4 Shots From 4 Films: Rest in Peace, David Hedison


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking. David Hedison (1927-2019) was a working actor for over 70 years, starring on stage, screen, and TV. Though he played in virtually every genre, Hedison is perhaps best known for his work in some classic science-fiction, as well as portraying CIA agent Felix Leiter in two James Bond films. Word as hit the internet he passed away July 18 at the age of 93, and in his honor, we present 4 Shots from the Films of David Hedison. Job well done, sir!

The Fly (1958, D: Kurt Neumann)

The Lost World (1960, D: Irwin Allen)

The Cat Creature (TV-Movie 1973, D: Curtis Harrington)

Live and Let Die (1973. D: Guy Hamilton)

And for good measure, here’s David Hedison as Commander Crane in the sci-fi TV series VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1964-68)

  RIP David Hedison (1927-2019)

A Movie A Day #260: The Naked Face (1984, directed by Bryan Forbes)


Dr. Judd Stevens (Roger Moore) is a mild-mannered Chicago psychologist who has never been in any trouble, so why has one of his patients and his receptionist been murdered?  Lt. McGreavy (Rod Steiger), who has a personal grudge against Stevens, thinks that the doctor himself might be responsible.  Dr. Stevens thinks that the first murder was a case of mistaken identity and that he is being targeted for assassination.  Detective Angeli (Elliott Gould) says that he is willing to consider Stevens’s theory but can Stevens trust him?  Or should Dr. Stevens put his trust in a veteran P.I. (Art Carney) or maybe even his newest patient (Anne Archer)?

An example of one of the “prestige” pictures that Cannon Films would produce in between Chuck Norris movies, The Naked Face has the potential be intriguing but both the direction and the script are too formulaic to be effective.  Even though the movie does not work, it is always interesting to see the non-Bond films that Roger Moore made while he was playing the world’s most famous secret  agent.  In The Naked Face, a lot of time is spent on establishing Judd Stevens as being the exact opposite as James Bond.  Stevens doesn’t drink or smoke and he is devotedly loyal to the memory of his dead wife.  When someone offers him a gun, Stevens replies, “I don’t believe in them.”  Unlike Bond, Dr. Stevens does not have the ability to come up with one liners.  He barely ever cracks a smile.  Moore is miscast in the role but he still does a better job than Rod Steiger, who bellows all of his lines, and Elliott Gould, who spends the movie with his head down.  I don’t blame him.

One final note: As much as The Naked Face tries to distance itself from the Bond films, it does feature one other connection beyond the casting of Moore.  David Hedison, who plays Dr. Stevens’s friend and colleague, also played Felix Leiter in Live and Let Die and Licence to Kill.

Jurassic Joke: THE LOST WORLD (20th Century Fox 1960)


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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s adventure novel THE LOST WORLD was first filmed in 1925 with special effects by the legendary Willis O’Brien  . O’Brien gets a technical credit in Irwin Allen’s 1960 remake, but his wizardry is nowhere to be found, replaced with dolled-up lizards and iguanas designed to frighten absolutely no one. This one’s strictly for the Saturday matinee kiddie crowd, and though it boasts a high profile cast, it’s ultimately disappointing.

Genre fans will appreciate the presence of The Invisible Man himself, Claude Rains , in the role of expedition leader Professor Challenger. The 71 year old Rains is full of ham here, playing to the balcony, and still managing to command the screen with his sheer talent. Challenger claims to have discovered “live dinosaurs” in the remote Amazon rainforest, a claim scoffed at by the scientific community, especially rival Professor Summerlee (the equally hammy Richard Hayden). The crusty Challenger…

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A Movie A Day #5: ffolkes (1979, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen)


A group of terrorists, led by Lou Kramer (Anthony Perkins, at his bitchiest) and Harold Schulman (Michael Parks), have hijacked Esther, a supply ship that services two North Sea oil rigs, Ruth and Jennifer.  Kramer demands that the British government pay him 25 millions pounds.  If he’s not paid, he’ll blow up the two oil rigs, destroying the British economy and causing a catastrophic environmental disaster.  Kramer has also rigged the Esther with explosives.  If anyone tries to board the boat, he will blow both the ship and himself up, taking the crew with him.

The British Prime Minister (Faith Brook, playing Margaret Thatcher) could pay the ransom or she could call in counter terrorism expert, Rufus Excalibur ffolkes (Roger Moore).

(Though the name undoubtedly looked odd to American audiences, ffolkes is a common Welsh surname and is often spelled with both fs lowercase.)

Made in between The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, ffolkes was Roger Moore’s attempt to defy the typecasting that had defined his career.  Other than his loyalty to Queen and country, ffolkes has very little in common with James Bond.  James Bond was a suave smoker who bedded several women per film, lived in a hip London flat, drank Martinis, and was always ready with a quip.  ffolkes is humorless, drinks Scotch, hates cigarette smoke, and lives in an isolated castle.  The biggest difference between Bond and ffolkes?  Embittered by one bad marriage, ffolkes has no interest in women and refuses to work with them.  Instead, ffolkes loves cats.

ffolkes had always been overshadowed by Moore’s work as James Bond but it holds up well as a good, old-fashioned adventure film.  In many ways, Anthony Perkins’s Kramer feels like a predecessor to Die Hard‘s Hans Gruber and, if ffolkes had been released ten years later, it probably would have been referred to as being “Die Hard at sea.”  If you can get used to him playing someone other than James Bond, Roger Moore does a good job as the eccentric ffolkes and James Mason provides welcome support as ffolkes’s only friend.

Though ffolkes was a box office disappointment, it retains a cult following and it used to show up regularly on British television.  (I saw it at least once every summer that I went to the UK.)  When it was originally released in the U.K., it was called North Sea Hijack.   When it was released in the U.S., presumably under the assumption that American audiences wouldn’t be able to find the North Sea on a map, the title was changed to ffolkes, which probably left audiences more confused than the North Sea ever would have.  When the movie was first broadcast on American television, the title was changed yet again, this time to Assault Force.

To quote Roger Moore: “The film has so many title changes that I’ve lost count.  But everyone seems to like the character I played.”

For tomorrow’s movie a day, it’s another film where Roger Moore did not play James Bond, The Cannonball Run.

roger-moore-is-ffolkes

Halloween Havoc!: THE FLY (20th Century Fox 1958)


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THE FLY is one of those films you’re probably familiar with if you’re a horror/sci-fi fan. I’ve seen it many times, but was under the impression it was a black & white movie (probably due to early viewings as a young’un, deprived of color TV). So when I rewatched it again in glorious Technicolor, I was pleasantly surprised. This tale of science gone wrong has held up well, and its iconic scene of The Fly’s unmasking still manages to jolt the viewer (even if you know it’s coming!).

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The film’s framing device finds us witnessing Helene Delombre murdering her husband Andre by squishing his head and arm under a huge hydraulic press (and it’s a pretty gruesome demise), then calling her brother-in-law Francois to tell him. Francois is stunned, to say the least, and gets ahold of his friend Inspector Charas. They drive over to the Delombre Freres (the movie’s set in Montreal)…

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James Bond Film Review: Licence to Kill (dir. by John Glen)


Licence to Kill, which was initially released in 1989, was the 16th “official” James Bond film.  It was also the second and the last one to feature Timothy Dalton in the role of James Bond.  This is the one where Felix Leiter gets eaten by a shark, Bond resigns from MI6, and ends up going to Central America in search of revenge.  Sad to say, it’s also one of my least favorite of the Bond films.

Licence to Kill starts out with Bond in Florida, attending the wedding of his best friend, Felix Leiter (played by David Hedison, who previously played the role in Live and Let Die).  However, before going to ceremony, Felix and Bond take a few minutes to arrest notorious drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi).  With the help of a crooked DEA agent (played by a wonderfully smarmy actor named Everett McGill), Sanchez escapes from custody.  Accompanied by his psychotic henchman Dario (Benecio Del Toro), Sanchez gets his revenge by killing the new Mrs. Leiter and feeding Felix to a shark.  When Bond discover the barely alive Felix, he also discovers a note that (in a scene borrowed from the novel Live and Let Die) reads, “He disagreed with something that ate him.”

Investigating on his own, Bond discovers that Sanchez’s partner in Florida is the wonderfully named Milton Krest (played by a brilliantly sleazy Anthony Zerbe).  Soon, James Bond is on a mission of vengeance that involves tracking down and killing every member of Sanchez’s organization.  However, M (Robert Brown) doesn’t like the idea of his best secret agent killing the entire population of Florida.  Bond responds by resigning from the service and heading to Central America on his own.

In typical Bond film fashion, James Bond manages to infiltrate Sanchez’s organization and Sanchez soon takes a liking to the man who has vowed to kill him.  Along the way, Bond romances both Sanchez’s abused mistress Lupe (Talisa Soto) and an ex-CIA agent named Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) and the viewers learn that Sanchez’s criminal enterprise not only involves drugs but also a crooked TV preacher (played by Las Vegas mainstay Wayne Newton) as well.

Let’s start with the positive.  Robert Davi, playing the role of Franz Sanchez, makes for a memorable villain.  Along with the silky charm and hints of madness that we’ve come to expect from Bond villains, Davi brings an almost perverse edge to the character.  Every line of dialogue that he delivers is practically dripping with decadence.  Whether he’s doting on his pet iguana, his main henchman Dario, or poor Lupe, Sanchez makes for a dangerously charismatic and compelling villain, one that feels like he would have been at home in one of Ian Fleming’s original novels.  Wisely, Davi plays his role almost as if he was playing James Bond and, as a result, the scenes that he shares with Dalton all have a crackling energy to them that is missing from the film as a whole.

In fact, almost all of the villains are compelling in this film, from Franz Sanchez all the way down to the lowliest henchman.  As played by a very young Benicio Del Toro, Dario is all smoldering intensity and arrogant swagger.  Smuggler Milton Krest is played by veteran character actor Anthony Zerbe and he gets one of the bloodiest death scenes in the history of the series.  However, I have to admit that my favorite bad guy was Sanchez’s business manager, Truman-Lodge (played by Anthony Starke).  Truman-Lodge is just so enthusiastic about the business opportunities that came along with allying oneself with evil that it’s rather infectious.

With such a memorable collection of bad guys, it’s a shame that the film didn’t provide them with any goals worthy of their evil talents.  In previous (and future) Bond films, far less interesting villains have still come up with plans to allow them to take over the world.  Even Moonraker‘s Hugo Drax was able to overcome his lack of personality and come up with a diabolical intergalactic scheme.  Meanwhile, Franz Sanchez — one of the most complex and impressive Bond villains of all time — is simply content to sell drugs and feed people to sharks.  It feels almost disrespectful to Davi’s performance that Sanchez’s goals are, ultimately, so boring.

And, in the end, I think that’s the main problem that I have with Licence to Kill.  The film feels so predictable.  There’s nothing about it that makes it comes across as a story that could only have been about James Bond.  Instead, it feels like the type of standard action/revenge film that always seems to come out every summer.  The film’s hero might be an Englishman named James Bond but he could just as easily be an American named Jake Sully.

According to Sinclair McKay’s invaluable history of the Bond franchise, The Man With The Golden Touch, Licence to Kill was specifically written to compliment Timothy Dalton’s more “realistic” interpretation of the Bond character.  As Dalton played Bond as grim and serious, Licence to Kill is a grim and serious film.  Innocents and villains alike die in bloody agony and, the few times that Dalton does smile, the expression looks so unnatural that you worry that his face is about to split in half.  Unfortunately, along with being grim and serious, Dalton’s Bond is also remote and uncharismatic and, with the exception of Robert Davi, he doesn’t have any chemistry with anyone else in the cast.  (Carey Lowell brings a lot of energy to the role of Pam but Dalton’s Bond never seems to be that into her.)  Dalton simply doesn’t make for a very compelling hero and, as a result, Licence to Kill ends up feeling like an empty collection of occasionally impressive stunts.

Licence to Kill holds a few dubious distinctions.  It was the least financially succesful of all the Bond films and it was also the last Bond film to be produced by Albert Broccoli and directed by John Glen.  It was also the last to feature Robert Brown in the role of M and, of course, it was also the last to feature Timothy Dalton in the role of James Bond.  (That’s not all that shocking when you consider just how miserable and bored Dalton seems to be in this film.)  Over the next six years, the Bond franchise would be mired in a lawsuit between Eon productions and producer Kevin McClory and when James Bond finally did return, he would do so in the form of Pierce Brosnan.

We’ll be taking a look at Goldeneye tomorrow.

James Bond Review: Live and Let Die (dir. by Guy Hamilton)


One year and one day ago the very first James Bond film to star Sir Roger Moore, Live and Let Die, in the title role was reviewed by Lisa Marie, and now it’s time to revisit the eight official film in the series.

With the previous Bond entry, Diamonds Are Forever, we finally see Sean Connery run out of gas when it came to playing the title role of James Bond. Yet, despite the obvious boredom Connery was having in the film the producers of the series were still wanting him to come back for another Bond film. Maybe it was his experience during the production of Diamonds Are Forever or Connery finally decided it was truly time to go the series’ producers didn’t get their wish and were in a rush to find someone new to wear the mantle o Agent 007.

They finally found their new James Bond in the form of English-actor Roger Moore and production on Live and Let Die began soon after.

Roger Moore, for me, has always been the start of the less serious, but much more fun era of the James Bond franchise. His films still had the intrigue and action of the Connery-era, but the writers and producers of the series put in more one-liners and humor in the story. We begin to see the start of this in the previous Bond film (not handled as well and came off as awkward at times), but it was in Live and Let Die and in Roger Moore that this change in the series’ tone finally hit it’s stride.

The film dials back the global domination attempts by the series of villians both SPECTRE and not. This time around Bond must investigate the deaths of three MI6 agents who had been investigating one Dr. Kananga, the despot of the fictitious Caribbean island of San Monique. Kananga (played by Yaphet Kotto) also has an alter-ego in the form of Mr. Big who runs a series of soul food restaurants as a front for his drug business. Every Bond film always tries to out-elaborate the previous one with it’s villains plans. There’s no attempts by Kananga/Big to dominate the world. His plans are pretty capitalistic in a ruthless sort of way. He wants to corner the drug market in the US by flooding the illegal drug market with his own heroin which he plans to give away for free thus bankrupting the other crime lords and drug dealers.

This plan by Kananga actually looks to be very sound and it helps that he has the beautiful seer Solitaire (played by a young and beautiful Jane Seymour) to help him outwit ad stay ahead of his competitors and the law. His plan would’ve succeeded if not for the meddling of one British super-spy named James Bond.

Live and Let Die might not have been as serious about it’s story as the early Connery films, but it definitely had a much more faster pace with more action to distinguish Moore from Connery. One particular famous action sequence involves Bond escaping from Kananga’s drug farm in the Louisiana Bayou country being chased not just by Kananga’s henchmen but by the local police in the form of Sheriff J.W. Pepper who plays the role of fool and comedy relief in the film. Even the smaller action scenes in the film had more life and fun to them like Bond escaping a gator pit by timing a run across the backs of a line of gators to safety.

Where the previous bond film’s attempt at injecting humor and more action into the story were more failures than successes in this film Roger Moore Bond film they worked in due part to Moore’s playful delivery of the one-liners and bon mots the role has become known for of late. Any trepidation that audiences and producers might have had about  Moore taking on the role that had been made famous by Connery  soon went away as this film played out.

Live and Let Die still remains my favorite of all the Roger Moore Bond films and saw it as the highlight of his time playing the character. While the follow-up films were good in their own right it was this initial Moore entry in the series where the writers, Moore and veteran Bond filmmaker Guy Hamilton were able to find the perfect balance of thrilling action and humor that the rest of the Moore-era films couldn’t replicate.

Next up for James Bond…The Man with the Golden Gun.