Countessa Val causes an MCU fan reaction

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine at left in this cover for Strange Tales 167 (published January 1968)

Yes, there be spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

A character originally created by writer-artist Jim Steranko for Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe via the streaming series The Falcon and The Winder Soldier.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, depicted as a S.H.I.E.L.D. recruit in Strange Tales No. 159 in 1967, appeared in the latest episode of the show. Except she’s now Madame Hydra, leader of the villainous organization that’s caused trouble throughout the films produced by Marvel Studios.

On the streaming series, Val (as she was often called in the comic books) is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. For a time on Friday morning, “Madame Hydra” and “Julia Louis-Dreyfus” topics on Twitter.

The development spurred various outlets to do stories, including VANITY FAIR (“Marvel, reportedly, has even bigger ambitions for Louis-Dreyfus’s villainous figure”), NEWSWEEK, (“…fans are treated to a cameo that no one saw coming), and CBR.COM all did stories about it.

UPDATE (April 18): I asked Jim Steranko about this on Twitter. He hasn’t seen Louis-Dreyfus’s performance yet. Here’s his response.

Indiana Jones 5 cast begins to resemble 007 alumni club

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

The cast of Indiana Jones 5 is beginning to resemble a meeting of the James Bond film alumni association.

Last week, it was announced that Phoebe Waller-Bridge, one of the multiple No Time to Die screenwriters, would also be the female lead of the new Indy production. Waller-Bridge is both a writer and an actress.

Today, Deadline: Hollywood reported that Mads Mikkelsen, who played Le Chiffre in 2006’s Casino Royale, had also joined the Indy 5 cast.

There aren’t a lot of details available. Steven Spielberg, who directed the first four Indy films, has relinquished the director’s chair. He’s still around in a producer capacity.

Leading man Harrison Ford is 78. On the surface, that would make it more logical for Ford to portray Barnaby Jones, rather than Indiana Jones. But we’ll see.

Some YouTube posters have already put out videos speculating that Waller-Bridge will take over from Ford in future installments. Again, that remains to be seen.

Another returning Indy veteran is composer-conductor John Williams.

Diana Rigg gets left out of BAFTA ‘In Memoriam’

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

This weekend, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, or BAFTA, gave out its film awards. It’s the U.K. equivalent of the Oscars.

Like the Oscars, the BAFTAs include an “In Memoriam” segment. This year’s “In Memoriam” left out Diana Rigg (1938-2020). Variety, which was covering the awards inquired why. Here’s a tweet the entertainment news outlet put out:

Rigg was known for both movies and TV shows. For spy fans, she played Tracy, James Bond’s ill-fated wife in the 1969 film adaptation of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. On TV, she was known for The Avengers and other television series.

UPDATE (April 12): Viewers advise that Bond film veterans Honor Blackman and Earl Cameron also didn’t make the “In Memoriam” segment. THIS STORY says Prince Philip, who died last week, was included.

UPDATE II: Reader @toysofbond advises Honor Blackman was included in the 2020 BAFTA TV “In Memoriam.” So she, lie Dame Diana, was deemed a TV performer rather than a movie one. See tweet below:

More movie release delays spur concerns about NTTD

Movie release dates continue to get reset, which raises the question whether No Time to Die will meet its current release range of Sept. 30-Oct. 8.

The latest: According to Variety, Paramount has moved back Top Gun: Maverick to Nov. 19 from July 2. Mission: Impossible 7 has been delayed to May 27, 2022, from Nov. 19 of this year.

Previously, Walt Disney Co. announced that Black Widow was pushed back to July from early May. Black Widow, made by the company’s Marvel Studios’ unit, will be available on the Disney + streaming service for an extra charge of almost $30 while also opening in theaters.

Last week, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, had an investor call but said almost nothing about No Time To Die. MGM simply listed the 25th James Bond film — the company’s most expensive movie of the past two years — as one of many films in MGM’s schedule.

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with movie release dates for more than a year. Vaccines are now available. But COVID cases are accelerating yet again because of new versions of the virus.

Daniel Craig benefits from tech company valuations

Daniel Craig is the original Knives Out

Daniel Craig is about to get a huge post-Bond payday, in part because “tech companies” play by different rules than other businesses.

It has been reported by The Hollywood Reporter that Netflix will pay almost $470 million for two sequels to the film Knives Out. Now, Netflix resembles a studio (it makes original movies and TV shows). But it’s classified as a tech company because its productions primarily are shown on streaming, though its movies sometimes get theatrical releases.

If you’re a tech company, investors treat you differently. Your stock price often goes crazy and investors will throw money at you.

Netflix isn’t alone. Amazon is essentially a retailer but because it’s viewed as a tech company, it’s much more valuable. Ditto for Tesla, which makes electric vehicles but enjoys the tech company label, much to the consternation of established automakers.

Enter Daniel Craig, the five-time film James Bond. He starred in the original Knives Out, a 2019 mystery, as a project he squeezed in amid No Time to Die delays. Reportedly, he and Knives Out writer-director Rian Johnson may pocket $100 million each as part of the new Netflix deal.

Craig made plenty of money playing James Bond. His No Time to Die payday was a reported $25 million.

But that was under the old rules — release a movie to theaters, charge admission, then shift to home video and on-demand TV.

Netflix plays under new rules, which emphasize streaming. Others, including Walt Disney Co. and AT&T (owner of Warner Bros.) want in on that action.

The original Knives Out had a global box office of $311.4 million on a budget of $45 million. That’s nice but hardly the billion-dollar-plus blockbuster in theatrical release, which had been the industry standard. However, the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected the traditional movie theater business.

Variety, in a follow-up story, described how things are changing:

Then again, the world of entertainment has changed so significantly, and the measure of success for streamers is not dependent on box office dollars but on signing up new subscribers.

“It’s a whole new equation,” as one of my sources put it.

No doubt it’s an equation to Craig’s liking.

1965: U.N.C.L.E.’s star appears on a rival network

Red Skelton with Robert Vaughn, 1965

By the fall of 1965, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a big hit. In December 1965, star Robert Vaughn appeared as the guest star on CBS’s Red Skelton Hour, the variety show that almost killed U.N.C.L.E.

U.N.C.L.E. debuted in September 1964 on NBC opposite Skelton’s CBS show. The spy show suffered in the ratings. NBC considered canceling U.N.C.L.E. Instead it changed the show’s time slot to Monday nights. That gave the series the boost it needed, plus a lift from Goldfinger boosting interest in spy entertainment.

A little over a year later, the Skelton show had Robert Vaughn on as a guest star. During a two-part skit, there were one-liners (perhaps ad libbed) where Skelton said Vaughn was plugging his own show.

After the skit, Vaughn appeared with Skelton. The U.N.C.L.E. star had a communicator (not the one that was seen on the series) so Skelton could call his wife. (See above.) At one point, Vaughn says into the device: “Illya get off the line, willya?”

Vaughn’s appearance was a sign of how spy shows had arrived as a thing. The Red Skelton Museum has been posting full episodes of the Skelton show to YouTube. Below is the Vaughn episode.

Frank Jacobs, ace Mad writer, dies

007, a “James Bomb” stage musical by Mort Drucker and Frank Jacobs, 1965

Frank Jacobs, a long-time writer for Mad magazine has died, the semi-dormant publication announced on Twitter.

One of Jacobs’ specialties was devising musical parodies. One of his best was published in 1965. “007” envisioned a James Bond (or “James Bomb”) stage musicial.

As written by Jacobs, all of the songs were sung to the tune of songs from the stage musical Oklahoma! Artist Mort Drucker provided a James Bomb drawn to resemble Sean Connery.

In the story, Bomb confronts ICECUBE, an organization that is dragging Great Britain to the North Pole. The leader of ICECUBE is revealed to be Mike Hammer, who is angry at Bomb for taking away all his book sales. Drucker drew Hammer to look like author Mickey Spillane.

Jacobs made his first sale to Mad in 1957, debuting with five pieces in the June issue, according to his biography in Wikipedia. Mad’s editors quickly requested more. Jacobs also wrote 13 paperback books under the Mad imprint.

Below is Mad’s announcement about the death of Jacobs.

1966: Nancy Sinatra’s first spy craze entry

Poster for The Last of the Secret Agents?

These days, Nancy Sinatra, from a spy craze perspective, is best remembered for performing the title song of the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice.

As it turns out, she had been at it for a while.

A year earlier, she performed the title song of the 1966 comedy The Last of the Secret Agents? She also appeared in the movie with a less than convincing French accent.

The Last of the Secret Agents? featured the then-popular comedy team of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi. Allen’s hair was teased (or something) so it went out in all directions. Allen was buggy eyed. His catchphrase was, “Hello dere!” Rossi, by comparison was classically handsome. The team, obviously sought to create a visual contrast.

In the film, our heroes are recruited to assist a top secret intelligence agency. (Of course.)

Along the way, Nancy Sinatra performs the title song. But she also acts (I use that term advisedly) as a young French woman.

The crew included director Norman Abbott (who helmed a number of episodes of The Munsters TV series) and costume designer Edith Head (?!).

If you’re really interested, you can see a version of the movie below.

Before you go there, remember this: “Hello dere!”

G. Gordon Liddy dies at 90

National Lampoon parody of G. Gordon Liddy, Agent of C.R.E.E.P., as drawn by Dick Ayres

G. Gordon Liddy, one of the most colorful figures in the Watergate scandal that brought down U.S. President Richard Nixon, has died at 90, The New York Times reported.

Liddy “concocted the bungled burglary” that led to the scandal. Liddy worked for the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein abbreviated that to CRP. But it was popularly abbreviated as C.R.E.E.P. The National Lampoon eventually published a comic book parody of G. Gordon Liddy, Agent of C.R.E.E.P. Artist Dick Ayres did a cover that emulated a 1968 cover of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jim Steranko

An excerpt from the obit by the Times:

As a leader of a White House “plumbers” unit set up to plug information leaks, and then as a strategist for the president’s re-election campaign, Mr. Liddy helped devise plots to discredit Nixon “enemies” and to disrupt the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Most were far-fetched — bizarre kidnappings, acts of sabotage, traps using prostitutes, even an assassination — and were never carried out.

Liddy was among the many Watergate figures who did prison time. He was sentenced to six to 20 years but only served 52 months.

Liddy defied the saying that crime does not pay.

The one-time felon wrote an autobiography published in 1980. It was turned into a 1982 made-for-TV movie starring Robert Conrad as Liddy. Liddy went on to host a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Naturally, Conrad was a guest on one installment. Anyone who listened could tell Liddy loved that Conrad had played him.

Liddy also wrote spy novels along the way, such as Out of Control. And he picked up about 20 acting credits, according to his IMDB.COM ENTRY.

Jessica Walter, versatile actress, dies at 80

Jessica Walter in Counter-Stroke, a third-season episode of The FBI

Jessica Walter, a versatile actress whose career spanned decades, has died at 80, Deadline: Hollywood reported.

Early in her career, she was part of the “QM Players” actors who frequently appeared in television shows produced by Quinn Martin. That included six episodes of The FBI as well as installments of Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco and Barnaby Jones.

Her many other credits included the 1966 film Grand Prix and 1971’s Play Misty for Me as well as episodes of TV series such as It Takes a Thief, McCloud, Ironside, Mannix, Mission: Impossible and Wonder Woman. Her 21st century credits included doing voice work for the Archer cartoon series.

Walter’s IMDB.COM entry has 161 acting credits. She won an Emmy award for Amy Prentiss, a short-lived series that was spun off from Ironside.