Soon-Tek Oh, busy actor, dies

Soon-Tek Oh as an ill-fated secret agent in the Matt Helm film Murderers’ Row.

Soon-Tek Oh, a Korean-born actor whose career extended decades, died April 4, according to an obituary in Korea JoonAng Daily, an English language newspaper in South Korea.

The publication listed his age as 85. The Internet Movie Data Base listed his age as 74.

(UPDATE: Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have listed his age as 85.)

Korea JoonAng Daily said Oh graduated from  Yonsei University in 1959 with a degree in political science. He then went to the University of California-Los Angeles, where he ended up studying acting, the newspaper said.

The actor made his rounds in spy and international intrigue related movies and television series.

He played Lt. Hip in the second Roger Moore 007 film, The Man With The Golden Gun. Before that, he appeared in I Spy, the Matt Helm movie Murderers’ Row (an uncredited role as a Japanese secret agent who’s killed early in the film), It Takes a Thief, The Wild Wild West (a small role as the villain’s houseboy) and eight episodes of Hawaii Five-O.

Lt. Hip assisted Moore’s Bond on a mission in Golden Gun. Often in Bond films, that’s the type of role that ends up being a “sacrificial lamb.” Oh’s Lt. Hip avoided that fate. The character also had two nieces whose martial arts skills helped Bond get out of a jam.

With Five-O, the actor was present at the beginning. In the pilot episode, he played a lab technician for villain Wo Fat, who has devised an unusual torture method involving a “cocoon.”

His parts got larger as the series progressed. Oh returned in a first-season Five-O episode, Face of the Dragon, He played a Chinese agent who is spreading Bubonic plague. Oh also portrayed a “young Maoist” who is being manipulated by Wo Fat as part of a plot in the fifth-season episode The Jinn Who Clears the Way.

The actor’s IMDB.COM entry lists 116 acting credits, extending from 1965 and running through 2006. He was also billed as Soon-Taik Oh (as he was in The Man With the Golden Gun) and Soon-Teck Oh.

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Allan Balter: Gone too soon

Episode title card for The Hundred Days of the Dragon, co-written by Allan Balter

One in a series about unsung figures of television.

Writer-producer Allan Balter (1925-1981) died before his time because his physical heart wasn’t up to the task of powering his talent.

Balter co-wrote (with Robert Mintz) one of the most memorable episodes of the original Outer Limits series, The Hundred Days of the Dragon. An Asian nation hostile to the United States assassinates a candidate for president and substitutes its own double. The story mixed science fiction with espionage.

He also co-wrote (with William Read Woodfield) some of the best episodes of Mission: Impossible. That partnership would last for years, beginning during the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (where Balter was associate producer) and extending to the early 1970s with the television version of Shaft.

The Woodfield-Balter duo made an impact early in the first season of M:I and were brought on full-time with the title of script consultants. That continued into the show’s second season. When Barbara Bain won her second Emmy for playing M:I’s Cinnamon Carter, she mentioned the scribes in her acceptance speech.

Woodfield and Balter were elevated to producers with the show’s third season after Joseph Gantman departed the series.

It would not be a happy time. The new producers clashed with Bruce Geller, M:I’s creator and executive producer.

Woodfield told Patrick White, author of The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier that Geller went after Balter hard.

“He’d know which acts were Balter’s because they’d come in on different paper from different typewriters,” Woodfield told White.

“He’d go to Balter and say, ‘What are these words? I don’t understand these words.’ Balter would say, ‘Well, I understand them, Bruce.’ Balter was a nebbisher guy with a very weak heart which ultimately killed him.”

After Balter’s partnership with Woodfield ended, he worked as a producer at Universal’s television operation, including serving as executive producer of some episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man and a pair Captain America TV movies.

In 1978, he married Lana Wood, who played Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. Balter died in September 1981 at the age of 56.

Matt Helm movie project resurfaces, Deadline says

 

Illustration of Matt Helm on the back cover of the first edition of The Wrecking Crew, the second Helm novel.

The Matt Helm movie project that has been kicking around Paramount for years has resurfaced, according to Deadline: Hollywood.

The latest version of the project has Bradley Cooper attached to star, and Tom Shepherd hired to write a script, the entertainment news website reported.

“George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are attached as executive producers, and Steven Spielberg is involved in some capacity,” Deadline said.

Fans of Donald Hamilton’s original novels have long wanted to see a serious version of Helm. Four spoofs starring Dean Martin and loosely based on Hamilton novels were made in the 1960s. Helm was also turned into a private eye in a short-lived series with Tony Franciosa in 1975.

In the novels, Helm was a “counter assassin” and told in the first person. They were a mix of Mickey Spillane (in terms of tone) but often had plots as fanciful as Ian Fleming’s.

Hamilton penned 28 Helm novels — 27 were published from 1960 to 1993, while the Hamilton family has held on to the unpublished 28th in case a movie got made. Hamilton died in 2006.

Whether anything comes of this effort remains to be seen.

MI6 Confidential, 007 Magazine out with new issues

The World Is Not Enough poster

Two separate publications are out that may be of interest to James Bond fans.

MI6 Confidential No. 44 focuses on The World Is Not Enough, the 19th James Bond film. The 1999 movie was the final 007 production of the 20th century and the third Bond film to star Pierce Brosnan.

Articles include a look at how Brosnan felt about the Bond role the third time out; a feature about Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards and the characters they played; and a story about how Robbie Coltrane returned to the series and his character was expanded.

The issue also has stories going beyond the movie, including one about production Peter Lamont and how he became involved in the film series and another about former United Artists executive Jeff Kleeman and his involvement with Bond in the 1990s

For ordering information, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $9.50 or 8.50 euros.

Meanwhile, 007 Magazine is accepting pre-orders for a 007 Magazine Archives Files issue devoted to Luciana Paluzzi, who played SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball.

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball

According to the publication, Paluzzi “discussed in detail her varied life and career.” Other highlights for Paluzzi included a pre-Thunderball appearance on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as another femme fatale. Toward the end of her career, she was a guest star in the original Hawaii Five-O series as an Italian journalist. On that episode, she played opposite Jack Lord, the first screen Felix Leiter.

For ordering information, CLICK HERE. The price is 9.99 British pounds, $15.99 and 11.99 euros. The issue is to begin shipping on March 26.

 

Not a good weekend for movies not titled Black Panther

Black Panther poster

The March 2-4 weekend wasn’t kind to movies not titled Black Panther.

The Marvel Studios film, in its third weekend release in the U.S., is generating an estimated box office of $65.7 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

Black Panther is nearing the $900 million mark globally, according to the website.

A distant second is Red Sparrow, a spy movie with Jennifer Lawrence, at an estimated $17 million.

Third is a remake of Death Wish, with Bruce Willis subbing for Charles Bronson. It’s estimated to bring home $13 million for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

It’s the first film to be released through a new joint venture between MGM and Annapurna Pictures. That joint venture will release films for both MGM and Annapurna under their respective company names.

The producer of Death Wish is Roger Birnbaum. He and Gary Barber became co-CEOs after MGM initially came out of bankruptcy in 2010. But Birnbaum later dropped out and accepted a producer’s deal at the studio. Since then, Barber has been the sole CEO at MGM, which controls half of the 007 film franchise.

Trigger Mortis: Possibly Fleming’s most preposterous idea

Ian Fleming

The blog has been catching up on Trigger Mortis, the 2015 James Bond continuation novel by Anthony Horowitz, with some previously unpublished Ian Fleming material.

It might contain Fleming’s most preposterous idea.

Now, that’s a tall order, given how Fleming wrote about a plot to steal gold from Fort Knox (Goldfinger), created a villain whose heart was on the wrong side of his chest (Dr. No) and spun a tale that included a villain enticing Japanese to commit suicide (You Only Live Twice).

Still, Fleming had an idea for an unmade James Bond TV series involving 007 driving against real race drivers on the famous Nurburgring track in Germany. When the Bond TV series failed to materialize, the author pitched the idea again in 1962 as part of his contributions to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series (1964-68).

In the Trigger Mortis novel, Bond is assigned to protect a race driver from a Soviet assassination plot (the Russians have a driver in the race).

Here’s the thing: No way.

Bond, while adept at driving fast, is up against an entire field of professional race drivers. He views some film of the Nurburgring and takes some practice laps and, supposedly, he’s all ready to go.

So here’s a first-hand observation. In the late 1990s, I was an at event in Indianapolis put on by Mercedes-Benz. It took place at an indoor go kart track. The guests were divided into teams.

Meanwhile, Mercedes brought in drivers who participated in the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series, which was active at that time. The real racers were to be divided among the teams.

The problem: There weren’t enough real race drivers for all the teams. I was on the team that didn’t have a real race driver. So, as the teams rotated drivers, I found myself on the track with all of the real race drivers.

Humiliating doesn’t begin to describe it. It was akin to playing a game of Horse with National Basketball Association players or touch football with National Football League players.

James Bond, in novels or movies, is a fantasy. In this case, Fleming’s imagination was working overtime.

Joe Kraemer won’t score M:I-Fallout

Mission: Impossible-Fallout promotional image featuring Tom Cruise performing a stunt.

Joe Kraemer, who scored 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, will not handle music for the franchise’s new installment, Mission: Impossible-Fallout.

“There seems to be confusion in the film music community re:my assoc with MI6:Fallout. Here’s the deal: I wasn’t hired, fired, or replaced,” Kraemer wrote in a post on Twitter.

“I was notified by email that I was not being asked back,” he wrote. “That is the full extent of my involvement with the film & the filmmakers.”

Kramer’s music was one of the highlights of the 2015 M:I adventure. The composer, in addition to using Lalo Schifriin’s iconic theme from the original show, also utilized one of Schifrin’s underscore compositions from the series.

A fellow film composer also took to Twitter to compliment Kraemer’s work.

“I think the confusion would be based on everyone wanting more @joekraemer MI music because Rogue Nation was so good!” Daniel Pemberton wrote in a Twitter post. Pemberton’s work includes the 2015 film version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

Kraemer’s Twitter post is embedded below.

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