Happy 90th birthday, Mike Connors

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die poster

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die poster

Aug. 15 is the 90th birthday of actor Mike Connors, a familiar face to American audiences.

His spy entertainment credentials include Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, a 1966 film that rode the spy craze of the decade.

Today, that movie is a bit of a curiosity item, particularly how it bears a remarkable resemblance to the 1979 007 film Moonraker (except for its budget).

The main item of Connors’ acting resume is the 1967-75 detective series Mannix. The lead character, Joe Mannix, seemed to absorb a considerable amount of punishment in solving his cases.

Mannix dabbled occasionally in espionage, including a second-season episode where there was a spy played by Hugh Beaumont.

The series also had a two-part episode in its seventh season, where Mannix gets recruited by the U.S. government to help out the rebel leader of a South American country.

In the final season, there’s another two-part story where Mannix gets involved in international intrigue outside the U.S. That two parter was based on the Victor Canning novel Venetian Bird. It also had the last score for the series by Lalo Schifrin, who penned the show’s theme music.

Connors was already 42 when Mannix first aired. He had been a basketball player at UCLA and was still athletic enough to make a convincing action hero. During the filming of the pilot, he was injured while dodging a helicopter, a scene that would be used in the main titles of the series.

Movie producer Dino De Laurentiis, maker of the schlock and the serious, dies at 91

Movie producer Dino De Laurentiis, who boasted a body of work that emcompassed the schlocky and the serious, has died at 91. Here’s an excerpt of of the obituary on The New York Times’s Web site by Dave Kehr:

Mr. De Laurentiis’s career dated to prewar Italy, and he worked in a wide range of styles and genres. His long filmography has several important titles of the early Italian New Wave, including the international success “Bitter Rice” (1949), whose star, Silvana Mangano, became Mr. De Laurentiis’s first wife; two important films by Federico Fellini (“La Strada,” 1954, and “Nights of Cabiria,” 1957); and the film that many critics regard as David Lynch’s best work (“Blue Velvet,” 1986). But Mr. De Laurentiis never turned his nose up at unabashed popular entertainments like Sergio Corbucci’s “Goliath and the Vampires” (1961), Roger Vadim’s “Barbarella” (1968) and Richard Fleischer’s “Mandingo” (1975) — several of which hold up better today than some of Mr. De Laurentiis’s more respectable productions.

We note his passing here because given such a prolific career, he of course would have spy movies at some point. One of them, 1966’s Kiss The Girls and Make Them Die, is of interest to Bond fans. Not only was it one of the many movies produced to cash in on 1960s spy popularity, it seems to have a lot elements in common with the 1979 007 film Moonraker. There’s even been speculation it was “inspiration” for Moonraker. At the very least, the film seemed to make better use of its Brazilian locations than the later Bond movie. Here’s the start of the film, which starred Mike Connors a year before he began Mannix:

Nine years later, De Laurentiis “presented” (but didn’t have an actual producer credit) Three Days of the Condor, a much more serious, darker film starring Robert Redford that reflected the jaded post-Watergate 1970s.