Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi meet Boris Karloff

Even the most dedicated 007 fan probably won’t spend $100 or so just to catch two of the most famous Bond women of the 1960s as guest stars on a TV series. Still, if said 007 fans are considering buying a DVD box sets for other reasons of the 1960-62 horror/crime anthology series Thriller hosted by Boris Karloff, they can also watch Ursula Andress and Luciana Paluzzi starring in separate episodes.

Andress was the lead in La Strega, playing a young 19th Century woman whose grandmother is, well, a witch. She’s trying to separate herself from granny, who’s having none of it. The episode originally aired on Jan. 15, 1962, early in the production of Dr. No. So it was probably filmed in late 1961. The episode was written by Alan Caillou, who penned early, influentical episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and directed by Ida Lupino.

Paluzzi starred in Flowers of Evil, which was originally broadcast almost two months later. We haven’t had a chance to check it out fully, but murder is definitely part of the proceedings.

Karloff, besides hosting, also acted in a handful of Thriller episodes though not either of these. The complete series was originally priced at around $150 but has been marked down to just under $100.

As we said, it’s not a Bond collector’s item, but 007 fans who have other reasons to purchase (for Karloff, for the fine scores by Jerry Goldsmtih and Morton Stevens, for adaptations of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Bloch and Robert E. Howard among others), they may want to give it a look.

UPDATE: The video’s not that good, but here’s the start of La Strega:

Luciana Paluzzi’s moments of deju vu

Luciana Paluzzi, whose acting career included stints on Thunderball, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Hawaii Five-O, might very well have felt a little deju vu.

Gong to extreme lengths to follow a hero:

In To Trap A Spy and The Four-Steps Affair episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Luciana plays Angela, an operative for WASP or Thrush (depending which version you watch). To entice Napoleon Solo into a trap, she hides in the back of the U.N.C.L.E. agent’s car. Solo detects her presence and pulls over to the side of the road before she’s ready and invites here to come out.

In My Friend, The Enemy, a 1978 episode of Hawaii Five-O, Luciana plays Liana Libella, an Italian journalist who, while trying to get a story, hides in the back of the car Five-O Officer Dan Williams. Williams detects her presence and lets her sit back there until he’s ready to park the car at the Honolulu airport.

Sudden death:

To Trap A Spy: Angela tries to set up Solo to get killed but the U.N.C.L.E. agent pulls a switch and she perishes in the death trap. In the TV version, we see the same footage but are told she survives in the hospital.

Thunderball: Luciana plays Fiona Volpe, a SPECTRE operative who tries to set up James Bond but is killed when 007 pulls a switch and she perishes in the death trap.

U.N.C.L.E. movie watch: Soderberg thinking of retiring, LA Times says

The Los Angeles Times, in its 24 Frames blog, interviews Matt Damon who says Steven Soderberg may retire from making movies soon.

For fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., both Soderbergh and George Clooney have been linked in reports by the entertainment media to the on-again, off-again attempts to do a movie version of the 1964-68 show.

The LA Times story on Damon has this intriguing paragraph:

Soderbergh told Esquire two years ago that he’d like to retire by the age of 51, which marks his 25th year as a filmmaker. Damon offers more specifics: “After this movie we’re doing ‘Liberace’ next summer with Michael Douglas, and then he might do one more movie after that with George [Clooney], and then after that he’s retiring.”

Is Damon’s quote a backdoor confirmation that Soderberg may do U.N.C.L.E. with Clooney? Given the twisted history of this would-be movie, it’s hard to tell.

Season’s Greetings!

007 questions now that MGM is out of bankruptcy

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer exited bankruptcy on Dec. 20 in a slimmer form. So what better time for 007 questions about how the development affects the future of the 007 film franchise?

001. Is Daniel Craig coming back as James Bond? We know Craig has said he wants to return. In fact, he has said it more than once. We know he’s a favorite of the co-boss of Eon Productions, Barbara Broccoli, who has been quoted as saying Craig is the best Bond ever. With MGM’s financial plight this year, Eon has been mum on virtually everything. The answer may be an easy one but the answer still hasn’t really been given.

002. Is Sam Mendes really going to direct Bond 23? Mendes’s ex-wife, Kate Winslet, says he is, even the point she’s going to move to London so the director can see his kids during filming. But Mendes himself in a Wall Street Journal called such talk “speculation” even after his publicist confirmed the story. Again, the answer may be an easy one, but the time has come for a little candor.

003. Who’s going to write Bond 23? The grand experiment of hiring prestigious screenwriter Peter Morgan was a washout, mostly for reasons that had nothing to do with MGM’s financial plight. Eon announced Morgan’s hiring months before he actually got around to writing anything. In subsequent interviews, he has said he’s happy to have washed his hands of the project and was never that enthusiastic about Bond in the first place. Do Neal Purvis and Robert Wade press on (the Eon press release said Morgan, Purvis and Wade would write Bond 23)? Have the Wade-Purvis duo done any work? Or is somebody else going to get hired?

004. Who is MGM going to help finance and distribute Bond 23? MGM, in its bankruptcy filing said it planned to see a partner to co-finance Bond 23. Who’s it going to be? Also, MGM’s plan is to exit distribution and be primarily a maker of TV shows and movies. What studio ends up distributing Bond 23? Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures brand distributed Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Does Columbia pull a repeat? Or does somebody else step in?

005. Can Eon Productions actually make Bond 23 for a November 2012 release date? In the MGM bankruptcy filing, the studio said it wants Bond 23 out in November 2012. MGM, though, needs Eon Productions to actually make the movie. Do the problems with the Bond 23 script process demonstrate broader problems at Eon? Or was that a bit of bad luck?

006. Can Eon Productions actually produce 007 movies on an bi-annual basis? MGM’s bankruptcy filing said it also wants Bond movies to come out on a regular, every-other-year schedule. Is Eon capable of that? Assuming Bond 23 comes out in November 2012, the Bond franchise will have been in hiatus for more years than not between 1989’s Licence to Kill and Bond 23. Barbara Broccoli and half-brother Michael G. Wilson seem to have trouble keeping up the pace of Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli.

007. When can we get answers to the other questions? Eon has stayed quiet because a) that’s how it operates and b) the MGM financial situation. But it has been so quiet, it’s beginning to look ridiculous. When the director’s (excuse us, would-be director’s) ex-wife provides more information, Eon loses control of the message. That’s Public Relations 101. Maybe shortly after the first of the year, Eon can start trying to get back that control with a little basic information.

UPDATE: Variety in a story it has about MGM, has this nugget:

MGM has been working up plans for a 2012 yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first Bond pic, 1962’s “Doctor No,” so the studio will probably move as quickly as possible to lock down Craig and to secure a director. Sam Mendes has long been rumored to be the leading candidate to helm.

1965: Maxwell Smart tells advertisers about NBC’s lineup

NBC wanted to get advertisers excited about its 1965-66 program lineup. What would be the best way to do it? Would you believe the network hired Don Adams, in character as Maxwell Smart, to tell the advertisers what programs would be on that year? It begins with a clip from the Get Smart pilot in which Max was stuck in a closet. The presentation picks up from there:

Max makes these comments about his own show, starting around the 21:09 mark: “People who have caught advanced screenings of Get Smart have called this series the most hilarious satire on espionage they’ve ever seen. Now one couldn’t attribute all of the show’s brilliance to the genius of its star, Don Adams. On the other hand, one could.” We also see Maxwell Smart going through the doors at Control headquarters without any titles.

There are clips not only from Get Smart but I Spy, the serious Robert Culp-Bill Cosby spy drama and The Incredible World of James Bond special. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is mentioned near the end as a returning hit show.

There are also some interesting non-spy aspects about the presentation. It hypes the start of Joe Namath’s pro football career with the New York Jets (NBC carried American Football League games, “the league that tries harder,” as Max tells us) and talks about NBC News documentaries, including a long one about American foreign policy.

Danny Biederman’s spy fi collection

Danny Biederman has an impressive collection of spy fiction props, covering James Bond, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart and much more. Biederman has uploaded a YouTube video of highlights of news reports when parts of his collection were displayed at the CIA and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

During clips of the movies and shows in question, there’s music from a Gerald Fried tune originally composed for U.N.C.L.E. and part of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Our Man Flint.

Take a look:

Almost 30 years ago, Biederman and Robert Short attempted to put together a movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (CLICK HERE and scroll to the second entry). They had gotten Bond veteran production designer Ken Adam interested in the project but it was not to be. There’s also a clip of Robert Conrad wishing he had kept James West’s sleeve gun that’s part of Biederman’s collection.