The Official Newsletter of The Imaginative Cinema Society
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December 2006  #95



ICS makes the Newspaper!
Read all about it.

What can Santa bring me?
ICS members share lists

Because of the Holidays,
are deleted this issue, they will return next month.

A Holiday Treat


Honorary ICS member Don Dohler has passed away

Bond, James Bond
Ward, John Ward

See what’s happening!
Put this up on the Fridge!

Editor-Betsy Childs 
Staff Writers- Regina Vallerani, 
Mike Laird, Sam DiBlasi
John Ward, Joe Plempel, 
Dava Sentz, Jim Childs


ICSClubnewsClubnews All About Us ClubnewsClubnewsICS

 Our Thanksgiving meeting began with punches, kicks and death-defying stunts – it was Part 2 of Andrew Kent’s presentation on Jackie Chan.  Part 1 of the presentation concentrated on Jackie’s childhood and his early films – up to 1983.  However, after ’83, information on his personal life became less accessible because Jackie is a very private person.  So, this presentation concentrated on Jackie’s stunt work.
 If you think that Jackie works with a safety net, you’re wrong.  Jackie’s stunts are done without mattresses, harnesses or green screens.  He has been injured several times and even has a small hole in his skull that resulted from a fall in ARMOUR OF GOD.  His skull was cracked and the surgeon decided that removing a small bit of bone was the best solution. 
 Jackie prefers to work with his crew of stunt men.  And they all practice, practice, practice every day in order to take falls and punches without getting seriously hurt.  In fact, Jackie had difficulty working in American films because most US stunt men were not up to the level of Jackie’s crew.  This difference in physical conditioning is partially due to the stylistic differences in US and HK Martial Arts films.  US Films often have single, powerful blows, which either fatally wound an opponent or send them flying 20 feet into a wall.  THE PROTECTOR (1985) illustrates this difference.  Director James Glickenhaus’s finale between Jackie and his opponent was a slow paced brawl.  Jackie re-cut the film for the Asian market and changed the finale to a kinetic punch fest.  Glickenhaus did not find out until 10 years later.
 We also saw the recreations of two stunts from POLICE STORY.  The first involves Jackie hanging onto the exterior of a double-decker bus using the long handle of an umbrella.  While Jackie could have been in real trouble if he was hit by oncoming cars, he at least was able to use a prop steel umbrella for a little more security.  The second stunt involved Jackie running down a 90 degree incline to intercept said bus.  He demonstrated what would have happened had he slipped using a basketball which just rolled faster and faster until it hit bottom with a thud.
 Let’s give a hearty cheer for Andrew for this behind the scenes look into Jackie Chan’s stunt work.

 The film chosen for the night was ARMOUR OF GOD – Jackie’s take on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.  Jackie plays Asian Hawk – an ex rock star and procurer of rare goods.  The titular Armour of God is a five-piece relic that supposedly was the armour of god’s soldiers who won in a huge battle.  Naturally there is an evil cult that wants to destroy the armour. They have two parts of it and require the other three, so they kidnap Jackie’s ex-girlfriend and force Jackie and one of his band buddies to retrieve the armour for them.  Anyway, they get the girl back, but she is drugged and horny.  After some bedroom antics she steals the Armour (along with the buddy) and takes it back to the evil cult.  Of course, Jackie must rescue them.  Stunts include the infamous sequence where Jackie Chan damaged his skull falling from a high tree.  Other stunts include a fine car chase and a mid-air jump onto a hot air balloon.  However, the most memorable sequence is when Jackie fights the four Amazon women.  It's a hoot and the whole sequence, including the one-man army fight against the evil monks, is amazing to watch.

 John Ward is compiling a Top 100 Genre Movies for our 100th meeting in April 2007.  He will be accepting lists until our March 2007 meeting, so please email him with your list ASAP at JOHN5509@COMCAST.NET.  And if you don’t feel like listing 100 movie titles, you can do as little as 5 or as much as 99 – he will count ‘em all.
 *BONUS* - Members who submit their list by the December 2006 meeting will receive a double vote card.

 Our club secretary, John Ward, has the sign-up sheet for the 2007 calendar.  The calendar is $15.  If you are interested in purchasing one, please contact John.

 Our December meeting includes the infamous Yankee Swap.  In order to participate, you must bring a gift for $25 (receipts please) and put it on the gift table.  Each person who brought a gift will receive a number from 1 to # of participants.  The person who draws number 1 will pick a gift from the table.  The person who draws number 2 can either pick another gift from the table or steal number 1’s gift.  Gifts can be stolen a maximum of 2 times, then they belong to the 2nd stealer.  This process continues until everyone has a gift.  It’s always a lot of fun.

 Our next meeting will be held on Saturday December 30th at 5:30 P.M. at the church hall behind the Perry Hall Presbyterian Church located at 8848 Bel Air Road.  Take Baltimore Beltway exit 32 north on Belair Road.  Turn left onto Joppa Road. Immediately past the miniature golf course turn left into the parking lot.  If you miss it there are ample turn-around opportunities.  If you get stuck, call 443-570-6455.  That's Dave Willard’s cell phone.  He'll talk you in. 

  Revenge has been a staple of films for most of their history.  What the heroes of these films demand is what the audience receives: satisfaction.  Let’s end 2006 by getting even on Revenge Night, presented by Regina Vallerani.

    Our annual elections will be held at the January 2007 meeting.  The requirements for running for election are simple – have a paid 2007 membership to the club, be willing to give up an extra day in the month for a board meeting and have a strong interest in helping the club prosper.  If you’d like to run, please let one of the current board members (Jim Childs, Andrew Kent, Joe Plempel, Dave Willard or John Ward) know. 

    This is just a reminder that dues expire on New Year's Day. It will be time to pony up for the coming year. Individuals are $25. Couples are $40. Extra family members who reside at the same address are $15 each added the primary membership.  We hope that you decide to join us for an exciting year ahead.
 Dues can be paid to Andrew Kent at meetings or sent via pay pal to ICSFILM@HOTMAIL.COM or mailed to Andrew at:
 Andrew Kent
 5025 Green Mountain Circle Apt 6
 Columbia, MD  21044
All Checks should be payable to ‘ICS’ or ‘Imaginative Cinema Society’.

 The ICS Files is looking for some contributors. If you go to the movies, (ha ha) send in a review of the movie you saw.  We want to get some diverse ICS members thoughts on the movies they are seeing. 
 We are also looking for someone to send in updated movie news information.  It is a position that Tim and Andrew have held, and if you find that you are on the internet often anyway, if would just be a matter of pulling interesting articles and snippets about movies. If you are worried about the writing aspect, send Betsy the rough info and let her edit it for the ICS Files style. 


 The ICS family sends condolences to our member Mitch Klein and the Dohler family on the recent loss of Don Dohler, a friend, Baltimore filmmaker and honorary ICS member. Notice was sent that the Dohler family is having a remembrance for him on Saturday, January 6, Ramada Inn Conference Center in Edgewood, MD at 2PM. You are all welcome to attend. This will be celebrating his life and career.
If any members would like to send cards and flowers, before he passed, Don mentioned that he would prefer a small donation to the Joyce Foundation. This is a foundation that was set up for his sister, who is challenged and it is designed for her continued care. No one is obligated of course, but if interested, anyone can donate a small sum (even $5) to "The Joyce Dohler Foundation" P.O. Box  149, Bel Air, MD  21014.

ICS Members Holiday Dream Gifts!

 When coming up with this idea for an article, I wanted something to be able to show some ICS personalities to other members. I mean, what you watch is definitely a personality profile. So, asking ICS’ers to tell me, what they would like for Christmas this year, I got some interesting responses. I was trying to find out, you know- if you could have any DVD’s you wanted, which ones would you like?  Mostly what I got was “Well, I buy what I want, when I want it, so I am not really asking for anything.”  This seems to make sense as we are adults and don’t need Santa.  But, we did get some members eagerly sending their lists in for me to post for Santa to read. 
 This is a bit different than the 100 movie list (hey, by the way, send your list in to John!) This would be a list of movies or TV shows seen out at Best buy or on the DVDdeepdiscount website and have nagged Santa to leave under the tree for you because you can’t justify buying something for yourself at this time of year.
 In asking for a list of DVD’s, I didn’t think to add in any of the new tech toys that are out there like Wii or flat screen TV’s or Home theatre equipment.  The idea was simple pleasures that can be slipped under the tree or into a stocking. 
  There was a nice wide range of movies requested, from the simple movies to the boxed sets and from books to action figures to Death Stars. What a great group we have!

Here are some of the responses:

To start us off, our esteemed Leader Dave Willard - 
As a new convert to Battlestar Galactica I'd love some season-long DVD sets of earlier seasons. I'd treasure virtually anything from Rhino's MST3K collection.
 I'd love probably too many martial arts films to list (but one that would include THE KUNG FU HUSTLE [2004], THE PRODIGAL SON [1982], LEGEND OF A FIGHTER [1982], WING CHUN [1982], SHAOLIN MASTER KILLER [1979] and LADY SNOWBLOOD [1973). 
There's some collections of silent films I'd love, including THE MOVIES BEGIN - A TREASURY OF EARLY CINEMA, 1894-1913, MORE TREASURES FROM AMERICAN FILM ARCHIVES 1894-1931 and UNSEEN CINEMA - EARLY AMERICAN AVANT GARDE FILM 1894-1941 as well as some favorite individual titles like IT, THE BIG PARADE, THE CROWD, THE UNKNOWN and WINGS. 
Then I always thought the gold standard was "Twilight Zone: The Complete Definitive Collection." Spending some quality time with all 156 Twilight Zone tales sounds like a good time to me!

Jim Childs (also known as Duffman)
Always a Superman fan first and foremost, I think the SUPERMAN COLLECTION, is a given.  The Richard Donner cut of SUPER MAN II is worth it. The whole balance of the story is changed. 
Of course, I have to mention, THE SIMPSONS, season nine. 
Also to complete the household collection, COLUMBO the fifth season. 
I would not turn up my nose as any of the following, but don’t expect them under the tree. THE JAMES BOND DVD Collection Vol 1 thru 5 would be nice and GODZILLA, the Gojira collection
FORBIDDEN PLANET – the first disc is the movie, second disc has The Invisible Boy and other Robby the Robot sightings. 
The ROCKY box set would be a good thing to get me in the mood for the new ROCKY movie that is coming out.
Not coming till Jan. 2nd, but SNAKES ON A PLANE.

Skip Phillips-
DARK SHADOWS volumes 6 and up. 
SPEED RACER volumes 4 & 5
Any Italian westerns 

Andrew Kent-
Didn't ask for any DVDs this year. But if I had to get some DVDs, I suppose the DOOGIE HOWSER season 3 set would be all right
All I want is the Lego Death Star!.

Betsy Childs: 
There are quite a few out there that I would love to see under the tree this year. To start with I am really looking for the LOST action figure statues. 
There is the QUANTUM LEAP 5th season, can never get enough of Scott Bakula And I have been watching ANGEL on TNT in the mornings (thanks to Tivo) so the whole series would be nice…no commercials!
STAR TREK the Animated series, 
E.R. season 5 and 6
PRINCESS BRIDE, Dread Pirate Edition
And because it is Christimas, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (60TH Anniversary edition)

 Regina Vallerani-
BLACK CHRISTMAS (remastered version)
DARK WATHERS (Mariano Baino giallo - not Jennifer Connelly film)
DOOGIE HOWSER - Seasons 1 or 2 

Dava Sentz– 
SEX IN THE CITY, the new DVD box set and OVER THE HEDGE would be nice. I'm a big fan of RENT, so the book of the same name that was written by the creator before he died.
I'm always looking to extend my LOTR action figure collection. 

John Ward -
This year will be a big surprise, since I've only asked for two titles:  the Criterion Collection's newly remastered 3-disc everything-but-the-kitchen-sink edition of SEVEN SAMURAI, and the just-released SNL: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON OF SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. 
 The first season of SNL featured the Killer Bees, Richard Pryor in a hilarious EXORCIST takeoff, and of course, the legendary Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise.  I can't wait. 
 Book wise, there's a collection of Roger Ebert's writings from the past 40 years, Awake in the Dark. 
Who knows what else I'll get?  Well, it's a safe bet I'll get some Best Buy gift cards, and I plan on going right over there Tuesday the 26th to pick up the DVD of THE DESCENT, which comes out that day.

Tim Fleming (all the way from NM)
FUTURAMA Vol.2 and Vol. 4
U2 18 The Milan Concert and videos
LOONEY TUNES Vol.2 and Vol. 4
LOST Season 2
DR WHO Season 2 (although it comes out in January)
Brian Setzer Christmas Extravaganza (The Brian Setzer Christmas show concert)

That about wraps this up (pun intended). Hope Santa can fill some of these yuletide wishes!

movie meanderingsmovie meanderingsmovie meanderings

By Sam DiBlasi

’It’s A Wonderful Life’, The Senator Style

    There are some things that you automatically associate with the Holiday season.  Some that come to mind are the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, ornately wrapped gifts, eggnog, family events, and of course, It’s a Wonderful Life.  This movie is an American icon of the Christmas spirit and I would presume that most folks reading this have seen it at least once, if not dozens of times.
    There is a tradition that is observed every year in Baltimore.  The Senator Theater screens this classic annually as a benefit for the Maryland Food Bank.  So, as is the usual tradition, I searched through the pantry and gathered up a respectable amount of non perishable food items for the admission.  It is never usually a problem finding enough, having amassed quite an inventory over the past 12 months.  I can never resist sales, especially when there is a coupon involved.  The result of these sales and coupons usually equates with a glut of canned goods and other non perishables.  So, it’s off to The Senator Theater, bag of food in hand, to see It’s a Wonderful Life.
    The Senator usually has a great crowd for this event and there were several other ICS members there.  It’s interesting to see ICS’ers at a movie other than a Horror or Science Fiction genre. This years Food Bank event had two movies to choose from. Prior to It’s a Wonderful Life, they showed A Christmas Carol. A nice choice of traditional holiday classic movies to view on a Sunday after a Saturday of shopping at the malls or dealing with the crowds at Best Buy.  A fun outing for the family and friends.
    The film is a heartwarming story about George Bailey, played by James Stewart, who sacrifices his plans to “shake the dust of this crummy little town off my feet…see the world…build things.”  He is working in the family business, The Bailey Brothers Building and Loan, while saving for college.  This Building and Loan is an integral part of the town of Bedford Falls, as it is the only institution not owned by the miserly Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore).  George’s college plans are foiled when his father is the victim of a massive stroke and dies.  The building and loan is doomed to plummet into the hands of Mr. Potter after the death of George’s father unless George stays on at the helm. George agrees to stay, and shortly thereafter, he marries Mary (Donna Reed).  Even their honeymoon plans are thwarted when there is a run on the bank and George and Mary give up their own money to keep the Building and Loan afloat.  They continue on to have a few children and George becomes known as a pillar in the community, helping all who seek his aid. 
    George’s Uncle Billy is in the bank making a deposit on Christmas Eve when he runs into Mr. Potter.  While talking with Mr. Potter in the bank, he inadvertently mixes up his deposit of $8,000.00 cash with Mr. Potter’s newspaper.  Mr. Potter chooses to keep the
money in an attempt to bring about the demise of the Building and Loan.  The Building and Loan is now short that money, just as the bank examiner arrives to go over the books.  George is beside himself.  He knows that this “means bankruptcy, scandal, and prison.”  He goes to Mr. Potter and begs for money to meet the debt, but Mr. Potter calls the police and accuses George of misappropriation of funds.  George goes out to get drunk and ends up on a bridge contemplating suicide.
    While all of this is unfolding on Earth, Joseph is up in Heaven preparing to send down Clarence, George’s Guardian Angel, to help guide George through this chain of events.  Clarence is promised the chance to earn his wings if he is successful in seeing George through this tumultuous time.  Clarence arrives in the nick of time, sees George on the bridge and jumps into the water, knowing that George will jump in to save him.  Clarence is rescued by George and Clarence proceeds to grant George’s wish when he wishes that he’d never been born. 
    Clarence then forges ahead and shows George what it would be like had he not been born.  Naturally, George is appalled when he sees what his influence has had on everyone that he had come in contact with.  Clarence comments, “Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives.  When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” 
    George finally decides that he wants things back the way they were and he is seen back on the bridge praying, “Get me back, I don’t care what happens to me!  Get me back to my wife and kids…”  George returns home where he finds that the whole town has collected money to cover the $8,000.00 shortage.  George realizes that he is, as his brother says, “the richest man in town.”  Just at that moment a bell rings on the Christmas tree and George knows that Clarence has earned his wings. 
    This movie has become, for me, an indispensable part of every Christmas season.  I can’t fathom anyone watching this film and not shedding a tear or two.  There is nothing like It’s a Wonderful Life to get you in the spirit of the season. 

     “Merry Christmas, Movie house!  Merry Christmas, Emporium!  Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan! Merry Christmas!”

farewellsfarewellsfarewells Good bye farewellsfarewellsfarewells

Donald M. Dohler, managing editor of the Times-Herald, a Baltimore County community newspaper, and producer for Timewarp films, an independent science fiction and grade-B horror film company, who also founded and edited a magazine for amateur filmmakers, died of melanoma Dec. 2 at his Perry Hall home. He was 60. 
Mr. Dohler, who divided his professional life between being a newspaper reporter and editor and filmmaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in the Idlewylde neighborhood of Baltimore County. 
During the 1950s, he spent Saturday afternoons in local movie theaters watching what many film critics and historians now consider classics from the science fiction and horror genre, films such as Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Forbidden Planet. 
Mr. Dohler was 13 when he was given an 8 mm Kodak movie camera for Christmas in 1958. He and a boyhood friend launched themselves into filmmaking with The Mad Scientist, their first production, filmed in his family's garage. 
"They were crude and silly, but that's what got me into filmmaking," Mr. Dohler told the City Paper in a 2003 interview. 
"He was a self-taught writer. As a teenager, he began his publishing career with a humor fanzine called Wild, which featured the early work of noted underground cartoonists Jay Lynch and Art Spiegelman," said his son, Greg Dohler of Baltimore. "He later published Cinemagic, a how-to for amateur filmmakers, and Movie Club, an appreciation of classic horror and science fiction films." 
Mr. Dohler was working in Washington as a payroll clerk when two robbers entered the business and demanded the company safe be opened. 
"It was in 1976, on his 30th birthday, and one of the guys put a shotgun to the back of his head. He said that's when he realized that he wanted to make movies," his son said. "So he quit and began working on The Alien Factor, produced by his company, Cinemagic Visual Effects, and completed it in 1977." 
Mr. Dohler either directed, produced or wrote 11 films, including Fiend, The Alien Factor 2: The Alien Rampage, Blood Massacre, Harvesters, Stakes, Nightbeast and Dead Hunt, which was completed last year. Crawler, his last picture, is still in post-production. 
"His films that have been seen worldwide through television and DVD distribution" were filmed mainly in Perry Hall and other Baltimore County locations, his son said. 
Mr. Dohler was a co-founder in 2000 of Timewarp Films, with Joe Ripple, an actor turned director. 
"On and off for the past 27 years, Dohler, while failing to register on the mainstream movie-biz Richter scale, has been cranking out low-budget, no stars horror and science fiction fare," reported the City Paper, who described his work this way: 
"They are "90-minute features chockablock with decapitations, eviscerations, impalings, murderous nuclear families devoted to cannibalism or organ harvesting, thong-clad vampirettes, cleaver-wielding housewives, switch-blade flicking psychos, trigger-happy yahoos, marauding aliens, reanimated corpses, fog machines in overdrive, enough fake blood to fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools, more running through the woods than a battalion of Green Berets on maneuvers, and some of the scariest Baltimore accents in the history of cinema." 
"He was a driven filmmaker who never gave up no matter how little the budget. He's now sitting next to Ed Wood in heaven," said film director John Waters yesterday from Los Angeles. 
"Maryland was the low-budget movie capital of the world because of Don, and his movies became an inspiration to those who wanted to make films," said Mitch Klein, a graphic and special effects artist who worked on five of Mr. Dohler's films. "He was very easy to work with and trusted everyone to do their job." 
"It was incredible working with him," said Leanna Chamish, who starred as the vampire queen in Stakes. "His death is a big loss because he presented a lot of opportunities for people to get started in show business and they wouldn't have gotten a leg up without Don." 
About 20 years ago, Mr. Dohler began reporting and editing community newspapers in Baltimore and Harford counties, and most recently had been editor of the Times-Herald. 
"Don believed passionately in community newspapers and he knew how important they were to people who lived in those communities. He sought out stories and treated them as seriously as if he were writing or editing them for The New York Times," said Bob Hughes, spokesman for the Baltimore County Public Library and part-time actor who appeared in several of Mr. Dohler's films. "I think at one time or another, he has been editor of virtually every paper that existed in Perry Hall, Parkville, White Marsh and Essex." 
"He was the consummate community journalist. No story was ever too small for Don," said Bryan Sears, political editor of Patuxent Publishing Co.'s Baltimore County newspapers. "He knew so many people. Wherever I went, people would ask, 'Do you know Don Dohler?'" 
Mr. Hughes added: "He enjoyed filmmaking so completely, as he did his newspaper work." 
Also surviving are his wife of six months, the former Leslie McFarland; a daughter, Kim Pfeiffer of West Chester, Pa.; a brother, Glenn Barnes of Perry Hall; a sister, Joyce Dohler of Perry Hall; and a granddaughter. His wife, the former Pamela Merenda, died in 1992, and a marriage to Lynn Eschenbach ended in divorce. 
-Don was a friend and honorary member of the ICS and will be greatly missed-

ROBERT ALTMAN, the maverick director who earned a reputation as one of America's most original filmmakers with such landmark movies as MASH, Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller, has died. He was 81.
Over the years, he had earned five Academy Award nominations for best director — for MASH, Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts and, most recently, Gosford Park. In March of this year, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored him with an honorary Oscar, Altman viewed it "as a nod to all of my films. To me, I've just made one long film." Other of his films include that cold day in the park, brewster mccloud, the long goodbye, california split, 3 women, popeye, mcteague, ready to wear, kansas city and a prairie home companion.

Dave Cockrum, the illustrator for the 1970s overhauling of the X-Men that turned a relatively obscure Marvel Comics title into a 1980s publishing sensation and eventually a major film franchise, has died.
He designed or co-created many signature characters for the popular comic book series, and some of them — such as Storm, Mystique, Nightcrawler and Colossus — went on to become part of Fox's X-Men films, which have grossed $607 million at U.S. theaters.
The son of an Air Force officer, Cockrum was born in Oregon in 1943 but moved around as a youngster. His interest in art was set aside during a stint in the Navy, but then he went to New York and eventually got his big break drawing the Legion of Super-Heroes for DC. He then moved over to Marvel, DC's major rival, and, along with writer Len Wein, was handed a group of moribund characters to refurbish. The X-Men had been created in 1963 by comics pioneers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but the premise failed to capture fans the way Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four had. Wein and Cockrum took the existing team's mythology, added their own heroes and delivered Giant-Size X-Men No. 1, published in 1975, which became one of the most important Comics issues of the decade.


Last month’s column on action movies touched on quite a few titles, but sharp-eyed readers probably noticed one glaring omission.
 Where was James Bond?
 Where was 007?
 Simply put, I was saving him for the December column.  There’s no question that the Bond films are loaded with action and spectacular stuntwork, but an added combination of wit and intrigue has placed James Bond in a category all to himself.  So I decided it was time to assess the Bond canon, from the top to the very bottom.
 Two things served as the inspiration for this decision.  First, there was the arrival last month of CASINO ROYALE, featuring Daniel Craig as the “new” James Bond, an ironic term (more on that in a bit).  Second, there was the little “Bond-a-thon” at Mr. Wittig’s house, with screenings of three of the best Bond films.  Needless to say, I was well primed to “talk Bond” this time around.
 But let’s get back to Craig for a moment.  I had heard all the negative grumbling over the past year or so while CASINO ROYALE was being filmed, all the whining about the blonde hair, the ears, the slightly shorter height.  I ignored most of it, chalking it up to the fears of Bond purists, because I really wanted to like this guy.  Why?  Because, for better or worse, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson had tied the financial future of the franchise to Daniel Craig, and I didn’t want the Bond franchise to die.
 I have seen each and every one of the James Bond films in its entirety, with the exception of the ‘60s spoof version of CASINO ROYALE.  I remember watching some of that atrocity on the late show many years ago, and the only scene that sticks to my brain pan (kinda like gum I can’t get off my shoe) is the moment with David Niven as a geriatric Bond, playing a game of concrete medicine ball with some gorgeous beauties.
 There was nothing geriatric about Daniel Craig’s Bond.  Describing him as the “new” Bond does indeed carry a note of irony, since his rugged, brutal take on the character echoes much of what I liked about Ian Fleming’s seminal first novel.  As a bonus, we got to see an actor carry the role for a change, and not the other way around; for a long time, it seemed as if viewers were watching interchangeable men in tuxedoes.  In the space of a few breathless hours, little-known Daniel Craig made the role his own.  I was happy to bury my most vivid memory of Craig – as Paul Newman’s psychotic son in ROAD TO PERDITION.
 With CASINO ROYALE, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to seeing a particular James Bond movie for the second time, and it’s been decades since I’ve been able to say that.  I guess that means the franchise has been officially rebooted.  It’ll be interesting to see where the producers take it from here.  Craig is on board for at least two more films, but will he be remaking previous titles in the series, or will he be taking the character down entirely new and different paths?  Time will tell.  For now, we’re left with the problem of where to rank CASINO ROYALE on a list of the Bond films.  Welllll… it’s not really a problem for me.


1. GOLDFINGER (1964)
 The top of the pile, no contest.  This was the film where it all came together – Sean Connery was comfortable in the role, Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore was one of the most memorable Bond girls, Harold Sakata’s Oddjob was an implacable menace as the greatest henchman ever, and the finale in Fort Knox was exciting.  Of course, Shirley Eaton’s death scene remains as one of the most iconic moments in ‘60s cinema.  And who knew you could make golf so suspenseful?
 I’m prepared for the Bond purists to cry “Foul!” over this high ranking, but so what?  How can I possibly rank the film over so many others after only one viewing?  Because the film does such a masterful job of going back to basics.  Gone are the wisecracks and witticisms, the goofy gadgets, the over-the-top stunt sequences.  Instead, we’ve got some fine acting, some incredibly tension-packed scenes, and a regard for the source novel that hasn’t been seen since the ‘60s.  A great film.
 Of all the Bond films, this is the one that has truly gotten better with age and repeat viewings.  It was the kick-off film at the recent “Bondathon,” and I found so much to like:  Lotte Lenya’s loathsome Rosa Klebb, Robert Shaw’s seemingly unbeatable blonde assassin Grant, Pedro Armendariz’ delightful Kerim Bey, the scene at the gypsy camp, and one of the greatest fight scenes in film history – the death struggle between Bond and Grant on the train.  For me, the weak link is Daniela Bianchi, one of the most forgettable and least attractive Bond girls.  But it’s a minor quibble.
 The best of the Roger Moore Bond films, by far.  It opens with an amazing shot – the ski jumping freefall – and makes marvelous use of Egyptian locations.  Moore is much more tolerable here than in his other films, probably because he finds himself in a game of one-upmanship with Barbara Bach as his Soviet spy counterpart.  There’s a nice moment when Moore gets serious to explain why he killed Bach’s lover.  And let’s not forget Richard Kiel as the silent-but-deadly Jaws, no. 2 on the henchman list behind Harold Sakata.
 The first Bond film to win an Oscar – for special effects – found Sean Connery at his most relaxed (and most popular).  A nifty opening sequence that features Bond’s fight with a transvestite assassin before he escapes via jetpack, bookended with a slam-bang underwater spear gun battle (the bad guys wore black, of course).  In between, we’re treated once again to a Bond hallmark: spectacular location shooting, this time in the Caribbean.  Remade in 1983 as NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN.
 Slightly weaker Connery Bond, but even a weaker Connery is still better than most of what came later.  Blofeld’s volcano lair is a highlight, one of the largest indoor sets ever built, and the film’s Japanese travelogue is pretty good.  Donald Pleasance’s scarred Blofeld was probably the best of the Blofelds, which isn’t saying much.  This is one I haven’t seen in a while; it’s probably time to revisit.

7. DR. NO (1962)
 This was the first, and it shows in the shoestring budget, but it’s still amazingly effective.  Sean Connery introduces James Bond as a much deadlier, colder agent (he didn’t stay that way very long).  Ursula Andress single handedly bumps this one at least 3 slots higher than it has any right to be, just by walking out of the surf.
 I have never been a huge fan of George Lazenby, the one-note wonder who held the franchise aloft while everyone waited for Sean to come back.  I remember being severely unimpressed the first time I saw this movie, which happened in my college days, years after Roger Moore had started wearing the tux.  But over the years, I have come to appreciate the story, which ultimately depicted Bond in the most human terms possible, at the heart of a personal tragedy.  It seemed that even super spies were capable of being hurt.  I also liked Diana Rigg as Tracy Vincenzo, Bond’s great love, easily in the top 5 of the Bond girls.
 It’s interesting that this film follows OHMSS on my list, since its opening can be directly connected to the Lazenby picture’s finale.  (Bond fans know what I’m talking about.)  All the pyrotechnics of the last few Moore films were downplayed for earthier delights, like nasty assassins, red herrings, a keelhauling scene straight out of the Live and Let Die novel, and a breathless climb up a sheer cliff.  Julian Glover’s villain was fairly blah, but the boisterous Topol evoked wonderful memories of Pedro Armendariz.
 Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as Bond is his best, IMHO, chiefly because Michelle Yeoh kicks major ass as one of my favorite Bond girls.  There’s some nice stunt work, including an interesting chase with Brosnan driving a car by remote from the backseat.
11. LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)
 Roger Moore’s first turn as 007 is actually not bad, although you can see that the producers were hedging their bets with a limited budget.  The voodoo angle was effectively creepy, and I liked the fish-out-of-water humor in the early Harlem scenes; when the villain orders his men to “take Whitey out and waste him,” Moore innocently turns to the girl and asks, “Waste him?  Is that a good thing?”  One of the best stunts in the entire series involves escape-via-alligator, and of course, there’s Paul McCartney’s theme song, second only to Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger in the history of Bond music.
12. DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)
 This is where the pleasures of the series really started to drop off.  I remember this one primarily for Halle Berry’s “Ursula Andress moves” in that orange bikini, and the swordfight was pretty good, but as for the stunts and special effects…are you kidding?  An invisible car?  I mean, come on!
 All Bond fans are permitted at least one “guilty pleasure,” and here’s mine.  I’ve always enjoyed the film for Christopher Lee’s villain, the cold-blooded assassin Scaramanga, but I admit he should have been surrounded by a better movie.  Once again, the series makes good use of its globetrotting locales, and I especially liked the British Secret Service’s hidden “branch office” in Kowloon Harbor.  As for Herve Villechaize…the less said, the better.
14. GOLDENEYE (1995)
 Pierce Brosnan basically brings the Bond franchise back from the dead, after two Timothy Dalton outings had placed the super spy on life support.  I’ve only seen this once, and not on video; if memory serves, Judi Dench was introduced as M in this one, and Robbie Coltrane provided nice support as a Russian agent.  I remember that Sean Bean played the villain, and Famke Janssen impressed (literally) as a femme fatale known for crushing her victims with her thighs.  I also remember that Tina Turner was asked to channel her “inner Shirley Bassey” with the title song, and failed miserably.
 If James Bond had been played by anyone other than Sean Connery in this film, and nothing else had been changed, I guarantee it would have hit rock bottom on the list.  I hated the cheap-looking Las Vegas locations, I hated Charles Gray’s prissy Blofeld, I hated Jimmy Dean’s millionaire recluse, I really hated those gay villains, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, and I cringed when Bond got his lunch handed to him by those female wrestlers, Bambi and Thumper.  But it was Sean Connery up there on the screen, as commanding as ever, and I couldn’t rate this any lower.  He might have been a little gray around the edges, with a dangerously obvious hairpiece, but he still had it.
 Two scenes raised Timothy Dalton’s first appearance as Bond out of the basement: his knife fight with the blonde assassin while hanging from the cargo hold of an airplane, and the same blonde assassin’s duel with an unnamed British agent in the safe house kitchen.  That kitchen fight was incredibly brutal for what had become a glossed-over movie formula, and we weren’t to see its like again until CASINO ROYALE.  I don’t remember liking anything else about this movie.  Joe Don Baker and Jeroen Krabbe made for a pair of boring villains, and Maryam D’Abo was far from a memorable Bond girl.  The “escape via oboe case” made me cringe almost as much as Bambi and Thumper did.  I could add that a-ha supplied a rotten theme song, but that would just be rubbing salt in the wound.
 I liked the opening speedboat chase, a scenic tour of the Thames River, but it was downhill from there.  What’s not to hate?  Denise Richards as one of the all-time worst Bond girls, a nuclear physicist named Christmas Jones?  Robert Carlyle’s nutball villain with the head injury that made him impervious to pain?  Brosnan tied to the antique torture chair, a strangely disgusting scene?  Another forgettable theme song?
18. A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)
 When an over-the-hill Roger Moore made yet another escape on stunt skis and a Beach Boys song played on the soundtrack, this film went into the toilet, never to resurface.  I didn’t get the appeal of Grace Jones as an entertainment figure, and the prospect of an intimate scene between Jones and ol’ Rog was just plain scary.  Christopher Walken had a few effective moments as the requisite megalomaniac psycho, and I liked Duran-Duran’s title song, the first Bond song to hit no. 1 – so sue me – but 95% of this film was a mess.

19. OCTOPUSSY (1983)
 Rita Coolidge singing “All-Time High,” another dull theme song – I guess a song with “Ocotpussy” as the title would have been too laughable.  Roger Moore starting to show his age, big-time.  Louis Jourdan as Kamal Khan, a boring villain.  A boring pre-credit sequence in some Cuba-style country.  Maud Adams bombing as the only actress to play two different Bond girls.  Yet another outlandish train scene, with those knife-throwing circus twins.  Come to think of it, now I remember why I really liked CASINO ROYALE – Craig didn’t get on a train, and he didn’t strap on a pair of skis.
20. LICENCE TO KILL (1989)
 The only memorable moment was what the bad guys did to Felix Leiter in this one – feeding him to the sharks, yet another scene ripped off from the original Live and Let Die novel.  Geez, if the scenes were that effective, why didn’t they just put them into LIVE AND LET DIE?  Wayne Newton was in this thing.  “Nuff said.
21. MOONRAKER (1979)
 Why?  Because something had to be last, that’s why.  You want more?  How about Michael Lonsdale as Drax, a villain that Time magazine memorably described as looking like a “constipated basset hound.”  How about Lois Chiles as – get this – Holly Goodhead, the CIA agent from Vassar.  But for me, the absolutely lowest moment in the entire Bond series came when uber-henchman Jaws sat down next to the nearsighted Heidi clone, clinked champagne glasses, and said, “Well, here’s to us.”  I almost cried.  And they weren’t tears of joy, either.

 Next month, folks, the Top Ten Movies of 2006, with my annual Top DVD Picks and the Allie Awards.  See you then!


Dec 15th Happy Hanukkah!

Dec 25th Merry Christmas!

Dec 26th Happy Kwanzaa Celebration!!

Dec 30th Happy ICS meeting day!   5:30pm 
December meeting includes the infamous Yankee Swap and Revenge night by Regina Vallerani – Revenge films at their finest.