March 12, 2009


Spy Vibe continues its series on Spy TV/film production design and the influence of Art and design movements, Playboy, Hugh Hefner, adventure story conventions, and the Space Race.

Guest Set Lists: Lee Pfeiffer, Jeremy Duns, Armstrong Sabian, Steve Bissette, Roger Langley, Matthew Bradford, Wesley Britton, David Foster, Matt Kindt.

Spy Vibe's Set For Adventure here, Set Countdown #10, #9, #8 ,#7, #6, #5, #4, #3, #2, #1.


agent LEE is the Editor-in-Chief of Cinema Retro magazine and author/co-author of numerous books about the cinema, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Classic Movies 1915-1969, The Great Fox War Movies, The Essential James Bond, The Films of Clint Eastwood, The Films of Harrison Ford, The John Wayne Scrapbook, The Ultimate Clint Eastwood Trivia Book, and The Incredible World of OO7. He co-produced the acclaimed documentaries The Making of Goldfinger, The Making of Thunderball and the Inside Dr. Stranglelove for DVD release, as well as the audio commentary track with director Sidney Lumet for The Verdict. Lee is the creator/host of the acclaimed "Let's Bond in Britain" tours of James Bond film locations. Check below and on the PRIZES page of for a Cinema Retro Give-away this month!

1. The volcano set from You Only Live Twice- the all around granddaddy of spectacular spy sets and one that was described of being worthy of display at a world's fair. Amazingly, Ken Adam did not receive an Oscar nomination in 1967 for this production design - but the living room set for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner did!

2. The Fort Knox set from Goldfinger- Another Ken Adam masterpiece. When denied access to the real Fort Knox, Adam let his imagine go wild and gave producer Cubby Broccoli the "cathedral of gold" he wanted. Adam later reflected that it was probably best that he never saw the inside of Fort Knox, as it was probably boring and uninspiring. Adam was also ignored by The Academy for this classic film set.

3. The Liparus tanker set from The Spy Who Loved Me- Ken Adam again (ho-hum), this time with his protégé and successor on the Bond series, Peter Lamont, finally nabbing an Oscar nomination for this huge set which was constructed within the enormous 007 Stage at Pinewood - which was built specifically for this one film. The stage went on to host any number of other major film productions over the decades, even though it has had to be rebuilt twice due to fire damage.

4. The casino complex in Casino Royale (1967)- This is the Whistler's Father of Bond films- generally disdained and ignored because its satiric content alienated serious 007 fans. However, lost in the criticism was the fact that production designer Michael Stringer came up with a terrific series of sets comprising the actual casino where the madcap finale takes place, as well as the underlying complex of psychedelic-themed rooms. No matter what you think of the film itself, this is a wonderful artistic achievement that helped inspire the look of the Austin Powers films.

5. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. HQ- I include this because its simplistic and unashamedly ridiculous premise has withstood the test of time and has become an iconic aspect of the 1960s spy mania. U.N.C.L.E. HQ is located in a giant skyscraper in New York, but the only entrance we ever see is through a dressing room in Del Floria's tailor shop. An agent walks into the dressing room, closes the curtain and adjusts a clothing hanger/hook that opens the wall and allows entrance into the skyscraper. One question never addressed in the series is how hundreds of employees all enter and leave this small tailor shop at the same time every day without arousing attention!

There are plenty of others worthy of inclusion - including just about any major set piece found in the Bond films, especially Peter Lamont's ice palace in Die Another Day. Unfortunately, this rather poor entry in the 007 series did not capitalize on the set. It was photographed via angles that gave very little indication of how spectacular it really looked when constructed at Pinewood Studios. Other worthy mentions include the wonderfully cheesy sets from the Our Man Flint and Matt Helm films and the grim, frightening set pieces used by Ken Adam in The Ipcress File. -Lee Pfeiffer


  1. I knew someone else would appreciate Casino Royale.

  2. Lee Pfeieffer is a household name, at least at my residence! His FLINT commentary tracks get almost as much play than the original audio and I've referred to his "The Essential Bond" book for years. Even my wife knows who he is! Makes me wish I'd renewed my subscription to Cinema Retro this year... :(

  3. How can I get ahold of Lee Pfeiffer. I knew him from early in the 1990's when I was researching the career of Maureen O'Hara. The book I began that research included "The John Wayne Scrap Book" - and it continues to be a reference for me after all these years.

    I have been the editor and designer of Maureen O'Hara's official website since 1995, and also do archival work for her now.

    I was recently interviewed by a crew from Loopline Films in Dublin when they came to the US to interview for a new documentary "The Quiet Man - Milestone or Millstone" directed by Se Merry Doyle. I wish I had thought of Lee Pfeiffer when the crew was in NYC because he had a totally different take on the film than most; one Se would have appreciated. At any rate - does anyone have contact info for him? I'd appreciate it.

  4. I forgot to include my email: