Diamonds Are Forever

Bond finally clambers into the 70s with Diamonds Are Forever; again, this is another one that I hadn’t ever really watched. But this time, unlike the rest so far, I kind of wish it’d stayed that way.

Yeah, spoilers ahead, for what it’s worth.

The Opening

Things kick off with a montage of Bond placing various agents under duress looking for Blofeld, before he comes across his arch-foe, dispatching The Feld to the ever-after for the last time.

The Titles and Soundtrack

Diamonds and fluffy white puddy-tats, basically. Shirley Bassey returns to sing the title song about fondling jewels; it’s an OK number but really only the chorus is distinctive. After John Barry dropped the heavy artillery the last time around, things seem pretty tame

The Locations

The set-up for the premise is established in Not South Africa, although Bond himself doesn’t go there – instead, he’s diverted to Amsterdam where he adopts the cover as the diamond smuggler Peter Franks, bumping off the real Mr Franks on the way. The bulk of the action takes place in Las Vegas and the surrounding desert – hard not to think of Hunter S Thompson at times. The anti-climactic battle takes place on an oil rig off the Baja California. The final scenes take place on the cruise ship Canberra.

The Mastermind

Yeah, Blofeld’s back, this time in the guise of Charles Gray – Bond had actually bumped off one of his doubles in the opening. In fact Blofeld has assumed the identity of Las Vegan tycoon Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), who is being held captive in a really snazzy house by two acrobat assassins called, wait for it, Bambi and Thumper. Yeah.

Anyway the big plot this time is that Blofeld is using the Whyte’s facilities and services of Doctor Metz (Joseph Furst) to obtain a laser satellite to zap things and just generally hold the world to ransom. You know, the usual SPECTRE crap.

I can’t even figure out how Bond foils this plot, all I know is that it ends with the oil rig blowing up. It’s a big confusing schemozzle to do with some cassettes, Blofeld’s escape sub gets used as a wrecking ball, and dammit, I stopped caring about the plot half an hour earlier anyway.

Oh, and there’s the two creepy assassins called Mr Wint and Mr Kidd who complete the other’s sentences after each job, and their apparent relationship marks the first break with hereto-normativity in the series. Despite this, they’re as incompetent as everyone else in this godawful movie, after three attempts at killing Bond and surviving Blofeld’s general policy on failure. In the end they are finally outsmarted by Bond after he lets them knock him out twice.

The Squeeze

Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) is introduced as Bond’s diamond smuggling contact in Amsterdam, but seems less than capable compared with previous squeezes. At the start she seems diligent enough, checking Bond is actually Franks (which he is, since Bond bonded fake fingerprints to complete his cover) but as the plot congeal, she seems none the wiser through the film. Probably understandably, Bond just does what is natural for him – gets the girl, kills the baddies – but not much more.

Also Plenty O’Toole (zing! It’s Lana Wood) – serves as a distraction although she gets sacrificed in service of the plot, whatever it was.

The Gadgets

Q-Branch’s services are utilised without the usual Chekov’s Gun sequence, with the fake fingerprints, a pocket snap trap in the opening, and Q’s own voice-changing device used to counter Blofeld’s.

Again, Desmond Llewllyn’s Q himself gets a chance to stretch as he uses another of his devices to merrily entice a row of poker machines to cough up their booty. Presumably the scene where he gets kneecapped by the Vegas mafia was omitted.

The Farce

Look, it seems easier to reel off what I did like about this film; umm, I liked the red Ford Mustang was nice, the car chase scene with the cops was pretty amusing. OK, the whole film was a farce. But I can’t even say it’s the worst film for that, being more familiar with some of the later ones. You probably know the ones I mean.


I guess it was pretty enjoyable as a bad Bond film – all the elements were there, but it definitely felt like a case of going through the motions, particularly for Sean Connery who’d been enticed back into service with a big cheque before he went off to do such masterpieces as Zardoz – not being entirely sarcastic there.

Of course, was that if Lazenby chose to stay with the firm, it seems obvious that the ending of OHMSS would’ve been acknowledged or even transferred to the beginning of DAF. After the attempts to assert continuity in the last film, such pretence seems to been abandoned more or less with Connery’s (brief) return.

I think the biggest problem with this was that the plot sort of emerges half-baked without the required exposition. Also there was the camp factor being turned up a notch, which takes a particular kind of actor to pull off in an entertaining fashion. A more tongue-in-cheek approach would be the direction the producers would pursue all through the ’70s, but fortunately for the series the ideal actor was about to come along. I’ll have more to say about that in the next few posts, naturally.

As for Diamonds Are Forever, it’s 11 moon buggies out of 20 for me.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

I’m up to a quarter of the way through this run, and so we have another pivotal 007 film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I had actually seen this one, so it’s not so much about first impressions this time. What I did recall was that it was very good, so I was looking forward to revisiting the strange reputation of OHMSS as “the good Bond film with the bad Bond”.

Spoiler warning. Look, as with the earlier posts, I’m going to assume you’ve seen this too and are now ready for some stupid half-baked opinions about the film.

The Opening

Wherein we have to get used to the idea of George Lazenby. He’s in pursuit of a particular woman in a car chase, but for some reason she decides to take a long walk into the sea, but he “rescues” her, in the meantime fighting off two assailants. Said woman manages to get back to her car and races off, and the New Bond breaks the fourth wall and drops possibly the corniest line uttered in a Bond film up to then. Let’s be honest, we’re not off to a great start.

The Titles

The titles are in the usual style with Britannia and an hourglass theme, although they make a point of showing scenes from the previous films just to emphasise the point that the New Bond is just the Old Bond (even though he’s not).

The Soundtrack

By the way, the OHMSS theme is the strongest movie-specific motif yet. The idea that the opening song needed the title in it caused issues, lyric-wise, so Barry was wise to just keep it an instrumental. (It even worked well as a Big-Beat anthem when adapted by The Propellerheads during the 90s.)

But during the movie we also get one of the best Bond movie songs as well, Louis Armstrong’s last recording “We Have All The Time In The World”, which could well be the alternative title for the film.

The Locations

The film is split between the beaches of Portugal and the high Alps of Switzerland, making a striking contrast in scenery as the film gallops along. The alpine Piz Gloria marks one of the coolest (no pun intended) sekrit bases in the series to date, as with the tomfoolery in alpine villages, racetracks, and barns.

The Squeeze

After the opening, Bond finally catches up with the impetuous Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, played by the great Diana Rigg. Bond puts the suave on at the hotel with Tracy, who at first thinks of it as a mere transaction, taking some time to warm to the idea as the story unfolds. It’s a one-in-a-kind role which echoes through later films through subtle references, and how it ends might explain why Bond is generally IDGAF at times.

The Allies

The Contessa checks out of the hotel early, but as Bond runs out after her, he’s kidnapped by some goons who take him to a villa.

Surprise! The goons belong to Tracy’s dad, the head of the slightly less megalomanic crime syndicate, the Union Corse. But rather than being mad, Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti) is impressed by Bond’s behaviour towards Tracy and is quite keen to set them up, to get her back on the straight and narrow. While Bond is amenable to the idea, he refuses Draco’s generous dowry offer in preference for a lead to the ever elusive Blofeld.

Draco turns out to be more help to Bond than MI6, as he helps find Bond a way to Blofeld, and when the agency abandons the case, it’s Draco who provides the materiel and the muscle to destroy Piz Gloria for good. Even though it may just be to see the Commander and the Contessa actually get married. But maybe there’s also the motivation to stop Blofeld from destroying the world’s agriculture and for the Union to throw some mud in SPECTRE’s eye.

The Enemies

Once again SPECTRE mastermind Blofeld appears in full here, played by the imperious Telly Savalas, who doesn’t drop a beat. He’s assisted by Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) as the obergruppenfrauline who keeps things in line at the eyrie and, later on, effectively delivers the decisive blow.

Their plot this time is the fairly standard over-the-top SPECTRE extortion scheme – using their alpine fortress to develop strains of omega viruses that could potentially wipe out any particular species of livestock or plant, meanwhile recruiting and inculcating the Angels of Death *metal riff* from around the world to act as vectors.

Bond infiltrates the base undercover as Sir Hilary Bray, a College of Arms geneologist who is meant to verify Blofeld’s claim on the title Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp. The cover gets blown partially because he can’t help rooting some of the Angels of Death. *metal riff*

I can’t help but ponder Blofeld’s thought process – “I reckoned you were that arsehole who keeps fucking with my shit, but I couldn’t confirm it until you started macking out again”. At least if the script had kept the plastic surgery idea (heck, the idea was used for a villain in Thunderbull) it mightn’t have been so ludicrous.

The Gadgets

The gadgets get dialled back a bit, and the usual purveyor Desmond Llewellyn’s Q does appear but he’s basically light relief. About as mad as it gets is at the Bern lawyer’s office, Bond does make use of a multi-function printer-copier-fax-safecracking device as he finds out about the Bray connection.

The Libations

Lots of schnapps.

The Farce

The Angels of Death *metal riff* were perhaps a little bit too horny. Sure they were high on the hill like a lonely goatherd but Blofeld must’ve been putting something else in their food along with the antihistamines or whatever. (Also, checking my references, I totally missed that Joanna Lumley was amongst them.)

And I’ll not say that the farce was Lazenby. Having mentioned this to a friend on Twitter, he pointed out that Connery might not have pulled off particular scenes quite so well, particularly the finale, and I think that’s true.

Well, OK, there is one thing that is farcical for Lazenby: The decision to turn down a seven-film contract, at his agent’s urging that spy movies would go out of style and he may get typecast. While not as good a Bond debut as Connery in Dr. No, there’s enough going on here that he might’ve become as entrenched in the role as Roger Moore did when he got the chance. There’s also the fact that the conventions of the series had been established and it would take more than one duff performance to wreck it completely – but then, this is also a very unconventional 007 film in ways aside from the new actor.

The Production

The skiing scenes are some of the most striking in the whole series and setting up future icecapades (most notably in the classic opening to The Spy Who Loved Me), accounting for the fact that the stunt photography had to push the envelope. It looks a bit dated in parts, with the back-projection cuts looking rather disjointed, but in a time where drones and sports cameras were non-existent, the wide shots get the point across.


On Her Majesty’s Secret Service takes a while to get its bearings as it sets up the romance and the espionage threads of the plot. But once Bond’s cover is blown and he needs to escpae from the gear room, it’s action packed until the end, only pausing for breath in the barn, before it goes back to going hell-for-leather, until the wedding. I think it’s paced marvellously, a match for From Russia With Love, if not even better.

It also proved decisively that the series could move beyond Connery as the lead. Sean does get another shot or two, so next up I’ll see if he was just doing Diamonds for the cheque. George Lazenby is easy enough to knock, as it’s true he doesn’t quite have the panache of the other fellow – but he’s not terrible either. He’s given one of the series’ final scenes that isn’t about canoodling in a lifeboat, and he nails it.

And, you know, I reckon losing Tracy would break my heart too.

I’m giving it 18 cowbells out of 20.

You Only Live Twice

My prior experience with You Only Live Twice is that it always seems to be the movie that starts playing when I’m idly zapping the TV late on a summer evening, I’ll watch the opening bit with the big spaceship eating the smaller spaceship, then the credits (“ooh! Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay!”) and then I’ll usually lose interest and go to bed or do something else.

Anyway, I’ve finally made myself watch the rest of it for once. Spoilers, as usual.

The Opening

After the gloriously batty space scene mentioned in the lead where a NASA capsule gets… stolen, the US blame the Russians, the Russian claim they had nothing to do with it, and the UK mediate and say they’ll get their best man onto it.

After a quickie in Hong Kong, Bond gets trapped in a murphy bed where he’s gunned down. He’s dead! Like, it’s actually him and not some sap in a mask like in From Russia With Love.

The Titles

A little more elaborate, this time we have an outbreak of orientalism, with some shots of lava. Nancy Sinatra takes on the title song, which is, you know, a typical Bond theme.

The Soundtrack

John Barry’s hook from the song becomes a recurring motif throughout the film, it bears mentioning that while he took on some of the spirit, he didn’t go full-on orientalism. Which showed a bit more restraint than some other aspects of the film’s production.

The Locations

Aside from Bond’s re-introduction and “burial at sea” in Hong Kong, the bulk of the movie takes place in and around Japan, with Tokyo, Kobe and Kagoshima being featured. Aside from all the ninja crap (which is fine because it is a stupid action movie set in Japan) it doesn’t come across as a total weeaboo fantasy.

The Enemies

We finally get a good look at Blofeld, but it’s not a good look. He’s played with aplomb by Donald Pleasance, who manages to pull off the idea that he’s the same guy with the low tolerance for failure as in the last two obscured appearances. The disfigurement make-up is a bit crap, yes, but it works anyhow. And would we have ever gotten Mr Evil from Austin Powers without it?

SPECTRE’s evil plot this time involves instigating total war between the US and the Soviets, this time by stealing their manned space probes and making them think each other did it. It’s a significant advance in SPECTRE’s capabilities since Dr. No’s crappy little rocket buzzing operation. After the abduction of the first US ship, they grab one of the Soviets’ probes as well, and fully expect that after they steal a second US ship, all hell will break loose.

The main organiser of this operation is Mr. Osato (Teru Shimada), head of the zaibatsu that used its resources to establish the sekrit volcano base. There’s nothing particularly wrong with Mr Osato, he’s just evil. Karin Dor plays the part of Helga Brandt, who fronts as Osato’s secretary, but is actually a beautiful but incompetent assassin. She suffers the ultimate consequence for not finishing Bond, although perhaps also because Blofeld thought his piranhas were getting a bit hungry and he couldn’t bothered getting the fish flakes.

There’s also some lunkhead called Hans who’s been charged with minding the keys to the abductor rocket’s destruct button; while he is well’ard, he is no match for Bond’s newly acquired ninja reflexes and thus also ends up feeding the fishes.

The Allies

The help is actually helpful, this time. Tiger Tanaka (Tetsurō Tamba) is the charismatic head of the local secret service, and while he’s an epicurean sexist pig just like Bond, two of his best agents are Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) and Kissy (Mie Hama). While capable, Aki is killed halfway through the film because it’s a classic 007 film where the first squeezes get bumped off for the sake of dramatic tension or formula, so Kissy takes up the slack for the final act.

(Note to modern film-makers – Asian actors actually played the Asian characters.)

He also has a band of ninjas, and bizarrely, encourages Bond to go native to fit in and train to be just like them (NINJA MONTAGE!), and Tanaka even arranges a “marriage” to Kissy. This all ensues in the small amount of time before the next US launch.

As Bond infiltrates the base, Kissy goes back and summons Tanaka and the ninjas and while Bond fucks up his chance to become an astronaut this time when Blofeld spots him, eventually he figures out how to let the ninjas into the base so they can flip out and be awesome with their real ultimate power while Bond blows up the SPECTRE shuttle before it can grab some more astronauts.

Then Blofeld triggers the base’s self-destruct sequence so everyone has to high tail it out of there. Blofeld manages to escape although he’ll look completely different in the next film, but that’s fine because that’ll also apply to Bond.

The Gadgets

The hero gadget is Little Nell, a minicopter, brought all the way to Japan by her “father”, Q. Q also gives Bond some cigarettes that double as minirockets, which gives the quartermaster an opportunity to chide Bond about his smoking habit, a concern shared with about half the other characters in the film.

The Philandering

By this stage there was a set formula for this that Dahl had to adhere to for the screenplay: Bond gets to root Brandt, who dies; Aki, who dies; and Kissy, who gets to be the squeeze in the life-raft for this instalment. Essentially Bond is a full-on walking STI.

The Libations

Dom Perignon gets a mention (check), he takes a swig of Siamese vodka, and Bond’s anally specific requirements about the stuff that he gets blotto on also applies to sake as well.

The Farce

Bond going native. I mean, watching it, I thought it was not good. At least the underwater scenes were mercifully brief compared with last time around.

Connery had obviously been doing less of his own stunts, for which one can’t blame him. During the foot-chase at the dockyard, there’s one glaringly obvious switcheroo where his double flops onto a crash mat to hide behind it and then Connery himself emerges.

The Production

I mentioned Roald Dahl getting roped in to write the screenplay a couple of times, since 007 stalwart Richard Maibaum was doing something else, I don’t know what, Wikipedia doesn’t say. I think it worked. From what I gather about Dahl’s life, he was charming, intelligent and witty, but also a complete arsehole, which made him perfect to write for a Bond movie. Certainly I don’t think it jars in the midst of all the Maibaum-penned films.

The other thing I note is that Lewis Gilbert directed this one, which I had not realised. He later on did The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, which I will get unreasonably excited about when I get to revisit those, even though the 007 films were virtually kids’ films by then.


I enjoyed this one. It had a ludicrous plot, an iconic villain – I dug that they kept Blofeld hidden for a dramatic reveal – hot women, some pretty good action sequences (and some really cheap ones), a suitably villainous villain base, astronauts, cosmonauts, ninjas. It’s not regarded as one of the better Bond films but, you know, it’s still pretty good fun.

I’m giving this one 15 piranha fish out of 20


I’m up to number four with Thunderball where I kind of think the urge to go bigger, better, faster, more! overshadowed the more fundamental aspects. This happens fairly often with 007 films, but. Of course, the ownership of Thunderball’s story was the subject of some dispute, with Kevin McClory laying claim as it was based on a early screenplay for TV that McClory had collaborated with Fleming on. At least this time around, though, it was produced as an Eon film with no compromise to the brand aside from some credit switches.

Spoilers, ahoy!

The Opening

Bond attends the funeral of SPECTRE spook Colonel Jacques Bouvar, who is there as his “widow”, and returns to an impromptu wake back at Bouvar’s chateau after the two have a punch-up. The most important thing is that Bond hightails it on a jetpack, because sensible low-key exits by the back gate lack panache.

The Titles

It’s an aquatic theme! Gee, I wonder what the film is going to be about.

The Soundtrack

Still hot after cracking the charts with “It’s Not Unusual”, Tom Jones steps up for the title track and belts it out appropriately. For the movie itself, John Barry sticks to the brassy bombast, but changes it up in parts for a chiming theme.

The Locations

Things kick off in and around Paris, where the SPECTRE meeting is held, but the bulk of the action takes place around Nassau in the Bahamas. The local flava is emphasised with the junkanoo parade and Largo’s pad, Palmyra, where the film’s best action happens. Things finish up off the coast of Miami for the culmination.

The Gadgets

The DB5 returns from Goldfinger, apparently none the worse for wear, as well as the jetpack mentioned above. Q’s obligatory appearance comes later in the film as he kits out Bond with various kit like a tiny rebreather, a radioactive tracking device that Bond is supposed to swallow, and some whizzy thing that allows divers to go faster underwater.

The Mastermind

SPECTRE is back in full effect with an office meeting from hell, as Blofeld makes use of the organisation’s expedited exit processes to deal with one underperformer.

The main agent, however, is Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) who is a big dude with an eyepatch who loves sharks. In that order. As SPECTRE Number Two, he comes up with a cunning plan to steal a Vulcan plane equipped with two nuclear warheads from NATO for extortion purposes.

The process of getting the bombs is a convoluted plan, involves getting a SPECTRE flunky, Angelo Palazzi, get a face change to match a NATO pilot, François Derval, so he can assume Derval’s place and hijack the plane by poisoning the rest of the crew, landing it in the sea. (Both roles played by Paul Stassino) Remarkably, considering the many potential points of failure, the plan works, but when it comes to collecting the loot, Palazzi is allowed to drown by Largo for the heinous crime of demanding too much money for his services.

Luciana Paluzzi plays Fiona Volpe as another main antagonist, firstly seducing Derval, cleaning up another of SPECTRE’s underperformers and later on fooling around with and then kidnapping Bond, although Bond manages to escape after they have a last dance together.

The Henchmen

Largo has quite a few human assets at his disposal, although none of them are weird in the Oddjob/Jaws fashion, save perhaps for Vargas (Philip Locke) who is straight-edge and is compensated for his abstinence by a harpoon dart through the heart.

Musical Interlude!

The Squeeze

Dominique “Domino” Derval (Claudine Auger) is François’s brother, and is the impetus for Bond’s decision to travel to Nassau after he sees photo of the pair at the MI6 briefing. As it turns out she is also Largo’s mistress. Of course, he gets to use her brother’s death to motivate her to turn on Largo late in the game.

The Philandering

Deeply problematic, as Bond is the full-on sex pest that inspired Connery’s inclusion in Shane Warne’s blokey BBQ mural. For the first act Bond is holed up in a health clinic and of course seduces the nurse seemingly against her will. Bond later gets wrapped around Volpe (who scorns him after the act) and finally Domino, we’re left to assume.

The Allies

Once again the silver fox Felix Leiter (Rik Van Nutter, this time) from the CIA is the main guy on the ground, and arguably does more groundwork than Bond, rescuing yonder arse a couple of times. There’s also Paula Caplan, who remains untapped by Bond, but alas she gets kidnapped by Largo’s goons and apparently chomps on a suicide pill before being interrogated.

The Farce

Pretty much the whole last act, frankly. Obviously devised as a novelty, and while cool and impressive at first, I think the underwater battle could’ve been cut by half without an issue, especially given the overall length of the film.

But for me it gets worse: once the action returns to the Disco Volante, the projected scenery outside the boat is sped up to the point that it looks ridiculous. Yes, it’s transformed into a hoverfoil by this stage but they’re not 300kmh quick.

The hoverfoil goes out of control as Largo’s impaled onto the wheel, so Bond, Derval and random nuclear physicist bloke manage to abandon ship before it stacks onto a reef. The explosion is enormous and you remember there’s still a nuclear bomb on board, although obviously it didn’t detonate so the pair are still able to be rescued by skyhook.

The Libations

Bond’s still banging on about Dom Bloody Perignon. Try something different!

The Production

It’s pretty much all about the scuba diving. I thought the most impressive usage was in the sequence where the bad guys hide the plane and made off with the bombs. The military-grade toys that top and tail the film, the jetpack and the skyhook are also impressive.


It’s at this point where I’m seriously questioning the HR principles of both MI6 and SPECTRE. M seems to tolerate Bond’s creepy habits “because he gets results”, while Blofeld obviously does not believe in letting people learn from their mistakes, nor a grievance process.

It’s a Bond film through and through, with exotic locations, charismatic bad guys, ludicrous plot, and beautiful women. But there seems to be some pizazz missing. The early part takes a while to get rolling as the antagonists steal the show while Bond is wandering around some clinic in his togs harassing the staff, the middle part gets a bit Anthony Bourdain travelogue, and the last part is by turns ingenious, tedious and laughable.

Bizarrely, I think the 1983 remake of the story, Never Say Never Again, may have been a better film, although the underwater climax in that one was also a bit crap.

15 out of 20 sharks.


Now I’m onto the third film with most of the classic 007 tropes established, it was time to see if Goldfinger commences pummelling them into cliche. A classic Bond film, it is true, but that element of knowing camp starts here and gets awfully familiar deep into the Moore reign. Of course, I also dig the camp, but I’ll have my chance to enthuse about that as we get deep into the ’70s.

Spoilers, by the way.

The Opening

Another case of skulking around, as James Bond blows up a drug lab somewhere in Latin America, his job made easier when he finds couple of barrels of NITRO stored conveniently in the reception area. Anyway, that goes down well, so he decides to blow off steam in the way that best suits him.

The Titles

Also, the visuals stick to the idea of projection onto nubile ladies, although this time it’s action from the films rather than the words, which are rendered normally.

The Soundtrack

Aww yiss Shirley Bassey. Finally a bombastic opening theme – Bassey does it better in her other themes, but the title song is a memorable one, even if the words are pretty blunt: “he loves gold”. The motif rings out regularly in the movie proper, fully scored by John Barry who comes into his own bringing out the brass in a big way.

The Locations

After Undisclosed Location, Latin American, we get a good look at Miami, the usual briefing in London. I guess the golf course is a location. Switzerland makes its debut as a backdrop, and finally Kentucky, because the US South has tended to crop up as a Bond venue more often than it should.

The Gadgets

Q’s idea of Pimp My Ride is a hell of a lot more lethal than Xzibit’s, not least because the cars are driveable and the gadgets are usable. Of course the car in question is the iconic Aston Martin DB5; Q asks Bond to bring it back in one piece, Bond does not comply.

And just quietly the action in the background at Q Branch reminded me a bit of the SPECTRE Island training grounds from From Russia With Love.

The Mastermind

Played by Gert Fröbe and voiced by Michael Collins, Auric Goldfinger is crazy-go-nuts about gold. He loves the shiny yellow metal. Just can’t get enough of it. He’s not even particularly coherent about it, though, since his main idea is to detonate a dirty bomb in Fort Knox, because he can’t bear anyone else to get his hands on gold.

Along the way after gathering a bunch of wiseguys to show off his furniture and reveal the details of his sekrit plan, he gasses them all for no apparent reason.

Goldfinger is a lone wolf with no apparent connections with Smersh or SPECTURE or S*M*A*S*H or whatever, but he gets some assistance from the Chinese in the form of the dirty bomb and dozens of disposible minions. He conforms to the “charming, intelligent, sociopathic and full of himself” template established as the norm.

He gets perhaps the best line in the whole series, “No, I expect you to die, Mr Bond” when he has a big ol’ laser headed straight for Bond’s family jewels. Ultimately he relents, I assume because so he could continue to show off what a supergenius he is.

Proper supergenii don’t bring armed guns into planes and get defenestrated as a consequence, though, do they?

The Henchman

Oddjob (Harold Sakata) is weird and grunty, tough as old boots and is immaculately dressed with a hat that can SLICE PEOPLE’S HEADS OFF. I’d be impressed if I hadn’t seen the Mythbusters episode debunking it. While not as outwardly menacing as Red Grant the last time, he’s definitely one of the better examples of muscle in the series. More than equally matched in unarmed combat, Bond has to get inventive to dispose of him.

The Minions

Are all pretty useless. What fun’s a minion that can shoot straight and bump off the hero before the film takes off?

The Squeeze

Honor Blackman plucked from The Avengers (the British TV show, not the other ludicrous action movie franchise) to play Pussy Galore. Actually, Miss Galore is a bit of a badass – she has skills, agency and a plan; although the idea of a female pilot may have meant to be an ironic novelty in 1964, nevertheless it’s a step up from just looking pretty and waiting to be seduced by Bond.

Of course she starts off as a co-conspirator with Goldfinger, with the idea that her squadron of fellow female pilots will spray deadly nerve gas over Fort Knox, but for some reason it takes a roll in the hay with Bond to convince her this is not a particularly nice thing to do. The poisoning thousands of people, not rooting 007, I mean.

The Philandering

In the opening sequence Bond very nearly gets his end in, but, alas, there’s a guy lurking behind the door. He also steals Goldfinger’s first accomplice Jill Masterson, who gets painted gold for her efforts. And he very nearly gets with her sister Tilly as well, but is thwarted there because of Oddjob’s lethal fedora.

The Allies

Old mate Felix Leiter turns up again, although we have to be explicitly told it’s him because he’s played by a different actor this time. He’s dependable but ultimately seems to be mainly running interference with his fellow Americans while Bond goes mad with his Rule Britannia crud.

The Farce

Why is a British secret service agent leading an espionage operation in the States? And does Bond mock the Beatles simply because they have a lot more hair than he does? Also the product placement, not commonly regarded as something that took off until the ’90s, is laid on pretty thick. Even Kentucky Fried Chicken gets a good plug. (When in Kentucky…)

The Libations

Along with his usual martinis, Bond critically analyses some shit brandy, enjoys a mint julep, gets snooty about Dom Perignon again, and probably never gets to visit some of the local distilleries like he’d hoped.

The Production

A new director, Guy Hamilton, more money thanks to the success to date, mean more ambitious sets, props and effects could be put into play. The Fort Knox interior set, ludicrously cavernous compared with the real thing apparently, serves as a fitting backdrop for the final Bond-Oddjob fight.

Likewise, the fricken laser beam, it actually doesn’t look like a cheap effect, there was a fair bit of effort making the fantastic weapon look real – and deadly.


After finishing From Russia With Love I thought that it might be a hard act to follow; but I think Goldfinger matches it. One subtle change in tone is its move away from the prosaic spycraft of stealing code machines and more about thwarting supergeniuses with weird fetishes, accompanied by hi-tech nonsense, beautiful women, fast cars and bad quips.

While the spy plot is a little more simplistic than the previous film, culminating in the ticking time-bomb trope, which is resolved in a fairly amusing fashion. Of course, at times it feels like Bond is going along for the ride, or more interested in sating his thirst – discipline, Bond, discipline – but eventually he gets the job done.

I don’t think it’s a better film than From Russia With Love, but I do think it is its equal. 18 killer bowler hats out of 20.

From Russia With Love

One of my pet “theories” I wanted to test during this viewing run (based on the Dalton/Brosnan/Craig eras) was that the first film in each actor’s run was the best of that run. As far as the Sean Connery run goes, From Russia With Love strangles that theory dead. I definitely enjoyed Dr. No as a solid first stab, but felt it wore a bit thin in parts. Of course, its success meant the producers had more resources to refine what was great about the debut, with Terence Young brought back as director with the mission to add some more glamour and set the ground rules for the whole series.

As with all the Connery flicks, I’ve sat through this for the first time. But as I’ll be doing with the whole series, now I’ve actually watched it, there’ll be a ton of spoilers in this write-up.

The Opening

For the first time we get a cold opening to the movie; Mr Bond skulks around a castle before being garotted by an mysterious assassin. As it turns out, it’s not actually Bond, it’s some poor sap wearing a Bond mask “for immersion”, and it’s actually a training mission for “Red” Grant. Although it probably seemed like the real thing for the victim.

The Titles

If anything the opening credits are a bit more low-tech than Dr. No, but hey, if having a bellydancer shimmering in front of a projector gets the desired results, then why not.

The Soundtrack

From Russia With Love gets a new hook, but the classic Bond theme twangs into the soundtrack as regularly as you’d demand. It’s the first soundtrack from John Barry and it tumbles along quite suitably. There is also a title “song”, but rather than accompanying the opening titles, it’s buried very late in the action with a reprise in the end credits.

The Locations

The bulk of the film is Istanbul and surrounds, featuring the Hagia Sofia in one key scene, some vintage water supply infrastructure, and, um, a gypsy village. The action moves onto the Orient Express for some frenetic dogbox action, before the final helicopter and boat action sequences in Scotland pretending to be Croatia.

Venice bookends the film, starting off with bad guy Kronsteen quickly wrapping up a chess match so he can scheme and finishing back there with Bond and Romanova having a cuddle.

Of course there’s also SPECTRE Island, in an undisclosed location, which is a cool island with a big mansion with grounds full of supervillians dodging flamethrowers, plotting, scheming and getting massages.

The Gadgets

The gadget department gets real under the new quartermaster, played by Desmond Llewellyn. Q refrains from questioning the manliness of Bond’s firearm, instead he supplies a suitcase with a number of neat toys, like a smoke bomb that activates if you open the suitcase the normal way. Of course, the principle of Chekov’s Gun holds firm so we get to see all these stuff in action. There have been occasions where people questioned whether the toys were overshadowing other aspects of the film; my answer is, gadgets are cool.

The Mastermind

Of course it’s SPECTRE head Blofeld and his fluffy white cat, although only referred to this time around as Number 1 – Blofeld, that is, I assume the cat is called Snookums or Splodge or Rimsky-Korsakov or something like that. Anyway, old mate Blofeld is rather peeved about Bond’s recent curtailment of Julius No’s rocket tampering activities, and indeed the curtailment of Julius No, so he brings some deputies on board and they have a collaborative brainstorm to come up with a plan.

The Henchmen

Kronsteen is a chess genius and amateur pornographer, Krebb is a ex-Smersh defector and amateur housecleaner; together, they scheme! Well, in theory anyway. Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) comes up with a plan that involves disposing of Bond and, almost a secondary objective, acquiring one of the Soviets’ Lektor encryption devices. Rosa Krebb (Lotte Lenya in some pretty fantastic work) is charged with putting it into action. They’re a bit hands-off, at least at first, so to carry out the coup-de-grace of killing Bond and snatching the code machine, they’ve called up Donald Grant – the assassin from the opening sequence.

The Muscle

Grant (played by Robert Shaw) is appropriately thuggish yet business-like. He tails Bond all through the film, clearing a path for Bond’s mission because the only guy who gets to kill Bond is himself. He very nearly manages that too, as frankly Bond is a bit slow on the uptake. But there are 20-odd more Bond films after this one so you’d have to deduce that he failed.

The Squeeze

Daniela Bianchi plays Tatiana Romanova, a Smersh agent who is set up by Krebb as a lure for Bond by Krebb. (And they got so close to passing the Bechdel test at point too.) Romanova knows she’s bait, but is led to believe that Krebb is still working for Smersh and Mother Russia. Romanova does what she’s told and throws herself at Bond, and for much of the movie it’s hard to tell whether she’s sticking to her mission or has actually decided to defect for real. I guess I need to say whether she’s pretty or not. Yes, she’s pretty, very much so. But it is just as well Bond girls got more capable and hands-on later on.

The Allies

MI6’s man in Istanbul, Kerim Bey, is an avuncular yet resourceful chap, one of those resources being the local gypsies whom he utilises to do his dirty work against the Soviet proxies, the Bulgarians. (Gypsys? Really? Oh well, at least it’s not Octopussy.) Of course, Pedro Armendáriz became gravely ill during filming and struggled to complete his part before dying – he puts in a solid charismatic performance, and perhaps only a limp suggests something was off in spite of the great pain he would’ve been under.

The Farce

There is of course one point that I’d classify as farce, which is probably putting it mildly. Kerim Bey drags Bond off to the gypsy village, which looks really off to modern eyes, but particularly the girl fight. Just as it looks like it’s going to go all Rousey v Tate, a good old-fashioned massive fight scene breaks out in time to get everyone’s mind off how skeevy it is to have two women fighting over a man. Also, Bond, “gypsy” is not the preferred nomenclature. Roma people, please.

The Libations

Bond takes a liking to the Romany liquor and suffers few apparent ill-effects. He also sasses his would-be assassin about having red wine with white meat but completely fails to notice Grant giving Romanova roofies. Very observant, Mr Bond.

The Production

The success of Dr. No meant double the budget for its follow-up and not much of it was wasted. I had a look at the behind-the-scenes doco on the disc, of course, so it was pretty illuminating about where it all went, and where they had to improvise towards the end of production, especially as the script often went through significant rewrites deep into filming. The editing, too, deserves note. Dr. No didn’t have a pre-credit sequence and it felt weird.

I am quite fond of the opening beats – bleeding gunbarrel, high adrenaline cold open, pervy yet surreal title sequence with a big dumb song; Bond usually recuperating from the cold open with some warm body, when he’s summoned into the office where he gets to be an arsehole to everyone at MI6 including M, Moneypenny and Q. And then we head back into the Great Game. Paradoxically, when they mess with the formula it’s still fun because, hey, we’re being kept on our toes.

Anyway, the Big Dumb Song isn’t in full effect yet, but all the other hallmarks pretty much are and it just feels right.

Like everything else, the effects are also more elaborate than last time. They’re also almost all real with just some added in during post. Real enough that several stuntmen getting injured during SPLOSIONS, and of course there was another close call with a camera chopper flipping and falling into a lake, nearly drowning Terence Young and his art director Michael White. Maybe the train carriage scenes looked a little cheap, as did the boat chase, but everything is generally a notch higher.


Yes, I was entertained. The plot was suitably convoluted with three factions in play, and it unfolds nicely – we’re in on SPECTRE’s scheme from the start but it’s still fascinating watching Bond work it out as he’s about to get garotted. Ian Fleming’s concept of high espionage is ludicrous at best but when put onto celluloid it makes for entertaining viewing. The enemy ensemble is suitably cunning but not quite cunning enough for Bond in the end.

A thing that surprised me was how brutal the climactic fight scene was. Up until the gritty re-imagining of the Craig movies, the violence in the Bond films seems stylised or else just completely ridiculous – so you can call it entertaining. As I said in the last post, Julius No went out like a punk. This time around, Bond and Grant were just laying into each other. Bond didn’t even have a corny quip at the end of it.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that the energy of the 007 behemoth draws much of its source from From Russia With Love, setting a benchmark that later films would strive to meet, and yet remain entertaining even if they fell slightly short. I think I may still love some of the later ones more, sometimes for dubious reasons, but this is definitely pure Bond.

I give it 18 Lektor machines out of 20

Dr. No

In the weeks to come, I intend to watch all the Bond movies in sequence and write snarky things about them. Some of the films I’m pretty familiar with due to the countless TV reruns – I’ve even seen some in their original theatrical run. Others I’ve not seen at all, like ALL the original Connery ones. Fair warning, these posts will be spoileriffic.

Without further ado, I start at 1962’s Dr. No.

The Titles

After the obligatory gunbarrel sequence, it’s straight into the opening titles – no action-filled cold openings yet. While not as sophisticated as the later films, the title sequence lays down the Bond hallmark of stylised graphic motifs and gyrating silhouettes. The theme is, well, Monty Norman’s familiar Bond Theme, which segues into a calypso beat.

The Locations

After the establishing scenes in London, we head off to Jamaica for the bulk of the film. It is a fitting location for the first film given that Ian Fleming wrote most of his novels there.

The Gadgets

None, really. Major Boothroyd in his role as Q-Branch comes in during the mission briefing, describe Bond’s favoured Beretta as a woman’s gun, and exchanges it for the Walther PPK instead. Oh, and later on Bond takes delivery of a Geiger counter to count the Geigers, but that’s pretty standard kit for this kind of thing.

The Mastermind

After two-thirds through the movie, after much exposition and some vague hints, Dr Julius No is finally revealed late in the piece. As acted by Joseph Wiseman, No is charming, intelligent, completely sociopathic, and of course full of himself. He has creepy prosthetic metal hands, having lost the original pair due to the ignorance of the safe handling of radioactive material. As a villain, he’s kind of – not really villainous enough – No really only gets that one dinner conversation to flesh his character out before the climactic action scenes.

Of course Bond escapes from his cell via a duct and messes up the sekrit plan by overloading the reactor, No has a limpid tussle with Bond and ends up falling into the cooling vat like a punk. Then all of No’s minions freak out because Bond has started a minor nuclear incident and destroyed their livelihoods.

The Henchmen

The “Three Blind Mice” are about as close as you’d get to the classic henchman role, but they seem to be contracted to run interference on the big island at anyone sniffs around Crab Key too closely. They take a few pot shots at Bond but their threat level fails to rise about strictly annoying. Professor Dent also tries to end Bond’s life but is outsmarted and eventually dispatched in cold blood. Actually, Dent is really more of a lackey than a henchman – we have to be specific about the various classes of adversary.

The Philandering

Bond works the spade pretty hard in this one. I think the count was four if you count Moneypenny and the lack of a harrassment policy at MI6. After a couple of minor flings, after he makes his way to Evil Genius Island, he encounters Honey Ryder, acted by Ursula Andress. As we know, in the world of Bond it is compulsory for beautiful women to have ludicrous double entendres for names. Naturally, Ms Ryder is an itinerant beachcomber; she sells sea shells by the sea shore, which she presumably returns to after being abandoned by Bond soon after their debriefing.

The Libations

I wasn’t actually keeping count (will have to do that next time around) but Bond imbibes least two martinis and later on he gets to sass No about the vintage of Dom Perignon served at the confrontation. Even in Bond’s iconic reveal, he was probably hitting the giggle juice at the baccarat table pretty hard too.

The Allies

Felix Leiter turns up as the US liaison, but Leiter’s main contribution to the mission seems to be getting Quarrel onto Bond’s side after an awkward first meeting. Quarrel is capable if a bit obstinate, but after assisting Bond’s passage to Crab Key, poor old Quarrel bites it at the wrong end of the flamethrowing tank.

The Farce

The tarantula. (Then again I’m not an arachnophobe.) And the “dragon”, that is the aforementioned tank. But most particularly the decontamination sequence; I was impressed with the care and effort that No’s underlings put into making sure Bond and Ryder were fit enough to dine with their boss. It’s an awareness of health and safety protocol Ol’ Tin Hands had to appreciate through bitter experience.

The Plot

While considerably slower paced than what we’ve come to expect, there’s always something being advanced. At first it just seems that Bond is buzzing around Jamaica, bedding various women and killing various men, but the plot eventually thickens. As it turns out, No’s evil plan’s is ludicrously mundane. Building his own nuclear reactor to jam some rockets so they fly off course? That’s high school science fair stuff! To me there seems little profit or influence to be gained from the rocket diversion racket. Fortunately, later villains had much grander schemes to unfurl upon the world.

The Production

The producers weren’t allocated a huge amount of cash for the first Bond movie, so you can see where the money wasn’t being spent. Having said that, they made good use of the Jamaican locations to establish the setting. Once we actually see No’s base with its modernist aesthetic with accents of ostentation, it’s such a step up from the swamp and bauxite mine that it effectively establishes the early standard for Bond villain lairs.


For the first 007 flick, I think Dr. No stacks up. It feels a bit slow, but not unbearably so – it was probably quite pacey for the early 60s. Given the chance the define the film Bond, Sean Connery starts things off on the right foot, and the basic formula and style of the series was set, to be embellished and reworked in the films to come. Much of its status comes from being the first, and brought enough success to build a platform for the most durable of film franchises. I’d give it a respectable 14/20 – for some people this might seem a bit low, but it gives me a baseline as I get stuck into the later films.

Classified News – The Retro Font You Didn’t Know You Were Missing

I was poking around with a design in the style of the old cassette inserts that CBS Records Australia Ltd put out in the late 70s and early 80s. The album cover would either be truncated, or shrunken so it kept its square aspect and the artist and album name typeset around it. For instance, here’s the insert of the third cassette I ever bought as a nerdy teenager, Hergest Ridge.

To Hergest Ridge, you should come...
To Hergest Ridge, you should come…

Finding matching fonts for the spine wasn’t so hard, the big red artist name is set in Compacta Bold or a similar bold, condensed font – a lot of CBS cassettes also used Machine – and the smaller type is set in a particular cut of Univers. But the track listing on the flap on the left? At first it was a complete mystery. What sort of font was it? Superficially, it was a grotesque or gothic of some kind. It was not Trade Gothic or News Gothic, however, but familiar in its own way – I vaguely recall it being used for newspaper classifieds in newspapers through the 80s.

Pink Floyd's Ummagumma - Classified News is used for the track list.
Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma – Classified News is used for the track list.

Most of my old pre-recorded tapes are probably still kicking around somewhere (once I went digital I never went back) so I did a search online for more tape covers with in this font. I came across a pretty good example, an Australian print of Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, which gave me enough distinct letters for a couple of popular font matching sites, Identifont and MyFonts’ What the Font service, but I got no decent matches from either.

So what next? Trawling around, I figured out pretty quickly that the same font was used on a lot of vinyl labels, usually for the track list, just like on the cassettes. If you’ve got any old vinyl from the 70s you’ll probably find it. And on collector sites, particularly for old Beatles releases, the fonts on labels were one of the ways collectors identified particular pressings. By this arse-backwards search, I had a name for the font, as well as a vendor – “IBM Classified News”.

The name fit its purpose well, but as a result searching for it was problematic, unless I added other keywords, otherwise I’d just end up looking at classified ads on news sites. The “IBM” bit let me narrow it down, and what that was actually referred to was the old IBM Selectric typewriters – in particular, the IBM Selectric Composer typesetting machine.

Ding! End of the line.

Most typewriters only worked with monospace type, even the base IBM Selectric model, but this had the feature that typefaces could be changed on the fly by swapping “golfballs”. In comparison, the Composer was a monster, offering a range of proportional type, and could justify text (although on the early models of the Composer you had to type each line twice to get it right!). It was also notoriously tricky to maintain, from what I gather, usually requiring a service contract with the lease. But before the advent of desktop publishing, the Composer was an economical alternative to a full-blown printing press when preparing labels for records. Hence the ubiquity of 6 point Classified News on record labels.

Classified News was just one of a range of proportional fonts, including the Univers variant, which is also prominent on my examples. However, while most of the font selections can be substituted by suitable digital variants, ranging from a Times clone to Pyramid (an Egyptian slab-serif not unlike Rockwell, of course).

Classified News does not. There seems to be no readily available digital version that I can find that comes close to embodying its unique character.

Fortunately, someone has scanned the whole specimen catalogue at a decent resolation, and even used typeballs are available, quite cheaply. So the typeface is not dead – just dormant, as far as the digital space is concerned.
6 Pt Commercial News Speciment

The main issue would be finding a working Selectric Composer for it, although I imagine that it wouldn’t be too difficult to go low-tech and use the typeball with a stamp pad to make an impression for scanning purposes. A direct scan be decent enough, particularly if you’re trying to do the sort of pastiche that started me on this little bit of research. However my desire has moved from just wanting it for a one-off retro gimmick and more towards a proper revival, maintaining the distinctive features and quirks but cleaning it up and making it a little sharper.

I am actually going to have a stab at it myself where it’ll probably end up as another of my badly drawn, badly spaced failures, but I suggest there is a niche for a trained designer to have a serious go at bringing Classified News back into the public eye. It would probably strike a chord with all those New New Romantics who have decided that wonky bits of black plastic are the only “authentic” way to own music, and want the labels to match.

Uncle Chop-Chop

Before I go on about Mark “Chopper” Read (I will be brief!), I suggest you read this profile on Chopper by John Sylvester, the crime reporter for The Age who knew the guy and who, along with Andrew Rule, helped Chopper’s forays into the literary world. Of course I hadn’t read his books myself, so as to how the oeuvre of Mark Read compares with that of, say, Peter Corris, I must claim ignorance.

I can still appreciate the scam, a self-mutilating antihero from deepest, darkest Collingwood who found himself elevated to a cultural icon by writing all the bad things he did. It gave him a way to get out of the game and rehabilitate after a fashion. Upon going legit, he kept writing books, and settled back into the Caringbush. Sure, he got to do a few roadshows with Jacko (another Mark better known by his sobriquet) and various other ratbags, had his own beer before bespoke craft beer became a thing, and had a knack of annoying people by getting on TV and just being himself, all the while wondering why the big fuss.

No doubt the Chopper books helped popularise the crime genre in this country. While Aussie crime noir has had, of course Peter Corris, as far as the visual medium goes, shows like Scales of Justice and Phoenix may come across as a bit anaemic these days. The Chopper books tapped into a brasher yet worldlier vein, recognising that most criminals are pretty stupid, but the sharp ones can be lethal. It’s the reason there are endless Underbelly series. Consider: some of the most influential Australian cinema of the last few decades has crime and criminality at its centre, and they usually make a bit of a ripple overseas too. Romper Stomper. Two Hands. Animal Kingdom. Wolf Creek.

And of course the Chopper film slots right into that list. Eric Bana copped Chopper’s mannerisms and put in a performance that kickstarted a formidable Hollywood career for Bana, getting him out of the ghetto of TV sketch comedy and bucolic ABC tea-time drama. The movie also made a larger-than-life image out of Chopper that he could do little to quell but from what I hear he could see the funny side of it.

A few years later, another TV sketch comedy show, The Ronnie Johns Half Hour saw Heath Franklin debut a new character, a spoof based more on Bana’s movie portrayal than Read himself, who we might call Uncle Chop-Chop. The definitive Uncle Chop-Chop skit was the “Harden The Fuck Up” segment, where Franklin, playing Bana, playing Read, dispensed nuggets of advice to various people suffering from First World Problems such as being named “Stefan”. The prescription for their ailments was typically a dose of cement mix to be taken orally twice a day.

(The HTFU phrase itself took on a life of its own, featuring on black wristbands that were partly popularised by the pro cyclist Stuart O’Grady who gave them to his teammates as a bit of a gee-up. At the time it seemed like a pretty funny riposte to those ubiquitous yellow Livestrong bands, but with O’Grady’s recent confessions about using EPO early in his career, perhaps professional cyclists just shouldn’t get involved in spruiking inspirational wristbands.)

Closer to the source, William Gibson cited “Chopper From The Inside” as a reference source for his novel Idoru: “Anything I know of the toecutting business, I owe to the criminal memoirs of Mark Brandon ‘Chopper’ Read. Chopper is a great deal scarier than Blackwell (a character in Idoru – Ed.) and has even less ears’. I suspect there may have even a bit of Chopper in the characterisation of Omar Little in The Wire, who like Chopper in his early days, held up drug dealers because that’s where the money was.

When Chopper revealed he had liver cancer but would not take a liver transplant because he didn’t deserve it, he may or may not have accounted that he had already lived longer that he had counted on. The inevitable lionisation will put the wind up certain quarters (because people can’t shut up about Ned Kelly and Breaker Morant either) but in the wash-up, Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read will have been responsible for less deaths of innocents than Scott Morrison.

Hunters & Collectors All Come Out At Night

Hunters & Collectors have popped back out of relative obscurity in the past month with the news of the tribute album Crucible, as well as the announcement of ad hoc reunion stints as the half-time entertainment at the 2013 AFL Grand Final as well as a one-off support gig on Bruce Springsteen’s tour in early 2014 – not a completely jarring combination to be honest. Mark Seymour also made a certain comment about his political allegiance, which was remarkable as someone who used the term True Believer in earnest.

I’m not aware of any plans to turn this into a full-blown reunion*, seeing as since the formal break-up in 1998, the other members of that final line-up have settled into various niches without too much drama, although the band have reformed for other one-offs such as the Sound Relief benefit in 2009. It would seem most band break-ups are never definitive as long as the core members are still upright and open to the idea of getting back together for one more whirl, even if the main purpose is top up depleted retirement funds, as much as pleasing fans or playing with their old mates again.

* UPDATE: They’re doing a full blown tour on the A Day On The Green circuit during early 2014 as well as two other concerts in Melbourne and Sydney. Supports include You Am I and Something For Kate. Damn, looks like another ride on the hellbus.

Sometimes such reunions are less satisfying than others with, witness Black Sabbath without Bill Ward, or the idea of The Pixies without Kim Deal. (At least that has the upside of the Breeders rolling around again.) It doesn’t sound like the Hunnas are going to drag out the John Archer’s legendary bespoke sound system and do another lap of the country to play to a bunch of forty-somethings around the country. You know, just a couple of intimate gigs in football stadiums as supports to the main act.

I was amused to read that, according to Mark Seymour in his 2008 band memoir Thirteen Tonne Theory, he himself is at best ambivalent about footy, having gotten off the Carlton bandwagon in the ’80s about the time John Elliott got on board. “Holy Grail” was certainly not written as a footy anthem, though the subsequent appropriation of it for that purpose has probably yielded a decent sum in royalty payments – and as the band was organised as a collective, they were shared more or less equally.

(I recommend Thirteen Tonne Theory, and it seems the easiest way to find it now is as an e-book. Mark wrote about his experiences with a lack of bullshit and a great deal of self-awareness, particularly with events such as the split with Greg Perano.)

I got into the band around the cusp of the 1990s in my final years of high school, as part of a growing passion for music in general and Australian rock music in particular. Ghost Nation and a best-of were their most recent releases at the time, so “Holy Grail” wasn’t even a thing. The motherlode for me was a box set of their first four albums that had been released at that time, encompassing the “weird” Perano era stuff. In the country, you get bored by the chart pop music that the handful of radio stations churned at you – Triple J had only gone “national” in the capital cities by that stage and taping Rage overnight and watching it the next day was about as good an education – so it was a thrill to latch onto anything that sounded even just a bit different.

Part of the reason I hold The Jaws Of Life and the attached EP Payload so close to my chest is that the music sounded exotic and strange but also utterly familiar, with the truck noises and distant bird calls (recorded in Germany with the legendary Conny Plank), and the delivery of the words that spoke of frustration with one’s lot. It was a sound of the Australian bush that was a million miles from Slim Dusty, articulate yet visceral with all that stranded-far-from-home desperation, with a hefty krautrock influence along with a little Chic. Hell, I even have a soft spot for The Fireman’s Curse which preceded, the result of a head-on collision of egos with Virgin Records’ consigliere Simon Draper.

Despite the glorious noise that came out of those first early albums, it seemed that the chaos had to come to a head, and after casting Greg Perano out, Seymour reformed the band to trim back the artifice (and in my opinion some of the charm), the muscular dimension to the band’s sound was refined but made more accessible, the otherness remained in the arrangement, underpinned by the drum and bass of Falconer and Archer, and of course the horn section that at times sounded like it was accompanying a football club song gone feral, other times, the arrangements added a peculiar majesty not usually associated with pub rock.

Once refocused, the band brought forth Human Frailty – a serious contender as one of the best Australian rock albums ever. They continued in that vein on What’s A Few Men/Fate (the latter a futile repackaging for the US market) with “Do You See What I See” and the evocative closing-time blues of “Still Hangin’ Round”, and Ghost Nation, which included “When The River Runs Dry” which bears an apocalyptic tone that still retains its resonance through decades of political torpor. Finally, they wrapped up their work of their 80s and presented their first compilation, Collected Works.

My enthusiasm engaged by all this, I managed to talk my brother into taking me to see them play at a beer barn on the edge of town while I was still underage – it wasn’t that hard as he was into them himself. I may or may not have been supplied a couple of bevvies myself. I wasn’t so far gone that I didn’t carry away some strong impressions of the gig though – the huge steam-powered keyboard setup that seemed to eat half the modest stage and made noises to fit, the packed crowd pogoing through all their songs (moshing wasn’t a thing at that time), trying out a couple of new songs called “True Tears of Joy” and “Where Do You Go”, which appeared on later releases.

The gig concluded with the band being seemingly concerned that they’d broken the stage. I went away with a shirt bearing the classic caduceus-with-knife logo. Some bugger stole off my clothesline a couple of years later. I still miss it occasionally – even though it’d probably barely a rag at this stage, just like my beloved Clouds t-shirt that I picked up a few years later.

It is perhaps with some regret that I wasn’t organised enough to see them again before they broke up in 1998. For a while Seymour did the acoustic thing, which didn’t appeal to me, but he eventually put together another electric band called The Undertow to do his new songs justice – “Castlemaine” can sit anywhere in his set with ease – and reconciled the fact that a lot of people just want to hear “the old stuff”. Other members got into production, as Barry Palmer did, or pursued their own musical agendas.

Meanwhile, the band’s legacy? They made multiple contributions to the Australian songbook, some of which have become cliche in their overuse. For instance a while “Throw Your Arms Around Me” seemed to have been reduced to a party piece trotted out by Paul McDermott for cheap pathos, and incongruously adopted as a wedding theme by the sort of people who don’t pay attention to lyrics outside of the chorus. “We may never meet again”, really?

While the band never met their ultimate goal of breaking the US like their fellow travellers Midnight Oil and Crowded House, they managed to become one of the biggest bands in Australasia, as well as establishing pockets of support in Canada and Sweden. It may not have been to last, but at least they didn’t turn into the Dan Reed Network.

At this time, it seems that Hunters & Collectors have been blurred with a lot of those other Australian bands associated with the 80s, but given the tendency to categorise using a crude dichotomy like “hipster”, like the Triffids and the Go-Betweens and “bogan”, a la Australian Crawl and Cold Chisel, H&C seem to fall inconveniently between the two camps. “Holy Grail”? “Say Goodbye”? Bogan, of course. “Talking To A Stranger” and “The Slab”? Hipster.

But a lot of thought – and argument – went into their creative process, and they came out of it with a string of artistic yet accessible albums that examined the human condition and dropped some sonic science along the way. If they came across as being a bit stoic and serious, then so be it. Even in the latter days, they could still drop a massive groove that could agitate that most arrhythmic of beasts, the Australian pub rock punter fueled up on Vic Bitter – the album of their final 1998 gig at the Coogee Bay Hotel is testament to this.

Considering that it’s been about a generation since their halcyon days, the idea of the Crucible tribute album now seems a bit strange. Then again, Eddie Vedder pops up and it suddenly makes complete sense that there’s a line from Hunters & Collectors to Pearl Jam. The Avalanches pop out of seclusion after over a decade to do a lazy reshuffle of “Talking To A Stranger”, which didn’t even take the opportunity to be as ridiculous as the multiple acid attacks on the song by the Filthy Lucre remix crew in 1992.

In my opinion, to take one example, I would’ve liked to have heard how Eddy Current Suppression Ring would’ve tackled a Hunnas song – similar origins and influences, but a bit more shambolic with that and perhaps less reverent of the source material. And an honest-to-Jah dub version of “Talking To A Stranger” – all the ingredients are there for such an approach – the heavy bass line, the horns, and the vocal refrain perfect for fading in and out at will. Well, perhaps we should be grateful the Avalanches didn’t turn it into bro-step.

As a biased source, I will recommend that people go back to the source – the Greatest Hits collection is not a bad place to start for the hits of course, but for those who want to dig deeper, going chronologically isn’t a bad strategy either. Some of the albums are harder work than others, but The Jaws of Life and Human Frailty are considered classics for a reason, meanwhile Cut was their most commercially successful album if raw sales are your criteria for judging how good an album is.

Also, don’t sleep on the video collection (even if you just watch them on Youtube. H&C’s visual aesthetic was as strong as the sonic aspect. Richard Lowenstein kicked things off with freakshow of “Talking To The Stranger”, but I have a soft spot for the “Judas Sheep” one with the guy running around the MCG with a machete interspersed with random shots of budgies and grapefruit.

Hunters & Collectors were a band of their time, as part of a wave of Australian bands that were inspired by punk and post-punk and decided there had to be more to music than playing on Countdown. They did play the game up to a point, but tried to do so on their own terms, organising themselves as a band of equals against the world. The title of their last album, Juggernaut, summed up Hunters & Collectors at their touring peak. They drove a truck around the country and played anywhere that would have them, at a time when festivals were out of vogue and punters were less inclined to travel for gigs. Never mind that, the band would come to them.