June 26, 2014

AVENGERS: RODNEY MARSHALL INTERVIEW

Spy Vibe interviews Rodney Marshall about his series of books on The Avengers. Rodney was born at the height of the spy boom in the mid-1960s, when his father, Roger Marshall, was literally bringing Mrs. Peel to life as scriptwriter on the series. His dad's many credits include some of the earliest episodes with Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), as well as the introduction of Emma Peel and many of her subsequent adventures with John Steed. Rodney has since followed his own inspiration from The Avengers to publish a number of new books about each era of this cult classic. Images below: Marshall's book designs and A&E DVD covers. Welcome, Rodney!


Your dad was one of the writers on The Avengers; he even penned the beginning stretch of the Emma Peel episodes. Did he talk much about the show when you were growing up? How aware of The Avengers legacy were you as a kid?

My first experience of The Avengers as a child was watching The New Avengers, aged ten, when it was first broadcast. At the time I was unaware that my father had written for the original series, or that there even had been an ‘old’ Avengers. My father never watched the show after his period on it came to an abrupt end. I found TNA exciting and disturbing.


Your dad wrote some of the most memorable dialog for Steed and Mrs. Peel. Apart from how the actors brought the characters to life, have you got a sense from him about his own take on who those characters are?

My father’s own take on Steed and Mrs. Peel was that they had one foot in the real world and one in Avengerland, a deserted and often surreal parallel universe. We share the belief that Avengerland is as much a state of mind as geographical locations. Steed was a suave, mysterious agent, Emma a cool but warm sharer of adventures. My father enjoyed providing them with witty, almost Wildean dialogue.


Was your dad a resource for you when writing your series of books? Does he look fondly back at the show?

He is very proud of having contributed to the show, particularly in Seasons 3-4, the end of the videotape era and the beginning of the filmed era. He fell out of love for the show when Brian Clemens began to rewrite his episodes and insisted on imposing his own particular vision. He thinks that The Avengers was a great show at its artistic pinnacle but that it could and should have been even better.

Your books seem to offer detailed synopses and selected dialog transcriptions for each episode. Tell us more about all of your Avengers books. What will readers find? Some of the books include contributions from other writers?


Subversive Champagne, my first book on The Avengers, concentrates solely on the Peel era and looks at a selection of episodes, arguing that the ‘classic’ episodes are the ones where the writer and director combine the froth and charm of witty dialogue, fashion and amusing fights – the champagne – with the darker, dramatic depths of surrealism and implied violence (subversion). The book explores individual episodes, analysing their effective mix of the key creative ingredients. It argues that The Avengers defies genre and cannot be pigeonholed as ‘light entertainment’. It is a show which blurs traditional classifications and boundaries. My subsequent book on the Tara King era offers brief analysis of all 33 episodes. My New Avengers book is far slimmer but offers a similar analysis to Subversive Champagne. I see this ‘new series’ as very much part of the show’s rich history.

What are some of the discoveries you made when compiling your books?

More recently, I am editing a four volume series of books covering every filmed episode in closer detail. The contributors come from all over the globe and their approaches vary. This allows for more variety than in my own books. We are trying to avoid over-intellectualising the show or dumbing it down, instead offering enjoyable readings of each episode. Bright Horizons (volume 1) was very well received and Mrs. Peel, We’re Needed is out in September.

Sounds fun! Maybe I can contribute something about fashion. What are some of the main elements of the show or patterns in the stories you noticed while compiling your books?

While researching and writing/editing these books, it has struck me what a clever, innovative, unique show The Avengers was. It constantly evolved and changed, each season has its own charm and idiosyncrasies, yet the classic episodes share a unique approach: taking TV drama towards a daringly self-referential extreme.


What are some of your personal favorite Avengers moments or episodes?

Personal favourite episodes: The Town of No Return, Silent Dust, The Hour That Never Was, Too Many Christmas Trees, Epic, Something Nasty in the Nursery, Death’s Door, Requiem, Stay Tuned… the list could go on. Steed and Emma exploring the deserted airbase with not a soul in sight is my abiding favourite memory/scene.

From your unique perspective, what are some of the elements the 2008 movie got right/wrong when adapting The Avengers. I believe the film included some of your dad's original dialog. It's coming out on Blu-ray soon. 

The 1998 movie got most things wrong. There are fleeting moments which recreate Avengerland: the opening sequence, the winter snow around the phone box and the labyrinthine staircase. However, Steed and Emma are meant to share a ‘cool warmth’ and are wonderfully likeable characters who we admire. In the film they are cold and almost like good-looking mannequins. In addition, The Avengers was never ‘timeless’, it was set in the Swinging Sixties. A contemporary setting doesn’t work, nor can it function without Macnee as Steed.


I noticed your dad was unable to attend the 50th anniversary of The Avengers events due to health. How is he now? He turned 80 this year? Do the Avengers families have any contact? Have you connected with any of the actors, producers, or crew members over the years? I admit I often wish I could spend some Sundays chatting with Patrick Macnee.

My father is mentally as sharp as ever but physically aged – he is now 80. However, he is always happy to contribute to DVD commentaries and books and he added a foreword on "The Hour That Never Was" to Bright Horizons. I recently contacted and chatted to Colin Finbow who lives near me and wrote the delightful episode "A Surfeit of H20."


Are there areas of The Avengers yet to be covered? Do you have any future projects in the works?

After the current volumes I have plans for a similar, collective Cathy Gale book and another collective one covering Avengerland thematically: e.g. fashions, cars, Steed, Emma Peel, Mother, sets, country house traps, music etc. I’m looking for contributors for this epic project!


Your books are available in paperback?

Yes, each volume of The Avengers on film is (or will be) available in paperback (Amazon) and hardback (Lulu). [Some limited-edition Hardcovers are available until the end of this month on Lulu]. 

Was it difficult to license images for your book covers?

Each book cover has been provided by Jaz Wiseman who is the creative brain behind the Optimum/Studio Canal DVDs.


Any additional thoughts?

My own feelings about this wonderful series are succinctly summed up by Colin Finbow’s recent comments to me: "The Avengers quirkiness and blend of humour and suspense will always have a place in our culture.” (Colin Finbow). The great advantage and privilege of having Roger Marshall as my father is the opportunity, whenever I want insights into the greatest ever TV series, to be able to speak to someone who was there, who watched episodes taped and filmed, who knew the cast and production team, who created some of the most memorable lines, scenes and episodes and who lived and breathed The Avengers from Cathy Gale's emergence to the arrival of the technicolor world of Emma Peel.


Thank you, Rodney! In Spy Vibe News, we are about to reach our first one-million visitors! Thank you, Spy Vibers! Also, my new spy novel about Miki Zero is nearing completion. Say tuned for details (preliminary cover below). Related Avengers posts: Jason Wu Design, Fear and FashionJean Varon/John Bates Avengers DesignerCatsuitsMods to MoongirlsPeeling Off the Trench Coats, Set Countdown #7, Lost Avengers audio CDs.



June 25, 2014

BOWLER HATS & KINKY BOOTS

Mike Richardson's long-awaited book about The Avengers will be released on June 30th. A detailed guide to the series based on years of interviews and access to studio records, this is definitely on my must-read list. From the press release: "The Avengers is one of the most stylish and influential television series of all time, blending action and adventure with outrageous villains and a camp sense of fun. It introduced the public to the central characters of John Steed, Cathy Gale, Emma Peel and Tara King, and made international stars of actors Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson. This is the most in-depth reference work about the show. It covers all aspects, going through the production episode by episode, with full behind-the-scenes details. Assembled from ABC Television documentation, including daily progress reports and internal letters and memos, to give a complete day by day picture of how the series progressed from videotape to film and from black and white to colour. In addition, the author has spoken and corresponded with many people who worked on the series, to give the fullest picture yet of how this classic and stylish British production was assembled. This volume also covers The New Avengers, the South African radio series, the stage play and the 1998 feature film." 810 pages. Paperback. eBook editions will apparently be available soon as well. Spy Vibers can order the book from AmazonUK, AmazonUS, and from Telos Publishing. More info below. 


From an early announcement on The Avengers forum: "Compiled from official paperwork from ABC Television, Iris Productions, Telemen Productions, ABC Television Films, The Avengers (Film & TV) Enterprises and Warner Brothers, including internal correspondence and daily progress reports, this volume gives a day by day account of how the series progressed. In addition to this information, the author has also spoken and corresponded with many people who worked on the series, thus giving the fullest picture yet of how this classic and stylish British production was assembled." Richardson added that the book answers some interesting questions: "Which episode of The Avengers was vetted by The Ministry of Defense before transmission? In spring 1965 Honor Blackman was offered the lead in which primetime American TV series? Further to this, there is the full story behind the proposed Broadway Avengers play and the 1965 feature film project that was to have location filming in the Middle East." Happy reading! 


Recent Spy Vibe posts: George Lois Design & Mad MenRichard Sala: Super-EnigmatixThe SpotnicksGerry Anderson ModelsModel Spy GearModel Secret AgentsRemo Williams Blu-rayBunny Yeager and Ursula AndressDanger MouseLost Avengers EpisodesBig Fun ToysDanger Diabolik SoundtrackBruno Nicolai CDMother's Day (Avengers)Mod Fashion Dolls, Cold War ArchieNew Avengers ComicIpcress File Blu-rayHonor Blackman TourPlayboy Bunny InterviewThe 10th Victim Japanese and KindleU.N.C.L.E. Japanese BooksThe 10th Victim German EditionUNCLE GunThe Saint books returnSpy exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, Trina Robbins InterviewCatsuits, Batman '66 Green Hornet Interview: Ralph Garman Ty Templeton.

June 24, 2014

FASHIONS FOR MOSCOW

British Pathe covered this fashion "Mission to Moscow" in 1967. According to the report, raincoats and other items from the Swinging London era were in high demand behind the Iron Curtain. Apparently the Russians bought over five-million pounds worth of clothing in 1966! I hadn't realized that Soviet shoppers could import foreign goods so easily. What they couldn't afford, of course, inspired young Comrades to develop their own fashion industry based on popular Space-Age and Mod designs from the west. This short clip is a fun time capsule for you dedicated followers of fashion. Enjoy! Related Spy Vibe posts: Jason Wu Design, Sylvia Anderson, Fear and Fashion, Romanian Fashion 1966, Jean Varon/John Bates Avengers Designer, Catsuits, Mods to Moongirls, Peeling Off the Trench Coats.


Recent Spy Vibe posts: George Lois Design & Mad MenRichard Sala: Super-EnigmatixThe SpotnicksGerry Anderson ModelsModel Spy GearModel Secret AgentsRemo Williams Blu-rayBunny Yeager and Ursula AndressDanger MouseLost Avengers EpisodesBig Fun ToysDanger Diabolik SoundtrackBruno Nicolai CDMother's Day (Avengers)Mod Fashion Dolls, Cold War ArchieNew Avengers ComicIpcress File Blu-rayHonor Blackman TourPlayboy Bunny InterviewThe 10th Victim Japanese and KindleU.N.C.L.E. Japanese BooksThe 10th Victim German EditionUNCLE GunThe Saint books returnSpy exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, Trina Robbins InterviewCatsuits, Batman '66 Green Hornet Interview: Ralph Garman Ty Templeton.

June 21, 2014

GOLDFINGER UK STEELBOOK

If your vibe is cool package design, you may want to keep the upcoming Steelbook edition of Goldfinger on your radar. This limited-edition Blu-ray comes via 20th Century Fox on September 22nd- within days of the film's 50th anniversary (Goldfinger premiered in London on September 17th, 1964). No special content has been listed for the disc, but I'll update once it is detailed. Amazon US released a Steelbook edition of Goldfinger in 2009. The new UK package features the movie's promotional design, which is duplicated for both front and back covers. Perhaps the more interesting detail is the choice to use Ken Adam's blueprints for Bond's famous Aston Martin DB5 in the interior gatefold. You can pre-order this region B/2 Steelbook from Amazon UK here


Recent Spy Vibe posts: Richard Sala: Super-EnigmatixThe SpotnicksGerry Anderson ModelsModel Spy GearModel Secret AgentsRemo Williams Blu-rayBunny Yeager and Ursula AndressDanger MouseLost Avengers EpisodesBig Fun ToysDanger Diabolik SoundtrackBruno Nicolai CDMother's Day (Avengers)Mod Fashion DollsWild Wild West Blu-rayCold War ArchieNew Avengers ComicIpcress File Blu-rayHonor Blackman TourPlayboy Bunny InterviewThe 10th Victim Japanese and KindleU.N.C.L.E. Japanese BooksThe 10th Victim German EditionUNCLE GunThe Saint books returnSpy exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, Trina Robbins InterviewCatsuits, Batman '66 Green Hornet Interview: Ralph Garman Ty Templeton.

June 20, 2014

GEORGE LOIS DESIGN

If your vibe is stylish magazine covers from the 1960s, make sure to put George Lois on your radar. His design career includes many prominent logos and ad campaigns, as well as the iconic covers of Esquire magazine. His designs were collected in a 1996 book called Covering the 60s. Bud Plant Books has recently listed a warehouse find of back-stock, so now is a great time to pick up this out-of-print volume. His Esquire covers were also celebrated by MOMA in a retrospective exhibit in 2008. Story continues below.


George Lois described by Business Week: "Every industry has its stars, and in the world of advertising, George Lois is a Supernova, the original Mr. Big Idea. Since the 1950s, he’s had a titanic influence on world culture.” Lois and his advertising scene continue to resonate among the arts today. Pop culture fans of Mad Men certainly feel the aesthetic draw of 60s fashion, design, and architecture. Often called the original "Mad Man", Lois has debunked the moniker in interviews and in his book, Damn Good Advice. Although he recognizes the TV series Mad Men as a hot drama, Lois makes a point to call out Don Draper as a "no-talent, womanizing, drunk, smoking, white-shirted... son of a bi***" [CBS]. Speaking to CNN about the TV series, Lois said, "Mad Men misrepresents the advertising industry of my time by ignoring the dynamics of the Creative Revolution that changed the world of communications forever… That dynamic period of counterculture in the 1960s found expression on Madison Avenue through a new creative generation- a rebellious coterie of art directors and copywriters who understood that visual and verbal expression were indivisible, who bridled under the old rules that consigned them to secondary roles in the ad-making process dominated by non-creative hacks and technocrats… It was a testy time to be a graphic designer like me who had the rage to communicate and, to create icon rather than con. And, unlike the TV Mad Men, we worked full, exhausting, joyous days: pitching new business, creating ideas, "comping" them up, storyboarding them, selling them, photographing them, and directing commercials." A dramatic lifestyle may be essential for a TV series, but Lois seems to be all about the work itself. And for the record, Lois (now 82) has been married to his wife Rosie for over sixty years. You can go behind the scenes of many Esquire covers at the official George Lois website here. Forbes interview here






Recent Spy Vibe posts: Richard Sala: Super-EnigmatixThe SpotnicksGerry Anderson ModelsModel Spy GearModel Secret AgentsRemo Williams Blu-rayBunny Yeager and Ursula AndressDanger MouseLost Avengers EpisodesBig Fun ToysDanger Diabolik SoundtrackBruno Nicolai CDMother's Day (Avengers)Mod Fashion DollsWild Wild West Blu-rayCold War ArchieNew Avengers ComicIpcress File Blu-rayHonor Blackman TourPlayboy Bunny InterviewThe 10th Victim Japanese and KindleU.N.C.L.E. Japanese BooksThe 10th Victim German EditionUNCLE GunThe Saint books returnSpy exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, Trina Robbins InterviewCatsuits, Batman '66 Green Hornet Interview: Ralph Garman Ty Templeton.
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