Film Review – DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)

Diamonds Are Forever (1971; UK; Technicolor; 120m) ∗∗∗  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Norman Burton, Joseph Fürst, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Leonard Barr, Lois Maxwell, Margaret Lacey. A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an extortion plot headed by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Connery makes a welcome return as Bond, but here the cartoonish humour is played up at the expense of suspense. The plot is uninspiring and the Las Vegas locations feel tacky rather than glamorous, but the set pieces are well staged. The film set a tone for the series that would last for more than a decade. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Comic Book Review: SHAFT: IMITATION OF LIFE – PART ONE: BEFORE AND AFTER (2016)

SHAFT: IMITATION OF LIFE – PART ONE: BEFORE AND AFTER (10 February 2016, Dynamite Entertainment, 32 pp)
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Dietrich Smith
Coloured by Alex Guimares
Cover by Matthew Clark
Cover Colours by Vinicius Andrade

Blurb: After a high profile case that put him in the headlines, private detective John Shaft is looking for something low profile and easy that will keep him out of the spotlight and out of danger. Shaft takes a missing person case that proves to be more difficult than he initially thought. At the same time, he is hired to be a consultant on a low budget film that may or may not be based on his life, and proves to be as dangerous as any job he’s ever had. But when there’s danger all about, John Shaft is the cat that won’t cop out – even if it means squaring off against sadistic gangsters that want him dead.

David Walker returns to Shaft for a second comic book series. This one will run to four issues (compared to the six for 2014/15’s Shaft: A Complicated Man).

Walker’s second story takes place some two months after the events of Ernest Tidyman’s novel Shaft. His use of first person narration allows the reader into Shaft’s mind as he explains the events in his life that created the violent monster that lies within him over a reprise of the rescue of Beatrice Persons (daughter of Harlem crime lord Knocks Persons) from the Mafia in Tidyman’s original novel. The voice Walker gives Shaft remains true to the character we read and learn about in Tidyman’s books, but where Tidyman would merely reference these events Walker chooses to explore their effect on Shaft’s psyche, thereby adding significant depth to his character.

Walker has a strong understanding of the John Shaft of the books and for fans there are some nice nods to that series here. But the main set-up for this story is Shaft being hired to find an up-state couple’s young gay son – Mike Prosser, who has come to New York in search of adventure. Walker does not shy away from Shaft’s homophobic attitude (very clear in Tidyman’s novels), but cleverly uses it as a way to get Shaft to look inwardly at his personal motivations and prejudices. His only lead is another young gay man, Tito Salazar, who Shaft rescues from a beating by a group of bigots outside the famous Stonewall Inn.
The artwork here is by Dietrich Smith (taking over from Bilquis Evely). Smith’s style is less precise than Evely’s but he creates a great feel for the period and the streets of New York and Alex Guimares’ colouring is much more bold. In the first series Walker and Evely were keen to capture Shaft as Tidyman had described him (notably without the moustache that became synonymous with the character from Richard Roundtree’s portrayal on the big screen). Here, Walker and Smith wisely transition him to Roundtree’s familiar image and Smith does a great job in capturing Shaft’s iconic look.

This is an intriguing read and It will be interesting to see where Walker takes his story over the next three issues. Based on this first issue Shaft: Imitation of Life promises to repeat the success of Walker’s exceptional first series.

Film Review – ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969; UK; Technicolor; 142m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Peter R. Hunt; w. Richard Maibaum; ph. Michael Reed; m. John Barry.  Cast: George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti, Ilse Steppat, Angela Scoular, Lois Maxwell, Catherine Schell, George Baker, Bernard Lee, Bernard Horsfall, Desmond Llewelyn. James Bond woos a mob boss’s daughter and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld’s allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world. Savaged on release, this is actually one of the very best Bond films and a great movie in its own right. The story sticks closely to Ian Fleming’s source novel and has more heart than any other in the series. Lazenby may lack Connery’s charisma as Bond but he manages to conjure both a toughness and vulnerability that makes the character more human. Savalas makes an excellent Blofeld, whilst Rigg delivers one of the strongest female lead performances. Gorgeous photography, a classic John Barry score and superbly choreographed action sequences make this close to perfection. [PG]

Film Review – YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967)

You Only Live Twice (1967; UK; Technicolor; 117m) ∗∗∗  d. Lewis Gilbert; w. Roald Dahl; ph. Freddie Young; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsurô Tanba, Teru Shimada, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Charles Gray, Tsai Chin. Agent 007 and the Japanese secret service ninja force must find and stop the true culprit of a series of space-jackings before nuclear war is provoked. Despite an explosive finale and impressive production values (notably Ken Adam’s wonderful volcano interior), this is Bond by numbers. Connery looks bored and the script ticks all the boxes in moving from one set piece to another without generating any real suspense. It does, however, boast possibly John Barry’s finest score for the series. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – THUNDERBALL (1965)

Thunderball (1965; UK; Technicolor; 130m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Guy Doleman, Molly Peters, Martine Beswick, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Roland Culver, Earl Cameron, Paul Stassino, Rose Alba, Philip Locke. James Bond heads to The Bahamas to recover two nuclear warheads stolen by SPECTRE agent Emilio Largo in an international extortion scheme. The biggest Bond film of the 60s is one of the best. Connery is at the height of his game here and the story has a scale that is larger than any of the previous entries. The humour is more evident, but still kept in check and Paluzzi is one of the best ever Bond villainesses. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming, which itself was based on a story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming [PG]

Film Review – GOLDFINGER (1964)

Goldfinger (1964; UK; Technicolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Paul Dehn; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe, Shirley Eaton, Tania Mallet, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Martin Benson, Cec Linder, Austin Willis, Lois Maxwell, Bill Nagy, Desmond Llewelyn, Margaret Nolan. Investigating a gold magnate’s smuggling, James Bond uncovers a plot to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve. Third Bond film is the one that set a formula that would be repeated for many years to come. Frobe is the most memorable Bond villain, Sakata as Oddjob is the series’ best henchman, Blackman a feisty femme fatale and the Aston Martin DB5 is the definitive Bond car. The action-packed film has so many iconic moments they disguise some of its limitations, such as the sometimes loose direction. Nevertheless, it remains the best remembered of Connery’s tenure. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Reviews round-up for SHAFT: IMITATION OF LIFE #1

c06efa43-0c68-4a9b-8f42-fdc2957ec408A number of early reviews have been published for the first issue of David F Walker’s latest Shaft comic book series, subtitled Imitation of Life. The series features artwork by Dietrich Smith and colouring by Alex Guimares. The cover painting is by Matthew Clark and Vincius Andrade. The response so far has been universally positive:

InvestComics: “The pacing is smooth and very cinematic- it flowed so well I read it twice.” – Ian Powers

ComicWow!: “This is, finally, a PI story that stands out from all the rest. It has an awesome, almost noir feeling to it, so I would unquestionably recommend checking it out. You will most definitely not be disappointed.” – Bhavna Bakshi

BrokenFrontier: “Artist Dietrich Smith maximizes the character’s pulp appeal with a a clean, hard-edged style that fits Walker’s spare prose.” – Paul Mirek

OutrightGeekery: “David Walker tells a good story. Throwing in flashbacks of Shaft’s life helps to put his point across, Shaft’s inner monster. Along with that was a lot of inner monologue. Dietrich Smiths art is great.” – Amani Cooper

BigComicPage: “All the hallmarks of a cool, stylish Shaft story are there – only this time there’s a much darker edge than we’re accustomed to, taking us down some routes reminiscent of Cruising.”

DailyGrindHouse: “…the comic-book version of John Shaft is now Walker’s baby, and frankly I can’t conceive of anyone else even wanting to take the reins if and when he decides he’s had enough.”

ComicBastards: “With all the cultural conflicts naturally setup and David Walker’s talent for contextualizing internal dialogue I expect this will be a series worthy of our attention.” – Patrick Self

NerdSpan: “John Shaft has never felt as vital, as complete, or as ready for modern times. Do yourself a favour – put the parodies to the back of your mind, and go grab this book.” – MacKenzie and Walker

AIPT!: “David Walker’s script allows for Shaft to be both a certified badass while being surprisingly vulnerable. Dietrich Smith and Alex Guimares give the book a fantastic swagger worthy of the character while also excelling at creating tension in the smaller character moments.” – Robert Reed

Graphic Policy: “As always , Walker adds new depth and dimension to the character without compromising an ounce of bad-ass, while new artist Dietrich Smith picks up admirably from Bilquis Evely.”

ComicsVerse: “I look forward to watching Walker further develop Shaft’s character over the course of this mini-series. And if part one is any indication, SHAFT: IMITATION OF LIFE is going to be a wild success.”

Film Review – FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)

From Russia with Love (1963; UK; Technicolor; 115m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry.  Cast: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendáriz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Eunice Gayson, Walter Gotell, Francis De Wolff, George Pastell, Nadja Regin, Lois Maxwell, Aliza Gur, Martine Beswick, Vladek Sheybal. James Bond willingly falls into an assassination plot involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE. Second 007 film is a tense, gritty and well-made espionage thriller. The gadgets are still in the background here and Bond is left to his intelligence and his wits. Shaw makes an excellent heavy and Lenya is suitably creepy as Rosa Klebb. The production values are a notch up on DR. NO and the result is an exciting and action-packed adventure. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – DR. NO (1962)

Dr. No (1962; UK; Technicolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather; ph. Ted Moore; m. Monty Norman.  Cast: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, Zena Marshall, John Kitzmiller, Eunice Gayson, Lois Maxwell, Peter Burton. James Bond’s investigation of a missing colleague in Jamaica leads him to the island of the mysterious Dr. No and a scheme to end the US space program. First 007 film is a colourful adventure, if a little slow-moving by today’s standards. Connery eases into the role with style and Andress is stunning as the first Bond girl. Many of the elements are set here, but there is a simplicity to the production that remains endearing compared to later entries in the series. Great set designs by Ken Adam. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]