Lazenby returns in an audio spy adventure

Passport to Oblivion Cover

George Lazenby, the one-time film James Bond, is returning to the espionage genre.

Lazenby stars as Dr. Jason Love in an audio adaptation of author James Leasor’s Passport to Oblivion. The adapation is part of a two-disc set selling for 14.99 British pounds.

Some details from a press release:

An audio spy adventure based on a series of internationally bestselling books (published in 19 languages) by James Leasor, ‘Passport to Oblivion’ features an all-star cast that also includes Glynis Barber, Nickolas Grace, Michael Brandon and Terence Stamp as ‘C’ the Head of MI6.

‘Passport to Oblivion’ is the first of 10 planned audio recordings by award-winning Spiteful Puppet and based on books first published in the 1960s. The novels, which sold in their millions, have a worldwide fan base. This is the first time they have been adapted as audio dramas.

Spiteful Puppet have been granted the license for all 10 of James Leasor’s Dr. Jason Love books. ‘Passport to Oblivion’ (2-disc audio set) will be released 29 November 2019.

‘Passport to Oblivion’, set in 1964, has astonishing parallels with today’s allegations of Russian interference in politics of the West, unrest in the Middle East, and seems very fresh and relevant.

Lazenby, 80, played James Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Passport to Oblivion previously was adapted as the 1966 movie Where the Spies Are, with David Niven as Dr. Jason Love.

1964: U.N.C.L.E.’s Soviet history in-joke

For much of The Project Strigas Affair, Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) wears a disguise that appears to resemble…

Next month marks the 55th anniversary of The Project Strigas Affair, the ninth episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It’s mostly known today for being the first time William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy acted together.

However, it’s also an example of an in-joke, albeit one that many members of the audience might not catch.

For much of the story, U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) wears a disguise consisting of a black wig, fake mustache and wire rim glasses.

It’s part of an elaborate con to ensnare a diplomat (Werner Klemperer), whose government is plotting to get the United States and Soviet Union to declare war on each other.

…Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky

Students of Soviet history might recognize the disguise. That’s because the disguised Illya appears to resemble Leon Trotsky, a Russian revolutionary who had a falling out with Stalin. Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico City in 1940.

Kuryakin was U.N.C.L.E.’s resident Russian operative. The U.N.C.L.E. series treated the agent’s nationality very gently. This was the 1960s, after all, and the Cold War was on.

The show mostly had subtle references (“Suddenly I feel very Russian,” he says as he parks near a Long Island party held by rich people in the first-season episode The Love Affair.)

Illya’s disguise for The Project Strigas Affair, assuming it really was an intentional in-joke, falls into this category. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was escapist entertainment, first and foremost. But the Kuryakin disguise shows there’s a bit more at work.

Happy Spy Command Day!

Happy Spy Command Day

Today, Oct. 8, is the 11th anniversary of the blog. Griffey the Grffin says, “Happy Spy Command Day!”

It’s been a great ride. And with the 25th James Bond film still in production, there is still a lot to write about.

The blog writes a lot about James Bond. But it still covers a number of related topics.

The Spy Commander still remembers friends who aren’t here to celebrate. Those individuals are still in the Spy Commander’s memory.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. There’s a lot more to come. Thanks to those who’ve expressed support over the years.

The Invaders CD set coming Oct. 17

Cover for The Invaders CD set

A two-disc CD set for The Invaders is coming out Oct. 17 from La-La Land Records.

It is the label’s second volume of soundtracks from television shows produced by Quinn Martin Productions.

It’s a limited edition release of up to 2,000 sets, according to an announcement on La-La Land’s Facebook page.

The show was perhaps the most unusual from QM and it only ran 43 episodes in 1967 and 1968.

The Invaders kind of flipped the format of QM’s The Fugitive. With The Fugitive, a lonely innocent man (David Janssen) is being pursued. With The Invaders, a lonely, determined man (Roy Thinnes) is pursuing invaders who want to take over the Earth. The show has a following that endured.

Some of the music, in fact, has an odd history of its own.

The initial composer for the series was Dominic Frontiere (1931-2017). Prior to The Invaders, Frontiere had been composer and production executive during the first season of The Outer Limits. That show was made by Daystar Productions and United Artists Television.

The producers of The Outer Limits made an unsold pilot for an anthology show called The Unknown. When the pilot failed to sell, it ran as an episode of The Outer Limits. A few years later, Frontiere took his theme for The Unknown and made it into the theme for The Invaders.

With the CD set, one disc is work by Frontiere with the second disc by other composers, including Richard Markowitz. He’s best known for his work on The Wild Wild West but worked a fair number of QM shows.

Meanwhile, below you can compare the titles of the unsold Unknown pilot and the titles of The Invaders. Besides the Frontiere music, each has a “ripping” visual. Thankfully, the “ripping” for The Invaders was silent.

Wayne Fitzgerald, title designer, dies

Wayne Fitzgerald’s title card (along with others, including Bruce Lee) for The Wrecking Crew, the final Matt Helm movie with Dean Martin.

Wayne Fitzgerald, a prolific designer of movie and television titles, has died at 89, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Fitzgerald went to work at Pacific Title in 1951, according to his bio at the Art of the Title website.

Pacific Title did title work for Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 20th Century Fox. But no one at Pacific received on-screen credit. As a result, Fitzgerald’s name doesn’t appear on such films as The Music Man and My Fair Lady, according to the website.

Fitzgerald went independent in 1967. His work appeared in such films as The Green Berets; The Wrecking Crew, the final Matt Helm film with Dean Martin; Chinatown; and McQ.

Other of his film credits included The Godfather Part II, The Godfather Part III, Apocalypse Now and Heaven Can Wait, according to his THR obituary.

The designer also got a lot of television work. He was hired often by Universal’s “television factory.” As a result, the Universal shows he worked on had titles with a bit of visual flair.

Start of the main title of The NBC Mystery Movie

For example, he designed the main title to The NBC Mystery Movie (later The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie), where a man with a flashlight walks with stills of the different components (Columbo, McCloud, McMillan & Wife and others) being shown while accompanied by a Henry Mancini theme.

As the title ended, announcer Hank Simms (also the go-to announcer for shows made by QM Productions) would then tell viewers which Mystery Movie segment was being shown tonight.

That title is rarely seen today. The Mystery Movie’s different entries are syndicated separately as TV movies. As a result, they usually don’t include Fitzgerald’s main title.

The designer’s other Universal credits included  It Takes a Thief, The Bold Ones, Switch and Night Gallery.

In all, Fitzgerald’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 400 credits, extending into the early 21st century.

Kingsman prequel trailer is out

The trailer for the Kingsman prequel, The King’s Man, is out. A familiar face for James Bond film fans, Ralph Fiennes, is prominent in the proceedings.

After two Kingsman movies, director Matthew Vaughn’s new effort concerns the origins of the Kingsman organization, “the first independent” spy agency.

One major change has occurred since the first two Kingsman movies. Walt Disney Co. acquired the bulk of 21st Century Fox assets, including the 20th Century Fox film studio. The latter released the earlier Kingsman films. The new movie still has the 20th Century Fox label. But The King’s Man may help determine how much Disney will put into Fox-branded films.

The King’s Man is scheduled to come out on Feb.14 (at one time the release date for No Time to Die). Here’s a look at the trailer.

Sid Haig dies at 80

Sid Haig as the hood who had “a bruddah” in Diamonds Are Forever

Sid Haig, an actor who made it big in horror movies but also had his moments in spy-fi, died Sept. 21 at age 80, according to Yahoo Movies UK.

Haig starred in films such as House of 1000 Corpses,  The Devil’s Rejects and other films directed by Rob Zombie.

Before becoming a horror star, Haig was a busy character actor, including a lot of work on television. That included appearances in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible and Get Smart.

Haig also made an impression with a small role in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. He’s part of the “brain trust” (Felix Leiter’s words) of hoods waiting on Sean Connery’s Bond (posing as Peter Franks) to take the body of the real Franks to Slumber Inc.

On the way to the mortuary, there’s a brief exchange of dialogue where the leader of the group (Marc Lawrence asks, “The stiff, uh, deceased back there. Your brother, Mr. Franks?”

“Yes, it was,” Bond replies.

Haig’s character perks up. “I got a bruddah!”

“Small world,” Bond says.