Spies are back ......Not that they ever really went away ,but the new JAMES BONDfilm 'S.P.E.C.T.R.E.' is on it's way in and sadly ,as i've not seen it and wanted to the new 'MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.'film is on it's way out!
It's been strange as for many years all the film and telly spies have fought 'the other side in a quest for micro films and dots and killing enemy assassins , but spies were taking a back seat in their Austin Martins as the assassin took over the role of screen hero. Nowadays trained kickboxing killers are filling our screens. steely cold hard eyes and gutteral speech patterns are replacing the smooth ,suave ,sexy ,sharp quipping secret agents like Bond and Napoleon Solo.
No idea where the first spy came from. Maybe once upon a long time ago a lincon green clad English lad by the name of Jameson of the Bond was dressed in animal furs given a horned metal helmet and paddled across the North Sea to infiltrate the Viking hoardes massing to invade our green n' pleasant land. I dont know how our first spy got his 'intel' scrolls back to 'YE OLDE M.I.6. but he didn't do too good as the viking hoardes hoarded over and gave us a good kicking and did stuff to the maidens fair ,of the day ,thats how some of us have viking blood coursing through us!
Through the years the spy has evolved from the sneaky slimey untrustworthy worm of the middle ages as seen in Robin Hood films and stuff like that as spies were always spying on the 'good guys' for the nasty king ,etc. As the centuries clicked by and the world became a bigger place and we discovered lots of new exciting enemies like the French and the Spanish spying became a lot more complicated and for the greater good of the country as the French and the Spanish as we all know can't be trusted and don't like the British 'cos we're much better than they are. So they decided to rule all of Europe then invade us . I'm sure a spy discovered the plans for the SPANISH ARMADA and reported home .Things were a lot slower in them days so our spy got the Armada 'intel' back home to ye olde MI6 in a mere 6 months which was fine as the Armada probably took about 5 years to get prepared then 6 months to sail, so we just about managed to negate their head start and met them about half a mile out to sea and gave them a good kicking.
Spies came into their own and job centres all over 17 n' 18th century Britain were dragging people off their ye olde job seekers allowance to spy on the French and Spanish when a certain French dwarf decided to rule the world. Napoleon ,apparently he was fond of spies and lots of them galloped around Portugal ,etc gathering 'intel' for 'Boney!'. Watch any episode of Sharpe and you'll see what i mean.
Spies come in all shapes and sizes as we all know real spies are fit and incredibly handsome and irresistable to women . They travel the world on incredible expense accounts ,gambling ,eating and drinking the finest cuisine at the finest restaurants, hotels and casino's and oddly enough for SECRET AGENTS are known and recognised throughout the world?
It has been said that spies are trained to blend in and look normal and not attract attention, be grey and go about their devious doings unoticed, but that wouldn't be much good for a film or telly series.
As we all know the enemy have what we call 'SLEEPERS' and what they do is settle down make a good old boring domestic life ,get a job ,maybe even raise a family waiting for a call from the 'motherland' through their 'Handler' who may drop them a coded letter or a phrase , a trigger for them to do what they were trained to do before they became domesticated ol farts like the rest of us. They may work in an office or the local chippy, but they have to inflict damage or kidnap ,or steal important documentation (maybe the new menu in the chippy!) for their masters in the Kremlin ,or wherever!
Through the years theres been lots of enemies. Traditionally , there was the Nazis' then the Russians and everybody in behind the IRON CURTAIN this was spying's glory years...Tons of countries whose names finished with SLAVIA, SLAV, BOSTOFF, etc ,etcOFF i honestly dont know which were real and which were made up, but every 'MAN FRO UNCLE and most tell y spies where in these places fighting the K.G.B. or S.M.E.R.S.H. And there was East and West Berlin and the 'WALL'...That was a spies dream. But the spies who dealt with the wall were the more gritty ones HARRY PALMER and my favourite CALLAN. The film 'THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD' with Richard Burton as an agent drinking himself senseless as he pretended to be braking down and pretending to defect....I could do that ,i think i've been doing it for years, qualified to be a spy ,thats me ,i reckon!
There was also the CHINESE and Asian ,all points East baddies. The spies didn't actually go there according to fiction ,but the Chinese were everywhere plotting to destroy the western devils with nuclear missiles in secret bases and nerve gasses ,whereas we Brits wouldn't do that sort of thing we just discovered their devious plans for world domination and stole the micro films. Fictional baddies were like Bond vs S.P.E.C.T.R.E. or U.N.C.L.E. vs T.H.R.U.S.H. ; Then many of the enemy agents were just 'THE OTHER SIDE!' Now we've dealt with all other points east ,it's the middle east popping up on the BADDIE NETWORK!
Our heroes would in the early days doff a mackintosh over coat ,hat and glasses and infiltrate 'The other side' for secret documents, then codes and their cyphers ; Then micro film came in with those clicky little cameras every spy had; Micro dots, i never quite figured out how you discovered which full stop in 'war and piece 'held the details of the Russian missile system. Now we've computer hard drives and those computer 'dongle' thingee's that drain all the info from computer hard drives.
In old films and books the info was simple , but important, so the micro film was important for the freedom and safety of the west. Now they explain the wheeling and double dealings that take place with the politics and spy networks, just watch the average episode of 'SPOOKS' ...I love it....Can't understand it ,but still love it!
Nowadays spying looks decidedly nasty and dangerous ,as a kid i'd watch and dream of being a spy. In them days when they were captured ,which was every week , they were interrogated, not tortured ,interrogated. Our hero may get a blooded lip ,work up a sweat and you knew it was tough, esspecially when his tie was loosened and top button was undone. Now it's a good beating in the cellars of 'The other side ' Water boarding ,electric shocks, etc .....As we all know know our greatest enemy is our biggest ally!....The good ol' U.S.of A....The C.I.A. who seem to have their sticky fingers into everyones business and seem utterly ruthless.....The CIA make the soviets look like sweethearts. Assassinations ,drug running ,arms dealing with ...everybody on all sides...According to whatever you watch or read ,everybody is after their own agenda ,did they kill JFK?....Etc ,etc! Do spies get the chance to retire or do they get 'removed', permanently?
One thing i never understood is how much and how does a spy get paid?....If an agent is undercover ,say in Russia , why don't the Russians just check his bank details.....£20,000/month from the Ministry of Defence....Bang!...Your dead, Tovarich!
The reason i wanted to be a spy was so i could wear a shoulder holster....Nowadays its not as cool as the automatic pistol is shoved down the back of the agents trousers, not half as good as the ol' shoulder holster.....At one point...Ok , i still do , i fancied adapting the shoulder holster for holding pens at a caricature gig!
I said before real spies come in all shapes and sizes ,but it's not just that ,you don't even have to be alive, possibly the best ,most successful agent was a dead body. An agent doesn't just steal 'intel' ,but can feed false 'intel' to the 'other side'! In 'OPERATION MINCEMEAT'...A body was washed up on the Spanish coast durring WW11 around 1942