Beware! Louis Jourdan is Here

louisj

Louis Jourdan in COUNT DRACULA (1977)

We lost Louis Jourdan on Valentine’s Day and since then there has been an abundance of considerate obituaries and tributes to the debonair French actor who stole film fan’s hearts and swept many of his leading ladies off their feet. Jourdan was strikingly handsome but I’ve always found him a bit intimidating on screen. In real life Jourdan had fought Nazis as an active member of the French resistance and by most accounts was a loyal husband to his wife (Berthe Frédérique “Quique”) for 68 years until her death in 2014 but something about his smoldering intensity and somber eyes made me uneasy. The characters he played were often hard to read and I found myself constantly questioning their motives. This is undoubtedly due to his exceptional performances in films such as LETTER FROM AN UKNOWN WOMAN (1948) where he plays a self-absorbed pianist who breaks Joan Fontaine’s heart and THE BEST OF EVERYTHING (1959) where he drives the gorgeous Suzy Parker mad with jealousy or JULIE (1956) where he stalks and terrorizes poor Doris Day. In retrospect Jourdan was incredibly apt at portraying men with questionable motives and he had a viper-like way of honing in on naive young women who became easy prey. It doesn’t surprise me that he eventually ended up playing a comic-book villain in SWAMPTHING (1982) and a James Bond baddie in OCTOPUSSY (1983). But if I had to select his most fearsome role I’d single out Jourdan’s outstanding turn as the infamous bloodsucking Count in COUNT DRACULA (1977).

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Spy Games: Recalling DR. NO

cretrodrnoAs I was getting ready to wrap-up my year long celebration of ‘60s spy films, I received something extraordinary in the mail; the new special issue of Cinema Retro’s Movie Classics magazine celebrating “50 years of James Bond in Cinema.” The issue boasts a spectacular cover image of Sean Connery and Ursula Andress taken in 1962 to help promote the first Bond film, DR. NO. The image literally jumped off the page and into my heart reminding me of how magnetic the two actors were in those iconic roles. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more memorable screen couple from 1962 but at the time that the photo was taken Connery and Andress were relatively unknown. DR. NO would catapult them both into cinema history and eventually make James Bond one of the most recognized film characters in the world.

Today it’s hard for modern audiences to fathom the impact that DR. NO had. The film was made for just one million dollars but its unique visual style and pop art sensibility made it seem light years ahead of its time. It took audiences to exotic locations while introducing them to a handsome, well-dressed international man of mystery who could easily outwit and outmuscle fiendish villains hell-bent on world domination. Sean Connery’s James Bond may have dressed like a million bucks but his roguish manner and rumbling Scottish accent hinted at his working class roots and that gave him universal appeal. He was exactly what film audiences needed to combat the Cold War jitters and help usher in the swinging sixties.

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Spy Games: James Bond is back in SKYFALL (2012)

Warning! There are spoilers on the road ahead.

When the first promotional photo for SKYFALL (2012) was released earlier this year it caused a minor uproar. It was an azure-tinted picture of Daniel Craig’s muscular back as he sits poolside, solitarily contemplating his next move. It was reminiscent of a promotional photo from Craig’s debut as James Bond in CASINO ROYAL (2006) that showed him emerging from the ocean like a Greek god, much like Ursula Andress’ enchanting entrance in DR. NO (1962), which had embedded itself into the minds and imaginations of countless men and adolescent boys decades earlier. The public’s response to Daniel Craig’s wet torso was somewhat mixed but women (and some men) seemed to love the unusual direction that the publicity campaign for SKYFALL took. They openly swooned over Craig’s imposing physique while many male fans of the Bond series were left wondering where was the designer suit, the gun and the girl? Craig’s nudity seemed casual and unrestrained making the character of James Bond appear exposed and defenseless. His body was being artfully used to sell the Bond mystique and in the past that was a job usually reserved for beautiful women. The Bond girls are renowned for their physical assets and have been used as promotional tools for decades but they’ve got competition now. And while it’s true that previous Bond actors including Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan had their fair share of female fans, the character’s masculine charms have never been exploited in such a direct way. 007 is back, quite literally, but he’s not your father’s James Bond and the first publicity photo from SKYFALL illustrates that point beautifully.

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James Bond vs. Dr. Mabuse

Speaking of faux-James Bond thrillers of the 1960s. . . didja hear the one about the British secret service agent, his slutty girlfriend, the death ray, and the man who could cheat death?  Sounds good, huh?  Well, think again, sucker!

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Warren Beatty Is (Not) James Bond!

I am writing this before having seen Skyfall, so I can’t talk directly about the latest James Bond film, but I can flirt about its edges. I am one of those who have greatly enjoyed the rebooted series with Daniel Craig—and am especially impressed that they managed to find a way to make Casino Royale into a genuinely dramatic visual spectacle. It’s not an easy book to film—which didn’t stop people from trying.

There was the 1954 TV version with Barry Nelson as James Bond, which completely failed to set the world on fire. Wikipedia claims that Howard Hawks considered directing a 1962 adaptation with Cary Grant in the lead—and the very thought of it makes me wish I’d brought it up in my earlier post about unmade treasures. And of course there’s the 1967 trainwreck in which a number of otherwise capable directors and actors squandered a giant pile of money on an insane mess.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the version starring Warren Beatty!

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Buggin’ Out with Buggies

I’ve been thinking a lot about dune buggies lately. It all started a few weeks ago while I was watching HEAD (1968) on TCM starring The Monkees. This psychedelic blast from the past has many memorable moments including a scene where the iconic pop band drives a bright yellow buggy through some sand dunes while being chased by a giant-sized Victor Mature.

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Spy Games: 6 Months and Counting

We’re 6 months into the year-long celebration of James Bond’s 50th anniversary and I thought it would be a good time to take another look at the various worldwide tributes and festivities that have accompanied it. Here at the Movie Morlocks I’ve been regularly sharing new posts about various espionage films under the title “Spy Games” but I’m not the only one observing the 50th anniversary of the Bond film franchise. Below are a few of the highlights from the last 6 months as well as some exciting things Bond fans can look forward to before year’s end.

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Spy Games: Matchless (1967)


Following the phenomenal success of United Artists’ early James Bond films many Hollywood studios tried to mimic their crowd winning formula. One of the most successful attempts to cash in on Bond’s appeal was OUR MAN FLINT (1966) starring a tall, lanky and laid-back James Coburn. The film was produced by Saul David for 20th Century Fox and although it spoofed the Bond films with a knowing wink and wide smile, it also had its own kind of charm and wacky appeal. OUR MAN FLINT was followed by a sequel (IN LIKE FLINT; 1967) and there were plans to make more Flint movies but unfortunately they never materialized. Today the Flint films aren’t as popular or well known as the Bond films but they were wildly successful during their day and they’re credited for making James Coburn a star. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the popularity of the Flint films led to them being spoofed as well.

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Spy Games: James Bond at 50

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Sean Connery’s debut as James Bond in Terence Young’s DR. NO (1962). In honor of the event Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios along with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment recently announced that they have a program of exciting events planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the longest running film franchises in history. I’ve decided to participate in the festivities with a new monthly feature at the Movie Morlocks called Spy Games. Every month I plan on focusing some of my attention on a particular espionage thriller or the spy genre in general. I’ll also be spending more time discussing aspects of the Bond films throughout the year. To get things started I thought I’d take a look ahead at some of the James Bond 50th anniversary events that are already in the works for 2012.

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Frozen in Time: Making the Present Period

When Dino De Laurentiis announced plans to remake the Eighth Wonder of the World, King Kong, in 1976, there was no question the movie would take place in the present, just as the original had.  The present, for the original, was 1933 and the present for the remake was 1976.  However, when Peter Jackson decided to remake King Kong in 2005 there was no question for him that the film would be period, just like the original, which wasn’t period but now kind of was because 1976 was out of the question.   Jackson’s version took place in 1933 to play off of the original’s time period which, for whatever reason, works better than the present, especially when dealing with giant apes.   Except that in 1933 it was the present and no one seemed to have a problem with that then.  For what it’s worth, I think placing the movie in 1933 was the right decision because an undiscovered island in the world of GPS just doesn’t fit.    I don’t doubt that if the film were made again, it would still take place in the past. 

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