The blog’s favorite character actors: Murray Hamilton

Murray Hamilton, left, with Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws.

Part of an occasional series.

Murray Hamilton, after a long career as a character actor, has been reduced to a meme in the 21st century.

In Jaws (1975), Hamilton played a mayor who didn’t care about the safety of the citizens of his town. The mayor just wanted to be sure everybody went to the beach despite a killer shark.

These days, various social media postings refer to the “mayor from Jaws.” This is amid a pandemic when a lot of politicians are talking about “opening” the economy without seeming to care that much about safety.

The thing is, Hamilton had a long career as an actor. He often played unsympathetic characters (such as the mayor in Jaws). But he sometimes played sympathetic characters such as James Stewart’s partner in 1959’s The FBI Story.

Hamilton was also among the members of the unofficial group of the QM Players,  who frequently appeared as guest stars on various series produced by Quinn Martin.

One of Hamilton’s best performances was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, One for the Angels. Hamilton plays the character of Death and portrays him as a bureaucrat. He has a quota to meet.

A canny street merchant (Ed Wynn) tricks Death. So Death instead movies to take the life of a young girl. The merchant distracts Death with the best sales pitch he’s ever made. Death misses the appointed time to take the girl’s life. So the merchant will be taken in place of the young girl.

Before they go, the merchant asks where they are going. Death reassures him they are going up, toward heaven.

Hamilton died in 1986 at the age of 63. Here’s a clip from one of his appearances on The FBI, the QM-produced series.

Robert Mintz, writer and Fox TV post-production executive

Robert Mintz title card (along with others) on an episode of The Time Tunnel

One in a series os posts about unsung figures of television.

The name Robert Mintz seemed to be everywhere in the 1960s — if you knew where to look.

Mintz was a post-production executive in the television division of 20th Century Fox.

That meant his name showed up in the end titles of Fox-made TV shows. Everything from Peyton Place, to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, to Lost In Space, to Batman, to The Time Tunnel. He had the title of post production coordinator.

Earlier, Mintz was a writing partner of Allan Balter. The duo wrote an episode of The Outler Limits titled The Hundred Days of the Dragon, which mixed espionage and science fiction and is remember as one of the best outings of that anthology show.

Despite his post-production duties, Mintz did find time to write a Batman two-parter, The Black Widow Strikes Again and Caught in the Spider’s Den.

Mintz died in February at the age of 90, according to the Writer’s Guild West In Memoriam 2020 page.

Anthony Spinner, writer-producer for QM, U.N.C.L.E., dies

Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Carol Lynley in The Prince of Darkness Affair Part II, produced by Anthony Spinner

Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Carol Lynley in The Prince of Darkness Affair Part II, produced by Anthony Spinner and written by Dean Hargrove

Anthony Spinner, a writer-producer who worked on a number of series for QM Productions as well as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., died in February at 89, according to the In Memoriam 2020 page of the Writer’s Guild West website.

Spinner’s work as a writer had a recurring theme of betrayal. A few examples:

–In The FBI episode The Tormentors, written by Spinner, kidnapper Logan Dupree (Wayne Rogers) brutally murders one of his confederates, John Brock (Edward Asner).

— In The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode The Secret Sceptre Affair, written by Spinner, Napoleon Solo is manipulated and betrayed by his commanding officer from the Korean War.

— In The FBI episode The Assassin, plotted by Spinner, an international assassin (William Windom) sets up an idealistic traitor (Tom Skeritt) to be killed as part of an assassination plot aimed at a bishop (Dean Jagger).

–In The Name of the Game episode The Perfect Image, plotted by Spinner, Howard Publications executive assistant Peggy Maxwell (Susan Saint James) has been manipulated by an old friend as part of a plot to discredit a reform mayor of Chicago.

Anthony Spinner’s title card for Survival, the final episode of The FBI

After writing for a number of QM Productions shows, Spinner was associate producer for the first season of The Invaders. QM’s only science fiction show had a paranoid feel as David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) battled invaders from another world who took human form to take over Earth.

Spinner’s next job was producing the fourth (and final) season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Spinner, in effect, tried to bring the “QM Gravitas” to U.N.C.L.E. following that show’s very campy third season.

The fourth-season debut, The Summit-Five Affair, showed how Spinner was taking the show in a different direction. In the episode, written by Robert E. Thompson, Solo (Robert Vaughn) undergoes torture — by another U.N.C.L.E. operative (Lloyd Bochner), determined to show that Solo is a traitor.

Summit-Five also featured a major double-cross, something that would occur in other Spinner-produced U.N.C.L.E. episodes.

Not everyone involved appreciated the new direction. Veteran U.N.C.L.E. writer Dean Hargrove, in a 2007 interview for a DVD release, said Spinner came from “the Quinn Martin School of Melodrama.” He didn’t mean it as a compliment. In the interview, Hargrove described his disagreements with Spinner during production of the two-part story The Prince of Darkness Affair.

U.N.C.L.E. ran out of time and was canceled in mid-season. Spinner would return to QM Productions. His time there would have its ups and downs.

Anthony Spinner title card for an episode of Dan August

For example, Spinner produced the QM police drama Dan August (1970-71). Spinner pushed to have more topical scripts.

“Quinn said to me, ‘Are we doing propaganda here?,'” Spinner said in an interview with Jonathan Etter for the author’s Quinn Martin, Producer book. “I said, ‘Yeah, because I’m tired of diamond heists and kidnapped girls and all that stuff.'”

Regardless, boss Quinn Martin consistently utilized Spinner’s talents on multiple series.

Shelly Novack and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a publicity still for The FBI's final season, produced by Anthony Spinner.

Shelly Novack and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a publicity still for The FBI’s final season, produced by Anthony Spinner.

Spinner produced the final season of QM’s The FBI. Even before that show was canceled, Martin re-assigned Spinner to Cannon. Spinner finished work on The FBI on a Friday in 1974 and began work on Cannon the following Monday, according to the Quinn Martin, Producer book.

In 1975, Martin had Spinner producing two QM series simultaneously, Cannon and the short-lived Caribe. The latter was a cross between Hawaii Five-O (tropical climate) and U.N.C.L.E. (agency with multi-national jurisdiction).

Also, while working at QM, Spinner and his story editor, Stephen Kandel, rescued Cannon scripts during a large fire at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, the home base for Cannon, according to the Etter book.

His credits also included being producer of The Return of the Saint in the late 1970s, with Ian Ogilvy as Simon Templar.

Spinner’s career extended into the 1990s with the TV movie The Lottery.

In 2009, Spinner sued ABC saying he actually created the television series Lost. Spinner in 1977 had written a pilot for the network titled Lost which he said contained ideas and concepts that ended up in the 2004-10 series. ABC won the case in court in 2011. a finding that was upheld on appeal in 2013.

Revisiting Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (Moonraker ’66)

American agent Kelly (Mike Connors) and British agent Susan Fleming (Dorothy Provine) compare notes in Kiss the Girls and Make The Die

Back in 2008, the blog noted the remarkable similarities between Kiss the Girls and Makes Them Die (1966) and Moonraker (1979).

This week, for the first time in a long time, I had a chance to watch the earlier movie. So here’s a more complete list of similarities.

Homages to Goldfinger and Thunderball: To be clear, Kiss the Girls takes a few cues from Goldfinger and Thunderball.

The villain, industrialist Mr. Ardonian (Raf Vallone) talks the Chinese into helping him. The Chinese supply the rocket from which Ardonian which launch a satellite that will zap the U.S. with radiation that causes men to lose interest in sex. From the Chinese standpoint, this will ensure the U.S. loses its position as the leading world superpower.

That’s similar to how Auric Goldfinger talked the Chinese into supplying him with an atomic bomb as part of his Fort Knox plan.

Except, Ardonian electrocutes a delegation of Chinese officials as part of a double-cross. That’s because Ardonian wants to expose all countries to the radiation. This evokes both Goldfinger (the villain double-crossing the gangsters who were helping him out) and Thunderball (similar to the SPECTRE board meeting where just one person was electrocuted).

There are also a number of “animated sets,” inspired by what Ken Adam designed for the two Bond films.

But there are a number of examples of where how Kiss the Girls reached territory before Bond.

Dorothy Provine’s title card in Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die

Rio: Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die’s only location shooting was in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. That meant shots of Iguazu Falls (for the main titles), Brazilian Carnival and the Christ the Redeemer statue (the latter not really utilized for Moonraker).

“Sit!”: British agent Susan Fleming, being chased by a large dog of Ardonian’s, turns and yells at him, “Sit!” The dog complies. This is similar to what James Bond (Roger Moore) did with a tiger in Octopussy.

Villain’s plot: Ardonian feels the Earth is headed toward an environmental disaster. So he plans to head off overpopulation with his plan. Meanwhile, he is putting beautiful women into suspended animation. When the time comes, he will repopulate the Earth.

This is pretty similar to Moonraker where Drax plans to kill everybody on Earth while his “orbiting stud farm” eventually repopulates the Earth.

A pair of agents: Eventually American agent Kelly (Mike Connors) and Susan Fleming (Dorothy Provine) join forces after a bit of conflict.

This is pretty similar to how British agent James Bond (Moore) joins forces with American agent Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) join forces in Moonraker after a bit of conflict.

Billboards for product placement: Susan Fleming’s tricked-out Rolls Royce, driven by her chauffeur (Terry-Thomas) has a camouflage device. Panels come out from the bottom of the car, move up to the side and extend to look like a billboard for Bulova watches.

Moonraker didn’t have a tricked-out car. But it had billboards for British Airways, Seiko 7-Up and Marlboro as part of its Rio sequence.

The remarkable Paul Dehn

Paul Dehn (1912-1976)

While doing some research, it occurred to me how remarkable Paul Dehn’s career as a screenwriter was.

In the space of one year Dehn adapted film versions of Ian Fleming (Goldfinger) and John Le Carre (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold).

In the space of 10 years, Dehn added adaptations of William Shakespeare (The Taming of the Shrew, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) and Agatha Christie (the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express).

On top of that, he worked on four sequels for The Planet of the Apes.

Dehn (1912-1976) engaged in intelligence activities during World War II, according to his WIKIPEDIA ENTRY. In the post-war years, Fleming, Dehn and former intelligence operatives such as Alan Caillou (1914-2006) drew upon their experiences in spinning stories for film and TV shows.

Still, Dehn had quite a ride. He was the second writer brought in for Goldfinger, brought in by Harry Saltzman after Richard Maibaum had begun the process.

“Dehn solved the final problems of the adoption and added some Britishness,” film historian Adrian Turner wrote in the 1998 book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger.

“Although Maibaum had disapproved of much of Dehn’s work, Dehn sent him a cable on the day of the film’s premiere — “Congratulations on Goldfinger am proud to have collaborated with you” — which was a nice gesture,” Turner wrote.

Turner added that had “a strong sense of British tradition” and “wrote poetry, lyrics for popular songs, plays and libretti for short operas.”

Dehn died on Sept. 30, 1976, at the age of 63.

Zimmer associate Balfe to score M:I 7-8

Tom Cruise

Lorne Balfe, one of Hans Zimmer’s group of Remote Control composers, will score Mission: Impossible 7 and 8, Film Music Reporter said.

The website cited the newest episode of the Light the Fuse podcast.

Balfe scored 2018’s Mission: Impossible-Fallout, the most recent M:I film starring and produced by Tom Cruise.

Balfe is one of more than 60 composers affiliated with Zimmer’s Remote Control company.

Another Remote Control composer is Steve Mazzaaro, who scored the non-Bond spy film The Rhythm Section produced by Eon Productions. On The Rhythm Section, Zimmer got the lead music credit for producing the music while Mazzaro had the secondary credit position for actually writing the music.

Mazzaro is assistant composer on No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film where Zimmer is lead composer.

The canard that haunts the Bond franchise

The prototype for the “reveal” of SPECTRE (2015)

Last week, a website called The Ringer became the latest outlet to repeat the canard that the James Bond films were forced to change in tone to be more serious.

The article was called “Austin Powers Still Haunts the James Bond Franchise.” Here’s an excerpt:

But as excellent as some of (Daniel Craig’s) Bond films have been, fun probably isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when describing Craig’s take on the character; that was a point unto itself. “Mike Myers fucked us,” Craig told the Bond fan site MI6 Confidential Magazine in 2014. “I am a huge Mike Myers fan, so don’t get me wrong—but he kind of fucked us.”

He’s referring to—what else?—the Austin Powers franchise, Myers’s iconic spoof of Bond and the larger spy genre.

The problem with this often-repeated trope is Austin Powers was hardly the first to poke fun at Bond’s expense.

As early as 1964, future Bond Roger Moore played 007 in a variety show skit.

In 1965, The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71), a wildly successful, if improbable, situation comedy, featured man-child Jethro Bodine returning from the theater after seeing Goldfinger. Jethro recites the plot to his rich uncle Jed Clampett, who has lost none of his common sense despite his sudden wealth.

After listening to Jethro, Jed has one question: “Why didn’t he just shoot him?” Jethro, who had been smiling moments before, is crestfallen.

Despite that, Jethro decides that being a “double-naught spy” is his life’s calling because double naughts engage in a lot of “fightin’ and lovin’.” Jethro takes the Clampett family truck and adds a bulletproof shield (a meta tub), defensive weapons (two rifles that can be fired when Jetro pulls on strings tied to the rifles) and an ejector seat. Naturally, the latter figures into the episode’s final gag.

In fact, Jethro’s quest to be a “double naught” became a running gag for multiple episodes. There was a follow-up story the next season as Thunderball was coming out.

The Beverly Hillbillies wasn’t the only show to poke fun at 007. It happened all the time during the 1960s. Another example: A 1966 episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show titled “The Man From My Uncle,” in which Godfrey Cambridge played a character named Harry Bond. (“Yeah. Please no jokes. I’m not 007.”)

And, of course, there was Get Smart, a parody of Bond and the spy craze that ran for five seasons (four on NBC, one on CBS).

So, the Austin Powers series, consisting of three movies, was hardly plowing new ground in making light of Bond. Indeed, the Austin Powers series ended (for now) with Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002, the same year as Die Another Day.

The first new serious, Daniel Craig film, Casino Royale didn’t come out until 2006. Casino Royale had been influenced (in terms of a more serious tone) by the Jason Bourne films starring Matt Damon. With 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the Bond series went full Bourne, bringing in Dan Bradley as second unit director, who had the same job on the Bourne films.

By Casino Royale, and certainly by Quantum of Solace, Austin Powers was receding into memory.

Meanwhile, with 2015’s SPECTRE, the Bond series embraced one of the Austin Powers tropes. It had been revealed that Austin Powers and his arch-enemy Dr. Evil were really brothers. In SPECTRE, it was revealed that Craig/Bond and Blofeld were foster brothers. And SPECTRE came out more than a decade after Austin Powers in Goldmember.

In the words of Daniel Craig, if Austin Powers “fucked us,” it was self-inflicted.

Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 get pushed back

Tom Cruise

The release dates of Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 have been pushed back because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Variety reported.

The seventh installment of the film series with Tom Cruise is now scheduled for Nov. 19, 2021, delayed from July 23. The eighth movie in the series is now slated for Nov. 4, 2022, delayed from Aug. 5 of that year.

The new dates were announced by Paramount, one in a series of release date changes disclosed by the studio, Variety said.

The coronavirus has shut down movie theaters and other businesses in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease. Various films have been affected, including No Time to Die, which is now set for a November release. It had been set to come out this month.

M:I 7 had been slated to be filming in Venice in February. Italy was hit hard by COVID-19 and filming was postponed.

Christopher McQuarrie, director of Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible-Fallout is directing M:I 7 and 8.

Duns uncovers Joseph Heller’s work on Casino Royale

Poster for Charles K. Feldman’s 1967 version of Casino Royale

Writer Jeremy Duns, who in 2011 researched Casino Royale scripts by Ben Hecht, has produced another chapter in the saga of the Charles K. Feldman production — work that Catch 22 author Joseph Heller did for Feldman’s project.

Duns’ research about Heller is contained in an April 20 article in The Times of London.

Heller was approached by producer Feldman after Hecht died in 1964. Hecht’s work was more of a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel.

However, according to the article, Feldman wanted to go in a more extravagant direction after Hecht’s death. Heller, who worked with novelist George Mandel as a co-writer, came aboard during this phase of the project in early 1965.

In one version of the Heller material, according to Duns, the fugitive Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele “is removing the brains of leading scientists” and storing them.

A very similar idea would be included in a March 1966 episode of The Wild Wild West, The Night of the Druid’s Blood. The series was set in the 1870s but the villain of the episode has removed the brains of scientists who are still alive, albeit disembodied. That episode was scripted by Henry Sharp, one of the show’s leading writers who earlier in his career had written for pulp magazines.

The Heller-Mandel material also includes the villain’s base is in a dormant volcano. As noted by Duns, both Our Man Flint, with James Coburn, and 1967’s You Only Live Twice featured the same concept.

Despite such flourishes, Duns says the tone of the Heller material has “a real sense of menace and suspense.”

Duns found the Heller material in the Charles K. Feldman Collection at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Feldman’s family donated Casino Royale material in 1969 but the collection has been closed to the public until recently, according to Duns.

To read the much more detailed article, CLICK HERE. The article is behind a paywall. However, if you register for The Times’ site, you can see two free articles a month. The Times is offering a one-month free subscription plan. Duns also has his own summary of his research on his blog.

Mort Drucker, ace Mad artist, dies at 91

Part of the Mort Drucker-drawn parody of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Mort Drucker, one of the best artists to grace the pages of Mad magazine, has died at 91, The New York Times reported. He died Thursday at his home in Woodbury, N.Y., according to the newspaper. (The Times originally said Wednesday and corrected the story.)

Drucker specialized in parodies of movies and television shows. His caricatures bore dead-on resemblances to actors, while making exaggerations for comic effect. He began working at Mad in the 1950s and lasted well into the 21st century.

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

The artist, naturally, had pencil and pen ready during the spymania of the 1960s and beyond.

Among his work:

–007 (April 1965 issue), showing what a stage musical featuring “James Bomb” would be like. Naturally, there was a Connery caricature. The villainous organization ICECUBE is towing the U.K. to the North Pole. The head of the organization is revealed to be Mike Hammer, angry that Bomb had taken away his book sales.

The parody, written by Frank Jacobs, included songs were all sung to the tune of songs from Oklahoma! For example: “Poor Bomb Is Dead,” instead of “Poor Jud Is Dead.”

–A parody of The Man From U.N.C.L.E,, titled The Man From A.U.N.T.I.E. (July 1965 issue). Besides caricatures of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, the story included an appearance by a Sean Connery caricature dressed in a tuxedo with a “007” button. The Illya Kuryakin takeoff has hired 007 to do away with the Napoleon Solo takeoff. There were also cameos from the White Spy and Black Spy from Mad’s Spv Vs. Spy feature.

Image from The Man From A.U.N.T.I.E.

–The Spy That Came in for the Gold (September 1966), parody of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

Why Spy? (June 1967 issue), parody of I Spy with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby.

–Mission: Ridiculous (April 1968 issue), parody of Mission: Impossible. The letters page of the issue had a letter from Martin Landau and Barbara Bain asking why Mad hadn’t yet parodied M:I. The letter came complete with a photo of the actors looking at an issue of Mad.

–The March 1974 issue of Mad that parodied the first eight movies in the 007 series produced by Eon Productions. The parody titles were Dr. No-No, From Russia With Lunacy, Goldfingerbowl, Thunderblahh, You Only Live Nice, On His Majesty’s Secret Shamus, Dollars Are Forever and Live And Let Suffer.

Mort Drucker in a 2015 video by the National Cartoonists Society

Drucker also drew later 007 parodies, including takeoffs of The Spy Who Loved Me (June 1978 issue) and For Your Eyes Only (March 1982 issue). With the latter, the White Spy and Black Spy of Spy Vs. Spy again make a cameo.

Drucker was also in demand for projects other than Mad. One of his most prominent was the poster for 1973’s American Graffiti.

Part of the Mort Drucker-drawn 007, Mad’s version of a “James Bomb” stage musical. The villain reveals himself to be Mike Hammer, who is angry at 007 for taking away all his book sales.