Harry covers SECRET AGENT NIGHT of QT6! THE SPY WITH MY FACE, THE VENETIAN AFFAIR and TARZOON!!!
Published at: Sept. 10, 2005, 5:19 p.m. CST by staff
SECRET AGENT NIGHT (FRIDAY SEPT 9)
I can’t believe I’m sitting at QT6. Not because it’s been so long since the last one. Not because tickets disappeared faster than an erection at the sight of a 99 year old whore wanting more. No, I’m shocked I’m here, because I’ve only been in Austin for about 12 hours – I’ve got paper cuts all over my fingers from the 7 boxes of mail that I’ve been opening half of today. I’m not prepared for QT fest.
Where are the hours of conversations with my film buddies dreamfasting about the line-up, the themes, the films? The past 22 days have been such a sensation of movement, of going places, meeting people and trying new things – that to slam into the one seat – 9 days – and the best festival programmer I’ve ever seen.
In Claude, Texas… across the railroad tracks that Paul Newman’s convertible Cadillac leapt, Tim League said… “I have the program list for QT fest!” - And suddenly… that’s all I could think about. FILMS. Not the classics I’ve been seeing. Not films that everybody agrees on… but the films that hardly anybody plays ever.
The stuff that isn’t on DVD, but that after this… might be. Films that spark the imagination, thrill you through and through and absolutely delight you to no end. Films that shock you, confront you, challenge you and that amaze you. This isn’t like any other festival in the world.
If you saw the Z CHANNEL documentary, that’s the closest you’ll ever feel to attending QT fest without actually being here. It’s about discovery. For every film we see, it’ll kick me into a relentless search for 15 other films that Quentin mentions – or that I seek from the mere inspiration based upon these.
The audience is buzzing, everybody is smiling, but as the time draws nearer – folks are getting hushed, it’s time to get this thing started. Will Quentin throw the mike up behind him letting it crash wildly to the stage? Will the audience go, “Chiga Chiga Chaaaa?” or make that Arabic Tongue noise?
Looking out at this audience there are familiar faces, but there’s also first timers by the assload. Folks that are hear to schmooze… They always come the first few nights till they realize this isn’t about hobnobbing, but about a quest for an ever-expanding horizon of cinematic possibilities.
Now – this first night is SECRET AGENT NIGHT. This isn’t the first one of these that we’ve had. The two films, THE SPY WITH MY FACE and VENETIAN AFFAIR – well both of these are films that I have all the movie paper for, but that I’ve never seen. They’re not available, on video or DVD.
Uh oh, Rebecca Campbell of the Austin Film Society welcomes us to QT6. S
Quentin comes out in a black shirt, Levis and white shoes to applause and hoots and hollers from the audience. As he grabs the mike, Tim League is over on the soundboard with a grin. “Ok, so where were we?” Heh, Well the last time I saw Quentin was in Beijing. But nearly two years prior to that was QT5. Quentin went on to talk about realizing that it had been 4 years since the last QT fest – technically not true, he did that mini-one up in the Seattle region if memory serves. And he continually shows weird cool obscure as fuck films to friends in the Los Angeles area, and I hear about these screenings through mutual friends and I hate them all.
He tells us that first up tonight, Tim’s got some trailer that he put together specially for tonight’s program… which is SECRET AGENT NIGHT, he recalled that a couple of QT fests prior he broke out with this theme and brought us HAMMER HEAD and KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE (which has the most fucking genius take over the world plan I’ve ever heard of). He then specified that this wasn’t going to be just any SECRET AGENT NIGHT, but a MAN FROM UNCLE SECRET AGENT NIGHT, even if one of them wasn’t specifically a MAN FROM UNCLE film, it still starred Robert Vaughn. With this, he segued into the intro for SPY WITH MY FACE.
Now – we all remember the Quentin rumors regarding Tarantino and a possible remake of MAN FROM UNCLE – which Matthew Vaughn’s attachment seems to finally put a rest to, but this doesn’t mean Quentin isn’t twinkle toes in love with the whole spy motif and vibe. Well, here we got a mini-history lesson on MAN FROM UNCLE. Turns out that the show was a huge hit with the college student world at it’s time, with David McCallum being a teeny bopper heart throb, poor guy. As a result of this popularity of not only the show, but the various spy film properties in general, some genius at MGM thought that if they shot an extra ten minutes or so – they could package together the “2-parter” episodes into a feature film and release it into theaters. The first one that they did this with was TO TRAP A SPY, which was followed by THE SPY WITH MY FACE, which is Quentin’s favorite of the MAN FROM UNCLE “features”. Though – his sheer exuberance for the one with Rip Torn has me doubting his earnestness. You see, he was talking about how he only really loves the first season of MAN FROM UNCLE – and to illustrate how silly they became, he started in on how one of the later films (ONE SPY TOO MANY btw) features Rip Torn as a villain that really admires Alexander the Great and wishes to take over the world like his hero, but wishes to be called Alexander the Greater. Now personally what I kinda dig about that one is Dorothy Provine as Rip’s moll. But then, after Quentin showed us THE BONNIE PARKER STORY years ago, I made it my sacred duty to try and track down everything she did, cuz Dorothy unleashed seven miles of whup ass in that flick!
However, having said all that, I have no doubt that this is Quentin’s favorite of all the UNCLE flicks, cuz he said he first saw this in 16mm at a Comic Convention at the Shrine Auditorium about 25 years ago, and was blown away by seen MAN FROM UNCLE projected. He also mentioned a fondness for Sharon Farrell and mentioned LONE WOLF MCQUADE, but to me – she’ll always be the mother of the IT’S ALIVE baby! Heh.
Then he said to pay specific attention to the locations in this film and how they contrast with the production of THE VENETIAN AFFAIR (the next film), which was actually shot in Venice.
And as he left the stage – he didn’t toss the mike up in the air, but he did kinda toss it slightly behind him letting it go BOOM as it hit the stage. And to everyone that was there from a previous QT fest… Joy was felt immensely. Yup, we’re at a QT fest!
The lights went down – electricity was in the room – and Tim’s trailer reel began…
First up was a trailer for Roy Orbison’s THE FASTEST GUN IN THE WEST – one of the all time goofiest westerns ever made. Just seeing the rifle barrel slide out of the body of the guitar in Roy’s hands just fills me with glee.
Next was WHO? – One of the greatest trailers I’ve ever seen. Apparently – the Russians have taken a scientist of some note that they knew was going to defect and turned him into a bizarre metal man. So one day, metal man defects… wearing a suit and tie and having a brilliantly chromy head and face. But Elliott Gould is on the case from the American side, and they believe this isn’t really the real scientist but a subtle trick of the Russians – who could possibly suspect METAL MAN. He could be a bomb. The trailer had the audience in fits – I must see the movie!
Next came scantily clad stewardess bouncing in the interior of an airplane in slow motion. Followed by a brilliant commercial about pimples that played at last year’s BNAT. Contrary to popular belief, this wasn’t a commercial, but actually the trailer for PUTNEY SWOPE, a forgotten classic bizarre film. Great trailer, always gets the audience.
Next came the trailer for Dean Martin’s Matt Helm pic, THE SILENCERS – but right after the title, the film broke, and instead of a delay…. We went straight into THE SPY WITH MY FACE.
What’s great and terrible about a MAN FROM UNCLE film is the incredibly limited budget. There is something inexplicably entertaining about hearing that you’re about to be at a secret base in the Swiss Alps… only to see Griffith Observatory in the Hollywood Hills with the burn in… Swiss Alps. Now, the question that I pondered as I looked at this was… How many backwoods unsophisticates totally bought this? Having seen the Swiss Alps and been to Griffith Observatory – confusing the two would be like staring at a cock and thinking you was about to swallow pussy. There’s just no possible way you could make that mistake, but it’s totally played straight.
I also love just how full of himself that Napoleon Solo is. Check out how Robert Vaughn just can’t help smiling at himself in every mirror that he comes across. And it’s such a smug smile. Just oozing with, “You da man!” I love it! I also love how when he’s late for a date and the girlfriend is throwing a tizzy, he just picks the door lock and invites himself into the bedroom to deflate her faux lover. The “you’re not really mad” kiss was funny as hell.
This isn’t to say David McCallum doesn’t have his moments. His handy set of “Diabetic” cards to make a death seem natural was fun, but the fact that he stuck around for the discovery of the body so he could pull the card out and say, “This man was a Diabetic!” was even better.
Or – when the bandaged face version of Vaughn is inconspicuously spying upon the real Vaughn – allegedly to study his moves – and the complete nonchalance when Solo looks at him. It’s classic. I did have a thought while watching this though. I wondered if George Lucas based Han Solo on Napoleon Solo – because they’re both roguish cocks of the walk – MAN FROM UNCLE is right from the age where George might have been a MAN FROM UNCLE fanboy in school. It’s possible. Even the whole Dark Hair teamed with a more naÃ¯ve blondish boyish lead… Kinda makes me go, “Hmmmm.” Wonder if anyone ever asked Lucas that question.
The best two moments of the film for me though were when Napoleon Solo is escaping the Swiss Alps secret base for THRUSH (actually Griffith Observatory – aka that place that James Dean got in a knife fight at in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE) -- Ok, so he’s escaped his holding cell, he’s acquired a machine gun, he’s killed the top Thrush Agent in charge of this particular scheme, but not before that agent sets the auto destruct mechanism which will kill them all. Ok – now we’ve got a classic scenario – hero must now take the box apart, looking at different colored wires. Then in a montage of increasingly sweaty hero bits and tightening close-ups of wires and then the actual ticking of the clock… until finally the hero clips the right wire. Right? Oh fuck that! Napoleon Solo isn’t gonna sweat, he just takes the minute hand on the face of the Analog timer and dials it back to 25 minutes and leaves. -- Now the really fun part was when Robogeek pointed out after the film that he ignored the ON/OFF switch on the Self Destruct box – but see… this is why Napoleon Solo is Napoleon Solo and not some ROBOGEEK. This is an enemy THRUSH base, he wants it to go boom, just not while he’s there! Classic.
Then there’s the end bit at the hotel bar. Napoleon is tonsil deep into his stewardess. Some anonymous UNCLE agent comes up to Illya Kuryakin to comment on it and Illya says something along the lines of… “Well, for Napoleon it is a reflex action, while for some men, we’re inflicted by having to think about a plan of action before acting,” he looks at blonde stewardess alone at bar, “I’ve now spent five seconds thinking about it, now it is time to act.” Then sweeps off to collect his blonde. Classic.
I also love that the big secret radiation kept in a vault beneath some Swiss security area on an amazingly cheap cardboard set – this radiation that could hold the fate of mankind, if perchance ALIENS were to attack and their Nuclear Weapons were rendered useless. Inside this safe is a substance that if you were to look at it with your naked eye, you’d be compelled to pirouette into the radiation until your ultimate death. This is the world’s last hope, if Aliens invade. We’re fucked. Heh.
In all, a delightful way to kick off QT6. A fun harmlessly entertaining film, but not something so incredibly fucking badass as to cockblock the rest of the evening’s entertainment. Nicely played.
After the film, the AFS announced that we’d have to clear the room so that the single film people could be weeded out of the PASS HOLDER folks. Instantly I recognized that this would be an issue. One – it’d stretch the evenings immensely. Two – if you ordered food or drink – then it could be cleared forcing pass holders to either not order food at all while attending QT6 or forcing them to finish their buckets of beer or whatever during single film sittings. This isn’t very cool. I bet it doesn’t last.
During the break various friends come over to talk about the ROLLING ROADSHOW tour I just got back from – but on my mind was the next film. If I know Quentin – this first film was a total set up for the second film. I do this all the time when I program. Place a film that lowers one’s expectation for an evening, then Rope-a-dope knock em out. My bet is that the next film will be a more straight and rough Spy flick.
Quentin hits the stage, people rush to their seats and Quentin is absolutely enthusing about this next film, he calls it a “Truly Forgotten Movie,” that he discovered. Then goes into how this is the great thing about “Print Collecting” – it’s possible to see films that just nobody has seen or has access to. He bought the film because he’s been in a SPY film collecting mood (ding ding ding – will we get to see the Tarantino Spy Film?) and he picked up this print, saw it and was blown away. Then he said something that absolutely delighted me. He pointed out that a few years back he brought HICKEY & BOGGS which was sort of an alternate universe I SPY as Quentin pointed out, where Cosby and Culp were cussing and fucking and just doing everything that they couldn’t do on I SPY. “Well, this is the HICKEY & BOGGS of the MAN FROM UNCLE movies, ok? You don’t have David McCallum here, but Robert Vaughn Is the ANTI-Napoleon Solo!” He’s a drunk, barely hanging on to a job. “Just watch him coming off the plane in this. You know, that’s a classic spy moment, they come off the plane looking all Dapper Dan to start his assignment, ok? Well he just fucks that image all up. Alright?” At this point, I’m now jazzed as hell to see this film.
He mentioned that this was a book that MGM bought during the Spy Craze and since they owned Robert Vaughn, they figured they’d just use it as a vehicle for Vaughn. But unlike that last movie, Quentin tells us that this one is gonna look like a billion dollars in comparison. “In that last one, that chase scene in the Alps – that was fucking Mulholland Drive, that’s right where I live in the Hollywood Hills, I could see my House.” Then he went into the supporting cast – talking about how he is fine by having Elke Sommer in any spy flick. We’ve got Luciana Paluzzi in this. Then there’s Karl Boehm from PEEPING TOM. And then there’s Boris Karloff. He feels that this and TARGETS are the two best films that Karloff did in those years before he kicked it. “He’s really really cool in this movie!”
The director of the film we’re told is Jerry Thorpe, a fantastic TV director that did the Kung Fu series including the 2 hour pilot and all the terrific episodes of that 1st Season before David Carradine took over the show, and David would acknowledge that.
With that – Quentin loudly pronounced to get ready for THE VENETIAN AFFAIR then dropped the mike and headed off stage to his seat. As the lights went down, he could be heard to delightfully throw in, “I B TECHNICOLOR!” Which to any print collector is like saying, “THE PROM QUEEN MAN!”
When the screen lit up, we had THE SILENCERS trailer that got cut off last time. It begins with Dean Martin surrounded with maybe 15-20 of the most beautiful broads saying, “They offered me Hamlet, but ya know…” Quentin howls at the line. I love Dean Martin’s Matt Helm. I know it’s COMPLETELY wrong for lovers of the book, but it’s a particular creation of Martin’s. When I think Dean Martin, I think MURDERER’S ROW. It’s just automatic.
Then the trailer for RIDER ON THE RAIN with Charles Bronson – instantly I flash to that end close up from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST with that yellow moon and the lightning and the storms from Monument Valley and the Rolling Roadshow. God that was great. The trailer for RIDER ON THE RAIN isn’t half as great as the one sheet for this film. Which is just the fucking bomb!
Next is the trailer for SCORCHY starring Connie Stevens. The audience laughed at nearly everything in the trailer. Somehow Connie Stevens doesn’t seem to adequately project the attitude of a Federal Undercover Agent to these folks. So weird… eh? Personally, just seeing the brief clip of William Smith is enough for me. He owns!
Lastly we had the trailer for THE COOL ONES – a film that I’ve only ever heard bad things about, but Roddy McDowall’s hipster bit in the trailer has me wanting to see it.
Then it was time for THE VENETIAN AFFAIR.
Now – Quentin did a damn good job of hyping me up for this film, but he either didn’t mention, or I didn’t hear him say that Roger Carmel was in this film. Who? You geek heathens… fucking HARRY MUDD! I love Roger Carmel in films. He’s one of those character actors that just instantly makes me happy. If you’ve seen his little turns in GAMBIT or THE SILENCERS or SKULLDUGGERY or MYRA BRECKINRIDGE then you probably love this rotund character actor. He’s also the voice of Unicron and a ton of other Transformer characters. Carmel is the bomb, and he’s awesome in this as the hanging onto his job at the wire service branch office that just doesn’t want to stir up any shit. And I love that he’s fucking Luciana Paluzzi, cuz it’s that exact sort of fat man encouragement that keeps us fat geeks going. That’s also why I fell in love with his Harry Mudd character all those years ago. Though I don’t want that wife. Shudder.
Another item that Quentin didn’t mention was the hipper than hip cool score by Lalo Schifrin. There isn’t a lot to it, but there’s a sort of THIRD MAN vibe that pops off the score. Very cool, especially as the characters run around Venice.
Then there’s Ed Asner – who plays the guy in charge of the CIA’s team there – and he’s just creepy as hell. Looking like a very very all business Bob Hoskins and way before he was doing his Lou Grant thing. I really really love him in this movie. His sly smiles and knowing looks – you can see him figuring out his moves as an actor in this role. It’s great to watch.
The story to the VENETIAN AFFAIR is basically this. The film begins with a man on his way to a meeting that is supposed to discuss Nuclear Disarmament. The American contributor to this very secret meeting ends up setting off a bomb killing all in the room. An “international situation” is set in motion by everyone trying to get the lowdown on the Vaugiroud Report – which is the investigation into what happened.
Who is Vaugiroud? None other than Boris Karloff. And not just any Boris, but that tanned charming as hell kindly old man Boris Karloff. He’s awesome. His initial dismissal of Robert Vaughn is classic. Yet the second meeting is even better – Karloff feeding birds outside a press conference. This just rules.
How’s Robert Vaughn? He’s pretty great actually – there’s still a tad of Napoleon Solo in him – when he goes to Felicia Farr’s apartment to find out more about what’s going on – his “I saw you alone today, do you really want to be alone tonight too?” bit was just classic, male machismo at work. He knows he’s getting in there. The old lady at the base of the stairs knows he’s getting in there… Felicia Farr is the only one that doesn’t know she’s letting him in, until she does. It’s great. Even better is the pay-off a few scenes later, but I’ll save that for you.
Now – I’d love this film for just the cast and Elke Sommer in a nun outfit and Lalo Schifrin’s score… BUT – there’s a sequence where we suddenly see what the bad guy is up to that… well, it involved something so fucking bizarre and cool that I was just sort of, well, blown away.
You see, the bad guy has a drug that makes the subject incredibly fearful of, I think, a tiny white mouse. He demonstrates this, by putting a white mouse in a perfectly normal Kitty Cat’s cage. The cat kills the mouse. Then they take the cat out, inject it, put it back in the cage and put in a new white mouse. The cat is suddenly freaking way the fuck out. I mean, just crazy. All I can think is that they must have electrified the cage or something to get the cat to leap and scream the way it did, but that cat was batnuts. I mean just crazed. Apparently the cat will continue to throw itself against the walls of its cage until dead.
They then end up giving this same shot to Robert Vaughn and put him inside a padded cell. Ok. Until you’ve seen Napoleon Solo freaking way the fuck out over a damn mouse – you just haven’t seen everything. And then seeing the drugged out Karloff – awesome! Just Awesome!
Also this film is rough – they wantonly kill characters off when you least suspect it. I really enjoyed this film quite a bit. The pacing may be off for impatient thrill a minute spy lovers, but if you like spy films that actually are about the acquiring of information, materials and advantages – then this is one helluva great spy film.
As this film ended, Tim League grabbed the mike and let folks know that there had been a policy change, and that folks with badges could keep their seats if they wanted, but asked single ticket holders to please leave. Heh – somehow I knew that policy wouldn’t hold.
About this time Quentin came up and we started geeking on VENETIAN AFFAIR. It’s been several years since I’ve last run into Quentin – so we chatted and caught up on a bunch of stuff – that’s when Lewis Black of the Austin Chronicle came up erupting in his massive love of KILL BILL. Heh. If you know Lewis Black, you know that he can not NOT spill 7 gallons of love on someone that made a film that made him remember everything that got him loving on films in the first place.
Then we all settled into geek speak on Jerry Thorpe, Robert Vaughn, Harry Mudd, Lalo Schifrin, HOSTEL – at some point, Moriarty began hovering and moving his mouth, but I’m not really sure if anything sensible came out. Suddenly, it was time for Quentin to introduce the Midnight Movie of the night.
TARZOON, KING OF THE JUNGLE (aka SHAME OF THE JUNGLE)
Quentin took the stage saying that this next film was not a spy film. That he’s noticed that when the midnight film is of the same theme – we tend to lose people that are overwhelmed by the theme in question, so he decided to radically shift gears. Good policy, I say.
I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this film. Quentin went into his introduction talking about how the French animator – Picha made this spoof on Tarzan called TARZOON (which by the way is a slang term for one’s penis – officially) And they released it only to be slapped with a suit from the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate which was protecting their most valuable character. This resulted in the title change of SHAME OF THE JUNGLE – and every time the lead character’s name was uttered, they had just flipped the audio track so that it now said, “NOOZRAT” which comes across as feedback sound.
Quentin then goes into how this came out at the tail end of the filthy animated movement of films like DIRTY DUCK, FRITZ THE CAT, NINE LIVES OF FRITZ THE CAT, COONSKINS, etc… as well as the variety sketch films of the time like THE GROOVE TUBE, TUNNEL VISION and KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE – which all sort of culminated with SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. The English version of the film is the real super treat though. Written by Michael O’Donoghue of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE fame aka Mr. Mike among others. It also features the voices of folks like Bill Murray, John Belushi, Brian Doyle-Murray, Christopher Guest, Pat Bright and as the voice of the titular character… JOHNNY WEISSMULLER JR. OhMyGod! COOOOOOL!
Quentin picked up this print from THE BIG REEL - He says he saw this thing ages ago and remembered it as being pretty foul. “Well when I got my print and watched it. Let me tell you, the movie is too fucking rough. There’s just something nasty about it, something foul. Just fucking Foul! And when I rewatched it, Goddammit it’s just as fucking foul as I had remembered it being!”
Ok, I’m ready. Quentin leaves with a throw down of the microphone. Tim League Smiles… and the lights go down.
Trailers start off with an ACTIVISION trailer for STAR CHASE!!! Holy shit that’s cool. I remember theatrical Activision spots… it was the quantum leap forward for my Atari 2600! Killer!
Then the trailer for AMERICAN POP – which I absolutely hold as the greatest Martin Scorsese film that Scorsese never had nothing to do with. I just love it. Great trailer!
Next is TARZAN & THE JUNGLE BOY which just looks highly inappropriate. Tarzan’s loin cloth is way way way way too small.
Next is this absolutely bizarre thing that played at BNAT last year that I don’t really know what is – but apparently it’s a Krakatoan Wedding Vow ceremony that’s just… Well foul.
Then came TARZOON.
I bow before the master. Quentin just totally blew my mind with this one. As a Burroughs super freak, a foul animation lover and a Belushi geek – I just can not believe I’ve never seen this damn thing. Father Geek sitting next to me was just stunned. What on Earth were we watching?
It doesn’t entirely play like a movie, but more like imagine if you did twelve hits of acid while having your body licked while watching Disney’s TARZAN – and that doesn’t come close to the trip you get when you see TARZOON, KING OF THE JUNGLE (SHAME OF THE JUNGLE)
This thing isn’t just foul or fucking foul or nasty. It’s fucking genius. The pygmy cannibal devourers are just the greatest damn thing I’ve ever seen animated. The origin of the ball & tackle army is just sublime. The monkey’s acting out of June’s abduction with the penis troops is just one of the funniest damn things I’ve ever seen.
You don’t watch this film. It rapes you. It throws you against the wall and does things to you that you’ve only heard joked about. This film violates every corner of your conscious mind and then slaps your ass with a banana peel. Everything about this film is just a crazy fevered dream of an offensive comedy film. It’s racist, sexist and about twelve other “ists” that I haven’t been educated to know about yet.
I’d absolutely love to screen this at a Republican National Convention. It’d go over like the National Anthem.
I want animation art from this movie. I want it on DVD NOW! Apparently it’s only available on Region 4 out of Australia – but if DVD labels in the U.S. knew about this – they’d have it out like yesterday. OHMYGOD this thing rules.
The Penis Army is just.. it’s just… At the creation of them, I looked back to see Moriarty’s mouth hung completely loose. Somebody was repeatedly hitting him in the forehead with a sledgehammer and he was in shock. I know he was thinking of Toshiro, cuz you could see the look on his face and it was a combination of fear, horror, abject terror and complete delight.
I hope to god this plays repeatedly on Saturday. I need to score the proper drugs to watch this one again. Holy Shit!
Well that was day one. Tonight is the All Night Horror Show by Tarantino. Apparently we’re going to focus on 80’s horror. This should be fascinating.