August 31, 2009
The countdown has begun! September 9th will see the release of The Beatles catalog remastered and the new Rock Band game (and some speculate there may be an iTunes announcement coming soon). Spy Vibers looking for a source of clothing and accessories in the British Invasion mode can find a number of fab outfits and more at BeatleSuits.Working from original clothes, they've managed to make pitch-perfect reproductions of iconic suits worn by The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, in A Hard Days Night, and at the Shea and Budokan concerts. One of my fave designs sported by the group was the Pierre Cardin-inspired collarless jackets worn for stage and television appearances through late-1963. Spy Vibe suggests wearing your fab gear for a night out at the cinema and club, or for a night in as one of the Fabs in Rock Band. More information about Beatles artifacts and history at The Liverpool Museum (see photo above).
August 28, 2009
A Spy Vibe treat to get your weekend hopping- from ESL Music and Chris Joss. The video's room design at the start may seem familiar to readers. You saw it posted way back in the Spy Set Countdown, which included information about designer Verner Panton.
August 25, 2009
A quick Spy Vibe note in celebration. Although he left the role of James Bond and returned- twice- Sean Connery will always be seen by many as the quintessential 007. He had everything working for him: Handsome and charming, deadly and physical, and importantly, he had the era of the 1960s -making his films iconic time-capsules of 1962-1967 culture. This was the era of the space race, the sexual revolution, youth-targeted fashion and consumerism, Swinging London, and despite his famous quip in Goldfinger, the era of The Beatles (prior to psychedelia). The earliest films were produced during Ian Fleming's lifetime. Bond was the original blockbuster adventure (each new film release was "The Biggest Bond Yet!"), inspiring the Spy Boom in entertainment in the mid-1960s. For any Spy Viber who has enjoyed the imitators (Eurospy movies, etc), fun though they are, none can hold a candle to 007, nor, especially, to Connery as leading man -not even his brother Neil/Operation Kid Brother. Connery fit those suits and walked like a panther, brawled with a true sense of animal frenzy and danger, and delivered lines with his iconic Scottish lilt and soft S's. On two personal notes, when I first played with a programmable computerized voice in the early 198Os, I programmed it to deliver dialog from Goldfinger in Sean's accent (the scene when he catches the baddie cheating and confronts him over the radio)! And I have the photo below framed with an autograph in my office, something I envisioned for my adult life back when I was a lad. We love Connery for his Bond, and of course, for his long and continuing career as a fine actor. Essential Connery for me also includes Marnie, The Hill, Robin and Marian, Zardoz, Outland, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Rising Sun. Read more about Connery's career and birthday wishes on The Commander Bond Network.
Thanks to a heads up from COBRAS agent Armstrong Sabian, we have a new design gem to drool over. Spy Vibers will surely remember Roger's Moore's sleek little Volvo P1800 from The Saint. From Autoblog:
Mattias Vöcks is at it again. Back in 2006, the Swedish-born designer who normally spends his days hand-assembling supercars for Koenigsegg used the SEMA to debut his show-stopping custom 1967 Volvo Amazon that was once voted "Sweden's Hottest Volvo." That title may soon go out to another of Vöcks' stunning creations, this time based on the classic Volvo P1800 made famous in part as the car driven by Roger Moore in the British television series The Saint from the 1960s. With help from Bo Zolland from Swedish design firm Vizualtech, Vöcks has added a few modifications to bring the shapely Swedish beauty to modern standards. Aerodynamics are improved by a rear diffuser, flat underbody tray and a front fascia that's been smoothed out and lengthened by 70mm. Powering the beast is a 4.4-liter V8 borrowed from a Volvo XC90 SUV that's been force-fed by a turbocharger and routes its 600 horses through a six-speed manual transmission to the rear wheels. According to a report by Auto Express, this custom Swede is slated to enter small-scale production at some unspecified date in the future. We can hardly wait.
Read more about the classic P1800 from The Saint on The Saint website.
August 24, 2009
For keeping those cosmic rays out, nothing says Space-Age Futurism like a plastic visor! One of my favorite costumes from The 10th Victim with Ursula Andress (recently re-released on DVD), has a slight Gaultier-Fifth Element feel with its minimalist approach to using strips of cloth. In my research on cold war anxiety and fashion, I've seen many visors/helmets, but none capture my imagination and design-love like the one that Andress wears briefly in one scene in the film as she de-planes in Rome. The white strip over her head echoes the overall theme of the outfit with strips connecting her gloves and arm, and strips fastened around her ankles. It gives her a wonderful cartoony look in contrast to the alternating white and black stripes on her companions' sleeves. Add spy-fi Italian soundtrack music and a story that involves international assassins and you can see why The 10th Victim is one of the only films that I look to as a collector of stills and posters. For more on futuristic fashions (including video), also visit the Mods to Moongirls and Fear and Fashion articles on Spy Vibe. Movie stills and posters are available at Movie Goods.
August 21, 2009
Out of my collection of original drawings by Ashley Wood, Ben Templesmith, Hector Casanova, Dik Brown, Mort Walker, Johnny Hart, Matt Kindt, and others, the first and prominently framed piece on my wall is a page from the Chuckling Whatsit by Richard Sala. Sala weaves wonderfully textured pages filled with the elements Spy Vibers love to see: disguised mystery baddies, evil lairs, trap doors, secret societies, revolving bookcases, shots in the dark, gruesome henchmen, Calagari-like streets, mystery solving, and sometimes, strong female heroes in Mrs Peel-like jumpsuits :) Sala is back with a new book due out on September first called Cat Burglar Black. I think he probably got your attention at "Cat Burglar?" Once you start reading, his hypnotically macabre style and humor will draw you back again and again.
When K. Westree arrives at Bellsong Academy, she thinks she's left her cat-burgling past behind her. But K. soon discovers the school has a mystery of its own, a hidden treasure left behind by its founder, and she's the only one who has a hope of finding it. As she resumes her cat-burgling in an attempt to discover the school's secrets, K. begins to question if a normal life is really what she wants. Order here on Amazon.
For Spy Vibers interested in architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright, a reminder that the Guggenheim exhibit ends on August 23rd. The image below, and the interior of Roux Library on the museum's site reminds me a lot of Ken Adam and his use of contrasting spherical ceilings and triangular, sloping walls in his James Bond and Dr. Strangelove sets (influenced by his work on bomb shelters early on). From the Guggenheim: Fifty years after the realization of Frank Lloyd Wright’s renowned design, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum celebrates the golden anniversary of its landmark building with the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward, co-organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. On view from May 15 through August 23, 2009, the 50th anniversary exhibition brings together sixty-four projects designed by one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, including privately commissioned residences, civic and government buildings, religious and performance spaces, as well as unrealized urban mega-structures. Presented on the spiral ramps of Wright's museum through a range of mediums -including more than 200 original Frank Lloyd Wright drawings, many of which are on view to the public for the first time, as well as newly commissioned models and digital animations -Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward illuminates Wright’s pioneering concepts of space and reveals the architect's continuing relevance to contemporary design.
August 20, 2009
From Blu-ray: High-end audio specialists McIntosh have announced that they will release their MVP881BR, a universal Blu-ray Disc player, in October. In addition to Blu-rays, the player will be able to playback SACD, DVD-A, DVD, and CD media. The player will be Profile v2.0 (BD-Live) and support all Blu-ray audio and video codecs.
According to Charlie Randall, president of McIntosh and Snell, McIntosh held off releasing a Blu-ray player until it could provide a universal player because they wanted it to represent a "true McIntosh audio experience." Price has not been announced at this time.
A very special exhibit for Spy Vibers and Modernism enthusiasts in the Bay area: The San Jose Museum of Art is currently showing work by Alexander Calder through December 13th. Calder (trained as an engineer) challenged the long-held notion that sculpture was static and monumental. His inventive, colorful, animated “mobiles” epitomize the innovative, optimistic spirit of early-twentieth century modernism. In all of Calder’s mobiles, his objective was not to represent or refer to nature, but to capture its dynamic actions and unpredictable, living systems. This exhibition will include mobiles, jewelry, and works on paper drawn from Bay Area collections, including the holdings of several of the Museum’s founders and longtime supporters.
On a personal note and shout to my Putney School tribe out there, I enjoyed meals and working under a fabulous Calder mobile for years in the school's dining hall (the "KDU"). The Putney School, located in southern Vermont, has had a long relationship with the Calder family, including two of my schoolmates who are well-remembered for dry wit as much as for their upper-classman inspiration to me as a young photographer. A generation later, I had the joy of having one of their sons as my student. The Calder mobile was donated to the school and, after a long stint in the KDU, is now spinning beautifully in the school's recently completed performing arts center. I can't wait to see the exhibit in San Jose. Hopefully, I can even bring some of my students from San Francisco. The red shapes on the Calder piece below suddenly take on new meaning when I think about the passing of time and of the many relationships and bonds one experiences as a student, and eventually, as a teacher.
I just picked up the first paperback edition of Ian Fleming's The Diamond Smugglers and am already hooked. It's the true story about a master spy-chaser who was brought to Africa to dry up an illicit diamond pipeline. For Spy Vibers who haven't been watching the Commander Bond Network, Ian Fleming Productions have recently reprinted Fleming's two non-Bond books, The Diamond Smugglers and Thrilling Cities. Orders can be made directly from their website.
Variety reports that Robert Zemeckis is brokering a deal with Disney and Apple to remake Yellow Submarine with 3D motion capture technology, and that Disney is working on "a complicated rights deal" that would clear 16 Beatles tunes for use in the film. Zemeckis made the Beatles-related film I Wanna Hold Your Hand in 1978 (which I loved as a thirteen year old Beatles fan). The storyline of the original Yellow Submarine, directed by George Dunning, was set in Pepperland, an undersea paradise protected by Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. When the band is captured by the music-hating Blue Meanies, a soldier is sent to Liverpool to fetch the Fab Four, who hop in the submarine and sail to the rescue. The film traces their odessey to strange places (the Sea of Holes, the Sea of Time, etc), where they meet fantastic characters and monsters. Kind of like a Fab Dirty Dozen, they eventually infiltrate Pepperland, steal instruments from the center of the Blue Meanie's encampment - like a Resistance group might raid a munitions depot - and save the day with music and love. It's a great message in a cool 1960s, surreal setting. I would be weary of a re-envisioning of the film, but something along the lines of the 3D Nightmare Before Christmas project could be quite fun to see.
In a related article from Time (July 23, 2009), Richard Lacayo pays tribute to designer Heinz Edelmann: Heinz Edelmann, the German graphic artist who was art director of the animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine, died this week in Stuttgart at 75. Oddly it was only a few weeks ago, while I was writing about the James Ensor show at MoMA, that I had been thinking about that movie and the whole question of how pop culture influences travel back in forth in art.
In his graphic work and in some of his paintings, Ensor like to draw on cartoonish illustration styles of the late 19th century. That helps to account for the manic draughtmanship of his masterpiece, Christ's Entry Into Brussels in 1889. It's a painting that has always made me think about the mad street riots that break out on South Park every so often, all those jerkily gesticulating townfolk. I wondered if the South Park guys ever consciously drew on it, or if for them it was just one more part of the primordial ooze of imagery we all have in our heads.
Which brought me back to Yellow Submarine. One thing that struck me when I first encountered it as a teenager in 1968 was the way it had absorbed and blended a whole range of artists and graphic styles I was only just discovering — Aubrey Beardsley prints, the little monsters in Hieronymous Bosch, the French illustrators who created that Victorian high tech look for Jules Verne's novels, Tenniel's illustrations for the Alice books. It was a lot to look at and it made me realize how historic styles could have a lot of juice in them.
It's often said that Edelmann became a big influence on Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python. What he didn't do was a spend a lifetime turning out Yellow Submarine imitations, and so avoided the Peter Max formula trap. It may be that he only produced one truly lasting work, but it's a doozy.
August 19, 2009
Comic writer Christopher Mills has cooked up something special! From Spy Fi Channel: A while back, I posted some artwork from my as-yet-unrealized spy-fi comic, Knight & Gale. At the time, I mentioned that I was developing another genre comics project. This bit of art is from that aforementioned project. It's called Skorpion, and is inspired by such Eurocomix characters (and movie stars) as Diabolik and Kriminal. Read more here.
I have launched a new page on jasonwhiton.com for iPhone series projects. Included in the first draft collection are Godzilla, Gigantor, Lost in Space Robot, and many others (and my dog Tango, too!). You can see the web gallery here.
I came across this new book yesterday that might be of interest to Spy Vibers who collect Mid-Century Modern or might need a visual reference for projects (or to ID production design in your fave 60s Spy Films!). It's a richly illustrated identification and price guide for modern furniture and home design. From Amazon: The cool designs, sleek lines and fashion-forward forms of the open and optimistic feel of the modernism furniture and design is as reflective of attitude as it is ingenuity. The enthusiasm and boundless hope of post-War 1950s America, not unlike our country’s current eagerness for a shot of optimism, is represented in the pages of this beautifully illustrated, inspiring, and informative book. Warman’s Modernism Furniture & Accessories features the furniture and designs that emerged during the prime of the movement, between 1945 and 1985. The collection of 1,000 rich and robust color photos, real-world auction prices and extensive descriptions make this a fundamental reference for anyone with an interest in modernism furniture.
August 18, 2009
For Spy Vibers with a taste for experimental grooves and 60s artists working today, there is a new album coming out on Sept 21st by the new Plastic Ono Band, which includes Yoko and Sean, Yuka Honda, and Cornelius. I gather that they formed, as is the tradition with this band, for a group of recent shows and an interesting batch of recordings were the result. You can hear a sample on Yoko's Imagine Peace website, where you can also learn about her Smiling Face Film project, exhibits, and other news. Regardless of whether Yoko is your cup of tea as an artist (and there is great debate among people), she is undeniably a fascinating and creative force whose Buddhist-like subtle conceptions and offerings should not go unnoticed behind the media and hype that follows her. If you would like to look into her artwork further, I suggest the book Y E S, and the upcoming book Yoko Ono (Modern Artists Series). Here is the album cover- great photograph! In youtube footage of the concerts, Yoko was stylishly Mod in a jersey with striped sleeves and short-brimmed white cap. She's industrious and, in her own eccentric way, very cool. All the best wishes to Yoko, Sean, Yuka, and the band from Jason at Spy Vibe.
August 17, 2009
In the Criterion Collection’s new efforts to bring masterpiece films to Blu-ray, one particular release this week should be on the radar of fellow Spy Vibers who love modern design- Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967). As he had done in his previous film, Mon Oncle (1958), Tati uses his alter ego Monsieur Hulot to examine and poke fun at the mid-century fascination with all-things Modern. Tati studied the architecture of airports, offices, supermarkets, and other public institutions during his promotional trips for Mon Oncle, making observations that became his next project. In this outing, Hulot enters an architectural labyrinth, like a modern-day Thesius, and makes his way through a variety of humorous situations. The 70mm photography of Paris buildings and interiors alone is worth the price of admission, especially knowing that Tati's crew built the sets (and actual buildings!) from glass, plastic, wood, and concrete over a production period between 1964 and 1967. The set was dubbed Tativille. They constructed beautifully modern spaces, vast with long hallways, glass walls, cubicals, escalators, and decorated the sets with minimal furniture and props that often became the source of his humor. To trim the budget, Tati used cutout extras for crowd shots who stood in the background to "interact" with live extras.
In one of my favorite scenes (see video below), Hulot accompanies a friend home where he lives with his family in a kind of department store window. We watch from outside as they sit, chat, watch TV, and people pass by on the sidewalk. Soon their actions appear to interact with the neighbors (in a facing shop window). It is a wonderful, quirky comedy play on consumerism and the isolation of modern lifestyles- not to mention a foreshadowing of the voyeuristic nature of contemporary reality show entertainment and the films, The Truman Show (Peter Weir/1998) and The Model Couple (William Klein/1977).
Tati's films are mostly without dialog and the humor is quite charming. If you saw the fabulous animated film The Triplets of Belleville (a tribute to Tati), then you will know a bit what to expect. Much of Tati's humor in Playtime is based on sounds- the sounds of people moving within and interacting with modern spaces and technologies. There is a fantastic essay on this over at Spectacular Attractions. If you read French, check out the Tati exhibit of sets, sketches, models, props, fashion and more at the Cinematheque Francaise.
DVD Beaver: Jacques Tati, the choreographer of the charming, comical ballet that is Playtime, casts the endearingly clumsy Monsieur Hulot as the principal character wandering through modernist Paris. Amid the babble of English, French and German tourists, Hulot tries to reconcile the old-fashioned ways with the confusion of the encroaching age of technology. Jacques Tati’s gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in the age of technology reached their creative apex with Playtime. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the endearingly clumsy, resolutely old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a bafflingly modernist Paris. With every inch of its superwide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, Playtime is a lasting testament to a modern age tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion. [See also the Blu-ray review.]
Josh Agle (Shag) has captured our imaginations and retro-lovin' hearts by mining elements of the Spy Vibe form of 50s-60s culture in his paintings. His universe is filled with evil lairs, bachelor pads, femme fatales, cocktail lounges, Tiki and Mid-Century Modern, and Vespa-riding hipsters. Read more about his influences, career, and more over at Mod Culture, and a cool nod over at My Design Fix.
Part Two of new Photographs made with my iPhone especially for Spy Vibe during our trip to Vegas to see The Beatles Cirque du Soleil show. As I'm currently writing new articles about the influence of the Space Race and Cold War anxieties on fashion and costume design, my eye was immediately drawn to this add for Barneys that juxtaposes the model with an astronaut. See? The 1960s Spy Vibe of futuristic style is still in orbit! The second image for today is an interior study of the Fin restaurant in The Mirage. I loved how they mixed exposed flagstone-style with glass-lit walls and hanging, metalic spheres.
August 16, 2009
I look forward to sharing news of our trip to see The Beatles Cirque du Soliel show LOVE in Las Vegas- Spy Vibers will enjoy some of the costumes and screen designs! In the meantime, I will post some of the Photographs I made during the trip with my iPhone especially for Spy Vibe.
August 15, 2009
From the Commander Bond Network: It’s public knowledge that Quentin Tarantino has been interested in the James Bond film series for quite some time, despite not yet having the opportunity to direct one the films. Now, the Kill Bill director is considering creating his own spy series that would likely rival 007’s own big screen adventures.
The Guardian reports that Tarantino is particularly interested in a spy trilogy penned by Len Deighton: Berlin Game, Mexico Set and London Match. The books center on the cold war-era adventures of Bernard Samson, a jaded, middle-aged intelligence officer working for the fictional Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in the 1980s.
"One of the things I enjoy musing about doing is the trilogy of Len Deighton books, Berlin Game, Mexico Set and London Match," Tarantino explained. "The story takes place in the Cold War and follows a spy named Bernard Sampson. What is attractive is the really great characters and the wonderful casting. I love England. It would be a wonderful life experience to have an excuse to work here for six or nine months," he added.
I note that Granada Television produced the trilogy in 1988 with Ian Holm. No talk of Tarantino picking up the Harry Palmer stories, which may be a blessing as they are so well-loved as Michael Caine classics at this point. Stay tuned.
August 13, 2009
I will return with new Spy Vibe posts on Monday. In the meantime, I'm reading the new book from the Smithsonian about the history of Spacesuits :) and I can also confirm that that the new release of Petri's 10th Victim is an exact port over from Anchor Bay- even down to the menus.
Have a great weekend! See you on the flip side.
August 8, 2009
Forty years ago on Saturday, one of the pop world's most infamous and imitated album covers was shot in a little side street in north London. The idea for the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album was initially to call it Everest, after the favourite brand of cigarettes smoked by their engineer Geoff Emerik. Then the thought of doing a Himalayan cover helped kill the idea, and instead they considered doing the shoot closer to home. “There's a sketch Paul McCartney did with four little stick men crossing the Zebra,” says Brian Southall, author of the history of Abbey Road Studios. “It gave a pretty good idea of what they wanted.”
On the 8 August 1969 that the Fab Four walked out of No 3 Abbey Road, having finished basic work on what would be -and they subsequently said they knew would be- their last album. A policeman held up the traffic, the band walked back and forth a few times and that was that. Brian Southall The photographer who took the famous cover shot was the late Iain Macmillan, a close friend of Brian Southall's, who knew the Beatles through working with Yoko Ono. “He was given about 15 minutes,” says Mr Southall. “He stood up a stepladder while a policeman held up the traffic, the band walked back and forth a few times and that was that.” He only took seven or eight pictures, now in the Apple archive, but they're fascinating for their difference to the end product we all know. (Lawrence Pollard/BBC World Service)
An announcement today that might be of particular interest to Spy Vibers comes from Mod designer Ben Sherman, who is planning a line of Beatles Fashion: Coinciding with Saturday's 40th anniversary of the Beatles sauntering across Abbey Road (at 11:35AM GBT to be precise) for what would become one of the most iconic album covers of its time, British clothing designer Ben Sherman has announced the launch of a Beatles--themed clothing line. Sherman’s Beatles Collection, set to hit stores next February, is all but nine articles: four t-shirts, four button downs and a mod era-inspired Harrington jacket.
Don’t expect the cotton short sleeves to come cheap. A regular Sherman shirt, like this John Belushi one, goes for a mean $45 on the designer’s US website. Given the tight restrictions with Beatles’ licensing- the Fab Four’s images, album artwork and memorabilia adorn the collection- a heftier price tag wouldn’t be that surprising. (Spinner). The book pictured above is My Favourite Shirt: A History of Ben Sherman Style. An additional item of note is that Mod musician and Oasis mentor Paul Weller (Style Council) has also been designing clothing. A shirt based on his original Ben Sherman has been selling well.
August 7, 2009
News made the rounds today as The Green Hornet film announced their new Kato. From Dave McNary (Variety): Taiwanese singer-actor Jay Chou has joined the cast of Columbia's "The Green Hornet" opposite Seth Rogen in the role of sidekick Kato. Chou replaces Hong Kong actor Stephen Chow in the role, originally made famous by Bruce Lee in the 1966-67 TV series.
Col made the announcement Friday. "Hornet," directed by Michel Gondry, is slotted for a summer 2010 release and the project's moving ahead for a fall start date. "Jay is incredibly unique and charming and fights like a wild dog!" Gondry said.
Chou broke into film in Initial D in 2005 in China, starred opposite Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li in Zhang Yimou's The Curse of the Golden Flower and Kung Fu Dunk Secret. He's also in the upcoming Chinese film Ci Ling and in Yuen Woo-Ping's True Legend. and made his directorial debut and starred inThe studio's in early talks with Nicolas Cage to play the gangster villain in The Green Hornet and Cameron Diaz is negotiating to play a reporter and love interest (Daily Variety, July 21).
August 6, 2009
Fear And Fashion in the Cold War jumped off the table at me- and anyone who has journeyed to the Art floor of The Strand in New York knows that there is a lot to see up there! The cover sports a photograph of a model dressed in what appears to be a white, PVC trench coat with matching balaclava helmet with plastic eye holes. Was it a design by Courreges or Cardin? I was hooked and intrigued! Skimming through the book I could see that it was academic, yet accessible, and generously illustrated with fantastic 1960s fashion photography and advertisements that could have been stills from The 10Th Victim and Barbarella. Perhaps it’s because I am currently lesson planning for a Film and Lit course I’m teaching this year about archetypes, but I felt that my Quest to The Strand had been a success. I had found my “Holy Grail” book of the summer. Pavitt goes into great detail about various materials that were adopted from new technologies and industries by the fashion world, and she explores the world of various designers and companies on both sides of the Iron Curtain. I will explore some of these topics in greater depth in the future and focus now and sharing a few highlights and my own impressions and connections that arose while reading Fear and Fashion in the Cold War. Part One:
I assume Spy Vibers will remember that scene in The Graduate (1967) when Dustin Hoffman is taken aside by an older man and given some valuable life-lessons: “I have one word for you Benjamin… plastics.” The post-war climate of fear of the Bomb, fallout, and the uncertainty of putting satellites and people (and I’m sad to say some animals, as well) into space, research and development departments were hard at work to create new technologies that would bring an edge to Cold War competition and survival. Pavitt does an excellent job describing the duality of fear and fascination of this era. I was reminded of the documentary film The Atomic Cafe. Anyone who has seen it will certainly understand how Cold War fears were projected and acculturated as mascots and jingles in the popular culture. The Atomic Age and the Space Race caused anxiety, but they also captivated people's imaginations and informed new attitudes and sensibilities. Where plastics and new alloys had practical applications in government-level projects for NASA and the military, they were also translated into consumer goods. Chemical compounds meant new materials for clothing. Polyurethane could be used to make flexible, lightweight PVC and Lycra boots, raincoats, accents, and fetish wear; Plastics and nylons- by essence and design made to reflect the fear of fallout and space radiation- were now finessed by designers to define Fab, ultra-modern looks for the youth consumer market.
Pierre Cardin, a leading designer in futuristic ready-to-wear fashion, in fact patented “Cardine,” a synthetic wool substitute manufactured by Union Carbide. The fabric could be vacuum-formed and bonded, allowing Cardin to work without sewing, and to apply three-dimensional reliefs, cutouts, and appliqued motifs (like circles, triangles, and targets). His 1969 red plastic cape with white circles has endured and looks to be the poster template for Target Store’s advertising and logo. I wonder if there is a legal story there?
One element of modern life in the mid-1960s was newness and the notion of disposability- indeed a tenet of Pop Art. As car models changed with the seasons, so did consumer goods. An interesting example is the paper dress, inspired by medical/military uniform material and created as fashion as a sales gimmick in 1966. Just as the Archigram group conceptualized instant cities which could be assembled and restructured at any time, the idea applied now to fashion and to ready-to-wear created a boom in paper outfits that were advertised to be worn four or five times, then burned. A true spirit of 1960s spontaneity (!), but criticized by Alvin Toffler and in The Waste Makers by Vance Packard.
One of the inventive culprits chopping paper patterns was Paco Rabanne (videos below). Similar in construction to using plastics and other synthetics, the paper clothes could be cut in form out of Vilbond and color cellophane tape without stitching. The dresses really took off in 1967, a year in which Rabanne also designed a line of Pacojamas (paper PJs) for Hilton hotels. The advantage of the new materials was that new clothes held their shape rather than being draped over the body. These were clothes for people on the go. Synthetics, bright colors, black and white, and silver with geometric and zipper accents offered an architectural, sculptural silhouette of angular lines. Paco is remembered among Spy Vibers for his costume designs for Barbarella.
The look was lean, youthful, and also saw the popularization of catsuits, body suites, and body stockings inspired by sportswear, especially ski wear and track wear. It was interesting for me to track down that the first widely televised Olympics was in 1960, and that the period also saw a great popularity in auto racing and the styles worn by drivers in the Grand Prix and Le Mans. We see examples of sports-influence in Emma Peel’s costumes in The Avengers. And I would extend that to the general Mod look in Spy Vibe fiction that made use of elements like racing stripes and tracksuits. For women, this style communicated the sexual assertiveness and physicality of the times.
Pavitt cites two great examples of futuristic fashion influence on attendant uniforms. The most well-known of course is the airline hostess costumes for the space commute scene early in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. Designer Emilio Pucci had in fact created futuristic uniforms for Braniff Airlines in 1965, which included a plastic space helmet! (that was quickly deemed inconvenient). An example from the other side of the Iron Curtain is the attendant uniforms for the East Berlin Teletower. Guests visiting the revolving restaurant at the top were greeted by hostesses dressed in silver, imitation-leather, narrow suits, and silver trench coats with Plexiglas belt buckles.
Pavitt goes on to discuss the development of space suits for Russian Cosmonauts and NASA astronauts, a topic we have explored here on Spy Vibe as an inspiration to Courreges’s silver and white collection of the mid-1960s. A fantastic new photo retrospective of Space Suits has been published, and I will review that in more detail later. Recently I came across an excellent documentary about Andy Warhol- another artist of the period that found inspiration in silver. When Andy Warhol purchased his loft on east 47Th street, he quickly established it as a center of his public and work life- a meeting place where he could entertain, make images and films, throw parties, and where he could receive a constant flow of pilgrims. It would become known as The factory, and he found the idea for its design after visiting room covered in silver by Billy Name. Images of The Factory were accompanied by a voice-over reading of a fantastic quote by Warhol that I think captures the time:
“It was a perfect time to think silver. Silver was the future. It was spacey. Astronauts wore silver suits. And their equipment was silver, too. And silver was also the past. The Silver Screen. Hollywood actresses photographed in silver sets. And maybe more than anything else, silver was narcissism. Mirrors were backed with silver.” –Andy Warhol
More about Fear and Fashion in- THE FUTURE! References: Fear and Fashion in the Cold War by Jane Pavitt (2008), Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film (2006). Also, check out the blog Paper Pursuits Fashion and the Spy Vibe article, MODS TO MOONGIRLS.
August 5, 2009
"BROADSWORD CALLING DANNY BOY... CINEMA RETRO'S WHERE EAGLES DARE ISSUE IS NOW SHIPPING WORLDWIDE!
We’ve decided that our inaugural special edition will be dedicated to a film that is among the most requested by readers in terms of wanting extensive coverage. If you’re a fan of films of the 1960s, you don’t need to be told that MGM’s Where Eagles Dare is one of the most enjoyable movies of that glorious era. Starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood, this was a big budget, slam-bang action adventure – the very first time that novelist Alistair MacLean had written a thriller directly for the screen. Part spy film, part war movie, Where Eagles Dare was just one of a number of outstanding movies that made the year 1969 one of the best in the history of the industry. [SPY VIBE adds: not to mention that delicious Ingrid Pitt of Hammer Horror fame!]. Original film trailer below.
Over twenty writers and film historians have collaborated to bring you, what we believe, is the most definitive story behind the making of this blockbuster movie. Apart from the wealth of rare behind the scenes photographs – many taken by cast and crew during filming on location and at the studio – we have gathered stories and quotes from people like director Brian G. Hutton, producer Elliott Kastner, stuntmen Joe Powell, Alf Joint and Bill Sawyer, second unit director Yakima Canutt and his assistant director Anthony Waye (now a producer on the James Bond films), art director Peter Mullins – and many more. Illustrated with film poster artwork from around the world, call sheets, flyers, merchandise, tickets and storyboard and script pages, this is one tribute to a film you will not want to miss!
There are only 5000 limited edition copies of this issue in print. It runs 80 pages - a full 16 pages more than the standard edition of Cinema Retro!
August 4, 2009
Spy Vibe fans of Brit Pop and Mod tradition will be pleased to hear that the entire Oasis catalog has been released today on special edition Heavyweight Vinyl Lps. For those of you with turntables, that equals a fat, beautiful wall of sound and attitude! The albums are 2-record sets with gatefold sleeves, and are available in the US at music shops and on-line stores, as well as the Oasis US on-line shop. Fans can also order merch from the UK shop, including a SpyVibe cool bag. In spite of the on-going media life of the band and various ups and downs between the brothers in public, they have continued to knock albums out of the park with each new effort showing better production values, fantastic writing by all band members, and vocal maturity. Essential album/track list below. Visit the official Oasis channel on Youtube. Oasis videos posted here on Spy Vibe as well- including one with Our Man Patrick Macnee (The Avengers)!
Essential Albums: Definitely Maybe, What's the Story Morning Glory, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, Heathen Chemistry, Don't Believe the Truth
Essential Tracks: For Spy Vibers picking up individual songs on iTunes- Supersonic, Live Forever, Wonderwall, Don't Look Back in Anger, Champagne Supernova, Go Let it Out, Who Feels Love, Hindu Times, Born on a Different Cloud, Better Man, Lyla, Importance of Being Idle, The Meaning of Soul, Guess God Thinks I'm Abel, A Bell Will Ring, Let There Be Love, Bag it Up, I'm Outta Time, Lord Don't Slow Me Down, Going Nowhere, Eyeball Tickler
August 3, 2009
Hear Agent J sing! (sorry), in our continuing series of music composed back in the day. On-Line Girl is a bit heavier than the previous lounge-based tunes and includes an audio sample from The Avengers that echoes the subject of the song- a character who fantasizes about cybernauts and virtual amour. Marcello! is back to Italian soundtrack style with samples from The 10th Victim. Schizoid Man is an eerie groove with samples from The 10th Victim and The Prisoner. Tomorrow is a pop groove with vocals by Agent J. Finishing up this batch of tunes from the Spy Vibe archives is the soundtrack piece by Agent J for his short film I Was A Dancer with samples of a master Biwa player from Japan (promo photo below by Agent J). MP3 and WAV music files are over at the Spy Vibe website.