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 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.
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 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 student party hang-out Chuy’s to eat out of plastic basket while slurping flavored frozen margaritas. Which is to say that being “better” than most sanctioned 007 adventures is something of a loaded compliment.
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.
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 Cthulhu and his minions, which have been reduced to a bunch of B-grade Ultraman monsters.
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.