Category Archives: Blockbusters




I’ve not posted any articles or news up here for a while, mainly due to work, business and general busyness, as 2014 has turned into a rather hectic year. The new issue of ‘Cinema Retro’ (Issue #29) continues my ongoing series looking at Oakmont Productions’ World War II movies, with the rarity ‘The Last Escape’, starring Stuart Whitman and Pinkas Braun. The next issue will feature the sixth and final part of the series, with an in-depth look at my favourite of the ‘Oakmonts’, the Mediterranean-set ‘Hell Boats’, starring James Franciscus and Elizabeth Shepherd.

Issue #29 is on sale now via the usual outlets, including Ebay and Amazon, and also includes my reviews of the new Lee Van Cleef Blu-ray/DVD combos from Explosive Media, ‘Sabata’ and ‘Death Rides a Horse’.

There’s a full description and ordering details here

I’ve also been working on a project for Taschen, which will be published in the fall, and on ongoing projects including a new spaghetti western film guide. I travelled to Paris in February to see Ennio Morricone’s live concert in Bercy, the second night of his ‘My Life in Music’ tour (more of which in a future post, it was a great concert) and attended Sir Christopher Frayling’s presentation of the spaghetti western classic ‘For a Few Dollars More’ as part of the Bradford International Film Festival 2014 in April, which was superb to see on the big screen at Pictureville, with a large crowd in attendance.

Here’s Ennio Morricone conducting Jill’s theme from ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ in the Palais Omnisports, Bercy, 4 February, 2014, with Susanna Rigacci (soprano) and the Budapest Modern Art Orchestra.

This month sees the publication of my new Filmgoers Guide, ‘Outer Limits’, the fifth in the series after ‘Crime Wave’, ‘Once Upon a Time in the Italian West’, ‘Stagecoach to Tombstone’ and ‘When Eagles Dared’.




Outer Limits explores science-fiction cinema through 26 great films, from the silent classic Metropolis to today. It reviews the galaxy of stars and directors who have created some of the most popular films of all time, including George Lucas’s ‘Star Wars’ films, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Minority Report, James Cameron’s ‘Terminator’ films and Ridley Scott’s milestones Alien and Blade Runner. It also discusses everything from A-listers 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, to Japanese monster movies, 1950s B-movies, creature features and cult favourites, depicting time travel, distant planets or alien invasions. Films featured include The War of the Worlds, Independence Day, Tarantula, Godzilla, The Thing, Forbidden Planet, Barbarella, Galaxy Quest, Mad Max 2, Back to the Future, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Star Trek, Apollo 13, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Matrix and many more.

As well as covering acknowledged science-fiction classics, Outer Limits takes diversions into B-movies, looking at everything from Fiend without a Face and IT! The Terror from beyond Space, to Roger Corman’s Not of This Earth and It Conquered the World. There’s colourful, vibrant sci-fi movies from Japan (Invasion of the Astro-Monsters, Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People and Destroy All Monsters) and Italy (Planet of the Vampires and The Wild, Wild Planet), and the bleak, corrosive, monochrome British sci-fi of These Are the Damned and Quatermass 2. Other cult delights covered include I Married a Monster from Outer Space, Android, Trancers, Alien Contamination, Westworld, Goke – Bodysnatcher from Hell, The Creeping Terror, invasion of the Saucer Men, Teenagers from Outer Space, The Giant Claw and The Green Slime. Illustrated with original posters, Outer Limits is an informative, entertaining tour of the sci-fi universe.


For my Top Five underrated sci-fi films that may have passed under your radar, click here to read the I.B. Tauris blog:

‘Outer Limits: The Filmgoers Guide to the Great Science-Fiction Films’ published by I.B. Tauris is available from Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Guardian Bookshop and many other outlets. It is out now in the UK and is published on 24 June 2014 in the US.

It is available in-store across the UK at all branches of Waterstones.

‘Outer Limits’ is also available as an e-book.







It has been said that whenever you see a Bond film, you certainly get a lot of bang for your bucks, a state of affairs that hasn’t changed since the franchise began in 1962. As special effects have evolved and improved, what can be staged in terms of action has become ever more elaborate and at the same time more convincing, with the inconceivable conceivable and the only limitations being the writers’ imaginations. As the record-breaking box office returns for ‘Skyfall’ prove – it has recently become the most successful film in UK cinema history, outgrossing ‘Avatar’ over a much shorter period – you also get a lot of bucks for your bangs.

The fact that it’s the 50th anniversary of the 007 film series, with all its associated exhibitions, marketing spin-off and advertising hasn’t hurt to keep James Bond firmly in the public eye since he leaped out of a helicopter with the Queen back in July. Among the books that have been published are Taschen’s mammoth ‘The James Bond Archives’, ‘Bond On Set: Filming Skyfall’ by Greg Williams, ‘James Bond 50 Years of Movie Posters’ (both from Dorling Kindersley, or DK Books) and Roger Moore’s own recollections of the series, ‘Bond on Bond’.

Cinema Retro’s ‘Movie Classics Special Edition’ No.4 is devoted exclusively to the first 007 film, ‘Dr No’. CR founders and editors Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrall have assembled an amazing array of film stills, memorabilia, interviews and posters to illustrate the making of this epoch-making film. All their regular writers and some special guests have contributed to this issue, which has been a labour of love by the editors. As well as articles by Pfeiffer and Worrall, the 148-page issue is packed with pieces on all aspects of the ‘Dr No’ story, as well as much background information. Matthew Field has conducted world exclusive interviews with Ursula Andress and writer Johanna Harwood. Sir Christopher Frayling interviews set designer Sir Ken Adam, Lee Pfeiffer and Mark Cerulli interview designer Joseph Caroff (the man who designed the 007 gun logo) and Steve Oxenrider interviews Marguerite Le Wars (who played the sexy Jamaican photographer, called Annabel Chung in Fleming’s novel). Lee Pfeiffer interviews legendary artist Mitchell Hooks, who created the artwork for the film poster, Adrian Smith interviews Bettine le Beau (Professor Dent’s secretary) and Steve Oxenrider interviews the Jamaican cast members and entertainers seen in the film. Ajay Chowdhury and Matthew Field provide an exclusive interview with Monty Norman, composer of the James Bond Theme. Martijn Mulder looks at Jamaican locations then and now, Gary Giblin looks at the film’s production history and Oscar-winning sound technician Norman Wanstall recalls creating the innovative sound effects for the film. There’s also a foreword by David V. Picker, the man who sealed the deal to bring James Bond to the silver screen at United Artists. I have also contributed an article to this special edition, looking at the (many) changes between Ian Fleming’s novel and the film version.

There are more details about the issues, layout previews and how to order here!.html

By far the heftiest Bond publication of the year is Taschen’s ‘The James Bond Archives’, a massive 600-page fully-illustrated volume that comes in a cardboard ‘suitcase’ with its own handle and a celluloid filmstrip from a print of ‘Dr No’. This wallet-busting, coffee table rupturing tome tells the definitive story of the James Bond films, via access to the actual EON archives, with an attention to detail hitherto unprecedented. It was edited by Paul Duncan and written by a team of writers, including Paul Duncan, Jamie Russell, Danny Graydon, Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc, Ellen Cheshire and myself. All the contributors are writers in their own right – for example, Jamie is the author of the definitive history of zombie cinema, ‘The Book of the Dead’ and this year published a great little book ‘Generation XBox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood’, which charts the sometimes uneasy, always innovative relationship between the gaming and movie industries ( Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc have written several books, including the excellent ‘Pocket Essential Guide to Vampire Films’, and Ellen Cheshire has also written several PEs, my favourite of which discusses Audrey Hepburn. Film journalist Danny Graydon, co-author of ‘The Rough Guide to Film Noir’, among other titles, offers an interesting account of working on the book on his blog

It’s true that it was something of a dream assignment. Paul contacted my in April and I worked on the project through until July. The first chapter I researched and wrote was ‘Live and Let Die’. I had access to draft scripts, the original shooting script, production documentation and letters, and pages of uncut interviews with all those involved in the film, both onscreen and behind the scenes. Most importantly I had the call sheets and progress reports for every day of the film’s production, both on location and in the studio, which tells the story of the film in the minutest detail, with precise dates and those who were involved. This enabled me to fashion an ‘oral history’ of the making of the film, with short shrift given to myth, apocrypha and hearsay. It was a deluge of information that was then edited into a coherent narrative by me and Paul. I went on to write three more chapters for the book: ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’, ‘A View to a Kill’ (so I covered Moore’s first and last appearances as the secret agent) and ‘The World is Not Enough’, which is fortunately my favourite of the Pierce Brosnan-era Bonds. The book has already received many great reviews from all quarters, including Esquire magazine, and seems to have been positively received by Bond fans in this year of celebration. There’s an in-depth interview with Paul Duncan at Mi6 Confidential, where he discusses the project, its genesis and execution, at length

And I think this review also sums up the book well

‘The James Bond Archives’ is available directly from Taschen, where you can see 14 sample spreads, including one from my ‘Live and Let Die’ chapter

Or on Amazon


Over on the official 007 Fragrance website, there’s an exclusive look at a brief extract of one of the chapters from ‘The James Bond Archives’, published this October by Taschen. The site is publicising the launch of the fragrance for men, to coincide with the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the famously sophisticated film spy.

The extract is from ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’, one of the four chapters I’ve researched and written for ‘The James Bond Archives’ book. It’s a bit about the making of the film and Scaramanga’s famous prop Golden Gun, made from a cigarette lighter, pen, cuff links and cigarette case. This is a first look at text from the book and gives readers an idea of the book’s ‘oral history’ format.

‘The James Bond Archives’ is the official history of the 007 films, published with the cooperation of EON productions.

You can also order a free sample of the fragrance on the website, which GQ Magazine has called ‘The Most Dangerously Sophisticated Fragrance in the World’.

You can read the extract from ‘The Man With the Golden Gun’ here:



Today is designated ‘Global James Bond Day’ and sees a host of events worldwide to celebrate to 50th birthday of 007, the screen’s most famous, enduring and alluring secret agent. It coincides with the release of the first official James Bond film, ‘Dr No’, in 1962.

Adele’s much anticipated title song, written by Adele and producer Paul Epworth, has been released and can be heard here:

It’s a fitting James Bond theme (in the Shirley Bassey tradition) and features a monumental orchestration (which includes references to Monty Norman’s ‘James Bond Theme’) and a smoky-then-powerful vocal from the most popular singer in the world at the moment. It’s Adele’s first new release in over a year and is guaranteed to be a number one hit.   

In the UK Sky launch a devoted James Bond Channel, ‘Sky 007’ (actually their Sky Showcase channel under an alias). For the next four and half weeks the channel will show the Bond back catalogue, along with documentaries, including ‘Bond Girls are Forever’ and behind the scenes Previews from ‘Skyfall’. In the UK, ITV have always had the broadcasting rights to the James Bond films, so Sky must have bought them. Highlights today include ‘Dr No’, ‘Casino Royale’, ‘Thunderball’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, but all the official films will get an airing over the coming month.

There’s also an auction at Christies, online from September 28 to October 8:

There are 40 Lots and 11 of the most interesting are covered at this website:

Among the lots on offer, there’s a programme for the ‘Octopussy Circus’, suction pads from ‘You Only Live Twice’, the Aston Martin Coupe from ‘Quantum of Solace’, and Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford two-piece dinner suit worn in ‘Skyfall’.

One of the lots is a new book called ‘007: The James Bond Archives’ published by Taschen. It’s the official book of the 50th anniversary celebrations and I was one of the team of writers who worked on this earlier in the year. It will be published in the UK on October 26 (to coincide with the release of ‘Skyfall’) and on November 9 in the US. The 600-page full-colour volume is the result of two-and-half-year’s research by the book’s editor Paul Duncan and is the definitive story of the James Bond films, from ‘Dr No’ to the present day. It includes a closely-guarded chapter on ‘Skyfall’ and initial copies also feature a film cell from ‘Dr No’. With the complete cooperation of film production company EON (Everything or Nothing), the Bond guardians, and co-producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the archives have been opened and the book is a treasure trove of rare documents, stories, interviews, on-set photographs, and other Bonderania, which provide insights into how, where, when and why the films were made over the last half-century.

There’s a link with some page previews here:

There’s quite a bit of interesting info on the book here, including details of  limited special edition print runs (2x 250) with signatures from Ken Adam and Daniel Craig:

You can pre-order the book from Amazon UK here:

And from Amazon US:

Castle of the Eagles

Like The Guns of Navarone, Brian G. Hutton’s Where Eagles Dare (1968), was based on a story by Alistair MacLean. In the seven years since Navarone was made into a hit film in 1961, cinema had changed dramatically. In the era of Bullit’s high-octane car chases, the casual, explosive violence of The Dirty Dozen and the gadget-laden espionage of James Bond, ‘high adventure’ had hit new heights. Instead of the scene in Navarone when the commandos scale sheer cliffs in a raging storm, Eagles serves up cliff-hanging exploits on icy cable cars, high above an alpine valley (actually staged on a vast set constructed at MGM’s London studio). In place of Navarone’s occasional action spots, when the heroes shoot it out with German patrols, we have two Allied professionals – a double-agent and an OSS assassin – shooting it out with the entire Wehrmacht.

Where Eagles Dare was based on MacLean’s ‘Adler Schloss’ (Eagle Castle) which detailed a fictitious raid on a German mountaintop stronghold – Waffen SS fortress the Schloß Adler (‘The Castle of the Eagles’), which was the HQ of the German Secret Service in southern Bavaria. MI6, British Intelligence, mount a special mission to free US General Carnaby (Robert Beatty), who has been captured when his Mosquito was shot down. He was en route to a conference with the Russians on Crete to discuss the establishment of a second front in Europe (the D-Day landings) and must be rescued before the Gestapo loosen his tongue. Major John Smith (Richard Burton) leads the crack rescue squad, which consists of US Ranger Lieutenant Morris Schaffer (Clint Eastwood), five British soldiers – James Christiansen (Donald Houston) Edward Berkeley (Peter Barkworth), Philip Thomas (William Squire), Harrod (Brook Williams) and Jock MacPhearson Neil McCarthey) – and female agent Mary Ellison (Mary Ure). Mary poses as ‘Maria Schenk’ who visits her ‘cousin’ Heidi (Ingrid Pitt), an undercover agent working in the guest house ‘Zum Wilden Hirsch’ (The Wild Stag). The squad parachute in disguised as German soldiers, but radio operator Harrod is killed on landing and MacPhearson is murdered shortly afterwards in the village of Werfen, at the foot of the fortress. Realising that Christiansen, Berkeley and Thomas are traitors, Smith and Schaffer infiltrate the eagle’s nest, which can only be accessed by cable car, where more than a few surprises await them in this twisty tale of double and triple-cross.

Film magazine Cinema Retro has a new edition of its Where Eagles Dare ‘Movie Classics’ special edition available. The original 80-page issue was published in 2009, but has since sold out. This new version, now including contributions from the director Brian G. Hutton and other key personnel, is even more spectacular, with in-depth analysis of the film’s making. Drawing together material, much of which has never been published, this is the definitive story of the film’s creation, on location and in London. The Schloß Adler was an actual 11th Century castle, the Burg Hohenwerfen, perched above the village of Werfen in the Salzach Valley, Austria. This special edition magazine includes full-colour post artwork for all the film’s varied ad campaigns worldwide, set sketches, storyboard details, and many behind the scenes pics of Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton and his wife Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Pitt, and the rest of the cast and crew, at work and relaxing between takes. Now 116 pages, this Deluxe Edition offers even more insight into this $7.2 million production, which remains one of the most popular adventure war stories of all time. I’ve contributed an article to the issue discussing the film’s historical accuracy – or otherwise – as a period WW2 film.

See the Cinema Retro website for details on how to order the new Movie Classics Where Eagles Dare issue and for sample layouts

My latest book When Eagles Dared: The Filmgoers’ History of World War II (I.B. Tauris), as you’d expect from the title, also includes a chapter on the film, and other tales of daring-do during Special Ops in Europe in the latter years of the war, such as Operation Crossbow and The Dirty Heroes

Pick up the movie tie-in paperback

Or the movie itself…