The HMSS Weblog is now The Spy Command

spycommandwebloglogo-blogfinal.jpg

This blog has changed its name to The Spy Command.

The blog began in 2008 as The HMSS Weblog. It was a spinoff of the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website. The blog developed its own voice as it continued regular publication while Her Majesty’s Secret Servant published less often. The blog became independent last year.

Without going into details, there’s a business reason for the name change. There’s no change in format. The blog will continue to write news and commentary about James Bond and The Other Spies.

Why Spy Command? It rhymes with “high command.” Also, the “C” in U.N.C.L.E. stood for “Command.” The combination sounded good.

The name change doesn’t affect the effort to archive some stories from Her Majesty’s Secret Servant. If you look at the green tabs above The Spy Command logo, you can see a tab for one of them, IOWA, SPY CENTRAL.

The blog’s TWITTER FEED has been changed. A new Facebook page will be constructed.

UPDATE: There is now a FACEBOOK PAGE for The Spy Command.

Announcing an archive project

The HMSS Weblog Spy Command has begun an effort to archive at least some articles from the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website.

So far, only three articles are back online: IRON MAN, THE COLD WAR YEARS (originally published in 2010), MATT HELM, AMERICA’S LOADED WEAPON, originally published in 2000 with an update in 2007, about the Dean Martin movies, and IOWA: SPY CENTRAL, about the University of Iowa’s collection of papers by 007 screenwriter Richard Maibaum and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. executive producer Norman Felton.

We have the text and art for several other articles and will try to get those up as time and real life permit. There’s no way for the blog to preserve all the stories but we’re trying to do what we can.

Her Majesty’s Secret Servant was published from 1997 until 2014, with the last new issue in 2011. The HMSS Weblog, now The Spy Command, started in 2008, formally became a separate entity last year. The name Her Majesty’s Secret Servant is copyrighted by Paul Baack and Tom Zielinski.

UPDATE (Feb. 8): Two more stories have been archived:

THE BOND TOO BIG FOR 007: The first draft of Moonraker was so big, it was too much even for James Bond. Story looks at that script as well as drafts for Diamonds Are Forever, Casino Royale and Tomorrow Never Dies. Originally published in 2011 in the final issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant.

QUANTUM OF FLEMING: How much “Fleming content” is in each James Bond film? A feature article expanded from posts in The HMSS Weblog originally written in 2010. Updated to include Skyfall. The expanded article never ran until now.

NYC hangout for Bond writers, collectors loses an owner

Jean-Claude Baker

Jean-Claude Baker

Jean-Claude Baker, a New York restaurateur, died this week at 71. He owned Chez Josephine, a colorful establishment that on more that one occasion served as a place for James Bond collectors and scribes who wrote about Agent 007 to gather.

One can only imagine how Ian Fleming would have described Chez Josephine. It was part restaurant, part shrine for Baker’s adoptive mother, Josephine Baker. There’s live music and the restaurant does brisk business from New York theater goers.

There was also something of a James Bond clientele.

Gary Firuta, a Bond collector, often brought the likes of writers James Chapman, Raymond Benson, Alan Porter, John Griswold, Anders Frejdh and Joseph Darlington to Chez as well as video producer Mark Cerulli.

Jean-Claude, upon seeing the Bond-related groups enter, would immediately say, “Oh, my friend!” in his French accent and fuss over those present. One could be away for months or a year or two. It was always the same when Jean-Claude spotted you.

Today, there are myriad Chez Josephine customers who wish they could hear “Oh, my friend!” just one more time.

For more information about Jean-Claude Baker’s colorful life, you can view AN OBITUARY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES or a PLAYBILL OBIT.

UPDATE: Here’s the text of an e-mail the restaurant sent to customers:

With great sorrow, the Chez Josephine family mourns the passing of Jean-Claude Baker.

Throughout his eventful life, Jean-Claude fulfilled with passion and commitment his one true vocation: to bring laughter, joy and love to all who knew him. His larger-than-life personality and unfailing generosity touched everyone around him.

His spirit was irrepressible. His love will endure in the lives touched by his special magic. A magic that his Chez Josephine family will do its best to continue in his honor.

The restaurant is closed today–Thursday, January 15–out of respect to our “Maman Jean-Claude.” We will reopen on Friday, January 16, as Jean-Claude would wish.

Happy New Year from The HMSS Weblog

Our annual holiday greeting.

Happy New Year from The HMSS Weblog.

As Napoleon Solo says, remember to party responsibly. We’ll see you in 2015.

solonye

Daily Beast: Sony exec says Elba should play 007

Idris Elba

Idris Elba

The Daily Beast Website IN A POST QUOTING A SONY EMAIL reported that Sony Pictures executive Amy Pascal said actor Idris Elba should be the next actor to play James Bond.

The Daily Beast post backs into this piece of news. Here’s the key excerpt.

It seems Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal is a big fan of the idea, too.

An email sent on January 4, 2014, from Pascal to Elizabeth Cantillon, former executive vice president of production for Columbia Pictures, which distributes the Bond films, simply says, “Idris should be the next bond.”

Sony was hacked last month. Hackers demanded Sony stop release of the comedy The Interview that included a scene depicting the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This week, Sony did just that after theater chains said they wouldn’t show the film after threats from the hackers.

Meanwhile, the hackers put out a copy of a script for the new Bond film SPECTRE as well as e-mails discussing how the movie’s budget was on pace to exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Sony Pictures has released Bond films starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. Sony’s current agreement to distribute 007 movies runs through SPECTRE, which is scheduled to come out in November 2015. The 007 franchise is controlled by Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

SPECTRE began filming last week, marking actor Daniel Craig’s fourth film in the Bond role. He also played 007 IN A 2011 VIDEO for International Women’s Day produced by Eon Productions co-boss Barbara Broccoli.

REVIEW: Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar poster

Interstellar poster

Normally, this blog wouldn’t review a science fiction movie. But some James Bond fans fancy the notion of Christopher Nolan directing a 007 film (while others despite it). And Interstellar’s director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema has been tapped to photograph Bond 24, to be directed by Sam Mendes.

A number of reviews have discussed at length Interstellar being inspired by the Stanley Kubrick-directed 2001: A Space Odyssey. That influence is undeniable. But Nolan appears to have done other homages.

One is based a 1979 movie by journeyman director Gary Nelson, which more than once referenced Dante’s Inferno (Google it and the answer should be evident. Additional clue: it had a John Barry score). Another, of two small figures fighting amid a barren landscape, seems to be composed similarly to a famous shot in director William Wyler’s 1958 Western film, The Big Country.

What’s more, books also play an important role in Nolan’s film. For example, the camera lets you see a Charles Lindbergh biography, reinforcing the movie’s notion of exploration and adventure. Actually, the importance of books goes beyond that, but we won’t mention more to avoid spoilers.

All of this may be coincidence, but we’re reminded of a comment by the director Stanley Donen in a documentary that nothing in a movie is by chance. He was talking about a famous scene in the musical Singing In The Rain (and how a street stage was made to ensure puddles would form when a rainstorm was simulated). But Donen’s comment is applicable to almost any movie.

Anyway, Nolan likes a big canvas for his films. Interstellar — which takes place on Earth, the solar system and beyond (just like 2001) — is as big as you could want. The story concerns a dying Earth sometime in the future and a last, desperate attempt to ensure mankind can survive, even if it’s not on its home planet.

And yet….

Somewhere in the last third of the movie, Nolan’s story seems to get away from him. Stanley Kubrick, in 2001, made no attempt to explain the movie’s final act. You either went on the ride or you didn’t. Nolan provides striking images but some of his explanations are hard to follow even if the viewer is paying rapt attention.

Interstellar certainly is an emotional film, with a major theme of a father’s relationship to his daughter (and a woman’s relationship to her father). It’s also, technically, a well-made film. Still, there are too many twists in the 169-minute film. Interstellar is by no means a failure, but it seems as if, at some stage, a fresh eye was needed.

Which brings us to one of the reasons for this review.

At first glance, it seems unlikely Nolan will ever get his chance at directing a Bond movie. With Nolan, you have to hire his posse, including his producer-wife Emma Thomas and his screenwriting brother Jonathan Nolan. Christopher Nolan has tremendous control over his projects and it seems unlikely Eon Productions co-bosses Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson would yield the complete control Nolan yields. But who knows for sure?

As for van Hoytema, he delivers interesting images. So he’ll likely do fine on Bond 24. Van Hoytema has confirmed his involvement with Bond 24, according to a STORY on the MI6 James Bond website.

Interstellar, try as it might, is not the second coming of 2001. It’s an interesting attempt to be different than usual fare studios churn out. But, this being the movie business in the 21st century, it still leaves itself open for a sequel. So it’s not that different. GRADE: B-Minus.

Happy birthday, Dick Tracy

Happy 83rd, Tracy.

Happy 83rd, Tracy.

On Oct. 4, 1931, the Dick Tracy comic strip debuted in the Detroit Mirror newspaper.

The newspaper no longer exists. Tracy’s creator, Chester Gould, died almost 30 years ago. But while the strip isn’t widely distributed it’s still around, with Joe Stanton and Mike Curtis carrying on the tradition.

This blog has written before about how Tracy shares elements of James Bond and Batman, especially colorful villains and dabbling in science fiction. Gould devised villains such as Flattop, Pruneface and Mumbles. His successors have come up with their own villains in that tradition and (where they could) brought back Gould favorites who hadn’t been definitively killed off.
chester gould strip

Tracy, like Bond and Batman, has his own eras. The most offbeat, starting in 1962, was when Gould introduced the space coupe (a magnetic-powered craft that could travel into space) and a race of people on the Moon. Gould was 62 when that era began, an indication he wasn’t afraid of trying new things. Eventually, that was dialed back and a more down-to-earth approach took hold.

Sound familiar, Bond fans?

Anyway, here’s Chester Gould in a 1965 appearance on the game show To Tell The Truth in the midst of the space coupe/Moon people era. Gould, at this point, was still more than a decade away from retirement. He died in 1985.

Happy birthday, Tracy.

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