A look at some directors of the spy craze

In the 1960s, spies became a big thing and that provided a lot of work for directors, both in movies and television.

Today, in the 21st century, some of these directors aren’t remembered very much. Occasionally, a spy craze director would go to bigger things. Here is a look at some of them.

(John Brahm, right, with Burgess Meredith on the set of an episode of The Twilight Zone

John Brahm (1893-1982): The German-born Brahm had directing credits going back to the 1930s. He was mostly working in television by the 1950s and directed series across various genres. He directed 12 episodes of The Twilight Zone, including one of the best, Time Enough at Last, starring Burgess Meredith.

When the spy craze hit, producers needed directors who could work quickly while maintaining quality. Brahm ended up directing eight episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and six episodes of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. Both were made by Norman Felton’s Arena Productions. Brahm also directed 14 episodes of Arena’s Dr. Kildare series. Separately, Brahm helmed a number of episodes of both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Henry Levin (1909-1980): The New Jersey-born Levin’s career went from the 1940s to 1980. Like other journeymen directors, his movies covered various genres. One of his more prestigious films was 1959’s Journey to the Center of the Earth with Pat Boone and James Mason.

With the spy craze, Levin would be employed for three spy movies all made in short order: Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (produced by Dino De Laurentiis) and Murderers’ Row and The Ambushers (both produced by Irving Allen, former partner to Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli). All three movies were released by Columbia, now part of Sony.

Richard Donner (1930-2021): Donner was a spy craze director who eventually became an A-list director in Hollywood.

Donner today is best remembered for Superman (1978), the first movie featuring Christopher Reeve as the title character, as well as the Lethal Weapon series of films.

But, in the 1960s, Donner was busy doing spy-related episodes of TV shows. He directed four early episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., three episodes of The Wild Wild West and two episodes of spy parody Get Smart. Donner also directed an espionage-related episode of The Twilight Zone, The Jeopardy Room, with Martin Landau and John van Dreelen.

The inspiration for Moonraker?

It has been speculated that 1966’s “Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die,” produced by veteran schlockmeister Dino De Laurentiis and directed by Henry Levin (who also helmed two Matt Helm movies), may have been the “inspiration” for 1979’s “Moonraker.” At the very least there are some similarities Among them:

–A rich industrialist decides the world is getting overpopulated.
–The rich industrialist’s plan involves space launches. (In the case of the 1966 movie, he’s going to launch a satellite into orbit that will make men sterile; meanwhile, he’s putting beautiful women in “suspended animation” so HE can repopulate the world at the proper time).
–A British agent and an American agent are initially in competition but later join forces. In the earlier movie, the man is an American (Mike Connors) and the woman British (Dorothy Provine).
–Both films are shot in Brazil and make use of some of the locations.

Anyway, here’s the trailer:

And here are the main titles: