March 10, 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 STEVE is a widely published artist and writer. Steve's many projects and collaborations include such names as Swamp Thing, Tyrant, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Fangoria, Video Watchdog, and the fantastic Center For Cartoon Studies. One of his DVD contributions is the must-see documentary on the Danger Diabolik disc! As a fellow film programmer, Steve has a knack for finding unusual and rare treasures, often with an eye toward social commentary and the macabre:


First of all, understand that Jason already listed my favorites, really. And yes, DIABOLIK would have been my #1 choice, hands down. Barring that:

-- I could list all my personal fave episodes and setpieces, but what's the point? Of all the '60s TV spy shows, this was the most fun week after week, boasting some of the neatest sets (despite tight studio time and budget constraints) thanks to its merger of 1890s western motifs with futuristic, at times horrific (the man-sized puppet gallery!) sets and production design.

KUROTOKAGE/BLACK LIZARD (1968) -- Is this a '60s spy movie? It is to me -- and a heist/caper/detective/transsexual love story capped with a finale out of MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM/HOUSE OF WAX/MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN! Director Kinji Fukasaku's delirious screen adaptation (mutation) of Rampo Edogawa's novel and Yukio Mishima's stage version of same is a visual feast, as much for its bizarre settings as for its setpieces. It was terrific on the big screen (I was lucky enough to catch its 1990s Cinevista US release), but home theater doesn't dilute its whacked power. Above all, the 'wax museum' in which the blurred-gender jewel thief Black Lizard (played by famed Kabuki theater transvestite star Akihiro Miwa) preserves her/his past conquests sticks in my mind -- perhaps because Mishima himself is among the 'frozen' lovers?

CRACK IN THE WORLD -- Vet production designer/set dresser/director (though he did not direct this film) Eugene Lourie's design for the subterranean complex scientist Dana Andrews heads in this imaginative 1963 doomsday sleeper has always been among my personal favorites. No espionage, per se, but -- ah, what the hell. I'm counting it anyway.

THE WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN -- Jerry Warren. Jerry Warren. Jerry Warren. Jerry Warren. The Batwoman's lab/lair may be the single most impoverished 'spy headquarters' in film history, and that's quite an accomplishment when you think for a nanosecond about the utter paucity of means brought to some of the '60s spy knock-offs. Thus, it is burned into my brainpan with indelible clarity. I thought of it instantly when Jason suggest this list. I fought it, really, I did. But damn it, here it is. Jerry Warren. Jerry Warren. Jerry Warren...

THE PRISONER -- Per Patrick McGoohan's own account, it was 'The Village' itself that spawned the entire series when Portmeirion (Gwynedd, in Wales) was used as a location for a single episode of DANGER MAN/SECRET AGENT. It took a couple of years to gestate, but the Village remains the heart of the best spy media creation of the decade. There's no more iconic, evocative or haunting locale in the whole of '60s pop culture. It has come to embody the allegorical 'everyplace' in which we find ourselves so comfortably, complacently self-imprisoned, hasn't it?


  1. Wow. Talk about obscure! Great picks from left field.

    I've been thinking about visiting the Center For Cartoon Studies...they're not far away from me, and I made a donation this year. I'm especially interested in the library....

  2. Man, we should have started writing a year ago- I just moved from that area. We'll have to meet up on one of my visits east. And CCS rocks :) We should gather on one of Steve's regular movie nights.