could purchase the copy. They declined -but I rented it and finally got to view it. I absolutely loved it. I did consider keeping it and just paying the fine.
How did you become a collector of EuroSpy films? Well many years went by where I repeatedly watched the relatively few spy movies that I had. I searched the net a lot for info about spy films. Then on Youtube I happened to stumble upon OurManInHavana and his great clips from Eurospy films. A comment spoke about a book called The Eurospy Guide. I rushed and bought a copy and a whole new world opened up for me when I got the book and read it. There were hundreds of spy films out there that I had not know existed. I made list after list and piece-by-piece tracked down all the films that I just had to own. I prefer the real thing. So while a grey market copy will have to do in some instances, I still try and track down the VHS if at all possible.
I see your channel on Youtube, which offers 262 movie clips, has had over 27,000 views. Most of the films remain unreleased and your archive is one of the only ways people can get a taste of them. Do you see your channel as a kind of preservation/library for the genre? I try to get out there what I would have appreciated were available. I mean the pleasure and experience I got from the clips on Our ManInHavana's channel was life changing. I hope in a small way I can do the same for another person.
What ingredients make a great EuroSpy film? Style, plot and preferably a noir touch. I like them talky.
What are your top five favorite spy movies and why? Quiller Memorandum – just the best. So nicely made and a wonderful soundtrack by John Barry. George Segal portrays the coolest spy ever. The Double Man -Maybe because I longed to see it for years. I like the plot and the “Dan Slater never loved a damn thing in his life” ending. Yul is one of my all time favorite actors. The Naked Runner -Frank Sinatra in this movie plays great. Though a bit silly they couldn't find a better way to shoot the traitor. Still one of the films I can watch over and over. Mission Bloody Mary -All the films with Ken Clark rate highly in my universe. Severely underrated I wish somebody would let Clark know how much somebody out there appreciates his films now. The Invisible Dr. Mabuse -Saw this one the first time on a vacation in France. Alone 2 o'clock in the morning on a laptop computer. I got the DVD in the post just before we left from Denmark. One of the best nights of my life. I enjoyed it tremendously. Especially the repetition effect in the plot -like in The Quiller Memorandum. Leaving out The Groundstar Conspiracy, Danger Route, Passport to Hell, The Devils Agent, Desperate Mission, Upperseven the Man to Kill etc. feels like a sin.
What are your favorite spy movie settings? Berlin, any snow-clad or rainy European, winter setting, trains with sleeping cars, cable cars, and rooftop action. If you were a super villain, what would you choose as your evil lair? Villefranche de Conflent and a ride in the Yellow Train for my great battle with the super spy.
You mention an unusual interest in Diving Watches from the 1960s. Is that interest inspired by James Bond’s Thunderball? No actually not – though I have freeze-framed Thunderball just to get a look at that watch a few times. My interest in watches stems from Clive Cussler and his fictional hero Dirk Pitt. Pitt always wears a "Orange dial Doxa." I tried for many years just to track down a picture of that watch -sometimes even believing that it was invented by the author. Again success came with the Internet and early eBay. I found the watch and wanted it so badly. I bid on the auction but lost in the end, so it took me 2 years before I landed one to wear. Then I went a bit berserk and now own some 30 diving watches. 7 of these are Doxa's. I am still trying to find a rare Favre Leuba black dial with orange bezel but that will be the last -I promise.
What are your other design passions? I love the “space age” things that were done during the sixties and seventies. When you look at those things they look from the future even today, like Dante N Bini:
Computers: I have a basement full of old home computers (ZX Spectrum, Enterprise 64 and so forth) so naturally something should be included here. The ultimate computer design is the PDP 8/e, Some regulatory authority should have stepped in after the release and said: "Since the final computer has been designed - let it be known that henceforth all computers should look like this." The PDP 1 was also a cool unit.
Bikes: The Raleigh Chopper MK 2 was a brilliant design by Ogle. I used to love that bike in the seventies.
Furniture: The Ovalia is just crazy. Probably not practical at all but the nuttiness makes it a sure pick.
Boats: I have owned a couple of powerboats, but the Riva will always be the only "real" boat that you can truly cruise the waters in style.
I see you list Renault and Lotus in your auto collection. Was that a childhood dream come true to see them in your garage? Well as a child I dreamed mostly of new cars. I hankered after my father owning very nice and expensive cars -though he drove mostly pretty basic Renaults and Citroens.
Did The Spy Who Loved Me inspire your passion for Lotus cars? Yes, for sure. As most owners of the classic shape Esprit it started that way. Seeing that white beauty and Bond getting into it on Sardinia just started a fire that could only be put out one way.
My passion for the Lotus marque was firmly embedded when I got a Lotus Elite (red Corgi model) as a child. I always found great pleasure in building huge sand castles -that I would play I inhabited- and then building a garage facility for my Lotus.
What's it like to drive a Lotus Esprit? We all want to come over and take it for a spin! Even greater than I can describe. A new Audi A8 4,2 Quattro and I tried to outrun each other on the second day I owned the Esprit -and believe me the owner of that car got a bit of a surprise. Though slower on paper, that Esprit really moves if you know what you are doing. It is a real joke that Bond struggles to lose that Ford loaded with baddies. My 79 Eclat and 79 Esprit in my driveway:
Have you been to see the James Bond Museum and 007 vehicle collection in the UK? Nope -but it is on my “playlist.”
Thanks again to Thomas for sharing his love of spy movies and great design with us! I encourage Spy Vibers to visit his library of Eurospy clips. See the Spy Vibe website for video clips of Pedersen's top Spy picks.