March 2, 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 DAVID lives in Melbourne, Australia, which has often been surmised is the birthplace of the evil organization THRUSH. Melbourne has a population of 3.74 million people of which David is now considered the city’s 3,729,845th most dangerous man (and potential recruit for said evil organization). He spends his time working as a low rent Graphic Designer and writing reviews for Teleport City and his Spy Blog Permission To Kill.

1. For me, as the ultimate spy film set, I cannot go past the hollowed out volcano in You Only Live Twice. I know that Ken Adam laid the groundwork for this marvel with his work on previous Bond films, but this one has it all – Rocket Launch Pads, Heliports, Crater Guns, and most importantly ‘Swank’ living quarters out the back. An area where Blofeld can kick back with a few close friends, and sink a few balloons of brandy. And if the evening doesn’t go well, he can always feed his guests to the piranha fish in the pond.

2. This next choice may be a little controversial (not really). I am going to select Syd Cain’s underwater villains lair from the film The Road To Hong Kong. The film was released a good four months before Dr. No and Cain’s underwater lair for The Third Echelon, and gizmo’s that go with it, are quite visionary. Of course, Cain would later go on to contribute to the Bond series. The controversial bit is – did Cain see the Bond designs prior to his work on The Road To Hong Kong – after all he did work under Ken Adam on Dr. No?

3. Eurospy films generally had pretty poor villains lairs, or bachelor pads for their leading men. Producer Dino De Laurentis threw a little bit more money at his films than many other Italian producers, and that’s why I have chosen Kiss The Girls And Make Them Die. The villain’s lair is pretty spectacular – predominantly red and silver -almost comic book style. The production designer was Mario Garbuglia – who would later work on Barbarella. Many people consider this film as the inspiration for Moonraker.

4. The spy films from Shaw Brothers Hong Kong Studio generally had excellent lairs to house their villains in, and I could have picked any one of quite a few. Both ‘Angel’ films had great lairs – the first having fantastic circular corridors which mimicked the Bond gunbarrel logo. But I am going to pick an undersea lair once again – and the film is The Golden Buddha. I don’t know who the production designer was, but the lair was colourful and dynamic with traps set into the floor, bullet proof glass shields, and housed a bizarre ‘sound laser gadget’ (?) which came across as an evil aberration of the laser that Goldfinger threatened Bond with.

5. And finally, for across the board swanky coolness, how could I go past Modesty Blaise? Yeah, the film is garbage, but it looks absolutely fantastic. The mod, op art sets are out of this world, man! I am not sure who was responsible for what, but the Production Designer was Richard Macdonald, and the Art Director was Jack Shampan.


  1. When I saw the images from Kiss The Girls and Make Them Die and from Golden Buddha (both off my radar until now), I immediately became a fan. What fun sets! Thanks to all of the writers- posted and those coming up- for bringing in new treasures to check out!

  2. I agree. More new stuff to seek out...! Great list, David!

  3. No love for Danger: Diabolik's swanky spy pad? They blew half their budget on that set.

    I need to scroll back through your entries to see if you've got The Jewel Thief listed for nightclub scenes in spy movies.

    Fantastic list, though, and you've got me eager to track down Kiss the Girls and Golden Buddha.

  4. Hi! You'll find the Diabolik set listed at the #1 spot on the Spy Vibe Countdown below :)

  5. Thanks, Jason. I've just caught up and did see that you're all over Diabolik.

    I'm also fascinated by how contemporary designers bring this aesthetic forward. The villain's lair in The Incredibles is a gorgeous take on Ken Adams work. The movie CQ does a great job of capturing the late sixties eurospy/sex spoof feel of works like Diabolik and Barbarella. And the series Mad Men completely fetishizes mid-century design.

    Fantastic blog. Really enjoyable.

  6. Thank you! Did you see the documentary on the Diabolik dvd? In addition to great comments from Steve Bissette, there's a fun moment where Roman Coppola talks about Diabolik and his choices of how to approach the fx and look of CQ. I need to see more of Mad Men- thanks for the reminder :)

  7. For an excellent undersea base, check out "raumpatrouille orion", a german tv show from the 1960's.

    the space ship is pretty cool, too

  8. Just checked out "raumpatrouille orion" for the first time- fantastic! I've posted clips on the Spy Vibe website. Are whole episodes available with subtitles somewhere? Thanks for the recommendation (and to the reader who suggested Argoman- I love that movie! More on that one soon). -Jason

  9. Glad you enjoyed the screencaps.

    As I mentioned the Shaw Brothers spy films had absolutely amazing sets...also worth checking out are The Angel With Iron Fists (which is available on DVD) and it's sequel Angel Strikes Back (which is slightly harder to find, but on VCD).