Karin Dor’s non-007 spy roles

Karin Dor’s death scene in Topaz

Actress Karin Dor died Nov. 6 at the age of 79.

Obituaries, such as the one published by The Hollywood Reporter, naturally led with her status as a “Bond Girl” in You Only Live Twice. She played Helga Brandt, a SPECTRE assassin who is executed by Blofeld when she fails to kill Sean Connery’s James Bond.

But that was not the German-born actress’ only brush with the spy genre.

Besides Twice, her most famous spy role was probably 1969’s Topaz, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She plays Juanita de Cordoba, who is involved in spying in early 1960s Cuba.

Her character is killed by Rico Para (John Vernon) when her activities have been discovered. Her death scene involved some typically Hitchockian camera work. In this case, the camera is pointing almost straight down.

Take a look below:

 

Dor also appeared on the small screen in spy-related roles.

She was a guest star on an episode of the Robert Wagner series It Takes a Thief, The Three Virgins of Rome. And she played the kidnap target of a Communist spy in a sixth-season episode of The FBI titled The Target.

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The Chronicles of SPECTRE Part IV: You Only Live Twice

You Only LIve Twice poster

You Only LIve Twice poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Based on Ian Fleming’s penultimate novel, 1967’s You Only Live Twice features the SPECTRE organization as the main villain plus the same Japanese locations and characters as in the 1964 book.

Still, scribes Roald Dahl and Harold Jack Bloom went further and discarded the darkness of the novel by bringing the protagonist and the antagonist on the same setting, but with a more extravagant and actual plot: the Space Race, very much like the first Bond film, Dr. No.

While James Bond fakes his death as part of a staged MI6 operation, America blames Russia for the abduction of a space capsule, an operation executed by a mysterious spacecraft with the USSR insignia.

British intelligence noted echoes of that spacecraft coming down in Japan, where the “deceased” 007 is sent to investigate. Bond will discover that, of course, SPECTRE was behind it all, and this time, he comes face to face with the organization’s leader.

Bond’s contact with SPECTRE comes through the corrupt Japanese businessman Osato (Teru Shimada), who provides chemicals for SPECTRE and has the organization’s Number 11 Helga Brandt (Karin Dor) posing as his secretary.

Captured while investigating Osato’s Ning-Po vessel in Kobe, Bond seduces Helga and manages to escape with her help, but she betrays him and, unsuccessfully, tries to kill him.

Soon, we get to see the new SPECTRE headquarters –- inside an inactive volcano in Japan! Clearly, the organization has made a lot of money from its criminal and terrorist activities conducted in the two years between Thunderball and You Only Live Twice.

As SPECTRE’s Bird 1 spacecraft captures a Soviet capsule and imprisons its astronauts (or “cosmonauts”), we meet again with Number One. Once again, we only get his hands stroking his cat.

He has a bank account in Buenos Aires and asks some money in advance from two of his clients who would benefit after the war is broken between the U.S. and the USSR. Number One he observes how his piranha fish can eat a man to the bone in 30 seconds. He provides a demonstration. Helga Brandt is feed to the piranhas after she failed to kill 007, much like Largo’s henchmen Quist in Thunderball or Kronsteen in From Russia with Love.

First the U.S. blamed Russia, now Russia blames the US. The clock is ticking.

With the aid of his “wife,” Japanese agent Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), James Bond investigates a cave where an ama fishing girl was mysteriously killed. He eventually reaches the volcano and, observing a helicopter went landed inside it, the team decides to investigate.

As Kissy seeks the aid of his boss of Japanese intelligence, Tiger Tanaka (Testuro Tamba), Bond gets inside the volcano base, rescues the astronauts and tries to sabotage the Bird 1, but he is discovered by Number One.

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am Ernst Stavro Blofeld,” the leader introduces himself to the captured Bond, showing the face of the first credited actor to portray him: Donald Pleasence.

Despite the frightening scar around his right eye, Pleasence’s Blofeld seems less threatening than the mysterious Anthony Dawson/Eric Pohlman character that ordered death sitting on his throne.

Blofeld still has some memorable quips towards Bond as he shows him how the hidden machine guns in the crater terminate some of Tanaka’s ninja men. “You can watch it all on TV, it’s the last program you’re likely to see.” He also seems to be intellectual, by quoting Shakespeare’s Macbeth as he says his hideout is “impregnable”.

But, just like Macbeth, his hideout isn’t impregnable enough when Tanaka’s men get to infiltrate the volcano and a fantastic battle ensues, where 007, after beating Blofeld’s bodyguard Hans (Donald Rich), manages to destroy the Bird 1 spacecraft seconds before another American craft is captured.

SPECTRE’s plans went from toppling space rockets to trying to provoke World War III. Its base of operations expanded from a building in Paris (in Thunderball) to a hidden volcano in Japan. Much of the same characteristics remain: a beautiful female agent (Helga Brandt) and a well-built henchman (Hans). The price for failure of betrayal is still death and nobody is forgiven.

But the most important aspect of You Only Live Twice regarding the organization is that, from now on, SPECTRE loses identity. SPECTRE is now Ernst Stavro Blofeld and the leader assumes the role of the villain more than the organization.

As a matter of fact, we’ll see how in the two other remaining films (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever) the organization is barely mentioned and Blofeld takes the lead as the main nemesis.

In the following entry we’ll see Bond getting personal with Blofeld as George Lazenby took over the role of Ian Fleming’s spy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, released in 1969.

Fidelity-Bravery-Integrity: The FBI’s 50th anniversary

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a first-season episode of The FBI

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a first-season episode of The FBI

The FBI, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sept. 19, was an idealized version of the real-life U.S. agency that symbolized the motto “fidelity, bravery, integrity.”

The series would go on to be the longest-running show for producer Quinn Martin. To do so, it would face challenges not faced by most television series.

According to the 2003 book Quinn Martin, Producer, the QM FBI endured a lot of scrutiny by its real-life counterpart.

Among those who underwent FBI background checks were star Efrem Zimbalist Jr.; William A. Graham, director of its first episodes (who served in U.S. Naval intelligence in World War II); Hank Simms, another World War II veteran and announcer for the show’s main titles; and Howard Alston, a production manager for the series.

What’s more, the bureau had veto power over guest stars, which cost The FBI the services of Bette Davis, a fan of the show.

Initially, the show emphasized the personal side of Zimbalist’s Inspector Lewis Erskine. He was a widower (his wife perished during an attack intended for Erskine) with a daughter in college. That fell off, in part because of audience reaction.

Quinn Martin & Co. quickly shifted to providing more detailed back stories for villains and other characters (not subject to the same scrutiny from the bureau), giving guest stars the chance to well-rounded characters.

It also helped that Martin paid about twice the going rate at the time for guest star roles ($5,000  versus the normal $2,500 for an one-hour episode).  Actors such as Charles Bronson (primarily a movie actor by 1966), Louis Jourdan, Gene Tierney and Karin Dor (a one-time James Bond actress) signed up to play guest stars on The FBI.

The show’s producer for the first four seasons, Charles Larson, frequently rewrote scripts (usually without credit), keeping the show on more than an even keel. Larson exited after the fourth season, with the slack picked up by Philip Saltzman for another four seasons and Anthony Spinner for the series’ final ninth season.

The FBI heavily featured espionage stories, especially in its second and third seasons, as Erskine and his colleagues tracked down foreign agents. That trailed off over time, with three espionage stories (out of 26 total) in the seventh season and only one in the eighth. There were no spy stories in the final season.

The show never had a big following in U.S. syndication. Still, the series had a fan base. Warner Archive began offering The FBI on a “manufactured on demand” basis in 2011. There was enough demand the entire series was made available by the end of 2014. The last two seasons came out after the May 2014 death of star Zimbalist at age 95.

For more information, CLICK HERE to view The FBI episode guide. The site is still under construction but reviews have been completed for the first five seasons.

The FBI season 6: Erskine takes on the ’70s

Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

The sixth season of The FBI is now available on DVD. The sales pitch from Warner Archive, which markets manufactured-on-demand home video products for Warner Bros., reflects the changing era for the show.

At the dawn of the Seventies the Culture War captured as much attention as the Cold War, and the storylines seen in this sixth season of The FBI (drawn from real Bureau files) reflected this. While still on the watch for saboteurs and spies acting as agents for foreign powers, the dedicated crimebusters of the Bureau, as personified by Inspector Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.), Special Agent Colby (William Reynolds), and Assistant Director Ward (Philip Abbott) were just as likely to be tasked with tracking down psychotic Vietnam veterans or stopping college kids with a terrorist bent.

The series still was coming up with some espionage stories such as The Target, an episode featuring one-time James Bond actress Karin Dor.

The sixth season also has a mix of actors who’d gain fame later, including Martin Sheen (who had already done a guest shot back in the third season), Michael Douglas (shortly before being employed by producer Quinn Martin) and Diane Keaton (a year before doing The Godfather). Also, the roster of guest stars includes William Shatner being, well, William Shatner.

For Quinn Martin, The FBI was now his flagship show. The creative team led by producer Philip Saltzman remained in tact from the previous season. For QM Productions, it was steady as she goes amid the changes in society that were affecting storylines.

For information about ordering the season 6 set, you can CLICK HERE. There’s a sample clip from The Condemned, the first episode of the season.

UPDATE (Oct. 18): Here’s the preview clip from The Condemned:

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.

YOLT’s 45th anniversary: Twice is the only way to live

With You Only Live Twice, which marks its 45th anniversary this month, the James Bond film series made a big turn — it was the first time that Eon Productions felt it should, or at least could, jettison Ian Fleming source material in favor of its own plot.

In doing so, Eon’s fifth 007 movie also became the first time the sum didn’t equal the sum of its impressive parts. Twice included one of John Barry’s best scores. It featured some of production designer Ken Adam’s most impressive work (considering the sets he designed for Dr. No, Goldfinger and Thunderball that was a tall order) and it included photography by Freddie Young, one of the greatest cinematographers in British film history.

And yet….

Eon faced a daunting task in adapting Fleming’s 1964 novel. It was the follow-up to the author’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service novel, where Bond gets married but loses in bride at the end. Originally, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman intended to follow Thunderball with OHMSS but changed their minds and did Twice instead. Essentially, the story was tossed out and Eon did a Thunderball in Japan.

Thunderball had an Italian femme fatale with red hair (Luciana Paluzzi) while Twice had a German femme fatale (Karin Dor) with red hair (thanks to hair coloring). Thunderball had a big underwater fight with good guys versus SPECTRE. Twice had a big fight in SPECTRE’s volcano headquarters with Japanese ninja good guys versus SPECTRE, with guns and explosives substituted for spear guns and knives. Thunderball had SPECTRE conducting nuclear blackmail. Twice went one better and had SPECTRE trying to start World World III between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. for the benefit of a client, presumably China.

There are many differences between Fleming’s novel and the film. One of the most subtle may best demonstrate the gulf between the two. In Chapter Six of the novel, Tiger Tanaka, the head of the Japanese Secret Service, explains why he addresses the British secret agent as “Bondo-san.”

“James,” he had said. “That is a difficult word in Japanese. And it does not convey sufficient respect. Bond-san is too much like the Japanese word bon-san, which means a priest, a greybeard. The hard consonants at the end of ‘Bond’ are also not easy for the Japanese, and when these occur in a foreign word, we add an O. So you are Bondo-san. That is acceptable?”

In the film, naturally, all that goes out the window and Tiger calls Bond “Bond-san.” A small touch but it amply demonstrates that preserving Fleming’s original wasn’t a high priority.

It didn’t help that Richard Maibaum, a screenwriter for the first four Bond epics, wasn’t available for Twice. Harold Jack Bloom was initially hired to do the script but departed in the midst of the project. Roald Dahl took over; he’d receive the sole screenwriting credit while Bloom was listed as providing “additional story material.”

Twice also wasn’t the happiest of productions. Sean Connery let it be known the fifth movie would be his last and he had to deal with many, many Japanese reporters and photographers. Also, the key role of Ernst Stavro Blofeld — where audiences would see his face for the first time — was recast in the middle of production, with Donald Pleasence getting the role.

Twice was the first time an Eon film failed to top its predecessors at the box office. The 1967 movie sold $111.6 million in tickets worldwide, almost $30 million less than Thunderball. Years later, HMSS editors in evaluating the film did not like it as much as the first four entries in the series.

Still, Twice is hardly a lost cause and many long-time 007 fans like the movie, despite its flaws. Last year, in Suffern, New York, the film was shown on the big screen to a packed house. Here’s a video by Paul Scrabo about the event:

What’s more, Twice would become the template for two future 007 films, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Both would be helmed by Lewis Gilbert, the director of Twice. Many fans, whether they like their 007 serious or escapist, still enjoy the film.

Thunderball’s 45th anniversary part III: Luciana Paluzzi’s femme fatale

Luciana Paluzzi was only the fourth billed member of Thunderball’s cast (after Sean Connery, Claudine Auger and Adolfo Celi), but her Fiona Volpe character lived on (only figuratively, of course) in ways that would affect the 007 film series.

Dr. No, the first film in the series, had a femme fatale in Miss Taro, a secretary at Government House who really worked for the film’s title character. Fiona Volpe, apparently one of SPECTRE’s top executioners and operatives, had a much larger impact on Thunderball’s story. Fiona plays a key role in SPECTRE’s theft of two atomic bombs (seducing and helping to set up the murder of the pilot of the NATO aircraft); kills SPECTRE operative Count Lippe, whose performance has displeased the organization’s chief, Ernst Stavro Blofeld; and not only goes to bed with Bond but refuses to go over “to the side of right and virtue.”

Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi has been on record as saying she was up for the female lead role of Domino, but didn’t get it and got the Fiona part instead. In a way, that’s understandable. Thunderball wasn’t the first time she had been a femme fatle. Here she is in the trailer for To Trap A Spy, the theatrical movie version of the pilot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The footage seen here wasn’t in the TV version of the pilot. Instead, it showed up in another U.N.C.L.E. first-season episode, The Four-Steps Affair, that had an entirely different plot. Anyway, she made an impression in both versions:

When it was time to begin promoting Thunderball, several of Paluzzi’s were included in the trailer. Here’s the U.K. version:

When Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman produced their next 007 film, the Fiona character may have been on their minds. You Only Live Twice featured another SPECTRE woman assassin, Helga Brandt. Actress Karin Dor colored her hair and Helga looks like she could have been a relative of Fiona.

The series couldn’t help but revisit the notion of the sexy women killer, including Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me and Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye. But Fiona, and the actress who brought the character to life, holds a special place in the series.