January 31, 2011

JOHN BARRY: 1933-2011

Film composer, John Barry, passed away yesterday at the age of 77. Spy Vibers around the world mourn his loss and celebrate his extraordinary contributions to the arts. Barry is best remembered for establishing the sound of the James Bond movies. Barry scored the first seven films in the series and 12 overall. He also composed the scores to many notable films, including Enigma, Chaplin, Dances With Wolves, Out of Africa, Hammett, Petulia, The Quiller Memorandum, The Wrong Box, Born Free, Knack... and How to Get it, The Ipcress File, Seance on a Sunday Afternoon, and Zulu. Director Federico Fellini is said to have confessed that Barry's music for Goldfinger (1964) was his favorite soundtrack. John Bary was married four times, including a marriage to Jane Birkin 1965-1968, seen below at the height of Bondmania in 1965. Barry is survived by four children, five grandchildren, and his wife, Laurie Barry.

My favorite John Barry score is
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Not only did it include the heart-felt "We Have All the Time in the World" with vocals sung by Louis Armstrong, the theme itself is a kind of cinematic masterpiece that captures the vulnerability and persistence-under-fire that surrounds the Bond character in the film. What is your favorite James Bond music?

Additional information at Film Score Monthly here, and The Gaurdian here. Tribute at Double O Section here.


In addition to the original Manchurian Candidate, Best Buy has announced that they will also release The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) on Blu-ray on February 1st. This classic heist film stars Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway and boasts stylish art direction by Robert Boyle (North By Northwest). Soundtrack by Michael Legrand (Never Say Never Again, Ice Station Zebra, Who Are You Polly Maggoo?, Code Name Jaguar, Agent 38-24-36, Band of Outsiders). More on Thomas Crown in the future. Stop in to Best Buy and check out their complete line of exclusive releases.

January 28, 2011


In the months following the end of WWII, Orson Welles was hired to direct a film called The Stranger (1946). The story focuses on a War Crimes Commission investigator, Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), who is a Nazi hunter on the trail of Franz Kindler, mastermind of the Holocaust. Clues lead him to a small university town in the United States, where the last man who can identify Kindler turns up murdered! As the investigation continues, the shadow of suspicion begins to fall on professor Charles Rankin (Orson Welles).

The Stranger may not be remembered as one of Welles' top-shelf projects, but it's always been one of my favorites. It's also interesting as a reflection of its era. The film includes concentration camp footage, the first ever to be seen in a feature picture, and the story itself reveals a world trying to unravel and respond to the horrors of the war. Although many of Welles' sequences were cut by the studio, something that plagued his career as a creator, the final cut of the film remains a classic thriller. Readers might be interested to know that Welles, on principle, never liked to see real misery exploited for entertainment. But in this case, he felt that using the film to spread the truth about the Holocaust was an important opportunity not to be shied away from. The Stranger will be released in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on February 15th by Film Chest and Virgil Films & Entertainment (formerly Arts Alliance America). The print is said to be digitally restored from 35mm film assets, and fans are hoping that the movie will finally find the restoration it deserves after years on the public domain market. The Blu-ray is available for pre-order at $11.99 on Amazon here.

Orson Welles truly earned his reputation as a narrative genius. Spy Vibers would especially enjoy his work as an actor (and story contributor) in Carol Reed's
The Third Man and his appearance in Casino Royale (1967). His must-see thrillers include The Lady From Shanghai, Touch of Evil, and Mr. Arkadin. Other classics include The Trial, Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and F is For Fake. There is much to explore in Orson Welles, including his prolific adaptations of Shakespeare. For more on Welles, see the inspiring and illuminating This is Orson Welles by Peter Bogdanovich.


Your humble Spy Vibe host missed out on a very rare photo still from his fave film, The 10th Victim (1965), last night on eBay. Verdammt. I've collected materials from the film over many years and it's very rare to see an item surface that hasn't been circulating. That part of the story is quite nice, especially in this age of image proliferation on the Internet. Wish me luck that it'll turn up again, or that perhaps the buyer who outbid me will contribute the image to a book I'm writing.


The volcano in Japan that served as the location of Blofeld's secret lair in You Only Live Twice has erupted. Was a bald man wearing a Nehru jacket seen fleeing the scene? See details here.

January 27, 2011


The Criterion Collection released Eclipse Series 25:: Basil Dearden's London Underground this week, which includes some films that will appeal to Spy Vibers. The League of Gentlemen (1960) is a classic heist film in the spirit of Rififi and sports an all-star cast (and cool imagery-see below). Another film in the set is the rare All Night Long (1962), which stars Patrick McGoohan (Danger Man/Secret Agent, The Prisoner) as a Jazz drummer. Check out his chops below! The film also includes "jazz legends Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, Johnny Dankworth, and Tubby Hayes, whose many performances provide some stunning aural and visual interludes (Brubeck fans will swoon over close-ups of the pianist’s fingers tickling the ivories)." More info on the Criterion website here.


The sale at Design Within Reach is slowly winding down. If you haven't yet, check out the many pieces that would put the "gerrr" in swinger for any pad or secret lair project. A dash of Our Man Flint or Matt Helm? Maybe a stylish recliner or a Saarinen? Info here.

January 26, 2011


One of my favorite episodes of Secret Agent/Danger Man with Patrick McGoohan. Like many, the story plays out like a solid film. Secrets are being passed through a government man who thinks he's being controlled by a British network. Drake goes to investigate and discovers much more than he bargained for. Yesterday's Enemies is filled with cold war intrigue and the level of dastardly doings that one can imagine drove Drake to retirement. Did McGoohan retire just the show, or did Drake become The Prisoner? Check out this episode if you're looking for a good place to jump into the world of John Drake. Here is a sample clip.

January 25, 2011


From the clues posted by Amazon this morning, it appears that the Secret Agent/Danger Man DVD set will be their lightning sale today starting at 6pm (pacific). Lightning sales only last an hour, or until all supplies are claimed, so move quickly if you want to add this must-see series to your library at a discounted price. For more information about the history of the series, see the DVD megaset review on our fellow C.O.B.R.A.S. site, Double O Section here.

January 24, 2011


The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is one of the most powerful cold war films ever produced. Although many movies and spy-style shows of the period reflected a then-current fear and fascination with brainwashing, none could hold a candle to this classic. The character development and meaty performances by Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey brought a palatable weight that continues to hold up for modern viewers. Although real brainwashing is said to be quite different, this tragic movie plays on the familiar device of the evil manipulation of an individual to become a weapon against their own circle under the power of hypnotic suggestion. I recommend the film highly, though Spy Vibers should be prepared for its dark message. It would sit rather well with the John le Carre films if anyone is interested in having a chilly cold war marathon. The film will be released on Blu-ray through a Best Buy exclusive deal on May 3rd. Blu-ray news link here.

January 23, 2011


Coming to region #1 DVD this Tuesday, here is a clip from Man in a Suitcase. The fab soundtrack is available from Network here.

January 22, 2011


Upcoming spy DVD: Man in a Suitcase will be released on the 25th in a region #1 set from Acorn Media. From Amazon:

Bearing one of the miniskirt era's groovier theme songs, Britain's Man in a Suitcase presents a scenario similar to ITC's Danger Man (Secret Agent Man in the United Sates). After American intelligence gives him the boot for facilitating a high-profile defection, "Mac" McGill (Richard Bradford, The Untouchables) remains in London as a freelance detective. In the Charles Crichton-directed opener, "Brainwash," a band of political exiles pressures him to lie in order to get back what they've lost. When McGill refuses to play along, they torture him using the sort of mind-control methods featured in The Manchurian Candidate. (Best known for The Lavender Hill Mob, Crichton also directed "Day of Execution.")

A silver-haired chain smoker, McGill escapes by virtue of his fists and his smarts. Though he carries a gun, he prefers to use a well-placed karate chop. While Bradford's Method mumble adds to McGill's veneer of insouciant cool, his beach attire--tube socks!--is another matter. During the first season, the PI keeps an eye on an informer (George Sewell) in "The Sitting Pigeon," searches for the boss (John Barrie) who can clear his name in "Man from the Dead," and looks out for an old college buddy (a lanky young Donald Sutherland) in "Day of Execution." If he has time for a few girlfriends, a long-term commitment is out of the question.

Created by Richard Harris and Dennis Spooner (The Avengers), Man in a Suitcase ran for one 30-episode season. Other notable participants include actor Peter Vaughn and Room at the Top cinematographer Freddie Francis. McGill may be less sympathetic than Patrick McGoohan's John Drake, but the combination of visceral action and subtle humor makes for an enjoyable addition to the small-screen spy genre. This boxed set includes the first 15 episodes in the series plus four photo galleries, one for each disc. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

January 21, 2011


Marisa Mell invites Spy Vibers to transition now to the weekend. Red-hot pantsuit or space gear is optional, but encouraged.


Happy Friday to all Spy Vibers! A classic image for you today of Shirley Eaton painted in gold paint (Goldfinger). The image was featured on the cover of Life magazine in November 1964. If you've ever wanted a signed photo of Shirley, or other Bond folk, check out the official website Bond Stars. See Life's best Bond girls here.


Jonathan Ross chats with James Bond insiders about the 007 films in this documentary. Guests include Desmond Llewelyn, Hugh Hefner, Paul McCartney, and all of the Bond actors.

January 19, 2011


One of best episodes of The Monkees, The Spy Who Came in From the Cool (1966), is a surreal send-up of spy boom conventions. The band is recruited to bait some foreign agents with microfilm and capture their confession of espionage on tape. In typical mid-60s fashion, the plot quickly explodes into a madcap, disco dance scene- complete with karate-chop dance moves. Didn't we see that on Get Smart a while back here on Spy Vibe? In fact, The Monkees do parody Maxwell Smart in the episode. I enjoy this particular clip for the obligatory gadget-training sequence. If you view The Monkees (1966-68) with the right context, thinking about youth culture, improvisation, surreal humor, pop culture, and catchy tunes written by some of the best songwriters of the era, it's really quite a fun show to re-visit.

Perhaps even more interesting is their feature film,
Head (1968), which was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD by the Criterion Collection. Reflective of the later 1960s, the band, the film's producers, and Jack Nicholson, pushed toward satire of fame and entertainment and, now free from TV constraints, anti-war commentary. The serious tones of the film, which started with a leap from a bridge into a watery abyss, shocked the teenybopper viewers expecting to see more of the mainstream hi-jinx from the TV show. The film was essentially the band's grand finale as screen idols. The times were changing and there was no going back to playing lovable moptops for the masses. I think that happened to another band around the same time! The guys all went on to other projects, including a few reunions. It's not Spy Vibe in style, but I do recommend Davey Jones' recent recording of the song Your Personal Penguin by illustrator, Sandra Boynton. It's wonderful! The Monkees were originally launched by Don Kirschner. Kirscnher passed away on January 17th at the age of 76. For a very in-depth interview with the band members and producers of Head, see issue #19 of the fabulous Shindig! magazine.


Spy Vibe and Bish's Beat had a covert C.O.B.R.A.S. meeting the other day in San Francisco. It was a spy-filled fun afternoon looking at collections of pulp novels and paperback books. I picked up an early paperback edition of Ian Fleming's Moonraker (one of my fave Bond books). We also compared notes and discovered that the first spy show to fire our imagination was The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Bish even had the soundtrack as the ring-tone on his phone!

I was pretty young during the broadcast of the final seasons of U.N.C.L.E., but do remember being completely fascinated by, of course, the style of the title sequence: the music, the logo image of the globe/map with spy-guy. Inspiring graphics and score! That combination of elements symbolized the show for me for years while I collected U.N.C.L.E. records, books, comics, and cards. I may have fallen in love with the stories and panache of The Avengers and James Bond as a kid, but the U.N.C.L.E. guys were actually the first secret agents I ever saw. In honor of our C.O.B.R.A.S. summit, here is an original promo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

And speaking of paperback treasures, Bish posted today about the sexy exploits of agent 0008 and the e-book editions of two Clyde Allison novels. Allison's books are famous among collectors for their lurid cover art (and contents). I admit that I recently tracked down Gamefinger on Kindle and found it to be a pretty fun ride (I did go in with low expectations). Bish discovered that The Desdamona Affair is also available on Kindle. Each novel is listed at $1.00. Check them out if you are in the mood for a men's adventure magazine-style spy romp. Bish's Beat link here.

January 17, 2011


Spy Vibe recently posted a feature about Honey West and the passing of Anne Francis. For those interested in learning more about the TV show, check out the behind-the-scenes Honey West book by John Fredriksen- available in both print and kindle editions. Amazon link here.


As Gerry and Sylvia Anderson were working with designers like Mike Trim to create the futuristic worlds of Fireball XL5 (1962-1963) and Stingray (1964-1965), designers at major corporations like GM were also trying to envision a world born of the space age. Part of the 1964/65 World's Fair exhibit included Futurama II, which featured these Gerry Anderson-like, FAB architectural models. Shades of Barbarella, Logan's Run, Danger Diabolik, and CQ. That undersea hotel looks like a vacation getaway for James Bond villains. Maybe a baddie convention? I should write that. Thanks to the blog Jhalal Drut for putting these images on my radar.

January 16, 2011


I found a great book in the clearance section of Barnes & Noble today that I think Spy Vibers will enjoy. Doo Wop: The Music, The Times, The Era is a beautifully illustrated coffee table book by radio legend, "Cousin Brucie" Morrow. Published by Sterling, the experience is much like a Chronicle book, with a great focus on color, vintage images, and informative information digested for readers looking to explore bits of 1950s-1960s pop culture. A quick glance shows sections on many music trends and bands, fashion, film, comics, TV, etc. It's a very cool and entertaining book! Try to grab a copy while they are on sale.


Looking through clips on Youtube to spotlight some of the fave color films chosen by Spy Vibers, I was reminded of a few titles that are just incredibly fun in terms of visuals and mystery adventure conventions. Perfectly thrilling for your Sunday and start to your week tomorrow. I big thank you to fellow C.O.B.R.A.S. David Foster for introducing me to Temptress of a Thousand Faces (1969) and The Golden Buddha (1966).


Spy Vibers shared some of their favorite cinematography this week and discussed the role of color and black and white imagery in our experiences as viewers. How does a film's patina signify its era? Are there images that remain timeless? And what are the most indelible images in mystery adventure stories? Earlier we posted clips from Jack Cardiff's films, as well as two modern classics, Diva and The Good German. Here are additional color films chosen by our readers: Elio Petri's The 10th Victim (my fave!), Hitchcock's Topaz, Batman, Raising Arizona by the Cohen brothers, American Beauty, and Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood For Love. What are your favorite moments in color?

January 15, 2011


Spy Vibers shared some of their favorite cinematography this week and discussed the role of color and black and white imagery in our experiences as viewers. How does a film's patina signify its era? Are there images that remain timeless? And what are the most indelible images in mystery adventure stories? I will post a series of clips this weekend from our discussions. Here is the trailer for the brilliant film, Diva (1981). "Every shot seems designed to delight the audience." -Pauline Kael (The New Yorker)

January 13, 2011


Spy Vibers shared some great suggestions over the past few days about some of their favorite cinematography. How does color and black and white not only support the story, but also become an element of its era that we savor as viewers? One contemporary film that attempted to capture some essence of vintage black and white imagery was The Good German (2006). I seem to remember seeing Steven Soderbergh in an interview talk about how they hoped to use vintage equipment to match the visual tone of period dramas, and how old-style lighting, cameras, etc would also affect things like composition and scene-blocking. Their effort is apparent in this trailer, though I haven't seen the film recently enough to speak for the whole project. A quick study of clips, however, suggests some inconsistency of success. The still below is quite beautiful and reminds me of those iconic sewer shots of Joesph Cotten and Orson Welles (and Bernard Lee!) in Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949). I'll put together a series of clips from reader suggestions to view over the weekend.

January 12, 2011


An interesting discussion arose this week with Spy Vibers commenting on our Batman Anniversary post. Batman and its success pressured other TV productions to film in color. Like today's 3D boom, programs proudly boasted that new seasons were broadcast "in color." The quality of color photography has changed quite a bit throughout its history and technical developments. For some, the retro palette is one of the most endearing elements and pleasures in watching old films and programs. And it is a quality that is hard to duplicate- one reason that many modern homage pieces fail. Many of us also had the experience of watching on black and white TV sets. So, in fact, rediscovering things like the Batmobile and Gerry Anderson's futuristic vehicles in color re-releases on DVD can be a bit surprising. Black and white photography also has a patina that can date a piece to a particular period, yet it still maintains a timeless quality for me (although my young students, with their different frame of reference, may disagree). Color often dates a picture to my eyes, but it is something I relish and savor. It's part of the time machine that sends me back into a story.

In our comments discussion, I brought up the work of Jack Cardiff- probably best known among Spy Vibers for his film, Girl on a Motorcycle. His collaborations with Powell and Pressburger may be the strongest experiences I've ever had with responding to color as a key element. Of course, I love the bold pop of Batman, the stripes and umbrellas in The Prisoner, Emma Peel's costumes in The Avengers, the pallet of the sets and costumes in Casino Royale (1967), but Cardiff's work in Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death, and The Red Shoes drew me in because of the more subtle poetry and expression of the images. These are gorgeous films, and I encourage Spy Vibers to check them out if they haven't been on your radar. Here is a brief celebration of Cardiff by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:

What are your favorite moments of Black and White or Color imagery? Fans of Fritz Lang, Hitchcock, Wong Kar Wai, and Tarantino may have something to say.

January 11, 2011


Need help decorating your secret lair? Check out the gorgeous selections in the upholstery and rug sale at Design Within Reach here.

January 10, 2011


The Batman TV series (1966-1968) was launched 45 years ago this week. Although our context and image of the character has changed over the years with input from Frank Miller, Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and others, we can't deny the incredible impact that the Adam West incarnation had on 1960s pop culture. The visual and narrative styles of competing shows had to punch things up if they were going to stay on the air. The transition of Lost in Space from black and white to color was a prime example. Batman was a true cultural phenomenon, and it's colorful focus on design, gadgets, and fun conventions fit well within the era's fascination with mystery/adventure stories. Images from the Adam West website here, where you can also order signed collectibles by Batman himself.

From fellow C.O.B.R.A.S. writer, Wes Britton: "Celebrating the 45th anniversary of the premiere of ABC’s Batman (Jan. 12, 1966), next week’s Dave White Presents will be a Batman extravaganza! We’ll have two trivia-packed interviews for you including Jim Beard, editor of the brand-new GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES and legendary DC Batman writer Chuck Dixon talking about the 1966 pop phenomena, the movies, and, of course, the comic book that started it all! The 90 minutes of capes, cowls, and fun will debut on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, then 7:30 Pacific over at KSAV. On Wednesday, Jan. 19, the program will be archived for download access anytime you like at Audio Entertainment."

Baby, you can drive my... Batmobile! Spy Vibe creator, Jason Whiton, remembers his first gadget-love:

As a Spy Viber growing up watching the Adam West Batman TV show, I was drawn to his arsenal of Bond-like gadgets. The anti-shark Bat spray notwithstanding, the show had slick gear that rivaled the space-age designs of its competitors. Batman's secret lair was filled with modern computers and technology (what, no rotating bed on prime-time?). But the coolest gizmo by far was the Batmobile! The call to adventure each week meant exciting sequences of firing up the engines and launching the rocket-powered auto from a secret exit in the Batcave. The design was sleek, long with black fins, and a bubble windscreen that reminded me of the window of a WWII-era fighter plane. The parents of my childhood pal, Alec, had a Cadillac in their garage- complete with fins! We spent many afternoons, sitting in the parked car, racing after baddies. I don't remember if we ever decided who was Batman and who was Robin. Maybe we both imaged ourselves in the dark cowl. Well, for Spy Vibers with a childhood dream of really driving the Batmobile, your day has arrived! As Wired reported recently, the folks at Fiberglass Freaks are now offering a complete working replica of the 1966 Batmobile. Despite its "holy price tag, Batman" cost, I'm sure retro gadget fans will be thrilled to see what these beauties look like. Now, if they would only offer a fully loaded Goldfinger Aston Martin DBV. Spy Vibers, what gadget or vehicle would you want in your garage?


It's Monday and back to work. Check out this office visit from one of the great 60s spy films by the Shaw Brothers. I trust our day will go better.

January 9, 2011


Amazon has two James Bond video games on their lightning deal page today. Deals usually only last about one hour, so Spy Vibers need to strike quickly.

January 7, 2011


I started teaching a new class today that I created called Mystery Adventure. Students will be exploring the most famous mystery/adventure stories- from Alfred Hitchcock and The Shadow to Batman, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond. They'll get to know the greatest detectives, secret agents, dark avengers, criminal masterminds, and the conventions of the genre by studying radio shows, cliffhanger serials, TV dramas/films, pulp fiction, and comics. I've chosen Richard Sala's graphic novel masterpiece, Chuckling Whatsit, as a main text/companion to Franju's Judex (1963). It's going to be a thrilling semester! Richard Sala reminded me that today is the birthday of the maestro of macabre fun, cartoonist Charles Addams. I encourage all Spy Vibers to enjoy something creepy and kooky.


Emma Peel of The Avengers wasn't the only female crime-fighter to slip into a black catsuit in 1965. Honey West, a character introduced in a series of novels by Skip and Gloria Fickling, was brought to life by actress Anne Francis. Francis first appeared as Honey in guest spots in Burke's Law (1963-1966), sparking the interest of ABC to develop 30 Honey West episodes. The show was produced by Aaron Spelling, who would go on to create another mystery/adventure with strong female roles, Charlie's Angels (1976-1981).

Honey West centered around a young woman who took over her father's detective agency and dished out justice with the aid of cool gadgets and a male side-kick (John Ericson). Although the production lacked the panache of The Avengers, some effort was made to create a stylish environment for the world of Honey West- the most memorable element being her exotic pet, a sleek ocelot! Actress Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet, Alfred Hitchcock, Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mission Impossible) passed away on January 2nd at the age of 80. Here are samples from Honey West, including an ABC promo introducing the show. More about Honey West at Thrilling Detective here and the Museum of Broadcast Communications here.

January 6, 2011


Mick Karn was best-known for his innovative fretless bass playing in the band, Japan, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The group formed with glam-rock aspirations, but quickly evolved into a unique blend of world music, jazz, pop, and experimental soundscapes that set them apart from others in the so-called New Romantic movement. Globe-trotting and multi-talented, the group became an inspiration of fashion and aesthetics that still echo among artists. Mick Karn brought his talents as a multi-instrumentalist to Japan, adding saxophone and clarinet to his fluid bass riffs in their recordings and performances. He went on to record many projects over the past twenty-five years with fellow Japan members, David Sylvian, Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree), Steve Jansen, and with music icons Gary Numan, Kate Bush, Joan Armatrading, and Peter Murphy (Bauhaus). Mick also exhibited his work as a sculptor.

I got in touch with Karn, Barbieri, and Jansen in the early 1990s after I moved back to the States from a number of years living in northern Japan. The trio had set up their own label, Medium Productions, and I sent them a batch of my current Photographs in hopes that we might collaborate in some way. The guys got back to me through their associate, Debi Zornes. They really liked some of the abstract experiments I was doing with a special process of partial split-toning. This was pre-digital, of course. At the time, however, inspiration led me into using the technique to create Buddha images rather than abstractions. Our creative timing wasn't in sync, but I relish the idea of collaborating still. Sadly, a key member of this special group of artists, Mick Karn, passed away on January 4th at the age of 52 after a battle with cancer. My best wishes and love to his family and friends. I dedicate one of my Buddha images (below) to Mick. I think this photograph would have appealed to his sculptor-side. There are links on the Sylvian and Jansen websites if readers would like to make a donation to support Mick's family. Additional information can be found at the websites of Mick Karn, David Sylvian, Steve Jansen, and Richard Barbieri. Mick Karn obituary at the Guardian here. Mick Karn portrait above copyright by Steve Jansen. Buddha image below copyright by Jason Whiton.

My introduction to Mick Karn was a documentary made about Japan's tour in support of their Tin Drum album, Oil on Canvas. My friend Miki and I went to a coffee shop after a screening at a German film festival at Iwate University. I must admit, my thoughts going in were all about my beautiful companion. But as soon as we sat down, my attention became fixed to the big-screen TV across the room. Mick Karn, dressed in a Fab slender suit, seemed to be floating all over the stage (was he standing on casters?). These incredible, burbling sounds came from his bass- it was like nothing I had heard before. This was not your typical guitar-centered music. In fact, the peak of Japan's output was primarily built on foundations of bass and keyboard, rather than guitar. The sound appealed to me for it's cinematic quality. And over the lush atmosphere, the unforgettable sound of David Sylvian's lyrics. I unfortunately lost touch with Miki over the years, but the sound and inspiration of Mick and the guys continues to burn bright. Here are some video clips from Oil on Canvas.

January 5, 2011


Wallpaper Magazine has some wonderful extras on their website, including Victoria & Albert exhibit-related videos! "To coincide with the V&A's Cold War Modern exhibition, a fascinating look at creative efforts either side of the Iron Curtain during the infamous global standoff, which we covered back in September, we've taken a closer look at two of the show's contributors, industrial designer (and occasional W* contributor) Dieter Rams and James Bond set designer Ken Adam." Dieter Rams video here.

Find out more about the domestic technology designs of Dieter Rams at the Wallpaper q&a and slide show page here. Dieter's ten principles of "good design" discussed at designmuseum.org here.


Join Cinema Retro at the Richard Schickel tribute dinner, Players Club New York City on Sunday January 9th.

By special arrangement with The Players, Cinema Retro readers are invited to join us for a very special evening in honor of Richard Schickel, the internationally-acclaimed movie critic, author and documentary filmmaker.
This is a rare opportunity to enjoy an evening at one of the nation's most historic and legendary private clubs for the arts, which was founded in 1888 by Edwin Booth, Mark Twain and other prominent writers and actors. Members past and present include Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Jason Robards, Lauren Bacall, Tony Bennett, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Vaughn, Kevin Spacey, Bill Murray, Sir Roger Moore and many others.

Here is the official announcement: One of the nation's foremost film critics, Richard Schickel has been reviewing movies for Time magazine since 1972. He is the author of many acclaimed books and the writer/producer/director of over 30 documentaries celebrating film icons. The subjects of these works include Charles Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Cary Grant, Walt Disney, Elia Kazan, James Cagney, Marlon Brando, Myrna Loy and Clint Eastwood. Join us for this very special evening, as Mr. Schickel talks about his career, film and the culture of celebrity in an interview led by Lee Pfeiffer, Editor-in-Chief of Cinema Retro magazine.

Schedule of events:

Cocktails: 6:00

Dinner: 6:45

Program: 8:00

Price $60 per person (Appropriate attire required)

If you wish to make reservations, see instructions below. If you are not a club member, please mention that you have been invited by Cinema Retro.

To reserve by phone, please call: 212-475-6116

To reserve via E mail, please contact: reservations@theplayersnyc.org

For more about the Players, click here for official web site

January 4, 2011


Looking through the music and short films produced in the 1960s and 1970s by Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Bardot, and Jane Birkin, I was reminded of this stunning 2004 recording Birkin made with Bryan Ferry (Roxy Music). Something a little different for Spy Vibe today, but I think you will enjoy the twangy guitar. Jane Birkin (Blow Up, Wonderwall) was married to James Bond composer, John Barry, between 1965-1968, so maybe that twangy guitar has deep roots? Birkin was married to Gainsbourg from 1968-1980. Bryan Ferry's song, In Every Dream Home a Heartache, originally appeared on Roxy Music's second album, For Your Pleasure (1973). If you are new to the tune, pay close attention to the lyrics. Yep, they say "inflatable doll." It is a masterpiece of a song that is like a mini film by Antonioni and Jesus Franco. This re-make appeared on Birkin's album, Rendez-Vous. Enjoy!

January 3, 2011

January 2, 2011


Spend Sunday with model Peggy Moffitt (Blow Up, Who Are You Polly Maggoo?). Peggy became famous in 1964 for modeling Rudi Gernreich's topless bathing suits and for her many collaborations with Gernreich and husband, photographer William Claxton. Peggy below with Steve McQueen and his Ferrari (photo by William Claxton).

The team created a short fashion film in 1967. William Claxton recounts the project in an interview printed in the Times Magazine: “In 1967 Peggy and I had just returned from ’swinging London’ and Paris to work in New York. We were commissioned by a small commercial production company to come up with something which would serve as my ‘reel’ in order to get hired to direct TV commercials. While sitting on our bed at the Algonquin Hotel, we collaborated in writing a shooting script that would show fashion, makeup, and hair on three beautiful models wearing the fashion designs of avant-garde Rudi Gernreich’s collection for that fall. We shot the film on a weekend, had original music composed for the sound track and Basic Black was born. It was very well received, won several awards and has been referred to as the first fashion video.” Basic Black (1967):

Peggy Moffitt looks through her 1999 Rudi Gernreich book, and talks about her collaborations, the 60s, and the recent loss of her husband, William Claxton in this 2009 interview at her home in Los Angeles: