Thrilling Cities, James Bond, & Ian Fleming’s literary fiction

IF YOU HAVEN’T READ Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities, I reckon you probably should if you like witty, readable books. At least have a glance at a witty, readable review of it. One key passage that could do with some elaboration is this one:

Fleming was periodically weighed down by a kind of directionless, spiteful ennui, which often fired his best writing – Casino Royale, From Russia, with Love, “The Living Daylights”, “Octopussy”. Reading his novels in sequence, one is bewildered by the mood swings between, for instance, From Russia, with Love, the cynical book in which Fleming comes closest to Le Carré, and actually kills 007 at the end (obviously, it didn’t stick), and its follow-up, the dizzyingly exuberant Doctor No. Today, he’d probably be called bipolar.

It’s unsurprising, really, that Fleming in a foul mood should kill off 007. It wasn’t only his general attitude toward life that was affected by his mood swings, but also his attitude towards his most famous creation. Gleefully pulpy Bond adventures such as Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Doctor No, Goldfinger and Thunderball burst with such genretastic staples as pirate gold, disguised Nazi war criminals, Chinese evil geniuses, all-lesbian crime gangs and missing atomic weaponry. Fleming grew up reading about the exploits of John Buchan’s Richard Hannay, Sapper Morton’s Bulldog Drummond, and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu, and at his most carefree seemed delighted to be keeping alive that lineage.

At other times, he was rather more cynical about his place in the literary world and seemed, as with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, to view his creation as an albatross keeping him from achieving greater literary respect.

Of course, Fleming did have some heavyweight admirers in the literary world. Kingsley Amis was the most prominent, writing two books of analysis of the character, one serious and one tongue in cheek, as well as a continuation novel after Fleming’s death. Roald Dahl, too, counted himself as a fan and wrote the screen treatment for You Only Live Twice. Raymond Chandler thought Fleming a fine thriller-writer, and he should know. Anthony Burgess noted that he had read and enjoyed every one of the Bond novels.

What Fleming lacked, though, was any body of work outside of Bond on which to be judged, with the small exceptions of the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and two nonfiction books: the aforementioned Thrilling Cities and The Diamond Smugglers, cobbled together from leftover research for Diamonds Are Forever. That’s not to say that the Bond books are entirely without literary merit; just view the passage below from “Octopussy” for evidence:

Octopussy

-it’s just that the obvious limitations of the Bond format of exotic locales, dastardly villains, daring escapades, and sex and booze and food and sex and cigarettes and sex and death don’t much reward experimentation, which is likely why most of Fleming’s occasional stabs at literary fiction are in the short-story format. “Octopussy”, excerpted above, is a slow and rather melancholy rumination on guilt and probably the peak of Fleming’s ability as a writer.

In the same collection appeared “The Living Daylights”, which returns us to somewhat more familiar territory with Bond ordered to snipe a Soviet sniper in order to aid a defection. We’re thoroughly in Le Carré territory here, and treated to such stylistic flourishes as Bond’s mental description of Berlin as “a glum, inimical city dry varnished on the Western side with a brittle veneer of gimcrack polish, rather like the chromium trim on American motor-cars”.

Earlier, Fleming had taken Bond as far away from formula as he’d ever get with “Quantum of Solace”, a stylistic and thematic homage to Somerset Maugham with Bond appearing only to listen to another character whose party he’s attending tell him a story about two other figures and their broken marriage. It’s good stuff if a little pastichey, with the only really unconvincing element being the questionable necessity of having Bond himself appear at all.

Mind you, the Bond of the short-stories spent about as much time relaxing as he did going on missions. “The Hildebrand Rarity” introduces us to a truly vile American businessman, Milton Krest, and his vessel the Wavekrest. Krest has no plan more dastardly than to use somewhat unethical fishing techniques to retrieve the rare fish of the title, but he’s a more convincing portrait of evil than a whole cartoonish parade of Draxes, Goldfingers and Blofelds. We finally end up in murder-mystery territory as Krest is found murdered with two possible suspects (we as readers are allowed to know James Bond didn’t do it) and a subversive lack of solution.

Finally, there’s one Bond novel that attempts to enter literary-fiction territory (though look out for flourishes in Casino Royale and From Russia, with Love): The Spy Who Loved Me, in which a nice yet somewhat broken Canadian girl recounts her life and sexual history for two-thirds of the novel before Bond shows up and takes care of the thugs menacing her in the present. It was released to reviews ranging from indifferent to hostile, and Fleming quickly decided he was embarassed by it, leading to a film “adaptation” that used the novel’s title and very little else. Actually it’s really not that bad (aside from one cringeworthy line extolling the merits of “semi-rape”) if one’s able to accept that it’s really not much of a Bond adventure.

Still, its reception seems to have put Fleming off from doing anything other than sticking to what he knew best, and he stuck to formula for the superb On Her Majesty’s Secret Service before the rushed You Only Live Twice and The Man with the Golden Gun. One wonders how he would have fared in the literary world had he not been so afraid to experiment; the presence of Bond himself in each of these stories feels like nothing more than a crutch and they’d all the be better off simply ditching the whole pretence. But I suppose albatrosses aren’t easily got rid of.

 

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Ian Fleming, Thrilling Cities, & the reluctant traveller

TRAVEL WRITING STEMS from a variety of motives – to inform, to amuse, to educate, to show off or to make a bit of money. But sometimes the best travel writing comes from writers who don’t even want to be there in the first place.

That was the case for Ian Fleming in 1959, when The Sunday Times all but forced Fleming to make a several-weeks’ trip around Asia and then on to the United States via Hawaii. Despite Fleming admitting himself to be “the world’s worst sightseer”, who “had often advocated the provision of roller-skates at the doors of museums and art galleries”, the trip went ahead and resulted in a series of articles for the paper, one for each city visited; these articles were later compiled to form one of Fleming’s few non-James Bond books, Thrilling Cities.

But Bond aficionados will find much that is familiar; not only the glamour, but the seediness, the snobbery, the murky threat of violence, the constant boozing and the malaise of the novels can all be easily recognised throughout the travels recorded here. The first city visited is Hong Kong, where Fleming’s descriptions are enjoyable both for what has changed – “when the remaining forty years of our lease of the mainland territory expire, I see no reason why a reduced population should not retreat to the islands and the original territory which we hold in perpetuity” – and for what is still eminently recognisable: “the streets of Hong Kong are evidence that neon lighting need not be hideous, and the crowded Chinese ideograms in pale violet and pink and green with a plentiful use of white are entrancing not only for their colours but also because one does not know what drab messages and exhortations they spell out”. While staying in Hong Kong, Fleming also makes a jaunt to Macau, where he latches on to stories about the gold-smuggling trade, with “the internal Geiger-counter of a writer of thrillers ticking furiously”, before making his way on to Tokyo.

“I hate, small, finicky, breakable things, and I am slightly over six feet tall”, complains Fleming, who has had reservations about Japan from the beginning: “Before and during the war they had been bad enemies and many of my friends had suffered at their hands.” But in his short three days there, Fleming is won over both by his companions – Orientalised Australian Dick Hughes and Japanese “Tiger” Saito – and by the eccentricity and charm of Japanese culture. Despite feeling clumsy, awkward, and out of place, a good-humoured, “when in Rome” attitude soon overtakes him, and in a brief three days he manages to take in a meeting with Somerset Maugham, a Judo demonstration, a Japanese bath, a visit with a soothsayer, and an evening with geishas, all sake-soaked and never in violation of his anti-itinerary: “no politicians, museums, temples, Imperial palaces or Noh plays, let alone tea ceremonies.” The judo, bath, geishas, and Maugham are uniformly delightful, but the soothsayer is rather a wash, predicting Fleming will live to eighty, return to Japan, and is about to enjoy a streak of good luck. The latter cheers him, his companions having dispensed grave warnings to him against his flight out of Tokyo: flying on Friday the 13th is bad enough but, going Eastward to Hawaii, he will cross the dateline and experience two Friday the 13ths in a row.

As with the soothsayer’s other predictions, the streak of good luck is nonsense. The flight gets off to a bad start, rattled by Typhoon Emma, but Fleming doesn’t mind. His devil-may-care alter ego Bond actually prefers to fly on the 13th, he reminds us: “There are practically no passengers and it’s more comfortable and you get better service.” The comfort, the service, and the drinks see him asleep by midnight. After four hours, the voice of the captain awakes him: “There has been an explosion in number three engine and a fire […] I have no hydraulic pressure.” Luckily, this happens to be the most unflappable airline pilot in the world: “We have altered course for Wake Island where I shall carry out a no-flap landing at an unusual altitude and faster than is the custom […] I have made many three-engine landings and also many without hydraulic pressure, so – see you on the ground!”

In their own day, most of the appeal of the Bond novels and, by extension, Thrilling Cities, was aspirational; the diabolical villains and lurid exploits were just conventional story-building elements. Air travel alone was a thrilling and romantic experience, beyond the means of most, never mind staying in the best hotels, playing in the best casinos, wearing the finest suits, drinking the finest wine, eating the best caviar – the novels work as a sort of lifestyle porn, and Thrilling Cities, lacking the villains and the exploits, still works on the same level. Today, air travel, exotic places, skiing, fine dining and cocktails are no longer unobtainable for the average person, but that aspirational element remains; rather than vicariously living like an international playboy, today’s reader instead longs for a time when boarding an aeroplane was an adventure rather than a chore.

With a USAF rescue-plane and two Navy craft deployed, the captain breezily makes his landing (“To lighten the load, I am about to dump fuel, so there will be no smoking please.”) and Fleming’s en route to Honolulu, where his spirits remain high despite his failure to take to surfing, his distaste for plinking ukulele music and his dismay at hordes of elderly American tourists.

Fleming’s thriller-writer senses kick in once again in Los Angeles as he discusses the Mafia with Police Captain Hamilton, and his gambling connoisseurism in Las Vegas, providing a quick summary of how to gamble sensibly that is the level-headed antithesis of Mr. Bond’s high-stakes play. Speaking of Bond, Fleming was so wearied and miserable by the time he reached New York (via Chicago) that, as an apology for his rubbishing of the city, American readers were offered a humorous short-story about him. “007 in New York” isn’t much of a thriller but its throwaway nature is precisely what makes it enjoyable, with a rare and light-hearted ending in which Bond fails his mission – plus, there’s a recipe for “scrambled eggs James Bond”.

Fleming’s trip was so successful that, having barely finished submitting his articles, Fleming found himself being asked by the paper to make another trip. The Sunday Times had Latin America in mind, suggesting the appropriately thrilling Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Havana, but an already-weary Fleming was only willing to go as far away as Europe, making most of the trip in his own car and finding many of his destinations boring or repellent.

First on the agenda was Hamburg, where Fleming – often caricatured as an old Tory, but really more of a libertarian – briefly praises the sex industry (“normal heterosexual ‘vice’ is permitted to exist in appropriate ‘reservations’ and on condition that it remains open and light-hearted. How very different from the prudish and hypocritical manner in which we so disgracefully mismanage these things in England!”) before moving on to Berlin where he is oppressed by Modernist architecture, Cold War tensions and the spectre of Hitler.

In “The Living Daylights”, James Bond thinks of Berlin as “a glum, inimical city dry varnished on the Western side with a brittle veneer of gimcrack polish, rather like the chromium trim on American motor-cars”. If anything his creator is even harsher, but one wonders whether it’s the ghastliness of the city itself or the ghastliness of his mood that’s to blame. Fleming was periodically weighed down by a kind of directionless, spiteful ennui, which often fired his best writing – Casino Royale, From Russia, with Love, “The Living Daylights”, “Octopussy”. Reading his novels in sequence, one is bewildered by the mood swings between, for instance, From Russia, with Love, the cynical book in which Fleming comes closest to Le Carré, and actually kills 007 at the end (obviously, it didn’t stick), and its follow-up, the dizzyingly exuberant Doctor No. Today, he’d probably be called bipolar.

Even so, Fleming takes out some frustrations in a still-thrilling description of buzzing down the Autobahns, which takes up a good third of the chapter and makes the arrival to pleasant, dull Vienna rather an anti-climax, as is Geneva (“to include Geneva among the thrilling cities of Europe must seem to most people quixotic”). Italy is a bright spot: tracking down retired gangster Lucky Luciano in Naples, and Gracie Fields in Capri, before noting down an amusing bit of bother in Pompeii when a French tourist’s wife is refused entry to the Lupanar, where “childish pictures […] show you how to make love – if you were the right shape and extremely athletic”. The unimpressed Frenchman protests, “Pah! […] You think I have come a thousand miles from Paris to see that? Why, I was doing it myself when I was sixteen! […] These stupid Romans had no idea how to make love. And you mean to say you won’t let my wife see this nonsense!”. And after a discourse on how ugly and dull lava is, our author makes his way to Monte Carlo, where an amusing encounter with a sarcastic English girl and a visit to Jacques Cousteau both prove so restorative to the author’s spirits that he ends up closing the book with an incongruous “What fun it all was! What fun ‘abroad’ will always be!”

Still, travel at the best of times tends to take it out of us, but in another six weeks, six months, or a year we find ourselves looking back on our adventures with nothing but fondness, and presumably it was so for Fleming too, who probably expected to make a third trip once he’d recuperated sufficiently. Sadly, a heart attack at 56 meant that not only would there be no third trip, there’d be no more of his Bond novels either. Given how many of his experiences and impressions from Tokyo made their way directly into You Only Live Twice, it’s hard not to wonder what sort of adventures he was planning for Bond in Macau, Honolulu, or Naples. Still, the adventures recorded here provide an appropriately thrilling little volume which, if it is too dated to be of much value as a guidebook, is so of its time as to be indispensable as social history, and should be treasured and re-read as the witty, crotchety, yet always endearing record of a reluctant traveller.

Ian Fleming Author the creator of James Bond 1963

Nada the Lily, Black Panther, & the colonial adventure

EVER SINCE READING, as a teenager, H. Rider Haggard’s classic adventure novels She and King Solomon’s Mines and its sequel Allan Quatermain, I’d been hungry to find more from Haggard. It wasn’t until, as an adult, I was gifted a Kindle and found an ebook of his complete works that I was able to: aside from the well-known titles already mentioned, hardly anything remains in print from an author who was once one of the English-speaking world’s most popular.

This likely has to do with much of Haggard’s work’s status as colonial fiction, which has had a hard time attracting any readers since around the advent of post-colonial literature. Kipling, one of the most prominent writers of his own time, is nowadays hardly read, save for the odd academic defence or condemnation. Heart of Darkness remains on syllabi, likely aided by being so deconstructionary and generally difficult, but the rest of Conrad’s colonial fiction is obscure.

Haggard himself inaugurated the genre with King Solomon’s Mines, but his full oeuvre of more than fifty novels spans almost half a century and an array of genres including early examples of science fiction and the historical novel, and settings ranging across Africa, Europe, Asia and North and South America as well as throughout human history. Popular sales and enthusiastic reviews sustained his career well into the twentieth century, and dozens of film adaptations appeared, from Georges Méliès’ 1899 “The Pillar of Fire”, based on She, to Hammer’s 1965 treatment of the same material, while the last thirty years has seen Haggard’s only screen representation come from the 2008 Asylum mockbuster Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls, taking more cues from the successful (and Haggard-influenced) Indiana Jones films than the text it purportedly adapts. To this day, echoes of Haggard’s work are evident in all kinds of stories of adventure and fantasy, exploration and colonisation – the recent success of Marvel’s Black Panther film, set in a Haggard-like hidden African kingdom, attests to this – but his novels themselves remain little-read and overdue for re-interpretation.

The books in question, it must be said, range in quality as well as content – though the very roughest still make for stirring yarns – but the most remarkable among them is Nada the Lily, an early example of the spin-off prequel for a successful series, exploring the younger days of Umslopogaas who, in Allan Quatermain, had played a formidable variation on the Man Friday noble savage part.

Already the ambition of Nada the Lily is evident, for it is hard to imagine the original Man Friday, nor any of his literary descendants, meriting their own derivative work – particularly not one in which the narrative is at no point driven by their relationship to white European characters. In fact, the entire cast of Nada the Lily are black Africans, and many of them are real historical figures, or closely based on them: while the “Lost World” literary genre began with the imaginary Kukuanaland of King Solomon’s Mines, and was more fully explored in the hidden Zu-Vendis kingdom of white Africans in Allan Quatermain, Nada the Lily’s action takes place in the very real Zululand, and in what was then the fairly recent past. We would not, either, expect the prequel to a fantastical adventure story to fall more into historical fiction, then still a relatively young genre having been codified by Sir Walter Scott in the first half of the century. No prior attempts appear to have been made at a novel of African history, and Nada holds the distinction of being the first ever novel with an entirely black cast. In fact, given the paucity of African written records, such a novel could probably only have come from a colonial adventurer such as Haggard, who relied heavily on the oral histories he picked up from natives as well as the partial reconstructions attempted by some of his contemporaries, such as the missionary Henry Callaway.

In a favourite technique of Haggard’s, the narrative is presented as a genuine artefact, with occasional interjections by its “editor”. In the frame narrative, a white explorer becomes stranded in a sudden and mysterious snowdrift, whereupon he gets caught up hearing the main story, which is recounted to him by the elderly Mopo, who was once witch-doctor to the great king Chaka (better known to modern readers as Shaka Zulu), and father of the beautiful Nada who is the object of the young Umslopogaas’ love. Umslopogaas has been raised as Nada’s brother but is in actuality the son of Chaka, kept secret by Mopo due to Chaka’s policy of having all his sons killed lest one should rise against him.

Following Chaka’s assassination by his half-brother Dingaan, Nada is forced to flee, taking refuge on the great Ghost Mountain, with “a grey peak rudely shaped like the head of an aged woman” in a manner recalling the twin peaks nicknamed Sheba’s Breasts, in King Solomon’s Mines. Unlike Sheba’s Breasts, however, the Ghost Mountain really exists, though Haggard never visited and took some dramatic licence in its depiction. Here his carefully-researched historical epic takes a turn into the phantasmagorical territory which made his name, with Umslopogaas’ introduction to the mountain’s unique resident, Galazi the Wolf, who has been raised by the mountain’s resident wolf-pack (Kipling acknowledged in a letter to Haggard that the concept for The Jungle Book grew from reading Nada the Lily), though presumably the “wolves” are hyenas. Galazi acts as the pack’s leader and the wolves do his bidding, making for an unforgettable Haggard set-piece as he makes his last stand on the Ghost Mountain.

Haggard’s blending of fantastical elements with historical narrative makes Nada the Lily one of his most appealing works; his books have always been sold on his great imaginative power, while the lofty tone of his prose, informed by Homer and the King James Bible, is often undercut by a lack of polish and an occasional clumsiness. He himself seems to have been aware of this, but preferred to leave his manuscripts unrevised, asserting in his autobiography The Days of My Life that “wine of this character loses its bouquet when it is poured from glass to glass”. The energy and roughshod nature of his earlier adventure novels is less evident in the latter half of his body of work, which is dominated by melodramas and further historical tales. Indeed, the narrative of Nada the Lily itself is revisited and continued in a trilogy of novels – Marie, Child of Storm and Finished – which fully integrate Allan Quatermain and his wife Marie into the action, covering a number of key historical events such as the Great Trek, the Weenen Massacre and finally the Anglo-Zulu War with the detail of an amateur historian and, in some cases, an eyewitness. All are captivating, but Nada the Lily stands as the ultimate Haggard work. The tone is set in the very opening lines of the “Introduction”, as detailed documentary narrative begins to give way to the spellbinding voice of folk-tale or oral history:

 

Some years since–it was during the winter before the Zulu War–a White Man was travelling through Natal. His name does not matter, for he plays no part in this story. With him were two wagons laden with goods, which he was transporting to Pretoria. The weather was cold and there was little or no grass for the oxen, which made the journey difficult; but he had been tempted to it by the high rates of transport that prevailed at that season of the year, which would remunerate him for any probable loss he might suffer in cattle. So he pushed along on his journey, and all went well until he had passed the little town of Stanger, once the site of Duguza, the kraal of Chaka, the first Zulu king and the uncle of Cetywayo. The night after he left Stanger the air turned bitterly cold, heavy grey clouds filled the sky, and hid the light of the stars.

 

The synthesis of styles is sufficiently convincing to allow for a premonition much later in the book, and spelling out its underlying theme, not to spoil the narrative immersion:

 

Thou canst not kill this white men, for they are not of one race, but of many races, and the sea is their home; they rise out of the black water. Destroy those that are here, and others shall come to avenge them, more and more and more! Now thou hast smitten in thy hour; in theirs they shall smite in turn. Now they lie low in blood at thy hand; in a day to come, O King, thou shalt lie low in blood at theirs.

 

So prophesies Mopo to Dingaan, elaborating on a prophesy made earlier by Chaka with his dying breath. The Shakespearean wrangling for the Zulu throne which has driven the novel’s tragic events is given a deeply ironic weight by the reader’s sure knowledge that all of this contending for power is in vain, and the alienating effect on the European reader shown himself as Other, as relentless monster, is increased by the richly immersive detail with which the novel portrays the Zulu way of life. The cultural destruction wrought by colonialism has never been more vividly made plain, though Chinua Achebe’s novel of immediately pre-colonial Nigerian life, Things Fall Apart, does make use of a similar effect.

Both are novels which make no attempt at “whitewashing” pre-Christian African values; Nada the Lily’s heroes and villains alike are recognisably Zulu in culture, with their multiple wives, pragmatic attitudes toward death, and glorification of war and conquest. Haggard’s treatment of Chaka, in particular, is spectacular. His cruelty and paranoia, and the sheer arbitrariness with which so many of his acts are conceived and carried out, is chillingly similar to the tyrants that came before and after him: Genghis Khan, Caligula, Idi Amin. Yet Chaka is also a visionary, terrible but great, and fits in with popular conceptions of tragic conquerors like Caesar or Napoleon.

Like every one of Nada the Lily’s characters, in short, his actions play out on a grand, larger-than-life scale, something Haggard was unique among Victorian authors – and even early-to-mid 20th-Century writers – in acknowledging could be afforded to native African affairs. The aforementioned superhero film Black Panther has broken a number of box-office records, and won much critical acclaim for its images of a bold, vibrant, and epic black African adventure directed at mainstream audiences. Yet it has an antecedent, more than a century old, in Nada the Lily and the rest of the series.

H Rider Haggard

Tomorrow Never Dies, Police Story 3, & a hopeless spinoff

I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT that, as exciting and underrated as it is, Tomorrow Never Dies probably features a bit too much action for a Bond picture, which have always leant towards the “adventure” side of action/adventure – it’s a noticeable difference if you compare the series to such Bond competitors/derivatives as the Indiana JonesBatman or Mission: Impossible series, or Marvel’s brand-new stab at the long-dormant “black 007” genre in Black Panther.

For a long time, though, I’d been mistakenly thinking of it as a film that’s overly keen to ape violent American films, in the manner of Licence to Kill or Quantum of Solace. After defining its own subgenre in the 60s, the series has occasionally, and rather sadly, borrowed from other genres, many of them partially derived from the Bond formula itself: blaxploitation in Live and Let Die; Kung Fu in The Man with the Golden Gun; Star Wars in Moonraker; Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and their ilk in Licence to KillBatman Begins in Casino Royale; Bourne in Quantum of Solace. What hadn’t struck me previously is that Tomorrow Never Dies represents the Bond series’ attempt to piggyback on Hong Kong action cinema of the sort codified by John Woo. That’s the real meaning of Bond dual-wielding a P99 and an MP5 as he mows down Carver’s henchmen, not to mention the use of pre-Matrix bullet-time showing off Wai Lin’s cartwheels and high kicks.

Wai Lin, of course, is played by the Hong Kong star Michelle Yeoh, who had already submitted an audition tape for this precise rôle with her appearance in Police Story 3: Super Cop. In that film, Yeoh plays a no-nonsense Chinese policewoman, an orthodox communist who bickers with the partner she’s assigned: Jackie Chan as a policeman from (then still-British) Hong Kong. In Tomorrow Never Dies, Yeoh plays a no-nonsense Chinese spy, an orthodox communist who bickers with the partner she’s assigned: James Bond, a spy from Britian. (An earlier draft of Tomorrow Never Dies would actually have revolved around the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, which was scrapped when a) production took too long for the issue still to be relevant, and b) the handover went very smoothly and afforded little opportunity for action set-pieces or communist-vs.-capitalist quipping.)

It isn’t only the character dynamic between Bond and Wai Lin that feels borrowed from Police Story. After about eighty minutes of standard Bond stuff, the film sends us to Asia, after which the action is nonstop for about a solid half-hour. Among the setpieces are Bond and Wai Lin rappeling down a skyscraper by clinging to an enormous and slowly-tearing poster adorning its side, and a rooftop motorcycle chase for which the pair are handcuffed to one another for the duration. The combination of eye-popping action and physical comedy comes straight from Jackie Chan, and it’s a shame that Pierce Brosnan is an actor and not a stuntman, for scenes like these work best when they’re done fully in-camera, without swapping between actors and stuntmen.

Wai Lin was apparently one of the series’ more popular Bond Girls, though I always found Yeoh a little stiff and awkward here compared to some of the wonderful performances she’s given in Chinese and HK films. Still, a spinoff was originally intended for her character who, of several Bond Girls set up as female counterparts to Bond (The Spy Who Loved Me‘s XXX, Die Another Day‘s Jinx) is the most convincing. Yeoh was already used to such spinoffs, having starred in one of her own featuring her character from Police Story 3: Super Cop. That spin-off was confusingly marketed in various territories as SupercopSupercop 2, Police Story 3 Part 2, Supercop, Police Story IV, Project S or Once a Cop. I wonder whether the producers would even have started thinking about spinoffs if the Police Story series hadn’t gone there first.

And I wonder if the Police Story series first came to their attention with the wide release of Police Story 4: First Strike, aka Jackie Chan’s First Strike. It takes the series away from Hong Kong cop action in favour of a globetrotting plot obviously intended to launch Chan’s character as a Hong Kong alternative to Bond, and was seen by plenty of international audiences previously ignorant of the series. Once again, Bond was borrowing from its own imitators.

As for the Wai Lin spinoff, it never materialised, and the producers turned their hopes to Jinx in Die Another Day, envisioning a “Winter Olympics” scenario in which her films and Bond’s would alternate. After the rough reception given Halle Berry not only in Die Another Day but also X-Men, Swordfish and (especially) Catwoman, the spinoff idea was once again abandoned, and I have to wonder: does anyone really want or need to see Bond without Bond? If they do, they already have a rich array of alternatives from which to choose.

Tomorrow Never Dies

Jigsaw, Martyrs, & torture awe

martyrs

OH, I should say, graphic image warning, sorry. The deranged, disturbing beauty of the shot above comes from the 2008 French extreme picture Martyrs, in which (spoilers incoming, and throughout) a cult of some sort repeatedly kidnaps young women and subjects them to the most extreme varieties of pain in the hope of inducing a state of spiritual transcendence. Why they have to be female isn’t explained, and many of history’s famous martyrs, from Jesus Christ to Thích Quảng Đức, have been male. Of course, the term “martyrs” as used in Martyrs doesn’t carry the exact same meaning as our understanding of the term, but those two candidates along with many others would seem to qualify according to the rules the film establishes, wherein an experience of religious ecstasy and enlightenment is generated from the act of martyrdom.

Is Martyrs‘ provocative philosophical content just an excuse for the 40 minutes of unrelenting brutality which close it (after a first half that’s no picnic either)? Or is that brutality itself a necessary vehicle for what Martyrs attempts as art? The arguments have been endless, and I’m not even sure where I come down in the end. Certainly Martyrs is a gruelling experience, but it’s also a commanding and unforgettable work of art, something which can’t be said for a number of torture flicks more limited in their ambition. Then again, my favourite film in the genre, Audition, manages to use graphic torture sequences both intelligently and sparingly, with only about five minutes towards the end and a couple of brief, say 30-second, scenes before that in what is largely your standard romantic comedy-drama-detective-ghost-story.

And I really hated The Passion of the Christ, which I thought used religious worthiness as an excuse for truly sadistic scenes of a degree of gratuitousness that none of the Saws or Hostels come even close to matching. I don’t even like Hostel very much, but despite a shallowness and nastiness to its tone, it’s more a standard rape-and-revenge picture, albeit with a genderswap and with “torture” replacing “rape”, while the original Saw is a  cleverly-executed little locked-room mystery. Even the far gorier sequels focus more on inventive types of ironic punishment than they do on the actual mortification of the flesh. I’ve always thought that “torture porn” is a misnomer for these kinds of films, because the torture isn’t in there for people to get their jollies to; for that, see slasher movies, which feel much less nasty because of their fun tone, but are much more callous in the way they encourage audiences to cheer on the deaths of drunk horny teens (hypocritically: the films are just made for enjoying a beer with, and almost all feature the tits of attractive young wannabes) while turning their killers into advertising mascots, plush toys, “chibi” figurines, keyrings, TV anthology hosts and rap stars. Meanwhile in torture films it’s the opposite; they’re supposed to make you uncomfortable, to be hard to watch, and it’s certainly the victims you’re rooting for, which is how Hostel and Irréversible both get to treat cold-blooded murders somewhat sympathetically, by allowing you to see the horrific ordeals that drove those characters to murder their tormentors. OK, so The Jigsaw Killer is the closest thing to a modern Freddy or Jason. But he’s remained cold, callous, and intimidating even as his screentime increases in every new instalment.

Actually I wonder whether Jigsaw himself would sympathise with the cult from Martyrs. His morality, his methods and his motivation are all entirely secular but both share a belief in the ability of pain to induce transcendent experiences. In Jigsaw’s case, he hopes to make people better, help them overcome their personality flaws, their mental health issues, even just their general complacency. The cult in Martyrs aren’t doing things for the benefit of individuals, but for all of mankind, because doesn’t the temporary suffering of a few hundred or thousand individuals pale in comparison with gaining an understanding of humanity’s destiny?

The bad guys of Martyrs are also shown to be correct within their movie’s fictional universe, but it’s hard to imagine that Jigsaw could ever have the positive impact on anyone’s life that he sees his antics resulting in. Despite what Nietzsche tells you, torture can profoundly damage who you are as a person. Perhaps the most realistic of these spooky pain-worshippers is the ridiculous Illuminati spokesman from the ridiculous Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation: “This… all this… It’s been an abomination. You really must accept my sincere apologies. It was supposed to be a spiritual experience. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.” Writer/director Kim Henkel strikes much the same tone: “Of course, it does produce a transcendent experience. Death is like that. But no good comes of it. You’re tortured and tormented, and get the crap scared out of you, and then you die”.

Bad Santa, Andy Pitz, & who really needs who

Bad Santa

Like I do most Christmases, I recently rewatched Bad Santa. It’s a great movie, and it only seems to get better each time I watch it. Some, especially those who’ve only seen it once, might like it for its foul language, its drunken escapades, the scene where Thurman Merman kicks his Draco Malfoy-esque bully in the nuts then cycles away, giving the finger in a “Shit happens when you party naked” T-shirt, or Lauren Graham’s character moaning “Fuck me Santa, fuck me Santa, fuck me Santa, fuck me Santa…”; in short, they might enjoy it for its transgressive qualities, and probably see it as an anti-Christmas movie, an antidote to It’s a Wonderful Life or (especially) Miracle on 34th Street. What they miss is that, not only is it a much deeper and cleverer movie than its surface qualities give the impression of, it’s also not even an anti-Christmas movie. It’s a sweet and heartfelt tale of redemption, a story about a no-good drunk who, for the first time in his life, does something for someone else. As Willie himself puts it, “I beat the shit out of some kids today. But it was for a purpose. It made me feel good about myself. It was like I did something constructive with my life or something, I don’t know, like I accomplished something.”

I’ve seen the film so many times there are many lines, and exchanges, I could quote by heart if I felt like boring someone. But on my last rewatch I noticed something I hadn’t before. As anyone who sees it recognises, Marcus is fed up to the gills with Willie. He warns him early on that if he doesn’t sort things out and act like a professional, he (Marcus) will find himself another Santa to pull the con with. Later on he tells Willy that he can always find himself another Santa. Willie replies that he’ll find himself another elf, and Marcus shoots back, “Yeah-? You see us hanging off trees like fucking crab apples?”.  Viewers are inclined to agree with Marcus, because he’s the one who acts like a professional, whereas Willie’s booze, bullshit & buttfucking endangers their whole operation. So when Marcus turns on Willie it’s a betrayal, but not altogether an unexpected or unreasonable one.

But then, how about this exchange:

Willie: Do you remember Andy Pitz?

Marcus: Sure, Andy Pitzerelli.

Willie: No, Andy Repitski. Andy Pitzerelli was Andy Blue Balls.

Marcus: Well since he got married they call him Andy Pitzerelli. So what’s your point?

Willie: They say he can get into anything. They say he’s been in Margaret Thatcher’s pussy.

Marcus: And that’s supposed to be a good thing-? …so what’s your point?

Willie: When I was in the joint with him, he told me the Kintnerboy Redoubt can’t be cracked.

Marcus: Are you shitting me? Are you telling me that after I propped you up, held you together, smiled for all those kids, danced for all those fucking housewives in a fucking lime green fucking velvet elf costume, that you cannot crack this fucking safe? Is that what you’re telling me?

Willie: No, I’m just saying it’s gonna take a minute.

It’s a badass line, and it’s a pleasure to see one of the few scenes where Willie’s actually good at something, where he’s not just a nuisance for Marcus to tolerate. But this scene also tells us that Willie isn’t just a good safe-cracker, he’s better than the best safe-cracker either of them know. That’s what Willie’s bringing to the operation, genius-level safe-cracking. So when Marcus says he’ll find himself another Santa, it’s really just an empty threat. He doesn’t work with Willie just because he’s an old white guy, whereas Willie really does work with Marcus just because he’s a midget. They may not hang off trees like crab apples, but I’m sure there’s more than one crooked little guy in the United States, whereas there certainly isn’t another safe-cracker as good as Willie. Had the cops not intervened, what would have become of Marcus’ operation the next year? We can only wonder.

Merry Christmas everyone! Here, enjoy this wonderful little tune that plays over Bad Santa‘s end credits:

Twin Peaks: The Return, “2016, Twin Peaks, & which characters are probably back”, & the perils of prediction

Twin Peaks The Return

Well, that’s that for Season 3 of Twin Peaks (subtitled The Return). That could even be that for Twin Peaks, full stop, but let’s hope not. Instead let’s time travel to 2014 when I first tried to predict what might be in store from the new season, and see where I got it right (and where I screwed up!). Sections in italics, like this, will be my commentary on what my past self thought. This article will be utterly riddled with spoilers, so if that bothers you, leave it alone!

FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan)

The peculiar heart of Twin Peaks & the character most likely to talk about coffee, cherry pie or Douglas firs, only Audrey Horne competes with him for the title of most popular Peaks character. The infamous cliffhanger with Coop trapped in the Black Lodge will be the first thing fans will want to see resolved, & while Lynch seems likely therefore to tease the fans a bit, there are also indications that he doesn’t intend to keep him in the Lodge forever, with plans for the aborted third season apparently revolving around Garland Briggs working with the Sheriff’s department to save him, & scenes released as part of Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces expanding on the circumstances of his imprisonment as well as showing the immediate aftermath of his evil double’s bathroom freakout (Dr. Hayward puts him to bed, apparently, which is an extremely poor decision for a patient with a head wound). MacLachlan has also recently tweeted pictures of himself having lunch with David Lynch, who obviously adores the actor, given his nipple-baring appearances in both Dune & Blue Velvet. Obviously MacLachlan has aged more naturally than the rather eerie “25 Years Later” makeup from his dream sequence – perhaps they’ll ignore that discrepancy; maybe we’ll even see a strange situation whereby he’s made up to make his aging look less natural. But then, if we believe the “25 Years Later” subtitle from the International Version of the Pilot, then we know Cooper remains in the Black Lodge until at least 2014, & there’s no reason other than fan backlash that the writers can’t force him to stay there indefinitely. In that case, Cooper’s doppelgänger could still appear in the new episodes, but I find the doppelgänger’s reappearance unlikely – for one thing, it’s a bit of a cheesy plot, & the idea of BOB-as-Coop escaping detection for twenty-five years stretches probability. However, I also think MacLachlan is unlikely to be the main character like in the old show – I can see him with a rôle roughly the size of that he played in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Probability of return: 9/10

Easy peasy, come on. 1 point

FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch)

Partially deaf & fully eccentric, David Lynch’s increasingly frequent appearances as Gordon Cole are probably either the unintended result of a silly joke, or a long-term plan to score a kissing scene with Mädchen Amick. Either way, David Lynch never seemed to me to be fully committed to playing Cole, & I doubt the character will even be referenced twenty-five years from the date he headed the investigation into Laura’s murder. Probability of return: 3/10

Well, I couldn’t be wronger here. Gordon Cole became one of the few regulars in Twin Peaks: The Return‘s shifting cast list. Lynch clearly doesn’t mind acting as much as I thought. 0 points

FBI Special Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer)

Almost the sarcastic & aggressive polar opposite of Agent Cooper, Albert Rosenfield was later revealed to share Coop’s sense of spirituality. Despite his limited number of appearances, the character was always memorable, & Miguel Ferrer’s arrogant delivery was a career highlight for a man who once played drums for Keith Moon (for some reason). On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for the character to have hung around Twin Peaks when he loathes the town, unless it’s to rescue Cooper. Probability of return: 3/10

Wow, see above. One thing I did get right is that there’s little reason for Rosenfield to hang around Twin Peaks. I just didn’t predict how little of the new Twin Peaks would take place in Twin Peaks. Glad we got this little extra bit of Rosenfield before Ferrer passed away. 0 points

FBI Special Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie)

I don’t think anyone really knows what Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was getting at with Phillip Jeffries’ disappearances, shunted back & forth between Philadelphia & Buenos Aires. Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces gives him about double the screen time, but all we learn is that his appearance causes the shit to come out of the ass of a hotel guest. There’s a compelling mystery surrounding Agent Jeffries, but will they be able to get David Bowie again? Probability of return: 3/10

I’ll split the difference here. I said it was unlikely for Bowie to return, and I was sadly right, but we did get more of Jeffries – as a kettle. 0.5 points

FBI Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak)

Another Fire Walk With Me character, & one who exists only to fill in for Cooper, since Kyle MacLachlan felt his small part in the film was too large, & opted to take a tiny one instead. The film’s depiction of Chester Desmond investigating the Teresa Banks murder creates internal inconsistencies, but the character is an intriguing counterpart to Cooper – Twin Peaks rip-off/homage Deadly Premonition features an FBI main character who seems to be modelled after Desmond rather than Coop – & his Jeffries-like disappearance in the film is another intriguing mystery. On the other hand, it’s possible that he actually doesn’t exist at all, & is merely a representation or other identity for Cooper, a narrative device Lynch also uses in Lost HighwayMulholland Drive. Probability of return: 3/10

Chester Desmond did, pleasingly, get a reference in the new series though. 1 point

FBI Special Agent Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland)

If Chester Desmond exists as a topsy-turvy Cooper, then Sam Stanley is a topsy-turvy Albert with a mild & humble persona. Again, the character probably wouldn’t have been introduced if a last-minute rewrite of the Teresa Banks investigation hadn’t been necessary, & Kiefer Sutherland would probably be too expensive these days for the character’s return to be worth it. Probability of return: 2/10

Sutherland was a bit busy with 24: Live Another Day and MGSV. 1 point

FBI Agent Roger Hardy (Clarence Williams III)

The agent responsible for Cooper’s suspension, the character made few appearances & was seemingly the only FBI agent with no memorable eccentricity. Internal affairs must be a boring division. Probability of return: 2/10

I think this might have been the easiest guess I made. 1 point

DEA Agent Denise Bryson (David Duchovny)

A trans woman who assists Cooper during his suspension, David Duchovny went on to achieve much greater fame as an FBI agent in The X-Files, a show which probably owed something to Twin Peaks. Duchovny, like Kiefer Sutherland, would probably be too expensive now to be worth bringing back, & the character, while likable & competent, never did much of note plot-wise. Probability of return: 2/10

Duchovny most certainly did make a return, and on the same night as his X-Files costar appeared in American Gods playing a man (sort of). Most of Twin Peaks‘ actors seemed really keen to return to it, even those who’ve gone on to much greater fame, which is really nice (but see below). 0 points

Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean)

Misleadingly given second billing in every episode of the series, Michael Ontkean played the kind & dependable Sheriff of Twin Peaks, who refreshingly didn’t clash with the FBI agent sniffing around his town. Sheriff Truman played a useful Watson to Cooper’s bizarre Holmes, & provided needed exposition, especially in the pilot episode, but was never given interesting subplots of his own beyond his secret relationship with Josie, who is now trapped in a drawer handle in any case. If he returns to the show at all, I picture him having retired to make way for a new Sheriff; probably, like Deer Meadow’s Sheriff Cable, that new Sheriff’s techniques & demeanor will contrast with Truman’s. Probability of return: 5/10

I got this right, but the way Robert Forster appears as Sheriff Frank Truman in the new episodes gives the feel of a hurried rewrite. Sadly Michael Ontkean just didn’t feel like doing any new episodes, and he’s missed. The new Sheriff’s techniques & demeanor certainly don’t contrast with Truman’s! 1 point

Deputy Tommy “The Hawk” Hill (Michael Horse)

The competent one out of Sheriff Truman’s two deputies, Hawk was visible in the pilot episode for about two seconds, but later in the series he would almost always appear in scenes involving the Sheriff’s Department. Michael Horse speaks fondly of Twin Peaks, citing Hawk as a positive portrayal of Native American people onscreen, but the character is still something of a stereotype, & was never given even a small subplot of his own; besides which, Horse has largely retired from acting to focus on painting. Probability of return: 4/10

Happy to have gotten this one wrong, & that Hawk is given quite a lot more to do in the newer episodes! 0 points

Deputy Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz)

The incompetent one out of Sheriff Truman’s two deputies, Andy was one of Peaks‘ few pure comic relief characters. His on-off relationship with Lucy, fatherhood rivalry with Dick Tremayne, & propensity for amusing injuries wouldn’t have been out of place on a crap sitcom, but his purity of heart & increasing bravery in the line of duty deepened his character somewhat. I picture him as a devoted husband & father, & while that doesn’t sound terribly dramatic, the possibility that the child is Tremayne’s exists in the background, along similar lines to Ben Horne’s fathering Donna. Probability of return: 6/10

Yep, but after having seen Michael Cera’s turn as Wally Brando I’m confident that Andy’s the father. 1 point

Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson)

Lucy’s distinctive voice & dreamy-yet-grounded personality made her instantly memorable, & she often seemed more of an asset to the Sheriff’s Department than Deputy Andy did. Kimmy Robertson has also remained active with, for instance, the Twin Peaks festival, even if she has aged terribly. Also, with Twin Peaks‘ return, we’re presumably going to be introduced to a whole new generation of characters, otherwise the show will be nothing but a bunch of old people reminiscing about the early 90s, & since Lucy is the only character to become pregnant during the show’s original run, it seems logical for her child, now grown-up, to feature in the new episodes. Probability of return: 6/10

Yes, and yes, her child did indeed feature in (one of) the new episodes. 1 point

Dick Tremayne (Ian Buchanan)

Possible biological father to Lucy’s child & insufferable snob, Dick Tremayne is neither fondly remembered nor involved in any important storylines, though with his job at Horne’s Department Store it’s just possible he’s aware of the sex ring operated out of it. Even if the new episodes do continue the fatherhood drama of the second season, Dick doesn’t seem to me like the type to stick around Twin Peaks, especially if there’s a risk of responsibility. Probability of return: 2/10

Headcanon: Tremayne left Twin Peaks, to go and be a snob elsewhere. I’d find it cool if it got worked into the show somehow. 1 point

Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee)

Twin Peaks‘ central character despite having died before the pilot episode, Laura’s murder drives the show even after it has been solved. David Lynch was so fond of Laura Palmer he made her the main character in the prequel film as well as getting his daughter to write a spin-off novel about her, & was so fond of Sheryl Lee he brought her back repeatedly, in dream sequences, tape recordings, old video footage, & finally as Laura’s identical cousin Maddy Ferguson. Earlier this year he filmed new scenes with Sheryl Lee in character as a dead Laura Palmer in the interview piece Between Two Worlds, & according to Lee he even planned to have her play a third character in Season Three. Sheryl Lee has always been proud of her Twin Peaks work, especially Fire Walk With Me, & it seems incredibly unlikely that she won’t make some sort of appearance, even if it’s just hanging out at the Black Lodge; however, while Maddy is also shown within the Lodge, I imagine Maddy will be ignored in favour of Laura. Probability of return: 10/10

Correct! Not until the very end, though. 1 point

Leland Palmer (Ray Wise)

Laura’s father & (spoilers!) murderer, Ray Wise has to be given credit for giving one of the very strongest performances in a show just full of them. While the character dies in custody after his arrest, he is shown in the Black Lodge along with a number of his victims, & Ray Wise also reprised the character for Between Two Worlds. Probability of return: 7/10

Yep, just briefly. 1 point

Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie)

Sarah’s emotional reaction upon realising her daughter is probably dead was one of the key scenes in the pilot, & her character only became more tragic from there with the revelation of her husband’s guilt for that murder & his subsequent death. Grace Zabriskie in Between Two Worlds plays her as a broken woman & it’s easy to imagine the new episodes dealing with the impact of the abuse & death within her family. Probability of return: 8/10

“dealing with the impact of the abuse & death within her family”. God, and how. 1 point

Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle)

Laura’s naïve but loyal best friend, Donna had a complex & interesting personality, & it would have been interesting to really see the traumatic impact Laura’s death would have had on her. Unfortunately, her character was given some pretty stupid plotlines, & shared with James Hurley the worst dialogue in the show. Behind the scenes Lara Flynn Boyle was demanding & seemingly jealous of Sherilyn Fenn’s popularity as Audrey; she declined to appear in the prequel film, where Donna was portrayed, more weakly in my opinion, by Moira Kelly. Given this, Boyle seems likely to turn down appearances in the new episodes – if offered – & to me it seems even less likely that Kelly will be offered the part. Besides, Donna seems like she’d probably be the type to leave Twin Peaks & its traumatic associations behind. Probability of return: 4/10

Thought so. Still wonder what Donna’s up to, though. 1 point

Dr. Will “Doc” Hayward (Warren Frost)

Donna’s father & almost a second father to Laura, Doc Hayward was another of the many kind & gentle inhabitants of Twin Peaks. Played by Mark Frost’s father Warren Frost, the character may have gone to prison after the last episode for the manslaughter of Benjamin Horne. On the other hand, I’m not the first fan to point out that Doc Hayward appears, not in custody & not at all shaken up, during the last scenes with the evil Coop, which might indicate that Ben’s head wound wasn’t as nasty as it looked. Probability of return: 5/10

Warren Frost managed to film one scene as Doc Hayward before passing away. It’s really sad how much of the cast have died, before or during the filming of the new episodes. 0 points

Eileen Hayward (Mary Jo Deschanel)

Donna’s wheelchair-bound mother, Eileen Hayward made infrequent appearances on the show until towards the end of its run, when Donna discovers a past affair between Eileen & Ben Horne, during which Donna may have been conceived. Probability of return: 4/10

No Eileen. 1 point

Harriet & Gersten Hayward (Jessica Wallenfels & Alicia Witt)

Donna’s two younger sisters, Harriet, who was in her early teens in 1989 & writes poetry; & Gersten, who was pre-teen in 1989 & plays piano, seem to have been forgotten by most of the Twin Peaks staff, appearing rarely even in scenes set in the Hayward household. Mind you, many characters who were extremely minor later became more prominent, & as with Lucy’s son or daughter, the show will probably need more young-ish characters. Probability of return: 3/10

It was a bit cheeky of me to list these two as the same character, wasn’t it? It didn’t work out very well for me as, while Harriet’s nowhere to be seen, a grown-up Gersten’s having an affair with Steven, which isn’t wise considering the kind of man he is. 0.5 points

James Hurley (James Marshall)

Boyfriend of both Laura Palmer & Donna Hayward, James is frequently mocked by fans for his lack of charisma, bizarre singing voice, & for being central to Season Two’s worst subplot. The last that is seen of James, he is leaving Twin Peaks on his motorcycle, as he has frequently threatened to do, & it is unlikely that he will ride back into town, especially since Marshall is now more focused on his music career. Probability of return: 4/10

Marshall certainly is focused on his music career, and he’s clearly a great sport! Two of my favourite scenes from the new episodes. I still do wonder what motivated him to ride back into town, though. 0 points

Evelyn Marsh (Annette McCarthy)

Wealthy older woman living in a town outside of Twin Peaks, Evelyn Marsh’s seduction of James Hurley & elaborate murder schemes wouldn’t have been out of place in some Gothic potboiler or stage melodrama. While Evelyn, unlike her husband Jeffrey or lover Malcolm, survives Twin Peaks‘ worst subplot, there is no reason the writers would seek to remind viewers of her existence, especially when she doesn’t even live in Twin Peaks. Probability of return: 1/10

I considered this even less likely than the return of FBI Agent Roger Hardy. 1 point

“Big” Ed Hurley (Everett McGill)

Gas station (or “gas farm”-?) owner & apparent cowboy, James’ uncle Ed is one of Twin Peaks’ decent sorts, engaging in a secret affair with Norma that is, in fact, rather blameless, since Ed’s spouse is abusive & Norma’s, in prison. Ed & Norma’s scenes together were some of the sweetest & most tender in the series, & the amnesia-love-triangle-divorce plot with Nadine still has yet to be resolved. Probability of return: 8/10

“the amnesia-love-triangle-divorce plot with Nadine still has yet to be resolved”. Well, not any more! 1 point

Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie)

Super-strong wife of Ed Hurley & would-be inventor of the silent drape runner, Nadine attempted suicide, woke from her coma with amnesia, & engaged in an affair with Mike. While the whole plotline was thoroughly silly, there is perhaps scope for examination of why she has super-strength, & the question remains unresolved as to whether Ed ever finalised his divorce from her. Probability of return: 7/10

Digging herself out of the shit! Well, good for you Nadine. 1 point

Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton)

Owner of the Double R diner, mother figure to Shelly, & former beauty queen Norma always struck me as perhaps Twin Peaks’ kindest resident, & it is all the more heartbreaking that the world seems to conspire against her. I can see her continuing to run the Double R until her death – whereupon Shelly will perhaps inherit it. Probability of return: 8/10

And Peggy Lipton still looks so good! You could take her & Shelley for sisters in the new episodes. 1 point

Henry “Hank” Jennings (Chris Mulkey)

Career criminal, husband of Norma, & thoroughly nasty piece of work, Hank usually does a good job of looking sweet & devoted in front of Norma. Given that he is in prison prior to the start of the show, & might be headed back there, crippled from a beating by Nadine, after its end, his return is less likely than that of his wife; however, there could be a nice embittered revenge angle to be exploited there. Probability of return: 7/10

According to The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Hank was killed in prison. That’s not a great loss to the world. 0 points

Vivian Smythe “M.T. Wentz” Niles (Jane Greer)

Norma’s rather bitchy mother worked as a food critic under the name M.T. Wentz. Given Jane Greer’s 2001 death, & the character’s relative unimportance, Vivian will probably have passed away in the time between old & new Peaks, if she is referenced at all. Probability of return: 1/10

Well yeah. 1 point

Ernie “The Professor” Niles (James Booth)

Vivian’s husband & a criminal associate of of Hank’s, Ernie is sent in to Dead Dog Farm wearing a wire; when it is discovered he becomes Jean Renault’s hostage; Jean agrees to a hostage exchange for Cooper, with Ernie last seen being returned to police custody. Due to his cooperation he was probably allowed to go free, whereupon he would have left town with Vivian. Given James Booth’s 2005 death, the character, who is as old if not older than Vivian, can likely be assumed to have died while Twin Peaks was off-air. Probability of return: 1/10

Again. 1 point

Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham)

Norma’s former nun sister Annie falls in love with Cooper, which Windom Earle takes advantage of as part of his plan to gain access to the Black Lodge. The programme shows Cooper sacrificing himself to save her, & a deleted scene from the film had her waking up in hospital with a message about the evil Coop. While the character does not feel fully fleshed-out, & is something of a substitute love interest after Audrey, her centrality to Cooper’s ongoing plot means there is a good chance of her playing some kind of part in the pick-up of the plot. Probability of return: 7/10

Surprisingly, no. Coop’s love interest is now apparently Diane, with Annie never even addressed. 0 points

Thadilonius “Toad” Barker (Kevin Young)

Recurring patron of the Double R Diner, Toad seems to exhibit something of a manchild-ish quality, with poor impulse control leading him to steal food from the kitchen. Improbably enough, Toad was written into Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, but even so, there seems a low chance of his character returning again. Probability of return: 4/10

I got this right, although one thing I got wrong is that the Toad of Fire Walk With Me, a skinny chef, is a different character from the overweight patron. Two Toads. What are the odds? 1 point

Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick)

Double R waitress & secret lover of Bobby, Shelly Johnson was another Twin Peaks character to achieve early popularity, & her sweetness & beauty combined with her horrible marriage to abusive Leo Johnson lends her an angelic quality. In her 2007 appearance in the interview piece A Slice of Lynch, David Lynch seems enraptured by her, especially the kissing scene they shared. Regardless of whether Leo Johnson survived the spider trap set for him by Windom Earle, Mädchen Amick, who still looks beautiful, is likely to play a major part in the new episodes. Probability of return: 9/10

Yep. 1 point

Leo Johnson (Eric Da Re)

Abusive husband & low-level criminal Leo Johnson was perhaps the show’s most unpleasant character, although he suffered severe decay in the second season, where he seemed to be treated as an ineffectual joke character. He is last seen in a frankly ridiculous trap Windom Earle has set involving a tank of tarantulas which, while certainly unpleasant, would be unlikely to kill anyone in real life. Probability of return: 5/10

Presumably the tarantulas killed him, or some other more realistic fate befell him. 1 point

Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn)

Sexy teen femme fatale, & likely the second-most popular character after Dale Cooper, Audrey’s initially significant rôle in the series became diminished after her intended love plot with Coop was vetoed, & Sherilyn Fenn declined to appear at all in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. She took a starring rôle in the flop Boxing Helena, by Jennifer Chambers Lynch – daughter of David & author of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. It is possible that Audrey Horne died in the bank explosion engineered by Thomas Eckhardt to kill Andrew Packard; however, were there to have been a third season, Audrey was to have been revealed to have survived. David Lynch obviously remained interested in the character of Audrey, conceiving Mulholland Drive as a pilot for an Audrey-centric spinoff. This indicates perhaps that her return is unlikely, since Lynch obviously imagines her leaving Twin Peaks for Hollywood or elsewhere, & Sherilyn Fenn has notably aged poorly. Probability of return: 6/10

Audrey came back, eventually. What’s up with her scenes, though? 1 point

Johnny Horne (Robert Bauer)

Audrey’s mentally handicapped brother, often looked after by Dr. Jacoby &, before her death, Laura Palmer. Like Donna’s younger sisters, Johnny occasionally seemed to have been forgotten entirely by the writers, & was portrayed by a different actor (Robert Davenport) in his first appearance. Probability of return: 4/10

And now a third actor’s played Johnny. 0 points

Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer)

Starting out as the show’s big nasty baddie, Laura’s presumable killer in many people’s heads prior to the reveal, Ben Horne later experienced financial setback, then brief insanity, followed by a resolution to do only good. While it is possible that he dies in the final episode, there is evidence suggesting he didn’t, as discussed under Doc Hayward’s entry above. Parts of Ben Horne’s arc, notably the Civil War madness, were handled poorly, but still there is definite potential in seeing, 25 years on, how his devotion to good has worked out, & Richard Beymer has aged admirably, too. Probability of return: 7/10

I really liked the new Ben Horne scenes. 1 point

Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly)

Ben’s shorter & even sleazier younger brother never got to step out of his brother’s shadow in the series’ original run, but there were hints towards such a storyline towards the end, as he never seemed on board with Ben’s new devotion to goodness, & tried to take control of Ben’s affairs during his temporary insanity. Probability of return: 6/10

Yes. What did he find in the woods, though? 1 point

Sylvia Horne (Jan D’Arcy)

Ben Horne’s wife, who is so scarcely a presence in the show that, the first time I watched, I forgot I had ever seen her, & assumed that Audrey Horne’s mother was most likely dead. If Ben Horne returns, & remains good, then Sylvia will likely get to play a small part again, though I wonder that she has yet to divorce him. Probability of return: 5/10

I got this one wrong. What an unpleasant scene! 0 points

John Justice Wheeler (Billy Zane)

John Justice Wheeler, like Annie Blackburn, is a suspiciously perfect replacement love interest written in after the veto of the Coop/Audrey relationship. Given his departure from the series in his private ‘plane, it seems unlikely that he will return even if Audrey does, & we probably wouldn’t expect her to have spent her entire life with her first love. Probability of return: 3/10

So long, John. Will we ever get to learn what became of you? 1 point

Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook)

Boyfriend of Laura, boyfriend of Shelly, & criminal associate of both Mike Nelson & Leo, Bobby Briggs, from an unlikable start, grew into one of the show’s most complex characters, with The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer & Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me depicting his cynicism & occasional cruelty as coming from a vulnerability & sense of sweetness wounded by the effects of addiction & promiscuity. It would be both fascinating & painful to see where the character has wound up 25 years on, especially given his attempts to smarten himself up later in the show’s run. Probability of return: 8/10

Fascinating, but pleasantly unpainful. Proud of Bobby. 1 point

Major Garland Briggs (Don S. Davis)

Bobby’s caring if conservative father & a major in the air force, Major Briggs was one of the characters to be fleshed out in the second season after extremely minor appearances in the first. The plotlines in Season Two involving secret military UFO projects seemed to pre-empt The X-Files, & his speech to Bobby regarding his dream was one of the programme’s most tear-jerking moments. Unfortunately, since Davis died in 2008, the character is unlikely to return – one hopes Bobby remembers him fondly. Probability of return: 1/10

I suppose this one’s a half-point, since he’s now a blobby version of his own head. 0.5 points

Betty Briggs (Charlotte Stewart)

Major Briggs’ wife & Bobby’s mother Betty was never given much to say in the show; she & Garland seemed to love one another deeply, & she would usually agree with his sentiments regarding Bobby’s upbringing. Probability of return: 6/10

Was 6/10 a typo there? 0 points

Pete Martell (Jack Nance)

One of Lynch’s favourite actors, Jack Nance, played the patient & long-suffering Pete, husband of Catherine & discoverer of Laura’s body. The final episode implies, but does not confirm, that Pete is killed in a bank explosion; since Jack Nance passed away in 1996, this will likely be accepted as the character’s final fate, but one hopes to see him commemorated somehow. Probability of return: 1/10

Certainly commemorated, and the sort-of appearance that he did make was brilliantly done. The Secret History of Twin Peaks confirms the bank vault explosion to have killed him. 1 point

Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie)

Gleeful, soap opera-ish villain & wife of Pete Martell, the apotheosis of Catherine’s scheming was to fake her own death & return as an East Asian man. Piper Laurie, at 82, is still going strong, but one wonders what the character can still be given to do on the show. Probability of return: 6/10

Sadly, nothing. Piper’s still going strong, though! 0 points

Andrew Packard (Dan O’Herlihy)

Brother of Catherine & husband of Josie, Andrew Packard was assumed to have died before the start of the show, but it was later revealed that he faked his own death, trying to get the upper hand in a struggle with his business rival/partner Thomas Eckhardt. Eckhardt conspired to kill Packard once & for all with a bomb placed in the bank vault, & it is likely that the attempt succeeded – however, this was never definitively shown to be the case. Probability of return: 2/10

That’s right. 1 point

Josie Packard (Joan Chen)

The first character to appear in the pilot episode, & the most beautiful woman in the state according to her lover Sheriff Truman, Josie was slowly revealed to be living a double life, with a dark past involving Chinese organised crime. Some would say that this past eventually caught up with her when she literally died of fear in a room of the Great Northern Hotel, but her soul was shown trapped in a drawer-handle, & it would be extremely interesting – & really very David Lynch – to show her spirit still trapped there. Probability of return: 4/10

Well, we did see a little tiny bit of Josie technically. 1 point

Dell Mibbler (Ed Wright)

Manager of the bank in which Andrew Packard, Pete Martell, & Audrey Horne may have met their deaths at the hands of Thomas Eckhardt, Mr. Mibbler is one of a great number of decrepit old men in Lynch’s filmography. The shot of the character’s glasses flying through the air after the bank explosion was likely designed to confirm his death, although it is peculiar that this was given more priority than confirming the deaths of Andrew, Pete, or Audrey, when Mibbler had only been introduced earlier that episode. In any case, actor Ed Wright passed away in 1995, further cementing the likelihood of Mibbler’s death. Probability of return: 1/10

1 point

Ronette Pulaski (Pheobe Augustine)

Friend/fellow-victim of Laura’s, Ronette survived the night of Laura’s murder before falling into a coma. She features more rarely than one might expect, given her importance as a friend to Laura & witness of her murder. Some believe that she makes an appearance, along with Laura Palmer, at the Black Lodge-like Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive, which could indicate that she has died &/or become trapped in the Lodge in the time since her last appearance in Twin Peaks. Probability of return: 3/10

Again, we did get brief archival glimpses of Ronette, earning Phoebe Augustine a credit under the new series’ idiosyncratic credits system. 1 point

Mike “Snake” Nelson (Gary Hershberger)

Initially a criminal associate of Bobby Briggs, & briefly a boyfriend of Donna Hayward, Mike seems to go straight to an extent later on, focusing more on his school life & his romance with Nadine Hurley, who has mentally regressed to the age of eighteen. While Mike is introduced with the same apparent significance as major teen characters such as Bobby Briggs, he appears very rarely until Nadine falls in love with him, with his most memorable moment coming when he whispers into Bobby’s ear “what an experienced woman with super-strength can do”, causing Bobby to react loudly. Probability of return: 3/10

He now owns his own business, and turns down Steven for a job! 0 points

Dr. Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn)

Laura’s psychiatrist Dr. Jacoby has a near-obsessional interest in Hawaii & was considered a key suspect in Laura’s murder early on. Russ Tamblyn, best known for West Side Story, has recently made small appearances in Drive & Django Unchained, though for me the character’s return in new episodes would stretch credibility: why hasn’t he moved to Hawaii yet, since he loves it so much? Probability of return: 5/10

Didn’t see that coming, did I? 0 points

Mayor Dwayne Milford (John Boylan)

Mayor Dwayne Milford started appearing regularly in the second half of the show’s run, after a brief appearance in the pilot. His Statler-&-Waldorf grump act with his brother Dougie came to an abrupt end with Dougie’s death, & his character likely died of old age, like his actor John Boylan did in 1994. Probability of return: 1/10

1 point

Lana Budding Milford (Robyn Lively)

Supposed nymphomaniac & black widow serial killer – possibly accidentally – Lana married both Milford brothers one after another. The character isn’t well-remembered by fans & had an improbable Southern accent. Probability of return: 2/10

She was only in that town for fifteen minutes. 1 point

Emory Battis (Don Amendolia)

Emory Battis works at Horne’s Department Store, recruiting girls into a prostitution ring over the border at One-Eyed Jack’s. His most memorable appearance was when Audrey Horne blackmails him into a job on the perfume counter. Probability of return: 3/10

1 point

Nancy O’Reilly (Galyn Görg)

Blackie’s sister & the only member of the criminal family who run One-Eyed Jack’s to survive the series, Nancy is last seen overpowered but not killed by Cooper when she attacks him with a knife during Audrey’s rescue. Probability of return: 2/10

1 point

Roadhouse Singer (Julee Cruise)

Julee Cruise’s performances onstage at the Roadhouse were among the signature scenes of Twin Peaks, & David Lynch has rarely made films without similar scenes. Credited as Roadhouse Singer, Julee Cruise co-composed her songs & included them on her own solo albums, making it unclear as to whether she was playing herself***. Probability of return: 7/10

I wondered whether “Roadhouse Singer” would be the final act to be shown playing the Roadhouse. 1 point

Margaret “The Log Lady” Lanterman (Catherine E. Coulson)

The Log Lady is often used almost as a mascot for the series: in syndication, new introductions by The Log Lady were recorded for every episode, & it is very rare for Twin Peaks parodies not to include her. Known for her wisdom & closeness to the forest, it is nonetheless difficult to pin down a time she ever did anything useful on the show. Probability of return: 9/10

Really impressive how many actors struggled through illness just to put in appearances on the new episodes. Shows you how much loyalty the show earned. 1 point

Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh)

Evil counterpart to Dale Cooper, seeker of arcane magical knowledge, master of disguise, & replacement villain after the early reveal of Laura’s killer, Windom Earle was brought in to give the show direction again, & while he achieved that to some extent, his personality & portrayal was reminiscent of a villain from the 60s Batman, resulting in a campy feel that didn’t suit the show. He is last seen trapped in the Black Lodge by BOB, his soul stolen, but many characters have been depicted within the Black Lodge, after their deaths or otherwise, so it is only good taste keeping him from making an appearance in that context. Probability of return: 3/10

Not even mentioned. 1 point

Killer BOB (Frank Silva)

Twin Peaks’ Big Bad, & the evil spirit possessing Leland during his acts of incest & abuse. While Frank Silva passed away in 1995, Killer BOB, unlike all other characters whose actors have died, is still very likely to play a part in the new episodes. There are a number of ways this could be achieved: they could cast a lookalike actor; or go Doctor Who & have BOB change his form to look completely different (he’s a spirit after all); they could choose not to have him “appear” in his true form, but only through possessed characters – such as the evil Cooper; or they could only hint at his presence with owls, ceiling fans, &c. – done right, it could be even creepier than having him appear in person. Probability of return: 10/10

Evil Cooper. Although how much control did BOB really have? 1 point

The Man From Another Place (Michael J. Anderson)

Along with The Log Lady, the small dancing man in the red suit is a staple of Twin Peaks parodies & homages. However, unlike his servant Killer BOB, The Man From Another Place is not necessary for the story’s continuation: he has never worked directly to influence events in Twin Peaks, & is a very abstract character whose rôle could easily be fulfilled by other characters from the spirit world. Michael J. Anderson already looked aged in Mulholland Drive in 2001, & while I’m sure Anderson would be keen to return, I can’t help but think that the character’s mystique would be diminished by the realisation that he is not an eternal spirit, but ages at just the same rate as regular humans. However, as with Killer BOB above, there is no reason the spirit needs to keep the same form. Probability of return: 4/10

Nope, he’s a tree now. 0 points

Phillip “One-Armed MIKE” Gerard (Al Strobel)

One-armed shoe salesman Phillip Gerard, possessed by the spirit One-Armed MIKE, turned out to be a handy ally against Killer BOB, his former associate. MIKE cut off his evil arm after seeing the face of God, though the arm continues to exist in the form of The Man From Another Place. As useful as the character was to the heroes during the show’s original run, I wonder how likely the spirit-possessed shoe salesman is to have stuck around in Twin Peaks. I wish him all the best. Probability of return: 4/10

0 points

Señor Droolcup, The Elderly Bellhop (Hank Worden)

Nicknamed “Señor Droolcup” by Albert Rosenfield, The Elderly Bellhop is a character of ambiguously spiritual nature, who may in fact be “one and the same” as The Giant. It’s also possible that the character is The Giant’s familiar. In any case, since Hank Worden passed away in 1992, The Elderly Bellhop specifically is unlikely to return, though the spirit of The Giant might well. Probability of return: 2/10

I got this right, and I got it right about The Giant, or “Fireman”. 1 point

The Giant (Carel Struycken)

Seemingly benevolent spirit with apparent ties to The Elderly Bellhop & the White Lodge, The Giant first appeared in the Season Two premiere assisting a wounded Dale Cooper. Probability of return: 6/10

As “Fireman”, or ???????. 1 point

Pierre & Mrs Tremond, the Chalfonts (Austin Jack Lynch & Frances Bay)

Mrs Tremond – or Mrs Chalfont – & her grandson Pierre first appeared in the second season but were never given any significant material despite their apparently supernatural nature & obvious link to the spirit world. Both characters appear in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me – wherein Pierre wears a mask to disguise the replacement of Austin Jack Lynch, son of David, with Jonathan J. Leppell – but again, neither of them does anything significant. With Frances Bay’s 2011 death, & the fact that Austin Jack Lynch will be 33 by the time of the new episodes, these characters are likely to remain forever ambiguous. Probability of return: 2/10

No indeed, but we met an Alice Tremond, who bought her house from Mrs Chalfont. Something’s up. 1 point

Total: 44.5/62, which isn’t too bad. One thing I didn’t expect was how much loyalty the new episodes had to even the plot aspects of the old show that I never got the impression sat right with Lynch or Frost, or seemed ephemeral which they could have chosen to simply ignore. They usually didn’t, while also making a show that was tonally very, very different.