Archive | June 2017

1967: Spy TV star debates a conservative icon

The Spy Command

Robert Vaughn, right, with Richardo Montalban in the first-season Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Dove Affair

July 8 is the 50th anniversary of when Robert Vaughn, the star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., debated William F. Buckley Jr. about the Vietnam war on the program Firing Line.

Buckley, the founder and publisher of National Review, took on debate partners over more than 30 years on Firing Line.

Firing Line’s format was polite but intense. In 1967, the Vietnam War was raging and it was an intense time.

Vaughn was one of the most prominent actors who opposed the war.

Vaughn, decades later, in an interview for the Archive of American Television, described his preparation for the debate.

The actor said he “spent a month in a monastery reading everything Buckley had ever written in his life, including term papers at Yale. So I walked in as the young challenger against…

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Crossing the Pond

The Classic TV History Blog

A frequent and legitimate complaint about this blog has noted its author’s ignorance of British television, apart from a few oft-imported staples like The Prisoner and Are You Being Served?  Be careful what you wish for: Here is a primer on four live and/or videotaped dramas of the sixties that remain largely unknown on my side of the Atlantic.

Room17-1The Man in Room 17 (1965-1966) inverts the locked-room mystery in a clever way: it’s not the crime that occurs in the locked room, it’s the detection.  It’s about two criminologists (why, one wonders, is the title of the series singular rather than plural?) whose skills are so rarefied and irreplaceable that they remain sequestered inside a chamber deep in the confines of the British government apparatus.  On paper it sounds a bit like the American series Checkmate (1960-1962), which was created by a prominent British novelist, Eric Ambler, and had…

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The Private Detectives

The Bogie Film Blog

For my money, there was one character type that Bogart was born to play. Gangster? Convict? Escaped Convict? Ex-pat loner struggling against the Axis powers? Naw. For me, no one could play a Private Detective wrapped up inside a Film Noir nearly as well as Bogie. Guns, dangerous women, back alley crooks, illicit affairs, hand rolled cigarettes – Bogart could juggle them all with laid back ease.

For a great breakdown of the history behind the “whys” and “hows” of Bogart’s historical place within Classic Hollywood as a Film Noir detective, you should definitely check out Sheri Chinen Biesen’s book Blackout. Not only is it a wonderful primer on Film Noir, but it goes into great detail about Biesen’s belief that Bogart’s age, wartime rationing, and a lack of leading men in Hollywood led to Hollywood’s greatest icon getting the chance to play characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

It’s…

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The 1978 movie that foretold the future of 007 films

The Spy Command

Burt Reynolds and the cast of Hooper in the film’s final scene

On occasion, movies actually predict the future. One such example is 1978’s Hooper.

The film concerns an aging stunt man, Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds) working on a James Bond-like movie being directed by a pompous, “auteur” director, Roger Deal (Robert Klein).

The star of the fictional film is Adam, played by Adam West. Apparently West is playing himself. At one point, he is also referred to as “Mr. West.”

Flash forward a couple of decades or so, and James Bond films are being directed by “auteur” style directors such as Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) and Sam Mendes (Skyfall and SPECTRE).

Now, if you’ve ever read the credits of any movie or TV show, there’s boilerplate how any resemblance between the characters and real people living or dead is strictly coincidental. That language is intended to avoid lawsuits.

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Episode 772: Nothing Lasts

Dark Shadows Every Day

“Apologies are the Devil’s invention.”

So like I said yesterday, Pansy Faye was killed after only one episode, a promising new character taken from us too soon by a wiggling plastic bat. And it’s a real shame, because it feels like we only scratched the surface on the entertainment value of a gold-digging fake-Cockney lunatic mentalist. But now Pansy’s dead, and she’ll never appear on the show ever again. Well, you can’t have everything.

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X4: An Uncertain and Frightening Journey

Dark Shadows Every Day

“This is a time of suspicion, a time when the past seems to penetrate the walls of Collinwood.”

I’m taking the week off so that I can test-drive some exciting new sedatives, but I don’t want to leave you unsupervised all week. You might get up to all kinds of mischief, who even knows. So I’ll tide you over with some strange bits of business that would never fit in a regular post.

Today, let’s talk about Markov chains. Andrey Markov was a Russian mathematician in the late 19th century, who came up with a way to describe systems with no memory — where the next thing that happens is only dependent on the current state, rather than what happened in the past.

You figure out how often the process moves from A to B, compared to when it goes from A to C, and then you can use probability…

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