Angela Lansbury in 1960s spy stories

Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian candidate (1962)

Angela Lansbury (1925-2022) is, understandably, being celebrated for a stellar career that lasted decades. That long career included some stops in the spy/espionage genre.

Most prominent was The Manchurian Candidate (1962), concerning an attempt to take over the United States. Lansbury’s Eleanor Shaw Iselin is one of the plotters, who is working with the Soviet Union and China. Her plan calls for an assassination of a leading presidential candidate. One of the pawns in the plot is her own brainwashed son (Laurence Harvey).

Lansbury received an Oscar nomination for best-supporting actress for her performance.

In 2003, movie critic Roger Ebert took a look back at the film. His essay included this passage:

Lansbury’s Mrs. Iselin, nominated for an Academy Award, is one of the great villains of movie history. Fierce, focused, contemptuous of the husband she treats like a puppet, she has, we gather, plotted with the Russians and Chinese to use the Red Scare of “Iselinism” to get him into office, where she will run things from behind the scenes. But it comes as a shocking surprise that her own son has been programmed as the assassin. That so enrages her that, in another turn of the corkscrew plot, she tells him: “When I take power, they will be pulled down and ground into dirt for what they did to you. And what they did in so contemptuously underestimating me.” 

After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the film went into the vault. It finally resurfaced in the late 1980s via home video releases.

In 1965, Lansbury had a chance to act in a more escapist take on the genre: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode The Deadly Toys Affair, which originally aired on NBC on Nov. 12, 1965.

Lansbury played Elfie van Donck, an international star. Her young nephew (Jay North) is a super genius, currently at a boarding school secretly run by Thrush, the show’s villainous organization.

U.N.C.L.E. is determined to get the nephew away. Lansbury’s character becomes involved. The episode is very escapist and Lansbury’s performance fits right in. She’s over the top, but in a pleasing way. Lansbury’s Elfie van Donck even pilots the helicopter whisking our heroes (Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo and David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin) to safety.

Hawaii Five-O’s most 007-like episode about to hit DVD

The TVShowsonDVD.com website reports that Season 9 of Hawaii Five-O is coming out on Aug. 3.

The first episode in the set is “Nine Dragons,” the next-to-last Wo Fat story and the one episode that perhaps most resembles a James Bond movie. It includes substantial location filming in Hong Kong and a plot that featur’s Wo Fat’s most ambitious scheme and even permits actor Khigh Dhiegh to evoke an earlier role as the Chinese brainwashing expert in the original version of The Manchurian Candidate.

Here’s a sampling:

If Season 9 sells, presumably Season 10 will come out, which includes appearances by Maud Adams and Luciana Paluzzi as guest stars. And if momentum continues, season 11 has a guest appearance by former 007 George Lazenby.