Durable Duran Duran

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Durable Duran Duran

The four remaining members of the original fantastic five are showing that they and their music have stood the test of time admirably. Justin Camilleri discovers that they also have an intrinsic film connection.

Indeed these Brummie lads have certainly come a long way from playing in their hometown of Birmingham, to touring the world in sold- out concerts.

A film student would argue that the band has an inbred disposition to motion pictures that falls either in the category of the cult or adventure genre. Not many know this but the band's name is derived from villain Dr Durand Durand in the cult science-fiction film Barbarella starring Jane Fonda. The part is played by Irish actor Milo O'Shea in the title role (who also played Friar Laurence in Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet). Not to mention that some of the band's early gigs were staged at a nightclub called Barbarella's, in Birmingham.

In fact, back in 1984, the band collaborated with Highlander director Russell Mulcahy on Arena, a concept concert video that spoofs the origins of the band name with Milo O'Shea reprising his role as Dr Durand Durand in a sequence of events that sees the evil doctor wanting to play havoc on the band that stole his name.

The influences of Barbarella are inherent all throughout Duran Duran's career as the band has continually used film and sound clips from Barbarella interspersed throughout their videos, most notably in Wild Boys (1984), Burning The Ground (1989) and the re-mixes for Violence Of Summer (1990) and Electric Barbarella (1997).

From then on the band's collaboration with Russell Mulcahy was strengthened as they worked together on a string of videos that defined the 1980s; from 1981's Planet Earth to My Own Way and Lonely In Your Nightmare. 1982's Hungry Like the Wolf, in particular, evokes the atmosphere of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) with lead singer Simon Le Bon donning the quintessential Indiana Jones fedora while pursuing a jungle-like woman from the Sri Lankan city marketplaces, through battling wild beasts and escaping booby traps in the jungle, culminating into an almighty chase.

During the same period, director Russell Mulcahy and the band also filmed the Save A Prayer music video against a backdrop of Sri Lankan temples, beaches and jungles.

The Rio music video set the blueprint for things to come, thus moulding the band's image as it merged fast-paced camera shots, around a yacht speeding over the Caribbean Sea, showing off the latest haute couture as the band members wore Antony Price suits.

With a budget of $1 million, the music video's set design filled one entire end of the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios. Due to the immense popularity of George Miller's Mad Max series starring Mel Gibson, it's hard to deny the film's influence on this music video. From the opening post-apocalyptic setting of school desks, with youngsters breathing fire, this evokes Tina Turner's colony of children from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. At the end of the video, Barbarella buffs will be quick to spot none other than Dr Durand Durand (O'Shea), himself laughing as if he is taking over the world.

Literary enthusiasts will cite another influence, namely American novelist William S. Burroughs The Wild Boys: A Book Of The Dead. At the time Mulcahy, who was interested on making a film adaptation of the novel, suggested that the band might compose a modern soundtrack for the film in the same way that Queen would helm the immortal rock soundtrack for Mulcahy's Highlander (1986). So in a way The Wild Boys music video was Mulcahy's precursor, demonstrating to the studio bigwigs his vision to adapt Burrough's novel for a film that eventually was never made.

At its time The Wild Boys music video made the headlines for Simon Le Bon's near death experience as he was strapped to the spinning windmill which immersed his head beneath the water with each rotation. He supposedly found himself in real difficulty when the windmill stopped with his head underwater. Subsequently, the band went on to scoop the award for Best British Video at the 1985 Brit Awards.

Back in 1985, the band would also lend their talents to a James Bond film. If 13 is an unlucky number for some it proved very effective for the band as their 13th single, A View to a Kill, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100; and till this day it is the only James Bond theme to have achieved such a high spot on the charts.

The music video directed by the duo Godley & Creme (who also directed their 1981 video Girls on Film) utterly spoofs the Eiffel Tower chase sequence in a tongue-in-cheek manner, where the band members, who play the role of spies who came in from the cold, find themselves on top of the Tower while Roger Moore is pursuing Grace Jones. While the band members shoot at and spy upon the events taking place Simon Le Bon uses a portable cassette player to set off a series of explosions in different locations around the world. Parodying James Bond, Le Bon ends the video introducing himself as "Bon. Simon Le Bon".

The 1986 Notorious album period was a very difficult time for Duran Duran as their success had started to wane, with band members citing creative differences taking their toll. The band would refer to Notorious as their Alfred Hitchcock-inspired album because the compilation contained a number of tracks titled after Hitchcock classic movies. In addition to the album and lead single named for the picture Notorious, there was also Vertigo and Rope, the original title for Hold Me. The Notorious single was a massive hit when it was first released and was also used in the cult film Donnie Darko (2001).

German expressionistic films play an important key influence in Duran Duran's videos, quite notably in Out of My Mind, which features in The Saint motion picture soundtrack. If one looks attentively at the characters, on display the video seems like a more distorted psychedelic version of the original version of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari with Le Bon in full prosthetic make-up as a cross between Werner Krauss's Dr Caligari and Conrad Veidt's Cesare.

Despite Le Bon not having starred in any motion pictures or TV series, his colleagues have acted out in numerous TV series and independent films. For instance John Taylor made his first film appearance as The Hacker in the pilot episode of Timeslip, a 1985 TV programme that did not manage to spawn a series.

Taylor would also lend his talents into writing singles for motion picture soundtracks. Do What I Do... was a 1986 single written for the erotic drama 9½ Weeks.

In contrast with Taylor, Nick Rhodes has only one small guest appearance (in voice only) as a Canadian bomber pilot in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

Back in their heyday, Duran Duran were also a fashion statement. The Fab Five at the time oozed coolness, performing on stage and dressing up in bright stylish fashions that reflected the more glitzy feel of 1980s' pop culture. In fact, the band had such a tremendous effect on men's fashion at the time that they brought to life the "T-shirt under pastel coloured suit" style which became the fashion statement with young men.

There is no denying that the 1980s' boy band are back with a vengeance, making us take heed as well as taking us on a final trip down memory lane.

Courtesy Times of Malta