Book Review – DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1956) by Ian Fleming

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1956) ***½
by Ian Fleming
Diamonds Are Forever - Ian FlemingThis paperback edition published by Vintage, 2012, 309pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1956
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1956
Introduction by Giles Foden (13pp)
ISBN: 978-0-099-57688-4

Blurb: The Spangled Mob are no ordinary American gangsters. They prey on the addictions of the wealthy and treat the poor as collateral. Their ruthless desire for power and fierce brotherly loyalty make them deadly and invincible. James Bond must go deep undercover in his urgent new assignment: to destroy their millionaire masterminds, Jack and Seraffimo Spang. But the Spangs’ cruel influence is everywhere, from dusty African diamond mines to the frenzied gambling dens of Las Vegas. Can Bond find his men before his cover is blown?

Comment: This fourth novel in Fleming’s James Bond series is better than I remember. Whilst the plot is fairly basic in Bond’s assignment to link the pipeline of diamond smuggling from its source to distribution, it moves at a good pace and is never dull. The villains. the Spangled Mob, are merely violent gangsters controlling the gambling casinos in Las Vegas as well as the diamond operation. Their methods are basic. We learn a bit more about Bond through his interaction with Tiffany Case – a sympathetic character with a dark history. We also learn why Bond has never married and get confirmation of his loyalty to his service. The action set pieces are good – although this time the torture of Bond by Spang’s henchmen takes place “off-screen”. There is a good locomotive chase and the first finale on board the Queen Elizabeth liner is exciting. Whilst not in the series’ top drawer it is on a par with Live and Let Die as a fast-moving action thriller.

TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: TRAIL TO ASHLEY MOUNTAIN (1966)

The Virginian 05x08 Trail to Ashley Mountain part 1/2 - video dailymotionTHE VIRGINIAN: TRAIL TO ASHLEY MOUNTAIN (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Abner Biberman; w. Sy Salkowitz; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Cy Chermak; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. Michael R. McAdam; ad. George Patrick; set d. John McCarthy Jr., James M. Walters Sr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Frank H. Wilkinson (Mono); tr. 2 November 1966; r/t. 76m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Doug McClure (Trampas), Martin Milner (Case), George Kennedy (Huck Harkness), Gene Evans (Blanchard), Steve Carlson (Willy Parker), Hugh Marlowe (Ed Wells), Judi Meredith (Ruth), Raymond St. Jacques (Allerton), Paul Comi (Jack Harlan), Ross Elliott (Sheriff Abbott), Monica Lewis (Connie Wells), Jackie Coogan (Bodey).

(s. 5 ep. 8) Trampas (McClure) leads a two-man posse to capture the brother-in-law (Carlson) of a friend (Marlowe) in jail who is innocent when the Sheriff (Elliott) is injured. They encounter others who hinder their progress and an unhappy couple. But the big problem is Trampas’ partner. The story’s basic premise is of an outlaw on the run from a posse, where the posse, led by McClure, is made up of individuals each with their own reason for being involved. The tension plays off between these individuals through until the inevitable shootout finale. The story is elevated by the strong guest cast and good direction from Biberman.

TV Review – ALIAS SMITH & JONES: THE MCCREEDY BUST: GOING, GOING, GONE (1972)

Western TV show: Alias Smith & Jones, Hannibal Heyes & Kid Curry, starring  Pete Duel & Ben Murphy. Episode:The McCreedy Bust: G… | Alias smith and  jones, Alia, PeteALIAS SMITH & JONES: THE MCCREEDY BUST: GOING, GOING, GONE (1972, USA) ****
Western
net. American Broadcasting Company (ABC); pr co. Roy Huggins-Public Arts Productions / Universal Studios; d. Alexander Singer; w. Nicholas E. Baehr (based on a story by Roy Huggins (as John Thomas James)); exec pr. Roy Huggins; pr. Glen A. Larson; ass pr. Nicholas E. Baehr, Jo Swerling Jr.; ph. William Cronjager (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. John Andrew Tartaglia; th. Billy Goldenberg; ed. Richard Bracken; ad. Phillip Bennett; set d. Bert Allen; sd. Earl Crain Jr. (Mono); tr. 14 February 1972; r/t. 50m.

cast: Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes (alias Joshua Smith)), Ben Murphy (Jed ‘Kid’ Curry (alias Thaddeus Jones)), Lee Majors (Joe Briggs), Burl Ives (Big Mac McCreedy), Bradford Dillman (Spencer), Cesar Romero (Armendariz), Ted Gehring (Seth Griffin), Bing Russell (Sheriff), Paul Micale (Little Man), Robert P. Lieb (Auctioneer), Jimmie Booth (Stage Driver (uncredited)), Nick Borgani (Townsman (uncredited)), Roger Davis (Narrator (uncredited)), Rudy Doucette (Barfly (uncredited)), Harold ‘Hal’ Frizzell (Bartender (uncredited)), Jerry Harper (Poker Player #1 (uncredited)), Lars Hensen (Barfly (uncredited)), Primo López (Auction Guest (uncredited)), Daniel Francis Martin (Dealer (uncredited)), Clyde McLeod (Auction Guest (uncredited)), Hal Needham (Duke (uncredited)), John Rayner (Man (uncredited)), Edwin Rochelle (Auction Clerk (uncredited)), John Zimeas (Barfly (uncredited)).

(s. 2 ep. 16) Big Mac’ McCreedy (Ives) hires Smith and Jones (Duel and Murphy) to steal it (again ) – the Cesar’s bust from Armendariz (Romero) but Heyes refuses (but agrees to teach one of McCreedy’s men how to do it  instead.) Heyes and Curry agree to escort the bust from a pre-arranged going spite too San Fransisco, where is to be auctioned. Whilst Heyes and Curry wait at the town near three deep-spot, they meet the town bully (Majors). Though they keep backing down, the bully keeps pushing, and Curry starts losing his temper. This sequel to the previous season’s The McCreedy Bust is a superb example of the easy-going nature of the series, but also with some dramatic tension and philosophical messaging. Duel and Murphy are on top of their game here, bickering as they try to avoid hired gunman Majors whilst seeing through their job for Ives. Dillman offers a sensitive portrayal of a clergyman turning to alcohol through his lack of faith. His interplay with Murphy, notably in the finale is memorable. Majors is all arrogance as the heavy. The final twist leaves the story open.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: THE PILLAGERS (1967)

Gunsmoke S13 E09 The Pillagers | Gunsmoke, Best western, YoutubeGUNSMOKE: THE PILLAGERS (1967, USA) ***
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Vincent McEveety; w. Calvin Clements Sr.; pr. John Mantley; ass pr. Joseph Dackow; ph. Monroe P. Askins (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Leon Klatzkin; th. Rex Koury (uncredited); ed. Grant K. Smith; ad. Joseph R. Jennings; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Helen Young; sd. Vernon W. Kramer (Mono); tr. 6 November 1967; r/t. 50m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc Adams), Amanda Blake (Kitty Russell), Ken Curtis (Festus Haggen), John Saxon (Pedro Manez), Vito Scotti (Savrin), Paul Picerni (Ganns), William Bramley (Turner), Buck Taylor (Newly O’Brien), Allen Jaffe (Johns), Glenn Strange (Sam Noonan), Harry Harvey (Eli), Ted Jordan (Nathan Burke), Joe Schneider (Juan Manez), George American Horse (Bandit (uncredited)), John Breen (Townsman (uncredited)), Albert Cavens (Townsman (uncredited)), Jack Lilley (Bandit (uncredited)), Bert Madrid (Townsman (uncredited)), Jimmy Noel (Townsman (uncredited)).

(s. 13 ep. 9) Buck Taylor joins the cast as Newly O’Brian when Newly and Kitty (Blake) are kidnapped by a gang who mistakenly believe he is a doctor. His skills as a gunsmith are central to their escape. Good introductory episode for Taylor with Saxon sharing centre stage as the bandit looking out for his injured brother. Whilst the story itself is perfunctory and the situation of Kitty being held hostage has been done before (and better in The Jailer), this still holds attention through to its conclusion.

TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: THE OUTCAST (1966)

THE VIRGINIAN: THE OUTCAST (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Alan Crosland Jr.; w. Lou Shaw; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Joel Rogosin; ph. Walter Strenge (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Jack Hayes, Leo Shuken; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. Robert F. Shugrue; ad. George Patrick; set d. John McCarthy Jr., James M. Walters Sr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Robert R. Bertrand (Mono); tr. 26 October 1966; r/t. 76m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Charles Bickford (John Grainger), Don Quine (Stacey Grainger), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), Fabian (Charlie Ryan), Milton Selzer (Harold Bitz), George Wallace (Sheriff in Portersville), Carole Kane (Charlotte Rivers), Ross Elliott (Sheriff Mark Abbott), Quentin Sondergaard (Zach), Marvin Brody (Horace), Boyd Stockman (Stage Driver).

(s. 5 ep. 7) A man (Fabian) wanted for murder and robbery escapes jail and ends up in Medicine Bow where he befriends Stacey (Quine) in a fight. He goes to work at Shiloh as a ranch hand and Elizabeth (Lane) takes an interest in him. However, Stacey is less certain about him. The story progresses at a pretty slow rate with little dramatic impetus until the final act. Former teen idol Fabian makes his third appearance as a guest star in the series and acquits himself fairly in interpreting the ambiguity of his character. Lane is endearing as Elizabeth who falls for Fabian’s charms and tries her best to help him clear his name.

TV Review – ALIAS SMITH & JONES: DREADFUL SORRY, CLEMENTINE (1971)

Alias Smith & Jones Dreadful Sorry Clementine Women | Notes From Pellucidar 2 (SCROLL DOWN)ALIAS SMITH & JONES: DREADFUL SORRY, CLEMENTINE (1971, USA) ****
Western
net. American Broadcasting Company (ABC); pr co. Roy Huggins-Public Arts / Universal Television; d. Barry Shear; w. Glen A. Larson (based on a story by Roy Huggins); exec pr. Roy Huggins; pr. Glen A. Larson; ass pr. Nicholas E. Baehr, Jo Swerling Jr.; ph. William Cronjager (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. John Andrew Tartaglia; th. Billy Goldenberg; ed. Byron ‘Buzz’ Brandt; ad. Phillip Bennett; set d. Bert Allen; sd. Earl Crain Jr. (Mono); tr. 27 December 1971; r/t. 50m.

cast: Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes (alias Joshua Smith)), Ben Murphy (Jed ‘Kid’ Curry (alias Thaddeus Jones)), Rudy Vallee (Winford Fletcher), Keenan Wynn (Horace Wingate), Don Ameche (Diamond Jim Guffy), Sally Field (Clementine Hale), Jackie Coogan (Crawford), Buddy Lester (Drunk), Ken Scott (Toomey), Stuart Randall (Hawkins), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Janitor (uncredited)), Ken DuMain (Townsman (uncredited)), Maurice Marks (Townsman (uncredited)), Edwin Rochelle (Ticket Clerk (uncredited)).

(s.2 ep. 10) Clementine Hale (Field), a friend of Heyes and Curry (Duel and Murphy) since they grew up together in Kansas, meets the boys in Denver and shows them a group photograph they all posed for not too long ago. The photo is invaluable to lawmen who want to arrest Heyes and Curry, and Clementine waves it at the boys in an attempt to get them to go along with her larcenous scheme. Years earlier, banker Winford Fletcher (Vallee) had stolen $50,000 from the bank where Clementine’s father worked, then framed him for the theft and sent him up the river. The boys ride into Fletcher’s home town and pose as land grabbers, convincing Fletcher to buy up all the land he can get hold of and paying through the nose. This delightful episode has a strong cast and a clever script (playing another “sting” scenario) by Larson and Huggins. Field is quirky and her interaction with Duel and Murphy feels natural and unforced. Vallee is perfect as the greedy property agent, who is the target of Field’s scheme and Ameche has a brief cameo as “Diamond Jim”, another of the series’ larger than life master con-men.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: QUAKER GIRL (1966)

Quaker Girl (1966)GUNSMOKE: QUAKER GIRL (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Bernard L. Kowalski; w. Preston Wood; exec pr. Philip Leacock; pr. John Mantley; ph. Harry Stradling Jr. (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Leigh Harline; th. Rex Koury (uncredited); ed. Otto Meyer; ad. John B. Goodman; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Pat Whiffing; sd. Vernon W. Kramer (Mono); tr. 10 December 1966; r/t. 50m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus), Roger Ewing (Thad), William Shatner (Fred Bateman), William Bryant (Kester), Glenn Strange (Sam Noonan), Joseph Breen (George), Anna Karen (1st Woman), Nancy Marshall (2nd Woman), Patricia Quinn (Cora Ellis (as Ariane Quinn)), Liam Sullivan (Benjamin Ellis), Warren Vanders (John Thenly), Ben Johnson (Vern Morland), Timothy Carey (Charles ‘Buster’ Rilla), Tom Reese (Dave Westerfeldt), Danny Borzage (Quaker (uncredited)), Pete Kellett (Quaker (uncredited)), Fred McDougall (Quaker (uncredited)), Jimmy Noel (Barfly (uncredited)), Rudy Sooter (Musician (uncredited)), Wally West (Quaker (uncredited)).

(s. 12 ep. 12) When a dying deputy swears in Thad to capture killer Fred Bateman (Shatner), Thad (Ewing) ends up in a Quaker town, in which the people cannot tell which one is the wanted man. Ewings gets his chance to hold the centre stage with Shatner in this story of culture clashes. The script does not make the most of the situation, but Shatner’s charisma and possibly Ewing’s best performance of the series carry it through. Watch out for Johnson as lead heavy of a gang on Shatner’s tail.

TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: THE CHALLENGE (1966)

THE VIRGINIAN: THE CHALLENGE (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Don McDougall; w. Joy Dexter, Harry Kronman (based on a story by Joy Dexter); exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Joel Rogosin; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Jack Hayes, Leo Shuken; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. Michael R. McAdam; ad. George Patrick; set d. John McCarthy Jr., James M. Walters Sr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Earl Crain Jr. (Mono); tr. 19 October 1966; r/t. 75m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Charles Bickford (John Grainger), Doug McClure (Trampas), Don Quine (Stacey Grainger), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), Dan Duryea (Ben Crayton), Don Galloway (Jim Tyson), Michael Burns (Bobby Crayton), Barbara Anderson (Sarah Crayton), Ed Peck (Sheriff Milt Hayle), Bing Russell (Sam Fuller), Hal Bokar (Hank Logan), Grant Woods (Walt Sturgess), Clay Tanner (Station Agent), Byron Keith (Dr. Manning), Clyde Howdy (Marshal Coons), Lew Brown (Deputy Hart Ellis).

(s. 5 ep. 6) After a stagecoach holdup and accident, Trampas (McClure) stumbles into a farm with a concussion and amnesia. The farmer (Duryea) and his two kids (Anderson and Burns) tend to Trampas but the white-handled gun he is carrying puts him into danger from the law and the outlaws. Loss of memory and implication in some crime is a well-worn plot device, so there are not many surprises in this familiar tale. The story is tight and well-acted by a strong cast, with McClure getting to explore his range a bit more. It is competently made and the story retains interest throughout. Galloway and Anderson (here making her TV debut) would go on to work together on the popular crime drama Ironside (1967-75).

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: THE WRONG MAN (1966)

Gunsmoke" The Wrong Man (TV Episode 1966) - IMDbGUNSMOKE: THE WRONG MAN (1966, USA) ***½
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Robert Totten; w. Robert Lewin; exec pr. Philip Leacock; pr. John Mantley; ph. Harry Stradling Jr. (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Irwin Kostal; th. Rex Koury (uncredited); ed. Otto Meyer; ad. John B. Goodman; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Pat Whiffing; sd. Vernon W. Kramer (Mono); tr. 29 October 1966; r/t. 50m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus), Roger Ewing (Thad), Carroll O’Connor (Hootie Kyle), Glenn Strange (Sam), James Almanzar (Morell), Mel Gaines (Squeak), Gilman Rankin (Purvis), Victor Izay (Dutch), Terry Frost (Stage Driver), Kevin O’Neal (James Kyle), Charles Kuenstle (Wilton Kyle), Clifton James (Tenner Jackson), James Anderson (Harmon), Danny Borzage (Townsman (uncredited)), John Breen (Waiter (uncredited)), Duke Fishman (Townsman (uncredited)), Chuck Hamilton (Townsman (uncredited)), Bert Madrid (Townsman (uncredited)), Jimmy Noel (Townsman (uncredited)), Anthony Redondo (Stage Passenger (uncredited)), Robert Robinson (Townsman (uncredited)), Max Wagner (Townsman (uncredited)).

(s. 12 ep. 7) Hootie Kyle (O’Connor) felt cheated in a card game by Tenner Jackson (James). Later, he punches Jackson and takes his thirty dollars back. The next day Hootie returns the money to the Marshal (Arness) only to be told that Jackson had been murdered. O’Connor is convincing as a proud but desperate farmer struggling to make ends meet for his family. His performance and a decent script make this a strong episode, with its unusually downbeat climax. Totten handles the material well and the editing is tight. The only weak spot is the lack of focus on O’Connor’s wider family, which detracts a little from his plight.

Film Review – THE LIKELY LADS (1976)

The Likely Lads writers on lost episodes rediscovered, and why the ...THE LIKELY LADS (1976, UK) ***
Comedy
dist. Anglo-EMI Film Distributors; pr co. Anglo-EMI Productions; d. Michael Tuchner; w. Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais; exec pr. Nat Cohen, Philip Collins; pr. Aida Young; ph. Tony Imi (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.66:1); m. Mike Hugg; ed. Ralph Sheldon; ad. Robert Jones; cos. Emma Porteous; m/up. Neville Smallwood, Jan Dorman; sd. Kevin Sutton (Mono); rel. 2 April 1976 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 90m.

cast: Rodney Bewes (Bob Ferris), James Bolam (Terry Collier), Brigit Forsyth (Thelma Ferris), Mary Tamm (Christina), Sheila Fearn (Audrey Collier), Zena Walker (Laura Windsor), Anulka Dziubinska (Dawn Windsor), Alun Armstrong (Tommy – Milkman), Judy Buxton (Iris), Vicki Michelle (Glenys), Penny Irving (Sandy), Michelle Newell (Alice), Susan Tracy (Edith Collier), Gordon Griffin (Cyril Collier), Edward Wilson (Les Ferris), Roger Avon (Joe the Landlord), Ronald Lacey (Ernie), Elizabeth Lax (Wendy – Bob’s Secretary), Linda Robson (Marsha), Ian McDiarmid (Vicar).

This spin-off from the successful TV series sees childhood pals Bewes and Bolam (as Bob and Terry) at their bickering best as Bewes attempts to come to terms with some form of mid-life crisis. Forsyth is also excellent as Bewes’ manipulative wife, Thelma, striving to find a long-term partner for Bolam. The film is episodic and allows room for the lead characters’ witty philosophical reflections on life. However, it gets caught between two stools by trying to capture the intimacy of its TV roots whilst expanding the setting with a mid-story disastrous caravan holiday. That said there is always a laugh around the corner. Attempts at broader bedroom farce are beneath the rest of the material and seem merely included to appeal to fans of many of the British sex comedies of the day. The film is at its best in its moments of nostalgia. Patchy but entertaining.