As much as cool and groovy 60s secret agents and crime-fighters battle under a snappy little acronym or title, so too do the thoroughly bad eggs on the other side. (N.B. White pussy cat not included.)
1.Get Smart – KAOS – Writer Mel Brooks envisaged Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) as a cross between James Bond and Inspector Clouseau to grab elements from two of the biggest smash hits of the decade and to inject some zany humor into the whole spy and crime genre.
Over the course of the 5-season run, the hapless Smart, assisted by the lovely Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), joined forces against the evil KAOS run initially by the aptly named Mr. Big (Michael Dunn).
KAOS never went under an actual acronym – Brooks was too busy writing to figure that one out – but although based in Bucharest it claimed itself as a “Delaware Corporation” for tax reasons. Mr. Big perished in the pilot episode, killed by his own ray gun, and various nameless and faceless chiefs followed.
Siegfried (Bernie Kopell) – variously Ludwig von Siegfried, Konrad Siegfried, or Count von Siegfried – stood as Smart’s arch nemesis under the KAOS banner and spoke with a ludicrous and pronounced German accent. Dr. Claw (Leonard Strong) headed the Eastern division of KAOS, and various other Bond parodies appeared like Dr. Yes (Donald Davis).
KAOS struggled with bureaucracy like most agencies do (hence the tax dodge), but it possessed a company bowling team to boost morale. Whilst no one called Roy ever assists Siegfried, Smart does drive a Sunbeam Tiger.
2. James Bond – S.P.E.C.T.R.E. – The Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion, although comprehensive in its aim, falls victim to the same fate as U.N.C.L.E., which we highlighted in our Good Guys feature a couple of weeks ago.
Because isn’t Counter-Intelligence two words? Shouldn’t you pronounce it “specky terr“?
I do know that the 2015 reboot of Spectre prompted a hilarious outcrop of internet memes which ranged from Father Jack in Fecktre, through Anthony Hopkins in Lectre, and down into the profane but very funny Sphinctre.
In fact, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. first reared its evil head in the 1961 novel of Thunderball and in 1962’s Bond movie opener Dr. No. and this is where we first meet Blofeld with his ubiquitous white kitty. Without Blofeld, Austin Powers would have no Dr. Evil and subsequent generations of cat lovers would not be able to spin around in chairs at parties.
3. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – T.H.R.U.S.H. – The Technical Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity (phew!) wanted nothing more than to conquer the world. Perhaps then K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) would suit better?
World governments considered T.H.R.U.S.H. so dangerous that they united in their efforts to destroy it – hence the American Solo (Robert Vaughn) and the Russian Kuryakin (David McCallum) put aside their Cold War differences and ideologies and worked together, sharp Italian suit next to smart turtleneck.
T.H.R.U.S.H. never boasted a particular leader but rather gathered an ever increasing bunch of nasties to prey upon some unfortunate and hapless innocent who went about their business in a glamorous location. As you do. Kidnap/blackmail/subterfuge/zombie possession ensued before U.N.C.L.E. stepped in and rescued everyone, including the possessed zombies (The Very Important Zombie Affair, December 31st, 1965. I’m not making this up.)
One wonders in the end why no one thought to use live and natural yogurt as an effective yet messy weapon against such a pernicious and global menace. We’ve all been there. There’s no shame.
4. James Bond – SMERSH – Bond creator Ian Fleming alleged that SMERSH existed although no one seems able to either confirm or deny that.
In any event, within the Bond universe, SMERSH amalgamates two Russian words which together mean Death to Spies. That’s pretty damn clear for a mission statement if you ask me. What do you stand for, Dimitri?
So, SMERSH was a division of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. – although S.P.E.C.T.R.E. pledged no particular allegiance to any country, philosophy, or government, SMERSH was 100% red with its HQ variously in either Leningrad or Moscow.
And without SMERSH we wouldn’t have Goldfinger, Le Chiffre, or Vesper Lynd, and I wouldn’t be able to laugh and say: “Ha. Ha. West Berlin. Ves. Per. Lyn. Get it? Get it??” as my party trick. And we also wouldn’t have Casino Royale – the real 1967 one, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. If you need me, I’ll be in a rotating chair stroking a white cat and looking pensive.
5. Carry on Spying – S.T.E.N.C.H. – Noted as Barbara Windsor’s first appearance in the popular British comedy franchise, and its last outing in black and white, Spying parodied the phenomenon of, you guessed it, James Bond.
Agent Desmond Simpkins (Kenneth Williams) and Agent Charlie Bind (Charles Hawtrey) take on S.T.E.N.C.H. – the Society for the Total Extinction of Non-Conforming Humans. Williams’ and Hawtrey’s well-documented personal struggles as closeted gay men in a time when that meant jail time no doubt hit home.
Nevertheless, Carry On does as Carry On always did and manages to throw in as many dolly birds, double entendres, bad puns, and wobbly breasts as the British censors would allow, and even managed to throw in an extra agency S.N.O.G. – the Society for Neutralising of Germs – for good measure.
In fact, Carry On lampooned pretty much every popular genre during their 29 movies run from 1958 to 1978. (Carry on Columbus, made in 1992, is not considered to be strict canon.)
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