Showing posts with label stanley donen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stanley donen. Show all posts

January 25, 2014


Spy Vibers in Germany can look forward to a Hi-Def edition of Stanley Donen's Bedazzled (1967) coming to Blu-ray this March. A classic Faust tale set in Swinging London, the original Bedazzled starred Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, and Rachel Welch (as Lust). Cook and Moore were at their peak, capturing the style of the times and slinging satirical observations about contemporary society. In the film, Dudley Moore makes a series of wishes to win the heart of his co-worker, only to be outdone at every turn by the Devil (Cook). A great example is the b&w sequence below, where Moore wishes to become a pop star. Cook follows Dudley's "Love Me" tune with this bad-boy performance. A true classic and Spy Vibe favorite (not to be judge by the 2000 remake). Bedazzled was released in Germany as Teuflisch (previous DVD cover below). Behind-the-scenes footage of the film here. Announcement on Blu-ray here. Hopefully the new transfer will see a North American release soon. Related: Spy Vibe posts about the satire boom in England in the 1960s UK Satire Boom, UK Satire/Surrealism Peter Sellers to John LennonThe Prisoner Fallout, Wonderwall Blu-ray

Recent Spy Vibe posts: David McCallum: Son of BatmanJon Gilbert talks FlemingBarbarella TV seriesMeet the Beatles 50thWonderwall comes to Blu-rayBatman StripsDavid Bowie at 67Kevin Dart talks Ringo & Powerpuff GirlsSherlock ExhibitFu Manchu history panelAndy Warhol box set, Six-Million Dollar ManStriped Light NudeBuckminster FullerDylan at NewportJane and SergeThe Goldfinger VariationsMod Tales InterviewPete SeegerKraftwerk returns to US, Beatles BBC on Fresh Air, Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. Artist Editions, David Tennant's Ian Fleming audio books, Atomic ArtModern Architecture LPJulius ShulmanShane Glines Batman, The Prisoner and Captain ScarletDiego Fortunato and Verner Panton, Saturday Morning CartoonsAssassination Bureau on DVD, new Young Bond series, new Hercule Poirot novel, Early Beatles image archive, Julie NewmarErno GoldfingerHitchcock tribute. 

Recent Ian Fleming posts on Spy Vibe: Ian Fleming LettersErno Goldfinger, Ian Fleming Music Series links: Noel CowardWhispering Jack SmithHawaiian GuitarJoe Fingers Carr, new Ian Fleming CatalogJon Gilbert interview, Double 007 Designs, Bond audio book reissues, discovery of one of Ian Fleming's WWII Commandos, James Bond book covers, Ian Fleming's Playboy interview for Kindle, Spy Vibe's discovery of a rare Ian Fleming serialization, rare View to a Kill, Fleming's Royal gold typewriter, Ian Fleming's memorial address, Spy Vibe's Ian Fleming image archive.

October 20, 2013


Spy Vibe takes you behind the scenes of one our favorite films, Bedazzled (1967). Built on the satirical comedy of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, the film offered Stanley Donen (Charade, Arabesque) a chance to bring the classic Faustian tale to Swinging London. Pete and Dudley had spent years crafting characters and razor timing in their troupe, Beyond the Fringe, and their television show, Not Only But Also. Bedazzled also stars Eleanor Bron (Help!, Alfie) and includes a memorable appearance by Rachel Welch as Sin. More in our post UK Satire Boom and Stanley Donen

Recent Spy Vibe posts: Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. Artist Editions, David Tennant's Ian Fleming audio books, The Prisoner & Captain ScarletHMV returns to Oxford st w Beatles promo, Diego Fortunato & Verner Panton,  Saturday Morning CartoonsAssassination Bureau on DVD, new Young Bond series,  Peter AsherGerry Marsden tour, Elio Petri on Blu-ray, Sophia Loren, new Beatles BBC album, new Hercule Poirot novel, Beatles fall 2013 releasesA Hard Days Night cinematographer diesMagic Christian on Blu-ray, Early Beatles image archive, Julie NewmarErno GoldfingerHitchcock tribute

Recent Ian Fleming posts on Spy Vibe: Erno GoldfingerIan Fleming Music Series links: Noel CowardWhispering Jack SmithHawaiian GuitarJoe Fingers Carr, new Ian Fleming CatalogJon Gilbert interview, Double 007 Designs, Bond audio book reissues, discovery of one of Ian Fleming's WWII Commandos, James Bond book coversIan Fleming's Playboy interview for Kindle, Spy Vibe's discovery of a rare Ian Fleming serialization, rare View to a Kill, Fleming's Royal gold typewriter, Ian Fleming's memorial address

April 4, 2009


Charade (1963) A woman’s husband is killed, drawing her into a web of mysterious characters and intrigue. Director/Stanley Donen, Writer/Peter Stone, Cinematographer/Charles Lang,
Music/Henry Mancini, Titles/Maurice Binder, Cast: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, James Coburn, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy.

Often called one of the best Hitchcock films that Hitchcock never made, Charade is a masterful mix of murder, spies, and romance. Bruce Eder describes the film as a unique thriller with a female lead amidst the male fantasy-dominated surge of spy thrillers in the early-to-mid 1960s.

The stars literally aligned to bring Peter Stone’s first screenplay, Charade, to the screen. The script was written with Cary Grant in mind, and Stone hoped to land Donen because he knew the director would give the story its essential Parisian flavor. After a brief snag in turn-around, the project came together to become the classic it is today. As Peter Stone and Stanley Donen mention in their commentary on the Criterion DVD, the cast and crew were able to blend mystery and suspense with humor -a mixture that many imitators failed at because they often let their films stray too far into exaggeration. Charade is a greatly satisfying film that succeeds, I believe because, beyond the style, plot twists, and witty dialog, are characters that evoke empathy by their sincerity to the emotional arc of the story. The dangers and the romantic chemistry feel real. Hepburn and Grant carry the range of the script perfectly. Writer Peter Stone remarks that old movie performances often seem like dated products of their time, but that the cast of Charade brought vulnerability that is timeless- a quality that adds to the film’s longevity.

Arabesque (1966) A university professor is asked to translate a cipher, drawing him into a web of international intrigue. Director/Stanley Donen, Writer/Peter Stone, Cinematographer/Christopher Challis, Music/Henry Mancini, Titles/Maurice Binder, Cast: Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren, Alan Badel.

Writer Peter Stone and director Stanley Donen teamed once again to create Arabesque. Hoping to capture lightning in a bottle twice, Arabesque brought together a similar alchemy of intrigue, style, humor, European locations, and stars. The film reunited some key artists that gave Charade its intoxicating allure. Donen and Stone were joined by composer Henry Mancini (The Pink Panther) and title designer Maurice Binder (James Bond series). Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck replaced Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in the feature roles.

The film is highly visual. Like The Ipcress File, there is a clear effort to push the photography in interesting ways. To echo the plot/character twists and the overall theme of duplicity, many scenes are filmed as reflections- in water, windows, TV screens, on metal, in fish tanks, through chandeliers, and most often- in mirrors. When characters were not photographed in reflection, they were often shot in frames within frames. Though some viewers may feel the approach is too heavy-handed, the photographer in me loved it. Christopher Challis (A Dandy in Aspic, Kaleidoscope, A Shot in the Dark) won the BAFTA award for Best Cinematography.

Another element to the film’s highly stylized look is the costume design by Christian Dior. Sophia Loren is absolutely ravishing, and one can understand why Peter Sellers (and generations of men around the world) had a crush on her! She plays a wonderful, albeit cartoony, woman of mystery, who generates much of the plot twists as her allegiances flip again and again, much as Cary Grant’s character did in Charade.

The baddie Beshraavi, played by Alan Badel, is equally cartoony (and almost a Peter Sellers homage with his thick-framed glasses and accent). Peter Stone loved to give his characters quirks. One of the very fun elements of Arabesque is Beshraavi’s erotic relationship with Loren as a foot fetishist- played out wonderfully in a scene where he presents her with a new collection of shoes to try on. Donen wisely ran these scenes fairly straight, giving the film playful nods to sexuality and style without falling into parody or slapstick.

Where the film fails to live up to Charade is, surprisingly, with its stars and with its script. Except for one memorable scene inside the zoo and aquarium, there is little sense of true danger or suspense in the story. Loren and Peck run through a number of well-choreographed and stylish escapes- including one on horseback from machine gun-toting baddies in a red helicopter! But there is ultimately not enough peril, or romantic chemistry, to sustain empathy from the viewer.

Stone had worked with Gregory Peck in Mirage, but it is clear that Cary Grant’s rhythm was stuck in the writer’s ear during Arabesque. Indeed, it appears that the role was meant for Grant. I’ve read that Gregory Peck would smile when he found the humor awkward and would say to the director, “Remember, I’m no Cary Grant.” Unfortunately, Peck could not deliver his scenes with the kind of sincerity, wit, or vulnerability that I think would have elevated the film greatly. Peck’s performance seems forced at times. Although the film never strays as far as exaggeration, Arabesque does lean toward style over substance. That said, however, I really enjoyed the film for its photography, costumes, the playful sexuality between Loren and Badel- for its Spy Vibe!

Mirage (1965) A man with amnesia struggles to learn his identity and to escape a web of murder and intrigue. Director/Edward Dmytryk, Writer/Peter Stone, Cinematographer/Joseph MacDonald, Music/Quincy Jones, Cast: Gregory Peck, Diane Baker, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy.

Peter Stone’s Mirage, released one year before Arabesque, played often on NYC area stations when I was growing up in the 70s. It's a much less stylish film, but it has a memorable tone of mystery. In the film Peck has amnesia and suffers from a reoccurring flashback of a man falling from a window in a high-rise office building. Like Charade and Arabesque, the dialog is still fairly snappy, but Peck handles the more serious tone of the film well. In one scene, Peck hires Walter Matthau as a private detective. It’s Mattau’s first case (he looks to be a bargain basement choice as a gumshoe), and the two share a fun moment of dialog that celebrates his inadequacies and the spy craze of the times:

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if you did know what you’re doing?

Yeah. Then how come I don’t know what to do next?

Well, pretend you’re James Bond. He always knows.

Hey, maybe we ought to get something to eat. I’m dying for a peanut butter sandwich.

Forget James Bond.

Peter Stone and Gregory Peck's thrillers, Arabesque and Mirage -both long overdue for DVD release- were included in the Gregory Peck boxset (released fall/2008). See the Spy Vibe website to hear Nicola Conte's "Arabesque."

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