Archive for Modesty Blaise

Chamber of Dreams

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2016 by dcairns


One after another, the films in out POW!!! retrospective turn out to be far better when seen on the big screen than one would expect — DANGER: DIABOLIK’s somewhat episodic plot seems to flow more smoothly, MODESTY BLAISE’s jarring tonal shifts seem more thought-through, and BARBARELLA —


I used to assume that of the army of writers on this film (including Hammer scribe Tudor Gates, also credited on DIABOLIK), Terry Southern was probably responsible for the funniest lines, but when I got ahold of the Grove Press (!) edition of Jean-Claude Forest’s comic strip, I found they’d been lifted straight from its speech balloons. (“A great many dramatic situations begin with screaming!”) All of them are enhanced, however, by Jane Fonda’s witty and inventive line readings. How many ways of doing wide-eyed innocence ARE there? An infinite number, apparently. Fonda not only makes the film funnier, she defuses offense in the more exploitative scenes, reassuring us that good taste, and the heroine, will not be violated altogether.


Embodying a very up-to-the-minute view of the future, 1968-style (the swishy shipboard computer seems like a riposte to 2001, but surely can’t be), the film is also, by movie standards, comparatively generous towards its source, crediting Forest once for co-co-co-co-co-co-writing, and once for design. Combining his art with the craft of production designer Mario Garbuglia (THE LEOPARD) results in wonderfully Felliniesque settings.

In my intro I said that Roger Vadim’s direction was the weakest link, but after watching the film with an audience I would have to retract that halfway — true, Vadim’s marshalling of his resources into camera coverage sometimes seems a bit random, so that you frown at shapeless footage of clearly magnificent environments and crowds — not as bad as CALIGULA, say, but a milder version of that effect — “I know we’re in an amazing set, but we just can’t see it!” As if, having covered his wife/star, Vadim had no clear plan for how to present anything else, and just let the cameramen roam about as if in a behind-the-scenes documentary. But the pacing of the film is really good. Despite their charms, DIABOLIK and MODESTY BLAISE are both peppered with dead spots in their talking scenes, partly a result of rather thin sound design, partly a result of directors who are either not so comfortable with actors (Bava, I’m afraid) or with comedy timing (Losey, unquestionably). BARBARELLA, in front of an audience, really PLAYS.


Diabolik Blaise

Posted in FILM with tags , , on June 17, 2016 by dcairns



Enjoyed my first day presenting POW!!! My talk was, I’m told, sold out — and then DANGER: DIABOLIK also packed Filmhouse 3 and got a great reaction, which was good to see. A smaller crowd for MODESTY BLAISE made the larger Filmhouse 1 seem spacious, but those who came were able to enjoy an utterly pristine print from the Fox archive.

MODESTY BLAISE may be the ur-text of DIABOLIK. If I may revert to the language of an IMDb keywords entry ~

Giant white revolving bed; villain on luxury yacht; coloured smoke; elaborate plot to decoy heist; incompetent government ministers; underwater heist…



Both films are better than you think, even if you already love them — on the big screen, DIABOLIK’s episodic storyline flows smoothly with ne’er a lull, and MODESTY’s rather weightless narrative somehow compels attention, despite the most MacGuffiny MacGuffin. The blend of sex and violence in both is alluring — Joseph Losey disapproved strongly of James Bond but somehow made something harsher and kinkier, with jarring bursts of comedy which don’t so much diffuse the nastiness as throw it into sharp relief.

The Longest Lanyard

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on June 15, 2016 by dcairns


OK, so I have my festival brochure, my staff pass and my press pass. Co-writer Alex Livingstone gets the filmmaker pass, because how many lanyards can I wear before my slender neck gives way?

Dates for the diary ~

Tomorrow I open the Festival, if you discount the Opening Night Gala and Party, with POW!!! Origin Story, presenting the development of comic book heroes in the cinema, from 1895 to (sort of) the present day, showing how our retrospective fits into the history books. This will be at 16.20 in Filmhouse 3.

Speaking of the retrospective, I will be introducing DANGER: DIABOLIK in the same venue at 18.20, and then MODESTY BLAISE on the big, big screen of Filmhouse 1 at 23.10.

On Friday, our movie THE NORTHLEACH HORROR premieres in the shorts screening at Cineworld at 18.00. This is sold out, officially, but there will probably be more tickets available on the day. Then we premiere AGAIN, if that’s even possible, in front of THE REZORT at 23:25 in Filmhouse 1.

On Saturday, THE REZORT gets a second screening, accompanied by THE NORTHLEACH HORROR again, at 20.35 in Cineworld. Still tickets available for this one, I believe.

I’ll be at all those screenings.

On Saturday I resume intros for POW!!!, so you can see me in front of BARBARELLA, then the next day TINTIN AND THE MYSTERY OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE, LONE WOLF AND CUB: SWORD OF VENGEANCE, etc. I don’t know if I’ll be at GOLGO 13, as I have a funeral that day, and I’ll be out of the country at the end of the fest so will miss POPEYE and FLASH GORDON, but I think you’ll see me and co-programmer/mastermind Niall Greig Fulton before BABA YAGA, FRIDAY FOSTER and BATMAN: THE MOVIE, the last-named featuring a Very Special Guest.

What I don’t quite see is how I’m going to finish a book chapter, a DVD text essay, and edit an entire video essay at the same time. But no doubt there’s a way. It generally turns out that there is.