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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Are cameos in movies worth it?

Alfred Hitchcock's cameo right after his "directed by" credit in North by Northwest

Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo in North by Northwest

This fall, fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series wondered if the show’s original stars would have a cameo in a new film version underway. Some fans were vocal, arguing that of course they should.

It’s not known if such a cameo took place for the U.N.C.L.E. movie. (Robert Vaughn said more than once he’d welcome the opportunity; David McCallum made comments suggesting he wouldn’t participate.) The subject though got this blog to thinking: are such cameos worth it, or are they more of a distraction for a finished film?

The king of such cameos was director Alfred Hitchcock, who made a cameo in his more than 50 films. They can be something of a mixed bag. In North by Northwest, he appears right after his “directed by” credit as a man missing his bus in New York City. The appearance, in effect, is an extension of the main titles designed by Saul Bass. At this point, the viewer hasn’t been watching the actual story of the film.

In other cases, Hitchcock’s appearance almost draw attention to themselves. In 1969’s Topaz, there’s an airport scene. The viewer is drawn to Hitchock, in a wheelchair, guided by a nurse. Hitchcock meets a man, abruptly stands up and shakes the man hand before walking off. By this point, more than 20 minutes of the story have been told. You could argue it’s a distraction, although it’s over pretty quickly.

In the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, co-boss Michael G. Wilson has been performing cameos for decades. Again, they’re a bit of a mixed bag. In some cases (Skyfall, The World Is Not Enough), they’re fleeting, something for the hard-core fans while more casual 007 cinema goers aren’t likely to notice. In others (Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale), they draw attention to themselves. Here are some:

The interest among U.N.C.L.E. fans whether the movie has cameos is different. Vaughn and McCallum established the original show’s popularity. There’d be no movie if there hadn’t been a television show in the first place. If one was filmed, would it distract from the Guy Ritchie-directed story? The counter question: do you owe it to the original actors if they’re interested? (Especially since Ritchie appears to have squeezed former soccer star David Beckham into the movie.)

None of these questions have right or wrong answers. Fan tastes vary. Hitchcock fans, for example, take pleasure in trying to spot the director’s cameos. In any case, it’s likely such cameos will continue in movies.

John Forsythe’s (and Hitchcock’s) foray into 1960s spy entertainment

John Forsythe passed away last week and, as his New York Times obituary notes, is best remembered for starring in Dynasty, the prime time soap opera as well as other television roles.

But he also made a foray — albeit a late one — into 1960s spy entertainment. And he made it with no less than Alfred Hitchcock in 1969’s Topaz.

We’ve noted before how Hitchcock’s North by Northwest provided the blueprint for James Bond movies and other ’60s spy entertainment. But while homages were paid to Hitch (From Russia With Love’s helicopter attack on Bond, for example), royalties weren’t. Hitchcock had finally gotten into the spy game with Torn Curtain but that Paul Newman-Julie Andrews film didn’t get the kind of praise of earlier Hitchcock efforts.

Try, try again. Hitchcock came back with Topaz, based on a best-selling novel by Leon Uris. It was set during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Forsythe played a U.S. agent and while he’s technically the last actor in the titles it’s done in such a way that you know he’s one of the major actors (“and starring JOHN FORSYTHE as “Michael Nordstrom”).

Topaz wasn’t a big success, either, according to IMDB.com. It’s worth checking out. Its cast includes You Only Live Twice’s Karin Dor, John Vernon, Roscoe Lee Browne and John Van Dreelan. Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the opening titles, with music by Maurice Jarre:

Finally, here’s Hitchcock’s cameo in the film:

UPDATE: Forsythe’s passing was the lead obituatary on ABC’s This Week program, not surprising given two of his most famous TV credits were on ABC. To see the segment, just CLICK HERE.