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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The eNews

Edgy independent publisher, Quercus have announced that eBooks have boosted their sales - eBook sales almost quadrupled in December against a year earlier at the Dragon Tattoo publisher Quercus.
The independent publisher said 2012 had begun well, with strong sales of Christie Watson's Tiny Sunbirds Far Away following her win in the Costa Best First Novel Award. Ms Watson, 35, a nurse and mother of three, worked in hospitals in London before writing the novel while on maternity leave.

Quercus's English-language rights to Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo books continued to be a key source of revenue. There has been renewed interest because of the new Hollywood adaptation of the first Larsson book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, starring Noomi Rapace.

The three titles in the series were again among the top 10 best-selling books in the UK last year. But chief executive Mark Smith pointed out that revenue from non-Larsson titles during the key final quarter of 2011 increased by 83 per cent compared with a year earlier.Other Quercus bestsellers include Alison Littlewood's A Cold Season, chosen for the Richard and Judy Book Club, and Peter Conradi's The King's Speech, which accompanies the Oscar-winning movie.
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Barnes and Noble are to launch their eReader the nook in Waterstones store -  According to reports, B&N is in talks with Waterstones to offer the device via the UK bookseller’s 300 stores. A tie up between the two companies has been long rumoured.The nook’s arrival in the UK would help the device compete against Amazon’s Kindle, Kobo’s range of readers which are available from WHSmith and Asda and Apple’s iPad which offers books via the iBooks app.

Waterstones was the first major UK retailer to offer eBooks through a deal to sell Sony’s digital reader. It has since gone on to stock a rage of ereaders.
However the absence of an own-label reader led to the retailer losing marketshare following the arrival of the Kindle.If Waterstones does reach an agreement to offer the nook it would mean neither of the UK’s major high street book retailers had their own device.
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Bestselling Black Horse westerns on Amazon

Charts from Black Horse Express

1. The Black Horse Westerns: Collection No. 1 by Abe Dancer, Dean Edwards, Tyler Hatch and Scott Connor (1 Jan 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download £6.86

2. The Kansas Fast Gun by Arthur Kent (31 Oct 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download £2.86

3. Gunhawk by John Long (31 Oct 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download £2.86

4. The Gallows Gang by I.J Parnham (30 Dec 2011) - Kindle eBook
Available for download £2.86

5. Dragonfire Trail by Hank J. Kirby (31 Aug 2009)
From £1.83

6. Cannon for Hire by Doug Thorne (29 Apr 2011)
From £8.25

7. The Killing Time by Logan Winters (30 Sep 2011)
From £7.84

8. Raking Hell by Lee Clinton (28 Feb 2011)
From £11.93

9. Jake Rains by Tony Masero (30 Nov 2011)
From £9.12

10. Captain Talbot's Reckoning by A. Doran Leishman (31 Oct 2011)
From £9.12

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Great Detectives - Miss Marple

The elderly spinster who dabbles as an amateur detective - the only way one  could use such a character in a crime novel these days would be as a parody or homage. The character wasn't exactly fresh when Agatha Christie first presented Miss Jane Marple to her readers in 1930's Murder in the Vicarage, although Christie had already used the character in the short story, The Tuesday Club which was published in 1927 in The Sketch Magazine.



Christie started to think of creating a great female detective after she clashed with stage writer Michael Morton over the stage adaptation of her successful novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Morton had wanted to turn Poirot into a dashing young Frenchman but Christie would have none of it. Christie was however forced to compromise and allow her character of Caroline Shepard to be changed from an insightful old maid who aids Poirot into a bright young thing to allow for a romantic interest. Caroline was Christie's favourite character from her novel and her transformation  for the stage play stung. Christie told friends then that she would create an aged female detective and thus the seeds of Miss Marple were sown in the writers' mind.

Christie was very well read and kept up with the works of her contemporaries - a favourite writer was Dorothy L Sayers and Christie was taken with the character of Miss Climpson an elderly spinster who  aided Sayer's detective, Lord Peter Wimsey in the 1927 novel, Unnatural Death. Christie and Sayers became great friends and when the first Miss Marple novel was published Sayers wrote to Christie saying, 'Dear old Tabbies are the only possible right king of female detectives and Miss M. is lovely.' Sayers later went onto create a detective agency of ageing spinsters set up by Peter Wimsey and Miss Climpson - Climson may have influenced Miss Marple but now the favour had been returned.

Another writer who helped sow the seeds of Marple was Anna Katherine Green, often called the mother of modern detective fiction. Green used a character called Amelia Butterworth in several mystery novels.The writer was a favourite of Christie who wrote of the importance on her own work in her autobiography by stating that Green's works are what started her thinking of becoming a mystery writer in the first place.

However the British tradition of  the literary spinster can be traced back to Miss Burns in Jane Austen's Emma and Betsy Trotwood in Dickens' David Copperfield. There is also Miss Prism in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest who was interestingly brought to the screen in the shape of Margaret Rutherford, the actress most associated with Miss Marple.

Christie used Miss Marple in a dozen novels and several short stories and the character is arguable the most famous female detective in all of crime fiction. A diverse range of actresses have brought the character to the screen and next to Poirot she is Christie most well loved and read character,

A great fictional detective indeed.

 In March 2011 it was reported that The Walt Disney Company had acquired the cinematic rights to the Miss Marple character, and was planning a contemporary adaptation to be set in the United States. It was reported that Jennifer Garner would portray Miss Marple in the new franchise, and that Mark Frost had been hired to write the script for the first film which would give us a younger, more seductive Marple. What Agatha Christie would think of this sexing up of the character would likely be unprintable.



Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 23 Jan - 29 Jan 2012
Project: THE TAINTED ARCHIVE
URL: http://tainted-archive.blogspot.com/

Summary


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Pageloads1,0269941,1129308648699906,785969
Unique Visits6847267226726086277194,758680
First Time Visits6496876856335856026904,531647
Returning Visits3539373923252922732

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Last chance offer

In 24 hours the book will revert to its usual price - get it now at the special giveaway rate.

Low, low price –
Support the author of this blog – buy now
Volume two – coming soon
CLICK ON IMAGE

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Archive's Greatest Hits - the battle of the Bonds

While we wait for the next James Bond movie,  I thought it would be nice to take a look back at 1983, a significant year for James Bond since there was not one but two Bond movies hitting the box-office.

How could this be?

Well the genesis goes back to when the first movie was in development - the first Bond film was intended to be an original story called Thunderball which had been written by Ian Fleming, Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. McClory always claimed to have invented SPECTRE. However when the script fell by the wayside Fleming later salvaged it for his 1961 novel, Thunderball.

McClory and Whittingham sued Fleming saying that the book used many of their ideas from the aborted screenplay. The case was settled  but McClory ended up retaining certain rights to the characters and plot. Later when McClory made moves to put the a movie version into production a deal was reached with Broccoli and Saltzman and the movie became the fourth James Bond movie.


However McClory had often tried to get a series of Bond movies into production based on  ideas from the Thunderball script but legal battled with EON Productions kept this from happening. That was until the early 80's when EON found themselves unable to stop McClory from putting the film into production. And when news broke that Sean Connery had signed to play Bond in this unofficial Bond movie Eon were horrified.


In 1982 McLory wins a legal battle and can produce an "independent" Bond film. "Never say never again" (NSNA) is one of the two "unofficial" 007 films made outside EON (the other is the 1967 comedy spoof "Casino Royale"). NSNA is a remake of "Thunderball" and stars the original Bond, Sean Connery -who comes back to the role after twelve years of absence.

Thus in 1983 there were two Bonds in the cinema - Octopussy had a summer opening and Never Say Never Again opened in the autumn. Which is the better Bond movie though? Well Octopussy won out financially but Never Say Never Again wasn't too far behind. And Octopussy too benefited from having all the series trademarks - the opening gun-barrel scene for one thing. And of course the regular supporting cast - Desmond Llewellyn, Louis Maxwell and Robert Brown who had succeeded Bernard Lee as M. While Never Say Never Again's biggest pull was that it had Sean Connery, the man who many considered the real James Bond.



The Bond films however had moved on since Connery's days and his performance in Never Say Never Again, whilst enjoyable, doesn't come close to the earlier movies. And like Thunderball, the film it remade, it suffered from being over long with a severe drag in its middle section. The script curiously mimiced Roger Moore's lightweight style which has never made sense to me - surely having Connery in the role was such a coup that the hard edge of the early Bond's should have been the template.



I suppose there was no clear cut winner in the battle of the Bonds - if there was a winner, then maybe it was the fans because they got two Bonds in the same year. However the saga would continue and in 1999 McClory once again attempted to put another remake into production, this time called Warhead. Sony backed the movie and Timothy Dalton was said to have been cast as James Bond. However EON managed to block the film in court and McClory's party had to cede all rights to make movies from the Thunderball scripts.


These days EON own all rights to the Thunderball scripts and no further movie adaptations can be produced. McClory died in 2006.

HALF A MILLION, BABY!

We are now less than a thousand hits away from the magical half a million, which means that we will either reach that figure late tonight or by tomorrow afternoon. We are celebrating by reposting some of the Archive all time most popular articles and check out the post below for the first in the series.

Archive's Greatest Hits - how to emulate The Saint

To celebrate The Archive hitting the magical half a million hits, we are reposting some of the all time most popular articles for new readers who may have missed them. And so here is an article from 2009 that teaches you to be a Saint like character.


video
A person can be whatever they want to be - that's the philosophy of the Tainted Archive. Reinvention of yourself is easy if you follow a few simple steps. From time to time The Archive will show you how to become someone else, or at least appear to do so. And so in this, the first of an irregular series, The Tainted Archive goes all self help and shows you how to become a man like The Saint at the minimum cost.

1 - Clothes are important as is your style. Never never dress down and always make sure you are at your most impeccable. Even while digging the garden you should wear well pressed trousers and a comfortable shirt. And of course it goes without saying you must be clean shaven and keep  your hair neatly combed with a side parting and slight quiff. These days this can easily and inexpensively be achieved with clothing produced in some sweat shop in a far off country and sold in most major supermarkets. Remember to remove the labels as it looks expensive enough but just be careful of any sudden movements.

Always immaculately dressed.


2-The Saint lives in the most expensive hotels and is a connoisseur of food and wine. Whilst this may prove a little difficult for those of us not on a millionaires budget it can easily be bluffed. Arrange to meet your young lady at the most exclusive hotel in town and get there just before her. Go inside and as soon as you see her enter, yell at one of the hotel staff and storm out, grabbing your young lady by the arm as you do so. Once outside explain that their service is terrible and that you fancy eating downmarket for a change. In order to fake your skill with wines simply swish a mouthful around, roll your eyes and say things like, 'fruity', 'an interesting bouquet, or 'the length is impressive.' Food is much easier - simply order a stake with one sprout and call it something beginning with La followed by something unpronounceable.


3- You must maintain an air of mystery. To truly emulate the Saint you must create an aura of unpredictability around yourself. Always get up and hour or so before your young lady and sneak out, not returning sometimes for weeks on ends. Never say where you've been and always counter questions with other questions such as, 'has a bald oriental man been around looking for me?' or 'Life's too short. Let's go eat oysters and sip bubbly.' Another way to become an enigma is to jump up, asking if it's the police every-time the doorbell rings. When you do this slip a hand into your suit pocket as if you are reaching for a non existent gun. Whilst it is understood that some of these things will be difficult for a married Saint - it can still be done. Simply carry out the steps listed above but prepare yourself for divorce proceedings. Disappearing for weeks on end has been known to annoy certain wives. Sheesh, women - who can understand them!



Carries firearms and is an expert knife thrower.



4- The Saint is well traveled and you must be too, or at least appear to be so. Whenever friends go on holidays ask them to bring you some newspapers back and then when your bringing a babe back to your pad for some saintly loving, you simply place them at strategic points - in the bathroom, on the bedroom floor and always leave one opened to the stocks and shares section in the living room. Also photoshop your image over as many pictures of foreign cities as you can find and place them all in an album. It will also help if you photoshop an halo around your head. Visit the tanning place to work on your tan as you need to keep the hint of a tan the entire year long.



The saint was so superbly capable himself, and so arrogantly confident of his own ability.




5- You will need to always be prepared for sudden action. If you are walking down the street and you see a gang of youths terrorizing someone, don't simply quicken your step and vanish around the next corner (That's for our how to emulate Bob Hope lesson). You must walk up to these youths and give them a jolly good thrashing - always fight like a gentleman and never bite, kick or gouge even if a youth is twisting your tackle and trying to insert a blade into your kidneys. Insist to the youths that it must be a strictly honorable fight. Likewise you must not turn away if you come across a raging house fire with a kitten trapped inside. With no thought for personal safety you must run into the blazing furnace, coughing and spluttering with each step and them emerge, hopefully not too frazzled, with the kitten to the applause of onlookers, but remember adjust your hair before emerging from the inferno as there is never any excuse for bad grooming. The really well prepared Saint will always carry a young kitten in his pocket for such occurrences - this makes it easier as you can simply run into the blazing inferno, count to ten, remove the kitten from your pocket and then emerge, not forgetting to comb your quiff, holding pussy aloft to the same applause.

So there you have it - becoming The Saint is easier than you thought. Simply follow the above steps and you'll have women swooning over you, oriental masterminds trying to kill you and the police on your tail in no time....

Sexton Blake - The Vampire Moon and other stories

I'm a big fan of radio and like Stephen Fry I'm starting to believe that BBC Radio Four is the only good thing about modern Britain - that's not strictly true and Radio Four Extra (previously known as Radio 7) is actually the station I listen to most. It's got the mixture of drama and comedy just right and you'll never hear any pop music which suits me just fine, as the older I get the less tolerance I have for the inane ditties that pass for music these days - I heard kissed a girl and I didn't like it. And it's not just getting old - modern pop music is so twee, vapid - I mean it's come to something when my kids tell me to turn my music down - Dad. turn that row off we can't hear Jedwood!

However I've gone into grumpy old man mode and am straying from the point...

There's something about well produced radio that allows the listener to get right into the story - anyone interested can find enough old time radio on the web to last several lifetimes. And collecting on CD is easier than ever, after all most old time radio is in the public domain and there are some great companies producing some great discs, with informative packaging - sorry just sticking a label on a disc doesn't do it for me.

Sexton Blake and the Vampire Moon and other stories, is an official release from BBC Worldwide and contains three episodes from a series that was originally broadcast 1967, as well as a bonus episode from 1930 which is one of Britain's earliest surviving drama recordings.

Sexton Blake - The name that spells DOOM for VILLAINY!

These are not readings of the classic stories but full cast dramatisations and even after all this time they still manage to create a believable,if pulpish world, with their sound scape. Sexton Blake first appeared in the same year and month that Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in the Swiss Alps.

Sexton Blake first appeared in Halfpenny Marvel and like Holmes he resided in Baker Street but where he differed from Doyle's cerebral sleuth was that he was much more of an action man - the character's penny dreadful style adventures enthralled readers for years.

It was in 1939 that Sexton made the transition to the wireless radio as part of the BBC's Lucky Dip series and the show was a great success. Film actor George Curzon took the title role and the scripts were originally written by then popular mystery scribe, Ernest Dudley. Scripts would also come from Paul Temple creator, Francis Durbridge. The character pretty much carried on in this way for a couple of decades, stiff upper lip, old boy, and it wasn't until the swinging Sixties that the character was given a major overhaul. And it is from this period that the episodes on the CD are taken - there are three great episodes from the 1967 series which starred William Franklin as a Sexton Blake who was now equal parts Sherlock Holmes and James Bond. The series started out on the Light Program before moving to the newly formed Radio Four.

As a nice little bonus this disc contains a rare recording from 1939 with Arthur Wonter in the title role and it is interesting to compare the two versions of the same character

Friday, 27 January 2012

World War II timeline in movies - 5 D Day

June 6th 1944 -

The most complicated and difficult mission ever to take place - Winston Churchill

The destruction of the enemy's landing is the sole decisive factor in the whole conduct of the war and hence it's outcome - Adolf Hitler

Operation Overlord was the most daring and complicated military operation of the entire war. It was the greatest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare and the risks were immense. The consequences of failure were unthinkable - a bloodbath on the beaches and the continued domination of Nazi Germany in the West. Nothing could ever truly recapture the horror and daring of that day but that hasn't stopped film makers from trying.

Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (1998) attempts in its opening scenes to show what it must have been like on the Normandy beaches. It was the American, particularly those landing on Omaha Beach who took the worse of the enemy fire, and this movie perfectly depicts the horror, confusion and downright carnage of the beach landings. It is a powerful if viscerally graphic film that has made us realize how much we owe to the men and women of the rapidly dwindling "Greatest Generation.

1962's The Longest Day is an expensive attempt to show just what happened on D Day, and although it is a great war film it is somewhat flawed in that it relies too much on typical Hollywood heroics. The all star cast also works against the story of ordinary men living in extraordinary times. Still it's well worth watching but for realism look elsewhere.

D Day 6th June (1956) is not really a D Day movie at all but rather a melodramatic romance set in Britain during the build up to D Day. Robert Taylor plays a married U.S. Army colonel who’s in love with Valerie Russell (Dana Wynter), who’s also involved with Lt. Col. John Wynter (Richard Todd). The film is essentially an extended flashback as the two officers head to the Normandy beaches and exchange tales about the woman they are unwittingly both in love with. 






 
Band of Brothers (2000) Who would have thought that a TV mini series could best all the other D Day movies out there? That's just what Band of Brothers did though.

Fresh from their triumph with ,Saving Private Ryan, Hollywood insiders Spielberg and Hanks undertook an even more ambitious World War II project: a ten-part series following a single infantry company from training through combat, victory, and occupation.  Their reward—and ours—is an incomparable film of shared sacrifice and uncommon heroism.  As good as "Saving Private Ryan" is, "Band of Brothers" raises the bar. 

Where Eagles Dare (1968) This is an oddity amongst movies that use D Day to tell their story.Richard Burton stars as Major John Smith, a British agent during WWII who is in charge a group of six Allied soldiers given the task of rescuing an American general--who is reportedly in possession of the plans for D-Day--from a seemingly impregnable German fortress. The film also features Clint Eastwood which makes it OK in my book.



TV Cops - San Francisco's finest

If you thought that Dirty Harry was the only cop that mattered in San Francisco then you clearly don't watch enough retro TV.

Detective Lt. Mike Stone is a widower with over 20 years experience on the force. He is partnered by 28 year old Insp. Steve Keller. Cue the basic premise for one of TV's best loved cop shows. Of course given the casting - veteran Karl Malden and spawn of Kirk, Michael Douglas it was pretty much assured this show was going to be a cut above.

There were 120 episodes made between 1972 and 1977 and as well as it's stellar cast the show was also know for the quality of it's guest stars - Leslie Nielsen, James Woods, Nick Nolte, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cal Bellini, Pat Conway, Patty Duke, Richard Eastham, Don Keefer, Flip Mark, John Ritter, Robert Wagner, Rick Nelson, Wayne Maunder, Dick Van Patten, Mark Hamill, Stefanie Powers, Martin Sheen, Tom Bosley, Tom Selleck, Larry Hagman, Bill Bixby, Norman Fell, Anthony Geary, Beverly Washburn, Michael Constantine, Paul Michael Glaser, David Soul, and Meredith Baxter, among many others. Even Michael Douglas' own mother, Diana Douglas, guest-starred in a season two episode, "Chapel of the Damned".

Michael Douglas left the show after the second episode of the fifth and final season and Richard Hatch was introduced as Insp. Dan Robbins but the ratings were never the same and the show was cancelled at the end of the season.

It was revived in 1992 for an NBC TV Movie, Back to the Streets of San Francisco with Karl Malden now chief of detectives. And the show is currently rumoured to be getting a remake from CBS.

TV'S First cops

Originally transmitted after, "The Toddlers Truce," in the popular Saturday evening slot, Fabian of the Yard would eventually move to Wednesday evenings. The show was inspired by the success of US shows such as Dragnet but also by real life Chief Detective Inspector Bob Fabian - the real Bob Fabian would pop up, talking to camera after the show, highlighting his real cases that had inspired that week's episode.

The show was a hit for CBS in the US where it was titled Patrol Car.

Trivia - When the real Bob Fabian retired from the Yard he went onto become the guardian of the questions on The 64,000 Question.

Unlike many TV shows of the day Fabian was made on film which gave it a much more realistic look than most of the studio-bound TV shows and several episodes were edited together to make feature films that recieved a cinema release - Fabian of the Yard (1954) and Handcuffs, London (1955).

The show was a huge success in its day and ran from 1954 - 1956 - I've seen several surviving episodes on tape and although the show is dated, it does hold up.


Dixon of Dock Green which came about in 1955 and incredibly ran until 1976 was an even bigger hit with the British public. George Dixon first saw light in the 1949 Rank film, The Blue Lamp and was promptly murdered by a young Dirk Bogarde. But the policeman had struck a chord with film fans and so creator, Ted Willis brought the character back when the BBC were looking for a replacement for Fabian of the Yard.

Episodes have from time to time been aired on BBC TV and there are also some clips on sites such as You Tube - the show is incredibly dated but it was showing it age even in its day. It's is incredible to think that the last series was shown when shows like The Sweeney were running.

Dixon's London is a city where crooks, when confronted by the police would hold out their hands to be cuffed and say, 'It's a fair cop,' And at the end of each episode Dixon would deliever a monologue into camera designed to reassure viewers that crimes such as these depicted were rare.

The show really is a TV classic - the scene of Dixon walking through the London smog, whistling, 'maybe it's because I'm a Londoner.' really is an iconic image of retro TV.

DR WHO - Is Matt Smith on the way out?

With so many changes due in the next season of Doctor Who including several of the main cast leaving the show,  fans are wondering if Matt Smith too is about to call it a day. Matt hinted at such on a INTERNET message board last year but now that speculation has reached fever pitch the actor is stepping back from suggestions that he is to go.

"I always knew that me and Karen would have slightly different journeys in the show. People say, 'Are you not sad?' I am sad because I have enjoyed worked with Karen and Arthur [Darvill], they are wonderful guys. But the show is bigger than all of us actors in it. It's bigger than everyone in it and it will continue far longer, way after me ... I'm here for the future, I love working on the show. I have no plans to leave" Matt Smith

However Smith made comments at the National TV Awards that suggested that this season will be his last - ""I've got a year of Who and then I'll take it from there really," Smith said. "I am interested in films, I've always loved the idea and process of films and I am actually interested in directing."  Matt Smith

So will this next season be the last for Matt Smith's Doctor? No-one really knows but it's sure going to be interesting finding out. But between Matt Smith possibly hinting at the end of his tenure and a storyline that strongly suggests an end-point, the possibility of a Twelfth Doctor is starting to look a bit more likely and the bookies have now started taking bets on who will be the next Doctor.



Sherlock the third

Guy Ritchie is to make a third Sherlock Holmes movie but this time the story will be set in America - Guy is keen to shoot in the US – which will suit leading man Robert Downey Jr, who's based in the States.
A source said: "Guy has loved making the movies and he gets on really well with all the cast.
"But Robert's had to spend large parts of the year in the UK filming so will probably welcome the move back home.
"He loves the UK, and London in particular but having home comforts close by is such a big bonus."

Drew Pearce is  to write Sherlock Holmes 3. The deal will soon be sealed with Pearce, who is currently writing Iron Man 3, which will also star Downey.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Will it be a battle of The Saints?

It's seems that 2012 is the year of the battles over classic heroes. Not only do we have the BBC V CBS over the rights to a modern Sherlock Holmes bout in full swing, but now The Saint has thrown down his halo and clenched his fists

Variety are reporting that .RKO Pictures is reviving Simon Templar and "The Saint," signing Travis Wright ("Eagle Eye") to pen a script based on the debonair hero with an eye to developing a trilogy with producer Rick Porras. Projects will be based on remake rights to three of the nine "Saint" films in RKO's library, but will this cause conflict with the ongoing project by Geoffrey Moore (son of Roger) to bring the character back to the small screen?

The franchise features Simon Templar, a Robin Hood-like figure who punishes corrupt politicians and businessmen as well as mashing mobsters and bashing bruisers.

The character first debuted in Leslie Charteris's novel Meet the Tiger, which spawned a long-running series of books. RKO owns the rights to several films based on The Saint, including 1938's The Saint in New York and its follow-ups. It will be interesting to see how the films develop as Ian Dickerson, president of The Saint Fan Club pointed out on his Facebook page that -  "RKO have the rights to remake their films as long as they don't change the dialogue or the length of the pictures. They must be remade as films for the cinema, they do not have any TV rights. So if they remake The Saint Meets the Tiger it'll be 79 min long, Saint in New York 69 mins. Hardly feature film length nowadays.."

And what of the new TV series? Will we ever see it? In recent years we've heard that James Purefoy had been cast as The Saint, then it was Dougray Scott. Ahh well, only time will tell...just as long as they don't cast Daniel Craig.

Pets of the rich and famous


World War II Timeline in movies - 4 The Propaganda War

When war broke out in 1939 Britain's cinemas were closed, however the value of films in keeping up morale was soon realized and the cinemas were reopened. They had been closed for only ten days before an Parliament decided to reopen them and they became the main source of entertainment and recreation during the troubled times.

The earliest British war film, The Lion has wings which produced at a breakneck speed by Alexandra Korda was a curious mix of documentary and drama and whilst it may not have worked as a film, copies were laughed t in Berlin it did lead to more effective propaganda being worked into dramatic presentations.

The movies were effective in saying that the old class system should be put aside and that this was was the people's war, and the Ealing war films represented these new ideas. The same studio made The Foreman went to France in 1942) which showed how an ordinary man, a working stiff, retrieved a vital piece of machinery from from France. And 1943's The Bells go Down showed the work of the fire service in London and placed stress on the ideals of comradeship and bravery. The movies showed that it was ordinary people who would win this war and the studio went so far as to completely destroy the image of the old style officer and gentleman in 1943's, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

Comradeship, cooperation, dedication to duty and self sacrifice typified the early British World War II movies.  In Which we Serve (1942) was perhaps one of the first of the truly classic war movies. The three main characters are the captain, a petty officer and an ordinary seaman but they are all equal in their devotion to the ship and their duty to country. And The Way Ahead (1944) showed how a group of conscripts from all walks of life were turned into an elite fighting unit.

And it wasn't only the men who were fighting the war and 1943's The Gentle Sex showed how a group of women were turned into defenders of the nation in the territorial army. Britain was at war and the cinema had no time to question what was going on, or stand back and consider the morality of war, there were battles to be won and on screen as in life we were going to get on with it.

It was a case of, keep a stiff upper lip old boy.



The Children of the night

As I’ve said in previous posts, horror movies are as old as cinema itself – versions of Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll were made in American as far back as 1908 and vampires first appeared in American movies in 1910 and a few years later the works of Edgar Allan Poe provided the backbone to D W Griffith’s The Avenging Conscience, and if we look at Europe we can find the birth of the modern horror movie with Germany’s Der Student Von Prag in 1913 and Der Golem in 1914. In fact German cinema had a lot to do with the early horror film and in 1919 The Cabinet of Dr Caligari set the blueprint for what was to become the modern horror film. In Dr Caligari a mad doctor invokes and controls a somnambulist, sending him to murder those who have sneered at his work.
These characters – the mad doctor and the monster he has created became the key elements of Hollywood horror.
There were many horror movies made during the silent period but it wasn’t until the coming of sound that the genre really took off.
Universal became the home of horror after a string of horror hits that started with Todd Browning’s Dracula and James Whale’s Frankenstein. Bela Lugosi recreated the role he had first played on the stage for Dracula and for a period he became the studio’s biggest money maker, but when Frankenstein which was originally to be directed by Robert Florey fell into the hands of James Whale the first true horror classic was born. And like Dr Caligari both films featured maidens terrorized by monsters before our square jawed hero comes to the rescue….ahh, simpler times! Before anyone knew it mad geniuses were everywhere, even Bela Lugosi’s Dracula can been seen as a mad genius of sorts – Doctor X (1932), Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and Island of  Lost Souls (1933) are just three of many movies that expanded upon the formula that had not yet been set in stone.

‘Listen to them, children of the night. What music they make.’
It was during this period that the first horror superstars were born, actors who would forever be associated with the genre. Lon Chaney was originally to have played Dracula in 1931 but the when the actor died the role fell into the hands of Bela Lugosi and the actor also inherited Chaney’s crown as the king of horror. Boris Karloff was excellent as the monster in James Whale’s Frankenstein. John Carradine made a far less effective Dracula than Lugosi but after he played the character he too was forever a horror actor. As was Lon Chaney Jr who carried the Chaney name forward while Vincent Price put the ham back into horror. It was not until the Hammer cycle of movies that actors would be so associated with the genre when Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing became the new icons. And since that period perhaps only Robert Englund and Bruce Campbell have attained the same level of genre identification.

So the next time you sit down to watch a horror movie, just remember that it’s roots stretch back to the dawn of cinema itself.

Sherlock Holmes: The plot thickens

The problems between the BBC and CBS over the American network's planned modern day version of Sherlock Holmes has escalated with the BBC now issuing CBS with a legal warning.

The facts in the case are -  For the past few years, BBC, along with Hartswood Films, has been imagining Holmes in modern times in the popular series Sherlock. A third season has just been announced.

From the Hollywood Reporter:
Last week, CBS announced a pilot for its own modern retelling of the Holmes story with the detective solving obscure cases in New York.
CBS' announcement set off alarm bells for producers of Sherlock, which has been showing in the U.S. on BBC America and on various PBS stations. According to The Independent, Sue Vertue, an executive producer on the series at Hartswood, had this to say about the development:
"We understand that CBS are doing their own version of an updated Sherlock Holmes. It's interesting, as they approached us a while back about remaking our show. At the time, they made great assurances about their integrity, so we have to assume that their modernised Sherlock Holmes doesn't resemble ours in any way, as that would be extremely worrying...We are very proud of our show and like any proud parent, will protect the interest and well being of our offspring."
The British press has interpreted this statement to signal a lawsuit ahead. Might CBS get in trouble for using the famous detective character?

"Our project is a contemporary take on Sherlock Homes that will be based on Holmes, Watson and other characters in the public domain, as well as original characters," CBS tells THR in a statement. "We are, of course, respectful of all copyright laws and will not infringe on any stories or works that may still be protected."

When it comes to the public domain, not everything is elementary. One decision last July at the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals might hold some clues about the types of claims that producers of Sherlock might make against CBS.

In the case, Warner Bros. sued a company that specialized in nostaligia merchandise for using movie posters and lobby cards for Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and several Tom & Jerry short films. The 8th Circuit took up the question of whether the defendant had appropriated “original elements” of the film or merely elements that were already in the public domain. The appeals circuit handed Warners a win.
"There is no evidence that one would be able to visualize the distinctive details of, for example, Clark Gable’s performance before watching the movie Gone with the Wind, even if one had read the book beforehand," the justices wrote. "At the very least, the scope of the film copyrights covers all visual depictions of the film characters at issue."

In other words, the Eighth Circuit ruled that the features of on-screen characters can be copyrighted even if these characters were based on prior work. It potentially means that Sherlock producers can protect their own modern version of Sherlock Holmes, even though it is based on work from the 19th Century. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The lonesome cowboy

He rides alone, entering the screen while the main titles play and exiting, if alive, in the same way at The End. He is the movie and the landscapes and characters that make up the story would not exist if not for him. He is alone and will remain alone, never able to form a relationship, forever haunted by things he has seen or things he has done.

The lonesome cowboy, the drifter, has been a part of the western for as long as western movies have existed - from the early silents when Harry Carey and William S. Hart defined the character to the modern day with actors like Clint Eastwood carrying on the tradition. In the silents the drifter was usually a amiable fellow, a good bad guy if you like and it wasnt't until the 1950's when Hollywood began to tinker with the stereotype and create the derivative of the character that we know and love today, that the template was set.

He became the anti-hero.

 Alan Ladd's Shane (1953) is a perfect example of the mysterious drifter. He seems a good guy, a gentle soul but there is something about him that suggests he could become meanness personified at the turn of a coin. And with the coming of this hero the western landscape changed too as  the film noir style began to make its way into the western  - previously the landscapes had been clear, bright,  representing the spirit of the hero but with the later westerns the landscape became dark, twisted, crippled almost. There was now a surreal feel about the plains and deserts that had previously seemed so pristine. The lighting styles became more dramatic, moody and with this the drifter became a twisted mass of considerable complexity.

James Stewart played a great lonely avenger as Will Lockhart in The Man from Laramie and John Wayne gave us an even darker version of the same man as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers - both men have violent pasts, the precise details of which remain a mystery to the viewer.

Ethan Edwards though can not sit comfortably alongside the mythic drifter, for he is driven by a hatred, not of an individual or gang, but of an entire race. The characters played by James Stewart may have been driven by the lust for revenge also but that revenge is usually directed at those that have wronged the character, though Ethan Edwards hates the Indians simply because they are there. Ethan Edwards is not a nice character but The Searchers may be the finest western ever made.

Though he may have become a figure of darkness, the lonesome drifter is still a heroic character - a man who is self reliant and can survive any hardship thrown at him, and at his core he has strongly defined ideas of what is right and what is wrong.

Maybe the actor who has best personified this drifter is Clint Eastwood who played the character taken to the extreme in the dollar westerns, and  played variations of that character several times since in movies like, High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider and The Unforgiven. Eastwood's character could murder without remorse though still maintain a basic goodness at his core. The character was a result of the anti-hero being filtered through the ambiguous morality of the Sixties.

The character is still out there now, waiting to ride across the  screen again one day, reinvented for an all new generation.

For one things is certain - the lonesome cowboy will drift our way again.

The 3D headache

 FROM THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER

Hollywood's 3D revolution has changed the shape of the modern blockbuster and helped boost box office income for studios in an era of financial uncertainty, but not everyone thinks they're getting their money's worth and a minority complain of dizziness and headaches. Now, new research has for the first time supposedly offered proof that 3D offers no measurable improvement in enjoyment for the vast majority of film audiences.

According to a study of 400 filmgoers by L Mark Carrier, of California State University, 3D movies do not allow viewers to experience more intense emotional reactions, are no more immersive, and do not offer any advantage over their 2D counterparts in terms of enhancing the ability to recall a film's details. Carrier's study did, however, suggest that watching films in stereoscope increased threefold the risk of eyestrain, headache or trouble with vision.

"All other things being equal, I would say you're increasing your chances of having some discomfort," said Carrier at the America Psychological Association's annual meeting on Sunday. "There aren't going to be any benefits in terms of understanding the movie better or making the movie more meaningful, as far as we can tell," he added.

Participants in the research were asked to watch one of three films – Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans and How to Train Your Dragon – in either 2D or 3D. They were then asked to detail their responses using a list of 60 words ranging from the mild, such as "enjoyment", to the more intense, such as "anger" and "rage". Carrier says there was very little difference between the response of those who watched in 2D and those who viewed in 3D, which surprised researchers.

"Many of us were like, 3-D movies are so cool, it's gotta do something," Carrier said. "It didn't seem to enhance your memory at all. That's an unfortunate implication."
The research is just the latest suggestion that the tide is turning against 3D. Many recent films shot in the format – a notable exception is Transformers: Dark of the Moon – have failed to offer a 3D box-office boost in the US, and film-makers are beginning to turn against studios that authorise cheap post-production conversions in the hope of achieving a short-term financial return.

Speaking at a presentation of his own 3D movie, The Adventures of Tintin, Steven Spielberg said at Comic-Con in San Diego last month that he hoped to see ticket prices for 3D and 2D films converge in the future.

"I am certainly hoping that 3D gets to a point where people do not notice it. Because once they stop noticing it, it just becomes another tool and helps tell a story," he said. "Then maybe they can make ticket prices comparable to a 2D movie and not charge such exorbitant prices just to gain entry into a 3D one. Hopefully someday there will be so many 3D movies, prices will come down – which I think will be fair to the consumer."

How the West was Won - special edition DVD

HOW THE WEST WAS WON
Warner DVD set
Region 2


This land has a name today, and is marked on maps. But, the names and the marks and the maps all had to be won, won from nature and from primitive man.
I love this film but, as per usual, the Region 2 release comes with much less than the US region 1 issue. With region 1 you get two versions of the film - the super new widescreen version, the original cinerama cut as well as a forty page booklet.

The region 2 version contains the new widescreen cut split across two discs as well as all the supplemental material on a third disc. But no cut of the original three panel Cinerama release.

Cinerama was a short lived process in which the action was shot on three cameras set up parallel to each other, this giving a wider screen area. The trouble was it was an expensive process and only a few cinemas existed that could show it in true cinerama which projected the image onto three curved screens via three separate projectors. The third disc in this set contains an interesting documentary that looks at the shoot in great detail and contains some excellent behind the scenes shots of the film's legendary stars. In fact How the West Was Won was one of only two movies ever made using this process.

Still the new widescreen cut means that the film has never looked better.

And what a cast list.
John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Debbie Reynolds.Gregory Peck, Karl Malden,Richard Widmark, Elli Wallach, Walter Brennan. Add to that galaxy of stars is Spencer Tracy doing the narration and a list of guest starts that would get top billing in most movies.

The film is split into sections and shows the fortunes of one family from the opening up of the west to the modern day. Indeed the final shot shows an American landscape transformed with miles upon miles of concrete roads with cars tearing across land that once carried wagons and horses. At the time the shot was intended to show how far Americans had come but these days the shot looks rather sad. In the modern age of global warming it shows how much of the landscape has been destroyed in the name of progress.

Each segment of the film has a different director - Henry Hathaway, John Ford and George Marshall with the Mountain Men and Civil War sequences particularly standing out.

The new DVD cut where computers have removed the cinerama effect and created a true widescreen image containing the full screen image is without doubt the best cut of the film available - but it would have been nice to have the original cinerama cut - though with cinerama the three dividing lines were visible (look at the Civil War image above) and from a distance actors faces became unfocused. The other pictures above are from the widescreen cut and from the vista behind James Stewart is is evident how good this cut is.

Some critics have called the film disjointed, the result of so many directors, but all the same it is a truly classic western and at 162 minutes is epic in every sense of the world. I'm glad this film is finally available on DVD and even without the original cinerama version it takes pride of place in my collection.

TRVIA :Stuntman Bob Morgan was seriously injured, and almost died, while performing a stunt in this picture. Toward the end of the film, there is a gunfight on a moving train between the sheriff and a gang of train robbers. Morgan was one of the stuntmen playing a robber and was crouched next to a pile of logs on a flatcar. The chains holding the logs together snapped, and Morgan was crushed by the falling logs. He was so badly hurt it took him five years to recover to the point where he was able to move by himself and walk unaided.

Plot holes: There is no explanation of why Sheriff Ramsey is fine in one scene and wearing a bandage on his forehead in the next, immediately following. (there was a deleted or unfilmed scene where Zeb knocked Ramsey out when the Sheriff tried to stop him from going after the train robbers).

Jack the Ripper - solved

Patricia Cornwell in her mega selling book, Portrait of a Killer fixated squarely on painter, Walter Sickert and presented a wealth of evidence to suggest that he was the fiend responsible for The Whitechapel Killings, that he was indeed Jack the Ripper. Before her Stephen Knight had in his, The Final Solution provided a link to the brutal murders and the British Royal Family.  In the early 1990's we were asked to believe in the sensational find of the century when Jack the Ripper's Diary turned up in Liverpool, but after some initial excitement the book has been denounced as a fake. Over the years there have been a long list of names suggested as to being the Ripper, but in all these names never has the theory given in my novel, A Policeman's Lot been put forward. Is this because the suspect has been pulled out of left field? Hell, no - the name I have put forward in my novel has been associated with the case since the murders were first investigated.




Why then has this name never come forward before?

Well, simply because it turns all the previous theories, all the speculation and indeed the killings themselves on their head. It provides a credible explanation for what happened during that autumn of terror. Was the Ripper real or an invention of early tabloid journalism?

But it's a work of fiction, right?


Indeed it is, but I firmly believe the basic concept behind the plot - that Jack the Ripper was never discovered because....well, that maybe giving too much away. The book's out there - in PRINT and eBook. It's had a number of good reviews and I've had several readers give me the grand praise that they couldn't put it down.

It's been out digitally for the best part of a year and in print only a few weeks. It's sold a few but has not reached the audience I genuinely feel it deserved. Why? Blowed if I know - I keep pushing it in posts such as this and reviews have been turning up on Amazon. Hopefully it's a slow burner and it will explode anytime soon.

Should I give away the name of the person I have identified as the Ripper, I wonder? The book is not so much a whodunnit after all and the reader knows a few chapters in who the guilty party is, but it is only when the book has played out that all the elements come together, and a credible explanation is found. I feel that if I gave away the identity of the suggested killer here that it would push sales, but I'm not going to. Although I secretly hope some reviewer will let the cat out of the bag and start a debate.

And so all I can say is that the book is the result of several years of research into the Ripper Killings and leave you with some quotes from the various reviews. But if anyone does buy a copy then I thank you and hope you will see fit to leave a review on Amazon - even if you hate the book. Though without wanting to sound arrogant I don't think that will be the case. Click on the relevant image for either the print or eBook version.


And so those reviews:


Dobbs has done his research and packs a lot into his novel. We become immersed in a time and place on the cusp of the twentieth century. Old methods of law enforcement are yielding with the introduction of new technologies. Economic changes create new problems and social pressures. 


What an end.  The author uses Parade and Buffalo Bill to offer his own truly unique solution to the greatest unsolved serial killer mystery in history.  


The colour of the setting, the atmosphere and the characterization are all top-class. The story starts rather low-key, but once you get to the killings, everything steps up a notch and grabs you by the throat. A "historical police procedural" is the most effective way I can describe it. The storyline's multiple, concurrent strands reminded me a bit of the J. J. Marric (John Creasey) Gideon books, as did the well-observed "common people" characters. The difference here is the way they're thrown into greater relief by their contrast with the celebrated Buffalo Bill and his show people. Your choice of this background for your first Pontypridd novel was a stroke of genius. From Keith Chapman AKA western writer, Chap O'Keefe


Another review from THE MACK CAPTURES CRIME WEBSITE - Police Inspector Frank Parade prepares for duty after the last good night's rest he will enjoy for a while. For Parade, the policeman's lot is to maintain order in a six mile area with a handful of constables. But today is going to be more hectic than usual: several hundred cattle have to be moved through town on market day and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show has just pitched camp. This is just the beginning of Parade's problems which will include deaths, robberies, fights, an escaped convict, illicit tavern activity, an overly attentive landlady, and a revelation in the Jack the Ripper case.

The hook that gets readers' attention is the connection to Jack the Ripper and a satisfying and well set hook it is. But A Policeman's Lot is, at its core, a police procedural. Pontypridd in 1904 was cosmopolitan in many respects but still retained a frontier flavor: ...the streets were often lawless -- river traders, gypsies, pickpockets, drifters, even escaped convicts had to be contended with. The story follows Inspector Frank Parade as he puts in long hours monitoring the activities in town, investigating crimes, and schooling a likable but inexperienced young constable. At the time and place the book is set, the police were still developing as a professional organization and didn't have a widespread trust among the public, telephones were not widely available making communication over distances a problem, and forensic analysis was limited. In this environment, the police had to rely on techniques still used today: collect evidence, interview everyone, observe, find patterns.

Frank Parade makes for a quite interesting character. I see him as the kind of man that made the British empire -- brave, honorable, and dedicated to service. As a soldier, he saw action in the Second Boer War then traded Army khaki for the blue of a policeman. He is unwavering in his defense of the law, sets high standards for himself and his men but is not a martinet. Watching the sober Frank deal with the freewheeling Wild West Show made for a fun study in contrasts.

About the Ripper connection I'll only say that it fits nicely into the story and has enough fact to make it a credible plot line. It also lets us see Parade performing good, solid police investigation. I checked some of the Ripper forums after I finished the book and was astonished at the passion with which the case is studied.

A Policeman's Lot is an entertaining story that brings together one of the last icons of the American West, a look at British police work while the force was still in its infancy, and one of the most widely known murder cases in history. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy historical crime fiction and police procedurals.

Dracula: Vamping it up

Back in the day, before Twlight that is, the vampire was a figure of pure terror. There was nothing nice and cuddly about the vampire and they weren’t portrayed on screen by gangly teenagers either. Right from the silent age when  Max Schreck camped it up in (the German Bram Stoker rip- off )Nosferatu. the bloodsucking fiends have been a favorite of horror cinema and if there is one vampire that stands out amongst them all, it is Dracula – created in the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker the character has become world famous and there have been film versions, both official and unofficial, from virtually every country with a film industry – we’ve had Mexican Draculas, Swedish Draculas and Draculas of all other nationalities, the character’s popped up on television, on stage, in comics, books, video games and cartoons. The character has been used to sell everything from motor cars to ice lollies, as well as everything else or so it would seem.
Dracula is truly ubiquitous -  to Western audiences the most famous movie versions of the character are Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, but many other actors have made their stamp on the role over the years. Gary Oldman, John Carradine, George Hamilton and Jack Palance are just a few of the names from a list that would fill several blog posts such as this.
Here at Scary Motherfucker we have seen a lot of Dracula movies over the years and we have our own favorites – Christopher Lee is, to my mind, the best ever screen Dracula but there are many people who think that Lugosi was the definitive version – it matters not which actor you prefer in the role and there are people who prefer one or other of the actors who have taken the role – even Louis Jourdan has his fans.  For Dracula is one of those books that everyone knows, even those who have never read the book and I must confess to not being able to get through the whole book myself, finding it snail paced and filled with too much needless detail – I read a lot of classic novels from the same period but I don’t find Dracula that engagingly written. I’ve read it to an extent but tend to skip large sections, though I’ve always got the basic meat of the story and nothing can take away the fact that Bram Stoker created not only an iconic character but one that has defined the entire vampire genre.
Here are some of the actors who have played Dracula
Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Denholm Elliott, Jack Palance, Udo Kier, Jonathan Massey, Frank Langella, Louis Jourdan, Klaus Kinski, Duncan Regehr, Stefan Lindahl, Gary Oldman, Leslie Nielsen, Gerard Butler, Patrick Bergin, Dominic Purcell, Richard Roxburgh, Marc Warren and Keith-Lee Castle.
22 actors have played dracula. They are Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Denholm Elliott, Jack Palance, Udo Kier, Jonathan Massey, Frank Langella, Louis Jourdan, Klaus Kinski, Duncan Regehr, Stefan Lindahl, Gary Oldman, Leslie Nielsen, Gerard Butler, Patrick Bergin, Dominic Purcell, Richard Roxburgh, Marc Warren ,Keith-Lee Castle,Rutger Hauer ,David Niven and John Forbes Robertson
The cape, the blazing eyes, the slicked back hair is more often than not the blueprint for any visual representation of the character, as are the impeccable manners and suave appearance. Stoker’s Dracula was a gentleman of his time, one that could operate with ease on any level of society and during the period that the novel was written the class system was very clearly defined.
Yep if any horror character deserves iconic status then it is Dracula
Recommended Dracula movies
Dracula – the original 1931 classic directed by Todd Browning with Lugosi is the title role.
The Horror of Dracula – Hammer’s 1958 classic saw Christopher Lee take his first and best stab at the role.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness – Christopher Lee returned to the role in the 1960′s for this Hammer sequel and although not as effective as his first Dracula movie it is still fangtastic.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula – this lavish production is far better than its reputation suggests.

Life after Bond - Raymond Benson

Former James Bond scribe and Archive friend, Raymond Benson will see a new novel published later this year based on the Hitman video game franchise -  Benson, who writes under the pseudonym David Michaels, is no stranger to the video game world. His novels Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell and its sequel Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell—Operation Barracuda were both New York Times best-selling books. He also worked with John Milius on the Homefront: The Voice of Freedom game tie-in novel.

Benson’s new book will be called Hitman: Damnation. It will be published by Del Rey, a division of Random House. The story is set between the events in Hitman: Blood Money and the upcoming Hitman: Absolution.
Del Rey has yet to release details on global distribution, but states that the Hitman: Damnation will be in several more countries around the world.

Raymond's six original James Bond novels are now available in two collected editions - choice of weapons and the Union Trilogy

The Archive interview Raymond way back in 2009 - find it HERE

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Year of the Superhero

It seems these days that there is always one superhero movie or another playing at the local multiplex, and this year will see several titles hit the screen.

I’ve been catching up on the X-Men movies – I saw and very much enjoyed Bryan Singer’s The X Men when it was released way back in 2000, but for some reason had never gotten around to watching the others. Until now that is – I recently picked up at a bargain price a dvd set entitled, The X Men Quadrilogy – isn’t that an ugly word …quadrilogy! It doesn’t sit right on the tongue, there’s an awkwardness about it, but I digress and four movies for a tenner can’t be bad. Now I’ve always enjoyed superhero comics but the movies have more often than not left me cold but, as I said, I enjoyed the original X Men movie so I decided to give these a try – watching them over a four day period – one film a night.
I enjoyed all of them, with Wolverine origins being the weakest in my opinion. Yeah I know The Last Stand gets mixed reviews but I  enjoyed that one and found it a fitting end to the trilogy proper. Wolverine wasn’t exactly a bad film, and Jackman was great  but the movie just wasn’t as interesting to me as the X Men movies, though it was cool to see Wolvie beat up on a helicopter. Maybe the X Men work better when presented as a team and the plots of the first three movies were certainly far more layered than the Wolvie standalone. The second and third movies seemed to be loosely based on the Dark Pheonix story arc which I actually own as a collected graphic novel.

Historically Superhero team up movies don’t really work and the pudding seems over egged, becoming far too much to digest – The Fantastic Four movies weren’t exactly hot and think how the Batman franchise went stale when too many villains, not to mention heroes were introduced – Batman Forever was naff and the less said about Batman and Robin the better, but the X Men, in the hands of director Bryan Singer worked well. Of course the emphasis was on Wolverine and Jackman was brilliant in all three of the original trilogy, but then so too were other cast members, especially Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler. But as a stand alone character Wolvie just felt lost, the movie too felt small despite some brilliant setpieces, but the Wolverine of this movie seemed more Rambo than rampaging renegade.

Bryan Singer was originally back on board to direct the third movie, but he left the series for Superman Returns (bet he regrets that, now) and Matthew Vaughn came on board as director in February 2005, but left due to the rushed production schedule. Brett Ratner took over in June,  and filming began on August 2, 2005. Maybe it would have been better regarded by fans had Singer remained, but the eventual movie did tick all the right boxes and some of the effects are incredible – moving the Golden Gate for one after Magneto does some cool tricks with the traffic and the final bam,bash,wow fight is a joy.  I picked up the prequel movie, X Men: First Class this week and am looking forward to getting a chance to settle down and watch it.

So as we enter 2012 the film industry is hoping for a good year with several superhero films hoping to generate some much needed revenue. Marvel films are to release The Avengers this May and there are high hopes that this team up will be another X Men, for Singer’s movie did revitalize the superhero movie and without it there would have been no Spiderman, Hulk or Iron Man.  Superhero movies are coming thick and fast at the moment with both Captain America and Thor doing big business last year. And of course the third in the Dark Knight trilogy is also on the way and to say that film is eagerly anticipated would be a massive understatement and that’s not to mention the Superman reboot, The Man of Steel (though that’s not due till 2013) , as well as the new Spiderman pic. And besides the biggies we’ve got another Ghost Rider on the horizon, a new G I Joe and a reboot of Judge Dredd simply titled, Dredd.
2012 is certainly the year of the superhero