Peking Opera Blues

One of the great films of the Hong Kong New Wave, Tsui Hark’s Chinese Revolution era adventure is notable for focusing not on the war or heroic men, but on the friendship that grows between three women who find themselves involved in a tangled web of espionage.

A Dandy in Aspic

A double agent operating in London dreams of retiring, but his life is complicated when he is assigned to assassinate a traitor: himself. With one foot in the pop art fantasy of James Bond and another in the grim world of John Le Carre, A Dandy in Aspic never quite succeeds at being either.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Although lord knows the world doesn’t need another origin story — modern films are positively obsessed with explaining every single detail of every single character in film history, leaving nothing to assumption or mystery and never accepting that sometimes we simply don’t need to know — The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is an origin story.

The Moneypenny Diaries: Guardian Angel

The official books that continue the adventures of James Bond beyond those written by Ian Fleming constitute a long, occasionally rewarding, often perilous minefield of reading material. For every success in the series, there is a scene of…oh I don’t know. James Bond visiting Euro Disney. Or James Bond sitting down at University of Texas…

Spectre

Unfortunately, the remainder of the film’s obsession with mythology building and referencing previous films results in a tangled mess that, despite being over two hours in length, still feels like an hour of the film is missing.

Cultural Gutter: Now Cthulhu is Blofeld

Over on the Cultural Gutter, I’m taking a look at Brian Lumley’s first three Titus Crow novels, in which he turns Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos on its ear. Now Cthulhu is Blofeld examines Lumley’s preference for men of action, eschewing Lovecraft’s terrified academics in favor of two-fisted psychics flying around in magic clocks, shooting lasers at…

High Spy: The Espionage Fiction of Adam Diment

In the midst of Swingin’ London, and in stark contrast to James Bond, English author Adam Diment created Philip McAlpine, a reluctant, shaggy-haired, dope-smoking spy in the latest Carnaby Street fashions.

Trout Fishing in Sicily

The utterly bizarre tale of how the creator of James Bond and the creator of the American mafia helped plan the Allied invasion of Sicily during World War II. Beyond Risico, James Bond’s forays into Italy are often little more than passthroughs. Bond spends more time in Italy in the movies — most notably Moonraker,…

Popov…Dusan Popov

When journalist and former British Naval Intelligence commander Ian Fleming retired to his modest villa, Goldeneye (“Goldeneye, nose and throat” quipped his neighbor, the entertainer Noel Coward, who was as unimpressed with Fleming’s abode as he was with the fare served to him when he visited) in Jamaica to write his first novel, he didn’t…

James Bond vs. the ’80s

When last we saw James Bond, in 1984’s Role of Honour, we did not part on good terms. It was an awful book in my opinion, with clumsy romance and a tremendously dull plot full of James Bond flipping through manuals about the COBOL programming language before finally ending in an idiotic blimp finale, the…

Mad Science and Martian Maidens

Russian author Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy wrote the stories that served as the source material for two of the Soviet Union’s best-known science fiction adventures: the futurist fantasy Aelita, Queen of Mars and the Fantomas-inspired pulp thriller The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin. Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy was Russia’s less internationally known Tolstoy. While the one was writing…

Asambhav

Attempting to cram every single flashy editing trick into one film, and usually into one scene, and sometimes into a single shot, this Bollywood espionage thriller is as entertaining as it is moronic. And it is really moronic. It’s been said that in an effort to appeal to as massive a population as possible, the…