Christopher McQuarrie to work on Mission: Impossible 6

Christopher McQuarrie, the scripter-director of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, will work on the next film in the Tom Cruise M:I series. McQuarrie, however, didn’t specify whether what job(s) he’d have on the new movie.

Here’s the tweet that McQuarrie posted on Monday:

It’s not a surprise McQuarrie put out the news on Twitter. He provided a number of updates on the social media outlet about M:I Rogue Nation. If McQuarrie directs M:I 6, it would be the first time a director helmed two films in the series, which began in 1996.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation generated worldwide box office exceeding $680 million, including $195 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to Box Office Mojo.

UPDATE: The Hollywood Report, citing sources it didn’t identify, SAYS IN THIS STORY that McQuarrie will “write, direct and produce” the movie.

Does SPECTRE have too much humor? Not really

Cover art for a North by Northwest Blu Ray release

Cover art for a North by Northwest Blu Ray release

A recurring criticism of SPECTRE is that the 24th James Bond film engages in too much “Roger Moore humor.”

This trope came up repeatedly. (Trust us, this blog surveyed a lot of reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.) Yet, in a lot of ways, SPECTRE’s humor content was closer to “Alfred Hitchock-Ernest Lehman humor,” as realized in the 1959 movie North by Northwest.

Without going into too much detail, North by Northwest concerns the adventures of New York advertising executive Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant), who suddenly finds himself in the midst of a Cold War adventure involving spies from all sides.

Sounds like very serious stuff. And it is. But there’s also some humor, similar to SPECTRE.

SLAPSTICK: In SPECTRE, the main example of slapstick humor involves a hapless driver of a Fiat in Rome, with Bond (Daniel Craig) tailgating him while trying to evade Hinx (Dave Bautista). The Fiat driver eventually touches (slightly) a post, causing his air bag to deploy.

In North by Northwest, Thornhill has been forced to drink an entire fifth of Bourbon by the lackeys of lead villain Vandamm (James Mas0n). The thugs intend to make it look like Thornhill had a fatal auto accident while drunk. But Thornhills revives enough to drive off. At one point, two of his car’s four wheels are over a cliff. In a closeup, Grant looks at the camera while his character is drunk and not entirely sure what’s going on.

MORE SUBTLE HUMOR: In SPECTRE, Bond has amusing exchanges with M (Ralph Fiennes) and Q (Ben Whishaw).

In North by Northwest, Thornhill — who finally knows everything — gets away from his “American Intelligence” minder the Professor (Leo G. Carroll). He gets out of his own hospital room and enters the room of a woman patient.

The woman patient, while putting on her glasses, says, “Stop!”

Grant’s Thornhill replies, “I’m sorry…” The woman patient, her glasses now on and realizing what she sees, replies, “Stop….”

“Uh, uh, uh,” Thornhill says, wagging his finger. He then ducks out of the room.

In a 2009 post, this blog argued that North by Northwest provided the blueprint for 1960s spy entertainment. SPECTRE is an attempt to replicate that, as well as the “classic” Bond film style, while including some of the drama of 21st century Daniel Craig 007 movies.

SPECTRE has its faults. This blog’s review, while liking the film overall, cited the “reveal,” the length and the last third of the film as demerits. Still, SPECTRE doen’t remotely resemble a comedy, as some critics seemed to think it did.  It’s an attempt, as we’ve said before, of blending “classic” and Craig-style Bond.

And it’s humor content is comparable to what Hitchcock liked to introduce in some of his films. SPECTRE isn’t up to the standards of North by Northwest. That’s still a nice standard to shoot for.


The Incredible World of James Bond’s 50th

Thunderball British quad that was auctioned this month

Thunderball British quad that was auctioned this month

This post is both to wish readers a Happy Thanksgiving Day and to note the 50th anniversary of The Incredible World of James Bond.

Incredible World first aired Nov. 26, 1965, in the United States. NBC pre-empted The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to air the special, which reviewed the first three 007 movies and promoted the upcoming Thunderball, due out the following month.

In the 21st century, business types would call this “synergy.” U.N.C.L.E. was at its peak of ratings. Bond was at his peak of popularity. Even though 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had once tried to stop production of U.N.C.L.E., putting the Bond special in U.N.C.L.E.’s time slot made perfect business sense.

For this blog, there’s also a personal note. Incredible World was how the Spy Commnader first discovered 007.

Originally, Sean Connery was to host the special but he pulled out at the last minute. As a replacement, character actor Alexander Scourby was hired to narrate.

Scourby (1913-1985) had already acted as a narrator on other documentaries. He was blessed with a pleasant sounding, but firm, voice that conveyed authority. He was perfect for the project.

Had Connery gone through with it, Incredible World might have seemed like a cheesy infomercial (though the term hadn’t been coined yet). Scourby gave Incredible World a sense of heft, perhaps more than it actually deserved. It came across as a documentary, not a promotional vehicle (which it also was).

The narration spoken by Scourby covered both the movies and Ian Fleming’s novels, including a sequence providing a biography of Bond taken from the obituary chapter of You Only Live Twice. In short, Incredible World was the perfect vehicle to entice even more new followers for the exploits of agent 007.

So, Happy Thanksgiving. And happy anniversary to The Incredible World of James Bond.

UPDATE: A couple of other things of note about The Incredible World of James Bond:

–It shows part of the casino scene from Thunderball. Adolfo Celi and Claudine Auger can be heard speaking in their own voices. They were dubbed for the movie.

–Over at The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Inner Circle page on Facebook, an original viewer notes that U.N.C.L.E.’s David McCallum was seen at the end of The Incredible World of James Bond saying the show would be back next week but not sounding very pleased it had been pre-empted in the first place.

Happy 83rd birthday, Robert Vaughn

Today, Nov. 22, is actor Robert Vaughn’s 83rd birthday. The original Man from U.N.C.L.E. is still keeping busy with acting projects.

To note the occasion, here’s a scene from To Trap a Spy, the movie version of the U.N.C.L.E. pilot. This was part of additional footage shot after the pilot was filmed for the movie version. release. In turn, some of the To Trap a Spy additional footage (though not this specific scene) were edited into an episode of the series called The Four-Steps Affair.

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

Director McQuarrie may helm Cruise’s M:I 6

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Christopher McQuarrie, writer-director of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, will write the next movie in the Tom Cruise film series, and may direct it as well, VARIETY REPORTED.

Here’s an excerpt:

(Paramount) and reps for McQuarrie have declined to comment, but several sources with knowledge of the situation say talks are progressing towards a deal being closed, with one insider saying that the studio plans to get production up and running by next August.

Heretofore, Cruise’s Mission: Impossible films have come out at irregular intervals, with the five films spread over 19 years. The producer-star is now 53. While still in movie star shape, Cruise and Paramount have indicated they want a sixth installment sooner than later.

If McQuarrie returns as director, it would be a departure for the series. Each film has had a different director.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation generated worldwide box office of more than $682 million, including $195 million in the U.S. and Canada. The movie originally was scheduled to open on Dec. 25, but was moved up to July 31.

P.F. Sloan, co-writer of ‘Secret Agent Man,’ dies

P.F. Sloan, co-writer of the song “Secret Agent Man,” has died at age 70, the LOS ANGELES TIMES REPORTED IN AN OBITUARY.

“Secret Agent Man” was an anthem for the 1960s spy craze. The song accompanied the main titles of Secret Agent on CBS, the U.S. version of the British television series Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan.

Sloan and Steve Barri wrote “Secret Agent Man,” which was performed by Johnny Rivers. The song long outlived the U.S. run of the show.

In 2000, when the UPN network (which later was aborbed into a merger that resulted in the CW network) had a spyish TV series called Secret Agent Man, the Sloan-Barri song naturally figured into the main titles.

The Times’ obituary emphasized Sloan’s writing of another song of the era, “Eve of Destruction.” Here’s an excerpt:

By the time he was 16, Sloan was a professional songwriter. But even churning out pop hits for big labels with co-writer Steve Barri failed to make him feel like anything but an outsider.

His hits, with Barri, included the Turtles’ “You Baby,” the Grass Roots’ “Where Were You When I Needed You?” and many others.

Then “Eve of Destruction” happened.

“It was the night P.F. Sloan was born,” he wrote.

“I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be Elvis. I wanted to be Ricky. I wanted to be Bobby and Tony and Frankie… But P.F. Sloan? He wanted honesty and truth.”

Anyway, there have been many performances of “Secret Agent Man.” Here’s one, with Johnny Rivers introduced by Judy Garland.

A few thoughts about the U.N.C.L.E. Blu Ray

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

The blog made an preliminary examination of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Blu Ray disc which went on sale today. Some random observations:

Some interesting content in the extras: For example, one of the extras shows how some of the stunts were performed. In an early sequence, Gaby (Alicia Vikander) and Solo (Henry Cavill) are in a car which Gaby appears to be driving. For much of the sequence, there was a stunt driver in a cage atop the car. There was also judicious use of “green screen” CGI.

Technology: In the original series, Sam Rolfe, who scripted the U.N.C.L.E. pilot, said he wanted the tech to be about 15 year ahead of what was available at the time. During the original show, the tech went beyond that, including vaporizers and mind-reading machines. Meanwhile, in one of the extras, co-scripter and co-producer Lionel Wigram said the idea in the movie was to keep the tech as close to the early 1960s as possible.

A bittersweet line: Also in the extras, Armie Hammer says he hopes the movie will lead to more U.N.C.L.E. film adventures. Given how the movie flopped, that’s not likely to happen.

Lens flares: Director Guy Ritchie appeared to adopt a visual signature of fellow director J.J. Abrams, particularly in the opening sequence in East Berlin and later when Solo is tortured by a former Nazi. But there’s even more of the visual technique through much of the movie.

Oops: At the 38:44 mark, you can see very faint shadow of a boom microphone on the door to Illya’s hotel room in Rome when Solo comes calling. To be honest, the Spy Commander missed this detail the five times he saw the movie in the theater. But it’s the kind of thing you can catch up with when you can pause and rewind.

“Have the chair warmed up”: This line was used twice, albeit in subtitles, and foreshadows a sequence when Solo is tortured by the former Nazi. Again, the kind of thing that’s easier to catch when you can pause and rewind.

Daniel Pemberton’s score: Still one of the best things about the movie. Director Ritchie didn’t want to mimic a John Barry James Bond score and it was one of the best decisions he made.

The Jerry Goldsmith U.N.C.L.E. theme: Ritchie really, really didn’t want it in the movie and Pemberton barely placed a few notes in it. In the end, it really wouldn’t have mattered to throw the original U.N.C.L.E. fans a bone and include it in the end titles.

It’s still one of the best entries in 2015’s “Year of the Spy.” Yes, it changed the back stories of Solo and Illya. Still, the movie got the most of its relatively modest $75 million production budget.



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