GOLDFINGER (1964) is the film where the Bond formula really shapes up: A gimmicked vehicle; the opening with Bond already in action; the first of many deathtraps (as Scott Evil would later note, shooting Bond would have made much more sense); the death of one of Bond’s lovers mid-movie; and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore is both the first kick-ass Bond Girl and the first bad girl to be turned by Bond’s charms (Danielle Bianchi in From Russia With Love was marginally bad at best). A good film in its own right, of course; for trivia points, there’s a shot of a Kentucky restaurant boasting “Colonel Sanders’ recipe” in the background of one shot. “You must know Operation Grand Slam can’t possibly succeed.”
THE MIRROR (1974) has Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky entering his flashback booth for a rather aimless look at his life (and, I think, his mother’s life)—this would double bill well with Thirty-Two Variations About Glenn Gould for its nonlinear approach to biopic, but it didn’t work for me.
THE MEN WHO TREAD ON THE TIGER’S TAIL (1945) is a short Akira Kurasowa filmed stage play in which a handful of fugitive samurai and their lord must convince a guard platoon that they’re nothing but the humble religious figures and lowly porters they appear to be. Given we’re plopped into the middle of things with little set up, it’s impressive how tense Kurasowa manages to make this. “I too, shall dance.”
BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL by Elliot Chaze is a fifties noir drama in which a man plotting a bank robbery picks up a beautiful prostitute for recreation, then begins to realize that she could be just the partner he needs for the Big Job. Pretty good (I’m not surprised it’s being touted as a movie now), and I must admit it didn’t go where I thought it would, though the ending is fairly traditional for this kind of thriller.
I spent a birthday gift card from my future mother-in-law, in part, on second volume of the collected adventures of Edmond Hamilton’s Captain Future: CAPTAIN FUTURE AND THE SEVEN SPACE STONES introduces Ul Quorn, a criminal scientist known as the Magician of Mars whose agenda includes not only conquering the Solar System (so that nobody can interfere with him using human guinea pigs and the like) but a blood feud with Curt Newton, aka Captain Future (Ul Quorn’s father having murdered Curt’s, only to be executed by the Futuremen). More a clash of scientists than fisticuffs (several battles come down to whether Curt or Ul has the cooler gadget), but solidly entertaining, particularly the big finish in a subatomic solar system.
STAR TRAIL TO GLORY has Captain Future trying to learn how someone can steal spaceships while leaving the pilots floating in space; the quest leads to an undercover investigation at Mercury’s spaceship factories and then an entry into a round-the-system race. Throw in a lost robot civilization and the blood-drinking aliens of a previous book and you have another entertaining chapter.
THE MAGICIAN OF MARS breaks out of space prison along with what amounts to a Rogue’s Gallery of Captain Future’s foes in order to obtain a dimension-jumping device that will lead him to the Ultimate Weapon. Very good, with the mutual respect between the two leads (“When I kill Future, I’ll be destroying the only man I could ever consider my equal.”) and some neat scenes battling Ul Quorn on an invisible world.
LOST WORLD OF TIME has Curt suffering from total boredom in the aftermath of Ul Quorn’s defeat—so when the former fifth planet of the Solar System (the one that becomes the asteroid belt) sends a plea for help across time), it seems like a great excuse for a new adventure. Epic in scope (the scenes of the birth of the Solar System remind me of Olaf Stapledon) and reminiscent of Hamilton’s later Superman and Legion of Super-Heroes work (if it wasn’t too early in the Super-mythos, I’d assume telling stories about Krypton was his inspiration for this). Also entertaining for Hamilton’s willingness to brush off inconvenient facts (“The presence of humans in the dinosaur age shows that paleontologists were wrong and Neanderthals were unrelated to the root human stock!”).