May 31, 2011

GRAND PRIX

The recent release of Steve McQueen's Le Mans prompted some great comments from Spy Vibers about another classic racing film, Grand Prix (1966), starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, and Toshiro Mifune. Robert Siegel has posted an in-depth essay about the film at the Blu-ray website here. Grand Prix was released on Blu-ray on May 24th and is available from Amazon for $14.99.

May 29, 2011

DEAL ALERT: JAMES BOND SETS

Deal Alert: Through June 4th, Amazon is selling all three volumes of the James Bond Blu-ray box sets for $24.99 each. Vol. 1: Dr. No, Die Another Day, Live and Let Die. Vol. 2: Moonraker, The World is Not Enough, Goldfinger. Vol. 3: For Your Eyes Only, From Russia With Love, Thunderball. A great deal if you want to add these to your collection. Details at Amazon here. Single titles not in those sets are also on sale, including: The Man With the Golden Gun $11.49, Quantum of Solace $14.49, Casino Royale $16.49. License to Kill $15.99, and Sean Connery's return to the role in Never Say Never Again $15.99. As someone who enjoys cataloging and organizing, I wish that the films would be released chronologically. I'm sure other 007 fans who enjoy Blu-ray clarity will join me in anticipation of seeing the remaining films in the series released soon. Here's a vote for the next batch to include You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and Diamonds Are Forever.

May 28, 2011

HITCHCOCK & 007 SCREENINGS

Screening alert: There are some exciting events happening at the beautiful Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. They are currently running a Hitchcock festival that includes many of the master's tales of espionage and suspense. And on June 17th, George Lazenby will be there to present a special screening of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (a double feature with Diamonds Are Forever!). Egyptian info and schedule here. The Aero Theater will follow with another double-007-feature of Dr. No and From Russia With Love on June 19th. Schedule and info here. Don't miss these if you are in town. Image of Lazenby and co-star Diana Rigg (The Avengers) from Life Magazine.

May 27, 2011

CHRISTOPHER LEE

Happy 89th Birthday to Christopher Lee! Lee played one of our fave 007 baddies of all time, the assassin Francisco Scaramanga (who had great taste in secret lairs, by the way!). Celebrate with some of our fave Christopher Lee performances: The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), The Wicker Man (1973), Horror of Dracula (1958), Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), Gormenghast (2000), and The Avengers episodes Never Say Die (below) and The Interrogators. Amazingly, Lee's co-star in many Hammer Horror productions, Peter Cushing, was born one day earlier on May 26th! Check out their spooky history together at the Hammer Films website here.




May 25, 2011

LE MANS

Steve McQueen's classic racing film, Le Mans (1971), was released yesterday on Blu-ray. The movie's focus on the experience of the race from the driver's seat, while deemphasizing dialog, gives it a kind of poetry and lasting quality. Just check out the beginning of the race below. Pure cinema. Robert Siegel has posted an excellent essay about the film at Blu-ray.com here. Additional Blu-ray review here. Le Mans is on sale at Amazon for $17.99 here. Vroom!



May 24, 2011

SHE & HIM

Visit the absolutely gorgeous Mid-Century Modernist website for a look at how the She & Him video, Don't Look Back, pays homage to cold war design of the 1950s and 1960s. Is that a Vox Continental keyboard in the photo stills? What treasures do you spot? Link here.


DEAL ALERT: OCEAN'S TRILOGY

Deal Alert: Through May 28th, Amazon is selling the Blu-ray box set of Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Trilogy for $17.99. Details at Amazon here. Soderbergh is currently in pre-production for a 2012 movie based on the 1960s hit spy show, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

SEIJUN SUZUKI

Happy Birthday to Japanese director, Seijun Suzuki, born today in 1923. Suzuki's career hit a major stride in the 1960s with a prolific output of Yakuza films for Nikattsu studio. Always bold to take on inventive visuals, Suzuki is fondly remembered for such films as Branded to Kill (1967) and Tokyo Drifter (1966). He had a falling out with the studio, which kept him away from directing for most of the 1970s. He began making more work in the 1980s, including co-directorship of a Lupin III animated film, The Gold of Babylon (1985). Suzuki most recently directed the operetta, Princess Raccoon (2005). There is a short essay about the director at Criterion here, and many of his movies are available on Netflix. Seijun Suzuki tribute website here.



May 20, 2011

MASTROIANNI LOREN STRIP TEASE

Kino has released Blu-ray editions of three De Sica films starring Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren! Sunflower (1970), Marriage Italian Style (1964), and my favorite of the bunch, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963). This film sports a trio of short stories, where the two actors play couples from different walks of life. The third sequence contains Sophia Loren's iconic strip-tease that ends unresolved in a comedic twist. The scene was picked up years later when Robert Altman had the pair play it out in his film about the fashion industry, Ready to Wear (1994). Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow includes a bonus documentary about director Vittorio De Sica. Kino has made an important contribution by finally bringing De Sica's film to Hi-definition. I hope that we can see Criterion release Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D on Blu-ray soon. Full review at the Blu-ray website here. Kino website here.

May 19, 2011

MCCARTNEY LIVERPOOL ORATORIO LIVE

Paul McCartney has explored music from the top of the pops in 1960s Swinging London, to the avant-garde and electronic, to classical. In 1991, the former Beatle collaborated with Carl Davis to compose his first major classical work, Liverpool Oratorio. The piece was performed live on Saturday, May 21st, by the San Francisco Sinfonietta.


Paul McCartney's
Liverpool Oratorio was created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. The piece is structured around eight movements that are loosely based on McCartney's life, entitled War, School, Crypt, Father, Wedding, Work, and Crisis. The narrative and spirit of the music should appeal to readers because it provides a unique snapshot into the world of post-war Liverpool. The final movement includes the song, Do You Know Who You Are?. McCartney once remarked that the idea for that phrase came from the final moments in John Lennon's life, when the ambulance team presumably tried to keep him conscious with questions. McCartney implied that, even in that moment of crisis, his friend was hassled by identity. Liverpool Oratorio was recorded in June, 1991 with Kiri Te Kanawa and other notable performers, and released the following October (two days after Lennon's 51st birthday).

Here are segments of a 13-part documentary about the making of
Liverpool Oratorio, in which McCartney talks about the people and places of his past and about his process as a composer. Readers interested in McCartney's other journeys outside of pop music should explore recordings and documentaries for his works A Leaf, Standing Stone, and Working Classical. His 1967 score for the film, The Family Way, will be re-released on CD by Varese Sarabande on July 26th. More info at the Paul McCartney website here. Also of interest are the new book and website projects celebrating the career of Linda McCartney here. More on Spy Vibe's Beatles page here. Spy Vibe, 1960s Style in Action home. More Beatles-related weekend news below.






Also on Saturday, May 21st, Spy Vibe creator Jason Whiton screened his experimental film for Yoko Ono at the New Media Film Festival in Hollywood, where it won the best mobile film award. More information on the film website here.


May 17, 2011

THE ORIGINAL iPAD

Is your hollowed-out volcano looking drab? Tired of the old furniture in your undersea headquarters? Summer is coming, and what better way to usher in a new season than tweaking the design of your secret lair! Spy Vibers looking to add classic Mid-Century Modern furniture or Hi-Fi sound to their pad have many reasons to check out what's going on at Design Within Reach. They are currently running an "Upgrade Your Pad" contest with UrbanDaddy for Sony home theater systems and $5,000 worth of DWR furniture! Entries accepted until June 3rd. And if the recent bargain on Saarinen tables wasn't enough to whet your designer appetite, look out for a Herman Miller sale starting June 3rd. It's all happening at Design With Reach here. Stop in for design inspiration at one of their shop locations here. Learn about Herman Miller here. Spy Vibe wishes you a fabulous (and stylish) day!

May 16, 2011

SAARINEN SALE

Our friends at Design Within Reach are having a sale on tables designed by Eero Saarinen. Pick up a set of of his iconic Tulip chairs while you're there! I grew up with this furniture in my kitchen and wish we still had it around. Sale details here. Learn about Saarinen here. Learn about the school my family started in 1916, The New York School of Interior Design, here.

May 14, 2011

KANE!

Movie fans will be happy to hear that Citizen Kane by Orson Welles, often listed as one of the greatest films ever made, will be released on Blu-ray soon. Famous for its documentary-like tone, stunning photography by Gregg Toland, and Bernard Herrmann score, the film premiered in New York on May 1st, 1941. The 70th Anniversary Collector's Edition will not only include many bonus features, but according to the Blu-ray website, it will also include Welles' out-of-print second feature, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)- amazingly its first region 1 DVD release. The Citizen Kane Blu-ray edition is currently listed on Amazon for a pre-sale price of $44.99. More news on the Blu-ray website here.


Bonus Features (Amazon):
Bonus Disc: American Experience: The Battle Over Citizen Kane Documentary
Bonus Disc: RKO 281
Commentary by Peter Bogdanovich
Commentary by Roger Ebert
Opening: World Premier of Citizen Kane Vintage Featurettes
Interview with Ruth Warrick
Interview with Robert Wise
Storyboards
Call Sheets
Still Photography with Commentary by Roger Ebert
Deleted Scenes
Ad Campaign
Press Book
Opening Night
10/30/38 Mercury Theatre Broadcast of War of the Worlds (Audio Only)
10/28/40 KTSA, San Antonio Broadcast of H.G. Wells Meets Orson Welles (Audio Only)
Theatrical Trailer

AVENGERS CONCERT

Mrs. Peel and John Steed of The Avengers couldn't have saved the world- in style- without the brilliant score by Laurie Johnson to punctuate the show's blend of mystery/adventure, humor, and British culture. The 50th anniversary weekend coming in June will include a concert of Laurie Johnson music! From the official announcement: "Laurie Johnson has written some of the most iconic television themes, particularly for The Avengers, The New Avengers and The Professionals. We are therefore delighted to announce that with the full support of Laurie and using his own arrangements, there will be a concert performed of his music on Friday night at the University of Chichester. We are honored and delighted to bring the music of this hugely influential composer to Chichester as part of our 50th Anniversary Celebrations of The Avengers." Event website here. Here are Johnson's opening and closing themes to the 1965 season of The Avengers. The season marked the introduction of Diana Rigg as Emma Peel and the transition to film from video. Note the chessboard intro sequence filmed for the US market.



May 13, 2011

ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN

Start your weekend with The Beatles and their foot-stomping cover of Chuck Berry's Roll Over Beethoven. I've loved this track ever since I was a little kid. When I hear George Harrison's vocals, I can't help but imagine the cover art to the US LP, The Beatles Second Album. I played it over and over on my blue and white, portable record player. Man, those albums sounded great through that single speaker. Go to iTunes and check out the 2009 remastered recording. Chuck Berry originally released the song on Chess Records in 1956- a golden year in Rock history. Chuck is still playing, and there are tickets available for his May 25th show! You can learn more at his website here. Happy Weekend from Spy Vibe!

May 11, 2011

BRAVELY BOLD SIR NEIL

The fabulous and funny Neil Innes (Monty Python, Bonzo Dog Band, The Rutles) has kicked off his tour across the United States and Canada. He performs at the Iron Horse in Northampton tonight, and continues on through Massachusetts until next week. More about Neil's work with the Pythons, the Bonzos and The Rutles on Spy Vibe here. Tour dates listed on his website here. More about satire and surreal humor in 1960s England on Spy Vibe here. Speaking of my favorite songwriters, Happy Birthday to Irving Berlin today!

May 10, 2011

THE 10TH VICTIM: RARE IMAGES

I've been photographing and scanning images for the upcoming Blu-ray edition of The 10th Victim (see announcement here). So many visual treasures! I discovered this film when I was a kid, and it has always defined the essence of 1960s cool design, fashion, and music- all wrapped up in a Sci-Spy package. The image below is a rare magazine cover from Italy that highlights the link between the style of the film and the Op and Pop art movements. The lovely Ursula Andress wears a white top with geometric cut-outs over black. Bella!


May 9, 2011

THE 10TH VICTIM BLU-RAY

Are you sitting down?


Elio Petri's Sci-Spy classic, The 10th Victim (1965), comes to Blu-ray on August 30th! Blue Underground will release a new, high-definition print from the original camera negative in a 1080p wide-screen presentation. Extras include a documentary film about Marcello Mastroianni, Marcello: A Sweet Life (2006). The Spy Vibe archives of international stills, posters, and memorabilia is now being considered for inclusion in the release. There are many reasons this is our favorite film: Ursula Andress, Marcello Mastroianni, and Elsa Martinelli star; Space-age costumes and gun-bikini; Soundtrack by Piero Piccioni; Autos by Jaguar and Citroen; Firearms by Mauser and Luger; Pop Art and Op Art set design. Stay tuned for updates! Spy Vibe looks at 10th Victim sets and Mods to Moongirls costumes.

May 8, 2011

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY

Happy Mothers day from Spy Vibe. John Steed, Mrs. Peel, and Tara King of The Avengers answered to their own spymaster, codename: Mother. Mother was brought to the screen by Patrick Newell (1932-1988), who played the character in a wheelchair. Mother's base of operations moved from one eccentric location to another, which became a charming device for the production team and viewers alike. He could be found in underwater lairs, atop a double-decker bus, or doing business from a floating office in a swimming pool- complete with his trusted, Amazonian assistant. Some felt that his character broke the chemistry and rhythm of the program's proven formula. It was an odd choice, then, to adapt the Mother/mole hunt story when The Avengers was finally made into a feature film in 1998. That may be one clue to the movie's lack of success among fans. Still, I enjoy the surreal and comic nature that he brought to the series. Here is Mother's introduction during the final Diana Rigg episode, The Forget-Me-Knot (1968). More info at The Avengers Forever website here. Image available from the Movie Store here.



May 6, 2011

MOD EXHIBIT

The music, the fashion, the scooters! Spy Vibers interested in Mod Culture should check out the exhibit, Reading Steady Go: Life through the eyes of a 1960s Mod, at the Reading Museum: "The early Mod pioneers were known as 'Modernists', because of their liking for Modern Jazz. They approved of all things new and reveled in the coffee bars and supermarkets that came to Reading in the late 1950s. The town’s Mods soaked up the influences and latest trends from London. They listened to black American R & B artists, wore smooth cropped hairstyles, tailored jackets and neat Italian rounded-collar shirts. Our exhibition intends to be an insight into the real Mod world. It goes beyond the popular myths to show their passion for music, fashion and being young." The exhibit is currently running until October 9th, 2011. Details on the official website here.



May 5, 2011

THE AVENGERS

The 50th anniversary of The Avengers will be celebrated in a major event in Chichester next month. Lee Randall posted an announcement in the New Scotsman, quoting event organizer, Adam Locks: '"What The Beatles are to music, The Avengers is to television,' says Dr Adam Locks, a senior lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Chichester, in West Sussex. 'It was so intelligent for its period, and since. It created a wonderful fantasy England. During the years it was on air, from 1961 until 1969, it had something like 30 million viewers in 70 countries, and was the first British series shown on prime-time in America.' Locks is co-organizer of an Avengers Reunion weekend taking place at the end of June, which is sure to be the largest - and possibly last - gathering of many of the original writers, cast and crew. It will be hosted by Paul O'Grady, who is such a rabid fan of the show that his bedroom as a teenager was painted the colours of Tara King's flat, and who even now themes the decorations of his London flat in homage to King's digs." Sounds great, Paul- we want to see pictures! More info at the official event website here.


Peeling Off the Trench Coats
The crime and espionage adventurers of the post-war era were often found in cramped little, private offices. Tucked way in the back, up flights of stairs, they sat at desks in dark rooms and watched the ice melt under bourbon for clues like one might study tea leaves. These were noirish, manly men with trench coats, 45s or snub-nosed 38s, who seemed determined to charge ahead in thankless jobs, behind in their rent, never to rise above the seedy streets to join the world of their wealthy clients. This was the adventurer of the 40s-50s, reflecting, I believe, the underlying suburban gloom that was dying for the freedom represented by Hugh Hefner, the pill, and the coming youth movement of the 1960s. The youth of the late 50s and early 60s ushered in new attitudes about lifestyle. They rejected the drudgery of the gray flannel suit world and embraced a sense of playfulness and joy that manifested throughout the Arts. Off came the trench coats. International, larger-than-life spies replaced the private eyes, and drew on the traditions of men's adventure, cliffhanger serials, wealthy detective/playboys, and science fiction. Adventurers looked for new apartments with high ceilings and rotating beds, and found something new in their fight against crime- Style!
More of Spy Vibe's article about Avengers fashion, Peeling Off the Trench Coats, here.

May 4, 2011

DANGER DIABOLIK: ITALIAN POSTER

I have a real yen for foreign spy-style movie posters of the 1960s. Mario Bava's Danger Diabolik (1968) often shows up on our radar because of its space-age sets, costumes and soundtrack. Spy Vibers are probably familiar with some of the film's posters and lobby cards, but I wonder how many of you have seen the Italian Style-A design? I love the colors and flow between the forms- and that ripped texture conveys the anti-establishment vibe of the film (there are versions of this poster without the ripped/collage surface, as well). Very cool image, now available through Movie Goods. Spy Vibe Diabolik posts here.

NEIL INNES TOUR BEGINS!

The great Neil Innes (Monty Python, The Rutles) begins his US/Canada Tour on May 5th! Songwriter extraordinaire, Neil Innes, is best known for his musical contributions to Monty Python (remember Bravely Bold Sir Robin?), the Bonzo Dog Band, and the brilliant Beatles-style mockumentary band, The Rutles. Innes began his career with fellow art school pals in the mid-1960s with the Bonzo Dog Band, which became a feature act on Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-1969). The show's cast included future Pythons, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle. The Bonzos also made an appearance in The Beatles film, Magical Mystery Tour (1967) and recorded their hit, Urban Space Man, produced by Paul McCartney in 1968. Their work has been collected in a recent CD compilation called Dog's Life: 1967-1972. I think Spy Vibe readers will enjoy Neil's musical cocktail of humor and heart.


Neil Innes begins a tour of the US and Canada tomorrow, May 5th. More info at the Neil Innes website here. Neil's site also hosts an audio page with lyrics and live recordings, including a great fave of mine, Questionnaire. Here are a few classic Rutles moments to bring joy to your weekend: an excerpt from the Rutles film, All You Need is Cash (watch for some great Beatles parody!), and Neil's Lennonesque, Cheese and Onions. Spy Vibe Beatles articles and news page here. Spy Vibe home, over 150,000 visitors celebrating 1960s style in action.


Readers may also like to check out the experimental film and remix I made for Yoko Ono, The Sun is Down, which screens next at the New Media Film Festival on May 21st in Hollywood. The film celebrates the meaning of Yoko's name, "ocean child," with images of sea animals dancing and moving through their secret gardens. Also recently completed is a tribute sound/film collage, Lennon70, for the recent John Lennon 70th anniversary.






ANIMAL COOL

My film class was busy making Monty Python/Terry Gilliam style animation today. While they moved cutouts around on a black cloth, one student played video DJ with a stream of fantastic tracks on youtube. The clean production design and absolute cool of this House of the Rising Sun performance by the Animals really made people look up from their work. Nice to see that the British Invasion can still inspire! The students talked about being amazed that this was almost fifty years old, because they felt a connection to the era and its style. The tune was originally found and archived by Alan Lomax in 1937, and was then recorded over the years by Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and others. The Animals recorded their famous version in one take on May 18th, 1964. This TV production features a beautiful contrast between the yellows, greens, and grays of the set/costumes and the warmth of the Vox Continental organ- itself a masterpiece of design introduced in 1962. A bit of personal trivia: House of the Rising Sun was the first song I ever learned to play on the guitar! More about the Animals on their official website here and Eric Burdon site here. Vox website here.


May 3, 2011

ASTRID KIRCHHERR AUCTION

Our friend Dave Haber at Beatles News has broken a major story that will interest Beatles fans. According to his post, the New York City-based auction house, Guernsey's, will be conducting a sale of Astrid Kirchher's archive of iconic images. Kirchherr was a friend of the band's during their Hamberg days. A graphic novel was recently released about her love affair with painter, and original Beatles Bass player, Stuart Sutcliffe. See our Beatles Page for news and reviews. From Beatles News:


"This will be a very special auction, it is Astrid's actual original film negatives that will be for sale, along with the rights to use those negatives. Guernsey's is in the process of dividing the archive into auction lots that will each consist of 1, 2, 3, or 4 photographs of the Beatles in their great early days. Each lot will be boxed to include the negative, along with a superior quality digital image on disc and a photographic print made from that negative. It is estimated that there will be approximately 500 lots in all." News update May 20, 2011 at Goldmine Magazine here.

CRITERION SALE

There's no way to talk about art and culture during the cold war without mentioning the incredible influence of the international film scene. In the 1950s, directors like Kurosawa, Fellini, and Bergman, came into world-wide acclaim and inspired a generation to view and create film in new and dynamic ways. The Criterion Collection continues to champion outstanding directors and major works from this era and throughout cinema history.


Amazon is currently running a sale on Criterion Blu-ray titles. Highlights include Fritz Lang's M, Fellini's 8 1/2 and Amarcord, Kurosawa's Yojimbo and Sanjuro, Powell's The Red Shoes, Kubrick's Paths of Glory, Melville's Army of Shadows and le Circle Rouge, Bergman's Seventh Seal, Godard's Breathless, Chaplin's Modern Times, and Wenders' Wings of Desire. Stunning works of art in motion. Rediscover them and pass them on to new fans. Full list with links at DVD Beaver here.



My personal fave here is
8 1/2, Fellini's masterpiece from 1963. The cocktail of Mastroianni, Nino Rota score, and cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo is a stylish feast for the soul. The bonus features include a Nino Rota documentary and an inspired gallery of photographs from the set. Criterion's 8 1/2 page here.



One man largely responsible for bringing these notable directors to the American public was Cyrus Harvey. Harvey's Janus Films formed out of his experience as part-owner of the Brattle Theater in Boston and his love of cinema. Cyrus Harvey died in April at the age of 85. From the New York Times obituary here: "Before they sold the company in 1966, Janus helped introduce American audiences to dozens of films that have since been accepted as masterpieces of world cinema: Antonioni’s “L’Avventura,” Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai,” Fellini’s “La Strada,” and Bergman’s “Seventh Seal” and “Virgin Spring,” which won the Academy Award for best foreign film in 1960, among many others." Janus Films website here.

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