Casino Royale

Not rated yet!
Director
Martin Campbell
Runtime
2 h 24 min
Release Date
14 November 2006
Genres
Adventure, Action, Thriller
Overview
Le Chiffre, a banker to the world's terrorists, is scheduled to participate in a high-stakes poker game in Montenegro, where he intends to use his winnings to establish his financial grip on the terrorist market. M sends Bond – on his maiden mission as a 00 Agent – to attend this game and prevent Le Chiffre from winning. With the help of Vesper Lynd and Felix Leiter, Bond enters the most important poker game in his already dangerous career.
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  • The Importance of James Bond

    [1]10,747 words

    The James Bond films turn fifty this year, an event commemorated by the eagerly-anticipated release of the 23rd Eon Productions 007 epic Skyfall.

    The Broccoli family say they will keep making these films as long as audiences still want to see them. Since the Broccoli’s at this point have more money than God, we can be sure that this is entirely a labor of love (as Rosa Klebb might say, running her bony fingers through our hair). To date, the Bond films have grossed $5 billion (Bond is the second highest grossing film series of all time, after Harry Potter). And the books have sold around 100 million copies.

    What can explain why these films have endured for half a century and are bigger now than ever before? (Bond himself, of course, has been around longer than that: the first Ian Fleming Bond novel – Casino Royale [2] – was published in 1953.) I’m going to try to explain this – but, as usual, the real explanation is a far cry from what most people (especially critics) think it is.

    Sex, Sadism, and Snobbery?

    Let’s begin with the noteworthy fact that both the Bond novels and films have always pissed off the right people, and for the right reasons.

    [3]

    Ian Fleming

    Attacks on Bond have come from both Left and Right. From the Left Bond has been accused – correctly – of sexism, racism, heterosexism (aka homophobia), classism, lookism, elitism, imperialism, and much else. This Leftist critique is still regularly trotted out. Just four years ago the BBC’s online news magazine published a piece asking “Is James Bond Loathsome? [4]” The piece quotes one professorial authority who proclaims “Ideologically, none of us should like the Bond films. They are sexist, heterosexist, xenophobic, everything that is not politically correct. Either the audiences don’t notice these ideological issues or the films provide a different kind of pleasure.” (A third possibility: perhaps the very political incorrectness of the Bond films is the source of that “different kind of pleasure.”)

    The Kremlin itself weighed in on the first Bond film, Dr. No [5] (1962) condemning it as capitalist propaganda. A more mainstream Leftist critic, Cyril Connolly in The Sunday Times, said that Fleming’s novel You Only Live Twice [6] was “reactionary, sentimental, square, the Bond-image flails its way through the middle-brow masses, a relaxation to the great, a stimulus to the humble, the only common denominator between Kennedy and Oswald.” (Both Kennedy and Oswald were readers of Fleming.)

    In the ’50s and ’60s, those on the Right tended to complain mostly about Bond’s amorality. They deplored the “sex” (such as it was) in the novels and films, the “hedonism,” and the callous disregard for human life. They found it shocking that an assassin – a man with a “licence to kill” (!) – could be romanticized and regarded as a hero. Indeed, in retrospect this actually is rather shocking – but something we take completely for granted today. Bond was seen as a particularly bad influence on little boys. The Guardian’s reviewer remarked that the second Bond film, From Russia With Love [7] (1963) was “highly immoral in every imaginable way; it is neither uplifting, instructive nor life-enhancing.” (Though he admitted it was “fun.”) Predictably the Vatican condemned both the books and the films. But, oh, what a difference five decades makes! Just the other day the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano gave Skyfall two thumbs up [8]. (This made international news.)

    However, the classic conservative critique of Bond came from the pen of none other than Paul Johnson. Writing in The New Statesmen, he summed Bond up with the words “Sex, Sadism, and Snobbery.” Johnson was actually reviewing Fleming’s 1958 novel Dr. No [9]. This now-famous review began with the line, “I have just finished reading what is without doubt the nastiest book I have ever read.” It was actually the first time Fleming had come in for any major criticism, and Johnson opened the floodgates. For years afterwards those three words – sex, sadism, and snobbery – would be quoted again and again, as a derisive way of dismissing both Bond and his creator.

    [10]

    Sexism?

    Sex? Well, yes. Of a kind. Bond does wind up bedding women quite a lot, and without any moral compunction. But Fleming doesn’t treat us to the gory, bedroom details (and there is very little humping in the Bond films). What Johnson and others found offensive was really the attitude toward the whole thing. For example, Fleming notes that Bond has a penchant for affairs with married women, apparently because there’s little chance of emotional entanglement – something about which much is made in the 2006 film of Casino Royale [11]. In the novel, written 53 years earlier, Bond muses that “Women were for recreation.”

    And then there are all those “Bond girls” with names like Honey Rider, Mary Goodnight, and – of course – Pussy Galore. That last one still takes the breath away, even after all these years. What an audacious, salacious old bugger that Fleming was! Then there are the names invented just for the films: Sylvia Trench (I’m convinced that’s a dirty one, but others may disagree), Plenty O’Toole (“Named after your father, perhaps?” quips Bond), Holly Goodhead, Octopussy, and Xenia Onatopp. In the films they’re all incarnated in jutting, jiggling, Technicolor pulchritude. The novels are more conservative. Fleming described Dr. No’s Honey Rider as having a boy’s bottom. This prompted his friend Nöel Coward (a real old bugger) to write to him, “I know that we are all becoming progressively more broad-minded nowadays but really, old chap, what could you have been thinking of?”

    Sadism? Well, yes. And it’s actually more interesting and more imaginative than the sex. In the very first novel, the villain strips Bond naked and repeatedly assaults his testicles with a carpet beater. (A scene lovingly recreated in the recent film version, though with a rope instead of a carpet beater.) In the second novel, Live and Let Die [12] (1954), the villain arranges for the lower extremities of Bond’s best friend to be nibbled away by a shark. The still-living Felix Leiter is then found with a note that reads “He disagreed with something that ate him.” (This also found its way into the films, though in 1989’s Licence To Kill [13]. [1]) In the literary Dr. No, Honey Rider is staked out on a Caribbean island to await the arrival of flesh-eating crabs. And the list just goes on and on. In general, the novels are far more sadistic than the films.

    Snobbery? Yes, I’m afraid so. And here things become rather ridiculous. Fleming spends pages describing Bond’s taste in spirits, suits, shirts, shoes, ties, pajamas (yes, he wears pj’s), shampoo, cars, and even eggs. Bond insists that his egg be boiled for precisely three minutes. And it must be a speckled brown egg laid by a French Marans hen. (I am not kidding you.) The egg must be served with two slices of whole-wheat toast, and a pat of Jersey butter accompanied by Tiptree “Little Scarlet” strawberry jelly, Cooper’s Vintage Oxford Marmalade, and Norwegian Heather Honey from Fortnum’s. Should the eggs be scrambled, they must be served with smoked salmon and champagne. But not just any champagne: Taittinger’s.

    We are supposed to be left with the impression that Bond is a man of very discerning tastes. The impression we are actually left with is that Bond is a pretentious middle class snob trying to put on airs. This kind of thing must have seemed very exotic to the reading public of Great Britain in the 1950s, with post-war austerity still a very vivid memory. And it must have seemed exotic and teddibly British to American readers. But nowadays any yahoo with a wireless connection can order a jar of Frank Coopers Vintage Oxford Marmalade [14] on Amazon.com and get it delivered in two days. And he will probably think it inferior to Smucker’s. (And he’ll probably be right.)

    The classic example, however, is the vodka martini, shaken not stirred. This is how the recipe for the Bond martini is stated in just about every film, but the actual Bond Martini is a little more complicated. Here’s how it first appears in Chapter Seven of Fleming’s Casino Royale:

    “A dry Martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”

    “Oui, Monsieur.”

    “Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?”

    Yes, but why shake it? And why be so particular about not stirring it? Does it really make a difference? Believe it or not, this issue has actually prompted a scientific study [15]. The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario found that a shaken martini has more antioxidants than a stirred one. So perhaps Bond is just much more health-conscious than we had originally thought. All kidding aside, he finally comes to his senses in the 2006 Casino Royale. Asked by a bartender if he wants his vodka martini shaken or stirred, Bond replies “Do I look like I give a damn?”

    So, yes, the world of Bond is guilty as charged – of sex, sadism, and snobbery. But this just completely misses the point, because there really is something important about James Bond – very important. James Bond is a modern hero, a hero for the modern age. Actually, this claim has often been made. But I mean it in a special sense: Bond is a hero in spite of modernity; an anti-modern hero who manages to triumph over – and, indeed, harness – the very forces that turn most modern men into soulless, gelded appendages to their desktop PCs. This is why Bond is important, and this is why we’ve worshipped at the cinematic altar of Bond for half a century. We long to be as free as he is.

    Bond’s Spiritual Virility

    [16]

    “Bond. James Bond.” — Sean Connery is introduced in Dr. No

    As Julius Evola might have put it, Bond is spiritually virile. He is a self-contained, self-actualized man who appears to be a self-indulgent hedonist, but is in fact fundamentally detached from the pleasures and distractions that obsess and enthrall most men.

    Let’s begin with the much-discussed sex issue. In fact, Bond does not chase after women; women chase after him. This is established in the very first scene in which Sean Connery is introduced as Bond in Dr. No. He is playing Chemin de Fer at a London club. An attractive woman asks his name from across the table: “Mr. . . . ?” Famously, Connery replies “Bond. James Bond,” while lighting a cigarette and flourishing his great, caterpillar-like black eyebrows. The woman – Sylvia Trench, played by Eunice Gayson – pursues a rather disinterested Bond, acquires his business card, then breaks into his apartment and seduces him (over Bond’s protestations).

    Later in the same film, in a brief but iconic scene, we see a female hotel receptionist ogle Bond as he makes his way across the lobby. Dr. No establishes the sexual pattern for all the succeeding films (which does indeed have its basis in the novels). Women practically throw themselves at Bond, who often seems rather weary of the whole thing. (The Bond imitators – those who brought us Matt Helm, Derek Flint, and others – often failed to get this, turning their pseudo-Bonds into lascivious, salivating womanizers.) The ease with which Bond attracts women has often been noted, and chalked up to “male fantasy wish fulfillment.” This is true, but what exactly is the wish? It’s not just the desire for easy sex. It’s also the desire – only dimly understood by most men – to be free of the tiresome indignity of having to pursue women.

    At some level, men realize that there is something unmanly about Don Juan. They realize that Bond, by contrast, has “got something” that makes it possible for him to attract women without effort. But that “something” consists in the fact that he doesn’t care about it as much as they do (perhaps because he’s proved his masculinity in other, more significant areas). He is detached. As a result, Bond doesn’t just attract a lot of babes, he attracts extraordinary women. One of the great myths about Bond – particularly as far as the films are concerned – is that Bond girls are brainless, helpless bimbos. This perception is now cynically exploited by the filmmakers, who every so often announce that “the Bond girl in the new film is different: she’s strong, she’s capable, she’s Bond’s equal,” blah blah blah.

    [17]

    Typecast as a physicist? — Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones in The World is Not Enough

    But this has been true from the very beginning. Honey Rider tells Bond in Dr. No that she murdered a man who raped her by putting a black widow spider under his mosquito net (“A female, and they’re the worst. It took him a whole week to die.”) Pussy Galore is a ball-busting lesbian and leader of her own gang of Amazons. And Octopussy is cut very much from the same cloth. Fiona in Thunderball [18] is a cold-blooded assassin, and even Domino – rather bimbo-like for most of the film – winds up executing the villain herself. By my count, no fewer than ten of the cinematic Bond girls are spies or assassins. Two of the Bond girls are scientists: a geologist in A View to a Kill [19] and a nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough [20]. (Though it must be admitted that the actresses who play these parts are not very convincing.) Yes, there a few helpless bimbos – like Mary Goodnight in The Man With The Golden Gun [21] – but actually most of the Bondian heroines are strong, capable women. Which is just the sort of women we would expect a spiritually virile man to attract.

    And as for Bond’s seemingly absurd culinary pretensions, they’re not actually born of a desire to impress, nor are they an expression of hedonism. Bond explains himself rather well in Chapter Eight of Fleming’s Casino Royale:

    “You must forgive me,” he said. “I take a ridiculous amount of pleasure in what I eat or drink. It comes partly from being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a lot of trouble over details. It’s very pernickety and old-maidish really, but then when I’m working I generally have to eat my meals alone and it makes them more interesting when one takes trouble.”

    Besides, when you’re facing death on a daily basis, every meal could be your last! Of course Bond takes a lot of trouble over details; of course he lives life to the full. Hagakure [22], the “Book of the Samurai,” states that “The Way of the Samurai is found in death. . . . If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way.”[2] Bond has learned to face life as if death could come at any moment. This has the effect of heightening his senses and his tastes. He notices the nuances of food and drink that most men miss, and he takes greater pleasure in them, as he takes greater pleasure in sex.

    Bond’s pleasure is greater than that of other men – but paradoxically he is free of desire in a way most men are not. His constant brushes with death have given him a unique perspective: he is keenly aware of the impermanence of things, and of what matters and what does not. Bond enjoys food, drink, and sex so much precisely because of their unimportance. Other men, who have never faced death, place too much importance on these things and – again, paradoxically – are less able to enjoy them.

    Bond takes pleasure in the things of this world, but he is not mastered or absorbed by his appetites. This is the real meaning of the Bond family motto “The World is not Enough” (introduced in the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service [23], and later its own Bond film title). This is usually taken to be an expression of rapacious desire. In fact what it says is that the things of this world, which would be too much for most men to handle, are not enough for James Bond. He is greater than they are, thus he can “use them” without being corrupted by them. It’s unsurprising that book and film critics would be unable to understand any of this, and would simply see Bond as a “hedonist” and “snob.”

    Riding the Tiger

    But, again, Bond’s spiritual virility is achieved in a uniquely modern context. He is an “organization man” through and through. Unlike earlier heroes such as Sherlock Holmes, Bulldog Drummond, and Doc Savage, Bond works for someone else. And not just anyone. He serves the state. And not just any state. He serves the tattered remnants of that Great Satan of yesteryear, the British Empire. Furthermore, Bond is a Commander in the Royal Navy. He is relatively low-ranking on the intelligence totem pole, and accustomed to obeying orders. All of this is part of the reason audiences identify with James Bond. This is an observation that may surprise some, since Bond is normally thought of as a superman we long to be, not someone we identify with. Yet we do. Like us, Bond works for a boss – and he is a rather small speck in the scheme of things. In this modern world we are all functionaries and office flunkies. Fleming actually spends a fair amount of time discussing the tedium of Bond’s office work – since he only goes on missions once or twice a year.

    We long to be able to leave the office – which we loathe just as much as Bond does – and have adventures. And we note, rather enviously, that Bond has managed to be an employee, a part of a vast organization, without being spiritually reduced by it. Bond does not lie awake at night worrying about office politics. Bond does not suck up to the boss. Bond does not get ulcers. It’s been made very clear to Bond that he is quite expendable – as it’s made very clear to all the ordinary folks working corporate jobs! – but somehow he’s found a way to ride this tiger.

    Day after day, we grow more and more anxious about the extent to which work encroaches on our lives. And a huge part of the problem has to do with our much ballyhooed advances in technology. As C. S. Lewis recognized in The Abolition of Man [24], every new advance in technology is an advance in some men’s ability to control others. So that now thanks to our cell phones and email the boss can always access us. Every new advance in software means more for us to learn on the job. It never ends, and we never outrun the fear that eventually we will simply not be able to catch up. This is yet one more way in which our culture puts all the emphasis on youth – for the young always know the new technologies better, the young can always adapt more swiftly to new innovations. Some of us even fear than new technologies will replace us entirely, as has actually happened to many people, both blue-collar and white-collar.

    Needless to say, technology has always been a big part of James Bond. This is much truer of the films than the books, though there’s a slim basis for it in the books. The films, however, go whole hog and are thoroughly “modernistic.” There are gadgets galore in the Bond films; they seem to celebrate technology. But here again, things are much more complicated than they seem. If we pay careful attention to the Bond films we will realize that Bond’s attitude towards technology is disdainful. This is the basis for the well-known comic tension between Bond and crusty old Q, the gadget master.

    Q first appears in From Russia With Love[3] in which he provides Bond with a clever trick attache case and folding sniper’s rifle. It’s a brief scene without any comedic elements, though Bond seems a bit amused by the gadgets. It’s Goldfinger [25], the next film in the series, that establishes the familiar pattern. Bond visits a humorless Q who provides him with an Aston Martin equipped with revolving license plates, machine guns, smoke screen, tire slashers, radar, oil slick, and – most famously – an ejector seat. Bond seems completely unimpressed and rolls his eyes when Q tells him that he won’t take more than hour or two of his time. When they get to the ejector seat Bond sneers and says “You must be joking!” Q responds, deadpan, “I never joke about my work, Double-Oh-Seven.”

    It is clear that Bond regards the real business of spying as a matter of physical stamina and mental agility. He is contemptuous of the idea that what he does could be done better by – or even with – machines. However, time and again Bond gets himself out of tight spot with one of Q’s gadgets. And so he does make a kind of uneasy peace with technology. But again and again when the time comes for Bond to really save the day he does so with his own wits and guts. In other words, the films wind up siding with Bond and declaring that technology – and technē – is not the answer.

    Sometimes the producers forget this, however, and when they do the films tend to go off the rails. The first time this happens is in 1965’s Thunderball. By that point, after the major success of Goldfinger, the Bond gadgets had gotten a lot of publicity and the producers were careful to load up Thunderball with as much tech as possible. It begins in the pre-credit sequence, in which Bond escapes pursuers in a jetpack (!). The Aston Martin then reappears. And in the film’s climactic underwater action sequences, Bond dons a kind of underwater jetpack that fires projectiles. The effect is ridiculous. Author John Brosnan comments that the scene makes Connery look like a “clown.” And he writes of the whole film, “With Thunderball, James Bond tended to become depersonalised, turning into a sort of bland dummy whose only function was to manipulate the various gadgets and act as a catalyst to keep the whole show moving.”[4]

    The Bond films of the 60s started off as relatively realistic spy thrillers, but over time gee whiz technology took over and dwarfed the Bond character. In their first decade, the pinnacle of this technological silliness was reached with You Only Live Twice (1967), which one reviewer dismissed as looking like an episode of TV’s Thunderbirds. Everyone, including the producers, felt that something had been lost. The verdict was usually that the films had become too “outlandish.” The truth, however, is that what made Bond Bond had been negated: he wasn’t riding the tiger anymore; he was being dragged along behind it.

    And so with 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service [26] the producers dumped the gadgets, and cranked things back to the minimalism of From Russia With Love. The result was a film that many fans, myself included, regard as the best of the series. But this pattern has been repeated several times in its history. The producers again and again allow Bond to become diminished by high-tech and special effects, and again and again realize their mistake and swear never to repeat it. In truth what is happening here is that, like all of us, they are struggling with the allure – and the danger – of technology.

    In later films, as actor Desmond Llewelyn aged into a lovable old codger, the Q character was softened a bit and given more to do. But early on he is as mechanical and charmless as the gadgets he dispenses. He is man become technics, who cares more about his inventions returning “intact from the field” than about Bond’s body returning intact! This, indeed, becomes a running joke and Bond seems to take delight not just in belittling Q’s gadgets but in demolishing them.

    Bond also delights in destroying the villains’ hardware as well. The classic Bond villains tended to set themselves up with ultra-modern lairs filled with impressive technological marvels. And all of it constructed out of miles and miles of gleaming, stainless steel. By contrast, Bond’s own environment – M’s office, Whitehall, and Bond’s apartment (seen in two films) – is ultra-traditional. (Interestingly, Q’s environs look like just like the villains’.)

    The contrast could not be clearer. The good dwells in small, warm, and human spaces surrounded by organic materials (wood and fabrics of various kinds), and decorations chosen for their charm, or because they suggest national heritage (the paintings and busts in M’s office). These spaces are inhabited by individuals with distinct characters and quirks: the crusty but benign M; the stalwart, love-struck Moneypenny, etc.

    [27]

    M’s office — warm and traditional

    The evil, by contrast, dwells in huge, cold, intimidating, depersonalized spaces made of metal, stripped of anything charming and anything that suggests national identity – or cluttered with objects suggesting a confusion of national identities (e.g., Dr. No’s living room, Blofeld’s various apartments, etc.). And here the space is inhabited by emotionless human automata in coveralls, or Mao jackets, who often refer to each other only as numbers. I’ll have more to say about what this represents later on . . .

    [28]

    Blofeld’s office — cold and inhuman

    Bond as Modern Mythology

    [29]

    Venus — Ursula Andress in Dr. No

    A handsome knight, a favorite of all the ladies at court, is sent to a remote part of the kingdom to investigate the disappearance of another knight. There he learns that a terrifying wizard is responsible. The wizard lives on a mysterious island, to which many have journeyed – but from which none has ever returned. Our hero teams up with a knight from a distant kingdom that is also being plagued by the wizard’s magic. Then, accompanied by a curmudgeonly but loyal dwarf, as black as the night, our hero journeys to the island. Unexpectedly, they find themselves assisted by an avatar of Venus, who suddenly rises from the ocean. Together, the trio explores the wizard’s island. One night, they encounter a terrible dragon, who breathes fire on the swarthy dwarf and kills him. The dragon is in thrall to the wizard, however, and is under orders not to kill our hero and his Venus. He takes them captive and drags them down into the wizard’s subterranean lair.

    When they finally meet the wizard himself they find that he is a frightening, but also rather pathetic figure. He has no hands, having sacrificed them in order to read the leaves of Satan’s book and discover the secret of producing a terrible form of black magic. The wizard tries to seduce our hero with promises of magic power, but when he proves incorruptible the wizard seals him in a dungeon. The knight quickly finds, however, that it contains a tiny door that leads him into a vast labyrinth, filled with one terrifying challenge after another. The final challenge involves a fight with a giant sea monster.

    The knight kills the beast and finds his way into the wizard’s secret chamber, where the evil necromancer is in the midst of a black magic rite. Over the smoky, hell-like abyss from whence comes the wizard’s power, the two men struggle. The knight seems doomed, but in the end the fates deal out poetic justice to the wizard. His lack of hands – the very hands he sacrificed to obtain his magic – makes him unable to cling to the altar over the abyss, and he plunges into it. Our hero then rescues Venus from certain death at the hands of the wizard’s flesh-eating demons, and together they leave the island, never to return.

    For the uninitiated, this is exactly the plot of Dr. No.[5] Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of another British agent. There, he teams up with a CIA agent investigating recent radio interference with American rocket launches. They discover that the man responsible seems to be a reclusive scientist named Dr. No, who lives on an island called Crab Key. Bond sails to the island, accompanied by a local black fisherman named Quarrel. The next morning, the beautiful Honey Rider appears, rising out of the ocean. (She had come to the island looking for shells.) Earlier, Quarrel had warned Bond that the island is guarded by a dragon, and that night the three actually encounter it. But the “dragon” turns out to be a tank of sorts, fitted out with a flamethrower – which kills poor Quarrel. Men with machine guns pile out of the “dragon” and take Bond and Honey down to Dr. No’s subterranean installation.

    [30]

    The “dragon” from Dr. No

    Over dinner, Dr. No reveals that he lost his hands as a result of his experiments with nuclear power.[6] He tries to recruit Bond, unsuccessfully. Dr. No places Bond in a cell, and gives him the option of staying there or traversing a labyrinth. Bond chooses the latter, but much to his discomfort. He is shocked, burned, and almost drowned. (In the novel he is also attacked by poisonous insects.) Finally (in the novel only) Bond must defeat a giant squid. In the film version, Bond then infiltrates Dr. No’s reactor room. There is a final climactic battle, and Dr. No – owing to his lack of hands – is unable to stop himself from slipping into the steaming reactor pool.[7] Things start to explode, and Bond rushes off to rescue Honey (who – again, in the novel only – is about to be eaten by flesh-eating crabs). Together, they escape the island.

    That the Bond stories are “modern myths” has often been asserted, and there’s quite a bit to this. John Brosnan, states that “Dr. No, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, et al. are the descendents not of Al Capone but of Dracula himself.” And he continues:

    Seen, then, in this context the Bond books and films become twentieth-century folk epics with Bond as a latter day St. George fighting against evil incarnate. They are the same basic stories that have been passed down through the centuries but with the hero and the villain adapted to our technological age. No longer is it Satan’s power that people fear but the new demons of machinery and atomic power. So the vampire has exchanged his castle for Dr. No’s subterranean laboratory, his fangs for Dr. No’s steel claws, and his unholy source of power for Dr. No’s atomic reactor.[8]

    This is actually a very insightful analysis, from one of the earliest book-length studies of the Bond films. All the traditional mythic elements are present in Bond, only they have been rather straightforwardly modernized. One might also mention the fact that Bond’s gadgets are simply modernized versions of things like magic swords and spears, helmets of invisibility, and indestructible shields. M is actually a sort of Odin figure, whose feelings of paternal affection for his No. 1 hero don’t change the fact that he controls Bond’s destiny, and is willing to send Bond to his death. And I could go on.

    The Bond character has often been derided by critics as an exaggerated superman. And, in truth, his exploits are often incredible, in the literal sense of the term. Slaying the giant squid is just one example. He’s saved the entire world more often than anyone can remember, without so much as mussing his hair. Yet the exploits of the heroes of Celtic and Germanic mythology are just as implausible, often more so. But no one criticizes them as “unrealistic.”

    Bond is indeed the stuff of modern myth. And audiences have responded to him so strongly because we have a need for this sort of thing. It provides a kind of spiritual fuel. Of course, the same could be said of Star Wars (indeed, Lucas consciously wove mythic motifs into his films). Yet Star Wars has never come in for anything like the criticism Bond has received. I think that this has to do with the fact that the ethos of the Bond films is implicitly pagan. Whereas the ethos of the Star Wars saga is implicitly Christian, and therefore more in line with the liberalism of most film critics (however secular they may imagine themselves to be). But I’ll have more to say about that later on . . . .

    In case you haven’t figured this out, I have been fascinated by James Bond since a very early age – in fact, since before my parents allowed me to see a Bond film. I first learned about Bond from my mother, who one night told me about a secret agent who had a special car outfitted with machine guns and an ejector seat. I then acquired the classic Corgi toy version of the Bond Aston Martin (still being manufactured years after Goldfinger was released). But my parents decided that the films were “too adult” for me to see. Besides, I became interested in Bond during the three-year hiatus between 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun and 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me [31]. There just was no Bond for me to see – except on television. But back then the films were all broadcast with absurd “parental advisories” which scared my parents into changing the channel.

    I longed for something like Bond to appear on television. But, alas, these were the days of shows like Kojak, Starsky and Hutch, and S.W.AT., which all struck me (even as a child) as cheap, seedy, and naturalistic. I longed, although I did not realize it, to see the present mythologized. Science fiction and fantasy didn’t appeal to me much. (I was the only kid in school who didn’t see Star Wars a second time.) I wanted to see grand conflicts between good and evil, with extraordinary heroes doing extraordinary things, but set in the here-and-now.

    When we think about the traditional myths, sagas, and folktales that have been passed down to us, we tend to think that the “mythic elements” include such things as powerful kings, castles with moats around them, knights in armor, imperiled princesses, poisoned blades, and court magicians. But when our traditional myths were composed these things actually existed. They were the realistic elements in the myths. What the myths and sagas did was to take the here-and-now and introduce elements of the supernatural, and superhumanly heroic.

    Myths make the present extraordinary.[9] Thus, it actually seems a bit weaselly to refer to Bond as “modern myth.” Kind of like calling discrimination against whites “reverse discrimination.” No, it’s just discrimination. And Bond is just myth. When the Volsung Saga and Parzival were written they were “modern myths,” i.e., myths of today. In making the present extraordinary, myths make clear the difference between good and evil, which is often hard to discern when we are caught up in the complicated details of the moment. They show us eternal truth shining through present actuality. And they erect archetypes of heroism and virtue; they gave us something to aspire to.

    This was what I wanted to see as a child: I wanted to see the world around me made mythic. And when my parents finally allowed me to see a Bond film (The Spy Who Loved Me, in 1977), this was exactly what I found. And I’ve been hooked ever since. It was for the same reasons that, in my early twenties, I responded so strongly to Ayn Rand’s novels. Rand called her literary style “romantic realism.” She laid her stories in the present day, but her characters were larger than life and did extraordinary things. It seemed natural to her to include elements of science fiction – just like in the Bond films. And so her characters invent new technologies, and hide them in secret valleys beneath holographic projection screens (see Atlas Shrugged [32]).[10] As Brosnan noted in writing of the Bond films, “modern myths” substitute science fiction for the supernatural. (There seems to be some kind of cultural or literary necessity to this.) “Romantic realism,” is just the same thing as myth, properly understood.

    Bond’s Moralism

    So how exactly do the Bond myths make clear the difference between good and evil? (The idea that there could be a moral dimension to Bond would strike many people as absurd.) I actually alluded to this earlier. To see this we have to look at who Bond is fighting, and how he fights them.

    In the films, it was rarely the Soviets. When Fleming got tired of making Russians the villains, he invented S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion), a multi-national criminal organization headed by the diabolical Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Moriarty plus Mabuse). S.P.E.C.T.R.E. first appears in Fleming’s novel Thunderball [33] (1961), but the filmmakers inserted the organization into their version of Dr. No, making the eponymous villain a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent (in the novel he’s working for the Soviets). The sinister organization then appears in five of the next six films (it’s even worked into From Russia With Love, in which the Russians only appear to be the baddies – it’s actually Blofeld and company).

    Blofeld and his white Persian cat make their first appearance in From Russia With Love. In an early scene he explains the modus operandi of the organization in terms of the fish in his office aquarium:

    “Siamese fighting fish. fascinating creatures, brave but on the whole stupid. Yes, they’re stupid. Except for the occasional one such as we have here, who lets the other two fight. He waits. Waits until the survivor is so exhausted that he cannot defend himself. And then, like S.P.E.C.T.R.E., he strikes.”

    The idea is that S.P.E.C.T.R.E. will allow the two superpowers to fight it out, then move in and pick up the pieces. Does Blofeld want merely to profit financially, or does he seek world domination? Probably a bit of both. (And is there a difference?) What is fascinating here is that the organization is, as it were, “triangulated” vis-à-vis the U.S. and U.S.S.R. In fact, what S.P.E.C.T.R.E. embodies is Heidegger’s thesis of the metaphysical identity of the superpowers. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. represents the core of both: materialism, dehumanization, homogenization, globalism, and Heidegger’s Gestell [34].

    These are the real villains, these are the things we are really worried about. And both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were out to advance them, each in their own way. But suddenly now it is little England (no longer an imperial power) that is caught in the pincers. So off goes Bond to slay the dragon of homogenization, and make the world safe for British eccentricity (which, if you think about it, was exactly the premise of TV’s The Avengers).

    But there’s another significant sort of villain that Bond finds himself up against: the crazy idealist. These are mainly an invention of the films – there’s really only one in the Fleming novels. The villain in the literary Moonraker [35] (1955), Sir Hugo Drax (really Graf Hugo von der Drache) is a Nazi who plans to destroy London with a missile as revenge for the defeat of Hitler and – I kid you not – as revenge for various forms of social humiliation inflicted on him in English boarding schools. The cinematic Drax [36] is a much crazier idealist: he plans to destroy all life on earth using nerve gas, while creating a new master race on an orbiting space station. The villain of the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me, plans to destroy the earth by provoking nuclear war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., while creating a new master race in a city beneath the sea.

    Hmm . . . did these two guys ever meet? Needless to say, Bond vanquishes both of them. In the name of what? In the name of finitude and imperfection; in the name of this world, warts and all. This is surely one of the things that bothers liberal critics. Bond is not an idealist. His “world affirming” attitude extends well beyond a tolerance for marmalade.

    But though Bond may not be an idealist, he certainly is a moralist. I have always been convinced that one of the reasons liberal critics tend to hate Bond is that, unlike them, he is not morally confused. Bond has no compunctions at all about passing moral judgments. And in making those judgments he is clearly not drawing on the Sermon on the Mount. No, Bond’s ethos is really that of a pagan.

    In the early days of Bond, much was made of the fact that he had a “licence to kill” (I’m deliberately using the British spelling of “license”). This is what the Double-0 prefix in 007 signifies. In Britain in the ’60s, Bond was frequently depicted in film trailers and radio spots as “the gentleman agent with the licence to kill!” The concept of a “licence to kill” is really a legal one. What it means is that Bond is officially authorized to kill in the line of duty and, presumably, in Britain he cannot be prosecuted or otherwise held liable for deaths he causes on the job. It does not really mean that he can kill anyone he wants to, at anytime. Yet, that’s sort of what “licence to kill” communicates to people and – let’s be honest – it gives us a bit of a thrill.

    If only I had a licence to kill. I’d probably start with some of the people I work with. Then I’d move on to . . . Well, it’s pointless to sit around fantasizing, pleasant though it might be. It is odd, isn’t it, that the concept of a licence to kill seems so Romantic. It makes Bond seem larger than life. Why? Because it suggests that he has been liberated from the mundane, popular moralism that constrains and confuses us.

    In thinking about Blofeld and what must be done with him, Bond does not take time to ponder whether there might really be some good in everyone. (“After all, he does really seem to love that cat. He never goes anywhere without it . . .”) Nor does Bond feel the necessity to Mirandize Blofeld and turn him over to the proper authorities so that he can get due process and a speedy trial. No, Bond simply executes Blofeld (or he tries to – repeatedly).

    Bond electrocutes people, harpoons them, strangles them, feeds them to piranha fish, dumps them into pits of boiling mud, explodes them with shark gun pellets, drops them off cliffs, throws them from airplanes, sets them on fire, and sometimes just shoots them (often repeatedly: see how Bond executes Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me). Usually, after each execution, Bond utters a memorable witticism. After harpooning one man with a shark gun in Thunderball, Bond remarks “I think he got the point.” After dumping someone in a pool of piranha in You Only Live Twice, Bonds wishes the little critters “Bon appétit.”

    He doesn’t agonize over it later (though, admittedly, there’s a tiny bit of that in the novels). He doesn’t wonder if he did the right thing. No, one of the things that characterizes Bond is moral certainty. He knows who the bad guys are, and he knows they deserve it. And he doesn’t seem to wonder what God thinks about the matter either. No, Bond relies entirely on his own judgment, and is sure in his judgment. And sure of his moral authority to punish evildoers. This is the sort of thing that drives liberals crazy.

    But what is it that guides Bond’s moral judgment? Though he takes it upon himself to be judge, jury, and executioner, Bond is never arrogant or capricious in his decision to take a life. Bond is no sociopath. When the assassin Scaramanga suggests in The Man with the Golden Gun that he and Bond are morally equivalent, Bond responds, memorably, “There’s a useful four letter word. And you’re full of it.” Bond is beyond good and evil – but only in the sense that he’s beyond Christian (or liberal) moralizing. This is typified by the title Live and Let Die.

    The filmmakers have long employed a brilliant dramatic device that appears in most of the Bond films. At a certain point in the story, an ally of Bond (or, at least, a sympathetic character) will be killed by the villain or the villain’s henchmen. This introduces a note of pathos into what are often extremely lighthearted stories, and it also allows Bond to show some emotion and reveal some vulnerability (in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service he actually cries). But these scenes are important for yet another reason. Always up until that point in the story Bond has been pursuing his mission for Queen and Country. But the death of his friend makes the mission personal.

    However, it would not be accurate to say that from that moment forward Bond is acting for Bond. Rather, he is acting according to his own, personal sense of justice. And it is interesting that what catalyzes this is invariably that good-old-pagan virtue of loyalty, and that good-old-pagan desire for vengeance. This is, in fact, the entire premise of 1989’s Licence to Kill, which is actually an eloquent commentary on the very concept of the “licence to kill.” In the story, M revokes Bond’s licence. But Bond goes rogue, bent on avenging the brutalization of his friend Felix and the rape and murder of Felix’s fiancé. What the title of the film means is that although Bond’s legal licence to kill is revoked, the events of the story grant him a moral licence to kill. This is the stuff of the pagan, pre-Christian sagas.

    But what would Jesus do? Who bloody cares?! I’ve been asking myself for years “What would James Bond do?” Bond is my moral compass.

    Bond as Racialist and Nationalist

    Let’s talk a bit more about Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Odd name, isn’t it? It’s German, except for the middle name, because Blofeld is half German, half Greek.[11] This is a pattern we often find with Bond villains: they are mutts of some kind, or something other than what they appear to be. Dr. No is German and Chinese (a frightening combination, if ever there was one!). Not being British is bad enough, but these men are double trouble. Perhaps the most chilling example is Donovan Grant, the homicidal killer in From Russia With Love. Fleming provides us with the details of his paternity in one lurid sentence: “Donovan Grant was the result of a midnight union between a German professional weight-lifter and a Southern Irish waitress.” Poor fellow. One gets the impression that for Fleming having German ancestry must be one of the worst things that could befall a man. (Too bad for the Queen!)

    Clearly, Fleming was bothered by the idea of contamination by the non-white, and the not-quite-white. And he obviously endorsed the idea that “the wogs begin at Calais.” The filmmakers, probably without quite realizing it, have carried on this tradition. Perhaps someone will correct me, but I can’t think of a single villain in the Fleming novels or the films who’s genuinely English (aside from some very minor ones like Major Dexter Smythe in the “Octopussy” short story).

    Even the non-whites in Fleming are of mixed parentage. I’ve already mentioned Dr. No. Then there’s Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Fleming tells us that he was born in Haiti and is “half Negro and half French.” That novel, by the way, is usually cited as Fleming’s most racist. The book actually alternates between a kind of naïve, unselfconscious racism and overt attempts to be racially “broadminded.” When Bond is first briefed on Mr. Big he says

    “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a great Negro criminal before . . . Chinamen, of course, the men behind the opium trade. There’ve been plenty of big-time Japs, mostly in pearls and drugs. Plenty of Negros mixed up in diamonds and gold in Africa, but always in a small way. They don’t seem to take to big business.”

    But then Bond immediately follows this up with “Pretty law-abiding chaps, on the whole, I should have thought.” Not to be out-run on this race to fantasyland, M responds: “the Negro races are just beginning to throw up geniuses in all the professions – scientists, doctors, writers. It’s about time they turned out a great criminal. . . . They’ve got plenty of brains and ability and guts.” Perhaps M had just had a snort of Bond’s Benzedrine.

    But Fleming wasn’t fooling anybody. The title of Chapter Five in the British edition of Live and Let Die was “Nigger Heaven.” When it was published in the U.S. a year later this was changed to “Seventh Avenue,” and certain racially-charged passages were heavily censored.

    Aside from the villains that are foreign mixtures of various kinds, there are the ones who are pretending to be British – which is almost as bad. Sir Hugo Drax in the literary Moonraker is actually half German, but he’s passing himself off as a British war hero. Goldfinger is perhaps the most interesting case: he’s Latvian, but a naturalized British subject. The surname Goldfinger is almost always German-Jewish, which has led to some speculation as to whether the character – who is obsessed with amassing great hordes of gold – is intended to be a kind of anti-Semitic caricature.

    In the novel, Bond encounters Goldfinger for the first time in his hotel in Miami (just as in the film). Goldfinger is cheating a wealthy older gentleman at gin rummy – a fellow by the name of Du Pont, who happens to be an old friend of Bond’s. (Bond villains are not gentlemen: they tend to cheat at games. Goldfinger will cheat again at golf, Hugo Drax cheats at cards, Kamal Kahn cheats at backgammon in Octopussy, and Max Zorin cheats at horse racing in A View to a Kill.) Bond and Mr. Du Pont actually discuss whether or not Goldfinger might be Jewish. Du Pont says “You’d think he’d be a Jew from the name, but he doesn’t look it.” He then volunteers that were Goldfinger Jewish he would never have been admitted to the hotel (!).

    But Fleming may just have been trying to throw us off the scent. It’s a well-known fact that he borrowed the name of his most famous villain from his neighbor, the architect Ernö Goldfinger. (In the novel the character’s first name is Auric – a clever play on the chemical symbol for gold, Au.) Goldfinger the architect was indeed Jewish, and Fleming seems to have disliked him intensely. Goldfinger’s designs represented the worst of modern, post-war architecture.

    [37]

    The house that Goldfinger built — round the corner from Fleming’s place

    Ernö Goldfinger capitalized on post-war devastation and homelessness in Britain by creating some of the most hideous high-rise flats imaginable. His designs were completely devoid of charm, and anything suggesting Englishness. Ever the traditionalist, Fleming was horrified. And he was personally affected by it: Goldfinger had a number of cottages in Fleming’s neighborhood razed in order to make way for his new, butt-ugly modernistic home. The cherry on the cake is that Goldfinger also designed the post-war headquarters of the British Communist Party.

    When Fleming’s novel was published, Ernö Goldfinger threatened to sue. Fleming responded by suggesting the book be re-titled Goldprick (a move that would have delighted Austin Powers). However, Goldfinger was apparently pleased by the publicity the book brought him, so he dropped his case in exchange for Fleming paying his legal costs and six free copies of the book. While Fleming may have delighted in naming his villain after the odious architect, the characterization of Goldfinger is actually said to have been based on Charles W. Engelhard, Jr., an American millionaire involved in the precious metals industry, and thoroughbred horse racing (just like Auric Goldfinger). Engelhard was also Jewish.

    [38]

    Ernö Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower — a worse crime than robbing Fort Knox

    There were also “fake Englishmen” created exclusively for Bond’s cinematic exploits. Alec Trevelyan in GoldenEye [39] (1995) starts off as a British agent – and friend of Bond – but turns out to be descended from Cossacks and bent on revenge against the U.K. (It’s a long story . . . ) Perhaps the most dramatic example in the Bond films of the “fake Englishman” is Gustav Graves in Die Another Day (2002; possibly the worst of the Pierce Brosnan Bonds). Graves actually turns out to be a North Korean mastermind who has undergone “gene therapy” and physically transformed himself into an Englishman. (Perhaps the most confused and implausible plot element in any Bond film.)

    Its one thing to be some heavily-accented, foreign counterjumper trying to pass himself off as an English gentleman. But the case of Graves suggests that there may be people out there who are genetic fakes: English, but not really. Come to think of it, doesn’t this describe Tony Blair and all the ethnomasochists of the Labour Party, who’ve pretty much destroyed England? And – ouch – doesn’t this also describe any American of English ancestry? Perhaps “gene therapy” is the solution to the U.K.’s immigration problem. They’d still be flooded with Pakis and Arabs, but at least they’d look English. (And let’s be quite honest with each other: to a significant degree, immigration is an aesthetic problem, as well as a cultural and racial one.)

    [40]

    Pervert and cat

    It’s not just their race and ethnicity that makes the Bond villains so frightening: they’re usually also physically and psychologically screwed up. Dr. No has no hands. Blofeld has a syphilitic scar in the novels (and what appears to be a dueling scar in one film). Emilio Largo is missing an eye. Tee Hee in Live and Let Die is missing a hand. Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun has a third nipple. Nick Nack, in the same film, is a dwarf. Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me has steel teeth, and Stromberg, in the novelization of that film, has webbed fingers. Max Zorin is the product of Nazi experiments. Alec Trevelyan is hideously scarred. Renard in The World is Not Enough is incapable of feeling pain or pleasure. And Le Chiffre in Casino Royale cries blood.

    In short, the Bond villains are “special.” In today’s world these people would all get to sit in the reserved benches at the front of the bus (even Scaramanga with his nipple: remember, not all disabilities are visible). But in Fleming’s world they are accorded no sympathy. In Fleming’s world there’s a healthy horror of physical abnormalities, and a Classically Greek intuition that what’s twisted on the outside is twisted on the inside. The flip side of this is the much-maligned Bondian focus on beauty. (Though what most feminist critics don’t seem to get is that Bond is offered to us as a sex object as well.)

    [41]

    Lesbo — Lotte Lenya as Klebb in From Russia With Love

    Then there are all those perversions. From Russia With Love is a veritable cavalcade of perverts. Rosa Klebb is a lesbian who gets off on torturing people. Donovan Grant is a serial killer who derives a sexual thrill from killing (but only when the moon is full! This didn’t make it into the film). Finally, another From Russia With Love assassin, Krilencu, also kills for pleasure. So does Vargas in Thunderball. Blofeld is described as asexual. Wynt and Kidd in Diamonds are Forever are gay. And Scaramanga only makes love prior to killing. This just scratches the surface.

    Thank god that physical deformity and sexual perversion don’t exist in Fleming’s England!

    Actually, the most iconic Bond villain of all may be Le Chiffre in the literary Casino Royale. “Le Chiffre” means “the cipher.” The man in question adopted this name after the war, when he was liberated from Dachau. He claimed to be suffering from total amnesia, and at first was unable to speak. He could not remember his nationality. (M’s dossier, however, states that he has “large [ear]lobes, indicating some Jewish blood”!) Nor could he even remember his own name. And so he adopted the name Le Chiffre, to express his complete lack of identity. Le Chiffre is the perfect modern villain – and a perfect villain for the first Bond adventure. He embodies everything that Bond is fighting against: he is a rootless cosmopolitan, a man without a country, and without any allegiances (other than to himself).

    Bond himself is the antithesis of this. Despite his Overmanish qualities, he’s a patriot who sees himself as serving Queen and Country. Much has been made of the fact that Bond is a kind of wish fulfillment for the post-imperial British. He came along at a time when British power and prestige were on the wane. But Bond allows the British to pretend that they are still a world power, and that it’s up to them to come to the rescue. There’s a lot to this analysis, actually. For one thing, isn’t it significant that Bond so often has to come to the aid of the hapless Americans? This actually begins in the novels, in which Bond is always ordering around Americans like Felix Leiter, who are portrayed as classless and inept. Kingsley Amis put it best, writing in The James Bond Dossier [42]:

    The point of Felix Leiter, such a nonentity as a piece of characterization, is that he, the American, takes orders from Bond, the Britisher, and that Bond is constantly doing better than he, showing himself, not braver or more devoted, but smarter, wilier, tougher, more resourceful—the incarnation of little old England with her quiet ways and shoestring budget wiping the eye of great big global-tentacled multi-billion-dollar-appropriating America.

    This is all true, and I suppose that if one sees things from this perspective, Bond (and Fleming) come off seeming a trifle pathetic. But the truth is that Bond doesn’t really have any illusions about British power and influence. He’s just fighting for his country. Not because he thinks it’s the greatest country in the world, or because he thinks it has a mission to civilize the rest of the planet. The loss of the Empire really makes no difference to him, because he doesn’t need a reason to love England and the English. He simply loves what is his own. Would that there were more Englishmen like James Bond. . . .

    Prospects for the Future

    [43]I am writing this some days prior to Skyfall’s release in the U.S. Based on the advance publicity, and reviews by critics in the U.K., I am cautiously optimistic.

    During the gap between 1989’s Licence to Kill and the first Pierce Brosnan film, GoldenEye [39] (1995), I worried that when Bond returned he would be made politically correct. But the producers actually seemed to signal that that wasn’t going to happen. In GoldenEye, the now-female M informs a bemused (and unrepentant) Bond that he’s a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur.”

    Yes, I was bothered a little bit by the female M. (And puzzled as to why they hadn’t followed Sir Humphrey Appleby’s suggestion in Yes, Minister and changed the code name to F.) But the real head of MI6 at the time was a woman, and Judi Dench is a fine actress, so I was willing to go along with it. It also didn’t bother me that there were token blacks surrounding M. So what? And Pierce Brosnan bedding down with Halle Berry didn’t trouble me at all (from Octopussy to Octoroon, I suppose one might say). Afterall, Bond has been bedding non-white women since Dr. No. I don’t think he plans to have children with any of them.

    And I am also willing to overlook the fact that Bond no longer smokes. I still vividly recall an interview with Pierce Brosnan who described shooting a scene in Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond is sitting in the dark, lying in wait in someone’s hotel room, wearing shirtsleeves, cradling his gun and drinking vodka (in short, kind of like a scene in Dr. No). Brosnan said the scene “just cried out for a cigarette.” But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. It would have been a bad influence on the kiddies. Let me get this straight: he’s sitting in the dark, swigging Smirnoff, about to kill someone – but smoking a cigarette would have sent impressionable viewers the wrong message? (Meanwhile, apparently, Brosnan was shooting Lark commercials in Japan.)

    Yes, I’m willing to forgive James Bond quite a lot, actually. And at this point I’m not really concerned that the producers will ruin the series with political correctness. They’re too smart for that. I am concerned, however, that many of the things I’ve discussed in this essay – things that make Bond Bond – are falling by the wayside.

    I was delighted with how the producers chose to “reboot” Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale. I had been saying for years that major changes needed to made; that the series was riding on nostalgia; that it had become stale. I also think that Daniel Craig is the best Bond since Connery. Why? Because he actually manages to make Bond into a three-dimensional, believable character. Timothy Dalton did this as well, but he somehow wasn’t quite the right “fit” – and Brosnan always gave me the impression of a man playing a man playing James Bond. However, one of the ways in which they’ve made the character more believable is to make him less self-possessed. This new Bond is unsure of himself in many ways. He seems a bit unstable, and is not fully in command of himself and his surroundings. He’s not riding the tiger yet. Maybe he’s learning to ride it, but I don’t know.

    And this new Bond has no critical distance from technology. There’s something about seeing James Bond with a cell phone pressed against his ear that really bothers me. He’s become too much like us. Too swamped by the tech. Too swamped by the organization. He seems smaller and more vulnerable. He seems beleaguered – as we all are today. Is the character going to continue growing and developing? Will he grow into the old James Bond, who showed us that it is possible to ride the tiger of modernity and not be trampled by it? I hope so.

    Despite my misgivings, I will be first in line to see Skyfall when it opens. And I have already ordered my 50th anniversary Blu-ray set [44] of all twenty-two earlier Eon productions Bond films. I’ve learned a whole lot about life from James Bond, and I will continue to defend Bond and continue seeing these films from now till my dying breath . . .

    . . . unless they make Bond black [45].[12]

    Notes

    [1] More sadism was borrowed from the same novel and placed in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only: Bond and the heroine are tied together and dragged over coral reefs.

    [2] Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, trans. William Scott Wilson (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1979), 23-24, emphasis added.

    [3] A “Major Boothroyd,” who is apparently supposed to be the same person as Q, appears in Dr. No. But there he is merely an “armourer,” who provides Bond with his famous Walther PPK. He is also not played by Desmond Llewelyn, the actor most famously associated with Q, but by Peter Burton.

    [4] John Brosnan, James Bond in the Cinema (London: Tantivy Press, 1972), 73.

    [5] I have actually amalgamated elements from both the novel and the film.

    [6] In the novel, he betrays the Tong society, who cut off his hands.

    [7] In the novel, Bond buries Dr. No under a pile of bat guano.

    [8] Brosnan, 11.

    [9] This is why Bond, as myth, is actually superior to Tolkien – and why he appeals to a wider audience.

    [10] It’s no surprise that Rand was gaga over Dr. No. But she disliked the later films, thinking that they undermined Bond’s mythic heroism.

    [11] He was born in Gdynia, Poland, when it was part of Germany.

    [12] Calm yourselves: this business about casting a black man as Bond has been around for years. It’s a publicity stunt.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Spectre
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]670 words

    Warning: spoilers ahead

    I’m feeling a quantum of disappointment with the latest James Bond movie Spectre. But maybe my expectations were unreasonably high. The last Bond movie, Skyfall, was one of the very best. And Spectre has two of the most artful and enticing trailers ever produced (here [2] and here [3]). With such a buildup, maybe I was doomed to disappointment.

    What did I like about Spectre

    First, and foremost, there is Daniel Craig, who is the best actor to ever to have played Bond. Craig is not a handsome man, but he is highly charismatic. He is pure masculinity untainted with prettiness. He brings a depth and emotional complexity to the character that were well-exploited in Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012). Craig was wasted, however, in his second outing, Quantum of Solace (2008), which was a frenzied and unmemorable clone of a Jason Bourne movie. I call it Quantum of Bollocks. (When Craig retires, he should be replaced by Tom Hardy.)

    Second, there is the return of Spectre and Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) — and the cat [4].

    Third, there are two extremely feminine but formidable Bond girls: the elegant, aristocratic Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann, and Monica Bellucci, still stunning at 51, as Lucia Sciarra, the widow of a Spectre assassin.

    Fourth, I very much enjoyed the title song, “Writing’s on the Wall” by Sam Smith. Also good was Adele’s “Skyfall” song. But there’s a long list of pretty forgettable Bond songs before them. Thomas Newman’s score is quite good. And the tentacle porn title sequence is also pretty over the top.

    Finally, this film has all the Bond touches: exotic locations; beautiful buildings, interiors, people, clothes, and cars; and spectacular fights, chases, and stunts, all of them stylishly directed by Sam Mendes.

    What didn’t I like about Spectre?

    The main problem was the plot, specifically the plot in the last 30 minutes. Skyfall was such a powerful movie because in the last half hour it shifted from being just another Bond thriller into something mythic. Bond realizes that his nemesis, Silva, can use any computerized technology against him. So he decides to go back to the old ways. He loads M into a classic Aston Martin from the 1960s and heads to his family home, Skyfall, on the blasted heath of Scotland. There he meets his family game-keeper, played by Albert Finney. Both he and M are about the age that Bond’s parents would have been, had he not been orphaned in childhood. Thus not only is Bond going back in time to his family seat, he is recreating his family. Then the family pulls together to defend their fortress from attackers. It is emotionally powerful because it is mythic and primal.

    In Spectre, similar expectations are set up. Bond again goes back into his past. After he was orphaned, a guardian was appointed by the court. The guardian had a son, who was jealous of his father’s affection for Bond. He felt cuckolded, and he says so. Later, he murders his father, fakes his death, and takes on his mother’s name. This is the origin of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. It is the stuff of Greek tragedy.

    But once this back story is revealed, the rest of the movie is just a bunch of fights and chases, including the equivalent of Blofeld tying a woman to the train tracks, which is the stuff of Dudley Doright, not Greek tragedy. In short, the enormous dramatic and emotional potential of the back story and the plot so far is simply dissipated in farce.

    What should have happened? They should have recapitulated the primal scene of cuckoldry, this time Blofeld trying to cuckold Bond with Dr. Swann as the object of affection. Instead, we have a pointless torture scene followed by a ridiculously easy escape, followed by fights and chases and escapes with helicopters and speedboats and some other things I probably missed as I was glancing at my watch.

    Spectre is a good Bond movie. But it could have been a great one.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • The Way of Mitchum: So Manly You Could Even Skip a Day!
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]3,893 words

    James Scott Bell
    Manliness: The Robert Mitchum Way
    Woodland Hills, Cal.: Compendium Press, 2016

    “A man must defend his home, his wife, his children and his Martini.” — Jackie Gleason

    As the direct descendent of one of England’s greatest detectives,[1] [2] I have of course followed with interest the development of the genre, especially the rather more brutal American branch, so different from granddad’s genteel country house affairs.[2] [3]

    So when I noticed that bestselling thriller writer James Scott Bell had written a book on manliness, taking noir icon Robert Mitchum (1919–1997) as his lodestar, I grabbed a copy quicker than Hank Quinlan could slap a confession out of a Mexican shoe clerk [4].

    Not just another look at the loss and possible return of manliness, this one, rooted in cultural history rather than parental basement and barroom theorizing, could teach the manosphere a few important truths as well.

    A pulp writer has got to keep his eyes open, and Bell has noticed some things aren’t right anymore:

    We are fast losing something essential in American life—the man who knows how to be a real man; who know how to treat women and children and community; who knows how to fight for what’s right and honorable and who takes seriously his role as warrior and protector and father.

    [S]omewhere in the past sixty years that kind of tradition has been ridiculed by those who think there should be no such thing as manliness, that society would be better served by doing away with virtually any word that has ‘man’ in it.

    How’s that working out?

    It’s a popular topic here at Counter-Currents. Jef Costello makes a specialty of it, even devoting a book to James Bond as an icon of manhood.[3] [5] Even that perennial left-fielder James O’Meara has tried his hand at it.[4] [6] Both have gravitated to the movies, and why not? It’s arguably our most important artistic medium, and it certainly shapes the imaginations of the viewers, especially the young.

    Mitchum’s movie roles in particular, all represent to Bell “some aspect of the quintessential American male. Even in films where he assumed the role of villain there is a lesson to be learned — the consequences of violating manly virtues.”

    The result is a guided tour through Mitchum’s oeuvre, as the French would say,[5] [7] from timeless classics like Out of the Past (1947; possibly the greatest noir of all), The Night of the Hunter (1955), and Cape Fear (1962) to studio potboilers, TV miniseries (Winds of War), and a few noble failures (Bell suggests Ryan’s Daughter [1970] needs to be re-evaluated).

    And along the way we learn lessons: section titles include “A real man refuses to play the patsy.” “A man keeps his word, even if he’d rather not.” “When insulted by a bully, a man stays cool” — “But a man isn’t afraid to get hot when he needs to.” “Once a man takes on a tough job, he doesn’t quit.”

    Speaking of patsies, Bell is no sucker for Hollywood guff; he’s not afraid to criticize the advice on offer at the movie theater, even when it comes from John Wayne himself:

    When a man really messes up, he apologizes and makes things right

    There’s a manly film called She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949, John Ford) starring manly man John Wayne.  It’s got manly lessons, but one flaw. There’s a line that Wayne, as Capt. Nathan Brittles, keeps repeating. “Don’t apologize. It’s a sign of weakness.” That’s bogus. A real man apologizes when he messes up, when it’s his fault. He stands up and takes his medicine. He doesn’t make flimsy excuses. And when he really messes up, he shows contrition by trying to make things right.

    A lesson so important, Bell thinks we have to learn it twice:

    A man apologizes when it’s his fault

    Real men apologize when they are in the wrong. They don’t sentimentalize it, they don’t try to manipulate the other side. They say they are sorry and move on. And every now and then [as in The Yakuza [1974]), they show true contrition by cutting off their little finger.

    Talk about an apology with some meat to it! The lessons are clear. First, try not to have anything to do with the yakuza. Especially if you’re an American. Second, if something is your fault, apologize and mean it.

    All this wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy, mixed up world of ours if the auteur theory were true, and actors just meat puppets paid to learn lines and not bump into the furniture.[6] [8] But in his opening chapter, Bell makes a convincing case for the effectiveness of Mitchum’s manliness lessons arising from the alchemy between script and the man himself.

    The various lessons on marriage and how to treat a lady in general take on authority when delivered by someone whose own marriage lasted until his death, for a total of 57 years.

    A man fights to keep his marriage together

     Men need to get married. They don’t need to be perpetual boys who impregnate girlfriends and walk away. They need to get married, because that forces them to grow up. We need more grownups. We’ve got enough boys as it is.

    Indeed, one can only imagine the sneer of contempt Mitchum would have delivered if he had to contemplate today’s manosphere and its notions of “game” and pick-up artistry.

    A real man respects women

    Men are naturally sexual barbarians. They have to be restrained either by outside force—such as criminal laws—or inside character, which requires the strong nurture of family, community, or truly peaceful religion (and preferably all three).

    But this lesson needs to be hammered into men: your aggressive nature, unleashed, untamed, unmanaged, will result in the mistreatment of women, and you’d better get this straight right now, or your name might end up on a police blotter with sexual offender status slapped on you for life.

    A man knows when the time’s not right to flirt with a woman

    Some men think they always have to be “on” around women. There are certainly appropriate circumstances in which to flirt. . . . But a man who thinks he always has to put on his flirt face is really evidencing insecurity. Women much prefer a man who knows who he is and what he is about.

    No #MeToo trouble for Mitchum men. On the other hand,

    By the way, a real man does not ask for permission to kiss a woman. That is only in the doofus rules. A man goes in for a kiss, and if the woman refuses or pulls away, he accepts it with grace. But he does not give her an informed consent form beforehand. (Unless, of course, he is a young man going to college, in which case all the rules have been re-written by chuckleheads.)

    Speaking of college,

    A man knows how to play poker

    When you are a young man, and go to college, the first thing you need to do is find a quiet place to study. The second thing is to get into a weekly poker game.

    After all, “Robert Mitchum hardly ever changed expression. It’s a good poker face rule of life. Never let your enemies know what you’re thinking by the wrinkled brow or sweat on your forehead.”

    Of course, it’s not all about dallying with the ladies. There’s enough blood and guts to keep Jack Donovan happy:

    A man listens to, and properly channels, his warrior heart

    Having a warrior’s heart is not all glory and parades. It recognizes the hell of war, but does its duty anyway.

    A man knows war is hell, and hell doesn’t make friends

    When hell is your enemy, there are not perfect answers. But men have to make a decision. The people in the stands, don’t.

    But that’s no excuse for being a brute. Bell points out that

    A man knows how to be charming

    The nurturing of grace and wit and ease of motion was something men used to strive for.

    Today, I see a lot of posing. Guys with default macho walking into bars with unsmiling, hard-ass looks on their faces, as if this is what it means to be cool.[7] [9]

    I laugh at them.

    Robert Mitchum would have found them boring.

    Again, we see the alchemy of man and role; Mitchum himself felt no need to bore us in order to “demonstrate value” or otherwise prove his masculinity. He wrote poetry; he wrote and recorded his own songs, and even came out with an album of calypso [10] (so much for cultural appropriation).

    So charming, and so sure of his manliness, that Mitchum, before his big break in The Story of G. I. Joe (1945) could even pull off this kind of scene in Girl Rush (1944):

    When Jim is alerted that thugs are waiting in Red Creek to shoot the men and take the ladies, Jim hatches a plan to dress them all in drag. So on they come into town and the men of Red Creek think it’s only the women. They invite them into the saloon. And every one of them is hit on. Since Mitchum is tall and broad in the chest—in a manly sort of way, of course, a tall cowboy comes over and says, “You’re for me, ma’am, I like ’em big.”

    Ever the charmer, even in drag, Mitchum replies, “Well, they don’t come too big for me either, bud.” Works like a charm. The cowboy takes Mitchum over to the bar to buy him (her) a drink.

    But don’t forget that “broad in the chest” part either. Bell has some advice for the gym rats:

    A real man has muscles

    A man should be strong physically. This doesn’t always mean bulky. But it does mean strengthening those arms. There was a time when the male ideal included having a certain kind of physique. Robert Mitchum had it. The V shape with broad shoulders and big chest, and muscular arms for heavy lifting. Somehow another shape has gained acceptance in our culture. A sort of creamy smoothness combined with a spindly softness. Metro,[8] [11] not manly. Hipster, not Homeric. A man needs muscles.[9] [12]

    Indeed, Mitchum needed muscles; unlike, say, Bogart, he wasn’t born among the WASP aristos; he described his childhood as “broken windows and bloody noses” and later, like Harry Partch [13], he spent the Great Depression hopping freights as a hobo; one result was that even as a star, Mitchum, like Bogart, treated everyone on the set with respect and acted (in both senses) as a gentleman.

    Well, a tough-guy sort of gentleman. He was not above teaching a few lessons to his “betters.”

    The director, Otto Preminger, was notoriously hard on his actresses, and in this scene he kept directing Mitchum to slap [Jean] Simmons harder, take after take. Finally, Mitchum had had enough, turned around and said, “Like this?” and slapped Preminger! The director stormed off the set and went to producer Howard Hughes and demanded that Mitchum be fired. Um, no. Hughes was not going to fire his biggest star. Preminger was forced to finish the film, and it has since become a cult classic.

    Mitchum was lucky enough to have Hughes around on another occasion, right when he was breaking out as a star, when he was busted for marijuana (quite an offense in the days of Reefer Madness); although he told the booking cop his occupation was “former actor,”

    Hughes was a risk taker and didn’t like anyone telling him what to do. He also had the keen insight to understand that a little bit of danger was now associated with Mitchum, and that would increase his box office appeal with the bobby-soxers. This was just before the age of Brando and Dean. Indeed Mitchum, one could argue, laid the groundwork for those two iconic bad boys. In any case, Mitchum’s career soared to its greatest heights after his dustup with dope.

    Even at the start of his career, when RKO wanted him to change his name to “Robert Marshall,” Mitchum “told the studio bosses where they could stick that idea.”

    Mitchum was always his own man, and Bell finds support for his rule that “a man takes a stand for freedom of the individual” in the 1958 Thunder Road, where again man and role are one:

    This was a personal project for Mitchum, who came up with the original story, starred (with his son), co-produced, and co-wrote the awesome theme song. A year later, Mitchum recorded the ballad he wrote for the film. You can find it on YouTube [14].

    Bell notes that in the film, “Luke transports whiskey in a hidden compartment adjacent to the gas tank. His car also has a button that releases an oil slick, causing the pursuing vehicle to swerve off the road, as in a James Bond film.” Bond and drinking seem to go together (didn’t Fleming get the name from “bottled in bond”?) and Bell of course has a rule for it: “A man who chooses to drink knows that one martini is enough.”

    Alas, here he strays out of his area of competence, and proceeds to garble the recipe for a true martini. I suggest you rely on my own countryman, Kingsley Amis on this;[10] [15] interestingly, also a Bond expert. One thing I might add: when Bell advances the “one martini” rule, he neglects the interesting fact that martini glasses — and servings — have increased in modern times. The martini glass of the past was quite small — in North by Northwest, Cary Grant picks up a gimlet when dining with Eva Marie Saint on the train to Chicago and it quite disappears in his hand; and look at the tiny glasses of the ad men he meets at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room in the first scene. This is why the businessmen of the Mad Men era didn’t fall down drunk after their “three martini lunches.” Today’s bars justify their $15 prices by the usual expedient of increasing the size (since there’s such an enormous markup already, doubling the amount is a negligible cost), just like the “supersize” portions of fast food.[11] [16]

    Altogether, Bell and Mitchum have some good lessons for us as we try to solve the problem of disappearing manliness.

    [T]rue manliness is not to be confused with Alpha-soaked testosterone. That is mere pose. It’s not about chest-beating. It’s not about strutting through a room to make sure everyone knows you’re a man. A real man doesn’t need to pose. He doesn’t announce his manliness. He lives it.

    But Bell really isn’t one of us, as far as diagnosing the problem goes. The answers proposed on our side or site wouldn’t occur to him, or he’d be horrified if they did. He barely makes out the questions themselves.

    Politically, he’s your basic Boomer. Hitler is a bad hombre, full stop (as we Brits say); Roosevelt is a hero — and so is Eleanor. But then the manly men of the ’40s thought so too; manliness — and its opposite — used to be common to men as such, whatever their politics.

    He does note that the change in movies seemed to start happening in the ’70s. More generally:

    What used to be called ‘manly virtues’ have been dismissed and denigrated over the last forty years or more. This acid drip began (as acid drips usually do) in the halls of academia. Gradually the poison seeped into society at large until denigration morphed into accepted wisdom. But it is the wisdom of fools. For robust manliness is not only necessary for the vitality of America (America as an ideal has also been acid-dripped by the academy), but also for order, civility, protection, and romantic love . . .

    Is it sixty years or as in his earlier quote, forty years? What exactly happened in “academia” and why and who did it? There are plenty of answers on offer here at Counter-Currents.

    But hey, it’s a short book, and Bell deserves all the praise and credit deserved by someone who at least senses something’s wrong and — unlike so many with their “answers” — actually tries to do something practical about it.

    If you’ve read Bell’s thrillers, or his books on how to write fiction [17],[12] [18] you’ll recognize his style here. He’s closer to Spillane than Chandler; narrative looks as much like dialogue as possible, plenty of one sentence paragraphs with lots of white space on the right side.

    And that’s okay with me.

    It’s a good, hard-punching style that fits the material.

    Like a glove.

    A boxing glove.

    This is good stuff, and well worth your attention if, as Bell says, you are a young man looking for guidance, a father looking for ways to get the message across, a mother who has to do the same thing in the absence of a suitable male figure, or even a woman looking for the right man and wondering what to look for.

    He’s right there, lady, right there in the cable listings.

    Notes

    [1] [19] No, not Father Brown, you beast!

    [2] [20] The locus classicus here, of course, is that bloody socialist Orwell’s “Raffles and Miss Blandish,” which Wikipedia says was “first published in Horizon in October 1944 as ‘The Ethics of the Detective Story from Raffles to Miss Blandish.'” “In America, both in life and fiction, the tendency to tolerate crime, even to admire the criminal so long as he is successful, is very much more marked.” We’ll see how accurate that is as we examine the book under review.

    [3] [21]The Importance of James Bond & Other Essays [22], edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2017); reviewed here [23].

    [4] [24] “Humphrey Bogart: Man Among the Cockroaches,” reprinted in The Homo & the Negro: Masculinist Meditations on Politics and Popular Culture [25]; edited by Greg Johnson (Second, Embiggened Edition; San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2017); “Welcome to the Club: The Rise and Fall of the Männerbund in Pre-War American Pop Culture,” reprinted in Green Nazis in Space! New Essays on Literature, Art, & Culture [26]; edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015); and perhaps “St. Steven of Le Mans: The Man Who Just Didn’t Care,” here [27].

    [5] [28] Bell notes that the French, such as Jean Luc-Goddard, regard Angel Face (1953) as “among the best films of all time.” We’ll come back to it, and its director, Otto Preminger.

    [6] [29] Spencer Tracy? Noel Coward? Alfred Lunt? Lynn Fontanne? Anonymous? See the Quote Investigator, here [30].

    [7] [31] As we’ll see, Bell doesn’t have much interest in what caused this change in manly behavior; for a controversial theory that might explain the loss of charm, see James J. O’Meara, The Homo & The Negro,  especially the title essay and, as applied to the Wild West, “Wild Boys and Hard Men.”

    [8] [32] Referring to “metrosexual,” of course, not the beastly London suburbs grandpa mildly deplored, although Harriet Walter was both Lady Metroland in Bright Young Things (2003) and granddad’s future wife in the BBC dramatization of his adventure Strong Poison (1987).

    [9] [33] It’s interesting that while “metro, not manly” has become acceptable, today’s audiences no longer accept “old-time” ideas of masculine fitness. As James O’Meara noted, Family Guy mocks Robert Mitchum as an “out-of-shape in-shape ’50s guy” while Mystery Science Theater chuckles at actors who “look like a nineteenth-century ‘strong man’.” See his discussion of these paradoxes in “The Ponderous Weight of the Dark Knight,” reprinted in Dark Right: Batman Viewed from the Right [34], ed. Greg Johnson and Gregory Hood (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2018). Personally, I would not try to tangle with Mitchum. On the other hand, Bell’s claim that “Even men who have a naturally wiry frame can develop strong, ropey muscles. (For a movie example, watch the Westerns Jimmy Stewart made in the 1950s. Stewart successfully transitioned from his early ‘Aw shucks’ image into a tough-as-nails Western hero)” recalls another MST3k comment on a notably pasty and scrawny character: “Must’ve bought the James Stewart workout tape.”(Episode 1005, Blood Waters of Dr. Z [35], at 15:58). For more on Jimmy Stewart’s lessons in manliness, see here [36]. Not to be confused with actor James Stewart, who does indeed have his own workout plan [37].

    [10] [38] “The Dry Martini is the most famous and the best cocktail in the world. . . . The basic ingredients are gin and dry vermouth. Any nationally known gin is suitable, but the vermouth must be Martini Rossi dry — the name is a coincidence, nothing to do with the name of the cocktail. The standard recipe tells you to pour four measures of gin and one measure of vermouth into a jug half full of ice, stir vigorously for at least half a minute, strain, and serve in small, stemmed glasses.

    “There are variations on this. Some authorities, including James Bond, recommend shaking rather than stirring the mixture, which looks good but which I regard as a bit flashy. Rockefeller and his chums probably drank equal parts of gin and vermouth. Since then, people have come to prefer their Martinis drier and drier, i.e. with less and less vermouth. Sixteen parts gin to one vermouth is nowadays considered quite normal. Anyway, that’s about how I like it. Finding out by experiment the precise balance you favour is no great ordeal. Don’t hurry it.

    “Such is the classical or ‘straight-up’ Dry Martini, with ice used in the mixing jug but no ice in the glass. The problem is that it starts to lose its chill from the moment of serving. Far more than any other drink, it deteriorates as it warms up. Stirring with ice in the jug as before and then serving on the rocks is the solution, and quite trendy enough. Realize that it means fresh ice cubes not only for first drinks but for all subsequent ones too, that’s if you want to do things properly.

    “I always try a Martini out of curiosity if offered one at a private house. I would never ask for one in a pub, as opposed to a cocktail bar. Even if I got across that I didn’t want a glass of plain vermouth (horrible muck on its own), I would be bound to be given a drink with too much vermouth in it. In an emergency I’d consider calling for a large gin and a small vermouth, dipping my finger in the vermouth and stirring the gin with it.

    “The best Dry Martini known to man is the one I make myself for myself. In the cold part of the refrigerator I have a bottle of gin and small wineglass half full of water that has been allowed to freeze. When the hour strikes I half fill the remaining space with gin, flick in a few drops of vermouth and add a couple of cocktail onions, the small, hard kind. Now that is a drink.

    “There was a man in New York one time who bet he could drink fifteen double Martinis in one hour. He got there all right and collected his money but within anther minute he fell dead off his bar stool. Knock that back and have another.” Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis (London: Bloomsbury, 2008).

    [11] [39] Bond agrees with the “one drink” rule, but with several provisos; the famous Vesper Martini recipe – served in a deep champagne goblet — begins thus: “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad.” —Ian Fleming, Casino Royale, Chapter 7, “Rouge et Noir.”

    [12] [40] Especially How to Write Pulp Fiction (Woodland Hills, Cal.: Compendium Press, 2017).

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • The Man From U.N.C.L.E. — A Cautionary Tale, Part 1
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    3,989 words

    [1]Part 1 of 2

    Teaser:

    On August 14th, Warner Bros. will release its big-screen adaptation of a television series most moviegoers under the age of 60 have never even heard of: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (NBC, 1964-1968). The present article is devoted to the original series, which is a gold mine for New Right pop cultural commentary. Simultaneously crypto-Marxist, crypto-anti-Marxist, and crypto-anti-Semitic, this quintessential ’60s cultural artifact is also ultra-cool, ultra-bad, and (as the foregoing trio of anti’s implies) just ultra-confused.

    Act One: “The Bastard Spawn of Ian Fleming”

    Hard to believe so few remember it now, because in its day U.N.C.L.E. was a big thing. The first TV show, in fact, to develop a cult following while it was still on the air, U.N.C.L.E. spawned eight feature films (released 1964-1968) which made more money than the Bond films in some parts of the world, a spin-off (the ludicrous Girl From U.N.C.L.E., 1966-1967), 24 paperback novels, comic books, a magazine, a clothing line, several record albums, and so many toys a book [2] had to be published a few years ago to catalog them all.

    [3]

    Public appearances by series co-star David McCallum caused literal riots. The most memorable of these occurred on February 5, 1966 when 15,000 teenaged girls showed up to see McCallum make an appearance at New York’s Macy’s on 34th Street. When employees panicked and abruptly cancelled the event, the ensuing melee sent several to the hospital. One dejected 13-year-old told the Times, “I’m going to Gimbels from now on.”

    When the Beatles arrived in Los Angeles in the summer of 1966 (to make one of their final live concert appearances) their first request was to meet series star Robert Vaughn — since U.N.C.L.E. was their favorite TV show. (It was even bigger in the U.K., where the first few U.N.C.L.E. feature films set box office records.) U.N.C.L.E. was also the favorite show of William S. Burroughs.

    [4]

    The story of U.N.C.L.E.’s success, and of how it came about at all, is arguably more entertaining than the series itself. If you know anything at all about the series, you will have heard that it was supposed to be “James Bond on television” (not quite accurate, as we shall see), and a major part of the ’60s “spy craze.” But U.N.C.L.E. was the only Bond knock off in which Bond creator Ian Fleming actually had a hand.

    After the success of his first one or two novels in the 1950s, Fleming very soon began thinking about bringing Bond either to the big screen or the small screen. He was involved in various efforts to do so throughout the decade. In 1954, the year Casino Royale (the first Bond novel) was published in the U.S., a TV adaptation appeared on a CBS anthology series. Barry Nelson played an Americanized “Jimmy” Bond. It was quickly forgotten (and should remain so). Two years later Fleming sold the film rights to the same novel for a mere $6,000 (these rights changed hands a few times and eventually led to the 1967 Casino Royale, a lavish, misfired “spoof,” and then finally to Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, the smashing 2006 Casino Royale).

    In 1959, Fleming collaborated with producer Kevin McClory and playwright Jack Whittingham on several treatments and screenplays under the tentative title James Bond of the Secret Service. The result is an oft-told tale for Bond fans (and the subject of a recent book, The Battle for Bond [5]: when nothing came of the project, Fleming adapted the story into the novel Thunderball (published in 1961). Unfortunately, he . . . um . . . forgot to give any credit (or money) to McClory and Whittingham, even though much of the story was their invention. (Devising plots was not Fleming’s forte, a point to which I will return later.) This included the villain: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (the SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion). McClory and Whittingham promptly filed suit — and Fleming promptly had his first heart attack. (The second — in 1964 — would kill him.)

    As a result of the suit, McClory won the film rights to Thunderball — an awkward situation, since Fleming had already sold them to Albert R. Broccoli and Herschel “Harry” Saltzman, who would release their first Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962. (And the rest, as they say, is history . . .) McClory was also awarded ownership of the Blofeld character and S.P.E.C.T.R.E. The reason why both subsequently appear in six of the first seven Bond films is that Broccoli and Saltzman literally leased the properties from McClory for a period of 10 years. In the ’70s, however, McClory declined to extend the lease, as he was now out to make his own, competing Bond film based on the original treatments he wrote with Fleming.

    This is the reason why Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E disappear from the Eon Productions Bond films after 1971’s Diamonds are Forever — reappearing, after years of legal battles, in McClory’s 1983 film Never Say Never Again, in which Sean Connery returned to the role of James Bond. (Trivia note: had McClory been amenable, the villain in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me would have been Blofeld — see how many parallels you can find between Blofeld and “Stromberg,” the villain the film actually wound up with.) As everyone knows by now, Blofeld and company will return in the upcoming Daniel Craig Bond film Spectre (set for release in November). How did Eon Productions nab Blofeld again? Answer: they bought the rights to the character from McClory’s estate (he died in 2006).

    [6]

    Norman Felton

    In any case, given all the frustration Fleming had suffered as a result of his desire to involve himself with Hollywood, it’s surprising that he agreed to meet with TV producer Norman Felton in October 1962, to discuss collaborating on a weekly series. At the time, Felton was a big wheel in Hollywood. He was head of both MGM-TV and of his own company, Arena Productions, which launched the hit series Dr. Kildare in September 1961. Interestingly, Felton’s immediate predecessor as head of MGM-TV was Richard Maibaum, best known as the screenwriter for 13 of the Bond films. (In another odd coincidence, both Felton and Maibaum had attended the University of Iowa, where both studied in the Speech and Dramatic Arts Department — though not at the same time.)

    Felton did not know Fleming’s work, though of course he had heard of it. (It was actually Felton’s agent who persuaded him to meet with Fleming, thinking something big could result.) For readers today “James Bond” equals the James Bond films. But in 1962 Bond was still very much a literary phenomenon. When Fleming and Felton met in New York City to begin what would be a series of largely aimless discussions, the cinematic James Bond was only twenty-four days old: Dr. No had premiered on October 5th in London (Fleming and Felton met on October 29th). And the film would not be seen in the U.S. until May 8, 1963.

    Thus, it’s important to keep in mind two things. First, it was the literary Bond that led to this meeting. And, second, the aim of the meeting was to produce a new “Fleming creation” — not to rip off Bond. What would become The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was — as we shall see — created before Dr. No was ever seen in the U.S. And the pilot episode was scripted prior to the premiere of From Russia, With Love (the second Bond film), and filmed prior to its U.S. release. The breezy, “tongue in cheek” quality of U.N.C.L.E. is best compared to 1964’s Goldfinger (the third Bond film), which was not even released in the U.S. until December 1964, when U.N.C.L.E. had been airing for three months.

    Thus, like the British series The Avengers and Danger Man, U.N.C.L.E. actually predates the cinematic Bond phenomenon, and it is inaccurate to label any of these series as imitating or “cashing in on” the cinematic Bond. Indeed, I would argue (though this is not the place to do it) that the ’60s “spy craze” should be understood on analogy with the “Western craze” of the 1950s, which lasted into the ’60s. In 1959 there were twenty-six Westerns airing in primetime in the U.S. market. Now, arguably without the success of Gunsmoke (which began airing in 1955) none of these shows would have been on, and it can also be said that Gunsmoke (and cinematic Westerns, of course) inspired the creation of some of these shows. But the differences between Gunsmoke and series like Rawhide, Bonanza, Maverick, and Have Gun — Will Travel were very, very great. The Avengers and U.N.C.L.E. have about as much in common with Bond as The Big Valley has with Stagecoach. “Spy-fi,” as it has come to be called, is a genre in which there are many variations, just like the Western.

    When Norman Felton met Ian Fleming, Bond’s creator was a very tired man. As noted earlier, he had already suffered one heart attack, and had also become weary of James Bond, and of the legal mess he had created for himself. According to Felton, they spent a couple days together walking around New York City shooting the breeze. Felton’s attempts to direct the conversation back to the television project were usually unsuccessful. On the evening of October 30th, after a dinner party held in Fleming’s honor, Felton typed up some notes on a “spy” character — very general stuff about a man of mystery involved in international intrigue.

    The next morning, he showed the notes to Fleming, who liked them, and then suggested out of the blue that the character be called “Napoleon Solo.” Felton was not entirely thrilled by this and tactfully asked why. “Well, Solo is a good name,” Fleming replied, “and Napoleon just sounds good with it.” This was coming, of course, from the creator of characters with names like Julius No, Honey Rider, Auric Goldfinger, Pussy Galore, Guntram Shatterhand, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Tiffany Case, and Francisco Scaramanga. He had a knack for names. And “Napoleon Solo” undeniably has the “Fleming touch”: cool, weird, and knowing it. What he failed to tell Felton, however, was that “Mr. Solo” (without “Napoleon”) was the name of a minor character, a hood who gets bumped off, in Goldfinger. This would be the source of future trouble.

    Then, dramatically, Fleming produced a stack of eleven Western Union telegram blanks on which he had written notes about Napoleon Solo, the night before. (Fleming explained that he could find no stationery in his hotel room.) His notes also contained very general allusions to international intrigue, but also some very specific indications about Solo. Fleming was famous for his detailed descriptions of Bond’s taste in all manner of things, right down to the type of cotton his shirts were made from and the brand of marmalade he favored. (See my essay “The Importance of James Bond [7].” Among other things, Fleming’s Solo collected gold coins and bandannas. He had a pet bird he talked to regularly, which Fleming envisioned as “useful for getting over plot problems.” One imagines something like the following — coming, say, after a cliffhanger at the end of Act Three:

    ACT FOUR

    FADE IN:

    INT. SOLO’S APARTMENT — THE FOLLOWING MORNING

    Solo is standing by the bird cage, wearing the same clothes we saw him in last night.

    SOLO

    (talking to bird)

    I guess you’re wondering how I got all this marmalade on me, Tweety. . .

    (he drops a few seeds into the cage)

    . . . Well, things looked pretty dicey when I was caught in the embrace of that giant squid. But thankfully out of the corner of my eye I spotted Dr. Lobo’s breakfast tray . . .

    And so on.

    [8]Felton had already suggested to Fleming that their main character might be Canadian, rather than American (a point I will return to shortly). Fleming worked that in, specifying that Solo had served in a Canadian Highland regiment. Solo would also have a mysterious boss, referred to only as “He.” And He had a secretary, with whom Solo (of course) would flirt. Her name was April Dancer. In fact the names “Napoleon Solo” and “April Dancer” were the only elements from Fleming’s notes that found their way into what became The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

    April Dancer became The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (not the secretary to “He”), though she had to wait until 1966. There were also a few Bondian elements in Fleming’s notes (Solo wears blue suits with a white shirt and black tie — no mention of whether the tie is knitted, however — and drives a vintage car.) But the general impression is that Fleming was trying to create a character distinctively different from Bond. That few of his original ideas were retained for U.N.C.L.E. is not exactly a lost opportunity: the ideas weren’t that good.

    Felton knew he didn’t have that much when he parted company with Fleming on October 31st. But he also knew that without Fleming’s name there would be no series — and he was anxious to produce an escapist program, having had enough of drama for the moment. Less than a month later he synthesized his own notes with Fleming’s, producing a short document titled “Basic Material Pertinent to a New One Hour Television Series [entitled] SOLO. Assembled by: Ian Fleming and Norman Felton.” And then the negotiations began between Felton’s agents and MGM-TV, with the idea of bringing Solo to NBC, with sponsorship by the Ford Motor Co. This dragged on until March 1963, when NBC agreed that it would buy the Solo series without a pilot — a rarity — based upon Fleming’s promised participation.

    Act Two: “Have Modified-P-38-With-Attachments — Will Travel”

    [9]

    Sam Rolfe with David McCallum

    Then the pressure was really on, as Felton’s experience in New York had taught him that he couldn’t rely on Fleming. The enthusiasm and commitment simply weren’t there. Faced with the necessity of producing a more detailed outline for Solo, Felton turned to Sam Rolfe, who was at that time producer of Felton’s series The Eleventh Hour, which concerned a psychiatrist. (Intended as the psychiatric equivalent to Dr. Kildare, The Eleventh Hour was not nearly as successful, lasting only two seasons on NBC, from 1962-1964.)

    Rolfe was co-creator of the highly-successful Western series Have Gun — Will Travel, which ran on CBS from 1957 to 1963. It concerned the adventures of a freelance “knight without armor,” Palladin (played by Richard Boone), who was conceived as a debonair, stylish, larger than life hero. The series had a whimsical tone, but involved Palladin in credible adventures. (It also had a racist tone — by today’s standards — with two recurring Asian characters named Hey Boy and Hey Girl, who played a kind of slanty-eyed Stepin Fetchit function for Boone’s Palladin.)

    Four years before Have Gun — Will Travel, Rolfe had scored an Oscar nomination for his first screenplay, written for The Naked Spur, a Western starring James Stewart. An interesting footnote: Rolfe co-wrote The Naked Spur with Harold Jack Bloom, who would later contribute a script to U.N.C.L.E., and be credited with “additional story material” for the 1967 Bond film You Only Live Twice, making him the only writer — aside from Ian Fleming — to have been involved with both Bond and U.N.C.L.E.

    Felton gave Rolfe his twelve-page sketch of Solo and essentially left him free to develop it as he saw fit. Now, only a couple of years earlier Rolfe had penned an unproduced pilot script for a proposed series titled The Dragons and St. George. A kind of modernized Arthurian romance, the hero was one Mark St. George, a freelance troubleshooter not unlike Simon Templar (The Saint) — and more than a little like Rolfe’s Palladin. He was assisted by his German shepherd, Merlin, and by a mysterious blond man named Lance Mordred. Mordred had been mangled in an accident some years earlier, and his body rebuilt from various donors. Mysteriously, from each of these he had acquired a special skill (e.g., because a Parisian chef had donated a metatarsal arch, Lance was an expert in the preparation of haute cuisine — no kidding!). The “dragons” of the title were the various villains St. George encountered each week.

    Quite a lot of this went into Rolfe’s revision of Solo. He tossed out almost every bit of characterization Fleming and Felton had given Napoleon Solo, and essentially gave Mark St. George a name change. Lance Mordred became Illya Kuryakin, Solo’s sometime partner — though the ridiculous business about his being made of spare parts was jettisoned. The dog was also dropped, but Rolfe retained another item in St. George’s arsenal: a modified Walther P-38 which could fire full auto, and accept various attachments such as a shoulder stock and telescopic sight. Finally, “the dragons” were to become an evil organization that Solo would fight on a regular basis — but more about them shortly.

    The biggest change Rolfe made to his original conception was to give Solo/St. George a regular employer. This was U.N.C.L.E. — an acronym, of course, but originally the letters stood for nothing (Rolfe wanted to keep it mysterious). U.N.C.L.E. was conceived as an international spy organization, with agents of all nationalities working for the welfare of the entire world. Sort of like if the U.N. had its own spy agency, with cool gadgets. And Rolfe intended the “U.N.” in “U.N.C.L.E.” to invite speculation that the two were connected. In Rolfe’s lengthy “prospectus” for what would become The Man From U.N.C.L.E., he gives a detailed description of the organization and its headquarters.

    Rolfe envisioned U.N.C.L.E. HQ as located a few blocks from the U.N. building in New York, somewhere in the East 40s. It occupied one entire city block, and was concealed behind a row of brownstones. At one end of the block was a newer, whitestone building which actually housed an office plainly marked as belonging to U.N.C.L.E. Here some nobody sat behind a desk, ready to inform inquirers of U.N.C.L.E.’s mission, making it out to seem like something along the lines of UNICEF. Rolfe seemed to be taking inspiration here from Fleming’s description in Thunderball of the “cover office” for S.P.E.C.T.R.E.: F.I.R.C.O., the Fraternité International de la Résistance Contre l’Oppression, an organization that claims to assist resistance movements around the world. U.N.C.L.E. is not, therefore, a secret organization — but its real activities are most definitely secret. Hence what lies behind the brownstones.

    At the middle of the block is Del Floria’s Tailor Shop (originally called Giovanni’s in Rolfe’s notes). This is the “agent’s entrance” to U.N.C.L.E. HQ. If the elderly tailor recognizes you as an agent, you are escorted into a fitting booth. He flips a concealed switch beside his pressing machine, you twist the coat hook in the fitting booth and the back wall of the booth opens to reveal the admissions room of U.N.C.L.E. HQ. There, depending upon your security clearance, you will receive either a white, yellow, green, or red badge. But the receptionist (always a pretty girl) must attach it to your lapel herself. A chemical on her fingers reacts with a chemical on the badge, without which reaction the badge would set off every alarm in the place as soon as you walked through the first sliding, mechanical steel door.

    [10]

    And so on. Rolfe poured a huge amount of imagination and detail into these notes, almost as much as Gene Roddenberry famously did for Star Trek, or Patrick McGoohan did for The Prisoner. He provided a complete layout of U.N.C.L.E.’s HQ (yes there’s more: such as the underground grotto with channel to the East River, never depicted in the series). He even created an organizational chart:

    Section I: Policy and Operations

    Section II: Operations and Enforcement

    Section III: Enforcement and Intelligence

    Section IV: Intelligence and Communications

    Section V: Communication and Security

    Section VI: Security and Personnel

    Section VII: Propaganda and Finance

    Section VIII: Camouflage and Deception

    Napoleon Solo is Number One, Section Two (or “Chief Enforcement Agent”) of the New York branch. (There are five major U.N.C.L.E. branches — in New York, Caracas, Nairobi, New Delhi and Berlin — and innumerable smaller ones). His second in command and frequent partner is Illya Kurakin, whose home country is the U.S.S.R. Number One, Section One, Chief of the New York branch, is Alexander Waverly. Leo G. Carroll was cast as Waverly in the series — essentially playing the same part he had played in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959; a strong cinematic influence on U.N.C.L.E., as was Hitchcock’s 1946 film Notorious). (In the pilot the character was called “Mr. Allison” and was played by Will Kuluva.)

    As mentioned earlier, Rolfe imagined Solo as fitted out with a modified Walther P-38. Thus was created the famous “U.N.C.L.E.” special with multiple attachments. Several of these were created by prop men for the series (after an earlier attempt with a Mauser proved unusable — the Mauser’s modification was backed financially by the Ideal Toy Co., which eventually marketed a toy version that made millions). The gun proved so popular with little boys that it received its own fan mail, and was the subject of more than one magazine article. And countless gadgets were created for the men from U.N.C.L.E. Rolfe envisioned the agents in continuous radio contact with HQ, and as these were the days before cell phones the prop men created concealed “communicators” disguised as cigarette cases and — most famously — a fountain pen. But all of this was yet to come.

    [11]

    Felton was delighted with Rolfe’s work, and in the summer of 1963 he travelled to London and showed the prospectus to Ian Fleming. Fleming was also impressed — and he shocked Felton by asking if he could buy a couple of the plot outlines Rolfe had included with his prospectus! (Fleming’s greatest difficulty in writing the Bond novels was coming up with plots.) One of these was a story that involved a secret organization, based under the ocean, firing rockets full of wheat-eating bacteria into Soviet crops. Their aim: to bring about a nuclear war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Once the two superpowers had decimated each other, they would rise from the ocean and take over. Although there’s no way to be sure, this could have been one of the plots that interested Fleming. In any case, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the plot of the 1977 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (though not the Fleming novel from which it took its title, and only its title). (This plot outline was later developed into one of the early episodes of U.N.C.L.E., “The Neptune Affair,” broadcast December 8, 1964.)

    Though their meeting had begun in this auspicious manner, Fleming then disappointed Felton by informing him that he was being pressured by Bond producers Broccoli and Saltzman not to have any involvement in the series. And, besides, he was spread a bit thin. Fleming then signed over all rights to “Napoleon Solo” to Felton for the token sum of £1. Eon Productions would later bring legal action against Felton, MGM, and NBC claiming the use of “Solo” was copyright infringement. Their case was a weak one. As noted earlier, the “Solo” of Goldfinger was a gangster (if you’ve seen the film, he’s the one Goldfinger sends off on a “pressing engagement”). But Felton et al. were eager to make the whole thing go away, so while they held firm on the use of “Napoleon Solo,” they agreed to change the title of the series. Felton wanted to call it U.N.C.L.E., as it seemed mysterious, and was incensed when someone at NBC insisted on the title The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

    The fact that Felton held firm on “Napoleon Solo,” though he didn’t even like the name, is an indication that he was in no hurry to dispel the idea that Fleming had something to do with the series. Indeed, the copy of Rolfe’s prospectus that he showed to Fleming and others had a cover page that read “Ian Fleming’s SOLO,” and made no reference to Rolfe at all. Furthermore, instead of offering Rolfe the “created by” credit that he really deserved, MGM-Arena offered him “developed by.” At the time, Rolfe didn’t think it made much of a difference. He later discovered that it did — financially and otherwise.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Skyfall
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]3,353 words

    SPOILER ALERT! Do not read this essay until you have seen Skyfall. I would not want to ruin your experience of seeing the best James Bond film in many years.

    Bond films always seem to be judged “good” or “bad” relative to other Bond films. But Skyfall is not only a good Bond film, it’s a good film period. Daniel Craig apparently ran into Sam Mendes at a party and, on a whim, asked if he might be interested in directing a Bond film. This was a real stroke of good fortune, as Mendes’s Skyfall is perhaps the most exciting, visually arresting, and emotionally moving film in the entire series.

    In the old Sean Connery days the Bond films were both innovative and daring. The cinematography, editing, set design, and music set new standards and were endlessly imitated. The films were also considered daring in their violence and in their rather frank and amoral approach to sexuality. But though the Bond films have made gobs of money for fifty years, they have been neither innovative nor daring since the 1960s.

    Yes, they are still imitated. But it’s primarily the elements of the archetypal, ’60s Bond that have been the object of imitation. And, notoriously, the Bond films began imitating themselves practically as soon as the ’60s came to an end. Worse yet, Bond has often been guilty of following trends set by other films. First came the Blaxploitation Bond, Live and Let Die (1973). Then The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) tried to cash in on the popularity of martial arts movies. The nadir was reached when Moonraker (1979) took Bond into space, chasing after the Star Wars audience.

    But the Daniel Craig films, which “rebooted the franchise” (an expression I detest), have changed all that. These films, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale, are fresh, original, and feature cutting-edge talent in all areas. And Skyfall is the best of them, by far (better than Casino Royale, which was excellent, and far better than the lackluster Quantum of Solace, which appeared in 2008). This one is going to inspire imitators, and it is destined to be thought of as one of the “classics” in a series that might well celebrate its hundredth anniversary someday.

    Cinematographer Roger Deakins has filled Skyfall with scenes that are often extraordinarily beautiful (especially those set in Macau – a location Bond visited in The Man with the Golden Gun, but with rather less spectacular results). The acting is also the best in any Bond film. Craig has managed to turn Bond into a believable, three dimensional character. He is still larger than life, but he contains depths never plumbed by any other actor. And, yes, that includes Sean Connery. Craig is the better actor, and his is the more credible Bond. I realize that this is heresy, but the same opinion was recently put forward [2] (albeit more politely) by Roger Moore, who has never been accused of great acting. (Connery himself could not be reached for comment.) Judi Dench (as M) and Javier Bardem (as Silva, the villain) are also excellent.

    Skyfall’s screenplay (by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan) is fresh, the dialogue intelligent and snappy. There’s not a line in it that made me wince. Even Bond’s one-liners are excellent (leaving a Chinese thug to be devoured by a Komodo dragon, he quips, “Ah, the circle of life . . .”). The story is also thoroughly surprising and unpredictable. How many times have you been able to say that about a Bond movie? When A View to a Kill appeared in 1985, one critic commented, memorably, that going to see a Bond movie is like going to the zoo: you’re either pleased to see the same animals again, or you’re not. Gone are those days. Even Thomas Newman’s music score for Skyfall deserves praise: it’s a great improvement over David Arnold’s often shameless attempts to imitate John Barry. (I honestly think it’s the best non-Barry score for a Bond film.)

    The plot, as everyone knows by now, concerns a former MI6 agent (Bardem) out for revenge against M, who betrayed him years earlier to the Chinese. The story takes many twists and turns, but the basic simplicity of the villain’s motivations is actually a great virtue of this film. (Some Bond movies have plots so complicated they rival film noir.) It’s not the first time there has been a Bond revenge movie: 1989’s Licence to Kill has Bond going rogue, out for revenge against the villain, and the bad guy in 1995’s GoldenEye is motivated by revenge.

    But this film breaks with a lot of Bond plot conventions, and the major one concerns “the Bond girl.” The classic Bond formula actually involves three girls. Two of them usually only appear briefly. One is often killed, and sometimes one is an enemy agent (who also gets killed). The third is often introduced well into the film (e.g., Honey Rider in Dr. No, Pussy Galore in Goldfinger), but she sticks around until the end, and is the “female lead” of the production.

    Skyfall follows this formula – up to a point. There’s a black female MI6 agent named Eve (played by Naomie Harris) who’s introduced at the beginning of the film, then disappears for much of the rest of it. Then Bond encounters another female, this one held in thrall to the villain (another nod to The Man with the Golden Gun). She is Séverine (a name lifted from Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour), played by Bérénice Lim Marlohe. And she is the film’s “sacrificial lamb,” killed by Silva before Bond’s eyes. As I discussed in my essay “The Importance of James Bond [3],” this is a familiar plot device in the series. It’s there to allow Bond to show his human side, and to make us hate the villain more. Though here, curiously, Bond reacts coldly to Séverine’s death.

    The curious thing, however, is that after Silva blows poor Séverine away with his dueling pistol, no beautiful babe shows up to help Craig carry the rest of the film. There is no “third girl” in Skyfall. This struck me as strange . . . until I realized the obvious: in this film, M is the Bond girl. (A point which has been made by a number of reviewers.)

    In large measure, Skyfall is really about the relationship between Bond and M. It’s a relationship which hasn’t been explored much in the films. In Fleming’s novels, it’s made clear that Bond both loves and hates his boss. M is usually cold and stern with Bond – but there are occasional, brief flashes of fatherly affection. M is actually a keen psychologist, and he no doubt realizes that the best way to keep Bond on his toes is precisely through leavening his disapproval with only a small amount of warmth. Bond is, after all, an orphan who lost his father and mother at the age of eleven. Inevitably, he can’t help but see M as a father figure. And M is surely not above exploiting this.

    This dynamic between Bond and M was never explored on screen before the Daniel Craig era. And his films faithfully draw upon the problematic Bond-M relationship as depicted in the novels. Except, of course, that Craig’s M is a woman. And if anything, this makes the situation much, much more complicated.

    M is a mother figure to Bond, but she bosses him around like dear old dad might have. And though he is drawn to her and desires her approval, the truth is that no adult male ever quite gets used to taking orders from a woman. He loves M, and resents her at the same time – probably much more than he would a male M. To make matters even more complicated, M makes it abundantly clear – especially in Skyfall – that she is willing to throw Bond to the wolves if the situation demands it. Like all orphans, at some level Bond feels abandoned. He longs for the love of the mother who left him (twice in the Craig films he breaks into M’s apartment – wanting to be near her). But the love of his mother-substitute is more than a little doubtful. After all, she is willing to have him killed!

    Poor, confused Bond. The key difference, in fact, between Craig’s Bond and all the others is that he’s very believably screwed up. The Craig films explore all the psychological dynamics one would expect to find in the life of an orphan who becomes a cold-blooded, government assassin. And they do so very credibly, very plausibly. This extra depth to the Craig films makes all the difference in the world. As I’ve said, Bond is still larger than life, but he is no longer a kind of unapproachable cartoon superman (as Brosnan generally played him). We admire him, and we feel for him also.

    Much has been said about the Craig movies making Bond “relevant to today.” Indeed they do, but it has nothing to do with Bond banging black chicks (which he’s been doing since Live and Let Die), or wearing a Bluetooth headset. What has happened is that Bond has been made relevant to today’s younger males – mainly thirty-somethings (according to what I’ve read, the audience for Skyfall is overwhelmingly male and over the age of 25). Few male Bond fans are orphans, of course, but most feel arrested at some earlier stage of development. Arrested, for instance, by overbearing parents and a society that has never challenged them sufficiently. They . . . uh . . . we are all like Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club [4], who calls himself “a thirty-year-old boy.” Like us, Bond is screwed up. But he holds up to us the possibility of transmuting the shit of our lives into gold.

    Skyfall takes the complicated dynamic of Bond’s relation to M and pushes it toward a climax that is truly bizarre and dreamlike – thick with symbolism and psychological catharsis. At the risk of understatement, it is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a Bond film before. (And if you’ve made the mistake of reading this far before seeing the film then STOP – this is your last warning!)

    To make a long story short, Silva almost succeeds in killing M, and Bond realizes that the only way to protect her is take matters completely into his own hands and spirit her off to someplace safe. So, he essentially kidnaps M and tells her that they must go back “into the past.” The first stop on the way is to pick up Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. When the car is first seen, the audience in the theatre where I saw the film cheered and applauded (and I have read that audiences have reacted similarly all over the U.S. and Europe). In a delightful touch, Bond threatens to remove a censorious M from the car by firing the passenger ejector seat. Like a passive-aggressive Jewish mother, M grumbles “Go ahead. Eject me. See if I care.”

    They head north, all the way to the Scottish Highlands and to Bond’s ancestral home, Skyfall (this is not mentioned in Fleming, nor is the name ever explained in the film). It’s a broken down, disused old manse. One gets the impression that Bond has not seen it since he lost his parents. (Fleming tells us that after his parents died – in a climbing accident, no less – Bond was raised by his aunt Charmian in “the quaintly named hamlet of Pett Bottom near Canterbury in Kent.”) A kindly old caretaker named Kincade appears, a figure from Bond’s childhood, played by Albert Finney. And with the addition of this new character, a strange new dynamic is now established. M, of course, is cast in the role of Bond’s mother, while Kincade now emerges as a father figure. (In one amusing scene, he even tries to teach Bond to shoot! In another amusing touch, he hears “M” as “Em” and addresses her henceforth as Emma.)

    They know that Silva will eventually track them down, so Bond is keen to find out if the gun cabinet is still well-stocked. Alas, all the guns have been sold to an American collector (it just had to be an American, didn’t it?). All that remains is the old hunting rifle that had belonged to Bond’s father (inscribed with the initials “AB,” for Andrew Bond). And a knife. “Sometimes the old ways are best,” says Kincade, laying the knife on the table. Bond and Kincade then lay a number of clever booby traps for the villains. A last resort for M, should the going get really rough, is a secret passage leading out of the house, built centuries earlier.

    Rifles, knives, secret passages, escapes across (and under) the heath. It’s all very, very “low tech.” In my essay “The Importance of James Bond,” I discussed Bond’s equivocal relationship to technology, and I expressed the concern that Daniel Craig’s Bond was becoming too tech-friendly. I’m happy to say that Skyfall has allayed all my concerns about this. From beginning to end, this film is strongly traditionalist, and deeply skeptical about the “blessings” of technology.

    Indeed, the event that catalyzes the whole story is the theft of a hard drive that stores the identities of all British agents who have infiltrated terrorist organizations. Smart move, putting all that on somebody’s hard drive. Naturally, Silva gets ahold of it. And then he hacks into MI6’s network and brings it down. Oh, and then he blows up MI6’s high-tech HQ! M and company are forced to relocate to a bunker used by Churchill during World War Two. All of this is importantly symbolic: the gee-whiz computer technology overused in Quantum of Solace is gone. Now all that can save the day is Bond’s cleverness and guts.

    But the “experts,” armed with electrocardiograms, word association tests, and other paraphernalia pronounce Bond unfit for duty. Bugger the experts! Bond proves them all wrong, accomplishing what techne pronounced impossible. And he does it with precious little from the new Q, now a young computer geek. Q equips him with exactly two gadgets: a gun that only he can fire and a little radio. “Not exactly Christmas, is it?” quips Bond. But the both the little radio (actually, a homer not unlike the one he used way back in Goldfinger) and the gun (a similar gun appears in Licence to Kill) save his life.

    At one point we see M is testifying before a subcommittee of the House of Commons, being grilled by “experts” who think that putting actual agents in the field is rather old fashioned in this high tech world. Patiently, M – no stranger to high tech, but souring on it – explains to them why the old ways really are best. Then, in a scene that made me tear up, she quotes Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses,” as her men risk their lives in the streets to stop Silva:

    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    And where does it all wind up? Again, with a journey back in time. All tech is gone. Bond is reduced to loading a hunting rifle, setting booby traps, and strapping a knife to his body. And the tough, ball-busting M is reduced as well – reduced to being a woman who must be rescued by a man. But Bond himself is not personally reduced. He has returned to this strange, primal scene, and has been reunited with his “mother” and “father.” But now he must do what he was unable to do when he was a child, but which he can do as a man: he must save them from death. In doing so, he exorcizes these ghosts from his past.

    I won’t discuss all the details of what follows. But I must correct one omission in what I’ve said above. The one piece of “tech” Bond makes use of is the Aston Martin. I was pleased that, unlike some of the other films in which the car has reappeared, some sensible use was actually made of it here. Bond hides in the car, then fires its front machine guns at Silva’s men as they approach the house. But this use of tech delighted me – and it has important symbolic significance. Today’s younger audiences tend to look down their noses at anything predating the era of the internet (I’ve even heard young audiences laugh out loud at rotary phones). Here the one piece of tech Bond utilizes – with deadly effect – is that old-fashioned, pre-electronic Aston Martin from that hopelessly old-fashioned film that grandpa loves.

    In the end, Bond winds up killing Silva with the lowest-tech gadget imaginable: the knife seen earlier, plunged deep into Silva’s back. Much to my shock, M then dies in Bond’s arms, of wounds suffered during the attack on the house. And, yes, I shed a tear at this as well. But, in my defense, so does Bond! This is only the second time in the history of the series that Bond has cried. The first time, of course, was in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, when Blofeld murdered Bond’s bride, Tracey. That was a moving scene as well, but Craig is a much better actor than George Lazenby, and this time we actually see the tears, which seem quite real (in OHMSS we don’t actually see the tears, we just hear Bond sob). I thought of OHMSS as I watched this scene, as Bond cradles his “mother” here much as he does Tracey. That there is something Oedipal to this is more than obvious. The film’s entire Scotland sequence plays like a long, Freudian dream.

    But this is not all. The final scene of the film is extraordinary. Eve, the black MI6 agent seen earlier, returns and reveals herself to be Eve Moneypenny (who never had a first name in the books or any earlier film). At the beginning of the film she accidentally shoots and almost kills Bond. (Memo to the screenwriters: there’s a reason that there aren’t any black female sharpshooters in real life.) Now she has decided to take a new job: as M’s receptionist. Sometimes the old ways are best . . .

    And what of M himself? The new M is Mallory, a character seen earlier, played by Ralph Fiennes. But the most extraordinary thing of all is that his office is a recreation of the one seen in the old Bernard Lee days, complete with the padded leather door. Gone are the female M’s high-tech digs from the past six films. And M has gone back to being a man! Yes, it bears repeating, sometimes the old ways really are best. And this film returns us to them. It is an unabashed celebration of tradition, and a clear reaction against the “modernizing” of Bond that has taken place since GoldenEye. It is, in fact, a reaction against much of modernity itself. And – if I do say so – as a confirmation of the thesis I advanced in “The Importance of James Bond” it is everything I could have wished for. “James Bond is back!” the ads always proclaim. Indeed he is.

    I’m such a big Bond fan I once had a nightmare that I had gone to see “the new Bond film” and found it to be an unimaginably lame and pathetic failure (sort of how Indiana Jones fans must have felt when they went to see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). But Skyfall feels like I went to sleep and dreamed of that Bond film than which no greater can be conceived. One that not only delivers in terms of action, thrills, and all the traditional Bondian elements – but which also contains philosophical and psychological depth of a kind I never expected to find in this series.

    I cannot praise Skyfall enough. Do yourself a favor and see it today. Even if you don’t think you like Bond films, see it anyway. This one will convert you.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • An “M” of Our Own: Creating an Aryan Version of Fritz Lang’s Masterpiece
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]3,320 words

    M (1951)
    Directed by Joseph Losey
    Produced by Seymour Nebenzal
    Writing Credits (in alphabetical order): Leo Katcher (scenario revisions); Fritz Lang (scenario) (uncredited); Norman Reilly Raine (scenario revisions); Waldo Salt (additional dialogue) Thea von Harbou (scenario) (uncredited)
    Cast: David Wayne (Martin W. Harrow); Howard Da Silva (Inspector Carney); Steve Brodie (Lt. Becker); Raymond Burr (Pottsy); Norman Lloyd (Sutro); Jim Backus (The Mayor)
    88 minutes; black and white

    As with The Strange One, Turner Classic Movies has once again given me the chance to view a rarely-seen classic of ‘50s black-and-white Hollywood: the 1951 “remake” of Fritz Lang’s 1931 M.

    In “Kafka, Our Folk Comrade [2],” I highlighted the latest literary research showing that, as Margot Metroland so succinctly puts it, “Franz Kafka was no doomed, obsessed prophet of the Holocaust, but rather a millionaire slacker whose ‘horror’ stories were written as absurdist satires.”[1]

    Another prominent figure of that impossibly over-rated period (when “hated by the Nazis” meant “genius”) is Fritz Lang, a somewhat equivocal figure as far as “echoing” goes. He did, after all, direct the epic Nibelungen films, but “in exile” Lang was quick to offload any hints of “Nazi” tropes here and elsewhere onto his collaborator, Thea von Harbou (apparently an enthusiastic Hitlerite).

    M is a good example, at least as Lang told the story (like most “survivors” his stories tended to be unverifiable, self-serving, and changeable). Shortly after the premiere, Lang was summoned to the offices of Dr. Goebbels himself. Lang was terrified that the National Socialists had figured out (he says) that the movie (originally titled Murderers Among Us) was a veiled attack on the party’s rise to power. Instead, Goebbels praised the film, which he saw as an allegory of the breakdown of order under the Weimar government, and the necessity of the people taking power back into their own hands. He then (Lang says) offered Lang the leadership of the German film industry. Lang then went home, packed his bags, and headed for Paris and, eventually, Hollywood.

    True or not, the story illustrates a point we’ve frequently made: being a collaborative medium, film, more than any other art form, is likely to escape the intentions of its “auteur” and take on a life of its own.

    Again, take M. Not only did Goebbels derive a party-friendly reading of it, but Lang’s clear intention — to create a sympathetic portrait of a child-murderer — was subverted by the party incorporating Peter Lorre’s famous trail scene — ”explaining” his obsessions and begging for mercy — into Fritz Hippler’s 1940 propaganda classic The Eternal Jew [3], as an example of both Jewish support for degeneracy as well as Jewish hysterical mannerisms.

    Lang must have thought he was truly cursed when, after the war, his fellow “refugee” (“My God, they tried to make me run the film industry, the monsters!”) Seymour Nebenzal, the producer of M, popped up in Hollywood. Nebenzal asserted that he still held the rights, and, wanting to polish up his stateside résumé, proposed a remake. Lang was outraged, but having divorced von Harbou,[2] no screen credit, and the papers proving his ownership having been “lost in the war” (as per usual), Nebenzal simply got von Harbou’s OK and proceeded along. Lang briefly agreed then refused to direct it, so Nebenzal offered the role to a neophyte with two movies under his belt, Joseph Losey. Losey also refused, but “after looking at his bank account” (according to TCM’s Robert Osborne) decided to go ahead.

    It’s hard to say exactly what M51, as I’ll call it, is, vis-à-vis M31. It’s not really a “remake,” like the three versions Warner’s made of The Maltese Falcon;[3] nor is it really a frame by frame “reshooting” like Gus Van Sants’ pointless Psycho (although we’ll have reason to revisit the original in what follows).

    The Bond films — as is appropriate, when dealing with the creator of Dr. Mabuse, as well as a very different “M”! — offer several not quite exact parallels. The ownership dispute recalls Kevin McClory’s claim to the Thunderball scenario and the Blofeld character, although the subsequent “remake”– Never Say Never Again — reverses the relation of M51 to M31, respectively.[4] It’s not a rip-off, using a Lorre lookalike along with some of the original actors, but avoiding the same character names, like Operation Kid Brother (a.k.a. Operation Double 007, a.k.a. OK Connery, where Sean’s brother takes the place of “your, um, brother”). It’s not a spoof, as when Columbia Pictures (the company that produced M51) reasserted its rights to the first book, Casino Royale, and made the dreadful 1967 version.

    Speaking of which, the Daniel Craig version suggest this is a “reboot” of M31, like the Christopher Nolan Batman films. Very close, but each of these consciously tries to avoid anything that visually recalls the earlier films, and here Losey is hewing very close to the original, either out of piety or uncertainty, or perhaps fear. A reviewer says:

    Watching the remake, I was struck by how humbly Losey bows to the shot sequence of the original. In the original M’s famous opening, a mother in her kitchen glances at the wall clock; meanwhile her little daughter wanders home from school alone. The girl bounces a ball as she walks, and a nice man, his face unseen, befriends her, buying her a balloon from a blind street vendor. Growing fearful, the mother calls down the stairwell, turned into a vortex by a camera shooting straight downward. Medium shots show the little girl’s empty place setting at the kitchen table, and the abandoned ball rolling to a halt; a long shot reveals the balloon caught in the telephone wires. Losey copies this entire sequence; there are some minor adjustments (he inserts a shot looking back up the stairwell at the mother, and reverses the order of the rolling ball and drifting balloon), but they only remind you how beautifully conceived the original was.[5]

    For a closer analogue, I think we need to look at one of Lang’s own films. In the early days of cinema, it was not unusual to avoid dubbing or subtitling by making entirely separate films for two or perhaps more major markets, shooting them simultaneously, using a different cast of native actors and perhaps another director.

    It’s an intriguing idea; by using not just dubbing but actual native actors, the market gets the story recreated by their own people, almost cargo cult-like.

    Needless to say, these are not “exact” copies;[6] necessarily, slight differences in shots and especially editing occur, deliberately or not.

    Thus, Lang shot parallel versions of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, one in German, one in French, using the same sets, but different actors.[7] An even better example would be Dracula (also 1931!), or rather, the legendary “Spanish Dracula,” shot at night on the same sets by another director, George Melford. Here again, the resulting “alternate take” — as would be the case with sound recordings — is fascinatingly different:

    Of the cast, only Carlos Villarías (playing Dracula) was permitted to see rushes of the English-language film starring Bela Lugosi and was encouraged to imitate the other man’s performance. As well, some long shots of Lugosi as the Count as well as some alternate takes from the English version were used in this production.[8]

    The tradition continues in television, especially between US and Latin America; thus Betty la Fea becomes Ugly Betty, and Breaking Bad becomes Metastasis. Indeed, the Counter-Currents fav[9] provides the closest parallel yet:

    You seem to be watching the opening minutes of the first episode of “Breaking Bad,” but you notice a few differences. The vehicle full of drug-lab paraphernalia and dangerous fumes is not an RV; it’s a decrepit school bus. When the driver staggers out for a breath of fresh air, he puts his shirt on so that he can play the rest of the scene semi-modestly. And when he picks up a video camera to record what he thinks will be his last testament, he doesn’t say, “My name is Walter Hartwell White.” He says, Mi nombre es Walter Blanco.

    “Metastasis,” shot in the high desert in Colombia, is an episode-for-episode, practically shot-for-shot remake, done with considerably less time and money than were spent on the American original. On television, where it plays every weeknight, the telenovela  —  which encompasses the entire story line of five seasons of “Breaking Bad”  —  will play out in about three months.[10]

    And here’s our Fritz Lang:

    “They did all the 62 episodes we did, but made them much faster, on a smaller budget,” says Bad creator Vince Gilligan, who had “zero” input in the adaptation but experienced a “slightly disorienting feeling of déjà vu” watching the first episode. “It simultaneously inspires me and makes me feel a little sheepish that we took as much money and shooting hours as we did.”[11]

    And perhaps, apart from making it cheaper, quicker, and easier for the viewer to binge-watch, it’s also better than the original? Consider “Spanish Dracula” again:

    In recent years, this version has become more highly praised by some than the better known English-language version. The Spanish crew had the advantage of watching the English dailies when they came in for the evening, and they would figure out better camera angles and more effective use of lighting in an attempt to “top” it. As a result, this version’s supporters consider it to be much more artistically effective. The Spanish semiologist Roman Gubern considers that the longer duration allows better development of the plot in spite of the shortened shooting time and smaller budget.

    Speaking of Dracula recalls a final parallel, with a famous incident from the beginnings of the German film industry: F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu.

    The film, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel (for instance, “vampire” became “Nosferatu” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlok”). Stoker’s heirs sued over the adaptation, and a court ruling ordered that all copies of the film be destroyed. However, a few prints of Nosferatu survived, and the film came to be regarded as an influential masterpiece of cinema. As of 2015, it is Rotten Tomatoes’ second best-reviewed horror film of all time.[12]

    Here we see a sort of reversal of the M51 situation: there the first director fails to get the widow to assert his supposed ownership, while she strikes a deal with the new director, who never the less does make some changes. It’s time to look at those changes, and indeed “reversal” is the recurring theme.

    The most noticeable is that the story has been moved forward in time, to 1951, and westward in place, to Los Angeles — “go West” will be the nature of most of the reversals. This is all done implicitly; there are no sly winks back to M31 or other “fan service.”[13]

    Nebenzal thought the story still worked because America had all sorts of isolated psychotics running around; in fact, the inner world conjured up by Losey and David Wayne feels less like the original M than it does the sun-washed nightmare of Psycho.

    For example, these shots, impossible to film in Berlin even if Lang had tried:

    A montage of the killer approaching various girls (one black and another Asian, reminding us where we are and how the lower classes are preyed upon) ends with him staring out into the blue horizon of the Pacific Ocean. A marvelously composed frame shows him getting a shoeshine before a picture window that overlooks an impossibly wide city street. Later the killer sprawls out on a park bench playing his creepy tin whistle, behind him a panoramic view of a main thoroughfare stretching back to the horizon.

    All the landmarks of the soon-to-be razed Bunker Hill section are there, including the funicular railway, Angel’s Flight. We’ve explored this territory before, and sure enough, down in the credits, there he is — assistant director, Robert Aldrich!

    Yes, M51 brings us back to the creepy, sunny apocalyptic landscape that Aldrich would explore/exploit four years later in Kiss Me Deadly.[14]

    On the other hand, M51 lacks any notable cinematography, neither the shadowy Expressionism of M31 nor the blinding chrome and neon lighting of KSD that create their culturally appropriate visions of post-Apocalyptic Hells. Surprisingly, it’s by Ernest Laszlo, who also did KMD! [15] Neither my Portuguese bootleg DVD nor the “restored” version shown by TCM display any more than competent Hollywood camera work, like the element of professionalism William Thompson consistently brought to Ed Woods’ oeuvre.[16]

    Moving on. Of course, Peter Lorre is gone. Apart from any idea of approaching him, or his lack of interest, Lorre simply was no longer suitable, having, during his Hollywood “exile” (“Oh, my God, they’re forcing me to make millions dollars!”), moved, willingly or not, from effectively scary guy to funny little weirdo.[17] Yes, he’s “gone West” too.[18]

    Taking his place is David Wayne, and here the reversals continue and get more interesting. Wayne, unlike Lorre, had a small career playing nice guys; he’s a slightly built, blonde, pleasantly Midwestern guy.[19] Overall, does an excellent job; one miss-step is the scene where he tries to resist his impulses and break away from a potential victim, going to a nearby sidewalk café and downing a drink. While Lorre demands several in quick succession and eventually calms done, Wayne barely chokes down one before plopping face down on the table and sobbing; it’s very fake. On the other hand, in his big final speech — the “To be or not to be” of the role — he easily matches Lorre.[20]

    Film buffs will no doubt miss Lorre’s whistling of the “Hall of the Mountain King” tune; I’m not sure why it was left out, unless it was thought too much of a “classic” bit and thus a cliché.[21] In its place, Wayne plays a little slide flute, and not only is it a pretty good substitute in the creepy department, it also fills a big plot hole in M31. How does Becker (Lorre) attract these little girls? He is, after all, Peter Lorre, and one would think anyone’s reaction to finding him standing next to you would be to more or less quickly and soundlessly put some distance between him and yourself. [22] But not only is Wayne a reasonably friendly-looking guy, the flute is just the sort of thing that would attract a child, and it even has Germanic folk tale resonances (The Pied Piper, of course).[23]

    Pursuing Wayne is Lt. Becker [24] played by . . . Steve Brodie! Brodie’s career would sink into a black hole so deep that he would later “star” in not one but two MST3k favorites — The Giant Spider Invasion, and The Wild World of Batwoman, the latter being a leading contender for the worst movie ever made, or at least, the most cringe-worthy “comedy.”[25] But in 1951 Brodie was still doing OK for himself, with roles in noir classics like Out of the Past and Crossfire (both in 1947).

    M51 would be the last big noir role, or indeed big role of any kind. He’s in The Caine Mutiny but not in the lead he had in the play, and by the sixties Elvis movies were the best he could find.[26] He did a lot of TV, though, and appeared four times on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In 1957, he appeared in the episode “One More Mile to Go”:

    Sam Jacoby and his nagging wife argue, and he accidently kills her by striking her with a rod. He decides to dump her body in a lake. Jacoby puts the body in his car trunk and takes off. A motorcycle policeman repeatedly stops him after seeing Jacoby’s burned out taillight. Eventually, the officer tells him to follow him to the station where a police mechanic will open the trunk and change the bulb.[27]

    Brodie is quite effective as the cop in mirror shades who seems to be impishly toying with the murderer, who, for many reasons, seems a stand-in for the viewer. Many have suggested that this episode, directed by Hitchcock, contains the seeds of an idea he would expand to the first third of Psycho: the vaguely knowing cop behind the mirror shades, popping up to freak out the criminal we sympathize with. So Brodie connects us to Psycho again, and who played the driver, Jacoby? David Wayne!

    One expansion of the original actually serves to ramp up the Judaic content. We get to seem more clues about the creep’s background, and you know what that means. There’s a photo of a strikingly ferocious woman that we suppose is his mother, and at night he models female figures in clay, then decapitates them.

    Psychoanalysis, like its big brother, Marxism, is another Judaic cult disguising itself as a “science.” Like Marxism, it comforts its believers with an all-encompassing story, while stroking their vanity by telling them that only they are smart enough to know “what’s really going on.” Remember, “America had all sorts of isolated psychotics running around.”

    It particularly appeals to Hollywood types, due to their already weak egos, as well as for a reason we see here: it helps the beleaguered scriptwriter by providing ready-made storylines.

    Speaking of Marxism, some claim that “McCarthyism” was one reason for the film’s virtual disappearance.[28]

    Three of his players on M — Howard Da Silva, Martin Gabel, and Luther Adler — were blacklisted, and M was greeted by right-wing picketers in Los Angeles that October.

    As for Losey himself,

    Three months after M was released, he left the United States for Europe to escape being subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, which wanted him to explain his past membership in the Communist Party; subsequently, he enjoyed a long career in Britain and France but he never worked in America again.[29]

    Here we have the final reversal: Lang and Lorre flee Europe for Hollywood, Losey and his actors flee Hollywood for Europe. And despite decades of whining and back-patting,[30] the fact remains that they got what was coming to them: the anti-sedition mechanisms — including the “Un-American Activities Committee” itself — were set up in the ’30s at the insistence of Commies in and out of Hollywood, so as to persecute anti-war activists and Aryan patriots as “isolationists” and “agents of foreign powers.”[31] I say, good on ’em.

    But let us be generous in our triumph — at least, the prospective triumph of our White Nationalist reality. Let us go back to the beginning:

    Losey opens with a shot out the window of the [Angel’s Flight] rail car as passengers board, stepping over tied stacks of newspapers screaming child killer sought, before the killer boards and the car begins its ascent.[32]

    Yes, Losey begins his “remake” by showing the killer stepping over the news of his victims. I suggest we step over Losey’s agenda, and recuperate, as the “critical theorists” would say, the film for ourselves.[33]

    In “Kafka: Our Folk Comrade” I suggested that once we know the facts behind the legend we can “step over” the decades of the Judaic ethnic networking to promote victim/prophet Kafka and retain his work for our own, as he would have wanted. In “Mike Hammer, Occult Dick” — and elsewhere — I’ve suggested that filmmakers are often overtaken by their own work and have their intentions subverted — Aldrich, intending to “destroy” the popularity of Mickey Spillane by portraying Hammer as a sadistic moron, produced a film that was condemned by the Legion of Decency as more sadistically violent that anything in the Spillane canon.

    M51 gives us a chance to do both: take away Lang and Losey’s film and recuperate M as an Aryan film for ourselves: add Goebbels’ interpretation and substitute our West Coast for dreary Weimar.[34] Psychos, but nice, warm, “sun-washed,” if you will. Above all, White.

    In this way, it does, once more, kind of resemble the Daniel Craig “reboot” of Bond, but again, reversed: instead of substituting a blond Jew for a dark Aryan, the dark chaos of Weimar Berlin is replaced by the “sun-washed nightmare” of the West Coast; degenerate Lorre is replaced by the sunny David Wayne; and although the intention was to suggest, Lynch-like, that the evil is right here in sunny White Land — “America had all sorts of isolated psychotics running around”– it’s still nice to be able to watch a movie that’s scary but with only nice White actors and scenery, isn’t it?

    Notes

    1. From Ms. Metroland’s blurb for my latest book, Green Nazis in Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015), in which the essay is collected.

    2. Who had pulled a Savitri Devi by shacking up with a true Aryan, an Indian journalist.

    3. The first, in 1931 (same year as M) is a pre-Code film that emphasizes the sleazy innuendo and is mildly interesting as such; the second, retitled Satan Met a Lady (the winning suggesting in a studio contest) is an unfunny “comedy” starring then-matinee idol Warren Williams and Bette Davis, who hated the picture so much she walked out on her contract. The third time proved to be the charm with John Huston’s 1941 version, featuring  . . . M31’s Peter Lorre.

    4. For the history, see Jef Costello, “The Cat is Back! The Spectre Behind S.P.E.C.T.R.E.,” here [4].

    5. See the excellent review (of both movie and history) “The (re)making of M: Joseph Losey takes another crack at the Fritz Lang masterpiece,” by J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader, October 20, 2013, online here [5].

    6. “We don’t have a machine that makes exact copies.” Don Draper to Pete Campbell, accusing Pete of stealing his copy of a rather Frankfurt School-ish “psychological profile” of the “death instinct” of the average smoker, in Mad Men, Episode 1.1, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Lang, in M, Mabuse, and elsewhere, was a first class retailer of Freudian claptrap to the movie-going masses.

    7. You can view and compare both on the Criterion Collection DVD release.

    8. Wikipedia, here [6]. To see for yourself, you can either get a bootleg online, as I did, or, as Wikipedia notes, “It was included as a bonus feature on the Classic Monster Collection DVD in 1999, the Legacy Collection DVD in 2004, the 75th Anniversary Edition DVD set in 2006, and was remastered in high definition for the Universal Monsters: The Essential Collection Blu-ray boxed set. In September 2014 it was released as part of the 4-DVD/6-movie set, titled Dracula: Complete Legacy Collection. The film was theatrically released on October 25 & 28, 2015 as part of the “TCM Presents” series by Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events. Two showings each day played a double-feature with the Spanish film’s English counterpart.”

    9. See “Breaking Bad: A Celebration” by Jef Costello, here [7].

    10. See “Walter White, Meet Walter Blanco: It’s the Same Story, With a Different Desert, ‘Metastasis,’ a Spanish-Language Version of ‘Breaking Bad,’ Debuts,” Mike Hall, New York Times, June 17, 2014; online here [8].

    11. “‘Breaking Bad’ doesn’t get lost in Spanish translation,” Gary Levin, USA TODAY, June 3, 2014; online here [9].

    12. Wikipedia, here [10]. The article details the changes as: “The story of Nosferatu is similar to that of Dracula and retains the core characters—Jonathan and Mina Harker, the Count, etc.—but omits many of the secondary players, such as Arthur and Quincey, and changes all of the characters’ names (although in some recent releases of this film, which is now in the public domain in the United States but not in most European countries, the written dialogue screens have been changed to use the Dracula versions of the names). The setting has been transferred from Britain in the 1890s to Germany in 1838. In contrast to Dracula, Orlok does not create other vampires, but kills his victims, causing the townfolk to blame the plague, which ravages the city. Also, Orlok must sleep by day, as sunlight would kill him, while the original Dracula is only weakened by sunlight. The ending is also substantially different from that of Dracula. The count is ultimately destroyed at sunrise when the “Mina” character sacrifices herself to him.

    13. Or rather, “pandering to the base.” “‘Fanservice’ is also sometimes used in a more general way, referring simply to any crowd-pleaser thrown in just because. When this is something non-sexual, like needlessly flashy attacks in a Humongous Mecha show, long guitar/bass/drum solos in a concert, or throwing in lots of obscure continuity references in a long-running work, it’s Pandering to the Base. Sexy fanservice is considered the default form, because it is everywhere, and it’s easy to add to any kind of show.” Such as in Casino Royale when Daniel Craig, asked if he wants his martini shaken or stirred, says “Do I look like someone who cares?”; or in Skyfall, where Bond and M escape London in an Aston Martin DB6, and Bond lingers over the ejector button “we” know is hidden in the stick shift lever. Not that there’s anything wrong with fan service generally.

    14. See my “Mike Hammer, Occult Dick: Kiss Me Deadly as Lovecraftian Tale,” here [11] and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).

    15. Along with an impressive amount of work [12] over a long, Academy-awarded career, ranging from “prestige” anti-Nazi schlock like Judgement at Nuremberg and Ship of Fools and noir like D.O.A., as well as colorful comedies like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and sci-fi like Logan’s Run and Fantastic Voyage; even MST3k favorites Tormented and The Space Children get excellently moody photography. Was he intimidated here, asked to reproduce a Lang classic early in his career?

    16. I have not seen the recent (2015) French DVD, which supposedly is the best version. If you can play Region 2 DVDs, get it from Amazon.fr here [13] and let me know.

    17. On the way, he sample the “campy though surprisingly effective wimp” who earns Sam Spade’s grudging respect in the aforementioned Maltese Falcon; see my discussion of the film in “Humphrey Bogart: Man among the Cockroaches,” reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).

    18. Or not. Lorre actually had better things to do in 1951: he was actually back in Germany, directing his own—and only—film, Der Verlorene (The Lost One). It sounds like the title of a late Beckett piece, and with reason. The New York Times is dismissive: “In look and tone ‘The Lost One’’ shows the influences of Lorre’s early career in the German cinema, especially of the work of Fritz Lang and of ‘M’ . . . It’s a good deal less successful as an attempt to illuminate the Nazi phenomenon, which it analyzes in a series of rather perfunctory clichés. . . . A curiosity” (Vincent Canby, August 1, 1984, online here [14]). I recall seeing it once on TV and it’s really rather effective in its miserablist fashion. Lang is a respectable scientist who for various reasons commits some murders, but the NS government is less interested in some random killings than in the ongoing slaughter of the Allied assault. Even when arrested, an Allied bombing raid destroys the police station, freeing Lorre and destroying the evidence (shades of Lang!). And the occupation authorities are also uninterested in pursuing a minor league serial killer when there’s denazification to handle. Consumed with guilt, he becomes a doctor in a refugee camp, but meeting an old colleague drives him to jump in front of a train.

    19. Kids will probably only recall him as “The Mad Hatter” on the Batman TV series, and, until his death, the original “Digger Barnes” of Dallas; closer to M51, he starred in one of the first three Twilight Zone episodes to be produced, “Escape Clause [15].”

    20. At times he recalls, to me at least, Burgess Meredith’s nervy little characters, such as the Whittaker Chambers clone in Preminger’s Advise and Consent, which I discuss (the film, not Meredith) in End of An Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015). Meredith did the same little guy in a number of Twilight Zones, like Wayne, (always have a second pair of glasses!) and like Wayne, is perhaps best remembered as a Batman villain, the Penguin.

    21. The classical music trope is still there, as we see early on Wayne listening to it on the radio in his crummy apartment. Lest we fail to identify the music, the announcer asks us to tune in again “for more classical music.” In my KMD review, I note how odd it is that when Mike Hammer turns on the radio, it’s already on a classical station, since he is otherwise played as a knuckle-dragging brute. Later, he reverts to form and “tortures” a witness by smashing his collection of opera 78s one by one. A similar poke in the ribs occurs soon after when, restricted by the Hollywood production code from having the little girls raped (killing them is OK, though) a spectator says “Why do the police keep saying they weren’t ‘abused’ or ‘interfered with’? What difference does it make?”

    22. “It’s also moving in a way he could not have foreseen, in that it demonstrates how his physical being — his distinctive looks and manners — would inevitably limit the sorts of roles available to him in spite of his talent.”—Canby, op. cit. The same criticism can be made of Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Lecter: he’s too obviously evil to ever pass unnoticed as a psychiatrist or museum director; just as Dracula couldn’t show up today and not excite suspicion. Brian Cox’s Dr. Lecktor (spelled as per Manhunter) by contrast is convincing, since, as I’ve said elsewhere, he looks like the sort of guy who’d strike up a conversation with you on a bus, and before long you wake up in his basement. See my “Essential Films … & Others,” here. [16]

    23. I recall in grade school some kind of Music Man like guy showing up in class one day to hawk his flutes; I suppose the idea was to get us interested in music and the arts.

    24. In M31, Lorre is Hans Beckert, and the first victim we see is Elsie Beckman. Jews seem to like this kind of name-play—“onomastic comedy,” Thomas Mann called it, who noted it in himself and Hermann Hesse. In The Producers, notice how all the leads have “B” names—Bloom, Bialystock, de Brie, du Bois—except Hans Leibkind, who was originally going to be played by . . . Brooks himself.

    25. Another Batman link, sort of. See my “Essential Films,” here [16], again. Giant Spider teams him up with Barbara Hale, noted for playing Della Street opposite the Perry Mason of Raymond Burr, who plays a mobster here.

    26. In a final indignity, Wikipedia adds [17] that “at the time of his death, The Los Angeles Times erroneously stated in his obituary that Brodie had been nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for 1949’s Home of the Brave. In truth, Brodie was actually not among the five nominees in that category that year.”

    27. TV.com [18]

    28. A better reason from ChrisDFilm at IMDB [19]: “The reason why this excellent Joseph Losey version of M is virtually unavailable in any form is because Columbia, the original studio, lost the rights many years ago. The rights reverted to the original producer Seymour Nebenzal. Either he or — if he is deceased — his family’s estate, seem to be apathetic about doing anything with the film in regards to things like DVD releases or screenings on Turner Classic Movies cable channel (though it might help if somebody at Turner did the detective work and contacted them). The only existing print (at least a publicly known existing print) is at the BFI (British Film Institute) in London. (2008)” Later: “The very mediocre/poor bootleg VHSs and DVDs out in circulation seem to be all from the same original source, a 16mm print from either an uninterrupted cable TV airing in the 1980s or a 16mm film chain transfer. I know, as far as existing prints (that are known to archives), there is only one 35mm because when I was a programmer at the American Cinematheque in L.A. between 1999-2009, we frequently questioned the main film archives to see if they had a print. BFI in the UK was the only one, at least in English-speaking territories. (2011)”

    29. J. T. Jones, op. cit. Jones adds that “When the M remake was released, Lang showed up at a promotional screening and got into a shouting match with Nebenzal; according to film scholar Thomas Elsaesser, Lang ‘was not prepared to acknowledge’ Losey as a member of the directing profession.” Another example of Judaic hysteria and bumptiousness; see my review of The Strange One for another example of the self-defeating hysteria of Jewish directors.

    30. Most recently, the loathesome Trumbo (2015), starring Bryan Cranston, still riding the wave of . . . Breaking Bad.

    31. For the “Great Sedition Trial of 1944” of Lawrence Dennis and 14 others, see Margot Metroland, “Lawrence Dennis, 1893-1977” here [20]; and for more background on “the high art of demonization” see “Tale of a ‘Seditionist’–The Lawrence Dennis Story” by Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com, April 29, 2000, here [21].

    32. Jones, op. cit.

    33. “Stepping over” was a phrase of Jonathan Bowden’s that has become iconic for the North American New Right. “But that’s life, and that’s power, and that’s the reality and the vortex of power. What we have to do is to understand that things have been used against us for ideological reasons, irrespective of the facts, and only when we have the courage to do that will we revive. So it’s really only when a leader of revivalist opinion is asked, ‘Well what’s your view of the Shoah then?’ And they say, ‘We’ve stepped over that.’ ‘What do you mean you’ve ‘stepped over’ that? Are you minimizing its importance to humanity?’ You say, ‘We are minimizing its importance to our form of humanity!’” See “Revisionism, Left & Right, Hard & Soft,” here [22].

    34. “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”—MythBuster Adam Sandler.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Passing the Buck: Spy, Dandy, Übermensch
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]7,098 words

    Derek Marlowe
    A Dandy in Aspic [2]
    London: Victor Gollancz, 1966; New York: G. P. Putnam, 1966;
    New edition, with Foreword by Tom Stoppard; Silvertail Books, 2015

    “In the Land of The Blind, the one eyed-man is in a circus[1]“ — Alexander Eberlin

    “You’ve got no past and he’s got no future” — Emmanuel Gatiss 

    The Amazon page for the Kindle version actually lists this book as “A Dandy in Aspic: The greatest of all the Cold War spy thrillers.” I don’t really know enough about the genre to argue the point,[2] but it certainly is my favorite, endlessly re-readable in a way that the Fleming and Le Carré books certainly aren’t; in fact, it’s one of my favorite books, period — or full stop, as the Brits would say.[3]

    While this 50th anniversary reprinting is indeed welcome,[4] the publisher’s publicity is a bit . . . off. Here’s their blurb, with a bit of plot to start you off:

    Alexander Eberlin is a small, faceless civil servant working for the Government at the height of the Cold War. As he nears middle age, he allows himself one luxury — to dress like a Dandy. His superiors send him on a mission to hunt down and destroy a cold-blooded and vicious Russian assassin named Krasnevin, who is responsible for a number of British agents’ deaths. But Eberlin has a secret — he is Krasnevin. This is the story of what happens when Eberlin is sent to destroy himself. Now back in print fifty years after it was written, The Times says A Dandy in Aspic is ‘A well groomed anecdote to today’s fast-paced thrillers with gym-buffed heroes. Eberlin is the real deal.’

    Where to begin? Perhaps with that quote from The Times; did they really say ‘‘anecdote” for “antidote”? They won’t let me know unless I pay them twelve pounds, so let it stand, the bastards.[5] Why on Earth is “Dandy” capitalized?

    More problematic is that “small, faceless civil servant” bit. It makes it sound as if Eberlin is one of those grey, mousey little spy-bureaucrats that Le Carré and Deighton began to produce as if to offer a more “realistic” alternative to the Bond fantasy,[6] and that he takes up his one indulgence — fancy duds — as part of some mid-life crisis.[7]

    In fact, Eberlin does not “dress like a Dandy,” he is one. It permeates all aspects of his life, such as it is, and, as we’ll see, his existential problem is far more serious, and interesting, than any midlife crisis.

    The publisher’s blurb is presumably a botched version of this key passage:

    Obliged, by a quirk of fate long since regretted, to play out his role, he blundered on into the dawn of middle age, a hermetic dandy, surrounding himself only with the fetish of himself — predominantly his clothes, which he chose with exquisite and envied care, his books, his three double-barreled fowling pieces by Manton, and his collection of old Sèvres porcelain locked in a vault in the V and A — and an utter lack of envy for his fellow man. He had that noble selflessness of a man who cares for no one but himself. Brummell, a man he admired unashamedly, had that. Until he went mad. (Italics mine).

    A hermetic dandy, then, not a metrosexual clotheshorse. And what is a hermetic dandy? Marlowe tells us elsewhere, in an essay published around the time of his first — only — taste of best-sellerdom:

    Dandyism . . . is a state of mind as well as a state of dress. . . . The dandy strives, above all, for self-discipline, and a discipline that denies friends, sex and ostentation; his goal is to achieve the super-ego via a rigid set of rules based on utmost restraint, naturalness, and simplicity.[8]

    This, I think, is the reason behind the almost over-the-top praise for the novel and author —

    “Graceful and brilliant” — Sir Tom Stoppard

    “Derek Marlowe writes like John Le Carré at the top of his form” — Yorkshire Post

    As well as accounting for both being almost entirely forgotten today.[9] At least one of the publisher’s blurbs gets it:

    “A classic of the cold war spy stories — one of the earliest and one of the best. Marlowe’s Eberlin/Krasnevin is on the run from himself on different levels and in different places: the evocations of London and Berlin in the 1960s are superb.” — Piers Paul Read

    In this essay, I intend to explore those different levels and different places. But to do so presents some perhaps unique challenges — and opportunities for paranoiac-critical fun.[10]

    Apart from the usual postmodern folderol about fragmenting master narratives and the capitalistic ego, etc., it’s often a situation calling for what Kaspar Gutman would call “the most delicate judgment”[11] to keep distinct such topoi as the novel versus the film, and the actor versus the role.

    Take Touch of Evil: Is that Orson Welles we remember onscreen or Welles’ brilliant portrayal of the character Hank Quinlan? How relevant is anything we know (if we do know) from the forgotten book it’s based on?[12] I myself have been known to blithely amalgamate (not confuse!) actors and roles, books and films.

    But there’s nothing like A Dandy in Aspic. We are more than familiar with the re-writing of Ian Fleming’s Bond books, including films that use only the title (A View to a Kill, The Spy Who Loved Me). What is unique is that not only does the film[13] differ from the book, it appears that Marlowe not only wrote the original screenplay (which in turn was drastically modified by events, as we’ll see) but re-wrote the book itself for American publication.

    It exists in two print versions by Marlowe, one the UK original and the other, US version, apparently reflecting changes Marlowe made while writing the screenplay for the film. The film, of course, is itself a new version, and to make matters worse — or, for our purposes, more interesting — as IMDB says [3], it’s

    More accurate than usual to discuss this film as by Laurence Harvey/Derek Marlowe since this was Anthony Mann’s final film; he died before it was finished and actor Laurence Harvey completed the film including the ending. Despite the credits, the film was not directed by Anthony Mann[14] but by . . . Laurence Harvey . . . Mann died of heart attack in Berlin on 29 April 1967 after directing only a few location shots. Harvey gallantly picked up the reins, finished the German scenes and then did all the British location and studio shots, accounting for at least 99% of the film, which premiered in April, 1968, almost a year after Mann’s death.

    Though others reverse the proportions:

    The film’s ending was directed by the Laurence Harvey[15] who also directed some scenes shot in Berlin. Anthony Mann directed all of the scenes in Surrey and London as well as some of the Berlin scenes.

    In any event, Marlowe was not happy:

    “The director, Anthony Mann died during the filming (a superb man and great director[16]) and it was taken over by Laurence Harvey, the badly cast Eberlin. He directed his own mis-talent, changed it and the script — which is rather like Mona Lisa touching up the portrait while Leonardo is out of the room.”[17]

    So here we are with an unprecedented number of versions, media and authors (auteurs would seem to be singularly inapplicable here). And so, again, where to begin?

    Perhaps it’s best to begin at the beginning — or rather, how the book begins in 2015! — with Sir Tom’s Foreword, which begins with Tom, his future wife, Piers Paul Read and Marlowe all sharing a flat in London, 1965. As we read elsewhere,

    One day, as they watched Mick Jagger on Top of the Pops, the three wagered a bet on who would make a million first. It was decided Stoppard would, but Marlowe pipped him to it, with his first novel, A Dandy in Aspic.

    In light of their subsequent careers, be careful what you wish for! Any, back to Tom:

    We were skeptical. Surely that bandwagon had passed by? The Spy Who Came in from the Cold had been published years ago.[18] What I do remember is that when Derek told me the basic premise for his novel (a spy with two identities who is ordered to kill his other self) I thought: now, that is an absolutely brilliant idea.

    Indeed. Those are what Read in his blurb above spells out as “different levels and places.” Though simple to state, it certainly raises the level of the novel above the usual pulp fare. Legendary sci/fi, Perhaps?

    Harvey, as bitter and hostile to our sympathies as he was in The Manchurian Candidate, plays Eberlin, a British agent entrusted with the job of killing Krasnevin, a Russian spy planted somewhere inside the British secret service who’s been killing off high-ranking state employees. The trouble is, Eberlin is Krasnevin.

    The plot hook smacks of Philip K. Dick and A Scanner Darkly, and indeed the film has a paranoid twitch balanced on the knife-edge of a bad trip. It’s commendable that overt psychedelia is avoided, considering when the film was made.[19]

    Well, there are a lot of drugs in Dick’s work, true, and both are products of the Cold War, but I think the wider significance would be better expressed as: hermetic. Eberlin is on a hermetic quest.[20]

    So, back to the beginning, or rather, before the beginning. I suggest that the key to understanding this work (to use a blanket term for all the versions, and of course suggesting the “hermetic work”) is that Eberlin does not just sally forth to meet his death — he is already dead before the book/film starts.[21]

    It’s not such a crazy idea. After all, [SPOILER ALERT!] the climax of the narrative, the revelation to Eberlin/Krasnevin, the Russians, and the reader/viewer, that the British had already known his identity from the start, means he’s already dead anyway; it’s announced in with a triad of deaths:

    His countryman answered, his voice cold and final:

    “You’re dead, Krasnevin. You’re dead.” The phone went dead.

    This theme, however, can be found from the beginning.

    I think the best way of handling the three versions, and keeping both the reader and myself sane, is to start with the original UK text — the Ur-Dandy, as it were — a go through it, noting along the way differences of content or context as they crop up.

    Talk about the author as hermetic dandy — Dandy UK opens with a rather long Prologue (10 pages out of about 150) which moves in a slow and stately manner, as befits its subject: a funeral. It’s a bit of a slog for the reader, who knows nothing of these people, including the dead man.[22] Here we perhaps see further damage done by Walter Pater’s dictum that “all art aspires to the condition of music,” in which the modernist or post-modernist author tries to “compose” a sort of “overture” rather than just write the beginning of a tale.

    It does have some points, though. It is the only time we get to spend time — stuck in a luxury motor car — with Brogue, Eberlin’s superior, and get a backstory for him.[23] Brogue — named Lucius-Pericles Brogue by his mother after a fortune-teller predicts he will be “a man of distinction”[24] — is quite interesting. He is, above all else, a Negro, as the pre-PC book tells us quite bluntly and frequently.[25]

    Brogue was the head of some East African security service “until Kenyatta fired him for being for being pro-British.” That the British would want his services is understandable, but “the toleration of the Negro by the top ranks constantly surprised him[26] . . . He had reached his present status mostly through his own efforts, finding that as he progressed higher in the scale that his colour was more of a help than a hindrance,” although he does receive “daily letters from anonymous fellow-Negroes who addressed him as ‘Uncle Tom.’”

    Coming right at the start of the “civil rights movement” this raises, surprisingly, many more recent issues, but nothing is made of it beyond that paragraph.

    We also learn Brogue is a man of “strict, regular habits” and “shuns all social involvements, both public and private” for 46 weeks of the year; for the rest, he vacations in East Africa — back to the Motherland! — under an assumed name, where he drinks Bondian quantities of alcohol and has “three secret affairs with three carefully chosen Ethiopian boys who were preferably above the age of puberty and below the age of consent.”

    Again, rather close to today’s issues.[27]

    I think this is the key to Brogue’s role as a kind of anti-Eberlin. He is not merely Eberlin’s boss — and hence the man who will order his death if Eberlin’s secret is revealed — but a competitor in the Dandy sweepstakes. Eberlin is a “hermetic dandy” who eschews all social involvements, public and private,” full stop; a kind of “purity” of purpose Brogue falls short of with his secret life of occasional indulgence.[28]

    Eberlin’s sexlessness is essential to his dandified self-control as well as an asset to his undercover (as it were) role.[29] I’m suggesting as well that he functions as literally an ascetic, an anchorite, if you will. Of course, Eberlin’s real secret life will soon be revealed, and the first step is his decision to actually attend a direly “swinging” drinks party in Bloomsbury.

    All this, as I say, is dropped from Dandy US and the movie;[30] what remains is a later scene where Brogue attempts to one-up Eberlin with the purchase of a snuff box supposedly given to Beau Brummel by Prince George, which claim Eberlin smoothly and arrogantly eviscerates.[31]

    In the movie, as a reviewer notes,

    Many things remain unspoken, and yet come through in the pauses, in tone of voice, in body language (such as the apparent racism of Eberlin towards a black colleague).

    But it’s not really “racism” but Brogue and Eberlin seeing each other as opposites; hence, Brogues unusual blackness.[32]

    The Prologue UK ends with a quick flash forward to the installation of the “plain, unfancy, rectangular headstone,” inscribed with the name of the deceased and “nothing else but the two words carved underneath: CIVIL SERVANT.”

    Apart from giving a thunderously morbid END to the prologue, and reminding us of the funereal theme, I can’t help but be reminded of Ananda Coomaraswamy’s summation of the Path of Enlightenment:

    Blessed is the man on whose tomb can be written Hic jacet nemo.[33]

    This “avowed intention to be nothing,” this very “self-willed effacement,”[34] is the key to Eberlin’s transcendental identity. The clue that the UK Prologue is giving us is, Eberlin is already dead, though he has yet to effect his final exit from the material world.[35]

    Perhaps it would be good to sketch out the difference in the arrangement of the texts of UK and US Dandy. UK Dandy, after the Prologue (aka “Nightingale”) gives us 7 chapters, thus:

    1. Copperfield (UK colleague who may or may not be a double agent)
    2. Gatiss (UK assassin, sent along with Eberlin to kill “Krasnevin”)
    3. Pavel (Krasnevin’s Russian control in London)
    4. Dancer (Eberlin’s alias on his mission to kill “Krasnevin”)
    5. Krasnevin (aka Eberlin)
    6. Mistrale (Eberlin’s car, the significance of which will be dealt with)
    7. Endgame

    US Dandy abandons this structure entirely. It starts with a long quote from Alice in Wonderland[36] rather than the Prologue, and has two sections, APOGEE and PERIGEE,[37] with 16 chapters, some sharing names with UK (“Pavel,” “Gatiss”) the rest rather pretentiously opaque (“Friedrichstrasse Nein,” “Amontillado Caroline,” etc.) although the latter pretension is somewhat redeemed by the last, “The Passing of the Buck,” which will attract our attention soon. Each chapter is now headed by one or more epigraphs, either supposedly from Eberlin, illustrating some kind of Wildean wit, I suppose, or from Nietzsche, Voltaire and the like, no doubt drawn from his dandified reading.

    As I said, I’m going through the UK novel, noting interesting variants that provide us with clues. So, Chapter One, “Copperfield,” give us Eberlin at last; indeed, a veritable day in the life of Eberlin; although the phrase is not used, it seems we are to take this as a specimen day.[38]

    The most likely literary connection here is Huysmans’ Against Nature, whose Prologue and first chapter also give us an account of the origins and daily life of the self-sufficient dandy at home in his “snug little ark, his refined Thebaid.”[39]

    It’s all summed up in that passage quoted above, which deserves a second look:

    Obliged, by a quirk of fate long since regretted, to play out his role, he blundered on into the dawn of middle age, a hermetic dandy, surrounding himself only with the fetish of himself — predominantly his clothes, which he chose with exquisite and envied care, his books, his three double-barreled fowling pieces by Manton, and his collection of old Sèvres porcelain locked in a vault in the V and A — and an utter lack of envy for his fellow man. He had that noble selflessness of a man who cares for no one but himself. Brummell, a man he admired unashamedly, had that. Until he went mad.[40]

    I’m suggesting that Eberlin doesn’t go mad, like Brummell, but achieves that rather similar state, enlightenment, which in the context of a spy novel is death.

    Hermetic refers in the first instance to his isolation, partly due to his mission, but mostly due to himself (how many spies live like this?). This pedestrian sense of hermetic arises from the original and more profound sense of being on the path of the Hermetic tradition.[41]

    Eberlin is a realized man, but still held back in this phenomenal world, presumably due to his karma. His mission is to kill Krasnevin — i.e., himself; to finally kill off the last of his earthly ties: here lies nobody.[42]

    In “Copperfield” Eberlin is forced out of his hermitic retreat by a coded summons to a boring drinks party where he is surprised to meet fellow agent Copperfield, who either is on to him or, being a double agent, is the reason for the invitation. During their cat and mouse encounters around the party they have this key exchange.

    “But you — always surprised me . . . you sticking it there. No ties or anything . . . have you?

    “No.”

    “No. I thought that. No ties.”

    Eberlin is already bored — to death? — with his solitary life and the “infantile absurdity” of spycraft; the ambiguous meeting with Copperfield leads him to seek out contact with his Russian control, Pavel, to demand he be returned to the Soviet Union.[43]

    Here we get another clue; Eberlin is insulted by the crude goons sent to escort him:

    “I at least should be worth something more than a couple of zombies like you.”

    They, and the author, make quite a thing of this remark:

    The men laughed. Eberlin had said the world ‘zombies’ in English, which amused the men, they laughed again and repeated the word.

    Get it? Zombies and repetition, repeated. “Zombie” of course strikes the contemporary note, today, but was much less common back then. If the word was even less common in Russian, I like to imagine a similar scene in Hollywood as Ayn Rand first hears the word, which will later turn up in John Galt’s speech.[44] Anyway, I suggest the laughter arises from Eberlin’s failure to realize that it is he who is the real zombie.

    After taxi-ing around to evade any tails, we get another reminder: “God how he missed having a car.”

    The next morning, having decided on a plan “of utter selfishness and therefore of the utmost integrity,” Eberlin is phoned by Copperfield, who relays a message from Brogue, to meet with him at 10. Still waiting for Pavel to relay his own message from Moscow, Eberlin stalls him till 11, and as he prepares for the day we meet with a truly remarkable image.

    [Eberlin] showered in ice cold water, in a shower built to a design he had seen in Berlin. The bather sealed himself into a glass coffin and was impaled by bolts of water thrust at him, at infinite velocity, from every angle. After three minutes, one felt fit for anything.

    Well, the coffin is pretty obvious, but the bolts of water from every angle, of infinite velocity, suggests not only the “caught” metaphor, but also, at a deeper level, the very opposite: Eberlin is the Realized Man, the Chakravartin, who has reached the Center, from which he stands upright at the meeting point of all the warp and woof of the strands of existence.[45]

    The image is reinforced when we proceed to Eberlin’s meeting with Brogue, in whose office, painted green,

    Eberlin could see the small square outside filled with trees and no people . . . He stood in the center of the room looking down at Brogue who was sitting, swiveling gently from side to side, in the mahogany chair and toying with a bone cigar-holder.

    I’d rather stand,” replied Eberlin, “it would help you come to the point.”

    Eberlin remained standing, like a fulcrum, in the centre of the room.

    Brogue smiled and puffed a column of smoke on to Eberlin’s shoulder, so that it hung on the weave of the jacket then circled, dispersed and floated to the ceiling.[46]

    Trees (including a mahogany chair) and green walls suggest the Garden, whose central tree is the Axis Mundi. Eberlin, like the world tree, stands upright, while his opposite, Brogue, the Negro (like Satan, the ape of God/Eberlin), sits below, swiveling around the Axis in the material world, toying, like an ape in 2001, with a bone.[47]

    The whole symbolism, Eberlin’s life in the phenomenal world, his enlightened indifference and immobility, the center vs. the circling weave, is condensed in one movement:

    [Brogue] picked up a red file from the desk, marked CONFIDENTIAL. EX. F3, and held it over his head like a banner.

    “This is you in my hand, Eberlin. Ninety-six pages all dedicated to you. Catch!”

    He suddenly pretended to throw the file across the room, but held his hand. Eberlin made no attempt whatsoever to receive it, but kept his arms to his side, and then turned to [his secretary] and said in a bored voice: “Let’s go back.”

    Let’s go back will indeed be the ultimate theme. Eberlin is dead, dead to the world, but keeps coming back, and will continue to do so, until he finally can kill himself.

    And so Eberlin is given a mission: to kill Krasnevin, who is himself.[48] But first, before he even knows that’s on the agenda, he is to attend a briefing on the following Monday.[49]

    At this point, Chapter Two, we meet Emmanuel Gatiss, but not before the Center symbolism is driven home. Eberlin spends “the following two days of the weekend in planned despair” over the Russian refusal to repatriate him and what appears to be the British plan to, unknowingly, “promote” him to the active branch; from Q to 00, as it were.[50]

    He goes to the V and A to sit alone in a vault with his Sèvres, “surrounded by the sample of his extroversion and his taste, piled high around him,” and then bolts out, telling them to sell it all.

    Once he spent one hour trying on every shirt he had, until he tired and stood with the discarded shirts lying round his feet. “My failures,” he said, echoing Brummell, and left the room.[51]

    So then, Selvers, some kind of country house where the spooks and secret government officials (the “Deep State,” if you will) like to hang out in these kinds of books. Here, it looks like “a small exclusive school for the rich,” which highlights the point brought out by Amis,[52] that the trope of Bond’s uncomfortable meetings with ‘M’ (at least once, at his country house, Quarterdeck) as well as his more torturous meetings with various super-villains in their lairs, all recall — to a certain sort of reader — shamefaced meetings with parents or headmasters, in well-padded but stern rooms filled with adult indulgences, such as sherry and old leather books, which you can’t really understand. The first Bond book, Casino Royale, established the trope:

    “My dear boy,” Le Chiffre spoke like a father, “the game of Red Indians is over, quite over. You have stumbled by mischance into a game for grown-ups and you have already found it a painful experience. You are not equipped, my dear boy, to play games with adults and it was very foolish of your nanny in London to have sent you out here with your spade and bucket.”

    The “kitchen sink” or “Angry Young Man” movement (of which Amis was a peripheral member[53]), which rose up in the midst of the early Bond phenomenon, really picked up on that element, since the public school and the country house epitomized the stuffy, stratified, dead and deadening British Establishment they loathed.[54]

    Both angles suggest that there’s more than a little resemblance between the British Establishment and, say, SPECTRE than you might think, which thus plays into the next big British fad, the “all cats are grey” world of le Carré; both are typified by their shadowy meetings, here what Eberlin sneers at as a “barely visible cabal.”

    Armed with Amis insight, we might then suspect that things are not as they may appear, and the real twist in the story is hiding in plain sight.

    Here, the Mean Girls and public school angle appears in various childish tricks, such as apologizing for “forgetting” to offer the lunch that everyone has already eaten, or pretending not to notice that Eberlin, unlike them, hasn’t got a brandy or a cigar.[55] Like SPECTRE, they enjoy playing with their victims, although not with electrified chairs. An attendee of the lower ranks advises Eberlin:

    “They always make their victims walk around for half an hour to decide. It’s part of their routine.”

    There’s a Uriah Heepish character named Quince who offers obsequious advice, all “may I suggest” and “If I may, sir” as he attempts to ingratiate himself with the big boys.[56] Here, even Brogue the Negro is subdued: “He had learned how to act among his superiors.”

    Speaking of cabals, and Brogue, who I suggested was Eberlin’s dandy double, we meet another double, Emmanuel Gatiss. While Brogue is a double for the desk-bound Eberlin, Gatiss is Krasnevin’s double in the field, an assassin. So, obviously, he must be sent out to accompany Eberlin on his mission to kill himself.

    Like Brogue, Gatiss is an unusual character; in this case, a Jew. I really have no idea how common that would have been, in the British Secret Service (it is, after, somewhat secret) but it seems unlikely that many would be there. However, it surely would have been more common in the grotty little areas like sitting around decoding stuff, or, as here, doing the dirty field work of an assassin.[57]

    Anyway, Gatiss is unusual because he’s not just a Jewish assassin but a rather crude, vulgar, in-your-face what’yer gonna do about it mate? kind of agent; he has a chip on his shoulder about being a Jew in the post-WWII world, and he doesn’t care who knows it; no worries about letters calling him an Uncle Tom for him. He’s “self-coded EPSILON/32/Y” (I’m sure we’re told at some point ‘Y’ is for Yid, although I admit I can’t find that in either UK or US Dandy at this point, so maybe I was hallucinating).

    Putting his job and his attitude together, what’s remarkable is that he foreshadows both the social rise of the uncouth and proud of it Jew,[58] as well as the Jewish revenge porn of such films as Inglourious Basterds, sort of combining Brad Pitt and Eli Roth. He particularly loathes Germany, of course, despite (or because) he operates out of Munich, and at the conclusion says “Well, I hope I never have to come back to this damn country again.”

    As Eberlin’s counterpart — at the briefing Gatiss sits but “straight-backed” and unmoving, like Eberlin, and the two are frequently positioned next to each other, or across a lawn — he’s a bit of a dandy himself; he disdains tie clips and cufflinks and such like,[59] but does have a gold Star of David[60] on a chain around his neck. “Strongly built,” with his “blond hair cut stylistically short,” I can’t help but imagine Daniel Craig in the role.[61] Unlike both Craig’s Bond and Eberlin, he is neither chivalrous nor ascetic, merely unbelievably crude.

    “People say I only sleep with whores. That’s not true. All women are whores.”[62]

    And, being a Jew, he just doesn’t “get” how “the game” is played, either socially or metaphysically:

    “I think even if he had known he was only a bai and that we’d been aware of his identity for months, he’d have done just the same, don’t you?”

    Gatiss laughed loudly and replied:

    “You’re just as big a fool as he was.”[63]

    Although he does, in his blunt way, have a sense of what’s going on:

    “You’ve got no past and he’s got no future”

    So Eberlin and Gatiss are not just opponents but counterparts; Eberlin embodies the true Aryan response to the material world, a haughty indifference or hauteur; Gatiss, as befits a man of his race, has a “telluric” identification with these forces, which he hopes to control or at least get some benefit from.[64]

    Anyway, the Brits for some reason have decided to promote Eberlin to the field, to locate Krasnevin (who, we know, at least, is Eberlin). “So damned ironic and in such bad taste” thinks Everlin, yet a kind of reprieve.

    Then they reveal who they think Krasnevin is: Pavel, Eberlin’s control and the closest thing to a friend, such as he is, that he has. Some reprieve.

    We get one last clue: he’s given the perk of a chauffeur for the trip back to London, in starting which “the chauffeur turned the car smartly into the centre of the gravel square.”

    Whoa Nellie, we’re only halfway through! No matter. The whole point of what follows in Berlin is sheer futility and repetition. As tulip says [4]:

    In an interesting subversion of audience expectations, the British spies who go to Eberlin for the job as mole-hunter receive numerous clues that something is fishy about him, and yet they do nothing. This is frustrating, because as it turns out, Eberlin really isn’t all that good of a spy, or at least a good field agent. Like [Gatiss] says in the film, he manages to get precisely nothing done. Without wanting to spoil the ending outright: this conundrum does get addressed. It’s just a bit questionable how well.

    Boredom, repetition, and futility . . . Well, Constant Readers know I just love that kinda thing!

    But it’s not quite true. The Brits are doing something: they’ve figured out Eberlin is Krasnevin (although it’s never clear exactly when — presumably after he’s killed Nightingale and before the briefing; this may be what Brogue is talking about, obliquely, at the funeral) and by sending him to Berlin I suppose they assume he’ll try to escape to the East and thus lead them to various Russian agents in the West.

    Even so, it’s a pretty lazy plot, especially since they presumably don’t know that Eberlin is already desperate to be repatriated. It also leads to either a brilliant plot twist or an unfair trick by the author. Before he even leaves London Eberlin skedaddles right over to Pavel’s place to again demand repatriation; as he leaves, he sees Pavel being shoved into a big black Buick and spirited away as fast as Hillary at the 9/11 Memorial. He thinks it’s the Russians, cutting off his line of escape, but in the end realizes that it was the Brits, who therefore must have known about him all along; that triggers the “Dead . . . dead . . . dead” conversation we started with.[65]

    Anyway, from the point of view of Eberlin’s official mission, he does indeed accomplish nothing; and there’s a peculiar kind of nothing or futility in the way what he actually does is hidden from him and thus largely accidental: as a “secret agent” his real secret is that he has no more agency than a puppet. And there’s the way he goes back and forth across the border, always being sent back, always trying to find some way to cross over again.

    What’s really going on here, at the symbolic level, is the Eberlin is cutting his “ties,” burning his bridges in and to the phenomenal world, reaching the limit of frustration and disgust, so as to be free enough to ascend to the (or at least a) higher realm. As Neville put it:

    I remember when I had so much wealth. I did not have one home, but many, each fully staffed from secretaries to gardeners. That was a life of sheer decadence. I recall walking out of it and not returning. Whether they ever found the body I do not know, but I do know I deliberately walked away. . . . So I do believe that one must completely saturate himself with the things of Caesar before he is hungry for the Word of God.[66]

    Eberlin is dead, already, but until all this karma has been exhausted, he is stuck here, in endless repetitions.[67]

    He could turn neither to the East nor the west now, both rejected him, and even if they didn’t, Eberlin didn’t much care.[68] Politics were over, ideologies were of no further consequence. He didn’t belong any more on any front, and in the final analysis, he was glad. It had come to this. The Eberlin Trinity [Eberlin/Krasnevin/Dancer] was on its own.[69]

    So, let’s get to the end, shall we? Again, we have a few variants to choose from, like a Gospel manuscript or a video game set up.

    In both versions, someone has been set-up to take the fall for Krasnevin: in UK, the Brits (they tell Eberlin) decide it’s the dead Pavel, in US, the Russians plan to offer the hapless Copperfield to get Krasnevin off the hook. The switch to Copperfield is needed because, as we’ve seen, in the US version the Brits have already got Pavel; Eberlin receives his “dead” verdict from Rotopkin, and the book just sort of peters out, in true grey, le Carré fashion.

    The UK version is more interesting. As you’ll recall, the penultimate chapter is “Mistrale” and indeed the car finally makes its (re)appearance.

    The Mistrale seemed just like new. Eberlin walked around it five times, prodded it, stroked it, then actually sat inside and held the wheel without starting the engine. It felt wrong but it was definitely the same car.

    Indeed, the Chakravartin “holds the wheel[70] without staring the engine.”

    Then, after Eberlin (thinks) he’s blown his cover by trying to save Rotopkin from Gatiss (in this version, Gatiss kills Rotopkin), he attempts to escape to “Spain or Africa” and instead drives into a wall at 80 miles an hour.

    And then there’s Caroline. Now, Caroline was the hostess of the drinks party at the beginning. She doesn’t get a chapter title in UK, but remember, US has “Amontillado Caroline,” which is the code Eberlin receives to instruct him to attend the party. She claims to have met Eberlin in Tripoli (where he was to kill Nightingale, and where he cracked up the Mistrale). Later, she turns up in Berlin. Now, she’s driving the car that Eberlin hits on the way to the wall. Later still, she’ll buy Eberlin’s house and its dandified contents at the post mortem auction.[71]

    Is Caroline then a spy? An assassin? If either, for whom? It seems unlikely, since she’s a kind of Twiggy/Marianne Faithfull sort of bird, an element of the contemporary “Swinging London” Marlowe was writing in. Her hysterical crying at the scene of the accident could be fake, of course.

    I think she’s not a spy at all — her connection to the cocktail party is likely through her parents, undoubtedly parlour pinks of the old Bloomsbury sort.[72] She’s a perfectly ordinary person who for some reason — karma? — is constantly running into Eberlin at crisis moments. She is purely a symbol of repetition.

    Only this time, the circle becomes a spiral; things are a little off. In Tripoli, Eberlin swerves to avoid a car and drove into a tree. The Ministry chaps at Selvers seem a bit obsessed with it, and interrogate him further.

    “It was a question of expediency.”

    “Expediency? You deny it was your own fault?”

    “Not exactly, but I could not have avoided the situation. I felt at the time that I did the correct thing.”

    “And now?”

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “Do you think you did the right thing now?”

    “Yes.”

    And with that deterministic note, he’s sent off on his Judas Mission, in the course of which I’ve suggested that he learns finally to cut his ties with the phenomenal world. This time — I wonder, was it Caroline driving what is only described as “a car” he swerves to avoid in Tripoli? — it is her Mini that is now “decapitated” but in the process Eberlin and the Mistrale are totaled.[73]

    Gatiss arrives and telegrams a cryptic message to London:

    “HAVE JUST WITNESSED THE PASSING OF THE BUCK”

    Though never decoded for us, it’s important enough for US Dandy, which loses all of this action, to preserve the phrase as the title of the last chapter. If Caroline was not an assassin before, she is now; Krasnevin has made her responsible for his death, and passed his karma to her, freeing himself. It’s not “fair” or “rational,” of course, but who ever said the cosmos was fair or rational?[74]

    What about Movie Dandy? As already noted, the film, perhaps necessarily, drops many of the dandy elements, making the title all the more obscure; it also drops the opening funeral, mostly. What it does that’s interesting lies in the beginning and end.

    The opening credits play over a dancing puppet. Now, the very mobile puppet is at first glance the very opposite of the stuck in aspic metaphor,[75] but then you realize that being controlled by various strings in essentially the same. And then you remember that Eberlin’s new alias is Dancer, and it all fits beautifully; dandy becomes dancer, stuckness becomes illusory self-control.[76] It’s a nice way to make a literary image “cinematic.”[77] But ironically — or not, as all Traditional symbols resonate with what appears to be their opposites on the phenomenal plane — the dancing puppet is also the Dancer, Krishna.[78]

    There follows an abbreviated version of the funeral, this time with Eberlin in attendance, for no particular reason. Eberlin’s metaphorical duel with Brogue is set in a basement firing range at London HQ, which again is a nice transposition from page to screen.

    The only reference to Eberlin as a dandy occurs when Pavel admires his suit, which is odd since it’s mostly hidden under his overcoat at that point; moreover, we’ve just come from the briefing scene, where Eberlin wears a ghastly light brown suit, presumably to highlight his “not being one of” his well-dressed superiors. He also gets a chance to use some of those “witty” epigrams that decorate the chapter titles in US Dandy (“What do I do? I collect noses off statues”). Otherwise, bit players are assigned to tell us “he’s a snob” and “he’s completely sexless” (the latter seems account for Caroline following him around as some kind of challenge).

    We’re left with Eberlin’s stated motivation as “I’d give it all up for an identity, just to belong somewhere,” which sounds a little too much like a bow to ’60s clichés about alienation etc. But basically, as noted, Lawrence Harvey just plays his usual bored prick.

    Other changes are not so welcome: Gatiss loses all trace of Jewishness, aside perhaps from Tom Courtney’s dark hair, which misses the point — he isn’t dark-haired Eberlin’s double, he’s his counterpart;[79] Eberlin’s Moneypenny, Miss Vogler, is now Eberlin’s casual bedmate, not one of Gatiss’ castoffs; Caroline’s role is expanded, as played by Mia Farrow, but not further explained.[80]

    Worst of all is Lionel Stander as Sobakevitch. While it’s always fun to have Stander’s side of brisket face and Merchant Marine growl, he plays the Russian operative like a “comical” taxi driver from his hometown, the Bronx.[81]

    Now, finally, about that ending. As noted, US Dandy, the basis of the screenplay, just gives us the downbeat ending of Eberlin being hustled onto the plane to London, having just learned that the Brits have known the truth all along. But again, this is a motion picture, and even something as dreary as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold ends with a big shoot ‘em up.

    As also noted, Lawrence Harvey himself seems to have been responsible for not just directing but writing, or at least dreaming up, the final sequence. Now, at the end of his Berlin stay Eberlin does get his car back, but since nothing has been made of it until now, it seems rather pointless. Nor is it a racing car, just some kind of American muscle car with a garish Chinese red paintjob. He drives it around frantically for a while and I think we’re supposed to think he’s going to race through a checkpoint but nothing doing; this seems to be all that remains of the death/crash motif.

    Instead, on the tarmac, Eberlin notices Gatiss in a car at some distance. Is Gatiss (who, we are casually told just now, was the only Brit who didn’t know Eberlin was Krasnevin until the end) supposed to sneak up at 60 miles an hour and run him over?[82]

    In any event, Eberlin/Krasnevin breaks away and runs toward the car, while Gatiss starts up (was he waiting for Eberlin to make the first move, so as to make running him down “self-defense”?) and bears down on him. Eberlin fires his pistol (which for some reason the Brits still let him carry) point-blank[83] at the windshield . . . and freeze-frame on Eberlin’s face as he turns away, or perhaps is hit aside by the car; who knows? Cut to puppet tangled up in strings and lifted up out of sight.

    Marlowe may have hated the ending, but at least someone sensed there needed to finally be some kind of climactic action (which the UK novel, ironically, does have), and remembered that Eberlin and Gatiss were supposed to be opposing forces of some kind. But since all that has been dropped, and we are simply told that Eberlin is “such a snob” and that Gatiss “Hates you, hates me, hates everybody,” one has no sense of a metaphysical resolution, one only wishes to see the last of these two jerkasses.

    In any event, we have reached the end of our epic traversal of three versions of the passing of the buck, which I have suggested many a time is one of, if not the most basic, metaphysical theme of film and fiction.

    It’s good to have at least the US version of the novel back in print, and the movie is a nice way to spend a couple hours of time (there’s a DVD which is so bare-bones it not only has no “special features” it doesn’t even have chapter stops!), but you really should get on the intertubes and find a second-hand copy of the UK original.[84]

    As for myself, time for a break from all this reading and view. That coffin-shower thing sounds like just the ticket . . .

    Notes

    [1] The Circus, of course, is British Intelligence (MI6) in John le Carré’s George Smiley novels. This, by the way, is one of the “dandyish” epigrams that decorate the chapter titles in the US version of the novel, as we shall see.

    [2] The Guardian called it one of the ten best first novels of all time and add that “It’s baffling that a writer of Marlowe’s quality, his style and sensibility setting him apart from all competition, has been out of print for so long.” “Nicholas Royle’s top 10 first novels,” 27 February 2013, here [5]. FWIW, I’ve never heard of any of the other nine authors or books.

    [3] We’ll soon see that the experience of the book will differ from one side of the pond to the other.

    [4] Long out of print, it’s been reasonably available on the second-hand market; I’ve acquired, in my obsessive fashion, the original US and UK hardcovers for about a dollar each, and a British move tie-in paperback. The film is available on DVD.

    [5] “Classic read: A Dandy in Aspic by Derek Marlowe” by Fiona Wilson; April 25, 2015, here [6].

    [6] Thus missing the whole point of the Bond appeal. It’s the kind of “grey is real” miserablism that the Left usually traffics in, preferring “folk” ditty about mining disasters to pop hits, or, in the UK context, creating the dismal East Enders series to counter the popular Coronation Street (guess which one is on PBS in the States). The Right, in its Beautiful Losers mode, indulges in it too; see my “Hard Men vs. Wild Boys,” reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012). Kingsley Amis has a better understanding of Bond in his invaluable The James Bond Dossier (London: Cape, 1965), finding the appeal of Bond to be precisely his ordinariness; one feels one could do the same, if only one had the time and money. (In American terms, Batman rather than Superman). Amis points out that Bond, though a “secret agent,” is in fact no grander than any of le Carré’s grey men; he’s not a spy, but though more accurate, a title like The Middle-level Civil Servant Who Loved Me lacks the right amount of pizazz. In typically Judaic fashion, Bond co-producer Harry [Herschel] Salzman optioned Len Deighton’s Ipcress File for film to create an anti-Bond franchise, covering the markets for both snobs and slobs.

    [7] As for “gym-buffed heroes,” again, Bond, in his book and classic film mode, is fit but hardly Superman-like. Amis, in his typical fashion, simply details all the injuries and weaknesses that Fleming assigns him — even, in Thunderball, consigning him to a health sanitarium! I explore the obsession with suuper-heroic musculature in “The Ponderous Weight of the Dark Knight,” Counter-Currents, July 28, 2012, here [7].

    [8] Derek Marlowe, in The London Observer. I have long ago lost my blurry Photostat of this fine essay on The Dandy; this is taken from “Wit and Wisdom” on Dandyism.net.

    [9] “If it wasn’t for the internet, Marlowe’s genius as a writer may have been lost, as none of his novels are currently in print.” — Dangerous Minds, “A Dandy in Aspic: A Letter from Derek Marlowe,” here [8].

    [10] I’ve discussed Dali’s invaluable paranoiac-critical method several times on Counter-Currents: here [9]. For a more sedate precedent, consider . . .  Walter Pater. “Pater was not entirely without gumption; only he tended to hoard it for his imagination. . . . ‘Facts’ and historical accuracy are not the coin in which Pater traded. For him, history was a mine to be worked for the frisson of insight; a certain amount of poetic license only aided the process.” See the review of Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls, by Denis Donoghue (New York: Knopf, 1994), “Art vs. Aestheticism: the case of Walter Pater,” by Roger Kimball; The New Criterion, May 1995, online here [10].

    [11] Kasper Gutman: “That’s an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides. ‘Cause as you know, sir, in the heat of action men are likely to forget where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away.” The Maltese Falcon. Marlowe, as you might imagine, had Raymond Chandler as a favorite writer (“A Letter,” loc. cit.)

    [12] See my “Breaking Badge: Touch of Evil through the Lens of Breaking Bad,” here [11], for the use of multiple media and a consideration of, for example, how audiences respond sympathetically to what Welles intended as a portrayal of fascist evil. Speaking of which: “Scanner Darkly and Laurence Harvey in the same story makes me have to point out that there exists an ORSON WELLES version of DEAD CALM all but completed but abandoned when Laurence Harvey died of a heart attack before the final scenes were shot. Wouldn’t it be great if we could see this with animated scenes where filmed ones do not exist à la SCANNER DARKLY?” The significance of P. K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly will soon become clear.

    [13] A Dandy in Aspic (1968); directed by Anthony Mann (and, uncredited, Laurence Harvey); screenplay by Derek Marlowe; starring Laurence Harvey, Tom Courtney, Mia Farrow, Peter Cook, Harry Andrews, Calvin Lockheart.

    [14] Not be confused with Michael Mann, director of our favorite and much referenced Manhunter (1986), although the latter, under that title or the novel — Red Dragon (again, ambiguity!) — has obvious parallels to Eberlin’s mission. “You want the scent? Smell yourself.”

    [15] An important point, as we shall see; there are in total three distinct “endings.”

    [16] Counter-Currents readers might like, if they haven’t seen it already, his 1961 El Cid, with Charlton Heston.

    [17] “A Letter from Derek Marlowe,” loc. cit.

    [18] Not really.

    [19] “The Forgotten: Cold Warrior” by David Cairns; Notebook, 12 August 2010, here [12]. As our protagonist is variously known as Eberlin, Krasnavin, and even George Dancer, I began to refer to him as EKD which, it occurs to me, does suggest PKD, does it not?

    [20] “About the novels. All characters are close or have been observed in some element of truth. One book went too far and I was sued for libel — but I shan’t reveal which one it was. Loner and anti-hero? Loner, certainly — even though I am married with four stepchildren and one son of my own — but not anti-hero. I’m for heroes, though if not Lancelot or Tristan, heroes appear out of the mould of the time.” — Marlowe, “Letter,” loc. cit.

    [21] Pater, reviewing Wilde’s Dorian Gray, refers to “the, from the first, suicidal hero.” See “A Novel by Mr. Oscar Wilde,” published in The Bookman, November 1891; quoted in Kimball, loc. cit.

    [22] Further hermetic obscurity: the Table of Contents tells us this section is titled “Prologue” but the actual first page is headed “Prologue” and then “Nightingale,” giving it a title like all the other chapters, and one derived from a character’s name, in this case the dead man, as most of them are.

    [23] “And I can’t help but think that the book the movie is adapted from must do a better job of explaining the twists and turns of the plot so they appear well thought out. It also likely gives the many characters who are but briefly introduced and then forgotten something worthwhile to do, like the black spy (surely an unusual sight at that time) and Eberlin’s Moneypenny stand-in.” Soliloquies under the influence of tulips, August 5, 2011, here [4]. Cairns (op.cit.) calls him “a surprising black British spymaster.”

    [24] “Gypsy woman told my momma, before I was born/You got a boy-child comin’, gonna be a son-of-a-gun.” Willie Dixon, “Hootchie Cootchie Man.”

    [25] In the first chapter, Eberlin’s Russian contacts seek clarification when Eberlin mentions Brogue: “‘The Negro?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Important?’ ‘To a degree.’”

    [26] It’s not clear if it’s Brogue himself who thinks of himself as “the Negro” or thinks about the problem of “the Negro” in general, or the omniscient narrator.

    [27] See Aedon Cassiel, “Pizzagate,” here [13].

    [28] We learn Eberlin has had one affair, producing both a son and a respect for the dangers of women; neither are ever seen by him again.

    [29] “You let the wrong word slip/While kissing persuasive lips” from the contemporary “Secret Agent Man” (Johnny Rivers).

    [30] What remains of Brogues aberrant sexuality seems to be dog-whistled by casting Calvin Lockheart in the role. There’s no evidence of homosexuality in his biography [14], but this early role in England would lead him to star in Joanna by Michael Sarne, who would eventually put him as the effete Irving Amadeus in Myra Breckenridge, which can’t help but color, as it were, one’s perception of his performance; starring on Dynasty doesn’t help either. Cairns, however, thinks it bleeds over into the whole film: “Maybe it’s Mann’s response to the perceived effete decadence of British culture, but in this movie it seems a long time before we meet any straight men at all. (Harry Andrews, with his weathered granite face, seems like the first hetero presence, though his auto-erotic asphyxiation death scene, while wearing a tutu, in 1972’s The Ruling Class might cast even this certainty into question.) The bizarrely variegated cast appear to have been instructed to camp it up for all they’re worth, with the ever-ambiguous Harvey a relatively mild offender. Peter Cook, a surprising presence in the first place, whose entire characterisation is based around rampant womanizing (“She’s eine klein raver!”) nevertheless flicks his hair and ponces about with the best of them. Tom Courtenay and Calvin Lockhart (a surprising black British spymaster) play their confrontations with Harvey in the hissiest way imaginable (in a shooting gallery scene, they fire at images of naked men), and there’s a strong implication that Per Oscarsson’s Swedish-accented Russian operative is or has been Harvey’s lover.” I’ll comment on some of this later, but the last point is definitely all in Cairns’ head.

    [31] In the UK Prologue, Brogue dictates a letter to Sotheby’s inquiring about the provenance of the box.

    [32] “Tired with LALAland, Marlowe planned to return to England to finish his tenth novel, Black and White, but he contracted leukemia and tragically died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of fifty-eight, in 1996”; here [8].

    [33] [Here lies no one]. A. K. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism, p.30.

    [34] “WHO was—or what was—Ananda Coomaraswamy? The man is of no help here, as he discouraged biographical ‘curiosity’ in his avowed intention to be ‘nothing.’ And yet this very self-willed effacement affords a key to the answer. Hic Jacet Nemo was the epitaph he most desired, and ‘Here lies no one’ is already a clue to the response we are seeking.” — Whitall N. Perry, “Coomaraswamy — The Man, Myth and History,” Studies in Comparative Religion, vol. 11, no. 3 (Summer 1977), online here [15].

    [35] Presumably, when his car cracks up in Tripoli, an event in the recent past of which people keep reminding him and us.

    [36] John le Carré published The Looking Glass War the previous year, 1965. Was the quote the idea of the author or the publisher?

    [37] “1. Astronomy. the point in the orbit of a heavenly body, especially the moon, or of a man-made satellite at which it is farthest from the earth. Compare perigee [16]. 2. the highest or most distant point; climax.” Dictionary.com, here [17]. Note the apparent inversion of the climax.

    [38] One might think, perhaps, of the Lennon/McCartney “A Day in the Life” (1967), but that was in the future. More likely in the author’s mind would be One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the novel written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir (New World) and translated into English almost immediately and several times over: Ralph Parker’s translation (New York: Dutton, 1963) was the first to be published, followed by Ronald Hingley and Max Hayward’s (New York: Praeger, 1963) and Bela Von Block’s (New York: Lancer, 1963); see here [18].

    [39] Eberlin, however, lacks Huysmans’ dandy’s palate; he is “apathetic about the acquired bigotry of wines and bouquets,” preferring wine “bought . . . cheap from the supermarket” which “came out of the decanter like sludge.” As for food, “he never pruned his taste buds, considering food nothing more than a basic necessity to be completed as painlessly and quickly as possible.” There’s also his self-admonishment in “Copperfield,” “Smoking too much, Eberlin,” a very un-Bondian note. US Dandy gives us a wonderful passage about Eberlin’s endurance of the “ceremony” of coffee preparation by some bore. Film Dandy drops all of this, leaving everything up to Lawrence Harvey’s unmatched ability to portrait a bored, supercilious prick; “as bitter and hostile to our sympathies as he was in The Manchurian Candidate” (Cairns).

    [40] The next paragraph also introduces us to the Maserati Mistrale 3700, “at present disemboweled and eight fee tin the air at Cutcher’s Garage, twenty kilometres from Lyons.” I will suggest that Eberlin is already in a similar post mortem state.

    [41] Dandy US describes him in the corresponding chapter as “a frivolous monk.”

    [42] “One year ago he had written ‘Ex Libris’ on the flyleaf of his passport and burned his suitcase.” The former makes more sense if one recalls that British passports of the time looked more like little books than, say, US passports did.

    [43] Eberlin, real name Krasnevin, was born in Russia and raised to pass for an English schoolboy, part of a program supposedly created by Stalin to implant sleeper agents with impeccable backgrounds. “On paper it looked fallible. In practice, it was without error. Eberlin himself knew of a Troy M.P. of a Northern Constituency, whose loyalties ranged much further that the Houses of Parliament [and a schoolmate] whom he knew now to be a Democrat general in the U.S. Army.” He met the latter at a White House cocktail party, which leads one to think there may be something to this Birther business after all, especially when Brogue the Negro says to Eberlin “I must admit your references are excellent.”

    [44] “The purpose of man’s life, say both [the mystics of muscle and mystics of spirit], is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.” As reprinted in For the New Intellectual, p. 171. British Film Character Actors: Great Names and Memorable Moments by Terence Pettigrew (Rowman & Littlefield, 1982) describes Laurence Harvey’s performance in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) as “zombie-like” but “excusable for once” given his role.

    [45] For more on this Traditional image, see my essays “The Corner at the Center of the World: Traditional Metaphysics in a Late Tale of Henry James,” here [19] and reprinted in The Eldritch Evola . . . & Others: Traditionalist Meditations on Literature, Art, & Culture; ed. Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014), “The Babysitting Bachelor as Aryan Avatar: Clifton Webb in Sitting Pretty, Part 2,” here [20], and with particular reference to the secret agent motif, “The Baker Street Männerbund: Some Thoughts on Holmes, Watson, Bond, & Bonding, here [21].

    [46] The center pole of the teepee, for example, and other traditional designs where a hole is left at the top, to let smoke, and so the sprits, escape. See, for example, Ananda Coomaraswamy, The Door in the Sky (Princeton, 1997).

    [47] See Julius Evola, The Hermetic Tradition, Chapter 1, “The Tree, The Serpent and the Titans.”

    [48] Willard: “Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.” Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979; script by John Milius).

    [49] We also get another hint: Nightingale had been killed “with a minimum of difficulty, apart from decapitating the Mistrale on the Route Nationale.” And a reminder as he takes the train to the meeting: “Trees really are greener in England.”

    [50] Though “trained to kill the secret enemies of the Soviet Union,” “Eberlin” is a committed desk jockey, unlike Bond or, in le Carré’s Spy who comes in from the cold, both of whom are driven nearly mad by paperwork and bureaucracy. In fact, since it’s “frightfully probably that he would be asked to continue Nightingale’s operation” despite having, as Krasnevin, assassinated him, it’s rather as if one could obtain a 00 license by killing one’s predecessor. “Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you/The odds will betray you/And I will replace you.” Chris Cornell, Casino Royale main title theme.

    [51] An American might recall the scene in The Great Gatsby where Daisy is overwhelmed by Gatsby’s shirt collection: “They’re such beautiful shirts, she sobbed, her face muffled in the folds. It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts.” Gatsby is another fake person, but Eberlin would no doubt consider him as another crude arriviste, like Brogue. Or, in the terms we’re discussing here, Gatsby is destroyed because he actually believes in materialism, in wealth and women as the goal of life, and hence his avarice has no end, being a futile attempt to capture the infinite in finite goods — the green light will always recede.

    [52] The James Bond Dossier, op. cit.

    [53] See Colin Wilson, The Angry Years: A Literary Chronicle (Avova Books, 2007), and Jonathan Bowden’s lecture “Bill Hopkins & the Angry Young Men,” online here [22].

    [54] Lawrence Harvey’s breakout role, of course, was as Joe Lampton in the iconic AYM film, Room at the Top (1959) from John Braine’s 1957 novel. For more on Braine, see “Lovecraft in a Northern Town: John Braine’s The Vodi,” here [23]. The ultimate expression of the “dead” theme is the ending of The Ruling Class, where the Establishment is depicted as a roomful of rotting corpses; Harry Andrews, as noted above, starts off the film with a bang, and he’s here in Movie Dandy as well.

    [55] It’s a demonic version of the dandified Oxford youth of Brideshead Revisited: “… it seemed as though I was being given a brief spell of what I had never known, a happy childhood, and though its toys were silk shirts and liqueurs and cigars and its naughtiness high in the catalogue of grave sins, there was something of nursery freshness about us that fell little short of the joy of innocence.”

    [56] Typically, the movie adds a line crudely informing him, and us, “Don’t worry, you’ll get your promotion.”

    [57] Goldfinger: Q: “It has not been perfected, out of years of patient research, ENTIRELY for that purpose, 007. And incidentally, we’d appreciate its return, along with all your other equipment, INTACT for once, when you return from the field.” James Bond: “Well, you’d be surprised the amount of wear and tear that goes on out there in the field.” Here Bond is channeling his inner Upper Class Twit; I suspect real Qs and Bonds would be more Jewy than otherwise; the brainy Jew and the grubby little operative. As commentators from Amis on have noted, Bond sits uneasily between the upper and working classes; his devotion to Queen and Country in the novels is part of a forelock-pulling obsequiousness that makes him a sucker for powerful men like Goldfinger (in the novel he becomes his secretary, along with Tillie Masterson!) and above all, Sir Hugo Drax, much to ‘M’s disgust — or jealousy.

    [58] See, for instance, my collection End of an Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).

    [59] “Edina: “Darling, even Amanda de Cadenet would remember the word “accessories.” Absolutely Fabulous: “Magazine” (#1.6)” (1992). The Germans have a handy word for such male accessories: Schmuck. Hence, the Yiddish . . .

    [60] Jew gold!

    [61] Tom Courtney in the Movie, not so much, though he does establish another AYM connection through Billy Liar (1963) and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1962).

    [62] Well, all shiksas, at least. Not for the first time we see that contemporary Pick Up Artist culture has only a dubious connection to Aryan culture.

    [63] The Gospel is foolishness in the eyes of the world. The Jew Gatiss needs to learn the lesson of Mark 8:34ff. “The only way to attain ‘life’ — true life, the life of the age to come — . . . is by behaving in a way which seems to unredeemed man unintelligent and self-defeating: willingly accepting loss and injury in the cause of Christ and his gospel, and refusing to bend all one’s energies, as other men do, to preserving, securing, and enriching one’s life in this world.” D. E. Nineham, The Gospel of St. Mark, The Pelican New Testament Commentaries (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1969), p. 226.

    [64] See Julius Evola, The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts (Rochester, Vt: Inner Traditions, 1997), pp. 76-77.

    [65] This is actually the US version, which adds this layer of complexity to the plot. In the UK novel, it’s clearly the Russians: Eberlin sees and is even spoken to by the agent Rotopkin; Rotopkin is killed by a racecar at the Gran Prix as he is running from Gatiss at the end. In the US version, it’s Eberlin who thinks the Buick is “no doubt” driven by the Russians. A different Russian, Sobaevick, is killed at the Gran Prix by Gatiss (and a policeman is killed on the track, since Marlowe apparently liked the scene), and when Eberlin later calls Rotopkin, he learns the truth. The movie keeps this version, but with additional changes.

    [66] A frequent story in his last lectures, here for instance: “A Lesson in Scripture,” 10/23/67, online here [24].

    [67] The idea of needing to perform every possible action, good or bad, so as to exhaust all experience, was promoted by the Gnostic sect of Carpocrates; see my review of the work of Luis Varady, “Lords of the Visible World: A Modern Reconstruction of an Ancient Heresy, here [25].

    [68] In Coleman Francis’ The Beast of Yucca Flats (1962), the narrator informs us that “Vacation time. People travel East. West. North. Or South,” to which MST3k’s Mike Nelson responds “Some people just burrow straight down.” (Episode 621). “Dancer” is officially on vacation, and in this case his choice is straight up the World Tree.

    [69] This literal apotheosis takes place at a German Gran Prix track, a reminder of the time when Gran Prix racing was the sport of kings. Gran Prix tracks, no less than NASCAR or ancient chariot races, epitomize the motif of man vs. circular futility. See my review of a similar man and a similar movie of futility, Steve McQueen’s Le Mans (1971), “St. Steven of Le Mans: The Man Who Just Didn’t Care,” here [26].

    [70] It’s no accident that this all takes place in Berlin, home of the Sun Wheel emblem, whose National Socialist past makes Gatiss despise it.

    [71] The reappearance of Eberlin’s house and racing car surely recalls the ending of The Prisoner (1967); was there any influence here? The eponymous Prisoner is definitely an ascetic dandy in his lifestyle, especially if he is indeed the John Drake of Secret Agent/Danger Man. He’s given a new name, or at least number, and set on various tasks and mission while in the Village, all ending with his defeat or return, only to start up again next week. In the end, it is revealed (perhaps) that No. 6 and No. 1 are the same, with John Drake making an Eberlin Trilogy. And of course, the last scene has him drive up in his old racing car (a Lotus) to his old London house.

    [72] I imagine her in the big house with her mother, rather like Ab/Fab’s Patsy growing up with her Isadore Duncanish mother.

    [73] “A short paragraph details the anonymous ends of both, one to ‘a large burial plot north of Spandau,’ the other fetching 109 marks on the scrap market.”

    [74] “The only real reason something should come into being in the course of human events is that ‘someone wishes it to be here.’ To expect that the universe should somehow ‘make sense’ in itself, as if isolation from human actions that shape our world of meaning is a false expectation — and so horror in the face of an illogical or insane universe is misplaced. The abyssal lack of an inherent and immutable order can be seen as the free space for us to make the world meaningful in one way or another.” Jason Reza Jorjani, Prometheus and Atlas (London: Arktos, 2016), “Being Bound for Freedom”; quoting and explicating William James. The idea is not unknown to those with considerable experience with the mysterious East: commenting on the final settlement of the Apple/Capitol/EMI litigation in 1989, George Harrison commented: “the funny thing is most of the people who were involved with the reason that lawsuit came about aren’t even in the companies nay more. So the people at Capitol and EMI had to take on the karma of their predecessors, and I’m sure that they’re relieved too.” Peter Doggett, You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup (HarperStudio, 2009; UK subtitle: The Battle for the Soul of the Beatles), p. 297.

    [75] “I feel caged in” is the only way Eberlin can express his reasons for wanting out to Pavel, which really combines the stuck in a viscous solid and string/wire metaphors. During the Selvers briefing, an apology is offered for having “to have kept you hanging about for so long in the dark.”

    [76] While in Berlin, “Dancer” stays at the Kleist Hotel, which surely must connect him to Heinrich von Kleist and his “Essay on the Marionette Theater,” which discusses, pessimistically, the consequences of our encounter with the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

    [77] “Remember, this is a motion picture!” MST3k, Episode 603, The Dead Talk Back.

    [78] As Eberlin calls himself, the Eberlin Trinity (Eberlin, Krasnevin, Dancer).

    [79] He also now carries around, from his first scene on, a “sitting stick,” as an MST3k robot calls the similar Schmuck carried around by Ed Platt — later Get Smart’s “Chief” — in the late ’50s caper The Rebel Set (episode 419). In both cases, it’s a Chekov’s Gun [27], in Gatiss’ case literally so.

    [80] She’s a swinging London photographer, here, with an actor partner named Neville, which I appreciated for obvious reasons [28].

    [81] One has to wonder if his attempt to portray a Russian Communist spymaster as a crusty but benign father figure is a function of this being one of the films he made during a longtime exile from the USA, as a result of being one of the most obvious and obstreperous members of the Hollywood communist rat pack [29]. Wikipedia adds that “After 15 years abroad, Stander moved back to the U.S. for the role he is now most famous for: Max, the loyal butler, cook, and chauffeur to the wealthy, amateur detectives played by Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers on the 1979–1984 television series Hart to Hart.” Indeed, his Sobakevitch definitely recalls his “Max,” whose “My boss” line and gravelly voice often crops up on MST3k [30], including the same Episode 419 [31] that gave us the “sitting stick.”

    [82] The same year, 1968, brought us Ted Mikels’ The Astro-Zombies, where that very scenario is played out, with equal unlikeliness. Jabootu comments [32]: “This isn’t as exaggerated as tying Batman up in a giant popsicle-making machine, but it still seems a pointlessly exaggerated way to kack the guy. And that’s even assuming you could build up a fatal amount of speed in the at best twenty-foot distance between Sergio and where the car was parked. Perhaps Sergio actually died choking on the ketchup packet that he was apparently carrying in his mouth for some reason.” After all, Gatiss still has his sitting/shooting stick.

    [83] Earlier, when Eberlin resolves to kill Pavel and returns to his apartment — Pavel having already been spirited away — “Harvey pumps his bed full of bullets, just like Lee Marvin in Point Blank the same year.” (Cairns, op. cit.).

    [84] Now I admit I have been known to harbor perhaps idiosyncratic preferences for UK versions of LPs (although I have recently come to admit the US Beatles LPs are better sequenced, despite their atrocious covers), but comparing the UK and US versions of Dandy is not so much like comparing the UK and US versions of, say, Aftermath but comparing Aftermath to, say, a Bill Wyman solo album.

     

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Pizza & a Movie: Jay Dyer’s Esoteric Guide to Sex, Cults, & Videotape, Part Three
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    3,623 words

    Part 3 of 3 (Part 1 here [1]; Part 2 here [2]) [3]

    Jay Dyer
    Esoteric Hollywood: Sex, Cults and Symbols in Film [4]
    Walterville, Or.: Trine Day, 2016

    Part Four brings us “007 and Hitchcock,” and here Dyer is really in his element, given that Ian Fleming was not only connected with intel through MI6, but also, through Crowley’s work with British intel, to the occult.[1]

    Dyer rightly notes that whatever value one might find in the Bond figure as a model of chivalry or manhood,[2] the purpose of the Bond Mythos is to provide cover for the grimier world of actual intelligence operations, the dubious value of which has recently been highlighted by the infamous Trump Dossier (prepared, appropriately enough, by a former MI6 operative; did they think they were hiring some kind of rogue Bond rather than a grubby little man in a dirty raincoat?).[3]

    Unfortunately, this allows him to spend most of his time discussing real-world affairs supposedly “revealed” in the films, rather than the films themselves. It’s perhaps no surprise that his discussion of the classic Bond era is confined to two of the worst films, Diamonds are Forever [5] and Moonraker [6].

    The discussion of the former is as lame as the film itself; he even makes the rookie mistake of confusing the Fleming novels with the movies.[4] Thus, discussing the unexplained appearance of a Moon landing set at Blofeld’s HQ, he asks, “Is Fleming implying that the moon mission itself was a psychological operation?” Actually, “Fleming” isn’t hinting at the Moon landing being faked in the movie Diamonds are Forever, since the landing supposedly happened after his death and long after the book was published. [5]

    Moonraker does at least give him a chance to discuss his favorite subject, the elite’s supposed plans to create a Promethean off-world utopia, and the evils therein:

    [Drax’s facility is] reminiscent of Eden, and as Drax predictably brags about his plot to 007, we learn he is a radical eugenicist with distinctly dysgenic plans . . .

    007 explains . . . that the real plan is . . . a breakaway civilization. Drax intends to become “a new god, whose progeny will all call him the new man, the new creator” through technology as he will re-seed the earth with his offspring, descending from the man-made “heaven” of the Moonraker, Drax’s covert space facility. All these images reflect Genesis – from creation, Adam and Eve, to Noah, with Drax as the representative Promethean/Luciferian figure who intends to use the secrets of nature and ancient mysteries (the Temple and the Genesis account) to become a god siring a genetically modified, superior race of immortal offspring.[6]

    But what really interests Dyer here is that fake Moon landing theme, which now gets further expanded:

    Moonraker the film represents the second phase of the Operation Paperclip/NASA program that birthed the rocket and “UFO/foo fighter” aerospace technology.

    We have the revelation that the real space program is a private one, not the public “government” front institution known as NASA.

    In fact, it’s even worse than that:

    Much of what we are seeing is a facade, a front plastered before us by Hollywood and mass media, while the real space program has operated privately, in secret, with the subtly revealed intention of creating a breakaway civilization that echoes the predictive programming we see in films like Moonraker or novels such as Atlas Shrugged [7].[7]

    And of course, the façade includes the event of 9/11:

    The laughable line that the retard phony terrorists lurking in caves in Afghanistan were the masterminds behind not only the amazingly complex black operation of 9/11, but also the put options and insider trading.

    But this is getting ahead of ourselves, into the world of Chapter Nineteen, “Bond Rebooted.” Stepping back a bit, Dyer admits that what first interested him in Fleming’s novels was that:

    Back in the 50s and 60s, Ian Fleming was already predicting the transition from the communist threat to the international terrorist threat – something that gave me the indication that Fleming novels are worth a deeper look.

    He also emphasizes that in the real world, the Powers that Be have long since ceased to be nation states and now more closely resemble entities like SMERSH or SPECTRE; as always, public cover is provided by projecting your actions on your supposed enemies.[8]

    Since Fleming’s day, things have only gotten worse:

    The eternal “War on Terror,” as we can see in Fleming’s classic novels, was predicted and planned to replace the Soviet threat. The Cold War allowed for the installation of the global surveillance grid, and now, the script is flipped on the populace – we’re all potential terrorists, and only benevolent Skynet can save us! These classic scams never fail, of course, because the heedless public never catches on.

    And the re-booted Bond franchise comprises, for Dyer, a vast story arc that gradually reveals, from Casino Royale [8][9] to SPECTRE [9], that:

    In reality, the hierarchical pyramid of global government is not a series of goodly nation states seeking to protect the “free world” from dastardly Manichaean dialectical manifestations, but rather is itself is a large interlocking system of crime syndicates. The world government that presently exists is one of covert, hidden rulership by various oligarchs.

    Interestingly, the most striking example of predictive programming in the film’s plot is the revelation that global terror is being orchestrated by a single shadowy cabal. This cabal is also intent on bombing nation states behind the facade of radicalism to corral them into the joint intelligence apparatus being erected through the private “space program” of our film’s super villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

    This is SPECTRE’s big secret, building the global surveillance Panopticon around staged terror events, instituting a total information grid that will allow for the blackmail of all. Does this sound familiar? Is it possible that tin the real-world globo-terror is also orchestrated precisely for this purpose? That is our thesis.

    The link is that the Global Cartel poses as the vanguard of “freedom” while pursuing total surveillance and control, just as the Hermetic tradition promises Promethean freedom while delivering slavery and death.[10]

    But all this leaves very little room for discussing the films themselves, and Dyer only fitfully remembers that something is happening on screen that may be of interest. Alas, a lot of good ideas get left behind:

    Alchemy comes to the fore in Bond’s failed attempt to “bond” with the feminine. Quantum is the idea of matter or quantity.

    [T]he Green Movement itself arose out of the Nazi-eugenics return to so-called “nature,” functioning under the guise of caring for the planet, while actually a corporate front for the control of strategic resources. That is exactly what Dominic Greene does in Quantum of Solace!

    There’s also a bravura analysis of the symbolic imagery in Bond’s death and rebirth sequence at the start of Skyfall [10], where:

    We are entering Bond’s subconscious, and sinking with him to the abyss of death. . . . Bond sinks to the ocean floor and is pulled into a black hole, where a blood skull appears, leading to bond shooting his shadow selves. The shots break the glass images indicating the fractured psyche Bond has due to his training, torture and numerous instances of trauma, and the images of pillars signify the deepest recesses and foundations of Bond’s archetypal subconscious . . . The sequence ends with the camera entering Bond’s left eye, or the left-handed path, where we will see more of the traumatic circumstances that have made 007 into the killing machine he is.

    And this wonderful find: “Also noteworthy is the room 007 uses to work his mojo on the Mexican beauty before this operation – it just happens to be Room 327 (or 237), which echoes . . . the esoteric themes in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining [11].” Again, one wishes there were more of this sort of thing, esoteric as it may seem, rather than so much insistence on the “ripped from the headlines” aspects of the films.

    In fact, something more like the way Dyer justifies his transition from Bond to Hitchcock, who is “often overlooked in spy culture.” He quotes Michael Minnicino on the connections between the “Hitchcock circles” with the Tavistock Institute and Aldous Huxley, who “would be instrumental in preparing the way for MKUltra and mass social engineering” of the sort SPECTRE is (fictionally?) perpetrating; quoting Minnicino: “It thus becomes clear how Hitchcock’s voyeurism and shock-value would be useful in the realm of psychological operations and propaganda. One need only think of our daily bombardment from the mass media in our ridiculous, perennial ‘war on terror.'”[11]

    More to the immediate point, “it was Hitchcock who would be highly influential in the creation of the cinematic icon of 007, particularly the imagery and expressionism found in North by Northwest [12] . . . [which became] the template for every 007 film”; its “sex-and-setpieces sensibility . . . could not have failed to influence Broccoli and Saltzman.”

    The casting of Cary Grant is also a link, since Grant had been both a model for Fleming’s book Bond, as well as an actor considered for the film role. But over and above all that, Cary Grant was himself a British spy in Hollywood.[12]

    North by Northwest was also the first film to mention the CIA, and Dyer notes the connection between the spook agency and the ad agencies that serve as the film’s background,[13] [13] then devotes the rest of his time to the “staged” news created by the agency in the film, and later examples such as Wag the Dog [14], all involving the now extremely newsworthy topic of “fake news.”

    Vertigo [15] foregrounds these connections to trauma-based mind control, a la MK-Ultra, this time by wealthy elites (as I said, the puppet-masters are somewhat interchangeable). This was new to public awareness, despite Condon’s then-recent novel The Manchurian Candidate [16]. Unlike that novel’s focus on the “brainwashing” of a single individual by the Red Chinese:

    Vertigo is . . . a film about the manipulation of beliefs through large-scale staging and hoaxcraft, as we saw in [North by Northwest, and] is also the “master of suspense’s” deeper message about the psychological manipulation that can occur in our own lives, in society, and amongst the elite.

    Thus, Madeleine’s dissociative episodes occur at the Presidio, which is known to have conducted mind control work, as well as a redwood grove, suggesting Bohemian Grove. Here, however, unlike the previous chapter, Dyer does pay close attention to the screen,[14] and patterns and motifs begin to emerge,[15] particularly in regard to espionage, mind control, and psychological manipulation.” Unfortunately, as we’ve seen before, Dyer really doesn’t get the Hermetic Tradition that he’s out to expose, so for him the rich pattern of spirals onscreen are uniformly symbols of doom.

    The spiral has the significance here of alerting the viewer that we are trapped.

    Scotty begins to fall in love with Madeleine, which only sucks him deeper and deeper into the spiral of insanity.

    Madeleine appears to be “triggered” into her Carlotta alter when she sees the spirals in the cut redwood.

    . . . Vertigo would foreshadow something like Mulholland Drive from the genius David Lynch [where] a young hopeful starlet [is] caught up in an occult spiral.

    Dyer does raise an interesting point, that the spiral Scottie is trapped in is an example of what has been elsewhere called a “Batman Gambit,”[16] asking the reasonable question, “Couldn’t a man powerful enough to arrange such a massively intricate manipulation and subterfuge of Scottie also simply hire a hit-man?” The answer is that the occult and/or power elite are just that bad: “The average guy cannot fathom men who live to play chess games with other men’s psyches.”

    As Dyer has told us over and over, the Promethean or Faustian quest is just “dumb,” and anyone who falls for it will be ruthlessly eliminated: “The oligarchical plan which is not to heal man, but rather to end man, as the Royal Society openly states.”

    As Goldfinger famously says, “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.”[17]

    The theme of unfathomably sinister and murderous occult business elites allows Dyer then to shift his attention[18] to David Lynch, first with Twin Peaks [17]. Although this is (originally at least) not a movie but a TV series, “Twin Peaks is aptly described as quintessential Lynch,” at least in his earlier period, which focused on “Americana” rather than Hollywood, while it “does share its deeper occult symbology with films like Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire [18].” He foregrounds the unique figure of Agent Dale Cooper, who is configured “as both a classic pulp detective figure along the lines of Sam Spade, but also [with] a mystical side from which he will draw Cooper into the psychopsphere.”

    Cooper is “more than a clever detective, but rather . . . an other-world traveling shaman.” This links Cooper to other gumshoes we’ve analyzed as shamans, such as Elliot Ness and Mike Hammer.[19] “Cooper’s curiosity and desire for knowledge of the beyond, and in particular the dark side, would lead to his demise,” which links him to Fred Madison in Lost Highway [19], whose very name, Dyer points out, suggests madness.[20]

    Will our obsession with the Hollywood celluloid videodrome and its cousin, the now omnipresent surveillance society, bring us truth, or a descent into madness, depersonalization and dissociation, like Fred?

    And so that brings us to Mulholland Drive [20], where the “story of Hollywood’s dark side” in Lost Highway gets a “new twist” involving occult brainwashing, the Manson murders, and the CIA’s MK-Ultra mind control program. Now the director himself “functions as a kind of shaman,” and the viewer is subjected to a version of the very same mind control techniques that Lynch is exposing, a perspective Dyer also gave to Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut [21]: “Kubrick wants viewers to realize that The Occult Empire reality is run, like a show, by the showmasters behind the veil of the videodrome.”

    In the last chapter, Dyer switches gears and returns to the themes, and even the text, of the Introduction, a way of tying the work together that certainly evades the usual “overture” approach,[21] but did leave this elderly reader second-guessing his eyes and going back to confirm that, yes, I have read this part before: “Film noir is a fascinating genre and period as well as its later resurgence in Neo-Noir, including expansion into science fiction with Scott’s Blade Runner [22], or even surrealism in Lynch.”

    Now there’s a book! One wishes Dyer would set aside his ideological preoccupations and devote his considerable talents to something like that.

    Dyer’s modus operandi doesn’t lend itself to presenting long-range connections over a vast canvas (unlike someone we know), so the reader is best served by looking for the nuggets of interest that occur in every chapter.[22]

    The Kindle presentation is exemplary. There is an Index with hyperlinks to the corresponding pages, a Glossary of outré terms – from Aleatory to Vesica Piscis – and nifty little vignettes inserted on various pages giving biographical and historical details with color illustrations.

    Occult Hollywood is an informative, yet frustrating, read. Often, Dyer seems more interested in pursuing and conveying the hidden historical background rather than what’s on the screen itself (Diamonds are Forever, North by Northwest); other times, his analyses are hampered by his inability to take the symbolism seriously as anything other than a seductive cover for a hidden agenda (Vertigo or 2001 [23]). Yet the information is fascinating and generally unknown (it’s not the sort of stuff Ben Mankowitz talks about on TCM)[23], and when he does analyze the screen, he can be quite perceptive.

    In the end, we can best return to the beginning, where the publisher contributes a Foreword with the wonderful title “Somatize a Great Nation.” While the assertion that Dyer “has been a prime mover of the film studies discussion on the Internet” is a bit of forgivable publisher’s hyperbole, he is certainly correct that, “You may not always agree, but his erudite articles invite your thoughts and appreciation.”

     

    Notes

    1. Again, see Spence, op. cit.

    2. For which, see Jef Costello’s upcoming The Importance of James Bond (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2017).

    3. See Lawrence Murray, “Look at You, You’re the Fake News Now [24].”

    4. Not at all the same thing as my attempt to construct a synoptic view of the book [25] and movie [26] versions of A Dandy in Aspic in “Passing the Buck: Spy, Dandy,  [27]Übermensch.

    5. I also must note that he incorrectly attributes the phrase “the Fleming Effect,” describing Fleming’s use of well-known brand names and everyday details to support a sense of realism. It was Kingsley Amis who called this “the Fleming effect,” describing it in The James Bond Dossier [28] (London: Pan Books, 1966, pp. 111-12) as “the imaginative use of information, whereby the pervading fantastic nature of Bond’s world . . . [is] bolted down to some sort of reality, or at least counter-balanced.”

    6. “Yep, a rice of super-pipple.” Joel mocking Bela Lugosi’s big speech in MST3k Episode 423, Bride of the Monster [29].

    7. Just a passing reference, but is he suggesting Ayn Rand was “in on it”?

    8. “Project every dark, secret, nefarious operation your side is engaged in onto the enemy.”

    9. “In my analysis of Casino Royale, I noted . . . the real associations that can be made between LeChiffre’s secret organization and the real cartels that run the show.”

    10. Another “ripped from the headlines” point: Bond is essentially a “programmed killer through his ‘00’ status. In On Her Majesty’s [30] we learn Blofeld is brainwashing young women under the auspices of treating allergies, ultimately plotting to attack England with a bioweapon, and in You Only Live Twice [31], Bond undergoes a blow to the head that wipes his mind and gives him amnesia. Thus, the ‘mind controlled assassin’ is very much an aspect of the Bond canon.”

    11. Perhaps inevitably, the footnote reveals Minnicino to appear to be a LaRouchite.

    12. Grant’s chief accomplishment was exposing Errol Flynn as an Axis agent. Dyer uses the modern term “outing,” which is interesting, since his MI6 control was Noel Coward. For more on the wartime Coward, see my “Sir Noël Coward, 1899–1973, Part 1 [32]” and “Sir Noël Coward, 1899–1973, Part 2 [33].”

    13. Yet more reason for Matthew Weiner to require his staff to view the film before production began on Mad Men [34]. See “The 10 Movies Mad Men Cast & Crew Were Required To Watch [35]” by Jen Carlson at Gothamist, March 4, 2015. “It is worth noting that Cary Grant is playing an Adman named Roger, who is forced to assume another man’s identity.”

    14. “This is a motion picture,” as Crow says during a talky scene in MST3k, Episode 601, The Dead Talk Back [36].

    15. See my “A Pattern Begins to Emerge: Thoughts on Rod Serling’s Patterns [37].”

    16. “A complicated plan [38] that revolves entirely around people doing exactly what you’d expect them to do,” from TVTropes [39].

    17. Speaking of Batman Gambits, Dyers bluntly states that, “In reality, Project Blue Book was a cover story for advanced technological testing of aircraft.” For an alternate view, from someone one the inside rather than someone running a conspiracy Website, see Jorjani’s discussion of the conclusions offered by Jacques Vallee; Prometheus and Atlas [40] (London: Arktos, 2016), Chapter Twelve,”Mercurial Hermeneutics.”

    18. Again, the Part titles don’t seem to reflect the contents, unless there is a subtle link here I’m missing.

    19. For more on cinematic shamanism, see “ [41]God, I’m with a heathen.’ The Rebirth of the Männerbund in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables,” [yet more Sean Connery!] reprinted in The Homo and the Negro [42] (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012), and “Mike Hammer, Occult Dick: Kiss Me Deadly as a Lovecraftian Tale [43],” reprinted in Green Nazis in Space! [44] (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016). Additionally, Cooper’s name links him to Bert Cooper, whose shamanic role in Mad Men (like Twin Peaks, a slice of Americana, this time urban rather than rural) was established in the first season with such oracular pronouncements as, “A man is, whatever room he is in,” and confirmed in the last, when – after dying during the Moon landing, a point that would interest Dyer – he reappears to Don from time to time to sing, dance, and provide advice. See “Don Draper’s Last Diddle [45],” reprinted in End of an Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility [46] (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016). My occult reading of Mad Men is rather mild compared to Dyer’s full-bloom thesis: “The American power elite is really like Ben Horne, subservient to preternatural forces they cannot control, and behind this veil of obscurity lies an occult elite, whose power seems to derive from a Black Lodge.”

    20. And thus, again, the Mad Men of Madison Avenue.

    21. See, for instance, the first chapter of Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas for an excellent example of the method.

    22. One very useful bit of information pops up: apparently, John Carradine was a member of the OTO, and “is said to have read poetry at the opening of the Agapé Lodge of the OTO in Pasadena, California.” (“Author claims David Carradine’s father was Ordo Templi Orientis member [47]” by Kurt Nimmo, at InfoWars, June 7, 2009). This adds an entirely new layer to Carradine’s otherwise puzzling appearance in Coleman Francis’ magnum opus, Red Zone Cuba [48], where he both intones the movie’s theme (running all the way to Hell) and drives it home by singing the title theme. See my “Coffee? I Like Coffee!: The Metaphysical Cinema of Coleman Francis, Part Two [49].”

    23. Which is not surprising, since until the Election Night meltdowns, I was completely unaware that Young Ben is not only a typical Red Diaper hack but an actual Young Turk, and a particularly vile one at that. See “TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz: Political Cheap Shots Damage Beloved Network [50]” by Leo Grin at Breitbart, 5 Jan. 2010. His career, typically random and failure-immune, is surely a triumph of political and ethnic networking. “Growing up in Washington, D.C.,” he says [51], “politics and sports were always a lot more important than movies. They still are, for that matter.” When pressed to name a film that has changed his life, he answers, “Hey, I love movies, but let’s not get carried away! I don’t think one has changed my life.” The clear choice to helm TCM, just as Elena Kagan is the best qualified judge to sit on the Supreme Court.

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Why Dark Shadows Sucks
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]3,548 words

    I was a very small child when the Dark Shadows serial was first airing on ABC at 4:00pm Monday through Friday. Some of my most vivid early memories are associated with it. Dark Shadows was originally conceived as a Gothic romance. Premiering on June 27, 1966, it centered on Victoria Winters, a young woman who takes the job of governess to the young scion of the wealthy Collins family, who reside in the spooky Collinwood mansion in spooky Collinsport, Maine. (Victoria was played by Alexandra Moltke, actually Countess Cornelia Alexandra Moltke, herself the scion of an aristocratic Swedish family. She later gained notoriety as the mistress of Claus von Bülow.)

    The series floundered in the ratings for 209 episodes, until in desperation producer Dan Curtis decided to try something outrageous by the standards of daytime TV. Hunting for treasure, local loser Willie Loomis, finds a secret room inside the Collins family vault and unwittingly releases vampire Barnabas Collins. The earlier episodes had featured supernatural elements, but nothing as radical as this.

    To appreciate part of the reason why Dark Shadows made such a big cultural impact in the mid to late ’60s, one has to keep in mind that it was, after all, a daytime soap. These programs were designed primarily for stay-at-home moms and were sponsored by companies like Proctor and Gamble (who make soap, in case you don’t know – hence, “soap opera”). They dealt with family problems and love affairs. Scenes took place at the breakfast table or in the living room and were mostly heart-to-heart chats (the kind that woman like to have). Someone was always pouring someone else a cup of coffee. It was all very familiar, comforting terrain, albeit glamorized by perfect hair, makeup, and teeth. Female viewers identified with the characters and their problems. To add to the realism, soaps were shot on videotape, which always has a more immediate, direct quality to it (unlike the glossiness of film).

    And into this homey, lace curtain and checked table cloth terrain, into this world of “Will Brad ever ask Janet to . . . ?” came the undead Barnabas Collins, crawling out of his moldering crypt, bent on sucking the life out of perky local waitress Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) and turning her into his vampire bride. Suddenly soap operas were scary.

    And although people laugh at Dark Shadows today (for reasons I’ll turn to in a moment) it was often genuinely creepy. The fact that Barnabas had been injected into that mundane afternoon world that female viewers so closely identified with made the program feel unaccountably weird. It almost felt like these events were really happening; like the uncanny and horrific really had suddenly pierced the sunny veil of suburban placidity. And the fact that it was videotaped, with a minimal budget added to the weird quality of “realness” that the whole thing had. (As any horror film fan can attest, low budgets often enhance creepiness.)

    [2]

    A classic image of Frid as Barnabas

    But Barnabas was no ordinary vampire, he was a tragic figure. In the first few Barnabas episodes, viewers were left in suspense, wondering if he really is a vampire (or one of those “fake” vampires that you sometimes see on TV; like the haunted house that turns out, at the end of the hour, to be not really haunted after all). In one memorable scene at the close of one episode, he walks into Maggie’s bedroom as she sleeps and proceeds to grin wide, revealing . . . a set of perfectly ordinary teeth. But audience members – at least some of them – were sure they had seen fangs. And so viewers were left in suspense over the weekend: were there fangs in Barnabas’s mouth, or not? The mystery was resolved on Monday when, at the beginning of that day’s episode, the scene was reshot. This time when Barnabas opened his mouth no one could fail to perceive that he was sporting a set of very realistic vampire fangs. And it was clear that he was up to no good.

    But as the writers developed the Barnabas storyline, it emerged that he was a tortured soul, and anything but a simple villain. Back in the 1790s he had spurned the affections of a glamorous witch named Angelique. Her vengeance consisted in killing Barnabas’s beloved fiancé Josette and turning him into a vampire. When Barnabas’s grief-stricken father discovered his son’s terrible fate, he sealed him in an iron coffin, wrapped it in chains, and hid it in the secret room in the family crypt. And so Barnabas lay in that coffin, mad with blood lust, until released by Willie Loomis in 1967. The reason Barnabas goes after Maggie, by the way, is that he believes she is the reincarnation of his dead Josette. Horrified by his condition, Barnabas allows Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall, wife of series writer Sam Hall) to experiment on him in the hopes of curing his vampirism.

    In short, it was all terribly tragic and romantic – and imaginative and engrossing. Barnabas was the first “tragic” vampire: before Blacula (yes, Blacula was a tragic vampire), Interview with the Vampire, the Coppola Dracula film, Angel, the Twilight [3] films, and True Blood. (Did I miss one?) In 1973 Dan Curtis made a TV movie version of Dracula starring Jack Palance in the title role. Both Curtis and writer Richard Matheson felt that Stoker’s character was one-dimensional; a thorough villain whose motives were often inexplicable. And so Curtis dipped back into the well of Dark Shadows and came up with an anguished Dracula obsessed with the woman he sees as the reincarnation of his long-dead wife. If this Dracula sounds very familiar, it’s because Francis Ford Coppola stole the idea for his 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula (no, there is nothing like this in Stoker’s novel!). And, if you’ve noticed, virtually all the vampires since then have been troubled, reluctant, and vulnerable. But it all started with Barnabas Collins.

    In any case, to return to the 1960s: Dark Shadows became a major ratings hit – and Jonathan Frid, the actor who played Barnabas, became an unlikely heartthrob. Frid was 43 when he joined the cast, and not conventionally handsome. But there was something fascinating about both his physical appearance as Barnabas, and his performance – something that appealed to women (especially older women, I think).

    As Barnabas, Frid could be alternately sinister and affecting. He was often undeniably stiff, but that actually helped because Barnabas was conceived as very much a gentleman of the 1790s: gallant, courtly, and flawlessly polite. Undoubtedly, this was one of the major aspects of the character that appealed to women. He was not a man of the present. He was a man out of a better, more genuine age. He really loved Josette (pass box of Kleenex, please). He was masterful. He could put women under his power. And he knew how to deal with ruffians like Willie. He knew what honor meant – and what it means to make a vow. And he really . . . sniff . . . loved Josette. (Trevor Lynch has given us a very perceptive analysis of why vampire stories appeal to women in his review [4] of the first Twilight film.) When Jonathan Frid made personal appearances he was inevitably mobbed by screaming and weeping female fans. The Barnabas cult of the late 1960s had a kind of creepy, necrophile quality to it. But then again, this was the era when Tiny Tim was a sex symbol.

    Of course, Dark Shadows was not just a hit with housewives and their still-single, bespectacled older sisters. Go online and read around and you’ll find countless people a little older than me talking about how they “ran home from school every day” to watch Dark Shadows. (Ironically, this was one of the reasons the series was cancelled when its ratings begin to slip: kids didn’t make the buying decisions in households – not then anyway. And so Dark Shadows became less attractive to advertisers.) The response to the juvenile fans of the series came in the form of lunch boxes, posters, model kits, board games, coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, and comic books. Paperback Library published thirty-two (yes, thirty-two) novels based on the series, penned by Marilyn Ross (actually, Dan Ross – Marilyn was his wife’s name).

    This is where I come in. My mother only let me watch Dark Shadows now and then, because she thought it was too scary for a small child (and she was right: I still get chills when I remember the episode where the face of the evil Angelique appeared in the fireplace, laughing maniacally). What I knew about it I got mainly by word of mouth and by reading the comic book published  by Gold Key. (Those Dark Shadows comic books, by the way, were published until 1976: five years after the series was cancelled.) But – like Johnny Depp – I became utterly fascinated with Barnabas Collins.

    [5]

    The Barnabas “Vampire Van” model kit my mother threw away

    I longed to own Barnabas’s wolf’s head walking stick. I even combed my hair like Barnabas. I would roam through the neighborhood at dusk (something you could do in the early ’70s), watch the neighbors eat dinner through their dining room windows, and try to put them under my hypnotic spell. I owned a Barnabas model kit (“Barnabas’s Vampire Van”) which was sort of a hearse with Barnabas inside. One day it disappeared from my room. My mother told me she had accidentally broken it while dusting. I learned much later she had thrown it away – concerned at the effect such a macabre toy might have on my young mind. Needless to say, this did no good, and I just got weirder and weirder. She was shutting the garage door after the hearse had already gone.

    It was in the 1980s, I believe, that I got to finally sit down and really watch a lot of Dark Shadows, because that’s when it came to our area in syndication. I was disappointed, because it seemed really bad. The actors flubbed their lines a lot, parts of sets would fall over, props would malfunction, and you could see the shadow of the boom (the microphone that hangs over the soundstage) practically all the time. (This is how the series earned the industry nickname “Mic Shadows.”) But I had to admit that the story was great. It crossed my mind that somebody ought to take that story and do it over again – but this time rehearse the actors a little and spend more money on sets and take a little more care with the lighting.

    Producer Dan Curtis, it turns out, was thinking the same thing. In 1970 he made the feature film House of Dark Shadows, featuring the original cast. It was Curtis’s first major credit as director and holds up quite well today. The film followed the basic Barnabas Collins story (only in the end he gets staked!) and demonstrated the great potential of the Dark Shadows saga – when accompanied by rehearsals, a bigger budget, and better lighting. (This film was followed, unfortunately, by a very weak sequel called Night of Dark Shadows, which should be avoided at all costs.)

    In 1991 Curtis brought Dark Shadows back to television as a big-budget prime time series on NBC. The cast was entirely new—and terrific. Ben Cross played Barnabas Collins and the great horror actress Barbara Steele played Dr. Hoffman. The writers again followed the basic storyline of the original serial, right down to the sequence of events wherein Victoria travels back in time to the 1790s so that we can see how Barnabas becomes a vampire. It was an excellent series, and demonstrated once more that whatever the faults of the soap opera may have been, at its core was a timelessly classic romantic tale. Alas, the series was pre-empted so many times by coverage of Operation Desert Storm that it lost its audience, and was cancelled after one season.

    But Curtis did not give up! In 2004 he filmed a Dark Shadows pilot for the WB network, with Alec Newman as Barnabas, but it was not picked up. And two years later Curtis died of a brain tumor. Dark Shadows fandom was far from dead, however. Fans have kept the memory of the series alive, luring the surviving cast back to Dark Shadows conventions (yes, it’s big enough for conventions), and even persuading them to appear in newly-penned Dark Shadows audio plays. I suppose I have to admit that I’m a fan (in case you haven’t already figured that out). And so I was delighted when I heard that Tim Burton was making a $150 million feature film version starring Johnny Depp.

    It didn’t bother me that Burton was the director, as I’ve enjoyed several of his films (especially Ed Wood). I thought he would bring an interesting, quirky approach to the material – and I had heard that both he and Johnny Depp were fans. The news reports about the film bothered me slightly. Almost every single one described the original series as “campy,” which is simply not accurate. Yes, Dark Shadows is often unintentionally funny: when the actors flub their lines or fake trees fall over, etc. But “camp” is something from which we derive a kind of delicious ironic enjoyment because it’s unoriginal, naïve, or in bad taste (and the greater the pretensions of the makers, the funnier it is).

    Camp can be produced unintentionally or intentionally. Ed Wood’s films are campy because he thought they were good, while in fact they are terrible. By contrast, the Batman TV series of the 1960s was deliberately campy. But Dark Shadows doesn’t fall into either category. It’s actually quite original and it features, as I’ve said, a clever, imaginative, and absorbing plotline. And it was always in good taste. To paraphrase what Brigitte Bardot once said about sex, when Dark Shadows is good it’s really good, and when it’s bad it’s still pretty good. So good, in fact, that one overlooks the flubbed lines and mic shadows.

    [6]

    Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins — scary

    So it bothered me slightly when I heard that the film promised to be a “campy” reinvention of the “campy” series. However, I often enjoy deliberate camp, so I was prepared to accept Burton’s film. Once I saw the trailer, in fact, I was prepared to love it. It seemed riotously funny, imaginative, and visually arresting. And so last Thursday I queued up and saw the film in a cinema in Manhattan. I deliberately avoided seeing it on its opening day, as I assumed cinemas would be packed . I assumed wrong, however, as Dark Shadows has done disappointing business so far. When I saw it there were only about 15 people in the cinema with me – though admittedly it was four o’clock on a Thursday afternoon.

    I was disappointed that the film did not open with Robert Cobert’s classic theme (re-used in the 1991 series), but my disappointment quickly turned to delight. As others have pointed out, Burton has done a masterful job of re-creating 1972: the year in which the film is set (the original series ended in 1971). Right down to lava lamps, door beads, bean bag chairs, and Donovan. The film re-tells the basic story of Barnabas – how he becomes a vampire (in flashback), how he returns to Collinsport, his love for Josette, his occult war with Angelique – though a great deal has been truncated and otherwise altered. And it is uproariously funny. I literally laughed so hard parts of me hurt – though I often seemed to be the only one in the theatre getting the humor.

    Indeed, the humor is this film’s greatest asset. And its greatest flaw.

    Although I have to say that I enjoyed this film, by the time I was about thirty minutes away from its conclusion it began to give me a kind of empty feeling. It was funny, but it wasn’t amounting to anything. There was no suspense. I never felt afraid, or awed, or moved. And, most importantly, I didn’t care about anyone. I didn’t care about Barnabas or his family (portrayed in this film as dysfunctional, unlikeable weirdoes), or his love for the new Josette. The last fifteen minutes of the film turned into a depressingly predictable, over-the-top special effects fest, and I was glad when it was over. I have no plans to see it again. I laughed, but it meant nothing to me.

    In short, Dark Shadows has gotten the predictable postmodern treatment. The original series was deadly serious (as was the 1991 remake). There was nothing ironic about it. Barnabas Collins was not a figure of fun; he was a tragic hero, for whom we felt sympathy, admiration – and who sometimes genuinely frightened us. And the story of his undying love for Josette was genuinely moving. In the Tim Burton film, all of this is treated with ironic distance. Barnabas becomes an Edward Scissorhandish oddball who thinks little people live inside the TV set, and that the M in the McDonalds sign stands for “Mephistopheles.”

    [7]

    Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins — not scary

    Barnabas’s belief that Victoria Winters is the reincarnated Josette is handled in a kind of a smirky, ironic, offhand manner. It’s as if Burton and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith are so convinced the audience will find this plot element all-too-familiar they do not even attempt to handle it in a fresh, dramatic, or interesting manner. If you blink you’ll miss the scene where Barnabas “recognizes” Victoria as Josette. And the actress who plays Victoria (Bella Heathcote) has that flat, bland, unrefined quality that so many young actresses have today.

    The rest of the cast is interesting, but they have little to do. The one who probably comes off the best is Eva Green as Angelique (Green was the girl in the Bond film Casino Royale – the recent one). Burton’s girlfriend Helena Bonham Carter plays Dr. Hoffman, and both the actress and the character are wasted in this film. In the original series, it was clear that Dr. Hoffman loved Barnabas, while he did not return her feelings. In the film version, this translates into Dr. Hoffman getting on her knees and giving Barnabas a blowjob.

    Quite a lot happens in Dark Shadows. There are actually several subplots going simultaneously, but none of them is developed or resolved adequately. In the last ten minutes of the film we discover that little Carolyn Collins is actually a werewolf. This is thrown in apparently because . . . well, apparently because they wanted to throw in a werewolf (the original series featured one, though he was Quentin Collins).

    Jonathan Frid and three of the original cast members from the series appear in the film, briefly seen as guests at a ball Barnabas organizes (with Alice Cooper as musical entertainment – one of the film’s funnier sequences). This was apparently included for the Dark Shadows fans, and in a sense so that the original cast could be seen as giving their imprimatur to the film. Frid died at the age of 87 a little less than a month before the premiere of Dark Shadows on May 11th. A number of writers have suggested that it is good thing he didn’t live to see this film. I can’t disagree with them.

    I wouldn’t brand this film as a “travesty” of the original series, because it’s clear that Burton and Depp had their hearts in the right place. It is meant to be a kind of affectionate parody. The problem is that Burton simply was not up to the task of dealing with this story. It’s a case of a very modern, ironic, postmodern director attempting to translate to the screen a story brimming with very unmodern romance, and genuine horror. The characters in Dark Shadows (the series, that is), really felt things. They felt true passion, obsession, and terror. They were open to the possibility of true love. They felt the weight of history, and the presence of the uncanny. I don’t think Tim Burton has ever felt any of those things.

    In the end, as I rode home on the subway, the chief thought on my mind was: what a wasted opportunity. Dark Shadows is such a wonderful story – probably the best vampire story of all. And vampires are really hot right now. Had Burton (or, preferably, a different director) made this film totally straight – no camp, just real horror and romance – they could have launched another Twilight series (only much better) and made a bajillion dollars. But reviews of this film have been bad, and the box office has been very disappointing. There will almost certainly be no sequel, no new television series. Hollywood will conclude that there’s no money in Dark Shadows. For years, fans hoped to see the story that had so fascinated them translated to the big screen and finally given the treatment it deserves. But Tim Burton has buried Dark Shadows for all time. It’s as good as stuffed in a coffin, wrapped with chains, and sealed in the Curtis family crypt.

    Like Barnabas Collins himself, Dark Shadows now truly belongs to the past.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • There Will Be Blood (2007) & The Departed (2006)
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]2,198 words

    There Will Be Blood

    I’m not an eager consumer of pop culture—rock music, television, video games, sports. My disinterest is natural, not something I work at. Pop culture just doesn’t “speak” to me. 

    I’ve probably seen more movies than anything else, because I became an old-movie buff when I was quite young. But, as movies have devolved, my interest in them has declined in sync.

    Large-scale, computer-generated (CG) special effects such as explosions, crashes, etc., are uninteresting in themselves.

    Martial arts films, except for those by Chinese actor-director-stunt man Jackie Chan, also don’t interest me, particularly those in which gravity-defying actors float or freeze-frame in mid-air. Even white actors like Chuck Norris or Jean-Claude Van Damme could not stimulate my interest in that genre.

    Van Damme, by the way, recently made an atypical film that some critics deem above-average called JCVD (2008-Belgian-Luxembourgian-French).

    Of course, the biggest problem with recent movies is their values, their permeation by heavy-handed, hostile racist/feminist/ideological propaganda. If you have a sense of morality or awareness, most contemporary Hollywood fare is simply unwatchable.

    I rely upon reviewers such as Edmund Connelly [2] for information about these movies [3] so that I even know what Hollywood is doing; I don’t watch them myself. Another critic who was very good at conveying information about workaday mass media manipulation was Victor Wolzek in VNN’s early days.

    Without exception, I completely ignore portrayals of Numinous Negroes [4], Jews-as-noble-suffering-Divine beings, Evil or Stupid White Men, and feminist films and TV shows. If they happen to turn up, they immediately go off.

    So I never see Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman. And movies like Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002) never cross my radar screen.

    You can see how much is instantly removed from consideration—the vast majority of what is done in the media realm.

    Of course, these negative features leech over into ordinary entertainment. I recently watched Casino Royale (2006) starring Daniel Craig, the first Bond movie I’ve seen since Roger Moore played the part, and it exhibited almost all of the negative qualities you’d expect in a contemporary film.

    Apart from feminism and interracialism, the series is too loud, too fast, and too implausible. Bond is even more the superhero caricature today than he was in the past. And, of course, there is talk of a black James Bond [5].

    Consequently, the movies I typically view are “whiter” than average (of course, nothing truly white can come out of Hollywood) because otherwise I turn them off—not out of principle, but out of complete and utter alienation. I’m just not interested.

    As this process has evolved, I find myself less and less tolerant of Hollywood fare, less charitable, less willing (or able) to suspend disbelief or remain interested in or engaged with the story.

    I now divide movies into “watchable” and “unwatchable” categories. Most Hollywood output, obviously, is unwatchable.

    And “watchable” only means that I don’t shut something off—not that it’s particularly good.

    There Will Be Blood is an example of an unwatchable (bad) movie and The Departed an example of a watchable, but not-very-good movie.

    There Will Be Blood (2007)

    This belongs to the unwatchable category, with the likes of Chinese director John Woo’s Hard-Boiled (1992-Hong Kong) (and, I assume, his other works), Croupier (1999-British-German), Holes (2003), and Elf (2003).

    Greek American director John Cassavetes used to make unwatchable films, like The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976).

    Years ago if I paid for a movie I’d sit through it no matter what. So you know the only two movies I walked out on were unwatchable: director Blake Edwards’ 10 (1979) starring Bo Derek, and a terrible black and white Cuban propaganda film about the historical oppression of sugar cane workers. Communist movies can be mind-numbingly awful.

    There Will Be Blood, the story of an early California oil entrepreneur played (as white) by Jewish actor Daniel Day-Lewis, was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who enjoys a reputation as a serious director.

    For a long time I had Anderson confused with a porn actor/director named Paul Thomas, probably because Anderson wrote and directed Boogie Nights (1997), a movie about the porn industry.

    Paul Thomas had acted “legitimately” in Hair on Broadway and starred (under his real name, Philip Toubus) as Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) before helping himself to an endless supply of shiksas in the San Fernando Valley. (Is there anything whites won’t worshipfully offer in loving tribute to the Jew? Of course not.)

    I thought “Paul Thomas” might have been Paul Thomas Anderson’s porn pseudonym, and that he’d moved into mainstream directing.

    But it turns out that porn actor Paul Thomas is a Jew from a wealthy Chicago family; the Sara Lee food company is named after his aunt, Sara Lee Lubin.

    Paul Thomas Anderson, by contrast, is (apparently) white, from a show business family. His “partner” is Saturday Night Live‘s half-Jew/half-Negro actress-comedienne Maya Rudolph; they have three hybrid white-Jewish-Negro children together. You can bet that many, perhaps all, of them will be able to pass as white in the future.

    I’d read that There Will Be Blood was exceptionally good. The only previous Anderson film I’d seen, Hard Eight (1997), his first, was watchable, but that’s all.

    There isn’t much to say about There Will Be Blood except that it was absurdly over-hyped, overrated, too long, and  . . . unwatchable.

    It lost in most Academy Award categories to the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men [6] (2007), which, though also not-good (it falls apart in the second half and the great promise inherent in fictional characters played by Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, and Josh Brolin is completely squandered), was at least highly watchable and, before you suspended your disbelief, almost unbearably tense.

    There Will Be Blood is profoundly anti-Christian, anti-capitalist, and anti-white. Day-Lewis’s oilman is utterly without redeeming value, a self-centered, evil man.

    Neither Anderson nor any other filmmaker would ever make a movie depicting Jews or non-whites the way whites and Christians are shown here, despite having an abundance of untapped, real-life material to work with. Figuratively speaking, their throats would be cut if they did. But they aren’t even interested.Hollywood is stuffed with racists, frauds, and moral hypocrites like Anderson.

    Reportedly Anderson was influenced by The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) when writing his script. If so, he flubbed badly. Treasure is a legitimate classic.

    The dialogue in most movies is passable at best. It really doesn’t matter because artificiality is the norm, one is accustomed to it, and it’s probably unavoidable.

    Anderson’s screenplay attains the norm in that regard, though the preacher’s lines are noticeably unnatural and below par.

    Dialogue in films jumps out at you only if it’s really, really bad or, more rarely, has a disconcertingly authentic ring.

    Woody Allen accomplishes the latter in portions of some of his films, such as the show biz diner discussions in Broadway Danny Rose (1984), or the Allen-Keaton scene with a neighbor couple in an apartment house in Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993).

    Another example of uncannily realistic movie dialogue is the job interview scene in director Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) between Overlook Hotel manager Barry Nelson and writer-job applicant Jack Nicholson.

    The Departed (2006)

    This Martin Scorsese yarn about Irish crime bosses and cops in Boston is an example of a watchable though not-great film. It’s entertaining enough that you don’t turn it off, but not so good you’d rate it above average.

    Yes, I know it won Best Picture and several other Academy Awards. And I know that 10 and Elf made lots of money. So what?

    Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) belongs to this category as well, with its intrusive racial element (the girlfriend, not the Jews—though Ron Perlman is shockingly ugly) and superhero implausibility. Also, “cool” and laconic are pushed far too far. But Drive nevertheless remains watchable.

    Scorsese has made unwatchable movies such as The King of Comedy (1983) and (I suspect) Taxi Driver (1976).

    Indeed, of the limited number of Scorsese films I’ve seen, the only one that was exceptionally good was GoodFellas (1990).

    Really good films are rare. Off the top of my head I can think of Hoosiers (1986), Home Alone (1990), Get Shorty (1995), The Bourne Identity (2002) and Road to Perdition (2002) as examples. There are many others, of course.

    Oddly, I did not see Hoosiers or Home Alone until years and years after they were made. I harbored an irrational resentment against them because they were so popular and I was convinced I wouldn’t like them!

    Apart from their lack of overly-intrusive racial, feminist, or other propaganda, these films succeed by somehow overcoming the viewer’s reluctance to suspend disbelief.

    It is not always clear why or how they accomplish this. Obviously, individuals have different thresholds of acceptance in this regard. It is also true that the mere fact that something is professionally presented in films to some extent causes us to uncritically “believe” whatever we are seeing.

    Home Alone is a good example of a movie that overcame an extremely difficult plot dilemma at the outset.

    Namely, how does one persuade an audience to unconsciously accept that loving parents—and especially such a loving mother—would ever leave a young child home alone while they flew all the way to Paris in the first place?

    The series of plausible devices director Chris Columbus and writer John Hughes invented to accomplish this were ingenious: a big family (many kids), middle-class-chaotic in a way everyone’s familiar with (a type depicted also in Spielberg’s Poltergeist), banishing Macaulay Culkin to the bed in the attic for “being such a jerk,” a Christmastime ice storm that downs electrical and phone lines overnight causing everyone to sleep in late and have to rush to the airport in the morning, the talkative neighbor kid who accidentally gets counted in Culkin’s place, the parents flying first class while sticking the kids in coach (out of immediate sight), and so forth.

    Despite its watchability (entertaining enough not to turn off or walk out on), The Departed does not sustain the requisite suspension of disbelief to be really top-notch.

    Part of The Departed‘s problem is that, despite being scripted by an Irish American and ostensibly being about Irish organized crime, the story is actually derived from a Chinese film, Infernal Affairs (2002-Hong Kong), and its prequel and sequel.

    Scorsese also repeats some Shakespearean errors [7], notably the ridiculous piling on of multiple murders of major characters at the end. (Screenwriter William Monahan studied Elizabethan and Jacobean drama in college; perhaps that’s the problem.)

    Nor does Jack Nicholson make a convincing Irishman. His real-life ethnicity is thoroughly mixed-up-American (even he doesn’t know what it is), and it shows, ethnically.

    Naming his “Irish” mob boss Frank Costello (akin to the Latin names given to Scandinavian characters in Hamlet) just compounds the error, particularly given the fact that the story features a rival Italian mob.

    The police department psychiatrist and dual love interest of Matt Damon (the bad cop) and Leonardo DiCaprio (the good cop) played by Ukrainian American actress Vera Farmiga also is not convincing, either as a character or in her casual violation of numerous professional ethics rules.

    Another big problem faced by all contemporary suspense movies and novels is the convincing portrayal of organized opposition to the System.

    You can’t ignore surveillance in such tales, because everybody knows it’s ubiquitous, from surveillance cameras everywhere to the constant tracking of cell phones.

    More sophisticated surveillance, which is equally pervasive, is so secretive, unrestrained by law, technologically advanced, thorough, and invisible—its ever-evolving techniques known and understood by virtually no one outside the secret police—that any organized group the state genuinely wants to take down or prevent from coalescing in the first place is hard to convincingly depict.

    True, privileged groups such as Jews (e.g., Israeli operatives, Jewish terrorists, mercenaries, assassins, bombers, organized criminals, etc.) do exist and operate completely outside of formal System rules, but they are off-limits to mainstream authors and filmmakers.

    So it is extremely difficult to integrate into a contemporary story anything approximating or mimicking real-life surveillance and double-dealing.

    It would be easier to set suspense fiction in the past, since society was less Orwellian then, and what was Orwellian can be learned more or less accurately through research. The Coen brothers, for example, plausibly avoid most pitfalls such as this by situating many of their crime stories sometime in the past, even the comparatively recent past.

    These are some of the reasons why The Departed is ultimately unsatisfying. I never quite bought into it in terms of the suspension of disbelief. But it is still an entertaining, watchable movie.

    This failure is somewhat puzzling.

    For example, The Bourne Identity—a very good movie—has basically the same flaws, plus an unconvincing comic book superhero to boot. (Bourne is essentially an indestructible android.) And yet, the movie works. I’m not sure why.

    A final amusing twist to The Departed is in the closing credits, where the producers thank various government agencies in Massachusetts, Boston, etc., for their help in making the film. One can hardly imagine worse PR for government than The Departed, yet there it is, subsidizing Hollywood’s giving it the middle finger before the entire world.

    I sympathize with the portrayal of police corruption. Cops are not good guys.

    But, even so, you can only shake your head.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • It’s Not Always Good to be King: The Folk Horror of Philip Loraine’s Day of the Arrow
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]3,654 words

    Day of the Arrow [2] (1964)
    By “Philip Loraine” [Robin Estridge]
    UK: Collins, 1964; US: Morrow, 1964
    US reissue: Valancourt, 2015

    Eye of the Devil [3] (1966); aka 13
    Directed by J. Lee Thompson and others
    Screenplay by Robin Estridge
    Starring David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Donald Pleasance, David Hemmings, Edward Mulhare, and “introducing” Sharon Tate. 

    “He isn’t living at Bellac, he is Bellac.”

    Christopher Pankhurst’s excellent review [4] of the apparently quite worthwhile Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies,[1] or rather, some comments thereon, has reminded me that I have been slothful in getting ‘round to reviewing Day of the Arrow, an extremely interesting novel published by “Philip Loraine” — a pseudonym of novelist and screenwriter Robin Estridge — which served as the basis for the Brit-horror cult film Eye of the Devil — and perhaps another, more well known, movie popular among neo-pagans.

    Out of print for decades, it now reappears as one of the “20th Century Classics” being reprinted by the estimable independent publisher Valancourt.[2]

    Here’s Valancourt’s description:

    James Lindsay has been summoned to the ancient estate of Bellac by his old flame, Françoise, to help her husband, Philippe de Montfaucon, who has inexplicably become convinced that he is about to die. His fears may not be unfounded: in old tomes in the castle’s library, Lindsay learns that almost every male Montfaucon has met with a mysterious and untimely end. Now with the ancient festival of Les Treize Jours approaching and the castle filling up with strange and sinister visitors, Lindsay must unravel an intricate and horrifying web of legend and superstition to save Philippe from a terrible fate . . .

    And the critics weigh in:

    “The sophisticated and the primitive, the seen and the half-seen . . . homosexuals and witches, in an intriguing mixture of old and new.” — Chicago Tribune

    “Brooding, atmospheric . . . an ancestral castle and its village are the setting for a highly civilized and aristocratic nightmare . . . full of tantalizing and terror-filled symbols.” — Anthony Boucher, New York Times

    You can’t blame Valancourt for making the book sound much more like the conventional Dennis Wheatley or William Peter Blatty type of “satanic thriller.” Marketing aside, it’s probably best to let the reader discover for himself that this is no ordinary “occult horror” tale.

    In fact, the most impressive thing about this short novel is how comfortable it is with ambiguity and uncertainty. Unlike the usual heroic priest/investigator takes on the evil/Satanic cult/conspiracy dreck, both of our protagonists are thoroughly conflicted.

    Both, when we first meet them (Philippe, at least, in Lindsay’s memories) are modern, secular hedonists. Phillipe, it turns out, was only attempting to escape his fate — contrary to Mel Brooks, it’s not always good to be the king — and having been drawn back to it, ineluctably, comes to even accept his role as the dying savior of the vineyards. Lindsay, who initially sees himself in the conventional, bourgeois role[3] of saving Phillipe, finds himself more and more responsive to the ancient call of the blood; as Chris Rock said about OJ, he doesn’t approve, but he understands.[4]

    I must admit that my interest was piqued by that “homosexuals and witches” line, thinking there might be something here along the lines of the Aryan Männerbund on display, but both are not so much red herrings — though Lindsay is relieved to think his old pal has abandoned his family and hangs out at the old chateau with a lovely young man (one “Christian”!) simply as a typically French mid-life crisis[5] — as they are symptoms, clues, or symbols, of deeper concerns.

    Philippe’s gay romp has less to do with what Judeo-Cons would call dissolute European morals than with the survival of the more ancient and authentic European traditions:

    “The Romans had brought the god Mithra into France: the god who was a god of soldiers, a god of men — of men without women; and he spoke also of the ancients, to whom the love of man for man was pure love, while the love of man for woman was not.”

    “The Troubadours, as you may know, came from Languedoc, and the songs they sang—as you probably don’t know—were nothing to do with the love of knights for fair ladies; they were hymns of the old religion, and any physical love they extolled had nothing to do with women, for you see, the love of man for woman was of the flesh, evil; to bring more souls into a world ruled by evil was, in itself a sin.”

    We’ll get back to this remarkable little history lesson in a bit, but as for witches, this element is also a mere symbol of a deeper theme: paganism, that is, the rural belief system that preceded and survived Christianity, and for which here even the country doctors have a grudging respect:

    “Your husband’s just like the rest of them; they’ve always had this trust in their wise old women.[6] You always get that sort of thing in real country places—harmless, and useful kinds of witchcraft. Such a stupid name for it!’”

    “‘Oh yes,” said the abbé, “she’s a witch, all right. Never underestimate the knowledge of a witch; mankind has forgotten more things, and more important things, than he will ever learn.”

    “If you asked anyone in this valley about the girl [Christian’s sister, Odile] they would tell you at once that she was a witch.”

    So things are a little more complicated here than in either your typical Evangelical screed against “the Awk-ult” or the gee-whiz enthusiasm of a “History” Channel “Mysteries of the Grail” doco.

    “To men like Père Dominique and Luchard and my son, Bellac’s festival of the Thirteen is . . . how shall I put it? Is debased. The people have always leaned towards the old witch cult. What you saw yesterday in the village is no longer pure, yet it goes hand in hand with the deeper secrets. And . . .’ The old voice faltered. ‘And . . . at certain times, it is the people who demand . . .”

    Gnosticism — specifically, it seems, Mithraism — survives in this French valley under the cover of Christianity,[7] while rural paganism lurks at an even deeper level, trumping both. The latter requires the sacrifice of the Marquis to return fertility to the vineyards, while the former provides the local nobs with an ethic of virility, courage, and service that makes their self-sacrifice possible.[8]

    “One comes at last,” he said finally, “to an acknowledgment of one’s responsibilities.”

    These underlying historic layers are, of course, also present psychologically,[9] accounting for the conflicts between the main protagonists’ modern, secular consciousness — which is relatively thin and brittle — and the underlying call of the blood.

    There was inside him some buried forest sense that warned him of danger.

    He would dearly have liked to rip off the dressing [applied by the old wise woman], yet, almost in spite of himself, he had an absolute trust in her methods; it was as if the sureness of those old fingers had stirred in him an ancient, long-lost belief.

    Perhaps, indeed, there was an instinctive knowledge in him deeper than the knowledge of mere intelligence.[10]

    I suppose paganism survives among “the ignorant” but how is it possible for Gnosticism to survive? By exploiting the central weakness of the orthodox: reliance on scripture alone (sola scriptura). As Alan Watts would say, the Church has replaced the religion of Jesus — verified by personal experience — with the religion about Jesus — blind “faith” in supposedly “historically true” scriptures.[11] But as Protestantism discovered, mere words can be “interpreted” any way one wants

    The theme of words is introduced early, as Lindsay mediates on how to broach the subject of Philippe’s withdrawal:

    Lindsay fell to thinking of the explosive possibilities of words. Supposing he were to turn now and say to Philippe, ‘Why haven’t you slept with your beautiful wife for three years?’ or ‘You know, I suppose, that Françoise has a lover,’ or even ‘Philippe, please tell me: what was that girl doing in your tower with a dead dove?’

    As Lindsay attends curiously disturbing Mass in the village, the theme reemerges in a theological or theurgic — context: “the words—or rather the meaning they had for this poised, utterly silent crowd.” In particular, the once familiar doxology: in the Beginning was . . . the Word.

    “They have never been true Christians in the valley of Bellac; when Père Dominique celebrates Mass, the words that the people hear are not the same words that you hear . . . But at Bellac ‘the Word’ means the old knowledge, the old pagan religion.”

    Besides this main theme, Loraine also sounds some of my favorite themes, such as the equivocal nature of “beauty” and “ugliness” when questions of spirituality are involved;[12] thus the lovely Christian is, like Christianity in the valley, an epiphenomenon of a more primitive substratum.

    [Christian’s] features were absolutely regular, and should have added up to good looks; however, they did not—not even to languid, vapid good looks.

    Lindsay knew that even the most faultless features, even the blankest type of young-girl beauty, revealed something strange during its transposition to a piece of paper. And this face was far from blank.

    Lindsay had discovered something odd about this face; it emerged from his first sketch of it, which was like and yet utterly unlike; was, in fact, the face of a half-wit, a mongol. Fascinated by the discovery and its implications, he did not speak for some time. Yes, it was true; the eyes were too widely spaced, yet in the flesh this was barely apparent. The surprising lift to the cheekbones was, in the flesh, in some way canceled out or, now that he came to look again, balanced by the boy’s high color; yet in the drawing, robbed of coloring, the face that looked back at him was primitive, and the youthful yet mocking glance emerged as mere slyness. He was, Lindsay realized without surprise, the kind of person who cannot stand near to anyone without touching him; he put an arm round Lindsay’s shoulder. Yes, Lindsay thought, an animal. Most interesting, and far from unlikable.

    Then there’s the archeofuturism; not just the presence of the past in the present, but the liberating — and very Gnostic — idea that our present imagination enables us to literally change the future:

    “You don’t know, you see; you don’t know what is, so how can you know what will be?”

    It was as if her passionate conviction could, in some way, stamp itself upon the future—bend the future to conform with what she so desperately believed.

    “No one,” [Odile the witch] replied, “can have too much imagination. . . . There is no such thing as either reality or imagination; they are the same thing.”

    Lindsay’s lengthy interrogation of Philippe’s father reverses — and therefore emphatically recalls — the Tooth Fairy’s Revelation of the Method to the wheelchair bound (literally) reporter in Manhunter.[13] In both cases, disjointed images of the past are invoked, accompanies by the repeated interrogative — but really, injunctive — “Do you see?”[14]

    Lindsay began to comprehend the ineluctable, deeply atavistic force—where the tonsured priest and the witch walked hand in hand—that was driving Philippe de Montfaucon to an accepted death.

    At the ideological climax, as Philippe defends his choice of dying to save the vineyards, and Lindsay, the rejected Savior, begins to see, Loraine even recalls Ananda Coomaraswamy’s defiant Tu quoque response to the hypocrites of British imperialism who affected a horrified reaction to the “barbaric” practice of sati, while smugly sending tens of thousands of young men to “die for their country” on pain of imprisonment and social stigma:

    “But don’t you see—you’re dying for nothing. I shall die for my faith, and for my people—is that nothing? Did the millions who died in the last war, will the millions who are going to die in the next, die for more?” He shook his head. “When your turn comes, James, ask yourself, ‘Am I dying for what I passionately believe?’ The answer will be ‘No.’”

    It was not true—it could not be true—that Philippe de Montfaucon, a more than ordinarily civilized man, intended to die on the cloudy August day that was soon to dawn. And yet thousands of men had died for their religion. It was no longer very fashionable, but it was certainly less stupid than dying for what was euphemistically called ‘one’s country,’ which usually meant an egotistical and probably bone-headed group of third-rate politicians.

    Of course, this is a novel, after all, and it needs to be said that Loraine is a fine writer, capable of many sharp and memorable lines.

    [Philippe had] that catlike self-assurance which he envied so much in Frenchmen; it came, he always imagined, from a youth spent in a world where the family was still the pivotal point, the center of the universe, a fortress of love, all protecting—instead of the kind of incompetently run youth hostel it had become in America and England.

    “Never envy those people, James. Living the way we did: a month here, three months there—Rome, New York, Lisbon, London, Rio—it’s like . . . like a chain of caves; one progresses ever deeper into absolute nothingness, absolute darkness, a kind of living extinction. You can see it in their faces.”

    Her eyes really did look quite crazy, but then, as he knew only too well, most people’s eyes looked crazy in absolute proximity.

    “Nothing,” she added, “would surprise me about him—he has such ugly hands. And then his father’s a saint. That must be extremely difficult.”

    The Countess and the Prince were dressed for riding; Natasha was dressed for luncheon at the Ritz.

    She finished by calling her son her little cuckoo, which, even in French, sounded idiotic.

    Yes, we have the meal together every day; their conversation is better suited to mine—we are all surrealists.

    “Live and let live,” said Lindsay vacuously, wondering who else would take time off to offer him oblique warnings.

    Lindsay could see, in his mind, the little cold body of the goldfish secreted in her brown hand; each golden scale was clear to him, and the magical sheen of the belly, as if it had been painted with a rainbow. And the wonderful golden eye, ringed with a circle of black. And in the golden eye of the golden fish could be seen reflected the Chateau of Bellac and the lake, and the round, surprised faces of the children—children watching a miracle in the golden eye of a goldfish. . . . Suddenly he felt violently sick.

    “Loraine” writes a very effective “chased by hounds and irate peasants” scene around midpoint,[15] and near the end a “desperately driving to summon authorities while summarizing the plot” scene, showing why he found a parallel career in film writing. A combination of evocative writing and a rather subtle and sophisticated approach to paganism and Gnosticism makes this book highly recommended to alt-Right readers, especially those interested in the themes of archeofuturism and hauntology.

    “Is our century so robust—is our way of life so secure—are we so contented, James, that we have no need of . . . reassurance—reassurance about the things of the spirit?”

    “It’s not what it seems,” she added. “The silence, I mean. There’s always a great deal going on. Perhaps these extremely thick walls have something to do with it.”

    Who could argue that places, that inanimate stones and wood did not dictate methods of behavior?

    Speaking of films, Estridge turned to the other string on his bow and wrote (at least part of) the script for a movie adaptation, Eye of the Devil,[16] which for various reasons seems to have not attracted as much attention as one might have expected. Since it differs a bit, here‘s the IMDB summary:

    The family of the Marquis, Philippe de Montfaucon, has long been the major landowner in Bellenac, a wine growing region in France. Philippe heads back to the family vineyard from his home in Paris when he learns that there are problems in the fields threatening the crops. Against Philippe’s wishes, his wife, the Marquise, Catherine de Montfaucon, with their two adolescent children, Jacques and Antoinette, decides to follow Philippe back to Bellenac. There, Catherine sees what she believes is disturbing behavior. Young adult siblings, Christian and Odile de Caray, whose family has also lived in the region for generations, have been hanging around the estate. While Catherine witnesses Christian killing a dove with a bow and arrow, which he seems always to be brandishing, Odile seems to have this hypnotic power over anyone in her sights. What’s worse is that Philippe seems to be in a transfixed state while in Bellenac. Although Catherine and the children’s lives are threatened while in Bellenac by the actions of Christian and Odile, she decides to stay just to figure out what is happening and to save Philippe, who too seems like he is under some threat. When Catherine eventually learns what is going on and why Philippe didn’t want her to come to Bellenac, it may be too late to save Philippe and perhaps Jacques from their evil destiny, as was the fate of seemingly many of the men of the de Montfaucon family in Bellenac over the generations.

    The production, like most “British folk horror” films, seems to have been a bit cursed from the start.[17] Roman Polanski, just off Repulsion, was supposed to direct, but found the screenplay antipatico. They tried others, including Michael Anderson (Logan’s Run). Ultimately, W. Lee Thompson, who had worked with Estridge before, was brought in; he’s a director with a solid track record (the original Cape Fear) but no history with horror or the occult.

    And I don’t know what to make of the idea of asking Dr. Strangelove’s Terry Southern to “tighten and brighten” the script,[18] along with numerous “consultants” such as Wiccan High Priest Alex Sanders (also known as the “King of the Witches”), who was brought in so that Thompson could “experience the atmosphere of ritual magic in order to convey it on film.”[19]

    As for the leads, IMDB says:

    Originally Kim Novak was cast in the role of Catherine de Montfaucon. Filming began in the fall of 1965 in France. Near every scene had been filmed when Kim Novak fell from a horse and wasn’t able to complete her scenes. Deborah Kerr was hired to take over and every scene that featured Miss Novak had to be re-shot with her replacement.

    All for the better, as David Niven had taken a dislike to Novak (“that horrid woman” he called her in letters from the shoot). Although Niven was delighted to work with Kerr again, as were fans of classic film, they’re really, alas, both too old for the roles.[20]

    The movie, and the viewer, is better served by the supporting cast, which is a Who’s Who of cult cinema. There’s Donald Pleasance, providing another baldheaded baddie, leading one to imagine the French abbé will be revealed as Blofeld in disguise;[21] Edward Mulhare (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir!); ambisexually beautiful London icon David Hemmings; and “introducing” (though she’d already been “introduced” in a couple previous films) . . . Miss Sharon Tate herself!

    The presence of Miss Kerr and the b&w photography heighten the parallels to The Innocents, Jack Clayton’s 1961 take on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. It’s rather as if the master of the house had returned, heard the governess’ story, and believed it, with Odile and Christian as the evil servants and Philippe’s children endangered.[22]

    But what really come out are the parallels with — or perhaps the plagiarizing that would be made by — Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer’s The Wicker Man (1975; cue ominous yet hippie folk music).[23]

    They are, indeed, remarkably similar films. Sgt. Howie combines the roles of nosey outsider trying to “save” the victim and the victim himself;[24] while he dies a good Christian,[25] unlike the conflicted Lindsay, he also makes it clear that if (when?) the crops fail again, Lord Summerisle will indeed be the next sacrifice.

    As for Eye itself, as you can imagine, the delicious uncertainties of the book have been scrubbed clean, although, in yet another parallel to The Innocents, these have been replaced by the central ambiguity of whether Deborah Kerr’s Françoise/Catharine[26] is “in danger” or just nuts.[27]

    The young Pleasance has a very Putinesque stare.[28] The roles of Catharine, Christian, and Odile are expanded enormously, at the expense of Lindsay and the other wise women, which is a very good thing for fans of Sharon Tate. Christian is just pretty rather than disturbing, and the whole “more spiritual love” angle dropped, except for a moment when he’s caressed by Philippe — an early clue in the book, just an odd moment in the film.

    Modern audiences are apt to find the denouement to be intolerably drawn out, since we’ve seen the King/Kill motif many times by now,[29] while, on the other hand, only such a modern viewer could accept the idea of the ret-conned Deborah Kerr character as an action hero who might just save the day.[30]

    The real problem is that film is not really suitable for exploring the complex issues we’ve highlighted in the novel; or at least these film makers haven’t managed to do it, and likely didn’t try. Mithraism and heathenism are collapsed into each other, and then subsumed under the usual “black mass” and “satanic sadists” motifs. Only Philippe shows any inner conflict, and Catharine dismisses it all as “your heathen nonsense” and “insanity.” For cinematic purposes, on assumes, the twelve dancers of the village festival become faceless, black robed monks who hold secret meetings and stalk people in the forest, looking rather like a cross between the Peter Jackson’s Nazgul and Monty Python’s Knights who say “Ni.”

    It does add a very good line, though: speaking of his father, Philippe sneers:

    “He’s not one of the men of the family.”

    Spoilers aside, it might be a good way to get someone thinking about their heathen heritage, and asking questions the novel could then expand upon. On its own terms, it’s an pretty effective thriller, and its location shooting, moody, deep focus b&w photograph,y and very busy editing [31] make it an excellent film to watch on a cloudy Winter afternoon; perhaps, as I did, on Christmas — Joyeux Noël!

    Notes

    [1] Katherine Beem and Andy Paciorek, eds., Wyrd Harvest Press, 2015.

    [2] I’ve reviews several of their weird fiction and modern classics here on Counter-Currents (see here [5]); my review of Michael Nelson’s A Room in Chelsea Square appears in my new collection, Green Nazis in Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015). Readers here will also appreciate Valancourt for their republications of the fiction of Colin Wilson.

    [3] “Coming of a purely bourgeois family myself, I have to confess that the aristocracy fascinates me — the continuity of it!” No one seems able to take Lindsay as a “artist,” from his and Philippe’s schooldays — “Youth being the most conservative of institutions, it was impossible for this chunky, pink-faced, fair-haired refugee from a football field to be a creative artist” — to the rural French coroner’s jury who doubt his Dan Brown-like story — “This odd character, it was pointed out, was not only an Englishman but also an artist. (Everybody thought this a highly amusing conjunction.)”

    [4] “‘I hate him for this,’ she said. ‘I’m horrified to find how much I hate him.’ Lindsay nodded. ‘I understand that; and yet somehow I feel that he . . . he doesn’t deserve hatred.’”

    [5] Lindsay: “When I asked you in Paris whether he was in love with another woman, you said ‘No, I’m sure he isn’t.’ You could have added that you were just as sure that he was in love with a young man. Good God, there’s nothing unusual about that.” And Françoise: ‘I sometimes think that violent physical love—and that’s what ours was, violent—comes at one moment to a point where it . . . it has to change into something else. Our love, Philippe’s and mine, had just reached that point—it needed the booster; it needed the new dimension. And instead . . . there was this. Nothing.”

    [6] See Valancourt’s reprint of Lord Dunsany’s Curse of the Wise Woman, and my review here [6].

    [7] “It’s curious,” said Lindsay, looking closer. “The figure of Christ isn’t actually nailed to the Cross at all.” “He rules from the Cross,” said the priest, his blue, quick eyes on the young man’s face. “Is the Cross itself so important?”

    [8] I’m a bit foggy on the theology, or rather, theurgy, here. Philippe’s death clearly involves dripping his blood through the fields; now, his father (spoiler alert!) evaded his fate by faking his death by drowning, leaving no corpse, yet no one suspects anything went amiss with the ritual or that he’s alive and hiding out in the nabe. Symbolically, of course, he’s as good as dead, so that part works, but what about the blood? It also allows him to be found and debriefed by Lindsay in the penultimate chapter, so as to get all the Gnostic/pagan background out.

    [9] “There was nothing simple about Philippe de Montfaucon, or about Bellac.”

    [10] Even secular Françoise is a wise woman: “She shook her head wisely over the idiocies of science.”

    [11] See my reviews of Robert M. Price’s The Human Bible: New Testament (here [7]) and Kenneth Humphreys’ Jesus Never Existed: An Introduction to the Ultimate Heresy (here [8]).

    [12] See my essays on “Odd John” in in Green Nazis in Space!

    [13] See my meditations on the film in “Thanks for Watching: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 1 [9]“ and “Phil & Will: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 2 [10].”

    [14] Cf. the elderly socialite/alien in John Carpenter’s They Live! – “I’ve got one that can see!” See my essay “He Writes! You Read! They Live!” here [11] and reprinted in my collection The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).

    [15] “The impossible fact was true (eruptions of physical violence into everyday life always struck him as faintly impossible): he was being hunted—hunted across country that was absolutely strange to him, by men who very probably knew every inch of it.”

    [16] Now, you may note the change in title. Day of the Arrow does, perhaps, sound a bit more appropriate for some 1950s Hollywood frontier epic, and while Eye of the Devil is perhaps a bit too Hammer-ish, it is more suggestive of the goings on. The connection between arrow and eye is driven home by the movie poster, and watching the film I felt a bit like the Seinfeld gang when they couldn’t get in to see a Claude-Damme-ish movie called Deathblow and spent the next few days speculating whose deathblow was best, and who would get the next deathblow and when. In my case I kept waiting for arrow to be forcibly inserted into eye, and was not disappointed.

    [17] See Wikipedia, here [12]. For a fine appreciation of the film along with its production and subsequent reputation, see “Looking into the Eye of the Devil” by Kimberly Lindbergs, posted on Movie Morlocks October 28, 2010, here. [13]

    [18] See “From Odd John to Strange Love” in Green Nazis in Space!

    [19] Quoted in Lindbergs, loc. cit.

    [20] Niven had been Ian Fleming’s model for James Bond; again, he was too old for the role when the movies began to be made, as proven when he essayed the role of the retired Sir James in the abominable Casino Royale spoof the very next year (1967).

    [21] On the metaphorphoses of Blofeld, see Jef Costello’s “The Cat is Back! The Spectre Behind S.P.E.C.T.R.E.,” here [14].

    [22] There are some traces of this in the novel; Françoise calls Lindsay “an innocent.” As for Philippe’s son, “Oh yes, he knows, the wicked child.” Does Gilles (renamed Jacques in the movie) escape his father’s fate? Lindsay and Françoise attempt a kind of anti-hauntological approach: “They can think of nothing further removed from the baleful influence of Bellac than the money factories of Basel.”

    [23] This is not the first such accusation. David Pinner has long claimed that his 1967 novel Ritual was the original basis for the screen play of Anthony Schaffer, who admits to “considering” the novel before concluding it wasn’t “adaptable.” See “Inside The Wicker Man: An Interview with Allan Brown” in Headpresss #20 (ed. David Kerekes, May 2000) and Brown’s book Inside the Wicker Man: The Morbid Ingenuities (Sidgwick & Jackson, 2000). Come to think of it, doesn’t that just mean that Ritual is based on Day of the Arrow anyway? The “curse of The Wicker Man” seems to be that of involvement with the Semitic plagues of unending litigation and corporate film distribution outrages; see Phil Tonge’s really quite hilarious account of his quest to find a “complete” cut of the film (extant copies range from a 102 minute sort-of director’s cut to an 87 minute, Roger Corman-inspired cut for Midwest TV station distribution) in his “Cak-Watch Presents: The Wicker Bastard” (Headpress 20).

    [24] As Tonge, or the illustrator says, “Hey, look, it’s that twat from The Equalizer. Let’s burn ‘em!”

    [25] According to Tonge, op. cit., the longest, 102 minute version includes footage where “Mr. Woodward has more dialogue preaching to the islanders from the confines of the wicker man, to the effect that God is going to do ‘em.”

    [26] Is the name changed to suggest the Cathars?

    [27] Catharine seems uneasy if not terrified from her very first frame, but, in a Mad Men moment, seems quite carefree about tooling around in a Mercedes convertible, her two children bouncing around unrestrained in the front seat.

    [28] Compare: “Is Vladimir Putin immortal? Pictures from almost 100 years ago seem to show him looking fighting fit; Conspiracy theorists have decided that the Russian leader is immortal due to pictures from 100 years ago which show his lookalike.” The Guardian, Dec. 15, 2015, here. [15] Is it witchcraft?

    [29] Michael Hoffman II, author of Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, has been pursuing this aspect of the Kennedy assassination since the ’70s. His essay ‘King-Kill/33’ appeared in the first edition of Adam Parfrey’s conspiracy anthology, Apocalypse Culture. Subsequent editions (including the current Feral House edition), apparently do not carry it. Read an excerpt online here [16].

    [30] By contrast, Lois (Miss Moneypenny) was quite convincing in her cameo in the Italian Bond rip-off Operation Double 007 (aka Operation Kid Brother, aka OK Connery) even when firing a machine gun. And I swear that’s “Q” hmself, Desmond Llewellyn, right at the end, but I can’t find him only any cast list, nor the film on his credits.

    [31] Both display more originality than the direction or script as such. At one point shadows bring out the “demon” in the “de Montfaucon” carved on a tomb; a nice touch. And a long sequence of some Brit git playing the harp at a some swank gathering at Philippe’s Paris pad gets a Checkovian payoff near the end when a quick shot has the boy looking through a harp’s strings (?) as he gazes at his father for the last time; surely meant to evoke the Traditional symbol of the warp and woof of both Fate and the material universe.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • St. Steven of Le Mans: The Man Who Just Didn’t Care
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]5,471 words

    Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans [2] (2015)
    Directors: Gabriel Clarke, John McKenna
    Stars: Steve McQueen, Chad McQueen, Neile Adams, John Sturges, Alan Trustman, Lee H. Katzin,  Jonathan Williams, Peter Samuelson
    102 min.

    Le Mans [3] (1971)
    Director: Lee H. Katzin
    Writer: Harry Kleiner 
    Stars: Steve McQueen, Siegfried Rauch, Elga Andersen
    106min.

    “Though they may not always be handsome, men doomed to evil posses the manly virtues.” — Jean Genet, The Thief’s Journal

    Le Mans is a “racing movie,” and if that makes you want to run the other way — don’t. If this essay can’t convince you, then at least catch the documentary, Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, on Showtime or Amazon Video. If that still doesn’t convince you, you may be dead, or at least, have no soul.

    Le Mans is a “racing movie” but this is no Tom Cruise “vehicle” with a pretty-boy romance to bring in the ladies like Days of Thunder. Nor is it a “white people are so stupid” “comedy” like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. And, as we’ll see, it certainly isn’t some thunderingly loud and visually disorienting CGI’d fantasy for nerds without driver’s licenses.

    There’s been a lot of talk here at Counter-Currents about various writers’ personal history with various icons of masculinity, especially (given our times) the cinematic sort, especially in the realm of espionage.[1] In the latter context, names from the ’60s like Sean Connery or James Coburn seem to predominate.

    For what I might call a slightly younger cohort within that generation, Terence Steven “Steve” McQueen (March 24, 1930 — November 7, 1980) would more likely come up; and yet, a search of the Counter-Currents website show he hasn’t here. Except, interestingly enough, in two contributions from myself: one, an epigraph quoted from a book under review [4], Paul Bingham’s Down Where the Devil Don’t Go:

    Mort Schnellenhammer laughed. For the first time in his life, he felt like Steve McQueen.

    And the other, a quote from McQueen, from the end of Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, no less, from my essay on Trump and Positive Thinking [5]:

    “I like daydreaming. You know that state before you get to sleep? Except in my life my daydreams came true.” — Steve McQueen, interview given while he was dying from lung cancer in 1980.

    Now, I don’t want to get into any pissing contests here, but perhaps McQueen’s taciturn model of the quietly efficient doing of one’s job[2] with some inner amusement could serve as a more relevant, or accessible, role model than the wise-cracking, showboating Connery/Coburn?[3] You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

    Frist, let’s get some perspective from, of course, Wikipedia [6]:

    Terence Steven “Steve” McQueen (March 24, 1930 — November 7, 1980) was an American actor. Called “The King of Cool,” his “anti-hero” persona, developed at the height of the counterculture of the 1960s, made him a top box-office draw of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Cincinnati Kid, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, and Papillon, as well as the all-star ensemble films The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and The Towering Inferno. In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world, although he did not act in films again for four years. McQueen was combative with directors and producers, but his popularity placed him in high demand and enabled him to command large salaries.

    After an archetypically bad childhood,[4] McQueen left reform school to take up a rather archetypally masculinist life:

    At 16 McQueen left Chino and returned to his mother, now living in Greenwich Village, New York. He then met two sailors from the Merchant Marine and volunteered to serve on a ship bound for the Dominican Republic. Once there he abandoned his new post, eventually being employed as a “towel boy” in a brothel. Afterwards McQueen made his way to Texas and drifted from job to job. He worked as an oil rigger, a trinket salesman in a carnival, and a lumberjack.

    Ultimately — and again archetypally — the Marines seemed to straighten him out:

    Initially he reverted to his prior rebelliousness and was demoted to private seven times. He took an unauthorized absence by failing to return after a weekend pass expired, staying with a girlfriend for two weeks until the shore patrol caught him. He resisted arrest and spent 41 days in the brig.

    After this he resolved to focus his energies on self-improvement and embraced the Marines’ discipline. He saved the lives of five other Marines during an Arctic exercise, pulling them from a tank before it broke through ice into the sea. He was assigned to the honor guard, responsible for guarding then US President Harry Truman’s yacht. McQueen served until 1950 when he was honorably discharged. He later said he had enjoyed his time in the Marines.

    As we just saw, the late ’60s he had managed to become “the King of Cool” and arguably the biggest males star in the world. Now there’s self-improvement!

    There were two additional elements to McQueen’s success: his frequent director, John Sturges, and the interestingly named Alan Trustman, a successful lawyer who retired at 37 and decided to become a screenwriter. He first two were the iconic McQueen vehicles, The Thomas Crown Affair (written for Sean Connery but rewritten for McQueen; the 1989 remake would go to Pierce Brosnan) and Bullitt (written in 20 hours and grossing 68 million). With the first,

    Trustman felt the script had to be rewritten for McQueen and spent a week of 16-hour days at United Artists in New York screening film on McQueen and making lists of what McQueen liked, didn’t like, did well, and could not do.[5] McQueen loved the rewrite, and told everyone “I don’t know how but the son of a bitch knows me.”

    “Knows” or “created”? Let’s say Tribesman Trustman,[6] a clever middleman, was able to perceive the essence of McQueen’s persona and then distill it into a handy formula; a mantra for McQueen to recite before each scene, “no matter what the director says”:

    I decide what is right and what is wrong, and I don’t have to explain it to anybody. I like women, but I’m a little afraid of them. If you make a commitment to a woman they can hurt you. I won’t pick a fight with you, but if you pick a fight with me or back me into a corner I will fucking kill you.[7]

    There, see? Now there’s a mantra for the modern man. Worth a whole gigabyte of game blogs.[8]

    They let me meet with him a few times so I could explain [compare?] the character to Humphrey Bogart, hard-bitten, not loquacious.[9] All the sentences had to be short, a character of internal integrity who’s not afraid of a fight . . .

    McQueen understood the camera and understood that the camera loved him, and that’s an exceptional ability for an actor to have. Yes, he was consistent, but people loved that character. And it was very much like the real Steve McQueen.[10]

    TCM recently had a double feature of Bullitt (1968) and Le Mans (1971). Although I’m a big fan of Bullitt,[11] I’ve seen it many times and did not mind not noticing it was on until it was almost over. Le Mans was the movie I wanted to catch for the first time, having seen the documentary Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans a few days before. However, for our purposes, if not TCM’s, it would be good to start with Bullitt.

    The novel Mute Witness has an elaborate plot which, whatever its merits,[12] the film, (retitled for its McQueen character), like most successful films — much to the annoyance of Tolkien and comic book fan-boys — puts on the back burner or largely ignores, in favor of sound and vision.[13]

    Much of the joy of watching Bullitt comes from what it captures: San Francisco in the 1960s, Steve McQueen when he was young, action sequences which are believable, and a sense of space and stillness. The dialogue is kept to a minimum, the acting is understated, we observe the characters from a distance. This contrasts with the films they make today which are too busy, with too much going on, too many special effects, unreal action sequences, and with characters who display too much attitude and sarcasm.[14] You can watch Bullitt 10 times and still find elements of the story you hadn’t noticed before, which usually provide some crucial insight into understanding the plot. Important aspects of the story are revealed in places you don’t expect, such as behind the opening credits and before the main characters are introduced. Understanding this film is an iterative process, a better detective story than the one embedded within the plot. It never gets boring.

    “An iterative process” — In short, exactly the kind of movie ripe for our paranoiac-criticial method. But that will have to wait for another time. All the elements this blogger singles out for praise will be found in the much less appreciated Le Mans and (perhaps because) at an even higher level of intensity.[15]

    And a trip to San Francisco in the late ’60s.[16] Like Clint Eastwood’s Carmel and Monterey,[17] this is still a world where “hip” means smooth, “white” West Coast jazz.

    One audio-visual element left out in that appreciation — perhaps it goes without saying — is the famous, indeed iconic “car chase” through what a later TV show would call “the streets of San Francisco.”[18] At the time, for a long time after, and largely still today, it’s considered the Gold Standard for such sequences; especially since, of course, there’s no CGI. And Le Mans does the same for the “racing film”—upping the ante with 50 cars, twenty-four hours, and the greatest track in the world. And just as Bullitt pitted the two greatest street-legal cars — the Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger — against each other,[19] so the latter film uses the greatest racing cars of all time, the Porsche 917 and the Ferrari 512S; and again, no CGI.[20]

    All these elements would be carried forward into Le Mans, which is pretty interesting, since the only common elements are the time period and McQueen; and fast cars, of course. Otherwise, Le Mans jettisons plot altogether, other than the ready-made narrative provided by the 24 hours of the race.

    First, back to McQueen. Inspired by the character he played in Thomas Crown, he had decided to parlay his acting cred into becoming something that really mattered: a filmmaker. He would no longer be “some candy-ass actor” but a mover and shaker. Filmmaking meant something, both as a massive industry and as a total art form.

    “Film is a very important medium.”

    Here, McQueen is on the same page as our own Trevor Lynch:

    By integrating so many art forms, film can communicate more, and more deeply, to more people, than any single art form. . . . Second . . . movies are a force. They are the greatest tool ever invented for shaping people’s ideas and imaginations. In the right hands, they can be a force for good. In the wrong hands, they are a force for evil.[21]

    As Lynch goes on to point out, films today are mostly a force for evil, since they views and values they embody and promote are those of the hostile Jewish elite. McQueen’s production company would promote — if only implicitly — the “cool” masculinity of the Aryan.

    The name of his company would be, of course: Solar Productions.

    There was another element — also implicitly White[22] — to be added as well: auto racing.

    Maybe it’s being from Detroit, but I’ve never understood the loathing of NASCAR. Well, except I understand it as a status marker posing as cultural sophistication. This is Euro-style Grand Prix racing, not NASCAR, which really did have some cachet domestically at the time, but now I suppose unless it’s bike (or “cycle”) racing, it’s all the same.

    As usual, you can tell it’s a status thing from the banality of the reasons offered. “They just drive in circles!” Sure, no talent required, like horse racing — the sport of kings! — Roman chariot races, and all those Negro track athletes. It’s like “Wrestling is fake!” Sure, unlike, say, a Hollywood movie.

    Speaking of fake, McQueen’s racing was, like his acting, not an act. According to Wikipedia,

    He began to earn money [in 1952] by competing in weekend motorcycle races at Long Island City Raceway and purchased the first of many motorcycles, a Harley-Davidson. He soon became an excellent racer, and went home each weekend with about $100 in winnings (equivalent to $900 in 2015).

    When he had the opportunity to drive in a movie, he performed many of his own stunts, including some of the car chase in Bullitt and the motorcycle chase in The Great Escape. Although the jump over the fence in The Great Escape was done by Bud Ekins for insurance purposes, McQueen did have considerable screen time riding his 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy motorcycle. It was difficult to find riders as skilled as McQueen. At one point, using editing, McQueen is seen in a German uniform chasing himself on another bike.

    By 1970, McQueen would drive the 12 hour Sebring race, actually finishing second, despite driving with a broken foot. As an interviewee puts it, “it took Mario Andretti and two Ferraris to beat him.”

    “I am a driver, an actor, and a filmmaker”

    McQueen was now perfectly positioned to draw on all three talents to produce a “racing film” that would be the greatest racing film, the greatest documentary, possibly the greatest film, ever made. Le Mans would combine the tycoon of Thomas Crown with the barely scripted hard driving of Bullitt.

    The Guardian, of course, provides a perfect example of how a modern cultural cockroach would view this film and this documentary thereon, as well as McQueen himself:

    A weird mood of solemnity settles like rain on this interesting, odd documentary about the petrol-head Hollywood star Steve McQueen and the film he took on in 1970 at the height of his celebrity prestige. It was to be a big budget movie about the Le Mans 24-hour auto race in which he would be producer-star: he wanted all the real thrills of the sport he loved.

    It was soon horribly clear that this film was something between a vanity project and a midlife crisis. McQueen could never decide on a script or story, and the movie went wildly over budget as McQueen’s team of professional drivers risked their necks shooting hours and hours of ambient race footage.

    Another type of documentary, with a little more ironic detachment, would have played up the hilarious tinseltown nightmare of McQueen’s Le Mans, and been much more candid about him being an egomaniacal pain. But not this film, which has the cooperation of McQueen’s family and so respectfully insists on how poignant and sad it all was. It could be that this documentary defeats your hopes for fun and interest in exactly the same way as the original film — which is, however, still admired in certain quarters for its almost wordless documentary realism. But it’s still an interesting study in how even the biggest movie stars can bump their heads on a career ceiling. Like Brando, McQueen was discontented with pretty-boy fame. He yearned for producer-power and producer-control, but finally had to settle for being the world’s biggest acting star instead.[23]

    I honestly had to take a shower after reading that. My God, it’s all there, isn’t it? Racing fans are morons (“petrol head”). “Another type of documentary” — you know, a clever one — might salvage some “fun” by revealing the naked Emperor for laughs, but this this benighted one takes it all seriously. Oh, my goodness, can you believe it? Of course, I suppose it has its crude fans in “certain quarters,”[24] but you couldn’t pay me to visit those inbred, Bible-thumping shitholes of CIS culture.

    Anyway, back to 1970.

    Le Mans was supposed to be an unprecedented production, both a racing film — no one, all agreed, had really captured the sport on film — and at the same time a storyline of some sort. McQueen would tie the two together, starring in the story and driving in the race.

    Things began to go to Hell almost immediately.

    They began without a screenplay. Not without a completed screenplay — a not at all uncommon occurrence — but no screenplay at all.[25] Le Mans would be a kind of cinematic “nonfiction novel,” with the filmmakers as participants in the events, and the storyline emerging along with the race.[26]

    The first blow was that the insurance chappies refused to let McQueen actually drive.

    Director Sturges continued as he had started, filming everything he in sight, using both the race itself and staged sequences with stunt drivers. But he continued to press McQueen on coming up with a screenplay with a suitably “romantic” storyline, which McQueen refused to countenance.

    Eventually Sturges quit the film — after most his footage prove unusable — with the classic parting remark, “I’m too old and too rich to put up with this shit.”

    Next to go was Trustman. Despite “knowing” McQueen, the trusty screenwriter could not go along with McQueen’s idea of abandoning his macho image and playing a loser. In the doco, Trustman asks plaintively:

    “He wanted to lose, and I don’t know why.”

    We’ll get back to that. McQueen decided to jettison the story altogether, but eventually, the financiers (of course) moved in:

    Cinema Centre considered shutting down the film completely, but eventually struck a deal with Steve in which he gave up his salary, his percentage of profits, and his control of the film, in order to “get it finished.”

    The same old story: the Aryan creates, begins to succeed, and the financiers bring him down and take it over.[27]

    The film got finished 2 months later than planned and 1.5 million over budget. One driver lost a leg during production, and Steve was nearly killed twice.

    After Le Mans was released in the US, Steve went bankrupt, his main Solar partners left the company, and Solar as a ‘real’ production company had folded. Also, his marriage to Neile was collapsing.

    Le Mans did make money (19 million at the Box Office), but Steve never saw a cent of it.[28]

    Le Mans is surprisingly not a disaster itself, although it proved to be a disaster for all involved.[29]

    I’ve frequently suggested that with Grade Z filmmakers like Edward D. Wood, Jr., Coleman Francis, and Merle Gould, the utter lack of conventional “talent” results in a kind of negative capability that allows, in Zen fashion, interesting things to “just happen.” Freed from Hollywood expectations (Sturges: there must be a romance; Trustman: he must be a hero), the films not only evade liberal agendas (Ed Wood, for example, was a pro-family, anti-smut Republican under his angora sweater) but are free to become remarkably accurate time capsules of the period (true cinéma vérité)[30] as well as be open to the arising of archetypal and Traditionalist motifs.[31]

    The lack of a script isn’t B-movie incompetence, blockbuster no-brainer, or art house superciliousness. It allows the film to be a hypnotic meditation on racing, and is appropriate to McQueen’s no talk character. The ending avoids contrived Hollywood schmaltz AND hip nihilism romanticism (unlike Easy Rider, say).[32]

    Some online comments from the review at wonderinthedark [7]:

    This film has fascinated me for years — not just its checkered production history, but its refusal to play it conventional in terms of narrative storytelling. The filmmakers understand that for this kind of film, visual storytelling is of paramount of performance –hence the surprisingly lack of dialogue and, at times, cinéma vérité approach. (JD)

    [Le Mans only has] something resembling a plot. What plot there is is driven, (no pun intended), by the race, & the sketchily drawn characters are in turn driven entirely by the plot, & are never driving it, which is a microcosm of racing & real lit itself. The characters are sketchily drawn on purpose, as they are as incidental to the movie as the plot is, both being the framework to hang the images on that actually drive the movie.

    The time capsule element is built right into the race documentary angle. The saturated color easily evokes the ’70s. The most notable element is the silence — except for the cars, of course. No ever-present Muzak as in today’s public spaces. No iPhones, iPods, etc. Drivers and crews talk directly to each other, over the car noise, no headphones or mikes.

    As for narrative, Le Mans has the thinnest plot thread of any big-budget, supposedly “Hollywood” film I’ve ever encountered.[33] It’s called Le Mans because the race is the major component, one that simply goes on its own for 24 hours. Inserted into this is a woman (whose name I can’t be bothered to recall, so little does it or her matter) whose husband died at Le Mans the year before. McQueen is a driver who cracked up elsewhere, to avoid a hitchhiker in the road. Their eyes meet; they know each other’s backstory.

    He says, “It must have been hard for you.”

    She replies, “At first. But now I’m alright . . . Was it difficult to return to racing?”

    If this was a “Hollywood” film this encounter would lead to a “romantic encounter” as per Sturges’s idea; I’ve seen online reviews that actual say there is one, so great is the Hollywood preconditioning. But McQueen is in charge now, and so it doesn’t. Eventually, near the end, they meet in a trailer, and a typically awkward male/female conversation occurs.[34]

    “When people risk their lives, shouldn’t it be for something important? What’s so important about driving faster than anyone else?”

    “A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing is important to men who do something well . . . When you’re racing, it’s life . . . Anything that happens before and after, it’s just waiting . . .”

    Then McQueen goes out and finishes the race. The end.[35]

    Here’s what I think is happening: the race, of course, is a Circle. The widow is returning to the scene of her husband’s death, McQueen, who unlike her husband crashed without dying, is returning to racing. By connecting with him, if he can finish the race without dying she will have broken the broken the chain of karma that would keep her returning again and again to the race (the circle of samsara). The vicious circle will become a virtuous spiral.[36]

    Meanwhile, McQueen has concocted a brilliant subversion of the Hollywood Hero ending. McQueen’s character, Mike Delaney (oh, yeah, that’s the name, it hardly matters, it’s Steve McQueen!) also evades karma. He has crashed again, become hors de combat before talking to the widow. But the team manager does not trust his teammate to maintain the lead; he sends McQueen back in solely to stymie the Ferrari driven by his longtime rival and enable the other Porsche driver to win;[37] thus he acts without concern for the fruits of action, he “wins” without “winning.”[38]

    Remember when Trustman (what a name!) asked plaintively: “He wanted to lose, and I don’t know why.”

    Well, I’ll suggest that answer to that, or at least, call on Baron Evola to explain. The “differentiated man” (the man who stands out from the mass) that Ride the Tiger is a study of, and a manual for, faces the lack of initiatory tradition in the modern world by structuring his life as a series of tests or challenges, by which he confronts death, symbolic or otherwise, in order to discover and reaffirm (contra Heidegger) his connection to something Transcendent within.

    The valid attitude toward the beyond is the same attitude that I proposed for life in general: that of a transcendental confidence, joined on one side by the “heroic” and “sacrificial” disposition (readiness to actively take oneself beyond oneself), or the other by one’s capacity to dominate his soul, impulses, and imagination: just as one who, in a difficult and risky situation does not lose control of himself, doing lucidly and without hesitation all that can be done . . . the disposition of being ready “to bear lethal blows on ones won being without being destroyed.”[39]

    “The ‘heroic’ and ‘sacrificial’ disposition” would suggest McQueens’ subversion of the “winner” cliché in the climax of Le Mans. “One who, in a difficult and risky situation does not lose control of himself, doing lucidly and without hesitation all that can be done” — would be an excellent description of race driving, filmmaking along the lines of Le Mans, and life itself, lived along the lines of the King of Cool.

    Le Mans manages to be a bravura celebration of technical mastery — of race driving and filmmaking — along the lines suggested by Ernst Jünger; combined with a proud non-mastery, a sovereign contempt, for the niceties of screenwriting and audience-catering to. As commenter “JD” says,

    Y’know, one could argue that in some respects, McQueen is the auteur of this film. It was obviously a passion project for him, one that almost bankrupted him and that refused to compromise on, which resulted in an uncommercial film, but one that his vision represented his vision. He saw a beauty and sense of purity in racing — the whole man and machine thing where you’re not only racing against an opponent(s), but yourself in terms of mental and physical endurance, which I think LE MANS explores in fascinating ways.

    Indeed, McQueen’s whole persona, the “man who didn’t give a shit,” suggests Baron Evola’s description of the true Aryan “race of spirit”:

    It is not said that the realization that something is impermanent is eo ipso a motive for detachment from and renunciation of it. This depends on what we have elsewhere called the “race of the spirit.” . . . Only in those in whom this race [the ‘heroic” or Aryan] survives . . . can it arouse the reaction that follows from “No, I want no more of it,” from “This does not belong to me, I am not this, this is not my self.” The work, then, has one single justification, it must be done, that is to say, for the noble and heroic spirit, there is no alternative. Katam karaniyam, “that which has to be done has been done,” this is the universally recurring formula that refers to Ariya that have destroyed the asava and achieved awakening.[40]

    Speaking of circles and repetitions, this blogger,[41] though writing in somewhat impenetrable Euro-cinema lingo, has uncovered a number of fascinating parallels between Le Mans and our old favorite, Kiss Me Deadly![42] Beginning with the beginning: both movies commence with our protagonist, name Michael (Delaney/Hammer), driving his expensive sports car (Porsche/Jag) at night on a country road, and swerving to avoid a female hitchhiker.

    He even makes this remarkable claim:

    It is, though, the other side of the camera we have to pay some attention to at this stage, because this vehicle has been discreetly outfitted (by somebody) with an unsuspected range of motion, which seals the deal. There was Katzin, and nominal screenwriter, Harry Kleiner — neither being, for all their Ivy League background, a force for the ages. What they did have, however, was an association with Robert Aldrich and a predisposition to attend to dramas where there is someone who must (like Kiss Me Deadly’s Mike Hammer) stand alone, for want of useful encouragement in the workplace and at home.

    The blogger doesn’t spell out this “connection” but apparently [8],

    Harvard-educated director Lee H. Katzin (1935–2002) was a protégé of filmmaker Robert Aldrich. Katzin’s official directorial debut was the Aldrich-produced melodrama Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice (1969); in truth, a year or so earlier he had helmed the disastrous The Phynx, which had an extremely limited release in 1970. His big-budget break came when he replaced John Sturges as director for Le Mans (1971); Katzin’s documentary approach in this film was at odds with his usual self-conscious, gimmicky visual style. The director’s TV credits include “Movie of the Week” fare like Along Came a Spider (1970) and Ordeal (1973), pilot films like Man From Atlantis (1977), and several episodes of the British sci-fi series Space: 1999 (1975–77). In 1988, Katzin directed The World Gone Wild, his first theatrical feature in years.

    That list of credits certainly puts Katzin in the B director league. The pro-McQueen doco presents Katzin as a nobody and never-was, forced on McQueen by the terms of his settlement with Cinema Center but totally dominated by McQueen, (after Katzin called for a second take on his first scene, McQueen told him that “I’ll say when we need a fucking second take”), but the Aldrich connection[43] may have been just the alchemical element McQueen needed to finally produce some kind of script that would synthesize a film out of hours of race footage:

    The scenario McQueen had favored, for all its paucity of this-planet enthusiasms, did relate to the loneliness of a top-flight Grand-Prix celebrity, constantly exposed to nature-inflecting, life-changing motions. So between them, this unholy trinity did something that, if ever known, would break many hearts in the driving fraternity and render Le Mans even less marketable than generally understood. A storm-tossed voyage, no doubt; but notably having had its moment of brief, powerful (though unnoticed) buoyancy.

    I suppose it should come as no surprise, then, that the ridiculously rare and expensive book on the making of Le Mans is called A French Kiss with Death.[44]

    There’s a Blu-Ray of Le Mans that you should buy.[45] The doco is quite good, and you should either buy it or rent it from Amazon or catch it on Showtime currently. It’s masterfully cobbled together from archival footage, including never before heard audio from McQueen, new interviews with survivors, and incredible amounts of film footage shot in, around, and for the production, which had been presumed lost.

    The McQueen audio, which includes many great lines, such as the daydreaming one quoted earlier, seems to have been recorded while the actor was dying prematurely of lung cancer. They are captioned as “Mexico,” and I recall that McQueen, like Steve Jobs much later, was much in the news as a celebrity pursing an “alternative” cancer treatment; in his case, laetrile, a derivative of apricot pits that was banned in the USA but available down south. The filmmakers don’t mention this, but instead insinuate that the disease was caused by the flame-retardant clothing he wore at Sebring and Le Mans. As a reviewer notes [9]:

    One thing I took issue with was a prominently placed assertion that the asbestos caused cancer may have come from the flame proof driving suits. If that were the case, we would have likely seen this as a trend with drivers from that era. This was a sensational and reckless comment which ignored the fact that McQueen was in the Merchant Marine prior to acting and that the ships boilers and piping were wrapped in asbestos. This was the likely source of his issue as there are a number of former sailors and shipyard workers who had suffered from asbestosis.

    I’ve seen this sort of asbestos panic before, from tenants forced to leave all their belongings behind when evacuated from damaged buildings (and subsequently looted) to all these “home improvement” and “flipping” shows, even the restaurant rebuilding ones; asbestos is treated like plutonium, killing on contact rather than needing to build up over the years. This, like the similar panic over “secondhand smoke” (laws in NYC address the issue of smoke penetrating condo walls 80 stories away) seems part of the ongoing infantilization of the public, which I’m sure McQueen would sneer at.[46]

    As would McQueen’s son, Chad, who went along to Le Mans and returns there 40 years later. In between, he followed his father’s racing lead, eventually breaking about every bone in his body, including a vaguely mumbled injury that apparently requires him to wear sunglasses when facing the camera (otherwise being the spitting image of his old man). He provides detail on what it was like to be at Le Mans with your dad driving, and reads pithy excerpts from his father’s documents with gusto, such as this from a preliminary briefing for the cast and crew:

    [Grand Prix] is a prime example of a director playing with himself in public. . . . OK gentlemen, battle stations!

    Less useful are interviews with McQueen’s widow, who (one is tempted to say “of course”) is still around to complain about his infidelity and, no doubt, collect hefty residual checks. She’s also part of a half-hearted attempt by the documentarians to link McQueen’s lofty “don’t give a shit” mentality to the “liberation” movements of the ’60s.[47] Of course, no one could be less of a hippie than McQueen, except perhaps Frank Bullitt’s contemporary San Francisco cop, Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callaghan.[48]

    The most annoying aspect is the captions or subtitles, which are absurdly and unnecessarily small, making them almost unreadable on the small screen, at least for those of us old enough to remember the phenomenon of Steve McQueen.

    One final repetition, uncommented on in the doco or online as far as I can tell: at Sebring, the almost-winning McQueen greets the cheering crowds (his almost-victory and Hollywood fame eclipsing the actual winners) with the fashionable ’60s “peace sign.” At the end of Le Mans, the almost winning Michael/McQueen gives his rival, and the audience, the European “two-finger salute.” Like so many outsider directors, in the final analysis, he really just didn’t care;[49] and we are all the better for it.

    Notes

    [1] See, for example, Jef Costello’s new collection, The Importance of James Bond (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2016).

    [2] In the words of the Buddha, Katam karaniyam, “that which has to be done has been done,” a phrase that will acquire pertinacity here soon.

    [3] Steve McQueen, it’s been said, is the only man who could make wearing a turtleneck look cool; Coburn barely succeeds at that. As for Bond, am I the only one who thinks Daniel Craig, as he emerges from the end of the Casino Royale titles, is channeling McQueen? In fact, according to Wikipedia, “Spy novelist Jeremy Duns revealed that Steve McQueen was considered for the lead role in a film adaptation of The Diamond Smugglers, written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming; McQueen would play John Blaize, a secret agent gone undercover to infiltrate a diamond-smuggling ring in South Africa. There were complications with the project which was eventually shelved, although a 1964 screenplay does exist.”

    [4] McQueen was dyslexic and partially deaf; he alternated between street crime and parental beatings. “McQueen was caught stealing hubcaps by police, who handed him over to his stepfather, who beat him severely, ending the fight by throwing McQueen down a flight of stairs. McQueen looked up at his stepfather and said, ‘You lay your stinkin’ hands on me again and I swear, I’ll kill ya.’”

    [5] “Director Steven Spielberg said McQueen was his first choice for the character of Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. According to Spielberg, in a documentary on the Close Encounters DVD, Spielberg met him at a bar, where McQueen drank beer after beer. Before leaving, McQueen told Spielberg that he could not accept the role because he was unable to cry on cue. Spielberg offered to take the crying scene out of the story, but McQueen demurred, saying that it was the best scene in the script. The role eventually went to Richard Dreyfuss. (Wikipedia).”

    [6] “I’m a nice Jewish boy from Boston.” “‘Thomas Crown Affair’ screenwriter Alan Trustman talks films, working with Steve McQueen” by Mike Jaccarino; NY Daily News, August 28, 2011, here [10].

    [7] As his son, Chad, says later in the documentary, regarding his suborn insistence on making Le Mans his way: “He didn’t give a shit, you know? If there was a fight he wouldn’t turn away.”

    [8] So much for Judaic “method” acting nonsense. Not that he was “ignorant” of the Method. According to Wikipedia, “In 1952, with financial assistance provided by the G.I. Bill, McQueen began studying acting in New York at Sanford Meisner’s Neighborhood Playhouse. Purportedly, the future “King of Cool” delivered his first dialogue on a theatre stage in a 1952 play produced by Yiddish theatre star Molly Picon. McQueen’s character spoke one brief line: “Alts iz farloyrn.” (“All is lost.”). During this time, he also studied acting with Stella Adler.”

    [9] See my review, “Humphrey Bogart: Man Among the Cockroaches,” reprinted in The Homo and the Negro (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).

    [10] Joccarino, op. cit.

    [11] “BULLITT” is a trademark of Warner Bros./Chad & T. McQueen Testament Trust, used here for review purposes only. In other words, “Don’t fuck with Steve McQueen.”

    [12] “[At some point in the ’60s] Penguin began to publish anything, and an orange spine ceased to be an indicator of quality. I’ve yet to establish exactly when the change occurred, but this book provides an upper bound. Simply put, this book has no merit whatsoever. It is just a story; pulp fiction. The characters are not believable, their conversations are inane, it tells us nothing new about the world it describes, and the author has no observations to make on life. There are no lessons here. This book gives the reader nothing but a way to pass some time. It is what Graham Greene would have described as ‘an entertainment’, but even that description would be generous. The book has a single saving grace in that it was the source of the film Bullitt, which is an amazing film, but one in which the plot is very difficult to follow.” A Penguin a Week blog, “Penguin no. 2999: Bullitt (Mute Witness) by Robert L. Pike,” here [11].

    [13] As a minor character recaps his movements in The Dead Talk Back, Crow T. Robot bursts out with “We could use a flashback here, this is a motion picture!” See my “Essential Films … & Others, here [12].

    [14] One might contrast Aryan and Judaic movie styles here.

    [15] Although I have to admit that I can’t claim you can watch it “10 times and still find elements of the story you hadn’t noticed before, which usually provide some crucial insight into understanding the plot,” as I haven’t had the chance to do that.

    [16] Check out the somewhat frighteningly detailed assembly of “Bullitt Locations” here [13].

    [17] As in Play Misty for Me (1971, same year as Le Mans) where Clint plays a hip DJ; a radio DJ, who hopes to break into the big time San Fran market; he also, like Bullitt, has a suitably quiet and in the background girl friend.

    [18] “The famous car chase features a wild drive through several picturesque parts of San Francisco. The chase was filmed in a variety of disparate locations and there is little continuity. It took two weeks to film the chase, not surprising since the locations are spread out over a considerable part of the city. The lack of continuity is due to the logistics of filming in a working city. There are several basic locations from which the film crew operated and many shots were filmed at locations close to these areas. For example San Francisco General Hospital is close to the chase scenes filmed around 20th Street, Kansas Street, and Rhode Island Street, while Russian Hill served as the base for many of the chase scenes, with the Marina District only a short distance away. The chase continues west toward the Golden Gate Bridge on Marina Boulevard. According to several printed sources, the chase was supposed to continue across the Golden Gate Bridge but the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District refused permission since even in 1968 it would have created a traffic nightmare, so the chase picks up again on University Street, which is all the way across the city to the south.” “Bullitt Locations,” ibid.

    [19] “The production company used two Mustangs and two Dodge Chargers to film the chase scenes. The Highland Green Mustangs had 390 cubic inch engines, while the Chargers had 440 cubic inch engines. The Chargers were 4-speeds, as were the Mustangs. The Dodge Charger was driven by Bill Hickman, who also played one of the hitmen in the film. The Winchester shotgun-toting hitman was played by Paul Genge. The Mustangs were driven by Bud Ekins, Carey Loftin, and McQueen. The camera car, built upon a Corvette chassis, was driven by Pat Houstis.” “Bullitt Locations,” ibid. Note that McQueen did (some) of his own driving; he’d do the same in Le Mans.

    [20] “Sadly, this is probably the last of the true racing movies. The world today is impossible to make a movie out of real racing car (every single race car in Le Mans is real: the Porsche 917, the Ferrari 512S, the Lola T70. Driven uses mock CART car based on Indy Light, plus a whole lot of crappy CGI car, Grand Prix uses the F2 car that looks like the F1 at the time. A movie like Le Mans probably will never be made again.” Reviewer at IMDB.

    [21] See “Why I Write,” here and as the Introduction to Trevor Lynch’s White Nationalist Guide to the Movies (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012).

    [22] Le Mans is a blessedly White film, as is appropriate to a film largely made as a documentary. I can’t definitely account for the crowds, but the only black face to appear is an actor, right near the end, playing a reporter; true to both characteristics, he’s an asshat.

    [23] Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, Thursday 19 November 2015, here [14].

    [24] Inhabited by fans like this one: “Steve McQueen, & Le Mans – SCREAMS Alcohol, Tobacco, Drugs, Women, Violence, Man Cave . . . !” (posted at IMDB).

    [25] Take that, you French New Wave pussies!

    [26] Somewhat in the manner of the way Hunter S. Thompson’s coverage of the Mint 400 motorcycle race the next year eventually produced Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. MarkM comments: [7] “I’ve always seen this movie as a sort of fictional documentary, as though the scripted scenes are of course staged & filmed, the feel of it is akin to watching a documentary on the race itself, albeit with fictional protagonists & something resembling a plot.”

    [27] See, for instance, my “This Ain’t Funny — This is Genocide! The Rise & Fall of the National Lampoon,” here [15], and “From Ultrasuede to Limelight: Aryan Entrepreneurs in the Dark Age,” reprinted in Green Nazis in Space! (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).

    [2 [16]8] [16]http://mcqueenonline.com/lemanshv.htm [17]. The doco reveals that McQueen asked Cinema Centre to earmark a share of the profits for the injured driver, Dave Piper, but he never got anything and in fact never knew, until now, of McQueen’s gesture.

    [29] McQueen’s career never really recovered, and he died of lung cancer in 1980. Trustman, for example, says he went from the biggest writer in Hollywood to a complete unknown — “the phone stopped ringing” — after quitting the film. We’ll look at the significance of winning by not winning in a bit.

    [30] As the three homicidal hobos of Red Zone Cuba struggle to raise the top of their stolen convertible, Crow T. Robot exclaims, “Your everyday annoyances should not be filmed!” (MST3k, Episode 619).

    [31] See my essays “Getting Wood: Closely Watching the Cinematic Alchemy of Edward D. Wood, Jr.”, here [18]; “From Bozo to Bertolucci: How Not to Watch the Films of Ed Wood, Jr.”, here [19]; and “Essential Films … & Others,” here [19].

    [32] Even Rocky had to come back and win in Rocky II.

    [33] It’s not intended to be an “experimental” or even “art” film, but as I’m insisting, it subtlely winds up as wildly innovative and unique. I suppose we should be glad that McQueen was restrained enough not to go full Warhol and offer us a 24 hour film.

    [34] “This checkmate has forced him to devise a better response, a response his face and body reveal to be peculiarly agonizing, his being a pronouncedly (and necessarily) laconic take upon dynamics. Barely audible, he takes a stab at conveying the nub of his involvement with fast cars.” Wonderinthedark, op. cit.

    [35] There also an even slimmer subplot of the second driver who’s thinking of retiring, but no one, including McQueen, cares about this plot.

    [36] Needless to say, all this recalls the theme song from The Thomas Crown Affair, “The Windmills of your Mind,” a classic bit of ’60s Euro-Pop that at first may sound like meaningless EuroPop: “Like a circle in a spiral, a wheel within a wheel. Never ending or beginning, on an ever-spinning reel.” The song is by Michel Legrande, who would also score Le Mans, although, like all the others his contributions — merely some atmospheric “cool jazz” that prefigures ambient music — are muted almost to nothing in McQueen’s single-minded pursuit of The Race Itself.

    [37] An interesting combination of such macho clichés as “taking one for the team” and “cock-blocking.”

    [38] “So, you lost. But by admitting you lost, you won. That’s some Zen shit, there.” World’s Dumbest Brawlers 12 (TruTV, 2012).

    [39] Ride the Tiger, p. 221. It’s interesting to imagine Evola as a Gran Prix driver; Ferrari or Porsche, do you think? In his own case, it was “mountain climbing at high altitudes” that allowed him to “seek dangers as a tacit way to put fate to the test.” See his Meditations on the Peaks (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1998) and also his autobiography, The Path of Cinnabar (London: Arktos, 2009), pp. 183–84, where he also discusses the “rumour” that his crippling injury in wartime Vienna was a result of a similar “testing” of fate.

    [40] The Doctrine of Awakening, “The Determination of the Vocations” (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1996), p. 77). It should be noted that of the various psychological types or “races of the spirit” that Evola delineates, McQueen also shades into the “Nietzschean” who embraces impermanence in a spirit of amor fati. Asked by the interviewer “Would you do it all over again” he replies “Absolutely.”

    [41] “‘When people risk their lives, shouldn’t it be for something important?’: STEVE McQUEEN AND LEE KATZIN’S LE MANS; May 15, 2013 by wondersinthedark, here [7].

    [42] See my essay “Mike Hammer, Occult Dick: Kiss Me Deadly as Lovecraftian Tale” in The Eldritch Evola … & Others (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2014).

    [43] In my cited essay, I emphasize the accidental emergence of Traditional themes when directors and screenwriters are not paying attention — i.e., consciously inflicting their liberal/modernist agendas.

    [44] A French Kiss with Death: The Story of Steve McQueen and LeMans by Michael Keyser. From the apocalyptic climax of KMD: Lily Carver: “Kiss me, Mike. I want you to kiss me. Kiss me. The liar’s kiss that says I love you, and means something else.” Cue, like Le Mans, explosion and flames. Neither Mike ever really connects, Hollywood style, with his femme fatale.

    [45] For those who care, here’s a technical review from DVD Verdict: “The sheer joy of watching Le Mans is amped up considerably by the stupendous high definition transfer on this Blu-ray. The 1080p MPEG-4/AVC image offers sharp detail, superb depth, and perfect color reproduction. Print damage is minimal, as is any digital manipulation of the image. Audio is presented in a room-shaking DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround expansion of the original analog monaural track. Dialogue is a bit flat at times, but the sounds of the race are surprisingly full-bodied and dynamic given the limited source. Purists can rest assured that a single-channel DTS-HD Master Audio presentation of the original audio is also available, as well as uncompressed dubs in French, German, and Spanish. In fact, most of the space on Le Mans’ dual-layered platter is consumed by superb audio options. There are also 10 optional subtitle tracks. In addition to the feature, the disc offers a surprisingly substantive retrospective making-of documentary called Filming at Speed: The Making of the Movie Le Mans. The piece is hosted by McQueen’s son, Chad, and includes contributions from Katzin. There’s also a trailer for the movie.”

    [46] No comments are made about David Piper, the stunt driver who lost a leg below the knee, and was known as “the Pirate” due to his ever-present pipe smoking. He looks almost unchanged today, pipe and all.

    [47] The two themes collide when we learn that McQueen was to have attended the Hollywood party that was the target of the Manson Family murders; instead, he met some chick and had better things to do. Interestingly, one of the victims was Jay Sebring.

    [48] Bullitt adds the cool jazz and easy sex of Play Misty for Me to Dirty Harry’s Callaghan. What Tarantino might call “The Jessica Walter Problem” illustrates McQueen’s mantra, both the danger of casual involvement with even the most seemingly accommodating women and the willingness, if pushed, to fucking kill you.

    [49] A trope, coined by MST3k, defined as [20] “A strange combination of the lack of money, time, expertise, enthusiasm, and simple talent sabotages the production. This is when the production values of a work are just so far below what should be expected that you can’t help but figure that They Just Didn’t Care.” For example: “I see the movie has finally thrown up its hands and said, ‘I just don’t know!’”— Tom Servo, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Episode 619, Red Zone Cuba.

     

    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Green Nazis in Space!
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    reynolds.lantern

    [1]6,560 words

    Green Lantern [2]
    (2011); 114 min.
    Director: Martin Campbell
    Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern; Mark Strong as Sinestro; Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond 

    “In brightest day, in blackest night,
    No evil shall escape my sight,
    Let those who worship evil’s might,
    Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.”

    “I pledge allegiance to a lantern, given to me by a dying purple alien.” — Hal Jordan

    Unlike the members of certain perpetually pissed-off racial or ethnic groups, I’ve never been one to whine for reparations on account of being born and raised in the industrial heartland of the USA. Just as iconic Western bad guy Lee Van Cleef observed that “being born with a beady-eyed sneer was the best thing that ever happened to me,” so I have felt that my upbringing in post-War Detroit has endowed me with innumerable — well, ok, lots of — advantages, at least as cultural critic.

    This was not, of course, today’s Detroit, the world capital of Don’t Let This Happen to You, the national punch line and object of ironic hipster “ruin porn.”[1]

    No, this Detroit was the 4th largest city in America, an industrial powerhouse long before the automobile, a city whose Art Deco beauty led to its designation — un-ironic! — as “The Paris of the Midwest”; and once Henry Ford had established the highest wages in the industrial world — 10 times the average! — it was simply the best place in the world for a working man like my father to live — and he didn’t even work for the auto companies!

    Thanks to the unions, the working man didn’t need the government at all — which in America is quite a good thing. No, we had something better — cash money. We didn’t need Obamacare — the unions provided free healthcare, vision and dental included. For everything else there was cash — when my father retired to live the good life in the suburbs, he didn’t need the FHA to buy a house; he didn’t even need GM or Ford for an auto loan; he paid for everything in cash. Cash!

    I had to laugh when, in Goodfellas, Henry Hill explains to his date that he has so much money and pull, despite being a construction worker, because he’s actually “a union delegate.” That was my father — as a union delegate, we routinely vacationed in Nassau, just like James Bond! Except in Detroit, working people didn’t need some dirty foreign criminal gang, we had real jobs![2]

    Don’t believe me? Well, consider tribesman James Kunstler, in his 1993 Geography of Nowhere — the 20th anniversary edition of which is now available as a $3.99 kindle:

    The amount of wealth generated by the car business was stupendous. It flowed to Detroit from all the corners of America. And it showed in the broad boulevards [Paris of the Midwest!] of big, impressive Tudor-style houses, or Mediterranean-style villas with three-car garages . . . Until the 1967 riot, suburbanites still ventured downtown to enjoy the city’s glittering attractions. They saw Broadway-bound musicals at the Fisher Theatre, dined at the London Chop House on Congress Street, danced at the Book-Cadillac Hotel, and at Christmas time they dutifully flocked to Hudson’s, a department store so colossal and posh it made Bloomingdale’s look like a five-and-dime [Loc 3117-20].[3]

    The tribe’s own Bloomingdales, outshone! And the hotels of Detroit! In North by Northwest, Hitchcock establishes “George Kaplan” as pre-Bond spy of the highest standards by having James Mason drone away at a list of his accommodations:

    On August 29, George Kaplan of Boston registered at the Whittier in Dee-troit. At present, you are registered in Room 796 at the Plaza Hotel in New York as Mr. George Kaplan of Dee-troit.

    Today, it sounds like an itinerary for Walter White.

    Or, consider the most recent season of Mad Men, in which we see the normally alpha males of New York come crawling to the palatial setting of GM’s world headquarters — lobby adorned with mint Corvettes — to plead for a chance at the ultimate client — a car company! Finally, the Big Time! (What have we been watching the last 6 years?) Draper and Chaugh put aside a decade-long feud to merge their companies — on the spot! In a hotel bar — the Book-Cadillac? — just to be big enough for GM to notice! And once the five-seasons-long-sought Grail is achieved, we chuckle as the Real Men of Detroit toy with the prissy Mad Men — one crashes his car when he gets in a game of chicken with Chevy execs and then gets shot in the face while deer hunting, another is humiliated by crashing a test car — New Yorkers can’t even drive![4]

    The point is that Detroit was a world of its own; and you, dear Counter-Currents reader, should care because then and there the tsunami of auto-money enabled White, Working Class Americans to build, for the first — and last? — time, a world of their own. The Left talks about Temporary Autonomous Zones, the Right about Whitopias; well, here’s the biggest one in history.

    In particular, White Youth had the leisure and money to do whatever the fuck[5] we wanted to do; dress the way we wanted, grow our hair down to our asses,[6] listen — or rather, make — whatever music we wanted to hear, etc. Like Mad Men’s Chevy execs, we didn’t need New York or Hollywood to give us a daily agenda of consumption.

    Well, I may exaggerate a tad. Nevertheless, there are vast swathes of “American Culture” that I have no memory of, that apparently impinged on my youth not at all.

    Disney, for example. Supposedly, a key icon of “American” culture. Never heard of it. “Children dream of a trip to Disneyland!” What? Where? “Liberal obsession with gun control is caused by a whole generation traumatized by Bambi’s mother.” Never saw it. Remember those rifle-toting Chevy execs? Ever hear of Ted Nugent? He wasn’t the only Detroit musician to wield a firearm or two.

    [3]

    Rob Tyner, MC5. Photo by Leni Sinclair. Interesting hair and fashion choices too.

    Speaking of music, Motown? Never heard it. That was strictly for Da Blecks. Remember, this was a Whitopia; we even had our own White Panther Party![7]

    The Beatles? Hah! Maybe some girls liked them. The “epochal event” of Sgt. Pepper effectively never happened.[8] I first heard one of those “timeless classics” when George Burns sang “With a Little Help from My Friends” on the Ed Sullivan Show.

    George Burns. Let that sink in. No wonder some bored Detroiter started the “Paul is dead” rumor [4]. If we bothered to listen to British music at all, it was strictly the Rolling Stones, the Who (for years they were “only big in the Midwest” until Tommy) and, for some reason, Savoy Brown (who sounded remarkably like James Mason in dedicating an album-side-long blues jam to their fans “in Dee-troit”).

    MacDonald’s? Another childhood-programming corporation I never heard of. Well, I suppose, like Motown, it must have been there, but we didn’t need their corporate crap;[9] then as now, Mickey D’s was for Da Blecks; it’s just that now, everyone’s Bleck.[10]

    And so on.

    The reason for this musing is not just nostalgia but to set up my statement that comic books fall into the same category. Actually, comic books weren’t that big a deal anywhere — despite Boomer and Hipster re-booting of pop culture as comic-centric. But during the few years I paid attention to them, comics were a DC joint, if only by default. I occasionally noticed a Marvel “mag” as they would say, but a quick glance revealed them to be not really the soul-feeding material I was looking for; in fact, they seemed — cover your eyes, fanboys with Stan Lee boy-crushes! — well, creepy and weird; for losers, like Disneyland or the Beatles.[11]

    Today, of course, I recognize what the problem was — they were the second wave of Judaic culture, in which the mask slipped a bit and a little more of the reality was exposed, deliberately or not.[12]

    Yes, of course, I know that comic books per se are a Judaic invention, but the initial, first wave — like Hollywood — was rather sedate, almost entirely Aryan in look and feel (I mean, whatever the “hidden meanings,” come on, Superman?), while Marvel gave off, quite deliberately I gather, an unmistakable whiff of the foetor judaicus.[13]

    That would be all the elements the fanboys love; “conflicted” heroes, moral “ambiguity,” stopped-up kitchen sink “realism,” relentless concentration on “urban” and “only in New York, folks!” settings and “in your face” attitudes, etc. In short, what I’ve called the Cockroach Culture.[14]

    At least I wasn’t scarred for life like this poor contemporary [5] of your author:

    Amazing Spider-Man #5; October 1963. My first Marvel comic ever, bought off the rack when I was six years old. This was the most totally shocking comic I had ever read! Why? As a DC Universe fan, I was shocked to see the heroes in this book constantly fighting with each other. It was so bad I wasn’t even sure who the HEROES were supposed to be.

    “Heroes” constantly fighting each other? Divide and conquer bitchez!

    The book’s star, Spidey, seemed to come off pretty badly almost all the time. He wasn’t famous and respected, like Superman. And the people and heroes in this book didn’t look anything like the people drawn by Curt Swan. They were all weird and . . . Spidery! I didn’t know why at the time, as a kid, but of course now we all know why: STEVE DITKO. Reading this book was like opening the door to another universe: the MARVEL Universe. I was hooked . . .

    Hooked indeed! And “bought off the rack”. . . they weren’t Walt White enough to make the first one free.

    With the triumph of this Judaic element in our culture, it’s no surprise that this fairly straightforward screen adaptation of the Silver Age Good Guy living in Coast City, CA, would be met with howls of execration.

    For example, a blunt judgment from DVD Verdict Jury Room: “Green Lantern or Douchebag in Space [6]“:

    “Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) . . . is probably the worst superhero ever portrayed on screen.”

    Or from Amazon:

    [T]oday’s movie superhero fans expect a guy in a cloak that’s just like you and me without any of the world-spanning baggage. Green Lantern’s guilty of being true to Green Lantern, spandex, mask, ring and all. For those who find it implausible, maybe a superhero powered by a jade-colored light source isn’t for them.

    Indeed. Just like us — a cockroach in a cloak.

    Since no one saw the film, here you go, from our friends at DVD Verdict [7]:

    Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds, Buried [8]) is a cocky test pilot with a troubled past and disdain for authority. His reckless ways in the air land him in trouble with his employers and his on-again-off-again love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively, The Town [9]). That’s the least of his worries, though, after an alien spacecraft crash lands on Earth and its dying pilot, Abin Sur (Temura Morrison, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones [10]) gives him a powerful ring and lantern, telling Hal that he is a Green Lantern.

    What’s a Green Lantern? That’s what Hal learns as he’s whisked off into space, to the planet Oa, where he discovers he’s the newest member of an intergalactic peacekeeping force. There, he meets his trainers, Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech [11]) and Kilowog (Michael Clark Duncan, Daredevil [12]), along with the esteemed Sinestro (Mark Strong, Sherlock Holmes [13]), who has some radical ideas about how the Green Lantern Corps is to be run.[15]

    Back on Earth, quirky scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard, Orphan [14]) becomes infected with a piece of Parallax, the alien who killed Abin Sur. Now, Hector is getting smarter, more grotesque, and more bloodthirsty. In conjunction with this, Parallax itself is headed straight for Earth. Is Hal Jordan’s will strong enough to conquer his fears, save the world, and prove himself worthy of the Green Lantern name?

    I don’t have much memory of Green Lantern, and I gather the film is in fact rather unfaithful in several aspects of the Silver Age version; this Sinestro chap is actually supposed to be a super-villain, not a mentor, and GL actually becomes this Parallax guy, etc., but for the reasons already given, I never read a comic book after about age 12 and never will have the patience to work through the several decades of ret-cons and rebooting that DC has gone through in a fruitless attempt to “marvelize” itself as part of its surrender to the Cockroach Culture.[16] Let’s just take the movie as it is.

    Of course, a lot of that might have been added or explained away if the movie hadn’t bombed and the producers, drunk on visions of another comic book franchise, had had the chance to produce the trilogy that seemed to be their ultimate goal. As it is, it looks like they stirred in plenty of Lord of the Rings stuff for luck. There’s the usual “humans are too dumb/primitive to help.” Oa looks like a Lovecraftian version of Rivendell, while Sinestro seemed to be doing a lot of Hugo Weaving-ing. On the other hand, he even forges another ring to supposedly fight the Bad Guy with his own Evil Power, as Gandalf advised against, though as far as I remember that subplot simply disappeared. If the Council of Elrond was the UN Security Council, the meet-up of all the alien Green Lanterns went one better in size and variety of species, sort of like the General Assembly.[17] Of course, like the UN, bigger does not mean better.[18]

    But really the problem lies with the most basic decision that the producers made: imposing the same old “superhero movie” template on far more interesting material. A reviewer at Amazon is perceptive enough to deserve quoting at some length; after Hal arrives on the aforementioned Oa:

    It’s at this point in the movie where I excitedly awaited for the film to really take off. Until now there had been some exciting action and nice character work. Hal had been firmly established as a screw up, adrift in life, hoping for something bigger, and now that fate has handed him the chance to join the Green Lantern Corps, he presumably has a chance to right his course in life. But in an incredibly contrived moment, he decides that he’s not up to snuff, quits the corps and returns to Earth (although, strangely enough, he is allowed to keep the ring). Instead of the epic space opera I was expecting, the filmmakers decides on something far more quotidian: a superhero movie. The rest of the film goes through the usual superhero motions . . .

    Green Lantern is a decidedly schizophrenic movie. Where the first half of the film provides the perfect set up for the “hero’s journey,” a story about one character being plucked from the mundane world and lifted into an exciting realm of adventure, the second half of the film seems content on playing superhero connect the dots. . . .

    Unlike Batman, Spider-Man, or even Superman, the Green Lantern Corps lends itself to interplanetary superheroics more in the vein of Star Wars and Flash Gordon than Iron Man. But this is also what makes the character exciting. Where we have seen the basic outline of a superhero movie time and again, Green Lantern offers the chance of more science fiction tropes, which could potentially differentiate him from the glut of other superhero movies. Instead of shying away from the imaginatively bizarre, the filmmakers should have embraced the alien aspects of the Green Lantern mythos. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Green Lantern is that it represents a missed opportunity. . . . Trying to make Green Lantern like Iron Man was a grievous error in judgment. I expected more from Martin Campbell.[19]

    This, I think, is why the 2nd half is not only un-involving but wrong-headed. I’m no more interested in “space operatics” than “super-heroics,” but what this reviewer has tumbled on is that the basic Green Lantern story — both how an individual deals with his fate and the creation of an Order of such men — is much more than “the usual superhero motions”: an actual Traditionalist myth – or mythos, for you Lovecraftians.

    While Superman just falls ass over teakettle into superpowers, and Batman struggles to become, really, just a vigilante in need of psychiatric help, the third-string player on DC’s roster is far more interesting: he is offered the chance to re-make himself, become his own creator. It is a hermetic if not heroic quest.[20]

    As IronFanofSteelofThunder (sheesh!) recently noted:

    The difference is this: Green Lantern is the one guy who not only had some really cool powers and adventures thrust upon him, he was required to be actively responsible as well. Superman could’ve just stayed a farmer. Batman could’ve been a normal person and gone through some therapy rather than becoming the world’s finest ninja. Billy Batson could’ve been Batman. Bilbo could’ve stayed in his hole! The difference between Green Lantern and those other guys is they didn’t really have a choice and because his power chose him in spite of him. . . . Green Lantern is kind of a loser, but can conquer his own fears. That’s what makes him a winner. Because he doesn’t really have a choice. I mean . . . he does. But does he?[21]

    Well, it is hard to tell, when it’s a man and his fate. Does he choose it, or does it choose him?[22]

    “The ring choses you.”[23]

    He, like us, doesn’t really have a choice, if he wants to be a real man.

    Jef Costello recently made use of a couple of D. H. Lawrence quotes he picked up from Derek Hawthorne, and I’ll use them here too:

    “It is the desire of the human male to build a world: not ‘to build a world for you, dear’; but to build up out of his own self and his own belief and his own effort something wonderful. Not merely something useful. Something wonderful” (Fantasia of the Unconscious, p. 18).

    And:

    “Primarily and supremely man is always the pioneer of life, adventuring onward into the unknown, alone with his own temerarious, dauntless soul. Woman for him exists only in the twilight, by the camp fire, when day has departed. Evening and the night are hers” (Ibid. p. 109).

    Whereas, of course, the superhero is the far more conventional figure, saving the innocent and winning the girl, living happily ever after.[24]

    This dichotomy, as Lawrence postulates it, is in harmony with the division Baron Evola makes between society, the realm of women and family values, and the State, the realm of war and men.[25]

    In that light, here’s IronFanofSteelofThunder‘s summary of what we’ve been calling the Green Lantern Mythos:

    Fearless adrenaline junkie, Hal Jordan, suddenly has the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, the Green Lantern’s ring, forced upon him. He goes to the home planet of the Green Lantern Corps, Oa, and finds out that he is a member of an exclusive force of super space cops.

    Now, that’s a movie![26]

    I think in general we can say that tempting as it is to see the “superhero” genre, either as comic book or movie, as one of the last locations for manly heroism, represents a corruption — a rendering ineffective — of the Aryan Hermetic Quest; the Hero is constantly expected to put his self-actualizing on hold while saving Untermenschen and pining away for some female. Back to the campfire, in short.

    OK, for now, let’s get back to Green Lantern. The basic idea, here, is that Hal Jordan is chosen by the Ring because he is without fear; actually, because his will is powerful enough to overcome his fear. The Ring then will enable him to fully exteriorize what he wills; this is his only “superpower.”[27]

    The ring that gives Hal his powers, or rather, allows him to wield them, is obviously once again the Hermetic Stone. Apart from its green color, its Luciferian origin in even more obvious than in Psychomania — as the Grail was made from, or held, a green stone that had been mounted on Lucifer’s crown, or his forehead — Shiva’s Third Eye — so this ring falls from the hand of Abin Sur who literally falls from the sky — in his escape pod[28] — after being mortally wounded by Parallax. His vaguely Arabic name jibes with the Arabic origin of this tale,[29] and his Luciferian nature — bearing the Light of the Green Lantern — is rubbed in by his red color. The latter is not exactly a pigment but rather results — an odd fact we learn from the alien autopsy — from his transparent skin, which reveals his musculature. A rather odd evolutionary detour, but it reminds us of how the Realized Man literally reconstructs his body from the inside out, of new, immortal materials, through his realized Will. Not that it helps ol’ Abin Sur . . .

    So man — or at least a man, Hal — receives from Lucifer — the Light Bearer — the tool with which to develop himself and, ultimately, defeat the malign Abrahamic God. That tool, symbolized by the Ring which is charged by the light from the Lamp — is simply this instruction: so strengthen your will so as to be able to create what it wills — become as God.[30]

    As I noted in my review of Psychomania, this notion, though arcane and hermetic, has more than a little in common with our very familiar American school of “New Thought” or “Mind Science.”

    For example, here’s Wallace D. Wattles giving away The Secret in his classic The Science of Getting Rich (an American title if ever there was one):

    There is a thinking stuff from which all things are made, and which, in its original state, permeates, penetrates, and fills the interspaces of the universe.

    A thought, in this Substance, produces the thing that is imaged by the thought.

    Man can form things in his thought, and, by impressing his thought upon formless substance, can cause the thing he thinks about to be created.[31]

    The American proponents of New Thought, such as Wattles –who bore a disconcerting likeness to Percy Kilbride of “Pa Kettle” fame — took their ideas from Emerson, but Emerson was quite clear about taking HIS ideas from Hegel, Plotinus, and ultimately from both Plato and Hinduism.[32] Thus, “New Thought” was “new” only in the American, or Christianized Aryan context; it is, however banalized by New Thought[33] or Green Lantern, the transcendent and primordial Tradition.[34] As such, of course, it is also present in the Abrahamic and Christianized Aryan religion in the occluded form of “original sin” and “Luciferian pride.”[35]

    What’s really missing from the film is the Green Lantern Corps; even the fanboys complained about how totally wasted the whole idea of the Corps is. It is, of course, a Männerbund or rather, its more modern equivalent — a Lodge or Order devoted to preserving Order in the universe.[36]

    The Guardians of the Universe are the immortal founders and leaders of the Green Lantern Corps. Resident on Oa, they resemble a mash-up of those Star Trek aliens with the big foreheads with the creepy pulsating vein and the invaders of Mars Attacks!, although they seem to be true to the comic book original. They are ensconced atop several gigantically tall but narrow pillars, and seem pretty immobile — the heads seem to move now and then, though that could be a CGI mistake — hence the need of the Corps (though if they are masters of will . . .)[37] They are altogether reminiscent of the stones that the motorcycle gang become at the end of Psychomania, although since this is a positive version of the myth it is presumably the immobility of those who have achieved the Center rather than a punishment.

    At the climax of the Oa scenes the Corp sends their ring lights skyward in unison, and the effect is reminiscent of the “Cathedral of Light” at that Nuremberg rally . . . say, wasn’t that movie called Triumph of the Will? And who else had cool rings, too?

    But, as we’ve seen, just when you think it’s going to be a cool movie about Green Nazis imposing their irresistible Wills upon the universe, Hal gets homesick or something and returns to Earth, and the whole thing become just another superhero soap opera.

    From IMDB:

    Superman’s first appearance on Earth in the Donner version had you cheering, as Superman saves our feisty, likable damsel in distress Lois Lane, from a nasty helicopter crash, in front of a diverse social cross section of the good people of Metropolis.

    Green Lantern’s first appearance on Earth leaves you cold, as he saves an already established grease ball politician, from a nasty helicopter crash, in front of a gathering of over-achievers and posh-knobs who frankly you couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about.

    The script had no character development. What seemed to be a story about fear and will power turns out to be about fighting a giant tumor and a giant fart.

    The villains were an insult to both the general public and comic book fans intelligence. When will writers learn that smoke doesn’t work as a villain? First they did this to Galactus in the equally bad Fantastic Four sequel and now to Parallax.

    Did Peter Sarsgaard really think his character could be taken seriously? Not enough with giving one of the most dull performances of all time in the first half of the movie, after he becomes a giant tumor he decides to reach levels of overacting that made him unwatchable.

    Peter Sarsgaard plays Hal’s nerdy failed romantic rival Hector Hammond (Harry Haller? Hermann Hesse? Heinrich Himmler?) as an unlikeable geek and then as essentially a giant, insane tumor.[38]

    Infected by a little bit of Parallax, his color is, like Parallax, yellow; not the true yellow of the Sun, Lion, and indeed, Fearlessness, but its earthly or demonic counterfeit, the yellow of gold, money, filthy lucre. He is, in short — short! — Alberich, especially in his misshapen mutated form. It’s as if we moved from Valhalla to Nibelungland, but never find our way back.

    True to form, just as Alberich “rationalizes” and regiments the Nibelung workers, so Hector devises some kind of serum which, when injected, will produce the same mutation. We see here the typical non-Aryan who thinks that elite status can be achieved by some artificial, mechanical method, without either character development or the proper racial background. “Dress British, think Yiddish” as they used to say on Wall Street.

    Hector’s true status is revealed by his basic goal of stealing Hal’s gal. Although we might think of today’s peddlers of “The Secret” as Reaganite yuppies, the original New Thinkers were resolutely opposed to the Social Darwinist, Robber Barons, and Trusts of their day; several had emerged from the Social Gospel or Christian Socialist movements, though they also abjured equally crude methods such as state control or revolution.

    Instead, they exhorted their readers to “rise from the competitive to the creative plane.”[39] The idea was to have the faith that one could will more, not use the will to take a limited supply from another. To think otherwise was to accept the idea — what we or the Gnostics would recognize as essentially Judaic — that “God has finished his work.”[40] Wallace’s phrase irresistibly brings to mind the Biblical creation story, in which Creation is finished and Man is tasked to sweep up occasionally. But then something green appears . . .

    Hal is thus able to trick the unfit Hector at the climax by offering him the ring (sound familiar?) — Hector thinks he can just take it and redouble his power, but as we know, “The ring chooses you,” Hector’s powers rebound against him and destroy him — just as happens to someone who attempts initiation without the proper qualifications and predisposition.

    Speaking of race — although the movie starts on the right, White note by making Hal a test pilot (a notably White occupation), the later Earth scenes work in all the usual anti-White tropes, from the evil blond Senator/father to the black female scientist; in the climax, Hal needs to rescue both her and a generic sassy black female character; in a more Traditional film, their predicaments would have been played for laughs.[41]

    Apart from the racial undertones of the climactic battle between Hal and Hector, there is one interesting scene when the evil Senator[42] mocks his son, pre-mutant Hector, as a mere thinker and praises Hal as someone who gets out there and does things. Hal, displaying Aryan modesty and loyalty to his friend, points out that what really matters is the ability to do both.

    Plot-wise he’s taking his hopeless and ultimately treacherous friend’s side against his mean father; but actually, if you listen closely and think a bit, he’s enunciating a more nuanced view than either; what our culture must develop are not pale, abstract “thinkers” and rootless, cosmopolitan “critics,” nor dusky savages of mere “action” (most likely under the more or less surreptitious control of the former, of course) but men who can think and then act; the man who can realize his Will.

    Now that would make a great movie! No wonder They didn’t want it made. Who has the Will to make it real?

    “His actions are a reminder of why the ring chose each of us — to overcome fear, and destroy evil wherever it may hide. As Lanterns we must fight with all our will. Our wills have not always been united. It’s time they were.” — Sinestro

    Notes

    1. All this has been documented so well by Paul Kersey, both on his invaluable website Stuff Black People Don’t Like and in his topical collection Escape from Detroit: The Collapse of America’s Black Metropolis.

    2. As Senator Gearey notes in the contemporaneous with Detroit’s prime Godfather Part Two: “I don’t like your kind of people. I don’t like to see you come out to this clean country with your oily hair, dressed up in those silk suits, passing yourselves off as decent Americans. I’ll do business with you, but the fact is that I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself. Yourself and your whole fucking family.” Speaking of “doing business,” there was of course a certain, ah, symbiosis between the unions and the mob; see Danny DeVito’s criminally under-rated and overlooked film Hoffa, set in the Detroit of the 1930s and featuring Jack Nicholson awesome portrayal of the titular figure. Conversely, only self-justifying pity explains Nicholson’s character remarking in The Departed: “Twenty years after an Irishman couldn’t get a job, we had the White House.”

    3. See, most recently, his July 22 “Requiem for Detroit” here [15] and his KunstlerCast #65: Virtual Tour of Detroit [16].

    4. In 1959, retired General Motors President Harlow “Red” Curtice shot and killed retired GM Vice President, Harry Anderson, in a duck-hunting accident, according to AutoNews: “Mad Men’s Auto Characters are fiction but loosely based on reality” here [17].

    5. “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” — Motor City 5.

    6. I address these issue of hair and dress in the context of the history of Aryan youth in “Wild Boys and Hard Men” and “Fashion Tips for the Far From Fashionable Right” in my book The Homo and the Negro.

    7. See Guitar Army: Rock and Revolution with The MC5 and the White Panther Party [18]by John Sinclair [19] and Michael Simmons (2007). The faux-revolutionaries of The Big Chill give themselves away as poseurs by their cringing idolizing of Motown hits; see my review “Of Costner, Corpses and Conception” in The Homo and the Negro.

    8. “To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Sorbonne History and Musicology Professor Olivier Julien and MPG Books assembled a team of 11 university professors from around the world to “examin(e) the album by addressing issues that will contribute to explain its absolutely unique position in the history of recorded popular music.” The scholars were to analyze and discuss “the various aspects that make Sgt. Peppers a groundbreaking album — formal unity, cover design, lyrics, connections with psychedelia and, more generally, with the sociocultural context of the 1960s, influence of non-European music and art music, critical reception, songwriting, production (and) sound engineering.” — Amazon review of Sgt. Pepper and the Beatles (2013) which carries a kindle price-tag of $79.95!

    9. “These guys are gonna BURY you with their corporate CRAAAAP” — MST3K, Episode 821, Time Chasers.

    10. “McDonald’s. Black people. What a combination! Even Daniel Tosh, the popular comedian and host of one of cable’s most popular shows – Tosh.0 [20] – pointed out the hilarity of McDonald’s 365Black campaign in his recent episode celebrating [21] “Black History Month.” — Paul Kersey, The Return of McDonald’s 365Black! Filet-O-Fish Order Gets Violent” here [22].

    11. And not the good kind, like Iggy Pop.

    12. At the same time, a similar process, thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, was unfolding amongst the American Negro, who, no longer expected to “act White” and in fact encouraged to “express himself” was embarking on the slow devolution from Cab Calloway to Fitty; and what you lookin’ at? Correspondingly, the Judaics have become yet more pushy and vulgar, a Third Wave in which schlubby George Costanza is replaced by the in-your-face Sandra Bernhard or Sarah Silverman.

    13. See Jay Geller’s “(G)nos(e)ology: The Cultural Construction of the Other” in People of the Body: Jews and Judaism from an Embodied Perspective edited by Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, who notes that Schopenhauer was “perhaps the most celebrated modern disseminator” of the notion.

    14. The more anodyne way of expressing the DC/Marvel difference, is that DC is “plot driven” while Marvel is “character driven.” This is fine as far as it goes, but every Marvel “hero” is a pathetic loser; every origin story could be summarized this way: “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from unruly dreams, he found himself transformed in his own bed into a monstrous cockroach.”

    15. And who, in addition to playing the chrome-domed villain in every single movie — Kick Ass, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, Green Lantern, John Carter — shares the cutest little snaggle-toothed smile with your humble author.

    16. Or, to some [23], a “rich mythology that has developed around the Emerald Knight over the course of more than seven decades.”

    17. Reviewing Arie Kaplan’s From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books [24] (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008) here [25] on Counter-Currents Ted Sallis notes “The same thing was going on at DC comics. Kaplan writes: ‘And the fact that Broome and Kane were “members of the Tribe” meant that occasional Jewish signifiers filtered into the stories . . . The intergalactic diversity of the Green Lantern Corps is a metaphor for the ethnic diversity Broome wished for all peoples.’ All peoples? Including Israel?”

    18. And it could have been worse; as the aforementioned Geeks of Doom report [23], the original idea was a comedy starring Jack Black. “It’s indicative of Hollywood’s simmering contempt for comic book properties and sadistic desire to milk every last cent they can out of them that they were willing to transform an iconic superhero like the Green Lantern into a one-note comic buffoon in the desperate hope their devious effort would make them a profit.” For a review of the similar attempt to re-boot the Green Hornet as Seth Rosen, see my Counter-Currents review “The Green Cockroach” here [26].

    19. Who directed the rather successful Bond re-boot, Casino Royale, which indeed is more of a “hero’s quest” showing how Bond becomes Bond rather than super-agent heroics.

    20. See my “Evola on Wheels: Psychomania as Hermetic Initiation,” here [27].

    21. “What Makes Green Lantern Great: A comparison with Lord of the Rings, Batman, CAPTAIN MARVEL, and Superman [28]” by IronFanofSteelofThunder; September 10, 2013.

    22. Evola discusses the various theories of pre-natal choice, and their implications, in the discussion of suicide in Ride the Tiger.

    23. Despite several repetitions in appropriately awed tones, I never shook off the feeling that his was from a Yaakov Smirnoff routine: “In America, you choose ring; in Soviet Union, ring chooses you!”

    24. Of course, Christopher Nolan’s Batman series has succeeded, by choice or not, in highlighting hermetic and Traditionalist elements, even questioning the validity of the whole “saving Gotham” motive.

    25. See his Men Among the Ruins.

    26. Paris: “Wealthy, good-looking hedonistic heir to billion dollar multi-national media conglomerate moves to London and spends nights pining away for his college girlfriend — who’s watching that movie?” The Gilmore Girls, “The Long Morrow.”

    27. We see a similar set-up in the equally White movie Dune, where Paul Atreides shows his chosen-ness by conquering fear, although this is only a prelude to his actually transformation through the spice. There’s even a little oath, just like Hal’s:

    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

    28. The Gnostics, some of whom did venerate Lucifer, called their Redeemer “The Alien God.” Alien, that is, from the world created by the false, deluded and deluding god, YHVH, whom they, like Blake, liked to call Nobodaddy or The Exterminator; appropriate names for Parallax. If Sur is Lucifer, then his enemy Parallax is the Abrahamic God, or rather, the false, deluded and deluding YHVH. An amorphous, cloudlike being, like Cthulhu, but animated by a malign intelligence. The Church of the Sub-genius returned the favor by designating its nemesis as “the orbital alien space-god, JHVH-1.

    29. Thus, the desert world of Dune is obviously crypto-Arabic; we note also the Ra’s al Ghul — “Demon’s Head” — in Nolan’s Batman Begins. Since the Templars — who reportedly worshiped a head, Bathomet — presumably Lucifer’s — The Arab has functioned as a symbolic proxy for the Aryan Tradition, perhaps due to it seeming a more manly, thus more Aryan, version of the Abrahamic religion (as Evola thought; see Revolt Against the Modern World); or perhaps “the enemy of my enemy”?

    30. “If one does as God does enough times, one will become as God is.” — Hannibal Lecter, Manhunter.

    31. Tarcher/Penguin 2007; first published 1910; pp. 22–23.

    32. See Anderson and Whitehouse: New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality (2012).

    33. At the beginning of the MST3k version of Devil Doll, the possessed dummy, seated in the back of a London taxi, gloats “I’m driving . . . with my mind!”

    34. See Maya D’Oust and Adam Parfrey, The Secret Source (Feral House, 2009).

    35. See Evola, The Hermetic Tradition, Chapter One.

    36. It’s hard to tell if any of the countless aliens are female, though Tomar-Re seemed androgynous enough to recall one of Michael Manning; see my “The Hermetic Environment and Hermetic Incest: The True Androgyne and the ‘Ambiguous Wisdom of the Female’” here [29].

    37. And why don’t they recognize Parallax’s name in the first place, and . . . It’s just a movie, I should really just relax.

    38. At times I thought I had fallen asleep and woken up to a repeat of Spawn, “in which a vengeful mutant roams the Earth accompanied by an insane farting clown from hell. — “Review [30]: Fascist ‘Starship’ troops lacking in irony” by Paul Tatara November 11, 1997.

    39. Wallace, p. 38.

    40. Wallace, p. 43.

    41. “Feets don’t fail me now” etc. The post-9/11 behavior of the crowds is decidedly odd; when Parallax hovers above the city, blotting out the sky, they just wander about, “Hey, looky there” and all; only when the building start to fall do they reach the level of panic any Tokyo crowd would have exhibited in a classic Godzilla movie right from the start. Poor direction or a comment on our narcotized masses?

    42. Played by an unrecognizable Tim Roth, who seems to be channeling Greg Kinnear’s super-douchebag from Mystery Men, an earlier Judaic belittling of the Hero myth.

     

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  • The Ponderous Weight of the Dark Knight
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    [1]

    Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze in the Fourth Age of the last Batman cycle

    2,792 words

    Reviewers of the new Batman movie on various alt-Right sites have been reasonably led to ask why comic books — excuse me, “graphic novels” — have come to dominate Hollywood. Since both industries were founded by and are dominated by You Know Who, the answer seems easy — ethnic networking — why pay royalties to the goyim?

    There is, as usual, a deeper reason, and, as usual, you’re gonna get it here!

    By deeper I mean this: the ethnic networking is obvious (at least, to those of us who can See); we need to know why it works, why it succeeds, and why so well, and why just now.

    Clearly the real problem is not Them but rather the state of the world — the cosmic cycle — that makes Them able to function with extreme prejudice.

    In some worlds, the cream rises to the top. In other worlds, what rises is the scum. In a material world, the most materialistic prosper. And who is more materialistic, less intellectual or spiritual, than . . . Them?

    Looking for something else, this rather un-typical passage caught my eye in René Guénon’s The Crisis of the Modern World:

    In such a world there is no longer any room for intellectuality or for what is of a purely inward nature, for those are things which can neither be seen nor touched, weighed nor counted; there is only room for outward action in all its forms, including those most completely devoid of meaning. Furthermore it is not surprising that the Anglo-Saxon passion for “sport” gains more and more ground every day; the ideal of the modern world is the “human animal” who has developed his muscular strength to the utmost; its heroes are the athletes, should they even be brutes; it is they who awaken the popular enthusiasm and it is their exploits that command the passionate interest of the crowd; a world in which such things are possible has indeed sunk low and would seem to be nearing its end. (“A Material Civilization” available here [2])

    What does this have to do with the Rise of the Dark Comic?

    We need a still finer grained analysis. The rising tide of scum has not lifted all comics. Superman, above all, is still treated as an impossible figure of fake “nobility” and “goodness,” a sort of lumbering Golem, an embarrassing leftover of the Cold War. We still mock George Reeves’ pot-bellied, baggy suited TV image, and if not for his tragic accident, Christopher Reeve would no doubt have long since entered an Adam West or William Shatner stage of profitable self-mockery, especially after the last, disastrous, self-directed series entry.[1]

    The popular figures, Iron Man, Spider Man, and of course, Batman, are usually distinguished from Superman as being “flawed” or “troubled” — supposedly another sign of Their “psychologizing” influence — but I’d rather focus on the more basic fact: whatever their “problems,” they are, unlike the “invulnerable” Superman, just like you and me — only slightly better.

    On this front, I think it would be useful to compare the two leading movie “franchises”: Batman, and James Bond (also subject to a recent reboot, complete with an ethnic-OK actor).

    During the initial James Bond phenom, Kingsley Amis wrote an excellent study, The James Bond Dossier, a splendid example of the kind of valuable results one can get from paying serious attention to “mere’ pop culture, blurring the line between “fan boy” and “literary critic.”[2]

    Amis makes the valuable point that Bond, like all successful fantasy figures, is never too far from what we can comfortably imagine ourselves to be, especially if we “could only get the right break.”

    Bond, obviously has no “super powers,” other than a certain amount of intelligence, physique, and good, albeit “cruel” good looks. What he accomplishes is due to extensive training, the latest equipment, and a good tailor. All of which is lovingly described as part of Fleming’s characteristic label fetishism, allowing us to imagine our closets and resumes loaded with just the right gear.

    Amis calls attention to a very sly and subtle line in which Bond is described as being, of course, “the best shot in the service” . . . other than his instructor.

    And we could be too, with just a bit of imagination, and a cracking good instructor, and a snooty British armorer to steer us away from buying “a woman’s gun.”

    Before taking on Hugo Drax at cards, Bond bones up on cheating methods — books on card sharping seem to make up the bulk of his small home library[3] — and as for his legendary drinking and smoking, when you add it all up — and Amis, bless him, does just that — it’s not really more than we could do with a little effort, thus earning the comfortable feeling of being a bit of a rogue but without headaches, pink elephants, and emphysema.

    Even so, by Thunderball Bond is so worn out that the service sends him to a health spa! Hard work, but great benefits — a dream job indeed! And of course, while there he engages in what publishers would call “a deadly game of cat and mouse” with an Italian count, and uncovers an anti-NATO plot — just like we would!

    [3]I’m reminded of a more recent phenom, when Madonna was still put forward as some kind of icon of muscular femininity — hard to recall, now that she seems more like your drunk aunt dancing with her dress over her head at the wedding — and defensive women would retort, sure, I could look like that if I had no job, a private, state of the art gym and a staff of personal trainers

    It’s all a question of degree, of course — Peter Parker’s radioactive spider bite is only a little less implausible than Kryptonian birth, while Tony Stark’s Iron Man is Bond finally deciding he’s not going to return the equipment “from the field” and will just keep it, thank you very much, Q.

    But of them all, it’s Bruce Wayne who has it in spades. If we inherited a gazillion dollars, a vast mansion, an industrial concern that manufactures advanced weaponry and armor; oh, and a faithful retainer that just happens to be ex-SAS — essentially, the Old Bond played by David Niven in the first, comedic Casino Royale — then we too could be the Dark Knight.

    As Jack Nicholson’s Joker says, “Where does he get all those wonderful toys!”

    Similarly, the late Paul Fussell [4] points out in his invaluable study Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (New York: Touchstone, 1992) that the popularity of The Official Preppy Handbook (despite the title, another product of Them [5]) was a result of insinuating that a certain level of class, the upper-middle or lower-upper, could be had, or at least simulated, which to the American is just as good, by simply buying the right items, and if the houses and cars were out of reach, you could always buy the shirts and shoes, with the stores and labels conveniently listed, Fleming fashion.

    And thus Ralph Lipshitz of the Bronx was reborn as Ralph Lauren of Southampton.

    [6]

    No surprise when the recent, failed, attempt at a reboot, True Prep: It’s a Whole New Old World (Knopf, 2010), proclaimed the King and Queen of Prep to be . . . Barrack and Michelle Obama. Of course! Fantasy fulfilled! Now Michelle can feel proud to be an American.[4]

    As figures of average man fantasy, it’s no surprise that both Bond and Bats put their lives and even sanity (Bond, for example, becomes obsessed with Blofeld both as a world-conspirator and the killer of Bond’s wife, and eventually winds up with amnesia in a Japanese fishing village, then brainwashed by SMERSH and sent to kill M) in the defense of modern capitalism and democracy, even while openly disdained for their efforts.

    Bond’s Britain, as Amis documents, is the pre-War world of Raffles and Sapper, already disappearing when Fleming was writing, while modern film Bond confronts a female M that regards him as a perhaps useful but still dangerous anachronism.

    Batman opposes the “weaponized Traditionalism” of the League of Shadows, and does so in the name of the most characteristic feature of the Reign of Quantity: democracy, “ a few good people,” and other notions with nothing to recommend them other than the “common sense” idea that more people weigh more, and therefore count for more. I mean, what else could determine policy, or truth? And yet, he is a hunted vigilante, living in exile, the scapegoat of all of Gotham’s problems.

    But these are just the slight inconsistencies of heroic fantasies designed for the unheroic masses of an anti-heroic world.

    But where do Guénon’s remarks about “sport” and “the human animal” come in? I think the popularity of Batman, and what makes him a more modern, popular and relevant figure than even Bond — despite Daniel Craig’s heroic attempts at rebooting the Bond franchise — comes from a related development: the Schwarzenegger factor.

    [7]Alan Helms in Young Man from the Provinces [8], his account of his career as “the most celebrated young man in all of gay New York” in the 1950s, discusses his aversion for exercise and the gym, and notes that in some 3000 years of painting and sculpture of the Ideal Male Form, not once did anyone come up with something looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Until, as Guénon might have added, now.

    [9]We’ve mentioned the laughable figure of Superman, poor George Reeves who had to take his brown costume (picks up better in black and white) home each day to wash and iron, slowly shrinking over the course of filming the series until the sleeves came up to his mid-forearm. “Family Guy” mocks Robert Mitchum as an “out-of-shape in-shape ’50s guy” (easy to do if you’re a cartoon, buddy). Mystery Science Theater chuckles at actors who “look like a 19th century ‘strong man’.”

    Standards, in short, for actors have tightened up, if you will, and imagination — and suspension of disbelief — are apparently too “purely inward,” as Guénon would say, to be operative. Ignoring the lessons of Henry James, we childishly demand “the real thing.”

    Of course, no actor can be “perfect” and, along with the parallel demand for “state of the art” special effects — another rich source of mockery on MST3K — we see the reason for what will be, ultimately, the complete replacement of actors and sets by CGI imagery. And, like Madonna, no one except an unemployed maniac is going to hit the gym to grunt their way to perfect Arnoldhood. (Hmm, actually quite a few around these days . . .)

    What to do in the meantime? Where is the plausible fantasy of the Average Man who worships over-developed brutes but is too lazy to pump iron? Enter the Batman. Or rather, the Bat Suit.

    As the protagonist in Money [10], a mid-’80s novel by Amis’ son Martin, wearily admits, “I need a full-body cap.”

    The post-graphic novel Batman has been played with more or less controversy by a series of rather unprepossessing actors, typical of “modern men” such as Michael Keaton — fresh from success as “Mr. Mom” — or the decidedly wispy, rather metrosexual Val Kilmer and Christian Bale. It’s as if behind the mask of the Dark Knight was — Alan Alda.

    [11]

    Bale’s first costume did not test well with audiences

    Correspondingly, the costume has changed from Adam West’s drab TV-wrestler’s garb to ever more state of the art armor and fake musculature — rather like the mighty American football players with their space-age padding, versus supposedly “girly” soccer players who make do with T-shirts and shorts.

    The more “everyman” inside the suit, the more “superman” the suit itself.

    [12]The exception of course was the Schumacher-directed George Clooney films. Although not spectacularly muscular, Clooney was far too much of an alpha male to “fuel the fantasy,” and while the new bat-and-robin suits were mocked as “homoerotic” the real problem was not that as such, but rather the related notion of calling attention to the body as such, with the suits’ thrusting codpieces, lovingly delineated buttocks, and even sculpted nipples.

    Again, the more powerful the man inside, the less the suit needs to compensate. And that, in case you ever wondered, was why Batgirl’s suit was sans nipple. As Jodie Foster says on the commentary track to Silence of the Lambs, Agent Starling doesn’t need a “woman suit” like Buffalo Bill to be powerful, since she is already a real woman.

    The crowd wants seedy, alcoholic Tony Stark, played by seedy, drug-and-alcohol ravaged Robert Downey, in the Iron Man suit, not lithe, handsome and well-endowed David Bowie in his Goblin King leotard.

    [13]Perhaps to compensate, look, it’s Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, and get a load of that suit!

    And speaking of Arnold‘s suits: the “business suit” was designed with the same purpose: weedy London business men, deprived of the invigorating benefits of outdoor labor, could still project a masculine silhouette. Contra snippy critics of the 80s, the padded, “power suit” was invented in the 1800s, and for men, not women.

    Thus, as Fussell points out, Schwarzenegger looks even more ridiculous in a suit, no matter how “well-tailored.” Even Fussell couldn’t imagine Arnold becoming a governor.[5]

    [14]Conversely, we see, contemporaneous with new Batman films, the suit employed as a weapon in Mad Men. To drive the point home, in an early episode, we see Don Draper serenely glide out of the pot-smoke filled apartment of last night’s bimbo, beatniks and cops grabbing some tenement wall to make way for the Man in the Suit.

    [15]How appropriate then that the League of Shadows should announce itself by attacking a sporting event, and be able to take out Gotham’s “top” officials by blasting them out of their skybox.[6]

    And was there any doubt that the pumped-up, bare-chested Bane would, in the end, be defeated by the Man in the Bat Suit and his wonderful toys.

    Notes

    1. Actually, George Reeves’ decline into drink, drugs, gigolo-ism and a still unexplained death, would seem even more tragic than Reeves, but only interests TV conspiracy cultists. “His life was filled with hard-drinking men, manipulative women, mafiosos and a career that plummeted like a comet.” See Sam Kashner’s Hollywood Kryptonite: The Bulldog, the Lady, and the Death of Superman.

    2. Amis, Kingsley The James Bond Dossier Jonathan Cape, 1965. See the equally loving Wikipedia entry here [16]. ” In one hundred and sixty pages, The James Bond Dossier methodically catalogues and analyses the activities and minutiae of secret agent 007: the number of men he kills, the women he loves, the villains he thwarts, and the essential background of Ian Fleming’s Cold War [17] world of the 1950s. . . . Although written in Amis’s usual, accessible, light-hearted style, The James Bond Dossier is neither patronizing nor ironic — it is a detailed literary criticism of the Ian Fleming canon. In the main, he admires Fleming’s achievement, yet does not withhold criticism where the material proves unsatisfactory or inconsistent. . . . Amis reserves his most serious criticism for what he considered to be academically pretentious rejections of the Bond books, a theme implicitly informing much of the Dossier.”

    3. Like his lumpen-audience, Bond doesn’t fancy books. His fans get the hint: Jack Kennedy established his George W. faux-regular guy cred by letting on that he enjoyed Fleming, and thus brought the Bond boom to the States. Kennedy was the prototype of the type analyzed here: a physical wreck kept together with drugs and braces who promoted an image of “youth” and “vigor” while pursuing disastrous 007-style ventures in Cuba and Vietnam. Don Draper shows his disdain for his snooty French father-in-law by displaying a Bond book on his bedside table, just like Jack showed those Frogs how to do things in Indochina. The season ends with Draper, deserter and fake, having a drink while the jukebox plays “You Only Live Twice.”

    4. Similarly, the Hannibal Lechter saga, post the middle-brow reboot The Silence of the Lambs, postulates a criminal super-genius who dotes on Florence, everyone’s favorite tourist stop, and eventually escapes to become . . . a minor Florentine museum official. Oh, but the shopping! Like any American middle-brow, he seems to spend his time drinking espresso in quaint cafes and communicates with Agent Starling via fancy perfumes from chic boutiques. In the happy ending of TDKR, Bruce Wayne fulfills Lechter’s ultimate fantasy: brunch in Florence with Agent Starling.

    5. Nor his own son, Samuel, becoming a bodybuilder: S. W. Fussell, Muscle: Confessions of an unlikely bodybuilder (New York: Poseidon Press, 1991).

    6. Paul Kersey, who has tirelessly documented the role of pro and college sports in creating an alternate reality of PC-approved “human animals,” observes “There’s a reason Bane started his “revolution” in the movie The Dark Knight Rises at a football game.” Opiate of America — Penn State Edition [18]

    Source: http://jamesjomeara.blogspot.com/ [19]

     

     

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  • “The Name is Crowley . . . Aleister Crowley”: Reflections on Enlightenment & Espionage
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    [1]5,169 words

    Richard B. Spence
    Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult [2]
    Port Townsend, Wash.: Feral House, 2008

    “The great scientists, the artists, the philosophers, the religious leaders — all maniacs. What else but a blind singleness of purpose could have given focus to their purpose? Mania, my dear Mister Bond, is as priceless as genius. Dissipation of energy, fragmentation of vision, loss of momentum, the lack of follow-through — these are the vices of the herd.”

    — The eponymous Dr. No[1]

    Even a successful fraud comes across as strangely pitiful. . . . Like Peter Schlemiel, the liar and phony have no shadow. This means being nowhere. They exist outside the equation of brotherhood. The relief of loving comes hard for them, and the curse of triviality follows them everywhere.

    — Alan Harrington, The Immortalist[2]

    This book proposes that the (in)famous Aleister Crowley, in addition to his well known achievements, both acknowledged — mountaineer, chess master — and disputed — England’s greatest poet,[3] master of the Qabalah[4] — was also , perhaps merely, a British spy.

    I suspect that most readers, either of the general public, or Crowley enthusiasts — will find this book frustrating. The frustration arises from both the subject and its execution.

    To understand the problems with the execution, it’s perhaps best to look at the origin of this book.

    Author Spence is professor and chair of the University of Idaho’s Department of History, and is, I gather, an authority on the history of espionage and counter-espionage, even appearing on the History Channel, no less.[5] Around the turn of the last century he wrote Trust No One: The Secret World of Sidney Reilly,[6] a biography of the crypto-Judaic British “Ace of Spies.”

    In the course of that project, Spence tells us, he began to notice the name of Aleister Crowley cropping up again and again. Intrigued, Spence put together an article on Crowley’s possible connections to British intelligence. And there the matter might have rested, except, it now being the age of the Internet, the article provoked responses, and additional information (or claims to information) from Crowleyites, spy fanatics, and conspiracy theorists from far and wide. Spence continued to follow up these leads, and the result is this book.

    Unfortunately, most of those leads seem to have petered out or not amounted to much “at the end of the day” (as British historians seem to like to say). In particular, the hitherto classified files of both American and British intelligence, despite being opened up on many recent occasions, seem to remain closed when the topic of Crowley comes up, or else yield little of substance.

    It would seem that if Crowley had anything to do with British intelligence, it either amounted to very little beyond some shared information from time to time over several decades,[7] or else was so massive and central that its existence is still being covered up at the highest levels.

    Spence, of course, wants you to believe the latter; his Crowley is the original International Man of Mystery — conniving to embroil the USA in what Yockey called the European Civil War (aka “World War I or “the Great War”[8]) through black propaganda and, ultimately, the sinking of the Lusitania; sundry plots to over-through the Spanish government and derail Irish and Indian independence movements; and even in his drug-addicted dotage, using fake astrology[9] to demoralize Hitler and luring Rudolf Hess to England.

    Alas, the lack of hard evidence leaves Spence with little more than a lot of “could have” and “might be,” rather like an “ancient astronaut” theorist, augmented by a good deal of “did Crowley have a hand in” and “perhaps this was Crowley’s work.” Along the way, one does learn a good deal of actual history, especially about the major intelligence services, and these parts of the book are certainly of interest to the layman.

    The other dissatisfaction I mentioned has to do with the object of the book itself, whether or not Spence succeeds in establishing it. If Crowley was a British spy, how do we reconcile this with our idea of Crowley as, in some sense, and to some extent, a Mage, a Realized Man? Does this diminish him by its mean little triviality — the Great Beast cut down to size and revealed as Col. Blimp? As quoted by Spence:

    “I still think the English pot as black as the German kettle, and I am still willing to die in defense of that pot. Mine is the loyalty of Bill Sykes’ dog . . . the fact that he starves me and beats me doesn’t alter the fact that I am his dog, and I love him.”

    Crowley was a pariah and spiritual rebel, but he also longed for the “regular life of an English Gentleman.”

    Of course, we might wonder how much of a “regular life of an English gentleman” could resemble the life of one of those grubby little men selling secrets in an alley?

    Or, alternatively, does it tarnish his reputation — such as it is — with gross immorality? For leaving aside secret-selling, the “espionage” detailed by Spence is really more a history of what we now call “dirty tricks” and even “state-sponsored terror” or “false flag operations” used to stampede the sheeple into various wars for the benefit of the Deep State.[10] Not so much James Bond as G. Gordon Liddy or even, given his supposed role in the sinking of the Lusitania, Dick Cheney.[11]

    The first question or perhaps just disquietude — the Mage as Jingoist — is perhaps best addressed by stepping back and asking what The Mage is doing in general. Here, I find the work of Colin Wilson to be useful, both generally, and specifically for Crowley; indeed, though this “confession” may make orthodox Thelemites and Crowley groupies cringe, I find Wilson’s account of Crowley to be the best, or at least the most convincing, around.[12]

    Magic (or “magick,” as Crowley would prefer) is, Wilson points out, concerned with bringing about changes in the environment through the action of the will (or the “Will”). Thus, the Mage is concerned first and above all with the training, or strengthening, of the will.[13]

    Why, then, all the fuss about robes and incense, altars, fasting, planetary positions, etc.? Why, in short, all this bother about “magic”?

    Because training the Will is hard,[14] and one needs all the help one can get.[15] He needs, Wilson says, “a whole scaffolding of drama, of conviction, of purpose.” Wilson frequently points out how in ordinary life, a sudden crisis can lead one to concentrate the will, summon up necessary reserves, and achieve almost miraculous feats: “In moments of crisis or excitement, man ‘completes his partial mind,’ and somehow knows in advance that a certain venture will be successful.”

    But to do this systematically, some kind of framework of belief is needed, to serve as a focus of belief and provide confidence in ones actions.[16]

    Crowley, as Wilson points out, is quite clear that the results are not, as Crowley puts it, “apodictically” related to the truth of the framework:

    Magic is to do with a subconscious process, and the actual ceremonies and rituals are not “apodictically related” to it.

    The “results” produced by a religion are not based upon the apodictic truth of its dogmas, but the dogmas are indispensable to the results, and the results are real.[17]

    The question here is familiar to Traditionalists and perhaps “neo-pagans” as well. Guénon was insistent that one must follow a “regular” tradition — speaking in a way that was perhaps itself a product of his Catholic upbringing — and denounced Crowley as a representative of “counter-traditional action” precisely because of his unorthodox and seemingly improvised teachings.

    But what if, as a child of modernity, one does not belong to any particular tradition? On what basis can one “choose” a tradition to belong to, and assuming one can do so in good faith, how does one practice it in good faith while believing, as a Traditionalist, that all the others are equally valid?[18]

    Of course, Crowley and modern “Chaos Magicians” have no such problems, and view themselves as practicing a kind of postmodern magic that is based, in fact, on a radical skepticism about the ultimate truth of any given framework, which may be adopted and discarded for another at . . . will.

    Now I bring all this in because I find it interesting that as soon as Wilson introduces the issue of frameworks and belief, his immediate comparison is to — patriotism:

    When a patriot talks about his country, he does not mean the view out of the bathroom window, although that is certainly a part of his country. In order to get that patriotic glow, he needs to think of the Union Jack or Old Glory, and accompany it with some definite image of green fields of some battlefield of the past.

    I wonder, then, if Crowley’s “patriotism” was not more of the same sort, a framework to help provide support for the Will.

    Bur Crowley did more than contemplate his English garden, or even engage in some trivial, pro forma patriotic acts; he supposedly engaged in several decades of dirty tricks, resulting in the deaths of over a thousand on the Lusitania, and is perhaps somewhat responsible for the deaths of millions in the two “World Wars.” Even the harshest critics of the Great Beast never blamed all that on him!

    So our second question is: can we think of the Mage, the Realized Man, as a Dirty Trickster?

    Uncomfortable as it may be, I think the answer may very well be “Yes.” The Realized Man has by definition passed beyond the “pairs of opposites” and is no more bound by our notions of moral law than JHVH himself.[19] I’ve discussed this many times before when discerning the notion of “passing the buck” — passing on one’s karmic burden to a sucker and transcending the Wheel of Becoming — in various films.[20]

    Spence certainly seems comfortable with the idea; commenting that

    On the contrary, those very qualities (such as his “contempt for the existing order”) helped to qualify him for the job.

    And what is the job?

    Street-level spying anyway, [which] is at best morally suspect.

    He then quotes from a CIA agent’s memoir to illustrate the mind-set:

    “Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the all-highest?”

    But how does this “contempt for the established order” comport with his supposed “my country right or wrong” patriotism? Part of the problem arises from Spence’s systematic confusion of “spy” and “secret agent.”

    Now, Spence may be the authority on the history of espionage, but when it comes to fictional spies — and Crowley may be no more than that — my authority is Kingsley Amis, specifically his James Bond Dossier.[21]

    Amis starts right out by clarifying the difference:

    It’s inaccurate, of course, to describe James Bond as a spy, in the strict sense of one who steals or buys or smuggles the secrets of foreign powers. . . . Bond’s claims to be considered a counter-spy, one who operates against the agents of unfriendly powers, are rather more substantial.[22]

    Bond, then, or at least the American version, would be a “secret agent” working to foil the machinations of a “spy” like Crowley.

    Amis also emphasizes Bond’s simple-hearted patriotism, already somewhat outdated in his mid-’50s to ’60s prime, which is a genuine version of Crowley’s “non-apodictic” sort.

    Moreover, Amis emphasizes that Bond is a “believable fantasy” because he is basically like you and me, only a little better, due to training and experience. He’s not the best shot in the service, has to read up on card tricks, undergoes various kinds of training, doesn’t really drink that much, etc.[23] We can easily imagine ourselves doing the same, if given the chance. He is, in a comparison not made by the Yankee-phobic Amis, Batman, not Superman.

    As for the CIA chap, surely this is not a spy, even, but simply a psychopath; which certainly jibes with the CIA’s record: not very good at intelligence gathering, but great at creating chaos.[24]

    Of course, it’s true that the psychopath seems — misleadingly? — rather like the Realized Man after all; the monsters fought by Will Graham and Clarice Starling seem like Mages who have perhaps, like one of the Bluth family, “made an huge mistake.” Taking hermetic metaphors literally, with egos too strong or, being too weak, needing inflation all the more, Buffalo Bill, The Tooth Fairy, and even Anthony Hopkins’ operatic Hannibal Lecter illustrate the fine line between enlightenment and psychosis.[25]

    But this tells us where we should be looking for our analogue for Crowley; not a secret agent, like Bond, nor even a spy, like Bond’s quotidian enemies, the secret-stealers and diamond smugglers, but the man Fleming conceived of as the anti-Bond, his opposite number in every way: Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

    That Ian Fleming based the first Bond villain — Le Chiffre in Casino Royale[26] and then the ultimate super-villain, Blofeld, on Crowley is fairly well-known.[27] The telling of the tale gives a fairly good example of Spence’s method of building what he admits is a “circumstantial” case.

    When news of the capture of Rudolf Hess began to get about, Crowley dropped a note to Ian Fleming, working in Naval Intelligence, to offer his services in the interrogation; Crowley could locate Fleming, whom he had never met, because Fleming’s boss, Maxwell Knight (the model for Bond’s “M”) had been introduced to Crowley through occult novelist Dennis Wheatley. Higher ups, including Knight, eventually nixed the idea, and Fleming still never met Crowley.

    Spence takes this well-established tale, interesting but ultimately going nowhere, and manages to torture the evidence enough to graft on a new head and tail, as well as some depth. Surely Crowley must have been called in to interrogate Hess; after all, the NID interrogation room was located near Crowley in London.[28] Sure, he was an elderly drug addict by this time, but that just shows he could have brought his long experience with psychotropic drugs to bear on Hess. And speaking of bringing things to bear on Hess, perhaps Crowley had been called in even earlier, to psychically manipulate Hess, perhaps planting suggestions in his dreams?[29] And as for Fleming, well, he must have been Crowley’s control all along. Can you prove it didn’t happen?[30]

    Hess was, supposedly, tricked into flying to Scotland. The Crowley/Scotland connection added another element to Blofeld, which also gets us back to Crowley’s patriotism. A key plot point in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is Blofeld’s mad wish to be recognized as a Scottish aristocrat, a wish shared by Crowley, as Spence narrates:

    Soon after the Golden Dawn meltdown, the Beast retreated to Boleskine, his newly acquired house near Loch Ness. There he played at being a local laird and performed “magicakal” operations to perfect his command of the occult arts.

    This certainly put his supposed “patriotism” in perspective. Although I suppose Scotland is regarded as part of Britain (though not by Sean Connery[31]) the idea of “playing at being a local laird” recalls Wilson’s notion of framework, and suggests that Crowley’s pose as a John Bull-style patriot was, just that, a pose, useful “to perfect his command of the occult arts.”

    Oddly enough, although Spence mentions Fleming, of course, and the Bond connection, Blofeld never once turns up. A suspicious absence, is it not? Because once we consider Crowley as Blofeld, it becomes clear that he could never have been so respectably middle-class as to be a secret agent,[32] nor as low-level as to be a mere spy.

    Whether Spence or anyone else can “prove” Crowley was an agent of the British, he was much more than that: a Realized Man, and so in some sense, already a super-villain. Fleming’s instincts were sounder than Spence’s: Crowley can only be adequately dealt with through fiction.[33]

    Crowleyites need not fear that anything in Secret Agent 666 about either his patriotism or dirty tricks will tarnish the reputation, such as it is, of their hero. But unless the files haven’t been destroyed, and someone someday feels comfortable releasing them, neither Spence nor anyone else will be able to confirm or deny that he was an International Man of Mystery; and I think Crowley would be quite happy about that.

    Notes

    1. For a Hegelian analysis of Dr. No’s speech, see “The Dialectic of Dr. No” by Ian Dunross, here [3]. “For what makes the evil scientist so damn readable is that, despite his fantastical dimension, Fleming went out of his way to make the madman’s propensity for world domination a credible one and to provide him with sufficient reasons for behaving as he does. Indeed, he becomes enthralling in the obligatory doomsday speech, the best delivered by a villain in the entire Bondian canon. At once sinister, histrionical, and with touches of camp, the speech holds intriguing philosophical ideas.”

    2. Frogmore, St. Albans, Herts, UK: Panther, 1969; p. 131. “The most important book of our time” — Gore Vidal.

    3. “It has been remarked a strange coincidence that one small county should have given England her two greatest poets—for one must not forget Shakespeare (1550–1610).” The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, online here [4]. Even more strange that one small street in Alabama should have produced Truman Capote and Harper Lee. See my “To Cut-Up a Mockingbird,” here [5].

    4. “The natural and obvious result of the antagonism of the great Jewish scholars was that, since the authorized guardians neglected this field, all manner of charlatans and dreamers came and treated it as their own property. From the brilliant misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Alphonse Louis Constant, who has won fame under the pseudonym of Eliphas Levi, to the highly coloured humbug of Aleister Crowley and his followers, the most eccentric and fantastic statements have been produced purporting to be legitimate interpretations of Kabbalism. [AUTHOR’S NOTE]: Eliphas Levi is a Judaization of his Christian names Alphonse Louis. No words need be wasted on the subject of Crowley’s “Kabbalistic” writings in his books on what he was pleased to term “Magick,” and in his journal, The Equinox.” — Gershom Scholem: Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken Books, 1961), p. 2; and Note on p. 353.

    5. When I think of Idaho historians, I think of conspiracy researcher Michael A. Hoffman, II (who, according to no less than Robert Anton Wilson, has “the strangest reality tunnel” ever; and when I think of the History Channel, I think of crazy-haired guys talking about what aliens “might” have done; but Spence seems to be rather more conventional.

    6. Post Townsend, Wash.: Feral House, 2002.

    7. I am reminded of how Oliver Stone, at the end of JFK, proudly announces that after Clay Shaw’s death the CIA “admitted he had worked with them” — leaving the viewer to assume this validates Garrison’s whole conspiracy plot — when the “work” actually amounted to Shaw, an international businessman, being asked to provide information from time to time.

    8. Conspiracy theorists like Hoffman might wonder if this is Revelation of the Method by smirking reference to Crowley, “The Great Beast.”

    9. Is there any other kind?

    10. “False flag attacks occur when government engages in covert operations designed to deceive the public in such a way that the operations seem as if they are being carried out by other entities. False flag terrorism is a favorite political tactic used by governments worldwide. They influence elections, guide national and international policy, and are cynically used to formulate propaganda and shape public opinion as nations go to war.” Kurt Nimmo, “A Brief History of False Flag Attacks: Or Why Government Loves State Sponsored Terror,” Infowars.com, August 14, 2012, here [6]; also includes a handy list from the burning of Rome by Nero to Operation Gladio, which designed “to force these people, the Italian public, to turn to the state to ask for greater security. This is the political logic that lies behind all the massacres and the bombings which remain unpunished, because the state cannot convict itself or declare itself responsible for what happened.”

    11. Perhaps this explains the popular meme of portraying the otherwise utterly banal Cheney as a Sith Lord.

    12. See his classic survey, The Occult: A History (New York: Random House, 1971), which has a chapter on Crowley, as well as his Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast (Wellingborough, UK: Aquarian Press, 1980).

    13. “What Crowley realised instinctively was that magic is somehow connected with the human will, with man’s true will, the deep instinctive will. Man is a passive creature because he lives too much in rational consciousness and the trivial worries of everyday.” — Wilson, The Occult.

    14. “It turns out making a movie is really, really hard.” — Joel Hodgson, creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

    15. “Man has become so complicated that he is unaware of the relation between his will-power and the spinning of the top called consciousness, and minor discouragements tend to get so out of proportion that he forgets to whip it.” Wilson, op. cit.

    16. “If an ordinary, rational person tried to perform a magical ceremony, he would be thinking all the time: This is absurd; it cannot work. And it wouldn’t.” Wilson, op. cit.

    17. Wilson, op. cit. I find it interesting that Crowley’s colleague and private secretary, Israel Regardie, called Neville Goddard the “most magical” of the New Thought or Positive Thinkers, and describes Neville’s use of the Bible — interpreted accounting to supposed secret teaching delivered to him by a black African rabbi named “Abdullah” — to not just clothe his message but to engage the emotions of a nominally Christian audience in order to provide them with the confidence and will power to actualize their imaginations. The relevant chapter of his 1947 book is reprinted as the “Introduction” to The Neville Goddard Treasury (New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2015). Also interestingly, Neville asserted that this was in fact the intention of the writers of the Bible, which he insisted was a collection of “psychological teachings” and not in any way, shape or form a “historical” document; thus he was an early proponent of the “Christ Myth” theory, or rather, a bridge to an earlier form of the theory that was temporarily displaced by a resurgence of fundamentalism among so-called Biblical scholars in the mid-century. See my review of Robert H. Price’s The Human Bible here [7].

    18. And what if one believes that ones tradition is no longer traditional (the “sede vacantists [8]” among Catholics, for instance, who are “more Catholic than the Pope”? And on what basis does one reach such a belief? What if one comes to believe, as Evola did, that Catholicism was never a valid Tradition anyway?

    19. This is the Jehovah God whose “ways are not your ways,” and who “rains upon both the good and the bad.” Christianity has introduced an apparently inconsistent Father God who seems bound by a moral law outside himself that requires him to punish mankind for its sins, rather than simply issuing a pardon. Evola, Watts, and others have pointed out this as showing that this god must therefore be a lower, relativized entity than the Absolute, Brahman, the Godhead, etc. How someone could infer this, metaphysically, and yet remain a practicing Christian, at the level of practice, returns us to the previous difficulty.

    20. These film reviews will be reprinted in a collection, Passing the Buck: A Traditionalist Looks at the Movies, forthcoming from Counter-Currents.

    21. London: Jonathan Cape, 1965. As I’ve said before, I regard this as a model for the intense, “deep” study of a pop culture item, although Amis would hardly approve of my own flights of fancy regarding Ed Wood, say. Apart from his literary authority, and a knowledge of James Bond that led him to be asked to write the first post-Fleming thriller, Amis was assisted in the technical details of espionage by his friend, the noted anti-Communist historian Robert Conquest.

    22. Amis, Kingsley, The James Bond Dossier (London: Jonathan Cape, 1965), p. 11

    23. Amis, an epic drinker who, alas, died a painful, lingering, alcohol-related death — no passing the buck for him — minutely investigates this issue; among other things, trying to find out if the famous “Vesper” martini recipe could possibly be drinkable as it’s written (it’s not). See also his three books on drinking, collected as Everyday Drinking (New York: Bloomsbury, 2008); ignore the introduction by the vile Christopher Hitchens and read the review by Roger Scruton in The Guardian, here [9]. “Wine occasionally gets a look in, but it is clear that Kingsley despised the stuff, as representing an alcohol-to-price ratio far below the horizon of a real drinker’s need.”

    24. See Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner (New York: Doubleday, 2007), which lists dozens of world-historic events completely missed by the CIA, which was too busy planning its next coup. The Europeans seem to have a weakness for anarchic comic strip or movie anti-heroes whose antics go far beyond what American audiences would tolerate. Faced with Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik (1968), a kind of Bond/Batman hybrid, in which the titular super-thief merrily machine guns guards and blows up bridges, plunging trains into the sea, Mike and the ‘bots could only wonder at a movie in which “Thousands die to satisfy Diabolik’s girlfriend’s whims” (Episode 1013). The movie does feature Thunderball’s Aldo Celli, who, in the dubbed version used on MST3k (though not the revamped DVD release) delivers the immortal line “Is that Stud . . . coming?”

    25. Jack Crawford: [about the Tooth Fairy] “You feel sorry for him.”

    Will Graham: “. . . My heart bleeds for him, as a child. Someone took a kid and manufactured a monster. At the same time, as an adult, he’s irredeemable. He butchers whole families to pursue trivial fantasies. As an adult, someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks. Does that sound like a contradiction to you, Jack? Does this kind of thinking make you uncomfortable?” Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986). Once more, a contradiction. See my “Thanks for Watching: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 1 [10]” and “Phil & Will: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 2 [11],” all of which should be reprinted in Passing the Buck, op. cit. Although the remake of Red Dragon contains the Blake etching eating that illustrates my point about the misunderstanding of levels and lateralization, as well as Hopkins’ Crowley-like take, I continue to prefer Mann’s version, including Brian Cox’s working class Lecter (named Lektor here, out of Judaic crypsis), for the reasons given in my “Essential Films … & Others,” here [12]; among other things, the way Tom Noonan embodies The Tooth Fairy’s realization that he has indeed “made a huge mistake.”

    26. Thus [13]: “And so Fleming chose Crowley — based on their wartime meetings [untrue, they never met, but Crowley was sufficiently infamous already] — as the model for the first ever Bond villain. Fleming described Le Chiffre as ‘clean shaven, with a complexion very pale or white, fat, slug-like, with sadistic impulses, constantly using a benzedrine inhaler and with an insatiable appetite for women.’ He also had a rather feminine mouth. It is also written that both called people ‘dear boy’, and both, like the crazed Benito Mussolini [?], ‘had the whites of their eyes completely visible around the iris.’” Well, I guess all “fascists” must be “crazed,” but as for the whites of their eyes business, Amis notes that he only met one such person in his life, a local Welsh bureaucrat, but then he hasn’t seen him around for a while . . .

    27. Although, as Spence notes, the details mysteriously disappeared from the American edition of Pearson’s Fleming biography.

    28. Shades of Jim Garrison’s “geographic” theory of guilt: Naval Intelligence, Guy Bannister and Lee Harvey Oswald must have been working together, since they all had offices near one another! See my review of Dave McGowan Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon: Laurel Canyon, Covert Ops & the Dark Heart of the Hippie Dream, here. [14] Crowley, of course, figures on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s.

    29. The aforementioned Neville describes methods to control the future behavior of others through the planting of such suggestions, so I suppose Crowley must have had similar, more sinister methods. “My schooling was devoted almost exclusively to the power of imagination. I sat for hours imagining myself to be other than that which my reason and my senses dictated until the imagined states were vivid as reality — so vivid that passers-by became but a part of my imagination and acted as I would have them. By the power of imagination my fantasy led theirs and dictated tot hem their behavior and the discourse they held together while I was identified with my imagined states.” Out of This World, Chapter 3, “The Power of Imagination” in Goddard, op. cit. Spence is correct to point out as well that this is little different than the methods of “remote viewing” and even “remote influencing” studied by the CIA and others.

    30. Criswell’s evidence is actually much sounder: “My friend, you have seen this incident, based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn’t happen?” Plan 9 From Outer Space (Edward D. Wood, Jr., 1959).

    31. Although Bond is a real Scotsman, with a French mother, Amis suggests that Sean Connery was not entirely suited to the role; he could play an Edinburgh businessman, but never a laird. Ironically, we never got to test this out, since Connery dropped out of the series before OHMSS was filmed; there, Bond –impersonating a Scottish herald to get to Blofeld — is played by George Lazenby, an Australian, who is increasingly seen as being the best Bond after all. Even more ironic, the “new Blofeld” will apparently be [15] Christoph Waltz of Inglourious Basterds, a movie that would have dumbfounded Amis, who observes, à propos Bond’s careful application of violence, that “we would shrink from identifying with a mere terrorist who happens to be killing Nazis.”

    32. Amis suggests “mid-level Civil Servant” as Bond’s correct status, if not title.

    33. What would be interesting would be a comparison of Crowley’s activities and those of Baron Evola. Evola, of course, was also a practicing Mage, whose UR Group was definitely attempting to influence Mussolini, who, in turn, seemed to be terrified of him (despite having those Blofeld-like eyes). He seems to have been something of an Italian patriot, but more interested in guiding the Fascist movement as such, and thus more than willing to switch to the German side when it seemed more fruitful. See those invaluable publications from Arktos, Fascism Viewed from the Right (London: Arktos, 2012) and Notes on the Third Reich (London: Arktos, 2014) as well as Guido Stucco’s discussion of the activities of the UR Group in his Introduction to Evola’s Introduction to Magic: Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2001); for Evola on Crowley, see his essay here [16]. Both Crowley and Evola seem to have wound up as physical wrecks, but Evola already noted in The Hermetic Tradition: Symbols and Teachings of the Royal Art (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1995) that the condition of the Mage in this phenomenal world is often the inverse of his astral state, the triumphs and struggles in the latter resulting in “karmic boomerangs” (as opposed to the “buck passing” I’ve described above). A true “Struggle of the Magicians”!

     

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PJ Media Staff6
PJ Media



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • The 10 Most Remarkable Bond Girls of All Time
    Lifestyle Editor's Note: This article is part of an ongoing series by Walter Hudson exploring the James Bond series. Also check out the previous installments: "The 10 Most Memorable James Bond Henchmen" and "The Top 10 Most Worthy Bond Villains." We recently learned that French actress Léa Seydoux will join Daniel Craig and much of the cast from Skyfall as a femme fatale in the 24th James Bond film. Seydoux played a similar role in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. She joins a sisterhood of glamorous and seductive women who have led Bond astray or succumbed to his charms over five decades of film.When tasked with ranking Bond’s female companions, the criteria I chose were more than just beauty or sex appeal. Every Bond girl has those. These are the women who most impacted the course of the franchise, who marked key moments, set strong precedents, or played a profound role in shaping Bond’s character. Here are the 10 most remarkable Bond girls of all time. var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Die Another Day Movie CLIP - Jinx (2002) HD', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); 10. JinxDie Another Day marked a significant moment in the franchise’s history. The film was released on the 40th anniversary of Dr. No, the first Bond adventure. It was the 20th film in the series. It also served as the swan song for actor Pierce Brosnan, who had successfully reinvigorated the character after the longest lull in the series’ history.Such a moment calls for a Bond girl of remarkable stature, a known quantity whose beauty and talent separate her from the pack of interchangeable consorts. Halle Berry fit the bill, lending the perfect balance of snark and sexy to end the Brosnan era. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/10/10/the-10-most-remarkable-bond-girls-of-all-time/ previous Page 1 of 10 next   ]]>
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  • The Top 10 Most Worthy Bond Villains
    Lifestyle A hero proves only as remarkable as the obstacle he overcomes. The challenge with a character like James Bond is developing adversaries who can conceivably defeat him. If we don’t believe that Bond might fail, or accept a given foe as Bond’s potential match, then his eventual victory falls flat.Over the course of 23 films spanning nearly five decades, Bond has encountered a wide variety of adversaries. Today we focus on the masterminds, the ultimate villains who hatched fiendish plans and expected Mr. Bond to die. A future list will rank the best and worst henchmen of the franchise, many of whom upstage their bosses. For now, here are the top 10 most worthy James Bond villains. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/9/1/top-10-most-worthy-bond-villains/ previous Page 1 of 11 next   ]]>
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  • Why 'Spectre' Gets a 'B'
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Klavan On The Culture var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'SPECTRE - Final Trailer (Official)', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); In the new James Bond film Spectre, 007 is given the mission of rescuing Hollywood from a month of dismal box office. At that, he succeeds. As an entry in the long-running franchise, however, the movie is only so-so. There are good action set pieces and interesting moments throughout, but they don't come together to form a coherent whole. The third act makes no sense whatsoever. And, in keeping with his statements about how sick he is of the role, Daniel Craig — who did a spectacular job in the last good Bond film, Casino Royale — seems to play each scene here as if he's wondering what's for dinner.But more than that, as with last summer's Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation (a much better movie) -- and with the last three Star Wars flicks (much worse), Spectre suffers as a result of the deterioration of American values since the original source material was made.The Bond of Dr. No, like the Ethan Hunt of the original MI TV series, like the Luke Skywalker of the first Star Wars trilogy, knew what he was fighting for and what he was fighting against. The story — all those stories — took place with the presence of the Soviet Union and Red China in every viewer's mind. We knew they were slave states who wished to impose their brand of slavery — called communism then, progressivism now — on the entire world. We knew we needed brave men and strong ideas to defeat them.Where oh where could we find such villains today? Who holds to a slave philosophy now? Who wants to impose that philosophy on the rest of us? Why are they evil? Why should we oppose them? class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/andrewklavan/2015/11/10/why-spectre-gets-a-b/ previous Page 1 of 2 next   ]]>
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  • 10 Tinseltown Turkeys That Make Real Men Choke
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lifestyle var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'plan 9 from outer space (trailer)', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); Sometimes Hollywood serves up some pretty indigestible fare. Some films, such as Howard the Duck (1986), are impossible to swallow—so terrible they become synonymous with “bad cinema.” (Who can forget Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoon depicting "Hell's Video Store," its shelves stocked solely with copies of Ishtar (1987)?)But not every bomb reaches such heights of notoriety.  Here’s a list of movies that are every bit as bad—and leave “real men” with extra heartburn. They degrade the genres that “real men” love best.10. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)All right, this utterly dreadful sci-fi schlock is, admittedly, no stranger to lists of worst movies ever. And justifiably so. Written, directed and produced by the world's least talented filmmaker, Edward D. Wood, it’s a bijou of awfulness. What twists the knife in this celluloid sacrilege is the sight of Bela Lugosi, one of Hollywood's greatest horror stars, shambling through what was to be his last appearance on the silver screen. Rather than try to sit through this sad excuse for a film, better to watch Tim Burton's engaging biopic Ed Wood (1994), which tells the story behind the movie. class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/11/27/10-tinseltown-turkeys-that-make-real-men-choke/ previous Page 1 of 10 next   ]]>
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  • 5 of the Greatest Car Movies
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Lifestyle Fast and the Furious 6 just came out — and, according to the Wall Street Journal, it made a “record holiday haul” with $316m in sales.  Part six of the series broke all prior Memorial Day weekend box-office records. I applaud Fast and its success — especially since it revolves around a topic that some people, WSJ included, consider a “niche topic,” and not necessarily interesting to a large swath of the population. I disagree. I like to believe that Americans are still car-lovers and that automotive movies are not “niche topics.” For starters, look at the box-office record for Memorial Day that a car moviejust shattered and, second, take a peek at some of our favorites from the silver screen.  Many of the “classics” involve cars. Still a niche topic? Here are some of the best car movies out there, proving the critics wrong.Note: they are in no particular order and I didn't put anything on the list that I had not seen -- even if I knew it was a classic.  Add your favorites if they were not included. We all love a good car movie on a Sunday night. var dataLayer = window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; dataLayer.push({ 'videoName': 'Fast & Furious 6 Official Trailer #1 (2013) - Vin Diesel Movie HD', 'videoType': 'Curated' }); class="pages"> https://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/5/31/5-of-the-greatest-car-movies/ previous Page 1 of 4 next   ]]>
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Society Reviews1
Society Reviews



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  • The Foreigner Review
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    The Foreigner is a smart and entertaining foreign film that doesn’t feel all that foreign. The veteran acting of Chan and Brosnan carries the film’s dialogue, emotion, and action. I doubt this film will be successful enough to grant a sequel, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a part 2 if it came.

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The Federalist Staff5
The Federalist



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  • An Inquiry Into The Future Of James Bond, The Greatest Action Hero Of All Time
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Like most men of my generation, I was an enormous Star Wars fan as a kid. And, like many boys, I spent the bleak, sequel-less years watching any science fiction movie I could find to chase that high. Sometimes it worked out (Blade Runner, Flash Gordon) and other times it was a catastrophe (Krull, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone). But I saw them all. When I was around nine, though, I came across a compelling, full-page ad in the newspaper, featuring a man with a laser gun, some kind of space battle in the background, and a quartet of alluring women posing around him. Needless to say, it looked promising. Though, judging from the outfits, I suspected these characters would be less virtuous than, say, a Princess Leia. So I did what any boy who wants to do something he shouldn’t be doing does: I begged my grandparents to take me to see it. They did. The film (and I’m pushing it with the word film) was Moonraker. I found the story of a English playboy and the gigantic silver-toothed mute who chases him around the world to be mildly entertaining—though it did take around an hour-and-a-half before Bond even got near a spaceship. But it wasn’t until a few years later, wiser, older and more curious, that I ran across the same actor playing the same character in a far better movie. The Spy Who Loved Me was funny, action-packed, and it had Barbara Bach surrendering to Roger Moore’s advances. After it was over, the station ran another movie, with another guy playing that same character and soon everything in the world made sense. After a quick pre-Internet investigation, Goldfinger led to Live Or Let Die led to The Man With The Golden Gun led to From Russian With Love, and so on. With my video-club membership in hand, my obsession grew. I managed to track all of them down. All of them. I sat through On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (in which George Lazenby’s Bond gets married, wears a kilt, fights Telly Savalas, and does an admirable job filling in for Sean Connery, who abandoned both queen and country to wrangle more money of the studio.) I even sort of enjoyed Connery’s James Bond-ish Never Say Never Again. Then I began reading all of the Ian Fleming books, and as many Bond books as I could find— including, at some point, the one written by Kingsley Amis. Casino Royale with David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen (as Jimmy Bond)? Yeah, I saw it. And I’d probably see it again. Bond gave me the high George Lucas never could. My adoration, though, began to fade as the decade wore on. Octopussy shook my confidence, and yes, A View To A Kill  personally offended me. But it was the dream-killer, Timothy Dalton, who put me out of my misery. Not even Pierce Brosnan’s workmanlike performances could pull me back in after sitting through A License To Kill. Maybe it was the perfunctory scripts. Maybe Bond was lost without the Cold War? Maybe it was bland villains? (The fifth columnist North Korean with a face transplant? Or the Russian general teaming up with heavies from some unknown Central European Slavic nation —what seemed like a mandatory storyline during the ’90s.) Whatever it was, it was bland. It was Daniel Craig who saved the franchise from decades of mediocratic acting and shiftless storytelling. Yes, Casino Royale is the finest Bond movie ever produced. Craig, the best Bond. I’m typically a traditionalist on these sorts of cultural matters, but Craig is the most aligned with Ian Fleming’s vision. He modernized and reinvented the character while strengthening its conventions at the same time (we see the franchise explicitly embrace this reality at the end of Skyfall). He offered a darker, harder, and more complicated persona, and shed the earnestness and schlockiness that had plagued the series. Despite a slight hiccup with (the not-great but underrated) Quantum of Solace, I was fully invested. And Spectre? I am going to watch the hell out of this: I only mention this personal history, which I assume other men my age share in some way, to stress how culturally important James Bond is. And, even more urgently, to stress how imperative it is to find an actor who can properly handle the job. For us. And for our children. This is because Craig recently told Esquire that he was unsure whether he would film another 007 movie, but if pushed to make a decision today he would probably leave the franchise. And so we again find ourselves at a crossroads of cultural history. My first thought was that perhaps Craig should go. Most Bonds, after all, hang around too long (see Connery’s paunchy turn in his first-last Bond film, Diamond are Forever). If he left now, Craig will be the only Bond to exit without being overmatched by the character. He’d be the only one to leave the series in better shape than he found it. This franchise, like any other, is driven by the quality of scripts and directors (and Sam Mendes, who’s been great, is also leaving the series), but few pivot so intimately on the charisma of leading actor. So what makes a Bond work? We must use the past as a guide. So I have correctly ranked all Bonds in order of effectiveness: Daniel Craig Sean Connery (including Diamonds Are Forever but excluding Never Say Never) Roger Moore (up until For Your Eyes Only) Pierce Brosnan George Lazenby The guy who played James Bond on TV in 1954 Roger Moore (post For Your Eyes Only) Actors who turned down the opportunity to play Bond (this supposedly includes Richard Burton, James Mason, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Liam Neeson, and many others.) Actors who auditioned to play James Bond that we’ve never heard of Timothy Dalton Even as I ponder this authoritative list, I do wonder if there should be any rigid criteria in judging a future Bond. In reality, Brosnan, despite his ho-hum movies, was probably better suited to be Bond than Roger Moore. Moore was all the things Bond should not be, according to Fleming: Too dapper. Too goofy. Too bland. Too dumb. Still, it sort of worked … sometimes. Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few obvious rules Sony should follow to make Bond plausible: If, for instance, if you feel like you could probably manhandle the actor, he can’t be Bond. So no Orlando Bloom. If an actor is prettier than your first girlfriend, he can’t be Bond. So no Henry Cavill. I guess you know him when you see him. Bond displays all tendencies you wish you could, but probably don’t. He’s dangerous, but only with the right people. He’s patriotic, but not a dupe. He’s got taste, but he’s never trendy. He’s good-looking, but in that unconventional way. He’s cerebral, but also carnal. He’s exceedingly confident, but “… by the cut of your suit, you went to Oxford or wherever. Naturally you think human beings dress like that. But you wear it with such disdain, my guess is you didn’t come from money, and your school friends never let you forget it,” as Vesper Lynd once remarked. There are plenty of great choices. Variety reports that BoyleSports, an online bookie, has Tom Hardy as the leading contender to take on Bond. He’s now a 4/1 favorite. Last week, another booking firm with absolutely no inside knowledge about this thing claimed that the Homeland guy, Damian Lewis (who is also English, by the way, like seemingly every actor playing an American on TV today), was the favorite to take over the Bond franchise. Lewis went from a 25/1 to 3/1 odds recently. Idris Elba is at 5/2. Hardy at 4/1. Henry Cavill 5/1. Michael Fassbender 7/1. There is no reason Tom Hardy shouldn’t play James Bond. There is no better actor working today. When you say a person can carry a movie by himself, you mean it literally with Hardy. Just watch Bronson or Locke. He’s got a bit of that sociopathic vibe (see “Peaky Blinders”) that Bond probably needs to get the job done. That’s not to say someone like Elba wouldn’t make a great Bond. I’ve never seen him not be great. Sony executives have discussed casting him. The author of the latest James Bond book seems to think Elba is too “street.”  I’d say Anthony Horowitz was hinting that Elba was black (as many have claimed in the media) but he suggested another black actor named Adrian Lester, which tells me he shouldn’t be writing a Bond novel to begin with. Then again, Roger Moore once said Elba shouldn’t play James Bond because the spy needs to be “English-English.”  Elba was born in London. We’ve had Scottish Bond. An Irish Bond. An Australian Bond. So in that case “English-English” does probably mean black. Now, I have my own ideas. Damian Lewis is intriguing prospect, but probably missing the grit it takes. Fasssbender is Fasssbender. He’d be great. David Oyelowo is a talent (the Fleming estate hired him to voice its new 007 novel). Dougray Scott (reportedly in contention when Daniel Craig won the role) is intriguing. As is The Wire’s Dominic West. One of my favorites is Tom Hiddleston—who admittedly slouches a bit towards the foppish. Though I possess as much inside knowledge of who is in the running for Bond as these bookies, which is to say none, using my own unscientific criteria that I often ignore, I’ve come up with a wish list: 1. Tom Hardy 2. Idris Elba 3. Tom Hiddleston 4. Michael Fasssbender 5. Dominic West 6. Unknown 7. Dougray Scott 8. Damian Lewis 9. David Oyelowo 150. Timothy Dalton 151. Henry Cavill It might turn out to bena relatively unknown, and that would be fine, too, if that makes the role work. But please don’t ruin it again. We’ve invested so much and come so far. If you think you have better ideas, send them to [email protected]/* ...
    (Review Source)
  • Why Is Daniel Craig's James Bond So Sexless?
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    This week, James Bond 24, “Spectre,” finally comes out in the United States, marking the fourth film in Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond 007. One of the Bond series’ most interesting aspects is how each movie and each Bond responds to culture at large. Sean Connery’s movies established the classic formula: gun barrel, pre-credits sequence, theme song and credits, Bond receives a mission, and the plot begins in earnest. In them, Bond usually ends the film with the Bond girl, and more often than not they’re in some odd location (rafts are particularly popular in the Connery movies). Given this, what Craig’s Bond has kept and what it’s changed is particularly telling of social attitudes today. This shows up especially in the “vices” Bond partakes of—drinking, gambling, smoking, violence, and sex. Timothy Dalton was the last Bond to smoke cigarettes. Brosnan was allowed one cigar in “Die Another Day,” and in “Tomorrow Never Dies” he even does the public service of reminding the audience that smoking is a filthy habit—as he decks a guy in the face. Bond’s gambling used to consist of games like chemen de fer, but Craig’s Bond is playing Texas Hold ‘Em. That switch purposefully dumbs down the “action” because of what movie producers assume of today’s audience intelligence. Bond’s drinking, on the other hand, has actually gone up. Craig’s Bond is a lush compared to previous ones, and it fits our society, where most places have banned smoking but excess drinking is a staple. From Sexy to Stale The most important thing to look at, though, is sex and its treatment in the Bond series. The old Bonds would be with something like four or five women per movie. There was a brief downturn with Dalton’s Bond being practically a one-woman man in each of his movies. To be fair, that was a response to the AIDS epidemic. (Re-watch “Living Daylights” and think about how Bond has to kill the bad guy to get out of “the friend zone.”) When Brosnan took over the role, Bond’s womanizing went right back up. “Goldeneye” starts with 007 seducing MI6’s human resources girl after a car chase with a bottle of Bollinger that he keeps chilled in the car! In “Tomorrow Never Dies,” he handles exposition while brushing up on “a little Danish.” The Craig movies, on the other hand, have been sexless. They’re downright chaste compared to these modern Bonds—the old ones were practically pornographic. We’re Scared of Heterosexuals This didn’t come from a vacuum. After “Die Another Day,” producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson must have realized that we don’t do sex in movies anymore. We’re afraid to approach anything that looks like heterosexual relationships in the modern blockbuster. ‘Skyfall’s’ Bond girl is, for all intents and purposes, M. Think about all the superhero movies plaguing the box office. None of them have anything approaching an adult relationship. For all of Black Widow and the Hulk’s hand-wringing about being monsters, they’re never even as convincing as Bond and Tiffany Case (Jill St. John in “Diamonds Are Forever”). “Casino Royale,” to its credit, includes a well-established relationship between Bond and Vesper, but in “Quantum” and “Skyfall” there’s nothing, to the point that “Skyfall’s” Bond girl is, for all intents and purposes, M. Take a look at the opening title sequences for Craig’s movies compared to any previous Bond film. For 21 films, the title sequences were women dancing in silhouette, usually with guns (on Blu-ray they’re less silhouettes and more just nude). By today’s standards those sequences would likely net an R rating. Stop Being Bond For all the progressive sex-positive, do what you want talk out there, movies seem to be downright scared to show anything related to sex. When that attitude comes to Bond, you know it’s taken hold. When added to Bond needing to have someone “in his ear” all the time in “Skyfall,” the general removal of sex and loss of any “sophisticated” vices has taken a character that stood as an intense representation of masculinity and turned him into a unrefined brute, one that must be looked upon as a relic, told what to do by his superiors, and above all kept away from the women. With “Spectre’s” U.S. release, it will be interesting to see if this Bond film marks a return to form for the series, or if it continues to move down the line of taking one of the most distinctive, long-running franchises in movie history and watering it down until it’s but a weak, drunken shadow of its former self. ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)
  • A Woman's Guide To The 15 Best (And 5 Worst!) James Bond Girls
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    A Woman’s Guide To The 15 Best (And 5 Worst!) James Bond Girls November 6, 2015 By Mollie Hemingway Spectre, the new James Bond film, is finally out and to mixed reviews. What better time to reflect on the best and worst Bond girls the franchise has ever seen? Bond has changed over the years from a serial seducer of women to a more progressive, if sexually more boring, spy who you wouldn’t be entirely surprised to find out was questioning his sexuality. As Bond has changed, so have the women. But the best Bond women — sometimes villains, sometimes victims, sometimes both — are gorgeous in a swimming suit, tough but vulnerable, and very smart. The worst are gorgeous in a swimming suit, which is not nothing! Here’s a completely arbitrary list of one woman’s favorite and least favorite Bond girls. Feel free to add yours or take issue with my assessment in the comments. Worst: Dr. Christmas Jones The Film: The World Is Not Enough (1999)Played By: Denise RichardsWhy?: “Christmas comes only once a year.” I’m a fan of Richards, whose cinematic achievements include the role of White She Devil in Undercover Brother, the most important film of 2002. Her assets are ample, and there is something charming about her acting limitations. But wow is this bad. Richards plays a brilliant nuclear scientist who wears very little clothing and is named Christmas Jones for the sole reason that the writers wanted to make the joke above. Even for Bond puns, this one’s a croaker. And unfortunately Richards doesn’t hold her own in this very important role. You can watch the worst Christmas puns here. Weakest: Stacey Sutton The Film: A View To A Kill (1985)Played By: Tanya RobertsWhy?: Critics hated this movie. It was more product placement than plot, and Roger Moore was simply too old to play the part. But it had a lot going for it — great song, Christopher Walken as the villain, the amazing Grace Jones doing her thing. But wow was Roberts a weak Bond girl. She said recently that she believed the movie had cursed her from getting subsequent roles. In fact, it may just have been her acting that limited her future prospects. Most Lackluster Character: Solitaire The Film: Live And Let Die (1973)Played By: Jane SeymourWhy?: Seymour is a beautiful woman. Her character was kind of meh and unmemorable. Least Present: Paris Carver The Film: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)Played By: Teri HatcherWhy?: Hatcher reportedly only took the part to fulfill her husband’s desire to be married to a Bond girl. But even so, her inability to embrace her character was notable. She was also pregnant during filming, so maybe a case of morning sickness kept her from really throwing herself into the subtle and complex character that Bond girls are known for. Most Disappointing: Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson The Film: Die Another Day (2002)Played By: Halle BerryWhy?: No snag. Berry is a gorgeous woman. And her homage to Ursula Andress is great. She played the Bond girl role right after winning an Oscar, making her easily one of the most high-profile Bond girls in history. Which is why her actual role was disappointing. The entire movie was weak, and while her orange bikini is one for the ages, it did a better job of acting than she did. Berry’s character didn’t actually contribute much to the movie’s plot, and she didn’t really seem convincingly interested in Bond or vice versa. OK, now let’s move on to the best Bond girls. #15: Lucia Sciarra The Film: Spectre (2015)Played By: Monica BellucciWhy?: OK, so maybe she won’t deserve to be on this list, but Bellucci is an intriguing choice for Bond girl. She has a powerful screen presence, and at age 50, she’s the oldest Bond girl woman yet. She’s so sexy that she might even reinvigorate Bond’s lagging libido. #14: Mary Goodnight The Film: The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)Played By: Britt EklandWhy?: I have such a strong dislike for the ditzy, pining Bond girl. The one exception is Ekland, who embraces the role and makes it sympathetic and more complex than most others. #13: Tiffany Case The Film: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)Played By: Jill St. JohnWhy?: St. John plays the rival of Plenty O’Toole for Bond’s affections. She wins, in no small part thanks to O’Toole ending up underwater in a pool. Kind of ditzy, but more naive, and very funny for a Bond girl. #12: Andrea Anders/Octopussy The Films: The Man With The Golden Gun (1974) and Octopussy (1983)Played By: Maud AdamsWhy?: Such a good Bond girl, Adams came back for a second round. Her role as Miss Anders is oddly compelling, playing a woman who is in a bad situation and both scared and desperate to get out of it. She is calm and determined, even if she ends up dead. In Octopussy she is less compelling, beginning as a villain (but not much of one) before coming to the good side. #11: Lupe Lamora The Film: License to Kill (1989)Played By: Talisa SotoWhy?: On the strength of her kiss with Bond alone. #10: Pussy Galore The Film: Goldfinger (1964)Played By: Honor BlackmonWhy?: Everything: the name, the fashion, the ridiculous career (leader of a flying circus), the villainy, the humor, and that she is an alluring sex object and five years older than Connery. #9: Jill Masterson The Film: Goldfinger (1964)Played By: Shirley EatonWhy?: Yes, this movie was swimming in good Bond girls. Intelligent and kind, she’s first seen helping Goldfinger cheat at card games. After she betrays him and ends up in bed with Bond, she’s killed in most dramatic fashion (see above!). #8: May Day The Film: A View To A Kill (1985)Played By: Grace JonesWhy?: Everyone hates this film, but I kind of love it because of Jones — one of the most compelling performers around. Even though the movie didn’t do much with her, it did enough. A vicious villain, she is one of the few women convincingly cast as physically dangerous. Her sexual confidence oozes everywhere and is impossible to ignore. She’s tremendously underrated and if you missed this recent New York Times profile, be sure to read it. Also this NSFW hula-hoop performance of “Slave To The Rhythm.” #7: Wai Lin The Film: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)Played By: Michelle YeohWhy?: She was easily the best thing about this movie and completely held her own against Bond. Not as a Bond girl, per se, but as an action star in her own right. #6: Anya Amasova (Agent Triple X) The Film: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)Played By: Barbara BachWhy?: I always thought Bach was the perfect Bond girl for a movie whose theme song was “Nobody Does It Better,” sung by Carly Simon. Amasova is a KGB agent who is extremely tough and fearless. And looks great with a gun. #5: Dominetta “Domino” Vitali The Film: Thunderball (1965)Played By: Claudine AugerWhy?: She’s the mistress of the villain but has an immediate connection with Bond when he rescues her in a freak underwater accident. There are so many bathing suits! And they’re all fantastic. Also dramatic rescues. Auger’s Domino is better than Kim Basinger’s later version, but they’re both pretty good. #4: Tracy Bond The Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)Played By: Diana RiggWhy?: The only woman to marry Bond, and the only Bond woman for George Lazenby. Unlike most Bond girls who just served to advance the plot, Rigg exuded cool in her own right in a way that very few other Bond girls have. #3: Vesper Lynd The Film: Casino Royale (2006)Played By: Eva GreenWhy?: Nearly the platonic ideal of a Bond girl. She was unbelievably sexy and also managed to cultivate a real air of mystery around her character. She was a major reason why the franchise came roaring back. #2: Fiona Volpe The Film: Thunderball (1965)Played By: Luciana PaluzziWhy?: She’s a secondary villain in the movie and so interesting. She also belittles Bond in such a hot way. Right before taking him captive, she says: “But of course, I forgot your ego, Mr. Bond. James Bond, the one where he has to make love to a woman, and she starts to hear heavenly choirs singing. She repents, and turns to the side of right and virtue…but not this one!” Also, her betrayal and death are pretty epic. #1: Honey Ryder The Film: Dr. No (1962)Played By: Ursula AndressWhy?: Mostly the bathing suit, but there is something about Andress that is enchanting even with more clothing. Her speaking and singing parts were dubbed in, but the role she embodied is iconic — a beautiful woman, somewhat liberated from sexual mores, needing the aid of Bond. She added the mystery and gobsmacking beauty that stick with us to this day. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway 007 Barbara Bach Britt Ekland Dr. No James Bond Jill St. John Luciana Paluzzi Monica Bellucci Octopussy Spectre Talisa Soto The Man With The Golden Gun Thunderball Ursula Andress Copyright © 2017 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST Media, All Rights Reserved. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1463670073398-2'); }); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({mode:'thumbs-2r', container:'taboola-below-main-column-mix', placement:'below-main-column', target_type:'mix'}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({flush:true}); 0 Comments /* * * CONFIGURATION VARIABLES: EDIT BEFORE PASTING INTO YOUR WEBPAGE * * */ var disqus_shortname = 'thefederalist23'; // required: replace example with your forum shortname /* * * DON'T EDIT BELOW THIS LINE * * */ (function() { var dsq = document.createElement('script'); dsq.type = 'text/javascript'; dsq.async = true; dsq.src = '//' + disqus_shortname + '.disqus.com/embed.js'; (document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0] || document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0]).appendChild(dsq); })(); Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus. comments powered by Disqus ]]>
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  • Weekend Cocktail: The Lillet Blanc and Gin
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Weekend Cocktail: The Lillet Blanc and Gin April 5, 2014 By Neal Dewing “The human brain starts working the moment you’re born and never stops – until you stand up to speak in public.” – George Jessel I was recently asked to toast a very dear friend on one of the most important days of his life. I’m no stranger to public speaking, but I’ll confess that up until the moment I stood to deliver my remarks my nerves were a bit jangled. Perhaps it was the importance of the occasion, or the esteemed and learned guests in attendance, but I was as rattled as I ever get. Happily, my remarks were well-received and my friend was appropriately moved by them. Public speaking is routinely listed among the greatest fears of Americans. More than poverty; more than disease; more than war; more than clowns; more than sharks; indeed, Americans fear getting up in front of an audience to speak more than they fear death itself. Most people, given the option, would prefer to take a punch to the solar plexus than give a 5-minute presentation. Some report such a level of anxiety that you have to wonder if they wouldn’t rather just shove bamboo slivers under their fingernails. However, anyone who enjoys a good drink should be prepared to deliver a toast at some point, whether impromptu or as part of a ceremony. It’s simply how things are done. In certain cultures every single drink is an occasion for a toast, and it becomes something of an endurance contest. Thankfully, in America we have a system that allows for an official toast as part of the program of events. After that the obligation is done – which is not to say that some potentially disastrous off-the-cuff remarks by a drunken uncle are precluded. Some helpful tips for giving a toast, should the duty fall to you: Prepare. This is the cardinal virtue of public speaking. Write out what you want to say, and memorize key points. Try your very best not to read from your notes, but instead to use them as prompts. Practice your delivery, preferably with someone to give you pointers on your body language and tone of voice. Be brief. Try to keep the entire toast under five minutes. Three is better. Know your audience. You may be giving this toast in a room of a hundred or more, but the toast is for the person you’re honoring. Speak about them to the audience, and then in the last portion speak directly to them. If you aren’t funny, don’t try to be funny. In addition, don’t go for cheap laughs at your friend’s expense – say only good things, and mention only harmless quirks. No dirty laundry. You’re honoring them. Speak from the heart. Do not clink your glass for attention. You may break it, and then your toast is pretty well over. If you aren’t introduced then stand, ask for quiet, and the word will get around. Wait until people settle to begin. One important consideration before the toast begins is to avoid drinking too much. Once the toast is concluded you may safely tie one on, but while you have a job to do you should keep it to one or two drinks. My suggestion is to err on the side of a lighter, less hard-hitting cocktail. This week’s mix is a perfect example. Lillet Blanc and Gin Lillet is a French apéritif that was perhaps most prominently featured in the movie Casino Royale, when James Bond orders his famous take on the Martini. Remarkably floral on the nose, it possesses a wonderfully complex and fruity flavor of honey and orange rounded out beautifully by aging in oak barrels. Many classic cocktails call for it, though the reformulated Lillet on the shelves today is not the bitter Kina Lillet favored by Mr. Bond (for that, it seems you’d need to track down someCocchi Americano). Even so, the modern Lillet is a superb addition to a well-stocked bar and can usually be found hanging out with the vermouths at your local wine shop. As a before-dinner drink, a cocktail including Lillet is a natural choice. A basic mixture of gin and Lillet is a breeze for a busy host to prepare and will be appreciated by aficionados and less-experienced tipplers alike. 3 parts Lillet Blanc 1 part Plymouth gin Lemon or orange peel for garnish (or neither) Pour the gin and Lillet into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake enthusiastically until cold, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon or orange peel – or a twist if you’re looking for a bit more visual pizzazz. The cocktail will take it from there. The floral notes of Lillet pair beautifully with the smooth flavors of Plymouth gin, I’ve found. A gin with more bite works well, but Plymouth’s sweet, citrusy taste marries up to the apéritif seamlessly. Give it a try, and perhaps you will agree that it loosens the tongue while leaving you sharp enough to carry out such duties as you may be called upon to perform. Follow Neal on Twitter. Neal Dewing lives and works in Portsmouth, Virginia. He is the co-host of The Fifth Estate, a podcast examining culture and politics. Lillet Blanc and Gin Wedding Toast Weekend Cocktail Copyright © 2017 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST Media, All Rights Reserved. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1463670073398-2'); }); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({mode:'thumbs-2r', container:'taboola-below-main-column-mix', placement:'below-main-column', target_type:'mix'}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({flush:true}); 0 Comments /* * * CONFIGURATION VARIABLES: EDIT BEFORE PASTING INTO YOUR WEBPAGE * * */ var disqus_shortname = 'thefederalist23'; // required: replace example with your forum shortname /* * * DON'T EDIT BELOW THIS LINE * * */ (function() { var dsq = document.createElement('script'); dsq.type = 'text/javascript'; dsq.async = true; dsq.src = '//' + disqus_shortname + '.disqus.com/embed.js'; (document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0] || document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0]).appendChild(dsq); })(); Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus. comments powered by Disqus ]]>
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  • A Female 007 Leaves Bond Fans Shaken (Not Stirred), And For Good Reason
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    The spy film genre currently needs two things: a new James Bond, and an increase in clever female-driven spy films. These should be solved separately.
    ...
    (Review Source)

Mark Steyn4
Fox News



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • A Frizzy Christmas
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the houseNot a creature was stirring, not even a mouse... At which point, Sylvester the cat looks up from his long fruitless vigil outside the mouse hole in the baseboard and sighs with feeling to the
    ...
    (Review Source)
  • A Walkabout That Wasn't
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Nicolas Roeg was born in London on August 15th 1928, and on this ninetieth birthday his luster is not quite what one might have expected a few decades back. It's eleven years since he directed his last feature film, and another twelve years since the one
    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Spectre
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    In the summer of 2012 my daughter and I spent a few days at a bleak and isolated Highland hunting lodge, which, as I said to her at the time, felt like John Buchan's Scotland - the place where a thriller chase winds up. I had the wrong author, but right
    ...
    (Review Source)
  • Type Cast
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    To mark the premiere in London of the new Bond film, Spectre, SteynOnline is offering its own quantum of Bondage this week, including my take on Ian Fleming's original 007 novels and a tip of the hat to Christopher Wood, the man who gave Roger Moore all
    ...
    (Review Source)

Soiled Sinema1
Soiled Reviews



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

⚠️ EDGY 🔥 CONTENT 🔥 WARNING 🔥 (NSFW?) ⚠️

🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻


  • Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Part love letter to the icon masterpieces of German expressionist cinema, most specifically Paul Wegener’s Golem trilogy ( The Golem...
    ...
    (Review Source)

Jay Dyer2
Esoteric Hollywood



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

⚠️ 𝐄𝐃𝐆𝐘 🔥 𝐂𝐎𝐍𝐓𝐄𝐍𝐓 🔥 𝐖𝐀𝐑𝐍𝐈𝐍𝐆 🔥 (𝐍𝐒𝐅𝐖?) ⚠️

🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻🔻


  • Wild Card – Guest Analysis
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Guest Post by: The Popcorn Reviewer Are big gaming companies behind casino-themed films? This is a question that has been posed by many marketing experts for years. Just like product...

    ...
    (Review Source)

Crosswalk1
Cross Walk



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)

  • A Special Behind-the-Scenes Look at Disney's New Dumbo Movie!
    (”Casino Royale” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    Enjoy a special behind-the-scenes look at an extraordinary family film.
    ...
    (Review Source)

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