Jonathan Demme’s Columbo episode

Louis Jourdan and Peter Falk in Murder Under Glass, directed by Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme, a well-regarded director, has died at 73. He’s understandably remembered for Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and other films.

Demme, though, shares something in common with another major director, Steven Spielberg. Both had early credits directing an episode of Columbo.

Spielberg directed a first-season episode, Murder by the Book. (It was the first series episode telecast after two pilot TV movies.) Demme’s turn came toward the end of the detective’s 1971-78 run on NBC (the show was revived later on ABC).

Murder Under Glass, featured Louis Jourdan as an influential food critic (who has his own television show) who has extorted owners of restaurants for favorable reviews that has made their businesses successful.

When one of them (Michael V. Gazzo) balks, the food critic poisons him through an ingenious method, thanks to the critic’s own formidable culinary skills and knowledge.

Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) plays his normal game of cat and mouse before bringing in his man. The good detective (a good cook in his own right) also manages to eat quite well along the way.

As often was the case with Columbo, it wasn’t the outcome as it was the journey.

Jourdan’s Paul Gerard was a worthy adversary for the detective. Gerard even tries to do in Columbo while the two are having a meal. The attempted murder is the last thing Columbo needs to make his case.

The episode was a highlight for Columbo’s final NBC season. For Jonathan Demme, bigger things lay ahead.

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.

Louis Jourdan dies at 93

Louis Jourdan in Octopussy

Louis Jourdan in Octopussy

Louis Jourdan, a star of the musical Gigi who later played villains on some spy-related entertainment, has died at 93, according to AN OBITUARY ON VARIETY’S WEBSITE.

Jourdan’s long movie career went back to 1939. By the 1950s, he alternated between film and television.

With his elegant manner, he was perfect to play sophisticated villains. He appeared three times in The FBI in stories involving spy rings or plots involving national security. Perhaps his best appearance on the series was his first, Rope of Gold. In the episode, Jourdan gets to show off his acting ability when his character describes how, as a boy, he killed his father.

Jourdan played villain Kamal in Octopussy. Kamal is conspiring with a Russian general to detonate an atomic bomb at a U.S. base in West Germany. The explosion is to appear to be accidental, which will spur momentum for Europe to ban atomic weapons.

One of the highlights of the 1983 film depicts Bond outcheating Kamal at backgammon (a game 007 actor Roger Moore played with producer Albert R. Broccoli for high stakes). Another, of a sort, is when Octopussy (Maud Adams) confronts Kamal after the plot has been foiled byBond. “Octo-poosy, Octo-poosy,” Kamal says.

UPDATE: Roger Moore sent out the following message via Twitter.

Octopussy’s script: ‘What happened to Vijay?’

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Note: Octopussy was always a suggestive title. Near the end of this post, there’s a stage direction in the script that’s even more suggestive.

When Eon Productions made Octopussy, the 13th film in its James Bond series and the sixth starring Roger Moore, the production company sought out George MacDonald Fraser to be its writer.

Fraser conferred with producer Albert R. Broccoli, director John Glen and executive producer Michael G. Wilson. He then commenced to turn the ideas discussed into a screenplay, whose locations included India — a place Fraser was familiar with and would be new for the series.

However, Broccoli evidently felt a veteran Bond writer was needed to take over. Thus, once again, Richard Maibaum was brought in, writing with Wilson as the paid had done on For Your Eyes Only.

Bond collector Gary Firuta supplied a copy of a June 10, 1982 draft by Maibaum and Wilson. The title page says it’s “based on a draft screenplay by George MacDonald Fraser.” It’s very similar to the finished movie but with significant differences.

The biggest: there is only one MI6 operative in India in the story, Sadruddin. In the June 10 draft, Sadruddin basically does everything that agents Vijay and Sadruddin do in the finished movie. Presumably, once tennis player/novice actor Vijay Amritraj caught producer Broccoli’s eye, the Sadruddin part got split, with Amritraj’s character becoming the “sacrificial lamb.”

When Bond meets Sadruddin in the draft script, it plays in a similar fashion to the Bond-Vijay meeting in the film. The stage directions even specify that as Bond is looking for his contact, “OVER SCENE COMES SOUND OF PIPE PLAYING JAMES BOND THEME.” The script specifies the next shot is from Bond’s point of view and he sees, “Barefoot SNAKE CHARMER in native dress sits cross-legged on mat, playing pipe as HOODED COBRA sways before him.” Thus, it’s clear the film makers early on had the idea of the contact playing The James Bond Theme.

Sadruddin occasional says “no problem,” but not as often as Vijay does in the film. For example, when Bond says, “Call me James,” Sadruddin replies, “Fine,” rather than “No problem!” In the final film, “No problem!” became a catchphrase for Vijay, coming into play when Vijay is killed.

Meanwhile, the script suggests — but not specify — a gag that many fans found irritating. During the later tiger hunt sequence, the stage directions says Bond “swings out over marshy river like Tarzan.” The Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan yell isn’t mentioned.

There are some other interesting items of note in the draft. Among them:

–Kamal Khan, the villain is described as being in “his early forties, darkly hansome and self-possessed, his body is lithe but athletic.” Eon ended up casting Louis Jourdan, 61 when Octopussy began production, for the part.

–There’s this description of how Bond has Kamal followed to the airport following an auction. “Stepping out to kerb and nodding to ZEC, MI6 undercover man, who is in driver seat of taxi parked across street. ZEC drives cab after limousine.” One of Broccoli’s friends was Donald Zec, who was ghostwriter of the producer’s autobiography.

–Not in the script is how Gobinda, Kamal’s bodyguard/thug crushes the dice used in a backgammon game after Bond outcheats Kamal. Gobinda’s feat is similar to Oddjob crushing a golf ball with his bare hands in Goldfiner.

–Instead of saying “Sit!” to a tiger during the tiger hunt sequence, Bond says, “Nice kitty–“.

–After Bond escapes the tiger hunt, a “BEAUTIFUL INDIAN MASSEUSE” gives 007 a rubdown back at MI6 Station I. Sadruddin remarks, “That should put you back in shape.” Bond tells the masseuse, “Thank you, my dear. You have an exquisite touch.” The masseuse “giggles, exit.” In the finished film, Bond would have to settle for a rubdown from Vijay.

–While talking to Sadruddin there’s this stage direction for when Bond displays his knowledge of an particular type of Octopus:

BOND
(ever The Expert)

–In the climatic fight at Kamal’s headquarters, Octopussy’s women fighters sometimes are referred to in the stage directions as “OCTOPUSSIES.” Example: “TRIBESMEN have surrendered. OCTOPUSSIES round them up.”

–Bond’s line after saving Octopussy: “I knew you were a swinger — ”

–In the final scene, the stolen Romanv Star is “nestled in Octopussy’s cleveage, it hangs from a necklace around her throat.” The stage directions say Bond’s unneeded sling, bandages and “traction contraption” can be seen tossed into the water from the Octopussy barge. “Oh, James!” Octopussy says, as in the final film.

UPDATE: Two 007 film villains in The FBI season 7

fbititlecard

We were catching up on the newly released season 7 set of The FBI television series. It turns out there are *two* actors who played James Bond movie villains who appeared during the show’s 1971-72 season.

Louis Jourdan was the lead villain in The Minerva Tapes, the 12th episode broadcast that season. It was Jourdan’s third appearance in the series, all of which involved either espionage or international intrigue storylines.

In the story, Jourdan is the ringleader of a Communist spy ring operating in the United States. His daughter becomes involved with one of his operatives. Meanwhile, there’s a power struggle going on within the spy ring. Into this volatile situation, the FBI’s top operative, Inspector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) goes undercover.

It would end up being at least the fourth time that Zimbalist’s Erskine character would employ the actor’s Dandy Jim Buckley/Alfred the Butler voice to carry off the impersonation.

In the very next episode, Bitter Harbor, the actor who played the very first 007 film villain, Joseph Wiseman, who played the title character in 1962’s Dr. No, was the lead guest star.

Wiseman plays a respected leader of West Coast fisherman who has agreed to a massive loan by mobsters. The mob is looking to take over. Zimbalist’s Erskine dispatches his deputy, special agent Tom Colby (William Reynolds) to go undercover.

As it turns out, these season 7 episodes were never shown in syndication. A few episodes from the season were made available several years ago by AOL. But the new season 7 set, for the most part, is the first time these episodes have been made available since they were shown by ABC.

EARLIER POST: THE FBI SEASON 7: END OF AN ERA

The FBI Season 4 coming soon on DVD

"Identification branch? I want information on this Harrison Ford kid who's been cast in our TV show!"

“Identification branch? I want information on this Harrison Ford.”

It not official yet, but the Warner Archive division of Warner Bros. is planning to bring out season four of The FBI soon on DVD.

We don’t have a specific date. But we quizzed Warner Archive on Twitter if season 4 of the Quinn Martin-produced is coming out. The answer: “Soon, but not yet announced.”

The 1968-69 season has a number of highlights, including Caesar’s Wife, featuring Harrison Ford, then 26, as the grown son of a retired U.S. diplomat (Michael Rennie), who’s the target of a Soviet spy ring run by a deep cover agent played by Russell Johnson. Ford’s character gets the short end of a fight scene with the one-time Professor of Gilligan’s Island. Actually, it’s a good episode but from the Ford-Johnson fight will probably get a lot of 2013 viewer attention.

Other highlights of the season include Wind It Up and It Betrays You, the first episode of the season and another espionage story, which was plotted by Harold Jack Bloom (the only writer who scripted an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and contributed to a James Bond movie with “additional story material” for You Only Live Twice) and has Louis Jourdan as the villain; The Runaways, featuring a post-Opie Ron Howard; and Conspiracy of Silence, which has some backstory of Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Inspector Erskine character and whose cast includes Gene Tierney.

The fourth season was the last to be overseen by producer Charles Larson, who had been with the show from day one. It’s also the final season where Inspector Erskine drives a Ford Mustang convertible in the end titles. Ford Motor Co., the lead sponsor and supplier of vehicles, wanted to promote other models starting with season 5.

The FBI/Octopussy/You Only Live Twice mashup

This just popped up on YouTube. Louis Jourdan, 15 years before he played the villain in Octopussy, played the head of a spy ring in the fourth-season opening episode of The FBI, Wind It Up and It Betrays You. By this stage, the series, starring Efrem Zimbalist Jr., was an anchor of ABC’s Sunday night schedule. Jourdan had also played a villain in a second-season episode.

One of his accomplices is played by Nancy Kovack, who was a femme fatale in the first Matt Helm movie, The Silencers. The plot was by Harold Jack Bloom, who contributed “additional story material” for You Only Live Twice and wrote the second episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Iowa-Scuba Affair.

Anyway, you may want to take a look. Given it’s on YouTube, you never know when it may get pulled.