Spy Films Have Captivated Movie Audiences
The spy film genre, which is mainly the subgenre of thriller, deals with the subject of fictional espionage, either in a realistic way (such as the adaptations of John Le Carre) or as a basis for fantasy (such as James Bond). Many novels in the spy fiction genre have been adapted as films, including works by John Buchan, Le Carre, Ian Fleming (Bond) and Len Deighton. It is a significant aspect of British cinema, with leading British directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Reed making notable contributions and many films set in the British Secret Service.
Spy films show the espionage activities of government agents and their risk of being discovered by their enemies. From the Nazi espionage thrillers of the 1940s to the 007 films of the '60s and to the high-tech blockbusters of today, the spy film has always been popular with audiences worldwide. Offering a combination of exciting escapism, technological thrills, and exotic locales, the spy film combines the action and science fiction genres, presenting clearly-delineated heroes for audiences to root for and villains for them to hiss.
Ever since the dawn of cinema, spy films have intrigued, captivated, and fascinated movie audiences. Directors from Alfred Hitchcock to Steven Spielberg have scored box-office hits with spy thrillers and dramas. Movie spies from James Bond to Matt Helm to Simon Templar have intrigued audiences with their suave personas, "spy skills," and sports cars that can fire missiles and machine guns.
Spy movies have their beginnings in the World War I era. During this period of time, silent movies were coming into vogue in the US and Europe, and invasion literature was hugely popular in the UK. Even before the outbreak of war between the Triple Alliance (UK, France, and Russia) and the Triple Entente (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy), paranoia of Germany in particular was very high in the UK and a cold war was well underway between the two alliances. It was inevitable that this trend would carry over into the cinemas (aka "moving picture houses") of the time.
After the end of World War I, movies about spies and the war continued to be made and stayed popular. There were several movies made about spies from this era that have become silent film classics. These starred some very popular actors and actresses from the time. The spy genre maintained its popularity through the 1930s, and movies about WWI and German spies in particular continued to be made in the US and UK. A few of these movies have become famous Hollywood classics over the years. Some noteworthy movies made during the '30s include "Mata Hari," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," and "Dark Journey."
The "Master of Suspense" Alfred Hitchcock directed some of Hollywood's most memorable spy movies. Movies such as "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (both UK and US versions), "The Thirty-Nine Steps," and "North By Northwest" have become cinema classics and everyone knows the famous scene from "North by Northwest" where the crop-duster swoops down over Cary Grant! Some of his lesser-known spy movies such as "Secret Agent," "Sabotage," and "Saboteur" hold up well to this very day. Spy storylines also featured in his TV series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," as well as "Suspicion," which he produced.
Spy movies made the transition from WWI to WWII beginning in 1939 with the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. During WWII, a number of notable (and not-so-notable) spy movies were made, such as Fritz Lang's "Man Hunt" and Hitchcock's "Saboteur." These movies largely concerned Nazi spy activity, but a few were made about Japanese spies as well. Spy storylines often carried over into detective films (which were popular during the 1930s-40s) during this era. Movies where famous detectives such as Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan rescued kidnapped scientists, recovered plans for secret weapons that were stolen by enemy agents, and so on became popular among audiences. Also during WWII, a type of "spy action movie" sub-genre about Allied resistance fighters, secret agents, commandos, and partisans operating behind enemy lines in Europe and Asia made its debut and became popular. This WWII-era sub-genre is one that has survived well into the present day.
It was during the Cold War that the spy movie genre really took off. The cold war raging between Washington and Moscow (and to a certain degree, Beijing) provided - and still provides - ample material for espionage and action enthusiasts. Authors such as John LeCarre, Tom Clancy, Ian Fleming, and Len Deighton wrote best-selling spy novels that ended up becoming blockbuster motion pictures. Well-established directors such as Hitchcock made Cold War classics such as "Torn Curtain."
The countries of the West weren't the only ones to make famous spy movies. There were a number that came out of the Eastern Bloc countries and the USSR, as well as China and North Korea. Most of these movies are not known in the West. These movies reflect the paranoia of the West and Communist ideologies of the time very well. When the Cold War ended in 1991, movies about Russian spies did not. These continued to circulate in Hollywood and are still being made today. Movies such as "Salt" starring Angelina Jolie are the continuation of a movie genre that started some 65 years ago.
Since the end of the Cold War, the spy war between the West and Russia continues to be waged on the big screen. Spies have dealt with the current Russian government in movies such as 2002's Jack Ryan entry "The Sum of All Fears" and with the Russian mafia in movies such as 1997's "The Saint." Also since the 1990s, rogue states such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea have become popular subjects in spy and action movies such as the 2002 James Bond entry "Die Another Day."
Another popular subject of spy thrillers from recent times is the rise of global terrorism. Some of these movies try to address some of the inherent moral dilemmas in waging war against terrorism. An example of this is the 2005 Spielberg movie "Munich". Bond, in his various incarnations, flippantly beat up on the Russians, but there were also more serious, probing works like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold which also emerged from the Cold War. As the Cold War ended, the newest villain became terrorism and more often involved the Middle East.
A few fictional Cold War spies such as James Bond and Jack Ryan made their way to the big screen and have become hugely successful movie series and trilogies. In the case of James Bond, he has become an entire movie genre and franchise in himself! These characters have continued to maintain a presence there even some 20 years since the end of the Cold War! James Bond is the most famous of movie spies.
Nothing that started in 1962 continues today except the Bond movies. For fifty years, the James Bond novels and movies have varied from realistic spy drama to outright science fiction. The Bond franchise has entered popular culture. As a household name, James Bond (arguably the most successful fictional character, ever) has had a definitive impact on the cinematic spy genre extending into parodies such as Casino Royale. In the 1960s, the success of the Bond films inspired television imitators such as I Spy, Get Smart, The Wild Wild West, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which became popular successes in their own right. Fleming contributed to the creation of U.N.C.L.E.; the show's lead character, "Napoleon Solo", was named after a character in Fleming's novel Goldfinger.
Everyone that I know, boys that is, grew up wanting to be James Bond, mainly due to the Bond Girls. Bond's women, particularly in the films, often have double entendre names, leading to coy jokes, for example, "Pussy Galore" in Goldfinger (a name invented by Fleming), "Plenty O'Toole" in Diamonds Are Forever, and "Xenia Onatopp" (a villainess sexually excited by strangling men with her thighs) in GoldenEye. Despite Bond's male chauvinism towards women, most end up, if not in love with him, at least subdued by him.
James Bond, also known as 007 ("double-oh seven"), is a sophisticated fictional character and British spy created by writer Ian Fleming. Introduced in 1953, Bond is the main protagonist in numerous novels and short stories by Fleming, and after Fleming's death further literary adventures were written by Kingsley Amis, John Pearson, John Gardner, Raymond Benson, and Charlie Higson.
James Bond is best known from the EON Productions film series. As of (2005) twenty official and two unofficial films have been made, with a twenty-first official film now in pre-production for release in 2006. Bond has been officially portrayed by actors Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan. The majority of the films were produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; Broccoli's daughter and stepson, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, later became the producers. Independently of EON, two other James Bond films were made: Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again (1983), starring David Niven and Connery, respectively. Since the mid-€"1970s, Danjaq, L.L.C. (Broccoli's family company), has co-owned the James Bond film series with United Artists Corporation; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (owners of United Artists) currently distributes the series.
Commander James Bond is secret agent 007 - the 'double-oh' prefix indicates his discretionary 'licence to kill' in the performance of his duties for the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6 (which has a real counterpart). Ian Fleming named 007 after the American ornithologist James Bond; he explained to Mrs. Bond that her husband's: "brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon, and yet very masculine name was just what I needed." The real James Bond had written Birds of the West Indies, and Fleming, a keen bird watcher while in Jamaica, had a copy of Bond's bird manual and chose its author's name for the hero of his first novel, Casino Royale in 1953.
Fleming based elements of Bond upon himself - noted for his glamorous lifestyle, which included relationships with many women. Fleming was inspired by his contemporaries in British Intelligence during World War II. The Estoril Casino, in Estoril, Portugal, is James Bond's credited birthplace; its atmosphere inspired Fleming, as European royalty openly mingled with the world's spies. In neutral Portugal, the casino was home away from home for spies of the warring regimes. Moreover, other inspirations for James Bond have been suggested.
The James Bond film series has its own traditions, many of which date back to the very first movie in 1962. Since Dr. No, every official James Bond film begins with what is known as the "gun barrel shooting scene", and The James Bond Theme which introduces agent 007. The gun barrel is seen from the assassin's perspective - looking down at a walking James Bond, who quickly turns and shoots; the scene reddens (signifying the spilling of the gunman's blood), the gun barrel dissolves to a white circle, and the film begins.
Dean Martin and James Coburn tried with series like the Matt Helm movies and "Flint" series. But neither reached the popularity of James Bond. According to some critics, the films began looking outdated by the 1980s: the character's anachronistic sexism, the glamorous locales grown stale, and the secret agent's unruffled exterior had become incongruous when compared to movies such as Die Hard. After the unsuccessful, adult, hard-edged James Bond of Timothy Dalton, the 1990s revival of the series with Pierce Brosnan succeeded due to his mix of Dalton and Connery's hard edges tempered with Moore-ish humour.
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