October Music Series: Piorun – Nadbuanski Wit


Here’s a song that captures bizarre pagan ritual at its most Dionysian. Barely coherent woodwinds teeter on the brink of madness, spurred on by seductive, primitive drumming and the string drone of what I’m guessing is a hurdy-gurdy. Piorun are a folk and ambient band from Poland, which is not a particularly active country in the pagan metal scene, but it should come as no surprise from the brand of folk they play that the band has ties to Nokturnal Mortum.

It’s not particularly easy to dig up information on these guys. What’s available to me had to be plugged through Google Translator from Polish, but I gather Stajemy Jak Ojce, the 2004 release on which Nadbuanski Wit is the opening track, is their only full-length album.

I’m a bit confused as to just how “Polish” Piorun really is. The references I saw to “ties with Nokturnal Mortum” are a bit of an understatement; Knjaz Varggoth, Saturious, and Munruthel are all a part of the line-up, amounting to half of the band and all of the folk elements. Of the band’s three presumably Polish members, two are only credited with vocals. One, and possibly all three, were members of the now defunct Polish black metal band Archandrja. (I’ve not heard them save a few youtube samples just now.)

At any rate, Stajemy Jak Ojce is an absolutely brilliant album when the folk is allowed to shine. When the ambient takes more primacy it leaves a little to be desired. Nadbuanski Wit falls firmly in the former. Whether you choose to hear it as chilling and demented or as ritualistic and reverent, it’s bound to leave a lasting impression.

James Bond Review: For Your Eyes Only (dir. by John Glen)


For Your Eyes Only marks a few changes in the way EON Productions wanted to go with James Bond.  With Moonraker being so over the top, the producers decided to go a little more low key and practical. After working on the 2nd unit for Moonraker and a few other Bond Films, John Glen would step up to the plate as the director for this and every 007 film leading up to Goldeneye. Instead of John Barry working on the music, Bill Conti would take over here, which ended up being a very different kind of sound for the film, one fitting of the early 80s.

For Your Eyes Only opens with an interesting start, having Bond visit the grave of his wife, Tracy, who was killed during the events in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond is informed that his helicopter is ready, but when he climbs inside, he finds that it’s under the control of someone with a serious grudge, and though we can’t see his face, we’re to assume he could be Ernst Starvo Blofeld. Supposedly, the scene, which ends with Bond reclaiming control of the helicopter and dropping the would be Blofeld into a chimney pipe, was a jab at writer Kevin McClory. Over the years, the Thunderball lawsuit caused some rifts between McClory and EON Productions. The statement made with For Your Eyes Only was that EON could come up with plenty of great stories without having to use a signature villain like Blofeld. They’d been successful with two movies back to back using Richard Kiel as the henchman Jaws, and probably felt they were doing pretty well. In reponse, McClory would give the Thunderball another try in the bond film Never Say Never Again (which isn’t part of the EON produced Bond films, and won’t be found in any of their Bond Blu-Ray / DVD compilations.

Similar to Tomorrow Never Dies, the story starts with a boat being attacked and sunk. Bond is asked to retrieve a targeting system from the ship and return it to Britain before the Russians do the same. One of the great things about the time period is that since it was pretty much the Cold War, everything was a black ops -sneak in, sneak out – scenario to avoid World War III and nukes being fired by both sides.

The Bond Girl for this film is Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), who I really liked here. After her parents are gunned down on their boat, she picks up a bow and arrow to take revenge. As a result, she manages to run into Bond on a number of occasions and had a real sense of calm to her (or as calm as one could be when facing a giant fellow in a scuba suit). The villain of the story, Kristatos was played by Julian Glover, who I enjoyed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and currently on Game of Thrones. I didn’t care much for him in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as Hagrid’s pet spider, Aragog. One thing to note about Glover is that at one point, he was approached to actually play Bond after Connery left. An interesting casting choice if you notice him is Charles Dance as one of the henchmen and Fiddler On the Roof’s Topol, who played a former business partner of Kristatos’. I found that kind of fun, that you could see these actors here in 1981 that people are familiar with to some degree. The year this came out, Liam Neeson was in Excalibur, for example.

The story features a number of good moments, particularly a great snow skiing chase, a mountain climb as well as a fight between Bond and some hockey players. There’s even a well filmed underwater sequence. Of the Roger Moore Bond films, I always thought of this one and The Spy Who Loved Me as two of his best. With the mission being as small as it is, there wasn’t a lot of room for anything as wild as Moonraker. It’s a pretty tight, practical film that doesn’t rely too much on the gadgetry of the other films. It should also be pointed out that like The Spy Who Loved Me, the signature car for Moore’s Bond is still a Lotus, as I don’t believe the Aston Martins made an appearance until The Living Daylights. That was a little of a letdown for me, but otherwise, the film is beautiful.

Tomorrow, The Shattered Lens takes on Octopussy, a film that showcases just how deadly the circus can be when James Bond is involved. We’ll leave you with the theme song to For Your Eyes Only, sung by Sheena Easton.

James Bond Film Review: Moonraker (dir. by Lewis Gilbert)


For the past two weeks, here at the Shattered Lens, we’ve been reviewing the James Bond film franchise.  We’ve reviewed the good, the bad, and the ugly of James Bond and today, we’re going to take a look at James Bond at his silliest.  Today, we’re going to review the 11th official James Bond film, 1979’s Moonraker.

Moonraker starts out with a genuinely exciting pre-credits sequence.  James Bond (Roger Moore) is on an airplane when he’s suddenly attacked by the stewardess, the co-pilot, and Jaws (Richard Kiel), the henchman with the steel teeth.  All four of them end up falling out of the plane.  In mid-air, Bond wrestles the pilot’s parachute away from him and uses it to safely land on the ground.  The pilot and the stewardess presumably plunge to a very grisly death.  Jaws, meanwhile, crashes into a circus tent and walks away without a scratch.  This scene pretty much establishes the tone of Moonraker — increasingly implausible action sequences that usually end with some sort of crowd-pleasing joke.  In short, Moonraker is Bond as pure spectacle.  Those looking for another From Russia With Love should look elsewhere.

As for the rest of the film, someone’s stolen a space shuttle and James Bond and CIA agent Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) team up to find it.  It turns out that the shuttle was stolen by Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), who plans to wipe out life on the Earth and start a new society in space.

That’s right, in space!

Moonraker was made in 1979, at the height of the cinematic science fiction boom.  In the late 70s, everyone was going into space and James Bond wasn’t going to get left behind.  Not surprisingly, it turns out that Drax has a secret HQ in a space station that’s orbiting the Earth and Bond is not only the world’s greatest secret agent but the universe’s as well!

It also turns out that Jaws is now working for Drax and his girlfriend Dolly (Blanche Ravelec) works in the space station.  I know that a lot of Bond fans hate Moonraker because of this very subplot but seriously, just take a look at the happy couple!  They’re so cute together!

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings on Moonraker.  On the one hand, it’s the most over-the-top of Roger Moore’s Bond films and it’s certainly the silliest.  Your reaction to it will depend on just how seriously you take or want to take your Bond films.  Myself, I appreciate Moonraker as a celebration of excess but, at the same time, I can also understand why so many fans of the Bond franchise consider Moonraker to be a low point for the series.

At its weakest, Moonraker feels almost like a generic Bond rip-off as opposed to an official Bond film.  It’s obvious that most of the preproduction attention was devoted to the film’s special effects.  The rest of the film feels almost like an afterthought and several of the sequences feel as if they’ve been lifted from other Bond films.  Bond’s initial meeting with Hugo Drax is reminiscent of the golf game in Goldfinger and both Drax’s evil scheme and motivation appear to have been borrowed from The Spy Who Loved Me‘s Karl Stromberg.

Especially when compared to his witty performance in The Spy Who Loved Me, Roger Moore appears to be simply going through the motions here and he has next to no chemistry with Lois Chiles.  One gets the feeling that Bond is merely with her so that he can brag to his mates back in London that he actually hooked up with someone named Holly Goodhead.  If her name was Holly Smith, he wouldn’t have any interest in her.

On the plus side, Michael Lonsdale makes for a good villain, the film’s special effects still look good over 30 years later, and I like the way that Jaws’ storyline is resolved.  I know that a lot of people hate the fact that Jaws softens up by the end of this film but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Richard Kiel and Blanche Ravalec are so cute together that you simply can’t help but smile at their unlikely romance.

Finally, how can you not enjoy the curiosity value of having James Bond in space?  I’m not a huge sci-fi fan.  Whenever I hear people mention Dr. Who, Star Wars, or Star Trek, my eyes roll up into the back of my head and I end up zoning out for a few hours.  But there’s just something so odd and vaguely inappropriate about the idea of James Bond floating around in a space station with a laser gun.  If nothing else, Moonraker serves as a time capsule of the late 70s, a time when even James Bond could turn up in outer space.

Much like The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker has little in common with the book that inspired it.  The literary Moonraker featured a villain named Hugo Drax but the Moonraker of the title was a nuclear missile.  Nobody went into outer space and there was certainly no one named Holly Goodhead.  Instead, Bond worked (and fell for) a fellow agent named Gala Brand.  It’s a shame that no one has ever filmed a faithful adaptation of Moonraker because it’s actually one of the best of the Bond novels.  Bond and Gala have a genuinely interesting relationship and the book has a melancholy, rather introspective feel to it.  Surprisingly, the end of the book deals with why none of Bond’s relationships last that long and makes an attempt to deal realistically with the psychological consequences of being the world’s greatest secret agent.

Surprisingly enough, the spectacular, effects-heavy Moonraker would be followed by the much more realistic and low-key For Your Eyes Only.  We’ll take a look at that film tomorrow.

Until then, here’s the Moonraker theme song:

Congratulations to the SF Giants: 2012 World Series Champions!


Two years ago I celebrated the San Francisco Giants winning the team’s first World Series title since they moved to San Francisco from New York. Tonight they do it once again and it is a fine time to be a sports fan in the Bay Area. Looking like a mini-dynasty in the making I’m so very proud of this team and solidifies why my first sports love will always remain baseball and the Giants as the top sports team in my heart and soul.

So, congratulations to Sergio Romo for shutting down the feared Detroit Tigers line-up and for sporting one awesome beard. Congratulations to our city’s own Kung Fu Panda in Pablo Sandoval. No one’s talking and complaining about his weight problem now. He has achieved his inner peace and let this Dragon Warrior do what he’s good at even if it means eating and eating. Congratulations to Buster Posey who now has two World Series title under his belt and barely two full seasons of work as a major league baseball player. He’s the cornerstone of what looks like the team of the NL for years to come. Finally congratulations to Bruce Bochy. Let no one ever dispute whether he’s a Hall of Fame manager or belongs in the company of baseball’s great managers past and present.

Finally, congratulations to the rest of the San Francisco Giants, it’s fans, the City that has supported it and the rest of the Bay Area all the way down to San Jose who have supported the champs through thick and thin. Now let the celebration begin and let the parade of Champions start on Halloween.

Horror Review: The Walking Dead S3E03 “Walk With Me”


“We’re going out there and taking back what’s ours…civilization.” — The Governor

[some spoilers]

It’s been quite a refreshing surprise to see this new season of The Walking Dead unfold. Even though it’s just been two episodes in the change in pacing, acting and writing has been noticeable and all for the good. This fresh new start courtesy of Glen Mazzara and his crew of writers could easily revert back to the old bad habits that made season 2 of the series such an uneven and frustrating show to watch. The potential for this show to hit it’s stride was kept from happening by wheel-spinning and extended philosophical introspection that put the brakes on any momemtum a great episode had going into the next one. This hasn’t been the case for this season and tonight’s episode, “Walk With Me”, will show whether this streak of very good television continues or the bad habits return.

“Walk With Me” starts off interestingly enough as we see a military helicopter on it’s flight to who knows where, but still it is a scene that’s above the danger and not on the ground. It doesn’t take long before something goes awry and this whirly-bird crashes in the Georgia woods. It’s a scenario that doesn’t bode well for those inside and seeing all this occur in the far-off distance is our wayward Andrea and her new companion in fan-favorite Michonne and her two pets.

It’s been a long time coming but we finally see the appearance of The Governor. This character has been a huge part of the series’ comic book universe. He’s been the best symbol of what happens we those leading a group of desperate people loses their humanity and becomes as much a danger as the zombies and, at times, even more so. So, this character (being played by British actor David Morrissey) already has a built-in for it not just from the fans of the comic book, but even just the fans of the show who have heard about all the things the character has done in the original source material. It’s going to be a hard slog for David Morrissey and the writers of the show to make the character sympathetic or, at the very least, charismatic enough not to come off across as a villainous caricature.

We don’t spend any time with Rick and his group at this prison in tonight’s episode. This episode concentrates on Andrea and Michonne meeting up with The Governor (aka Phillip Blake in the comic books and novels) and the introduction of the Woodbury town settlement. It’s an interesting departure from the previous two season which tried to juggle two locations at once. Sometimes this juggling works in the show’s favor and, at times, it has been to it’s detriment. Tonight it’s more of the former than the latter. It would’ve been nice to see how Rick and the group has been keeping themselves busy since taking over the prison, but with the promise of The Governor and his group being the main antagonists of this third season the show couldn’t delay this part of the season’s main story arc to remain on the sidelines.

Tonight’s episode was much slower than the season’s first two but it made up for it in introducing the character of The Governor to the show’s audience and reuniting these same fans with one of the show’s favorite in Merle Dixon (played with sociopathic glee by genre venteran Michael Rooker). Andrea and Michonne don’t know what to make of The Governor and his safe haven of Woodbury. It looks peaceful and, most important, safe enough at first glance, but we could see that they both sense something is a bit off with their current benefactor and his Norman Rockwell-esque town. Andrea seems to be warming up to the leader of this group more than Michonne and this reaction should elicit more groans from her detractors who already see her as a character who seem to switch allegiances, or at least, jump from one leader to the next.

Andrea as written for the tv series is definitely not as fan-friendly as her comic book counterpart. Again, the writers of the show have made a conscious decision to try and make the Andrea role be more complex and earn her role as a badass through trials and tribulations. It’s going to be a tough sell the writers will need to do to try and rehab this character as the season goes along. So far, Laurie Holden has kept the character tics and habit which has made her such an uneven character the past two seasons to a minimum in tonight’s episode but it still show’s up here and there.

It’s interesting to see how much Rick and the Governor seem to share not just in how they’re leading the group, but in how efficient he’s gotten his people to become to adjust to this new world they now live in. Both are trying to recapture a piece of the civilization that’s fallen since the outbreak began and both have done so in varying degrees of success. Even though Rick doesn’t appear in tonight’s episode his character looms large as we see with each passing scene just what sort of leader The Governor is to his people. Throughout the episode we see that The Governor is not running a democracy (same as Rick) and from little bits of dialogue we get a notion that his benevolent dictator act could be hiding something more sinister.

Could we be seeing in The Governor how Rick could turn out to be a year from now if and when he loses more people? One thing for sure is that The Governor comes across as being more charismatic and in control of his situation than Rick, but at what cost and as the season plays out it’ll be interesting how the two stack up next to each other if and when they finally meet face-to-face. As both characters struggle to regain the very civilization The Governor spoke about retaking at the dinner table with Andrea and Michonne it goes without saying that the two alpha males of the series have the right ideas, but one’s methods seem to have gone beyond the pale. As the saying goes about how power corrupts it looks like it might be the case with The Governor.

“Walk With Me” is not as action-packed as the previous two episodes. There was some action close to the end and for some it probably came as a surprise, but for readers of the comic it was a sequence that was inevitable. The fact that the writer of tonight’s episode decided to reveal the ulterior motive and agenda behind The Governor’s benevolent facade so soon was the true surprise of tonight’s episode.

NOTES

  • Tonight’s episode was directed by series regular Guy Ferland and written by another series regular in Evan Reilly.
  • The pre-credits opening says a lot about the world beyond Rick’s group. A military helicopter patrolling and looking for any signs of survivors means there’s still some sort of organized government or military group trying to save as many people as possible. Even though we find out the safety has been compromised it still shows that there might still be hope out in the wilderness.
  • From the sounds leading up to the chopper’s crash it could be mechanical failure but part of me thinks it was a long-range shot that could’ve taken out the engine.
  • Finally the Governor shows up and his group is just as well-organized and efficient as Rick and his people.
  • MERLE! Michael Rooker’s return is as over-the-top as the character yet I have a feeling fans of the show (even some detractors) wouldn’t have any other way.
  • He’s sporting the Aquaman harpoon for a hand look and he seems to have gotten pretty good at using it.
  • It didn’t take long for the show to show us Woodbury and this once again I commend Mazzara and his writers for not delaying the inevitable and stretching it out for drama’s sake.
  • David Morrissey has definitely done a very good job in just one episode in making the character much more charismatic and multi-layered than the comic book counterpart.
  • The role of Milton (played by Dallas Roberts) is a nice homage to Romero’s Day of the Dead head scientist Dr. Logan.
  • His reaction when dealing with the survivors of the military convey was quite interesting and it had no dialogue explaining why which is another of the positive things about this season. The writers are showing rather than telling every little detail of each character and scene.
  • There’s definitely some unresolved issues going on between The Governor and the military.
  • The roles of the helicopter pilot has been expanded to be part of the military. In the comic book the chopper was a tv station newscopter and the survivors from the crash civilians.
  • I wasn’t sure how the ending reveal about The Governor would play out but it wasn’t as over-the-top as I thought it would be and actually came off as very creepy and disturbing. Once again I think this is in due part to David Morrissey performance as Woodbury’s leader.
  • Danai Gurira still comes across as more of a cypher (a badass one), but her dialogue has been limited, so far. This could be a good thing as she seems to be more suspicious of The Governor and Woodbury, in general than her partner of the past 7-8 months. Her survival instincts is not just about the zombies out in the world, but of strangers she meets for the first time. Her instincts may just save both her and Andrea in the long run.
  • Final reveal of the episode was chilling, disturbing and creepy as anything that has happened in the past 21 episodes of this series.
  • Zombie Kill Count for tonight’s episode: 12.

October Music Series: Skyforger – Zviegtin’ Zviedza Kara Zirgi


Latvia’s Skyforger have been around for ages. They first formed in 1991 as a folk-leaning death metal band called Grindmaster Dead, but by 1995 they changed their name to Skyforger and turned their attention to black metal. After leaving their mark on both the second generation of black metal and the formative years of pagan metal, they turned their attention to Latvian folk traditions unconditionally. Zobena Dziesma, translated as “Sword Song”, was released in 2003. It left metal at the door, and presented, in coordination with the Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia, an outstanding compilation of songs in traditional Latvian style.

Here is the explanation on Skyforger’s official website for how Zobena Dziesma came to be:

“Skyforger is not a professional Folk group, and we are traditionally known for playing Folk/Pagan Metal. We started playing Folk music as amateur enthusiasts, only for ourselves. However, our friends and fans expressed a desire to hear more of these songs, and that led to the creation of this album. Most of the songs you can hear on this recording are taken from the repertoire of well known local Folk groups. Others are reworked versions of material from our previous albums. Our passion is to play olden songs of the war and mythology of our forefathers. In that respect, this album is no different from those we have recorded in the past. It is our tribute to ancient Latvian history, culture and folklore.”

Skyforger translate Zviegtin’ Zviedza Kara Zirgi as “Neighed the Battle Horses”. It’s the track that has always stood out to me most on the album. It is exceptionally visual. It’s one of those songs that transports you to another place and time, and allows you to engage an ancient world trapped somewhere between history and fantasy.

Horror Scenes I Love: La Horde


[spoilers]

I know, I know. Another zombie-related post. Well, if you’ve been visiting the site enough these past three years or so then you’d realize by now that this site loves it’s zombies. Well, not love in that way, but in the “what would I do if put in the middle of the zombie apocalypse” type deal. Call it the American trait of self-reliance and stubbornness in the face of overwhelming odds. Also, this love for the zombie apocalypse seem to stem for the fact that as a society we Americans seem to be very apocalypse-obsessed.

Well, enough of that and time to get on the latest horror-themed “Scenes I Love” entry. This time around it comes courtesy of the very awesome French zombie film La Horde from 2008. This particular scene arrives very close to the end of the film so it’s going to be spoiler-heavy. So, being warned now to either watch the clip and be spoiled by the fate of a certain character or watch the film first and relive just how awesome this scene is the second time around.

The scene is just something that we as fans of the zombie apocalypse hope to go out doing if the end is near. No crying in the corner pleading at something that has no emotions. No cowardly act killing oneself before the shambling (or in the case of this film they’re sprinting like Usain Bolt) gets to them. This is the scene that shouts to the Gods in their heavenly thrones to watch how a true warrior dies. Not with a cry and whimper but with a shout of defiance and scream of bloodlust and frenzy to rival those trying to kill you.

As the video’s title succinctly proclaims: “Going out like a BOSS!”

October Music Series: Твердь – Масленица Широкая


An unrelenting, wild ride through everything that makes Slavic pagan metal amazing, Масленица Широкая (Maslenitsa Shirokaya) is one of the finest songs in the entire genre. Anyone familiar with Russian pagan metal gods Pagan Reign should find the sound entirely familiar. When Pagan Reign broke up in 2006, Твердь (Tverd’) formed from the ashes. Guitarist Vetrodar and drummer Demosthen were the only returning members, but stylistically Tverd’s only album to date, Вслед за Солнцеворотом (Vsled Za Solntsevorotom), is such a direct continuation that it would be hard to understand Tverd’ as anything but a legitimate continuation of Pagan Reign. Even the band’s name is the title to Pagan Reign’s final album. It is also a reference, I would imagine, to their hometown Tver, just north of Moscow.

The quality of this song is just impeccable. It carries all of the epic glory of Pagan Reign’s Новгородские Пляски (Novgorodian Folk Dance), but with a more mature approach to the madness and the addition of a fantastic vocal performance by Svetlana Lebedeva. The song is structured, much like Novgorodian Folk Dance, to eschew standard composition and confront the listener with one bombastic movement after another, thriving in a state of constantly progressing triumphant climax. It lacks all of the frustration and anger that so many Slavic bands reflect in their recognition that the culture they’re preserving exists only in scattered embers. Maslenitsa Shirokaya is a pure celebration with no baggage. Cheers.

James Bond Film Review: The Spy Who Loved Me (dir. by Lewis Gilbert)


For the past few days, the Shattered Lens has been taking a journey through the history of the James Bond film franchise.  Today, we continue that journey by taking a look at 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.  This was the 10th film in the “official” James Bond series and the 3rd to star Roger Moore as 007.  It was also the first of Moore’s films to be embraced by contemporary critics and it’s still considered to be one of the best films in the entire series.  It’s also one of my personal favorites.

The Spy Who Loved Me opens with one of the most of brilliant pre-credit sequences in the history of the franchise.  British and Russian submarines are mysteriously vanishing.  M (a returning Bernard Lee) summons James Bond (Roger Moore) to investigate.  Not surprisingly, Bond is with a woman at a ski resort when the summons comes.  As Bond starts to leave, the woman says, “But James, I need you.”

“So does England,” Bond replies.

Now, this was long before my time so I can’t say for sure but I always like to imagine  that line got some applause when it was first heard in theaters.  It is with that line (and, even more importantly, with his self-assured but humorous delivery of that line) that Roger Moore truly claims the role of James Bond as his own.  No, this scene seemed to be telling us, Moore would never be Sean Connery.  But he would be James Bond.

After leaving the chalet, Bond finds himself being pursued by several Russian agents.  This downhill ski chase, filmed by real people who were truly putting their lives in danger in the days before CGI, is one of the most exciting of all the chases to be found in Bond films and it builds up to a perfect climax.  After Bond manages to kill one of his pursuers, he skis right over the edge of a cliff.  Luckily, he has a parachute in his backpack and, of course, it’s a union jack parachute.  Again, I like to imagine that audiences applauded at this moment.

Bond’s escape leads to the opening credits and, even more importantly, Carly Simon singing the film’s theme song, “Nobody Does It Better.”  Seriously, I love this song.

Both MI6 and the KGB discover that the plans for a submarine tracking system are being sold on the Egyptian black market.  Suspecting that this is connected to the missing submarines, both James Bond and the Russian agent Anya Asamova (Barbara Bach) are sent to Egypt.  Bond and Anya team up to find the plans.  Along the way, they are attacked multiple times by Jaws (Richard Kiel), a hulking man with steel teeth.

Eventually, Bond and Anya discover that the man responsible for the missing submarines is Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens), a shipping magnate who is planning on destroying the surface world so that he can start a new society underwater.  The two secret agents work together to defeat Stromberg even though Anya assures Bond that she’s going to kill him as soon as their mission is completed.  Remember the man who Bond killed during that opening ski chase?  It turns out that man was Anya’s lover and she’s only putting off getting her revenge so that she and Bond can save the world first.

With its confident mix of humor, intrigue, and spectacular action, The Spy Who Loved Me remains one of the most popular of the Bond films.  It’s certainly one of my favorites.

Along with From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, this is the most romantic of the Bond films.  Roger Moore and Barbara Bach have a very real chemistry and, as a result, you actually care about whether or not Bond and Anya will still be together after the end credits.  As played by Barbara Bach, Anya is one of the strongest of the Bond girls.  For once, Bond and his lover are truly equals.  For anyone who doubts the importance of having a strong Bond girl, I invite them to compare this movie to The Man With The Golden Gun.

For those who are more into action than romance, The Spy Who Loved Me will not leave them disappointed.  This film features some of the best set pieces in the history of the Bond franchise.  Along with the ski chase at the start of the film, there’s also a genuinely exciting car chase that features Bond and Anya being pursued by a helicopter piloted by Caroline Munro.

(Speaking of cars, this film also features one of my favorite Bond gadgets — a car that doubles as a submarine.)

Karl Stromberg makes for an interesting villain.  His plan makes absolutely no sense but he may be the first Bond bad guy to motivated by perverted idealism as opposed to pure greed.  As you would expect from a Bond film, his secret underwater HQ is quite an impressive set.  However, the best thing about Stromberg is that he employs Jaws.  With his stainless steel teeth, Jaws was the best henchman since Goldfinger‘s Oddjob and he proved to be such a popular character that he actually returned in the next Bond film.

One final note: As has often been noted, The Spy Who Loved Me was the first Bond film to have absolutely nothing in common (beyond a title) with the book that it was based on.  This is largely because the literary Spy Who Loved Me wasn’t really about James Bond.  Instead, it told the life story of Vivienne Michel, a Canadian woman who just happens to meet Bond towards the end of the book.  Fleming reportedly considered this book to be a failed experiment on his part and reportedly he only sold the film rights when he was assured that only the book’s title would be used.

That said, I recently read The Spy Who Loved Me and it’s not that bad.  Vivienne Michel is a compelling character and it’s interesting to, for once, see James Bond through the eyes of a lover as opposed to the other way around.  If it is a failed experiment, it’s still an experiment that’s worth reading.

As for the cinematic James Bond, he conquered the sea in The Spy Who Loved Me so it only made sense that, in his next film, he would attempt to conquer space.  We’ll take a look at Moonraker tomorrow.

October Music Series: Slartibartfass – Tanz der Kobolde


From the perspective of a guy who doesn’t speak a word of German, this has to be the second greatest band name ever after Helfahrt. But then, “Slartibartfass” apparently refers to a fictional character with an intentionally absurd name. To the best of my knowledge Helfahrt is a legitimate false cognate. HELFAHRT!

This is not Helfahrt. This is Slartibartfass, who paint a delightful vision of super-cute munchkins tying you up in your sleep and harvesting your kidneys. Tanz der Kobolde makes no pretense to anything more than what its name suggests. The death metal vocals are deliciously hokey (the only sort of context in which I actually like death metal vocals), and yes, the drummer is simulating stomping gremlin feet.

Kobolds are little Germanic sprites, typically invisible and inhabiting homes, caves, and ships. They’re fairly ambivalent little fellows. Some will do household chores for a pittance, and they say if you stab one to death it can drop gold. When annoyed by their human cohabitants they tend towards dismemberment. They don’t much care for clothing. The element cobalt is named after them; they often give it, laden with arsenic, to miners as a playful prank.

Slartybutt are from the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany. Tanz der Kobolde appears on their first album, Nordwind, released in 2006. It is definitely…. entertaining.