Monday, July 18, 2011

Secret Agent Man, Where Are You?

by Julia Buckley

This summer I've found myself longing for a really good suspense flick--a new Bourne movie or even something like Disturbia, which tries to capture the excitement of earlier suspense movies (in this case, Rear Window). But aside from a few superhero rehashes (the most promising of which, Captain America, opens next weekend), there's not much for mystery lovers to see on the big screen this summer.

Considering how well a great thriller usually does at the Box Office, why aren't they coming out all the time? Considering how many mystery writers have written amazing, edge-of-your-seat novels, why isn't Hollywood snapping them up by the dozen? Instead, I go to the movies and am treated to trailers for movies so insipid I can't believe they made it past the discussion phase--including a re-make of Footloose in which the plot seems to be that, after a terrible car crash in a small town, the town fathers have outlawed dancing. At least that's what the really long advertisement suggests.

Therefore I've had to turn to Netflix to rediscover some old movies in hopes of getting my suspense fix. Last night we saw The Notorious Landlady (Jack Lemmon, Kim Novak, 1962) which, although it is really not at all suspenseful in the modern way, has some lovely photography and moody shots of foggy London that helped to create atmosphere in this funny mystery. Novak's acting is terrible and Lemmon does too many comical double-takes, jutting out his chin to defy the world that says his sexy landlady may have committed murder. The movie is slow to start, but it picks up steam along the way and becomes a visual feast by the end, in a wonderful scene set in Penzance, with a British band playing Gilbert and Sullivan as a built-in soundtrack to the action.

We've also discovered some lovely French suspense films, including Tell No One, which is so labrynthine that you really have to pay attention to the subtitles.

But today I'm pulling out my box set of Secret Agent Man, (aka Danger Man) the series starring my first fantasy boyfriend, Patrick McGoohan. These stylish episodes have titles like "The Room in the Basement" in which "Embassy walls and diplomatic immunity hide the kidnapped colleague of agent John Drake."

Ah. Should be fun, and a nice alternative to some of the ridiculous attempts at moneymaking that are now in theatres.

Oh, and those secret agent men above, who love a good espionage flick more than I do, are now tall and unwilling to pose for their mother in fake movie posters. But in the nostalgic '90s they made awfully cute Danger Men, especially because they're wearing those coats over their pajamas. :)


Sheila Connolly said...

That was a fun show, even if no one understood it. Those were the days...when everyone was a spy. I think the village in Wales where it was filmed has preserved the set as a sort of theme park.

At the last movie I went to, last month, I literally could not tell the trailers apart--where one ended and the next began. The main theme was blowing things up. Very large things.

Julia Buckley said...

Exactly, Sheila. We love going to the movies in my family, but the last set of trailers made us think there will be a dearth of visits for a while. There just seems to be no imagination, nothing fresh, in the movies that get the biggest budgets.

And some of them are just plain dumb.

Who convinces whom that these movies are good ideas?

JJM said...

"That was a fun show, even if no one understood it." Sheila, I perhaps wrongly infer this comment refers to The Prisoner. That was definitely a great show, unfortunately truncated -- according to the official companion book to the series, it was cancelled before the end, leaving McGoohan only a few days to write that last episode, which explains a lot. However, it's not the same show as Danger Man (or Secret Agent, as it was known in the U.S.).

Julia, I definitely agree with you about the lack of good suspense or mystery films today. I am so grateful for Netflix ...

Julia Buckley said...

Yes--even though Netflix recently raised their prices, I'll still cling to their wide movie availability.