Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent and photographer
New Mexico to Phoenix, August 1965
Film: The Silencers
Release Date: February 18, 1966
Director: Phil Karlson
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Tailor: Sy Devore
Dean Martin infused his lounge lizard persona into a James Bond-like spy for his four-film portrayal of Matt Helm, a playboy whose love for turtlenecks, womanizing, and drinking above actual spying may make him more of an antecedent for the character of Sterling Archer than of 007 himself.
With a bossa nova score by Elmer Bernstein and a hip mid-sixties sartorialism styled by costume designer Moss Mabry and the Rat Pack’s go-to tailor Sy Devore, the Matt Helm series serves as a swingin’ time capsule to the waning heyday of hi-fis and hedonism. Though it may be dated, the series—particularly this first film, The Silencers—seems perfectly content with that and, in fact, it may be an intentional way for the 1966 zeitgeist to remain intact for modern audiences. Never taking itself too seriously, packed with decent talent, and sticking to a tight, quick-paced plot, The Silencers differentiates itself from its contemporary spy spoofs like Casino Royale in that it can still entertain 50 years later.
Daniel Craig as James Bond, British government agent
Altaussee, Austria, Winter 2015
Release Date: October 25, 2015
Director: Sam Mendes
Costume Designer: Jany Temime
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
For the 00-7th of March, Daniel Craig’s birth month (the actor turned 51 on March 2), let’s explore how someone like James Bond keeps warm for a winter mission. Continue reading
Harrison Ford as Han Solo, world-weary smuggler and former resistance leader
A Long Time Ago in Galaxy Far Far Away
Film: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Release Date: December 18, 2015
Director: J.J. Abrams
Costume Designer: Michael Kaplan
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
With the upcoming release of Solo: A Star Wars Story this month, I’m honoring May the fourth with another look at everyone’s favorite intergalactic scoundrel.
Rey: You’re Han Solo?
Han Solo: I used to be.
Brad Pitt as Tom Bishop, experienced CIA operative and U.S. Marine
Beirut, Summer 1985
Film: Spy Game
Release Date: November 21, 2001
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Designer: Louise Frogley
Halfway through Tony Scott’s espionage thriller Spy Game, we get to the operation that led to the expository situation of rogue CIA agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) landing himself in Chinese captivity in the midst of secret trade negotiations.
As his one-time mentor Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) explains to agency top brass, Bishop arrived in Beirut in 1985 under the cover of a photojournalist (“he was good, he was talented, he had a good eye… probably had a photography merit badge stuffed in the drawer at home”) to try to get close to the family doctor of their target, Sheik Salameh. Along the way, Bishop breaks the rules and falls for one of his assets, a mysterious Brit named Elizabeth Hadley (Catherine McCormack), and is eventually forced to choose between his assignment and his amour. Continue reading