Same Boat (2020)

“My new best friend and my new ex-girlfriend, making out in the graveyard like a couple of sexy ghosts.”

Same Boat is a guerilla-shot, micro-budget indie comedy most exemplary.

As result of the filmmakers’ guerilla tactics, the film looks a lot bigger and more expensive than it really is: co-writers Josh Itzkowitz, Mark Leidner, and Chris Roberti (who directs and stars) brilliantly filmed their time traveling, sci-fi rom-com on-the-fly without permission on a cruise ship. But make no mistake: Same Boat is not of the Ed Woodian Plan 9 variety. This is a memorable dealmaker analogous to Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It and Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi.

In terms of time travel flicks, Same Boat is high up on the list alongside George Roy Hill’s adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaugtherhouse Five and Woody Allen’s Sleeper. If you’re a fan of the low-budget time travel romps Primer (2004) from Shane Carruth and Colin T. Tervorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed (2012): this is your picture. If you want Will Smith in Gemini Man and Bruce Willis in Looper . . . well, I got this faulty flux capacitor back in Hill Valley I’d like to show you.

In this quaint take on James Cameron’s The Terminator crossed with the 1993 French comedy Cible émouvante (aka Wild Target; remade as the 2010 Billy Nighy-starring British comedy of the same name), James (Roberti) is a time traveling assassin (who uses a repurposed non-contact infrared thermometer as his “weapon”) from the 28th century sent to the year 2018 to kill the vacationing Lilly (Tonya Glanz)—who just dumped her boyfriend—aboard a cruise ship on the way to Key West, Florida. But when his assistant-trainee, Mot (Julia Schonberg, doing a fine job in her acting debut), is sidelined by seasickness, and a paperwork snafu stymies the mission, James decides to take a vacation himself and inadvertently falls in love with his target—over karaoke and slices of key lime pie.

Will duty . . . or love prevail?

As result of my never-miss-an-episode fandom of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, I immediately recognized actress Tonya Glanz from her recent guest-starring role as “Monica Russo” on the series’ 21st season episode “She Paints for Vengeance”—as a street artist who use her art as a weapon against her rapist (she’s excellent in the part). Another standout is short film and web series veteran Katie Hartman (Assisted Living) as the Katja, the salty-mouth, sexually-suggestive cabin steward. And Chris Roberti is perfectly dry and droll for the roll: all jobs, regardless of the times, become a lesson in monotony and we start to phone it in: even 28th century assassins.

Mark Leidner and Josh Itzkowitz are also the writing and production team behind the superb, 2018 black & white sci-fi thriller (that reminds of Darren Aronofsky’s 1998 feature film debut, Pi) Empathy, Inc., which deals with a conspiracy behind a VR company selling “non-virtual” reality programing. You can watch the trailer on You Tube; the film recently made its free streaming bow on TubiTv.

Comedian Chris Roberti has been around for a while, working on a wide array of short films and web series. The most successful of those web series, the Vimeo-streamed comedy High Maintenance, is currently in its fourth season on HBO. You can watch the season four trailer on You Tube and stream the series via HBO Now or Hulu.

Same Boat is currently making the festival rounds, with well-received showings at San Jose’s Cinequest and Chicago’s Midwest Film Fest. You’ll be able to watch this inventive film when it debuts on VOD and PPV on April 7 courtesy of Dark Star Pictures. You can also learn more about the film at their official website and Facebook page.

We love our sci-fi here at B&S About Movies, so much so that we did a month-long September blowout on apoc films, a week-long tribute to Planet of the Apes movies and its knockoffs (in light of Disney announcing their newest ape flick), and a week-long December rally of Star Wars-inspired films (in tribute to the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker). You can catch up with all of those apoc reviews with our two-part “Atomic Dust” round up, along with our “Ape Week” and “After Star Wars” retrospectives.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR department. As always: you know that has nothing to do with our feelings on the movie.

Rootwood (2020)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods . . .

Just down the road from Burkittsville, on the outskirts of the New Jersey Pine Barrons, two college students—grungy fanboy William and the purple-haired, retro-hippie geek girl Jessica—host “The Spooky Hour,” a podcast about paranormal phenomena and urban legends. One of their fans is Laura Benott, a Hollywood film producer who thinks they’re perfect for her pet project: a documentary about the curse of The Wooden Devil, a mysterious creature who haunts the Rootwood Forest on the outskirts of Los Angeles—and is responsible for the disappearances of dozens of campers and curiosity seekers.

And our Shaggy and Thelma see dollar signs and fame. So you know what that means: buy extra Scooby Snacks, call Daphne (in this context: the Kardashian- fashionista, Erin), and load in The Mystery Machine (in this context: a film equipment-stocked camper). We’re going to hunt for some mythical, legendary witches and devils of The Blair Witch Project (1999) and The Last Broadcast (1998) variety. (And don’t come a knockin’ for any ghouls from The Evil Dead, not in these woods.)

So who is our Satanic agent of Pan in this Blair Witch-inspired, found footage-cum-mockumentary hybrid tucked inside a traditional narrative film: a forest ranger who pledged his soul to protect the woods—and became The Wooden Devil. (All expositional, natch.)

As is the case with most found footage romps and mock-documentary chronicles, there’s a lengthy (30 minute) set up—much of it in handheld or ear-perched POV shots—of “character development” until we get to the first sense of the “horror” of The Wooden Devil: a paint-peeled image of a devil on a remote, graffiti-scrawled water tank and a blood-stained noose found in the knothole of a tree. Eventually, Erin starts ranting about seeing some “bat creature thing” off camera and Will and Jess—stumbling around in the dark with POV cameras rolling—find the ubiquitous stone circle with a symbol made of twigs at its center. And that damned noose keeps showing up in the most unlikely places.

Rootwood is a film that takes its time; it rolls out like an old, low-budget Drive-In horror film of the ‘60s and ‘70s (watch for twisty ending: for all is not as it seems). This is a film that dispatches with the CGI-painted shock-scares of today’s modern horror and goes for the well-shot in-camera effects (courtesy of lush cinematography from Thomas Rist, he of the German-language documentary Let It Bleed: 40 Years of the Rolling Stones) with everything just on the peripheral, in the shadows. In today’s big-budget, major-studio horror landscape, it’s a nice change of pace to see filmmakers take the mystery-suspense route. The well-scored music and crisp sound effects by Klaus Pfreundner and Tim Heinrich, respectively, add to the slow-building foreboding.

Director Marcel Walz received recognition for previous project: a 2016 re-imagining of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s 1963 cult classic, Blood Feast. Screenwriter Mario von Czapiewski made his debut with the 2012 German-produced/language feature Cannibal Diner. Felissa Rose (Laura Benott, the film producer) got her start in the business in her early teens as “Angela” in 80s cult favorite, Sleepaway Camp. And you horror hounds have seen scream queen Elissa Dowling (Jennifer) around on several low-budget films of the SyFy Channel variety; we previously reviewed her 2015 film, We Are Still Here.

To say Rose and Dowling are the hardest working ladies in show business is an understatement: Rose has a mindboggling 30 films in various states of production; Dowling’s working on 17 films of her own. Sara French (Erin the fashionista), in thirteen short years, has already appeared in 75 low-budget direct-to-DVD films. Professional ex-hockey player Tyler Gallant is relatively new to the acting game and shows a lot of promise in front of the camera; I can see him appearing on episodes of two of my favorite TV series: Blue Bloods and Law and Order: SVU, sometime soon.

On a release rollout since 2018, Rootwood will be available on demand and DVD in the U.S on April 7 from High Octane Pictures. You can learn more at the film’s official Facebook page and High Octane’s catalog at their Facebook page. Some of the High Octane catalog we recently reviewed at B&S About Movies includes The Alpha Test, American Hunt, A Wakefield Project, and Jurassic Thunder.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR department. As always: you know that has nothing to do with our feelings on the movie.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

After one movie, George Lazenby was out. He was offered seven movies and left after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service on the advice of his agent. John Gavin, Adam Westm Burt Reynolds, Michael Gambon were all up for the role until United Artists made a demand: get Sean Connery back. Money be damned.

Connery came back for 1.25 million pounds, which is about $22 million dollars in today’s money and two back-to-back movies of his choice. To his credit, Connery used the money to establish the Scottish International Education Trust, where Scottish artists could apply for funding without having to leave their homeland. Connery’s made The Offence, directed by Sidney Lumet and was to make an all-Scottish version of Macbeth, which was abandoned because Roman Polanski’s version of the story was in production.

John Gavin came off the best, as he had a pay or play deal to be Bond, so he got his full salary.

The film starts with Bond chasing the man who killed his wife, SPECTRE boss Blofeld, catching him in a facility packed with clones of the villain. Bond kills a clone and then, supposedly, the real Blofeld (this time played by Charles Gray instead of Telly Savalas).

Bond is up against SPECTRE agents Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (Bruce Glover and Putter Smith) who are killing diamond smugglers. Glover and Smith had Connery convinced that the two were actually openly homosexual, but years later, while flying first class and flirting with a female flight attendant, Glover heard a Scottish voice say, “You son of a bitch.” Sitting behind him was Connery.

Our hero is accompanied by Tiffany Case, a diamond smuggler who is played by the first American Bond girl, Jill St. John. Felix Leiter is also on hand, this time played by Norman Burton (Simon King of the Witches, Mausoleum).

Ironically — as Jill St. John later married Robert Wagner — another Bond girl, Plenty O’Toole, is played by Wagner’s other wife Natalie Wood’s sister Lana. Wait — it gets nuttier.

The two have been involved in a decades-long feud that started during the filming of this movie as both were dating Sean Connery at the same time. And yes, Wagner started dating St. John three months after the mysterious drowning of Lana’s sister. At a photoshoot of former Bond girls for Vanity Fair magazine, an altercation occurred between them got so bad that Wood started crying. To top that off, Wood crashed an event honoring St. John in 2016 and with cameras in tow, began angrily demanding to know if Wagner killed her sister.

They have one thing in common: bad relationships. St. John was divorced three times by the age of 28 and Wood had two annulments and four divorces by 34.

Sausage pitchman Jimmy Dean is also in this as the Howard Hughes-like Willard Whyte. Dean was hesitant to play this part, as he had been an employee of the inventor at the Desert Inn.

Marc Lawrence, who directed Pigs, is in this as an attendant at the Morton Slumber Funeral Home, ably assisted by Sid Haig.

At the end, it looks like Bond is triumphant and Blofeld is dead again. Thanks to the McClory lawsuit, this is also the last movie with SPECTRE in it.

There’s one part of this that was always interesting to me. The moon landing set was a reference to the fake moon landing just two years after it happened, predating the mainstream belief in this conspiracy theory.

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)

The Angels are all back, as is Crispin Glover as The Thin Man in the next installment of this series. This time, however, Bosley’s half brother, played by Bernie Mac, is in charge and the Angels are going up against one of their own. This entire film is packed with cameos and more comedy than the original, which is OK. In times like these, it’s a nice bit of fluff that goes down easy.

Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore) and Alex Munday (Lucy Liu) are up against former angel Madison Lee (Demi Moore) as well as numerous criminal organizations.

Jaclyn Smith returns as one of the original girls. You also get John Cleese as Alex’s dad, Bruce Willis as a federal agent, Robert Forester, the Olsen twins, Carrie Fisher as a nun and many, many, many early 00’s celebrities. You can have a great time just naming each new one who appears.

There were plans for two more sequels, but they never happened.

REPOST: I Spy (2002)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: As part of James Bond month, I’ve brought back this review, originally published on December 29, 2019, for you to check out. This has just been re-released on blu ray by Mill Creek, so it’s easy to find.

Based on the 1960’s TV series that starred Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, this 2002 remake unites Owen Wilson as Special Agent Alex Scott and Eddie Murphy as boxer Kelly Robinson. Together, they must bring back a stolen spyplane from arms dealer Arnold Gundars (Malcolm McDowell).

Plus, you also get to see Famke Janssen as Special Agent Rachel Wright and well, that’s pretty much worth watching this movie for.

Evil arms dealer Gundars is sponsoring Robinson’s next match and using the event to auction off the stolen plane called the Switchblade. The agency has assigned Robinson as the civilian cover for Scott’s mission to get the plane back. Gary Cole, a long-time favorite of mine, also plays Carlos, the agent that everyone else wants to be.

This was directed by Betty Thomas, who was also behind Only YouThe Brady Bunch MoviePrivate Parts and 28 Days amongst others. It was written by Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, who wrote The 6th DayCharlie’s Angels: Full ThrottleBad Boys II and both National Treasure movies. They were joined by Jay Scherick and David Ronn on the scriptwriting duties. They both worked on the Baywatch theatrical film and Zookeeper.

There’s a cute cameo when Robinson speaks to George W. Bush, as that’s Will Ferrell doing the voice.

I Spy is a strange show to remake, as I don’t know anyone that would be clamoring for a new version of the show. That said, it’s a fun movie and Murphy and Wilson mesh well together.

This has just been re-released by the great people at Mill Creek Entertainment. Check out their new blu ray release right here.

DISCLAIMER: This was sent to us by Mill Creek.

Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966)

Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs is an odd film. This 1966 Eurospy parody is at once a sequel to two different movies that have nothing in common: Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine and Two Mafiosi Against Goldginger.

Fulvio Lucisano, the head of Italian International Film, wanted a sequel to his film. American-International Pictures wanted a sequel to theirs. They got their chocolate into one another’s peanut butter and co-financed this movie.

That disparity continues the whole way through the two different versions. In America, the main story is about Vincent Price’s Dr. Goldfoot battling against Fabian. Yet in Italy, the film has a different title (Le Spie Vengono dal Semifreddo, which means The Spies Who Came In from the Cool, a parody of 1965’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold). It also concentrates more on the antics of Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia. Together, they appeared in 116 films, usually as the main characters, and are the most famous Italian comedy team of all time.

Despite being blown up real good at the end of the last movie, Dr. Goldfoot is working alongside the Chinese, making exploding female robots — Mike Myers owes this movie money — when he’s not impersonating a NATO general. Our hero is Security Intelligence Command agent Bill Dexter (Fabian!) who is too busy chasing women to save the world most of the time.

One of his conquests, Roseanna, is played by Laura Antonelli, who was Wanda in Venus In Furs. George Wang, who came to Italy by way of Shanghai to star in plenty of spaghetti westerns, is also here, as is former boxer Ennio Antonelli who is also in the spy films Danger: DiabolikMatchless and Agent 3S3: Massacre in the Sun.

Amazingly, this movie is directed by Mario Bava. He had no interest in the film, but he had a contract with Lucisano. The script changed nine times, people argued over the right women for each shot and even Price would say that this movie was “the most dreadful movie I’ve ever been in. Just about everything that could go wrong, did.”

That’s right. The only time Bava would work with Price and we ended up with…this. Oh well. What can you do?

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Agent for H.A.R.M. (1966)

Gerd Oswald is known for his TV directing and some of his film noir work, like A Kiss Before Dying and Crime of Passion. He directed this thinking it’d be the pilot for a TV series and then, with the spy craze, it ended up being a theatrical release.

Adam Chance (Peter Mark Richman, Dr. Charles McCulloch from Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and Chrissie’s religious father on Three’s Company) works for the American spy agency H.A.R.M. (Human Aetiological Relations Machine). That may be the most ridiculous acronym ever. I mean what is aetiology? Research tells us that it’s the British spelling of etiology or the study of the causes and origins of diseases.

In this adventure, Chance has to protect a Russian defector who has created a skin-eating weapon. Complicating matters is a double agent — the defector’s niece Ava Vestok, who is played by one of the first ladies of giallo, Barbara Bouchet. Yes, that’s reason enough to suffer through this silly little spy film!

Martin Kosleck is in this as a villain. He was a German actor that hated the Nazis and Hitler so much that he set out to play them in every film to show how horrible they were. In fact, he played Joseph Goebbels five times. He’s a Russian here, though.

Vincent Price’s least favorite actor — Count Yorga himself — Robert Quarry, is also on hand, as are Rafael Campos (The Astro-Zombies), Robert Donner (Exidor on Mork and Mindy) and Playboy Playmate of the Month for December 1963 and 1964 Playmate of the Year Donna Michelle. She’s also in the two theatrical movies made from episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.One Spy Too Many and The Spy With My Face.

Looking for someone to blame for all this? It was written and created by Blair Robertson, who wrote The Slime People. She’s also Mrs. Castillo in that movie.

Dead by Dawn (2020)

At one’s first read of the film’s logline: A suicidal man in a remote cabin is suddenly faced with protecting a kidnapped woman from three sexual deviants and their sadistic games,” you think you’re getting a by-the-numbers extreme horror film of the New French Extremity variety. (See the recently reviewed (and very good) German radio-horror flick, Radio Silence, as an example.)

Ah, but what you’re really getting is a loose film noir—a very violent film noir of a double-crossed victim and a reluctant anti-hero trapped in a downward spiral, bowtied in a home invasion-siege picture that updates Ingmar Bergman’s granddaddy of rape-invasion-revenge movies: 1960’s The Virgin Spring.

Lulu (the great in her film debut Drew Lindsey Mitchell) is one of those sweet girls with self-esteem issues that goes for the bad boy. And her controlling boyfriend Shane blows a gasket when she decides to go back to college to finish her degree. Then, when she heads off in a rideshare to a Halloween party hosted by her (closeted pervert that pines for her) Uncle Chad, she’s besieged again by a clown-costumed, masturbating pervert. . . .

That leads to Lulu dragging her bruised and bloodied body onto the front porch of a remote forest cabin, where she interrupts the suicidal owner, Dylan (Kelcey Waston), who was just about to eat a bullet for breakfast. Then the portly-businessman Uncle Chad shows up at the cabin with his ex-cellmate Neil—and a bogus story that Lulu is an autistic that ran away from their car accident. And why is that Goth-chick sneaking around the cabin?

Dylan soon discovers Uncle Chad, Neil, and Neil’s leather-clad squeeze, Snack, gang raped and beat Lulu at the Halloween party—a party set up for that sole purpose. And based on that can of gasoline and the remote location: they were planning to depose of Lulu. So begins the night-long siege. Can a man depleted of the will to live for himself, find the will to protect the life of a stranger? Will Dylan and Lulu be . . . dead by dawn? Not if those booby-traps Dylan and Lulu tinkered based on the zombie defense guide written by Dylan’s deceased young daughter—who was the catalyst for his wanting to commit suicide in the first place.

I appreciate the skilled, creative choices writer-director Sean Cain made with Dead by Dawn.

While the title, in conjunction with its theatrical one-sheet, is a tip o’ the hat to the Sam Raimi sequel, the film doesn’t follow that expected cabin-in-the-woods route. Cain could have easily cheapened the film’s suspense by having Lulu’s obviously violent kidnap-torture-rape and her terrifying bound n’ gagged trip in the SUV on-camera; he keeps it expositional. There also seems to be a loose homage to Night of the Living in Lulu’s character—not the 1968 George Romero version, but the 1990 Tom Savini remake: Lulu is analogous to that film’s stronger-determined Barbara portrayed by Patricia Tallman. Lulu not turning into a catatonic or hysterical mess—and discovering her inner strength—is a bonus.

In addition, Dylan’s daughter saving his life “from the beyond,” not as a supernatural deus ex machina zombie or J-Horror yūrei, but via her zombie-hobby, is a refreshing, appreciated twist-of-the-script by Sean Cain’s bright pen (well, laptop keyboard). Lastly, Cain opted to not to take the put-a-star-name-on-the box-to-encourage-rental route; he allowed his unknown cast—featuring the effective Bo Burroughs as the ski-capped psycho Neil, Timothy Muskatell as the squishy-sleazy Uncle Chad, and Bobby Slaski as the abusive hubby, Shane—illuminate the dark, foreboding woods.

This is my first exposure to the acting career of Kelcey Waston. He’s worked on a wide variety of shorts, indie films and web series since the early 2000s. But you may have seen him on the SyFy Channel with Sean Cain’s previous effort, Jurassic City (2015), the Eric Roberts-starring Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs (2015), and the post-apocalypse romp, Road Wars (2015)—so, as you can see, Watson’s a busy actor.

And solid actor. He turns in a major-studio level performance. I also appreciate the fact that his race had no bearing on his casting. There’s no racial subtext to the story; writer-director Sean Cain cast Waston simply because he’s a good actor and was the best actor to convey the character—and that’s what its all about: the acting. And Waston throws those acting cards down on the table and cleans up the chips.

Equally excellent in her co-starring role is Jamie Bernadette (TV’s NCIS: New Orleans), who admirably held her own against Camille Keaton in 2019’s I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu, as the crazy, leather-clad morbid-bitch, Snack. You’ve also seen her on your Lifetime Channel excursions with 2018’s The Wrong Teacher. She has a whopping fifteen other films in various states of production. You don’t get cast that often if you’re bad at your job. She really delivers the goods.

Writer and director Sean Cain has an intense, extensive resume. While Dead by Dawn is his tenth film in those dual-disciplines (you may have, along with Jurassic City, stumbled into one of those films on the SyFy Channel), he tuned his Steenbeck chops with the Lifetime Channel’s endless catalog of prefixed “Killer,” “Nightmare,” “Perfect,” and “Pscyho,” and “Wrong” damsel-in-distress potboilers, along with editing a slew of documentary vignettes for Blu-ray reboots of popular films.

Dead by Dawn is available from Uncork’d Entertainment on all online streaming and PPV platforms and DVD in the U.S on April 7. Currently, you can purchase DVDs at Amazon and Family Video (both as a rental and purchase) and stream it on iTunes and Vudu. Plans are in place to also offer Dead by Dawn on Comcast, DirectTV, Dish, Fandango Now, GooglePlay, Spectrum, and Xbox. Visit Uncork’d on Facebook for the latest news on their releases. You can learn more about Sean Cain’s Velvet Hammer Films on their Facebook page.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Disclaimer: This movie was sent to us by its PR department. As always: you know that has nothing to do with our feelings on the movie.

Gold Dust (2020)

They sold me with this sell copy (which is a good thing for sell copy to do): “Classical music. Thundering opera. Rattlesnakes and precious gems. Mansions and gold mines. Friendship and despair. Treasure beyond imagination that vanishes in the desert wind. In the desert there is no limit to the adventures at hand!”

If you like the band Cage the Elephant, that’s another bonus, as they did some of the music for this movie.

Somewhere in Mexico, two lifelong friends are searching for a ghost ship that is rumored to be beneath the shifting desert sands. Today, drug lords use this land for their own gain, creating their own private army of kids in gliders armed to the teeth with semi-automatic weapons. Now, the guys have to decide whether or not to keep their dreams of finding $6 million dollars worth of gold dust or save some of the children.

This film was written and directed by David Wall. Its leads, Darin Brooks and Chris Romano, starred as best friends on the TV show Blue Mountain State.

Gold Dust is available on demand and on DVD April 7 from High Octane Pictures.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by its PR team.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

After five films, the unthinkable happened. Sean Connery was no longer James Bond. In fact, during the filming of You Only Live Twice, he wasn’t even on speaking terms with producer Albert Broccoli.

Who would be James Bond? In a field of contenders that included John Richardson, Hans De Vries, Adam West, Robert Campbell and Anthony Rogers, an unknown Australian named George Lazenby got the part after the producers saw him in a Fry’s Chocolate Cream advertisement.

For his audition, Lazenby pretty much showed up as Bond, wearing a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and a Savile Row suit that had been ordered for, but not picked up by Connery. He even went to Connery’s barber at the Dorchester Hotel. What sealed the deal was a fight test where Lazenby broke the nose of stuntman Yuri Borienko (who was once British pro wrestler Red Staranoff).

There’s also the perhaps urban legend George Lazenby talked his way into meeting director Peter R. Hunt and producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. After lying about his acting roles, he got a screen test. Lazenby then confessed to Hunt that he had made it all up and that he wasn’t really an actor. Hunt laughed and told him, “You just strolled in here and managed to fool two of the most ruthless bastards in the business. You’re an actor.”

Lazenby was offered a contract for seven films. A combination of him wanting to be part of the swinging 60’s and an agent that convinced him that secret agents would be out of favor soon. I hope he fired that guy.

Believe it or not, this is probably my favorite Bond movie. It’s one of the few where Bond’s character makes forward emotional progress. And it’s full of amazing set pieces and Telly Savalas.

Bond saves a woman on the beach from committing suicide by drowning. She disappears afterward, but he runs into her later at a casino and learns that she is Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg, who was also on The Avengers).

Before she can thank him, Bond is attacked. The next morning, he’s kidnapped and taken to Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti, The Night Porter). Draco — the head of a crime syndicate — informs him that Tracy is his daughter and offers Bond a million pounds to marry his daughter. 007 refuses, but agrees to keep dating her if Draco reveals where Blofeld is.

Bond threatens to resign from MI6 before heading back to romance Terry anew and that leads him to an allergy clinic high in the Swiss Alps, run by Blofeld and his twelve Angels of Death, female patients who he has cured of all allergies.

It all leads to Blofeld putting the entire world at hostage, MI6 forbidding Bond to stop him and our hero enlisting the European crime families to battle Blofeld (who has somehow become the much more attractive Savalas).

The end of this movie shocked me as a child and still impacts me today. After Bond marries Tracy in Portugal, they pull over to remove flowers from their car. Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt drive by and murder Bond’s wife. And that’s how the film ends.

Virginia North — who made such an impression in just five films (Deadlier Than the Male, The Long Duel, Some Girls Do, The Abominable Dr. Phibes and this movie) — plays Olympe, Draco’s girlfriend.

Blofeld’s Angels of Death, who have been hypnotized to spread his Virus Omega, are played by Angela Scoular (Buttercup from Casino Royale), Catherine Schell (Madame Sin), Julie Ege (The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires), Jenny Hanley (Scars of Dracula), Anouska Hempel (Tiffany Jones), Mona Chong (The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole World), Sylvana Henriques (who was the fan dancer in the title sequence for You Only Live Twice), Dani Sheridan, Ingrid Back, Zaheera and Helena Ronee (Five Dolls for an August Moon).

Saltzman had planned to adapt The Man with the Golden Gun in Cambodia and use Roger Moore as the next Bond, but that region was politically unstable. Moore then signed up for another season of The Saint.

Peter Hunt, who had edited the first five Bond movies, finally convinced Broccoli and Saltzman that he deserved a chance to direct. He said, “I wanted it to be different than any other Bond film would be. It was my film, not anyone else’s.” It would be the last Bond film that he worked on.

This is a film full of plenty of references to the past films, starting with Bond saying, “This never happened to the other fellow.” The credits reference the past five movies and Bond’s office has souvenirs from Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball.

Lazenby had difficulty learning how to act and dealing with the star power of his co-stars. I feel bad for him, but I love the story of how the crew was paid in cash for the entire films per diems. Seeing Lazenby with a suitcase full of cash, Telly Savalas invited him to a late-night poker game and the famous Player’s Club member cleaned him out. Producer Harry Saltzman was so upset, he joined the game and won back the money for Lazenby.

I share the belief that if Connery had been Bond in this movie, it would be everyone’s favorite. It would have been the perfect ending for him in the series, but instead, he would return for the next film, Diamonds Are Forever.

As for Lazenby, his career has taken him from giallo like Who Saw Her Die? and Bond-like appearances, like him playing “J.B.” in the 1983 TV movie The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair, where he helped Napoleon Solo and Illya Nickovitch Kuryakin, showing up with his tuxedo, Walther PPK and Aston Martin. He’s also Drew Stargrove, the Bond-style character in Never Too Young To Die. There’s also the documentary Becoming Bond, where he discusses how he got the role and what happened next.

As I said before, this is my favorite Bond movie because of how it moves the character forward. Other than Skyfall, it’s the only movie where he cries. It’s also the only film in the series in which the main villain (Blofeld), and his sidekick (Irma Bunt), survive, and are not arrested or killed. Bunt was to return for Diamonds Are Forever, but sadly Ilse Steppat, the actress playing her, died from a heart attack a week after this movie premiered.