Red 2 utilizes a familiar meme

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery on the set of Thunderball

This weekend’s release of Red 2 includes one of the most dependable memes of spy fiction: the hero and the femme fatale who have been more than friendly.

In the new movie, Catherine Zeta-Jones’s Katja is described as “Kryptonite” for Bruce Willis’s Frank Moses. Often the femme fatales are enemies but at times reach an uneasy alliance with the hero — at least until she starts trying to kill him again.

James Bond-Fiona Volpe (Thunderball): In Goldfinger, Sean Connery’s James Bond “recruited” Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore to the side of right. In Thunderball, Connery’s Bond tries it again, albeit unsuccessfully, with Fiona Volpe (Luciana Volpe), the chief executioner for SPECTRE. “What a blow it must have been — you having a failure,” Fiona says. “Well, you can’t win them all,” Bond replies.

Fiona doesn’t survive long after that. But Paluzzi made such an impact that in the next 007 film, You Only Live Twice, Karin Dor’s Helga seems to be a knockoff of Fiona.

Napoleon Solo/Angela-Angelique-Serena Luciana Paluzzi had a dry run before her Thunderball role. When The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot was in production, producer Norman Felton had additional footage shot for a movie version for international audiences. Paluzzi’s Angela lures an U.N.C.L.E. agent to his death and tries to do the same with Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo. The extra footage for the movie version as used, yet again, in a first-season episode of the series called The Four-Steps Affair.

Other Thrush femme fatale operatives showed up in Man’s first season, Serena (Senta Berger) and Angelique (Janine Gray). Solo has had a history with both but the viewer isn’t provided many details. Serena helps abduct Solo for a double can take his place. But at the story’s climax (the TV version was called The Double Affair, the movie version The Spy With My Face), Serena ends up shooting the double.

Matt Helm/Vadya: In the third Matt Helm novel by Donald Hamilton, The Removers, Helm goes to the “recognition room” to review dossiers of Soviet-bloc assassins. One of the dossiers concerns the mysterious “Vadya.” Helm readers don’t meet Vadya until Hamilton’s sixth Helm novel, The Ambushers. The encounter ends in a draw. Helm meets Vadya twice more in the novels The Devastators and The Menacers. She’s killed off early in The Menacers, but her death is a key part of the novel’s plot.

Meanwhile, the 1967 adaption of The Ambushers, starring Dean Martin, includes Vadya (Senta Berger again), except the character has been renamed. The character is killed before the end of the movie.

Our final Soderbergh U.N.C.L.E. footnote

Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

We watched the Steven Soderbergh-directed (and photographed and edited under aliases) Side Effects because it was the movie he did after dumping a film version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in late 2011.

Overall, we’d give it a B grade, with maybe an A after a slow first 20-25 minutes. It was one last chance to get an idea of the U.N.C.L.E. that never was. While we had a better time than we expected (after the director’s Contagion in September 2011 and Haywire in January 2012), we still had the feeling that, despite a long drawn-out soap opera, things ended up for the best.

Among the reasons: This was one more chance to view Channing Tatum, one of the actors whose name was floated as a Napoleon Solo for Soderbergh. He’s a hot star now but…no thanks. He even shows up in one scene in a tuxedo (not uncommon for Solo on the 1964-68 television series) but he looks more like now-retired NFL linebacker Ray Lewis than Solo.

Also, Side Effects was written by Scott Z. Burns, who, based on recent comments, we’re not sure really gets what makes U.N.C.L.E. tick. While we don’t expect any future U.N.C.L.E. movie to be a clone of the TV show, it still helps to have an idea of the core ideas. Put another way: The various Marvel Comics movies that have come out since Iron Man in 2008 aren’t clones of the original comics, but they successful take the basics and update them well.

Essentially, Side Effects is like a theatrical movie version of Law & Order, the 1990-2010 television series where many episodes look simple but run into twists. Except that Side Effects includes a Rooney Mara-Catherine Zeta-Jones love scene that you didn’t get on the TV show. Meanwhile, Jude Law is effective as a psychiatrist who becomes a dupe in a murder plot.

Finally, watching Side Effects provides another footnote — to Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film. The score is by Thomas Newman, who scored an Oscar nomination for his Bond work. Newman’s Side Effects score is much closer to his past work than Skyfall was. Newman’s music for Side Effects contain the Hans Zimmer influence from director Christopher Nolan’s three Batman movies.

UPDATE (Feb. 10): Side Effects finished a distant No. 3 in the U.S.-Canada box office for the Feb. 8-10 weekend with an estimated $10 million in ticket sales, according to BOX OFFICE MOJO. The No. 1 movie was the comedy Identity Thief with an estimated $36.6 million.