Sunday, 21 October 2018

BITE-SIZED REVIEW: Friday the 13th - The Final Chapter (Joseph Zito, 1984)

Following two previous killing sprees, Jason Vorhees (Ted White) has finally been killed. JK, he revives at the morgue and resumes killing his way back to Crystal Lake.

At Crystal Lake, a group of horny 20-somethings arrive to stay for a weekend of partying. Next door, live the Jarvis family, including tech whiz Tommy (Corey Feldman) and his older sister Trish (Kimberly Beck).

The stage is set for Jason's inevitable arrival. But this time, can he be stopped?

I have watched a couple of the Friday the 13th movies, and read a couple of books about the franchise as a whole. I would not consider myself a fan, but as you do in the Information Age, for some reason I have accumulated a ridiculous knowledge of the long-running series.

One of the interesting things about F13 is how long it took for the franchise to figure itself out. Part One famously does not feature Jason; Part Two features Jason wearing a sack over his head; and it's not till midway through Part 3 that he finally gets the famous hockey mask. Usually by the time you get to the fourth film in a franchise, you would expect them to be running out of steam, but with F13 it feels like the opposite.

If you ask a layman what they think of when they think of Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter is probably what they are thinking: you have Jason Vorhees in a hockey mask chasing horny teens while battling his nemesis Tommy Jarvis. This is also the movie where we learn Momma Vorhees' name: Pamela.

I have never really been able to get into the F13 movies. I watched the first ad second one, but nothing about them made me want to stick around. If I had started with The Final Chapter, I might have been more willing to give it a shot.

From a technical and screenwriting POV, this movie is much better than the movies I had already seen. The movie feels far more atmospheric, and director Frank Zito actually bothers to come up with some suspense.

From the beginning, we know that Jason is coming back. Zito uses the old cliche of horny hospital staff as a trigger for his resurrection. There is something really perverse about these characters making out next to a dead body, but the image of people making out in the foreground while Jason's body lies on the gurney behind them feels like a commentary on the basic formula of this series.

Jason quickly re-animates, butchers the creepy couple and it's off to the races. I have to say, I was really impressed by Ted White's performance as Jason. There is an economy to the way he moves, and the viciousness of his attacks, that I really appreciated - and by appreciated, I mean I was legitimately scared of him. I went back to check out Jason's previous appearances, and there is nothing similar to the brute force of White's performance. 

The script for The Final Chapter won't win any Oscars, but it is clear and simple. Jason is on the loose, people are on his turf doing sexy things, and therefore he will kill them. There is a sense of dread to the movie that I really enjoyed - it is possibly the result of familiarity with these movies, but the movie does have a nice sense of pace.

It also helps that Barney Cohen's script spends a lot of time with all the characters, so we get a decent sense of most of their personalities. One of the teens/20-somethings (it's hard to tell how old they are, since they all look 37) is played by a young Crispin Glover. Before the movie begins, Jimmy (Glover) has been dumped by his girlfriend. He's feeling depressed, and this is not helped by his friend Ted (Lawrence Monoson), who belittles him. 

Zito apparently allowed the cast to improvise, and there is a real sense of a rapport between Glover and Monoson. The other actors are fine, but the looseness of the pair's dynamic is a major asset that gives the movie one of its better subplots.

Taken as a movie, The Final Chapter is no masterpiece. But as an exemplar of a formula product, it does the business, displaying an understanding of the basic building blocks of these movies, and finding ways to deploy them in ways that are satisfying.

The kids are not nameless victims, but given their own mini-narratives and character games that make them more than bodies.

Zito's direction shows some style - for the most part he keeps Jason off-screen, showing him at the edge of frame or as a silhouette. And while the deaths are violent, Zito finds artful ways to make them interesting (staging an impaling as shadow play against the exterior of the party house, with the bloody result on revealed as the body/missile hits the wall).

A fun movie on its own terms, although its relative strengths only highlighted why Slashers are not generally my cup of tea. While it is not a deep character study, I actually found myself liking the characters, and ended up hating the scenes when they died. This is what you sign up for with these movies, and I guess I am not the intended audience. I prefer my gore delivered with some irony, or as the garnish to a villain's demise - not some poor schmucks on holiday.

If you are in the mood for a fun ride, or just interested in seeing what this franchise is about, The Final Chapter is worth checking out.


Monday, 15 October 2018

Psycho II (Richard Franklin, 1983)

Decades before David Gordon Green returned to Haddonfield, Australian filmmaker Richard Franklin, hot off Patrick and Road Games (which starred Jamie Lee Curtis), and screenwriter Tom Holland (Fright Night) joined forces to craft a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock's iconic Psycho (1960).

22 years after he was caught, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) has been rehabilitated and released back into society. Retuning home, he is anxious to make a new start and live a boring life like everybody else.

But someone out there does not want Norman to have these things. And they are willing to do almost anything to push him over the brink...

I really like this movie. I am not the biggest Psycho fan, but I was not expecting to like this as much as I did (by the way, if you have not watched the movie, stop reading because there will be spoilers).

Director Richard Franklin was a student of Hitchcock's, and was a friend of the director until his death. His films are rife with Hitchcock's style of visual story-telling (Roadgames is basically a remake of Rear Window, set in a moving truck), and he was a great choice to step into the director's chair.

What I really appreciated was the seriousness with which the filmmakers treat the story. When you think about a sequel to Psycho in the middle of the slasher boom, it sounds bad. Not that I have anything against slasher movies, but while it is based around a killer with a knife, Psycho feels a little 'subtle' compared with the likes of Friday the 13th

The first thing that stands out about this movie is the way it re-casts Norman Bates. While he is a major part of the original, in this movie he is the central character. What is distinctive about Perkins here is that he is not masking anything. Whereas Psycho's Norman was a facade, here there is no facade. Norman is an old man who has been hollowed out by his past life.  Perkins is terrific.

For the most part I like what Psycho II does with the mythology of Psycho. By focusing on Norman and his attempts to conquer his demons, the movie feels more like a drama about addiction, or - in genre terms - a werewolf story. And by re-orienting the story around Norman, it re-casts everyone with a (justified) animosity toward him as antagonists. 

Lila Crane (Vera Miles), Marion's (Janet Leigh) sister from the first movie, spends the movie trying to get Norman locked up. About halfway through the movie, it is revealed that she is the one responsible for tormenting Norman, and intentionally trying to push him back over the edge. This is pretty heinous, but it never feels like a cheap twist. Considering what Bates did, and what Lila experienced, it makes sense that she will do anything to put him away.

Screenwriter Tom Holland keeps most of the action restricted to the Bates house, and the movie ends up feeling like a haunted house thriller, or one of the post-Gaslight thrillers about women who are being driven mad by their evil spouses. The effect here is similar, except for the first half of the movie, it is ambiguous as to who is responsible for all the odd goings-on at the property.

The key focus of the movie is the relationship between Norman and a young woman he meets at work, Mary (Meg Tilly). Mary turns out to be in a part of the plot to tip Norman over the edge, but by that point she has become sympathetic to Norman's plight and tries to undo what she has wrought.

At first, I found Tilly's performance a little flat. it might have been the difference in acting styles, but she ends up being a good balance for Perkins' intensity. When her plans start to fall apart, and their roles switch, her initial acting choice makes sense. Her performance does not read because the character is (badly) playing a role. It is a little confusing (especially once the plot really gets cranking), but Tilly is great.

The big trump card of this movie is the reveal that Mrs Bates was not Norman's mother - it was in fact Ms Spool (Claudia Bryer), the old woman who helped Norman get his job at the diner. It turns out she was Norma Bates' sister and had a child out of wedlock. When she went to prison, Mrs Bates raised Norman as her own. She is also the person who has been doing all the killing.

My only problem with the movie is not the final twist, but the presentation. Like the original movie, everything is wrapped up in a monologue. It also comes really late in the picture. I’m not that bothered by the twist - the complications do add to the fun of unraveling the mystery - but it feels like the 10-15 minutes leading up to it are a bottle-neck of  plotting.

The reveal that the kindly Ms Spool is Norman’s real mother (and the culprit behind all the murders) feels abrupt and slightly unnecessary, but it does fall in line with the movie’s theme of people thinking they know what is best for Norman, and those intentions pushing him back into ‘Mother’s’ grasp.

It is interesting and messed up, but I wonder if there is a version of the movie where it was just a battle of wills between Lila and Norman, with Mary in the middle.

It is actually a testament to how good the movie is that the one thing that feels out of place are the murders. This movie was released after the first wave of slashers and the gore feels out of place with the movie - Lila’s murder in particular feels like something out of a different movie. There is even a set piece that feels like a direct response to contemporary taste: a pair of teens break into Norman’s basement, smoke weed, make out and then are attacked by ‘Mother’.

The movie feels like an inversion of slashers, in that the best scenes do not involve violence. Psycho II is ultimately far closer to a traditional suspense movie than a rock 'em sock 'em slasher. Most of the tension comes from Norman - for a majority of the runtime the audience has no idea whether Norman has fallen back into his old habits or not. One of the tensest scenes in the movie just involves a note from Mother on an order wheel at the diner where Norman works. We are shown the note early on, and the whole scene is built around it slowly getting closer to Norman's line of vision. It's so simple, yet really effective.

While it feels related to Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho II punches its own weight. Jerry Goldsmith references Bernard Herrmann’s famous strings motif, but is built on its foundations. Dean Cundey’s photography feels like it’s descended from the aesthetic of the original, yet the colours and lighting make this familiar world feel old and worn-out. 

Saturday, 13 October 2018

IN THEATRES: Bad Times at the El Royale

In 1969, a group of strangers arrive at a hotel on the border between California and Nevada. Only one of them is who they say they are.

As a storm closes in, secrets are revealed and bodies start dropping...

There are a lot of things to like about Bad Times at the El Royale. The structure is an ensemble thriller, a pressure cooker about a group of strangers stuck in a specific location. That conceit is always fun, and allows for some interesting character dynamics and mounting tension.

Like Mandy, Bad Times at the El Royale is a genre flick operating in a specific cultural context. Set at the end of the sixties, it feels like the end of the road - the El Royale is falling apart, and the people staying there are all running out of time.

It’s a story about people who have lost, but are still pursuing their passion: Jeff Bridges is an ex-con hunting for the haul from his last job, hidden in one of the rooms. He is losing his memory but is determined to get his reward. Meanwhile, Cynthia Erivo is a failed session singer heading to a gig as a lounge singer.

When the movie is based around Bridges and Erivo, there is a weight and tension to the movie that is otherwise lacking. Since this movie is an ensemble piece it lives and dies on its group dynamic, and not all of the pieces are that interesting.

We have an FBI agent (Jon Hamm) on a case stumbling into something bigger; a young woman (Dakota Johnson) who has kidnapped her sister (Cailee Spaeny); and finally there is the shifty concierge (Lewis Pullman), who is haunted by his own demons. All are interesting, but they never really become more than that.

This movie is stylish and contains a number of good twists and tense sequences. The soundtrack is awesome - if you love late 60s pop and soul, you’ll like this. But despite its qualities I left feeling strangely un-moved by it all.

All the acting is solid (Bridges and Erivo are really good as the ostensible 'leads'), I had a trouble caring about anyone's story. 

It does not help that the movie has an antagonist - a Manson-ish cult leader played by Chris Hemsworth - who never really clicks. I feel like a movie like this needs a big, epic finish to really sell me, and this one did not quite work, largely because Hemsworth doesn't.

This movie crystallised what Hemsworth’s strengths as an actor are. When I think of the performances that work, they are characters who either lack status or think they have status (Thor, Ghostbusters or even Rush's cocky James Hunt). In the role of a charismatic cult leader, Hemsworth feels like fraud. There is a key moment where he is revealed as a conman playing on the weaknesses of others. That moment does not work because Hemsworth feels like a fraud from the outset.

In the end, Bad Times at the El Royale feels a little bit less than the sum of its parts. This is a fun genre exercise, but nothing more. 

Friday, 5 October 2018

BITE-SIZED REVIEW: Halloween H20 (Steve Miner, 1998)

20 years after the murders in Haddonfield, Laurie Strode has changed her name, had a child and is a functional alcoholic. When her murderous brother Michael tracks her down, Laurie is forced to confront her demons and fight the Shape once more.

Whew! After the pleasant surprise that was Halloween 4, I went into this movie with slightly raised expectations. Oops.

Directed by Steve Miner (Friday the 13th, Parts 2 and 3), and based on a treatment by Scream's Kevin Williamson, H20 represents both the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, and another re-tooling of the iconic horror franchise to stay current with contemporary trends in the slasher genre. Whereas Halloween 4 amped up the violence to match the Friday the 13thsH20 is responding to the success of po-mo slashers triggered by the release of Scream.

This movie flirts with some interesting ideas, namely Laurie trying to wrestle with the trauma of her past. Both this and Halloween 4 feature scenes of their protagonists haunted by visions of Michael - I kept thinking that the most interesting idea for a Halloween movie would be one in which Michael's presence is never defined. Is he alive? Or is he a memory haunting the present? 

That is maybe too cerebral a concept, but feels more in line with the ending of the original movie, where Michael vanishes into the night. 

Ah well. Away from the movie that could be, and back to the movie we have.

The big problem I have with H20 is that it never really follows through on its set up. We start with Michael hunting through Dr Loomis's (now deceased) old files to track Laurie down, which is then followed by an introduction to Laurie, now a single mother fighting PTSD and her 17-year-old son's (Josh Hartnett) desire for independence. This is all well and good, but then the movie gets stuck having to cater to the  younger set by delegating screen-time to Hartnett's John and his friends. 

And then before we have a chance to really get a handle on either of these storylines, Michael is on the scene and stalking everyone through the darkened halls of the private school where Laurie is now principal. Ultimately H20 feels like it is missing a second act - it sets up characters with back story and motivation, and then sidelines them to wedge in some extra bodies for Michael to butcher. 

Miner does a decent job with the set pieces - he is more adapt than Dwight Little with using a moving camera to hide and reveal information during suspenseful sequences - but otherwise the movie feels like an episode of a 90s teen drama. Curtis adds some weight to Laurie's struggles, but her decision to finally face Michael never feels organic, and the way she destroys him does not really feel that satisfying.

There are moments of greatness - the set-piece in the public restroom with a woman hiding from Michael with her clueless child is genuinely terrifying, and the old-fashioned car Myers uses is creepy - but H20 is not really as good or fun as it could be.

While it is not a bad movie, considering what it is trying to accomplish, H20 is surprisingly unremarkable as a motion picture.


Halloween 4 - The Return of Michael Myer

Thursday, 4 October 2018

BITE-SIZED REVIEW: Halloween 4 - The Return of Michael Myers (Dwight Little, 1988)

Later this month will see the release of David Gordon Green's confusingly titled Halloween, a sequel to John Carpenter's original classic from 1978 that will ignore all the sequels that came in-between. While there has been a bit of brouhaha from a certain section of the fanbase at Green's retconning, this tactic is not new to the franchise.

To date, there have been two previous attempts at anniversary Halloween films, the first in 1988, Halloween 4 - The Return of Michael Myers, and the second, Halloween: H20 in 1998.

Released a decade after the original, Halloween 4 - The Return of Michael Myers was a course correction after the previous in-name-only sequel, Halloween III - Season of the Witch, failed to break out. With the slasher genre getting a second wind from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, time seemed right to bring Michael Myers back to life.

It is 10 years after the murders in Haddonfield. Having survived the fiery finale of Halloween II, Michael Myers rises from a comatose state to escape confinement and return home. In the interim, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has passed away in a car accident, leaving her young daughter Jamie (Danielle Harris) to be raised by family friends, the Carruthers.

Realising the danger he presents to the young girl, Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) tails his former patient back to Haddonfield. But who will get Jamie first?  

I was not expecting much from this movie - I am a big fan of John Carpenter's work, and I did not like Halloween II that much. 

But I have to say, while it is not mind-blowing, on its own terms Return is a solid chiller. And despite the changes which had taken place in the genre since the original's release, the filmmakers stick fairly close to the stylistic parameters of the first movie, with the moments of viscera feeling like punctuation to suspense rather than the main events.

The first act in particular is really well-handled.

The opening sequence is so simple yet so haunting - under red credits, a montage of Halloween decorations against familiar midwestern backdrops (barns, fields etc) backed by wind and subtle synth tones. It's distinct from the preceding films, yet feels totally appropriate. 

We then follow a pair of medical pros in an ambulance driving through a downpour. They arrive at a federal facility that looks like a gothic madhouse from a Hammer horror movie. They are here to transfer Michael Myers to another facility.

Covered in burns and bandages, Myers is immobilised on a gurney for his first few minutes onscreen. The slow tease of his reveal continues for almost half of the movie, from his brutal escape from the ambulance, through his first meeting with Dr Loomis in a deserted gas station.

The scene at the gas station is terrific - Loomis arrives to discover Myers has butchered the staff. Taking place during daylight, it is a creepy, comparatively understated scene; Myers is shown at a distance, his bandaged face resembling the familiar mask. It is vaguely reminiscent of Myers' early appearances in the 1978 movie, when he watches Laurie Strode from behind a row of bushes, or among her washing lines.

Once the mask appears, the movie decelerates a bit - not just because the mask is bad (it is), but because once the familiar pieces are in place, the movie becomes very predictable. It's not that bad though - the scenes with Jamie and Rachel (Ellie Cornell), her foster sister, are a little leaden, but Little pulls off some solid moments (Jamei's encounter with Michael in the costume rack; the cop car surrounded by multiple Michaels) that keep the movie interesting.
The one downside is the slight silliness running through the movie - the group of rednecks who go after Michael are straight out of a Simpsons episode - that undermines the tension. It might be the case that - unlike Halloween - there are too many plotlines, and none of them are particularly well-developed so it is hard to lock into what is at stake. 
 It's slight and a little corny, but on its own terms Halloween 4 - The Return of Michael Myers is a fun movie that does no disservice to Michael Myers' mystique - that would come off with the next sequel...

Sunday, 30 September 2018

BITE-SIZED REVIEW: The Prowler (Joseph Zito, 1981)

In 1945, a young woman is murdered by a masked GI at the graduation dance. After a 35-year ban, the town where the murder takes place decides to bring back the graduation dance. This triggers the killer, who goes on a rampage through the eager young teens who just want to have a good time.

As a teaser for October, here is a brief look back at one of the key titles from the slasher movie cycle of the early 80s. Directed byJoseph Zito (who would go on to direct Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), The Prowler (also known as Rosemary's Killer) is mainly notable for the makeup effects by Tom Savini. 

I have never been a fan of tropes in genre movies - I'll take some interesting characters and a decent story - but there has always been something kind of compelling about The Prowler.

The opening scene, set in 1945, is great. The filmmakers spent some money making this grad dance evoke the period - they even throw in some Glenn Miller on the soundtrack. And then the Prowler jumps out of the darkness with a pitchfork and we're off to the races.

But then the movie cuts to the present and the movie starts to feel really formulaic. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but The Prowler really suffers from a lack of personality. Even the killer feels like he needs a spruce-up. 

He has a creepy look, but I've always felt he needed more of a 'face' - it's too bad My Bloody Valentine used a gas mask because The Prowler could have used something similar. Another problem is that while Tom Savini's gore effects are effective (the knife-through-the-head gag is terrifying), the killer never really differentiates himself in terms of his arsenal - he uses knives and other stabbing implements, but nothing remotely related to his gimmick. He's like a crappy jobber wrestler from the WWF. 

The big problem is that it is a little colourless - in between the set pieces, the movie’s pace slackens. The acting from the unknown cast is decent, but the characters are not that interesting. They are all familiar horny teenage stereotypes.

Ultimately, the script makes the mistake of being really dull and predictable. There’s one blackly comic scene where a hotel clerk is too lazy to call in the sheriff, but otherwise this is  is a slasher by-the-numbers. It basically ends up feeling like a super violent Scooby Doo episode.

It is a pity the wave of slasher reboots is past - The Prowler could benefit from a remake.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Colonel Sun (Kingsley Amis, 1968)

When M is kidnapped, James Bond follows a trail of clues to Greece. Once there he finds himself in an alliance with a beautiful Greek KGB agent with an agenda of her own. Together, they are in a race against time to prevent an act of terror with catastrophic implications for their respective power blocks. 

I found this book in a second-hand shop around 2000 - I was in the middle of finding all the Bond books, and this one stood out because it was a one-off and at the time I remember thinking it was the closest to capturing the feel of Fleming. I re-read it recently, and my impression of it was that

Written by Kingsley Amis (father of Martin) under the pseudonym Robert Markham, Colonel Sun was published in 1968, four years after Fleming's death (and two years after the release of the posthumous short story collection Octopussy & The Living Daylights). Amis had written a book about Bond called The James Bond Dossier and had consulted on the final editorial of Man With The Golden Gun after Ian Fleming had died - there are unconfirmed rumours that Amis may have worked on the manuscript to get it ready for publication.

This novel reads like an accomplished musician's cover of a popular tune: It gives you the melody but adds a new arrangement and adds new details and textures that fill out the lyrics and gives it new meaning.

Amis's approach is encapsulated by the opening, which feels specifically designed to assure fans. Amis opens with Bond on the golf course with Bill Tanner. Amis grounds the reader with familiar elements (the location; Tanner; the reference to Bond's injuries from his last (Fleming-penned) mission), before introducing something new - the pair are being watched.

While Bond's literary adventures had featured sequences in England (Moonraker; Goldfinger), generally speaking Fleming maintained a clear separation between Bond's private spaces and his work-life. By introducing an antagonist who is aware of Bond's identity and his habits, and is able to move in his spaces without Bond's knowledge, Amis is violating the unstated formula of the books. For once, Bond is not the active element, and by neutering him so early it undermines the reader's expectations. This short scene is paid off with M’s kidnapping from his house. 

Reading Colonel Sun, you really get a sense of Fleming's limitations as a writer, and Amis's understanding of those limitations, and how to exploit them. For one thing, Amis has more of a sense of humour than Fleming - one example is the Sir Randall Rideout, the Government Minister brought in to right the ship after M disappears. Functionally, the sequence in which he appears is meant to be the point where the situation crystallises and Bond is sent out on his mission. This scene could be dry and expositional, but the inclusion of the clueless Rideout, a blue blood who thinks he is above everyone else in the room, the scene is genuinely funny - and rather than detracting from the stakes, having Rideout there undercuts the sense that Bond's team are in control of what is going on.

The plot is based on an idea from Fleming's From Russia With Love - MI6 know that the clue to Greece is a lure, but they decide to follow it anyway. Here it has a greater sense of urgency, since M’s life is in the balance.

As far as the titular character, Amis's portrayal is based on the familiar stereotype of the evil Asian sociopath, but I give him credit for giving Colonel Sun his own voice and motivations. Generally speaking, Fleming does not do that - he hardly ever plays the story from his villains' POV, leaving the reader to piece them together from Bond's vague assertions. While Amis does not externalise Sun's evil, as some kind of physical scar or disability, in the way that Fleming did with his villains, Amis prefers to dig into Sun's mind. One creepy detail he gives Sun is his accent - he learned English from torturing British soldiers and his accent is an combination of a variety of  regional dialects and inflections.

So much of what makes this book stand out is the way Amis gives extra meaning to rote scenes - such as Bond’s first meeting with Ariadne, a Greek agent of the Soviets - he knows it is all fake, but goes along with it anyway, partially for the sake of his mission, and partially because he is enjoying himself. Once again, I feel like Amis is adding a little more shading to a sequence that Fleming may not try for.

As with Sun, Amis bothers to give Ariadne her motivations and ideology - in some ways she aligns with Bond, but their relationship does not lead to her having a change of heart. There is an air of fatalism to their rapport which makes it more meaningful - because of their jobs they both know it cannot last, and do not pretend otherwise. 

While the plot ends up being relatively straightforward, Amis does add a neat wrinkle: the Russians think Bond is trying to interfere with their conference, and end up getting in the way. Their leader, General Arenski, is a familiar secondary bad guy - he is a lazy politician with no imagination.

The Greek setting is well-handled, and Amis adds a neat layer of cynicism and melancholy to Bond's observations that feel more profound than Fleming's xenophobia - his Bond ponders globalisation, and how American pop culture and commercialism is starting to affect all of the places he loves to visit. In line with the plot and Bond and Ariadne's relationship, every element of Amis's book seems to be pre-occupied with the end of an era. This was Amis's only Bond novel, and I wonder if Colonel Sun was his attempt to signal that the world and ideas that had created Bond in the first place, were dying out.

In the Bond completes his mission, but there is a bitter after-taste to it all. Colonel Sun is appalled by his own actions, Bond and Ariadne go their seperate ways, and - in a tragic beat - no one ever finds out that an innocent fisherman who sold them a boat had been tortured and killed by Ariadne's employers. It adds an edge of bitterness to the ‘happy ending’, by leaving threads dangling.

Once again, Amis is doing something that Fleming could not. In all of his books, Fleming goes on about the dirtiness of Bond’s job, but Amis finds ways to layer that into the story, by creating juxtapositions, like the death of the fisherman, that undercut the romanticism of Bond's adventures.

Overall, Colonel Sun is a fine thriller that hits all of the tropes you would expect, but in ways that make it more involving.

If you are interested in more Bond-related content, check out the reviews below. You can also subscribe to the podcast I co-host, THE JAMES BOND COCKTAIL HOUR, available wherever you get your podcasts.

Den of Geek articles

Bond reviews

Diamonds Are Forever

The Man With The Golden Gun


For Your Eyes Only


A View To A Kill

The Living Daylights

Licence to Kill


Tomorrow Never Dies

The World Is Not Enough (2010)(2017)

Die Another Day

Casino Royale

Quantum of Solace

Spectre (2015); (2016)