Hemsidan senast uppdaterad: 2024-07-17

Recension av Passport To Oblivion med George Lazenby

Av: Brian Smith
Review of Passport To Oblivion with George Lazenby
Passport To Oblivion (1964) marked the first appearance of James Leasor’s Dr Jason Love. Leasor was a hugely successful author of more than 50 books - a mix of thrillers, history books and historical novels. He also ghost-wrote autobiographies, including such diverse subjects as Kenneth More and King Zog of Albania.

Born in Erith, Kent in 1923 (the house where he spent the first seven years of his life bears a discreet plaque erected by the Bexley Civic Society), Leasor was educated at the City of London School where one of his contemporaries was Kingsley Amis. Amis would later write the first James Bond continuation novel after Leasor apparently turned the opportunity down.

James Leasor served in Burma and India during World War II. En route, the ship transporting his regiment was torpedoed and Leasor spent six hours in the water. It was in Burma that Leasor first heard about the Calcutta Light Horse, the subject of his 1978 novel Boarding Party. During his research Leasor came across the original order to sink his ship all those years ago. Boarding Party was filmed as The Sea Wolves (1980), starring Gregory Peck, Roger Moore and David Niven.

He wrote his first novel, Not Such A Bad Day (1946), while serving in India. He would send pages to his mother who would type them up and forward them to his publisher. After the war Leasor read English at Oriel College, Oxford, and also edited The Isis, one of the university’s two journals, which counts Peter Fleming as one of its previous editors. Leasor worked for a time on the William Hickey gossip column on the Daily Express before becoming private secretary to the newspaper’s proprietor, Lord Beaverbrook.

Leasor had many books published during his time with the Express, mostly non-fiction, but it was Passport To Oblivion that gave Leasor his passport to success. With the 1960s in the grip of the spy craze created in the wake of the first Bond films, Passport To Oblivion sold in quantities that allowed Leasor to become a full-time author. Like Ian Fleming before him, Leasor’s journalistic experience and wartime background gave his thrillers pace, style and a sense of readability. It was filmed the following year as Where The Spies Are starring the other, other fella, David Niven. Love returned in a further nine books.

In the novel, Love considers himself to be a combination of ‘Superman, von Rintelin, The Spy in Black, and James Bond.’ For this new audio drama from Spiteful Puppet Entertainment (and German spies aside) George Lazenby seems well suited for the part – having previously played James Bond and, although he wasn’t Superman, the Kryptonian’s father Jor-El. In this thrilling new audio drama Love’s background has been changed, tactfully adjusted to favour Lazenby.

Retaining the 1964 setting, the story begins in Teheran with the kidnapping and murder of Professor Offard, MI6’s man in the Middle East, known as agent K. MI6 is stretched pretty thin - the Middle East spy network is in ruins following the George Blake spy scandal - so MacGillivray (Nickolas Grace), the deputy head of the service, decides to use a civilian. After considering a couple of possibilities, the third file is of a man he recalls helping him find an enemy transmitter in Burma in 1943 - Dr Jason Love, an Australian who has now settled in Somerset as a country practitioner. It turns out there is a malaria conference in Teheran, thus providing the perfect cover for a visiting doctor not to arouse suspicion.

We first meet Love in the novel attending a road traffic accident. Here, Love is part of the action, chasing young hooligans who have vandalised his precious Cord roadster, resulting in a head-on collision with a lorry. Love shares the same model of Cord as Leasor and it was the author’s own car which appeared in Where The Spies Are. The script dispenses with peripheral characters such Love’s housekeeper and her husband. Instead, MacGillivray is waiting for him at his home which gives the proceedings an edge of urgency. MacGillivray convinces Love to help out and our hero duly leaves for Teheran, via Rome, on her majesty’s secret health service.

Landing at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, Love meets his contact Simone, played by the always wonderful Glynis Barber. Writers Paul Birch and Barnaby Eaton-Jones have trimmed the excess fat from the book such as the Canadian sub-plot involving sleeper agents and other plot strands that are inconsequential to the core story. In the novel Simone is K’s daughter. This is mentioned a couple of times and then forgotten about. Despite Love being ‘shocked’ when he is told, it bears no relevance to the plot and with no dramatic pay-off one wonders why Leasor wrote this into the story in the first place. For this version, the contrivance is dispensed with and the writers have also made Simone more integral to the plot.

The team at Spiteful Puppet have done a splendid job in creating a credible atmosphere for the Middle East and its 1960s setting. And yet, by introducing Simone as a much stronger female character combined with a story that involves Russian interference in Middle Eastern politics and overseas assassinations, one cannot fail to appreciate the contemporary edge to proceedings.

The supporting cast is a terrific ensemble of British television favourites from the 1980s, including Terry Molloy (Doctor Who’s Davros) as Love’s nemesis Dr Simmias, and from Robin of Sherwood (which has also been revived by Spiteful Puppet) Nickolas Grace and Clive Mantle. Michael Brandon makes a welcome appearance as Parkington, but is given less to do here than his literary counterpart. Terence Stamp also appears as the deliciously cynical C, head of MI6.

George Lazenby is an inspired choice to play Love. As a practitioner of judo as well as medicine, it’s not difficult to imagine Lazenby fighting, one’s mind’s eye filled with images of him in The Man From Hong Kong or James Bond. George Lazenby’s vocal performance is also nothing short of superb. He captures beautifully the confident attitude of Leasor’s creation combined with a little bit of his own Aussie swagger. In short, George Lazenby IS Jason Love – I just hope this won’t be a one-off!

Review by Brian James Smith. Copyright © 2020 From Sweden with Love. All rights reserved.

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