Jan. & Feb. 2016 at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Links to some of the writing I did for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in Jan. & Feb.

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Jan. 7: William Cameron Menzies: Chandu the Magician (1932)

Excerpt: “In recent weeks, you might have heard about the upcoming Doctor Strange film currently scheduled for release in November of 2016. The news caught my attention because I’ve always liked the comic book character and the cast, which includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor, is impressive. I mention all this because tonight TCM is launching their month-long spotlight on legendary production designer and director, William Cameron Menzies. Some classic film fans might balk at the idea of mentioning the upcoming Doctor Strange movie and William Cameron Menzies in the same paragraph but there are slender threads that connect the two thanks to Menzies’s creative contributions to Chandu the Magician (1932)”

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Jan. 14: 15 Favorite Films of 2015

Excerpt: “Many of the best performances I saw last year were given by actors who were 65-years old or older suggesting younger generations of performers could still learn a lot from actors like Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Ian McKellen, Richard Jenkins and Kurt Russell (who will be turning 65 in March!). I hope it also encourages future filmmakers to create roles that allow these veteran actors to strut their stuff.”

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Jan. 21: ’60s Spy Stories: Gila Golan

Excerpt: “Femme fatales are as important to ‘60s spy films as they are to Film Noir but one of the most frequent criticisms of the genre is its questionable depiction of women. While it’s true that they’re often treated as mere sexual objects in these espionage romps and are regularly introduced into the paper-thin plots to give the male leads something to ogle, the particulars are a bit more complex than that. If you watch enough of these panache productions you begin to notice how subversive many of them are. Sure, the women might dress in sexually suggestive clothing and use their feminine wiles to lure men to their doom, but they are frequently put in positions of power. They’re also regularly portrayed as being smarter or at least as capable as the men they encounter and occasionally save the day. If and when they decide to fall into the hero’s arms they’re often the ones initiating the relationship and control much of the action.”

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Jan. 29: A Minor Picture Compendium of Classic Movie Nurses

Excerpt:”Movie nurses come in all stripes. They can be mean and cruel like Nurse Ratched or gentle as doves like Audrey Hepburn’s character in The Nun’s Story. They can also be sexy, smart, compassionate, laugh-out-loud funny and ruthless blood thirsty monsters. What follows is a picture gallery featuring some of my favorite movie nurses.”

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Feb. 4: Melvin Van Peebles: The Story of A Three-Day Pass (1967)

Excerpt: “Seemingly Influenced by both the French and British New Wave, including the early films of Godard and John Schlesinger, Melvin Van Peebles first full-length feature film subverts conventional narrative methods to delve deeper into its characters conflicted psyches. The Story of A Three-Day Pass bounces, pops and glides like a musical composition and the innovative freewheeling nature of the film mirrors its jazz inspired score. Van Peebles uses a number of experimental film techniques including dolly shots, freeze frames, jump cuts, jarring dissolves, split-screen and lengthy POV shots that impart the film with an intimacy and immediacy that immediately draws you in and demands your attention. We’re encouraged to see the world through Turner’s eyes and we experience the bigotry he faces in a very direct way. It was refreshingly straightforward and progressive stuff in 1967 that retains its power to shock and provoke audiences today.”

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Feb. 11: Jean-Claude Killy in Snow Job (1972)

Excerpt: “Snow Job was filmed on location in the Italian and Swiss Alps by American director George Englund (The Ugly American; 1963, Zachariah; 1971, etc.) and Hungarian cinematographer Gábor Pogány (Two Women; 1960, Bluebeard; 1972, Night Train Murders; 1975, etc.). According to interviews, they used helicopters extensively throughout the shoot, which allowed them to capture all the action on the slopes. The camerawork is occasionally breathtaking as we watch Jean-Claude Killy jump and drift across the alpine landscape like an agile bird while risking serious injury or even death. Killy insisted on doing all his own stunts and it’s remarkable that he got through filming unscathed. If you appreciate seventies heist films with dynamic action sequences or the kind of risky professional skiing typically reserved for Warren Miller documentaries, you should find Snow Job a particularly rewarding and enjoyable watch.”

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Feb. 18: Jack Palance: Horror Star

Excerpt: “I first saw the tall, broad featured and chiseled actor in Man in the Attic (1953) where he played Jack the Ripper in this fourth film adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’s 1913 novel, The Lodger. I was only a kid at the time but Palance’s quietly seething performance impressed me due to the sympathy he was able to generate for his unlikable character. Jack the Ripper is typically portrayed as a cold-blooded maniac or sexually motivated monster but Palance, despite his menacing presence, was able to imbue his Ripper with a complex psychology that was thought provoking and surprisingly contemporary. As a seemingly harmless killer with an unmanageable Oedipus complex, Palance’s Ripper prefigures the often-cited character of Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho.”

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Feb. 25: Douglas Slocombe: A Tribute

Excerpt: “What follows is a gallery of some of my favorite screen shots from Douglas Slocombe’s distinguished oeuvre. They demonstrate that the accomplished cinematographer was much more than an artless journeyman or technician who simply took orders from a director. The images I’ve gathered are linked together by a unique creative vision that spans the length of his 50-year career in film.”

Regular visitors to Cinebeats over the years might recall my affection for many of the films Slocombe worked on, which I’ve written about here including The Third Secret, Boom! and The Servant. An image from The Servant even graces my “testimonials” page.

RIP Mr. Slocombe.

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Celebrating Gay Pride

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As a film journalist I have often tried to focus my attention on underappreciated films, actors and directors. Unsurprisingly, this has led me to write about a number of gay/LGBT films as well as gay/LGBT filmmakers and actors. So in celebration of Gay Pride weekend and the Supreme Court decision that now makes gay-marriage a constitutional right (as it always should have been) I decided to collect some of the film writing I’ve done under the banner of “Gay Interest” to share in one post.

Enjoy!
James Fox – Subverting Sexual Identity & Social Class in British Cinema (2007)
At Home With Dirk Bogarde (2007)
Massimo Dallamano’s Dorian Gray (2007)
Kerwin Mathews (1926-2007) (2007)
Introducing Jason King (2007)
The decadent world of the Black Lizard (2008)
David Bowie is The Image (1967) (2008)
A few thoughts about Anthony Perkins (2008)
10 Questions with Shane Briant (2009)
Modern Mondays: Love Songs (2007) (2009)
Spend Your Day With Dirk Bogarde (2009)
The Fool Killer (1965) (2009)
Modern Mondays: Gus Van Sant’s “Death Trilogy” 2002-2005 (2009)
Old Rubber Lips (2010)
Seduced by Pierre Clementi (2011)
Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971) (2011)
In Search of Sascha Brastoff (2011)
Velvet Goldmine: Celluloid Pictures of Living (2011)
Reinventing Lolita (2011)
Remember My Name (1976) (2011)
The House That Screamed… “Murder!” (2011)
Derek Jarman: An Appreciation (2011)
Girls Will Be Boys (2012)
“A film is a petrified fountain of thought.” – Jean Cocteau (2012)
Dirk Bogarde – The Reluctant International Man of Mystery (2012)
Summer Reading – including a brief look at Tab Hunter’s autobiography (2012)
Telefilm Time Machine: That Certain Summer (1972) (2013)
In the Trenches with James Whale (2013)
Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be? (2013)
Telefilm Time Machine – Frankenstein: The True Story (1973) (2013)

April & May at The Movie Morlocks

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Highlights from my April & May contributions to TCM’s Movie Morlocks. You can read all the articles by following the links below:

Happy Birthday Doris!
Excerpt: “The legacy of this vivacious movie star, popular vocalist, television personality and animal rights advocate is truly unparalleled. And knowing Doris Day’s is still here with us doing good work that benefits us all is something worth celebrating!”

When Insects Attack: GENOCIDE (1968)
Excerpt: “The unexpected blend of film genres makes GENOCIDE a unique viewing experience that benefits from some impressive psychedelic inspired visuals. Director Kazui Nihonmatsu uses a number of imaginative film techniques including superimposition and slow dissolves to express the fractured state of mind of his tormented cast as well as the apocalyptic nature of their plight. And the relentless close-ups of actual insects munching on human flesh gives this low-budget production an uncomfortable documentary-like ambiance. Fans of Toho’s more atypical outings such as THE H-MAN (1958), THE HUMAN VAPOR (1960) and MATANGO (1965) will appreciate GENOCIDE and if you enjoy a good bug invasion movie as much as I do you should find this interesting little gem worthy of your time.”

Matrimony, Madness and Murder: HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)
Excerpt: “What sets HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON apart from many other pretty-boy “psycho-thrillers” (a term I’m borrowing from film journalist Kim Newman) that were prevalent in the late sixties and early seventies is its international setting and baroque setpieces. Bava’s film was shot in France, Italy and Spain and used the elegant villa of the infamous Generalissimo Francisco Franco as one of its backdrops. The House of Harrington contains an extravagant bridal salon adorned with mannequins that model beautiful wedding gowns and resemble the lifeless corpses of dead brides. And it is in this enclosed and highly stylized setting that the killer feels most at home as does Bava’s camera which lovingly lingers over every macabre detail allowing us an intimate look into the murderer’s mind.”

Rough, Raw & Randy: UP THE JUNCTION (1968)
Excerpt: “Peter Collinson’s effective slice-of-life drama UP THE JUNCTION (1968) makes its DVD and Blu-ray debut in the U.S. this week thanks to Olive Films. Today the film is often fondly remembered by fans of sixties cinema for its South London setting, colorful mod fashions, beehive hairdos, boastful bikers and jazzy psychedelic pop score by Manfred Mann. But UP THE JUNCTION has more to offer viewers besides an abundance of great style and an unforgettable soundtrack.”

Bad Movie Mothers We Love to Hate
Excerpt: “TCM is celebrating Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 11th) with a great program of classic films showcasing notable mothers. While looking over Sunday’s line-up I was surprised to spot NOW, VOYAGER (1942), which features Gladys Cooper as the incredibly cold and domineering mother of Bette Davis. Cooper won an Oscar nomination for her memorable performance and went on to play another overbearing mother in SEPARATE TABLES (1958) who torments poor Deborah Kerr. While considering Gladys Cooper’s portrayal of two heartless mothers I started thinking about other horrible movie moms that I’ve enjoyed watching over the years.”

Spy Games: BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD! (1966)
Excerpt: “BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD! Is just one of hundreds (possibly thousands) of spy spoofs that were released in the sixties following the world-wide success of the early James Bond films. Its unwieldy plot and cookie-cutter characters will be familiar to many but thanks to a solid cast, the spectacular North Africa locations and some thrilling action sequences this amusing romp managed to keep me entertained throughout its 92 minute running time.”

Mystery & Melodrama: THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE (2012-2014)
Excerpt: “It’s a shame that so many women who took on incredibly difficult and challenging jobs during WW2, such as flying planes, driving tanks, nursing the wounded, spying for their governments and breaking complicated codes shared by enemy nations, have been overshadowed by their male counterparts. Rosie the Riveter has become a symbol of female ingenuity during wartime but women did much more in WW2 besides working in ammunition factories. THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE shines a welcome light on a group of heroic women that have all too often been forgotten by history and brings them to vivid life.”

“The World’s Most Beautiful Animal!” – Ava Gardner in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954)
Excerpt: “Ava Gardner makes one of my favorite film entrances of all time in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954), which airs on TCM June 1st. If you want to kick off the new month with a bang I highly recommend making time for this verbose Technicolor-noir that critiques Hollywood excess and the powerful studio system that frequently exploited its stars. Mankiewicz’s film is a heady brew of CITIZEN KANE (1941), LAURA (1944), SUNSET BLVD. (1950) and the director’s own ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) shot with abundant style by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff.”

3 Reasons

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The few people who still visit this blog may have noticed that I haven’t updated since November. That’s a 5 year record (of extended absences) and there are lots of reasons for it but here are the top 3:

1. Work – I’m not just referring to freelance writing because that doesn’t pay all the bills, but the other various things/projects I’m working on in an effort to survive.

2. Computer problems – My 8 year old Mac computer with all my files, software, etc. died. I’ve had major problems with the last two Macs I bought & I couldn’t afford another one (I also loath Apple’s business practices) so I purchased a Dell laptop about 2 months ago and I’m still transferring files, making updates, etc. and figuring out how it runs. I used PCs in the ’90s but it’s taking me awhile to forget all my MAC habits and learn how to properly use my new machine.

3. Burn out – I write about movies every week for The Movie Morlocks but they aren’t my only love and they’ve been consuming way too much of my free time. In an attempt to use my free time more wisely – and any writing time I have more productively (and keep from becoming utterly burn out) – I’m focusing a lot of my attention on other things and Cinebeats is going on hiatus in 2013. You can still find my weekly updates at the Morlocks and I’ll occasionally post on Twitter and Facebook (although I’m also utterly burn out with social media as well) but generally speaking, you’re going to see a lot less of me online this year unless I get some fabulous offer to write a regular column about my first love – horror films.skyfallp

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Every year I always devote some time to the Oscars but after last year’s utterly wretched show of which I wrote:

“The 84th Academy Awards was the worst Oscar show I’ve sat through in ages. Between Billy Crystal’s badly aged/tasteless jokes and the overall dullness of the whole production I can’t believe I got through it all. I still feel abused just from watching it and I’m not surprised they got their lowest ratings ever. I really hope they fire Bruce Vilanch and get some decent writers next year as well as a host who isn’t locked in a 1990 time warp.”

I’m having a hard time justifying watching it again for a number of reasons (I always have a hard time watching but I watch for shits & giggles and even those are getting difficult to come by) and I just haven’t been all that eager to discuss the program or the nominations this year. In general, I think 2012 was a pretty lackluster year for major film releases (and yes, I realize I’m in the minority in thinking that) and unlike years before, I actually saw most of the Oscar nominees thanks to my participation with AWFJ but most of them didn’t leave much of an impression on me. This year Seth Macfarlane is hosting the show and it feels as if the Oscars is trying really damn hard to force me NOT to watch… that’s how much I dislike Macfarlane and his sophomoric humor… but for the 5th year in a row I’ll be tuning in and “Tweeting the Oscars live” while I try to tune Macfarlane & the bad musical numbers out. Now that that’s out of the way, here are 3 reasons I’ll be watching the Oscars tonight:

1. SKYFALL – I spent much of 2012 writing about spy films and my fascination/appreciation with the James Bond franchise but nothing prepared me for how damn good and outright entertaining SKYFALL was. I’m one of those weirdos who believes it was the best Bond film in decades and I wrote a lengthy appreciation of the film (with some reservations) for the Movie Morlocks that you can find here. I’m looking forward to any Bond related wins or tributes that the Oscars might have planned but I’d especially love to see the incredible cinematographer Roger Deakins take home an Oscar for his work on SKYFALL.

2. THE MASTER – To be frank, I had a lot of mixed/indifferent reactions to Paul Thomas Anderson’s earlier films but I consider his last two movies , THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) and THE MASTER, to be flat out brilliant & beautifully shot. THE MASTER is an amazing looking movie that manages to capture some of the mysterious beauty of the Bay Area in a way that I’ve rarely seen before. It also contains a mesmerizing performance from Joaquin Phoenix that deserves any accolades it gets. It’s a long shot that Phoenix will win a Best Actor Oscar for his unforgettable portrayal of Freddie Quell because he’s the dark horse in a race full of show horses, but he should.

3. AMOUR – I’ve long considered HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (1959) one of my favorite films so it’s wonderful to see its star, the lovely & talented 86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva, being acknowledged for her performance in Michael Haneke’s harrowing AMOUR, which attempts to look illness, aging & death (topics cinema rarely tackles) in the face without flinching. I would be very happy to see the film, Riva or her director take home an Oscar tonight.

Odds are that I’ll be disappointed on all fronts but I’ll be watching & tweeting with wine in hand while hoping for the best.

November at the Movie Morlocks

Apologies for neglecting Cinebeats for a month but I’ve been preoccupied with other things. I took some much needed vacations in late October and November to spend time with family and in the meantime I’ve just been too busy to update the blog. I don’t see things changing much in December due to the holidays and other commitments but I’ll try to make a few more updates next month. In the meantime here are some links to my recent posts at TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in case you missed them.

“It’s my blood. I gave it to you.”: A few thoughts about the state of modern horror films along with my take on the independent British/Romanian vampire film STRIGOI (2009).

Ralph Nelson’s DUEL AT DIABLO (1966): A look at Anderson’s undervalued western DUEL AT DIABLO featuring a very young and very handsome Sidney Poitier in one of his signature roles.

Art Meets Artifice in Shohei Imamura’s A MAN VANISHES (1967): Icarus Films recently premiered Shohei Imamura’s 1967 film A MAN VANISHES in New York and a DVD release is planned for the future. I got the opportunity to view the film before the premiere and shared my thoughts about it at the Movie Morlocks.

Spy Games: James Bond is back in SKYFALL (2012): I’ve been looking forward to seeing SKYFALL all year and the film didn’t disappoint. In my latest installment of Spy Games I explain why the film worked for me and explore how Daniel Craig has reshaped the character of James Bond.

Yul Brynner, Photographer Extraordinaire: We all know that Yul Brynner was an accomplished actor but did you also know that he was a talented photographer who enjoyed snapping pictures of his famous friends? I gathered together some of his best photographs and briefly discussed his photography background in this piece that’s light on words and full of eye-candy.

Spy Games: ARABESQUE (1966)

Sophia Loren modeling some of the Christian Dior costumes she wore in ARABESQUE (1966)

Today Sophia Loren is celebrating her 77th birthday so I decided to dedicate this month’s addition of Spy Games to Stanley Donen’s ARABESQUE (1966), which features one of my favorite Loren performances. It’s a fun and fast-paced spy romp with loads of style. Here’s a brief excerpt from my post:

Films with simple plots and cookie cutter narratives rarely hold my interest and although I can understand why ARABESQUE is often criticized for its convoluted script and erratic editing, these things don’t bother me. When I go to the movies I want to be knocked out by the visuals and in that regard ARABESQUE is a much more arresting film than CHARADE. Stanley Donen along with cinematographer Christopher Challis pulled out all the stops when they were making ARABESQUE and their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach works for me.

In Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and his Movies, Donen expressed his frustration with the script and is quoted as saying, “We had to make it so interesting visually that no one will think about it.” And scriptwriter Peter Stone, added that Donen, “shot it better than he ever shot any picture. Everything was shot as though it were a reflection in a Rolls-Royce headlamp.” Gregory Peck also added, “If you look at the picture, we were always moving, because Stanley just wanted to keep the ball in the air the entire time, and he used every camera trick you could think of.”

Stanely Donen’s creative tactics turned ARABESQUE into a pop art extravaganza loaded with memorable images and mod flourishes. The director’s camera moves under tables, glides through the air and takes aim at any reflective surface that’s handy. He also plays with light and shadows giving the film a completely artificial atmosphere at times that only adds to the comic book look of the movie.

You can find my latest installment of Spy Games at the Movie Morlocks.
Spy Games: Stanley Donen’s ARABESQUE (1966) @ TCM’s Movie Morlcoks

Spy Games: Frank Tashlin & Doris Day Go Undercover

From my latest installment of Spy Games at the Movie Morlocks:

“In the late ‘60s Doris Day starred in two spy spoofs directed by Frank Tashlin, THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT (1967) and CAPRICE (1968). At the time Day was 43-years-old and one of Hollywood’s biggest stars but her career was in decline. Critics seemed to relish taking potshots at the movies she appeared in while launching full-blown attacks on her squeaky-clean image. Day was commonly referred to as “the eternal virgin” and when the sexual revolution heated up the middle-aged actress was unfairly pigeonholed as a perpetual square. The fact remains that while many actresses were regulated to the role of sex object, wife or mother, Doris Day often played independent working-class women with professional careers who reluctantly fell in love. And while Day’s characters may have been prone to clumsy mishaps and verbal blunders, she was usually able to outsmart her male costars. Frank Tashlin seemed to understand Doris Day’s strengths as a performer and in THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT and CAPRICE he has lots of fun playing with critical assumptions and expectations.”

Want to read more? Follow the link:
Spy Games: Frank Tashlin & Doris Day Go Undercover @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Spies, Frankenstein & . . . Sports?!

I’m afraid that I’ve been too busy and preoccupied with home renovations, family matters and work to updated Cinebeats regularly. Most of my film writing is done at The Movie Morlocks now so it often seems redundant to re-post links to everything here. If you want to keep track of my weekly activities on a consistent basis you should probably add The Movie Morlocks to your news feed or bookmark the site for future reference. In the meantime here are some links to various posts I’ve recently written and hopefully I’ll get back on top of updating Cinebeats soon.


Last month I continued my ongoing Spy Games series with a look at Robert Hossein’s French thriller DOUBLE AGENTS (aka La nuit des espions) – Spy Games: Double Agents (1959).


To celebrate the 2012 Olympic games currently taking place in London I hosted this lively symposium on sports films – Winning Isn’t Everything: A Sports Movie Symposium.


My regular readers known how much I love writing about the Hammer Glamour girls and after recently rewatching Susan Denberg in Terence Fisher’s FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967) I couldn’t resist compiling a post about her and the film – Franknestein Created Susan Denberg.

Spy Games: 6 Months and Counting


Last week at the Movie Morlocks I continued to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sean Connery’s debut as James Bond in DR. NO (1962) with a look at some of the worldwide tributes and festivities that have accompanied it. As regular readers know, I’ve been observing Bond’s anniversary myself by writing about spy films all year long.

If you’d like to peruse Cinebeats’ spy files you can find them here.

And if you’d like to read my latest post at the Morlocks please follow the link posted below.
Spy Games: 6 Months and Counting @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks Blog

I also recommend watching this series of great new promo videos for the Designing Bond exhibit currently taking place in London. If you appreciate the look of the Bond films or just admire good ’60s design, you should enjoy these videos as much as I did.

Dirk Bogarde – The Reluctant International Man of Mystery


In my latest installment of Spy Games for the Movie Morlocks I discuss the spy spoofs and espionage thrillers starring one of my favorite actors, the gifted and gorgeous Dirk Bogarde. Regular Cinebeats readers know how much I admire this man but it was fun to share my enthusiasm for Bogarde at the Morlocks by focusing on his reluctant roles in a handful of spy films. I’ve always thought Bogarde could have made an interesting Bond as described by Ian Fleming. Fleming’s original Bond had a “slim build” and spent most of his time behind a desk. Here’s a description of 007 borrowed from From Russia With Love:

“It was a dark, clean-cut face (snip) … The eyes were wide and level under straight, rather long black brows. The hair was black, parted on the left, and carelessly brushed so that a thick black comma fell down over the right eyebrow. The longish straight nose ran down to a short upper lip below which was a wide and finely drawn but cruel mouth. The line of jaw was straight and firm. A section of dark suit, white shirt and black knitted tie completed the picture.”

But enough about Bond… Bogarde made his own mark in the spy genre by appearing as the hero and villain in some great films including MODESTY BLAISE, SEBASTIAN and THE SERPENT. To read more about Bogarde’s contributions to the spy game make your way over to TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog.
Spy Games: Dirk Bogarde – The Reluctant International Man of Mystery