Two non-007 homages in Skyfall

Dude (Dean Martin) survives his moment of crisis in Rio Bravo

SPOILERS lie ahead if you haven’t seen Skyfall.

007 fans are comparing notes about Skyfall’s homages to past Bond movies. What’s not getting as much attention are homages to non-Bond films in the 23rd 007 entry.

First, there are Daniel Kleinman’s main titles include Daniel Craig’s James Bond shooting at mirrors. This appears to be an homage to Orson Welles and his 1948 film, The Lady From Shanghai. The movie wasn’t a commercial hit but gained attention over the years as noted in an article on TCM.COM. An excerpt:

Film critic Pauline Kael once pointed out that Welles’s contribution to the evolution of film language lay in his dramatizing the techniques of cinema. That is obvious in every frame of The Lady from Shanghai. Jump cuts in the editing, the almost Brechtian distancing effect of the stylized performances, the doubling of the film frame in the Chinese theater scene, the deep focus that disorients by giving far backgrounds equal weight with extreme close-ups, the use of optical devices ranging from water tumblers to windshields to (in the film’s most famous set pieces) aquarium glass and multiple mirrors – all of these serve to forefront the experience of watching cinema and to push the envelope of what is expected and permissible on screen. (emphasis added)

Mirrors have figured into set pieces in movies such as Blake Edwards’ Gunn (1967), Enter the Dragon (1973) and, appropriately enough, The Man With the Golden Gun (1974).

The other homage, intentional or not, is Howard Hawks’ 1959 Western, Rio Bravo. One of its main characters is Dude (Dean Martin), who has substance abuse problems (he’s an alcoholic) and has trouble shooting straight until, in a moment of crisis, it all comes together for him. There’s also a scene where an attractive woman (Angie Dickinson) shaves him with a straight razor.

In Skyfall, of course, Daniel Craig’s 007 has substance abuse problems (he’s been hitting the sauce pretty heavily while presumed dead), can’t shoot straight (he records sub-standard scores on the MI6 shooting range) and gets shaved by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris). Like Dude, Craig’s Bond gets it together when he’s needed the most and is suddenly a crack shot.

Ironically, both Welles and Hawks have 007 ties. Welles was part of the cast in the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale. Hawks in 1962 briefly considered directing a movie adaptation of Casino Royale until he saw an early print of Dr. No.

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6 Responses

  1. Ok,I guess everybody see’s things that may or may not be there. In reference to Welles,I thought you were going to mention childhood memory “rosebud” as it pertains to “skyfall”. Also,in Dean Martin’s Mat Helm movie (forgot which one),he has a backwards shooting gun similar trickery is given to 007′s PPK. For me,the “mirror trick” may be a salute to “The Man from UNCLE”.

  2. The backwards shooting gun was in The Silencers. You could make it shoot forward if you pushed the trigger forward. But if you got captured the guys capturing you didn’t know that.

  3. Another couple of Skyfall homages to non-Bonds: the helicopter speakers booming music during an attack, Apocolypse Now, and Silva vanishing among other uniformed men in a train station, North By Northwest (Cary Grant masqueraded as a porter to evade police).

  4. Mark: You are so right about Silva ! The instant I saw all those cops I thought of Roger Thornhill loosing himself amongst the red caps !

  5. I thought of a second movie starring Welles — The Third Man — when Bond chased Silva to the ladder under London. If only Harry Lime had blown up the subway on top of Holly Martins.

  6. There is another homage in the chase on the Underground train, this time to a brilliant French thriller called (in English) “Subway”. Here the policeman chases the villain down into the Paris Metro and also has to jump on the back of a departing train. He holds up his police pass against the window to persuade the old man (a wounded ex-soldier) inside to open the emergency door. The old soldier responds by holding up his “Mutilé de guerre” (handicapped veteran) card and refuses to open the door!

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