MI6 Confidential features Armstrong, Picker in new issue

David Picker

David Picker

MI Confidential is out with A NEW ISSUE that, among things, includes features on stuntman/second unit director Vic Armstrong and former United Artists executive David V. Picker.

Armstrong worked on the 007 film series in such films as You Only Live Twice and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was interviewed for John Cork-directed documentaries about those movies, providing some behind-the-scenes perspective about how stunts were performed. From 1997-2002, Armstrong assumed the helm as stunt coordinator and second unit director for three Bond films starring Pierce Brosnan.

Picker was among the UA executives who reached a deal in 1961 with producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to get the 007 film series started. His memoirs were published last year, including A CHAPTER ON THE BOND FILM SERIES.

Also included in the issue are stories about Lana Wood and her experiences filming Diamonds Are Forever and Ian Fleming’s taste in cars.

The price for MI Confidential No. 25 is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros. For more information about the contents or to order, CLICK HERE.

David Picker discloses some 007 tidbits

David Picker

David Picker


David V. Picker, the former United Artists executive, provides some interesting behind-the-scenes 007 background in his memoir about his long film career.

Among them: Robert Shaw’s name surfaced in the earliest stages of casting Bond; Dr. No really cost $1.35 million, not the $1.1 million it had been budgeted for; and producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman started clamoring to renegotiate their deal with UA shortly after From Russia With Love was released.

That’s all part of the James Bond chapter in MUSTS, MAYBES AND NEVERS.

“Much has been written about Bond,” Picker writes. “Until now, no one has written in detail exactly what happened, how it happened and why it happened for one simple reason: they weren’t there.” The Bond series “would not have happened had it not been for this author’s belief in their potential.”

Picker, 82, was in his early 30s and head of production for UA when it negotiated a deal with Broccoli and Saltzman in 1961. He was the only one on the UA side who had read the Ian Fleming novels. The Bond chapter in the memoir expands on comments he has made in documentaries such as Inside Dr. No and Everything Or Nothing.

Picker doesn’t provide much in the way of details about Shaw, who played Red Grant in From Russia With Love, as a potential Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman were conducting the search and UA gave the producers a lot of a leeway. UA didn’t see anything in detail until Sean Connery was presented, according to Picker’s account.

The former executive has more to say about the budget. Columbia Pictures, which had released a number of Broccoli’s U.K.-produced films in the ’50s, wasn’t enthusiastic but was willing to provide a budget of $300,000 to $400,000, according to Picker. UA agreed to the $1.1 million.

Just before the start of filming on Dr. No, the final budget from Broccoli and Saltzman was for $250,000 more. “In today’s world that may not seem like a lot of money, but then it was a very big deal,” Picker writes. The author describes some subterfuge, enlisting the help of his uncle, Arnold Picker, one of the UA partners, to get the higher budget implemented.

As the series succeeded, Broccoli and Saltzman wanted their deals re-done. UA, however, wasn’t aware of Connery’s growing unhappiness until You Only Live Twice. “United Artists relied on our producers to deal with problems on their films.”

Picker describes how he took the lead at UA to get Connery back for Diamonds Are Forever, a film he credits with saving the franchise.

Picker does make one factual error in the chapter, listing Guy Hamilton as the director of From Russia With Love, instead of Terence Young. That aside, the chapter is an interesting read. The UA side of the Bond story often doesn’t get told and Picker’s viewpoint is worth checking out.

You can CLICK HERE to check out the memoir on Amazon.com

UPDATE: Non-007 reasons to read Picker’s memoir: anecdotes about how Stanley Kramer’s first cut of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was 4:01 and the director vowed not to cut one frame; the backstory behind the movies The Beatles made for UA; how UA passed on movies such as The Graduate and American Graffiti. And much, much more.

David Picker, key UA executive, publishes memoir

Picker: Diamonds Are Forever saved the franchise

Picker: Diamonds Are Forever saved the franchise


David Picker, a United Artists executive who helped get the James Bond film franchise off the ground, has come out with a memoir, MUSTS, MAYBES AND NEVERS.

Picker, 82, provided a detailed description to THE DEADLINE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS WEB SITE and its editor in chief, Nikki Finke. Here’s an excerpt concerning the 007 series. It begins with how Picker pushed 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to bring Sean Connery back for 1971′s Diamonds Are Forever:

It’s a book about movies that I was actually part of – from getting Sean Connery to come back and do one more James Bond film and save the franchise…

(snip)

James Bond – briefly: Why did it take years (seven books worth) before James Bond came to the screen? Couldn’t any intelligent studio production executive see that Bond was a franchise waiting to happen? The answer is complex. Sometimes everything has to fall in place…

…Bud Ornstein, the head of UA London production called and said that Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were coming to New York and they wanted to meet with Arthur Krim, Robert Benjamin, Arnold Picker and me. I set up the date. Harry, Cubby and Harry’s lawyer, Irving Moskowitz, sat in Arthur Krim’s office with Bob Benjamin, Arnold Picker and me. I usually sat to the left of Arthur’s desk, often with one of my long legs propped on the corner of the desk so I could tilt my chair back. Cubby was the first to speak. “We own the rights to James Bond. Are you interested?”

My leg came down and my chair hit the ground with a thud. And 007 began his screen life.

Picker was one of the biggest backers of the Bond series in the UA executive offices. His description about the book’s contents to Finke is much longer and mentions various films. You can read it BY CLICKING HERE

You can order the book from Amazon BY CLICKING HERE.

UPDATE (Sept. 28): On Amazon.com, the book’s preview includes the table of contents and part of the index. There’s a chapter devoted to the 007 series and different aspects of the movies are referenced in the index. Non-Bond topics in the book include studios operating as part of larger conglomerates, including flak United Artists executives got from Transamerica Corp. Picker also discusses successful movies he let get away. Finally, Picker discusses people he worked with such as diverse as the Beatles, Billy Wilder and Stanley Kramer.

Live And Let Die’s 40th: the post-Connery era truly begins

Live And Let Die's poster

Live And Let Die’s poster

For the eighth James Bond film, star Sean Connery wasn’t coming back. Three key members of the 007 creative team, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry, weren’t going to participate. And producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were mostly working separately, with this movie to be overseen primarily by Saltzman.

The result? Live And Let Die, which debuted 40 years ago this year, would prove to be, financially, the highest-grossing movie in the series to date.

Things probably didn’t seem that way for Eon Productions and United Artists as work began. They had no Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t want Connery back for 1971′s Diamonds Are Forever. The studio didn’t want to take a chance and made the original screen 007 an offer he couldn’t refuse. But that was a one-film deal. Now, Eon and UA were starting from scratch.

Eon and UA had one non-Connery film under their belts, 1969′s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had tried the inexperienced George Lazenby, who bolted after one movie. For the second 007 film in the series not to star Connery, Eon and UA opted for a more-experienced choice: Roger Moore, former star of The Saint television series. Older than Connery, Moore would eventually employ a lighter touch.

Behind the camera, Saltzman largely depended on director Guy Hamilton, back for his third turn in the 007 director chair, and writer Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz would be the sole writer from beginning to end, rewriting scenes as necessary during filming. In a commentary on the film’s DVD, Mankiewicz acknowledged it was highly unusual.

Perhaps the biggest creative change was with the film’s music. Barry had composed the scores for six Bond films in a row. George Martin, former producer for the Beatles, would take over. Martin had helped sell Saltzman on using a title song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The ex-Beatle knew his song would be compared to the 007 classic title songs Barry had helped write. McCartney was determined to make his mark.

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die

Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pose with their new star, Roger Moore, during filming of Live And Let Die


Saltzman liked the song, but inquired whether a woman singer would be more appropriate. Martin, in an interview for a 2006 special on U.K. television, said he informed Saltzman if Eon didn’t accept McCartney as performer, the producer wouldn’t get the song. Saltzman accepted both.

Live And Let Die wasn’t the greatest James Bond film, despite an impressive boat chase sequence that was a highlight. The demise of its villain (Yaphet Kotto) still induces groans among long-time 007 fans as he pops like a balloon via an unimpressive special effect. Sheriff J.W. Pepper, up to that time, was probably the most over-the-top comedic supporting character in the series. (“What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!”)

But Live And Let Die is one of the most important films in the series. As late as 1972, the question was whether James Bond could possibly continue without Sean Connery. With $161.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, it was the first Bond film to exceed the gross for 1965′s Thunderball. In the U.S., its $35.4 million box office take trailed the $43.8 million for Diamonds Are Forever.

Bumpy days still lay ahead for Eon. The Man With the Golden Gun’s box office would tail off and relations between Broccoli and Saltzman would get worse. Still, for the first time, the idea took hold that the cinema 007 could move on from Connery.

Many HMSS editors CRITICIZED THE MOVIE AND ITS STAR in a survey several years ago. But the film has its fans.

“I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a November 2011 news conference. Whatever one’s opinions about the movie, Live And Let Die ensured there’d be 007 employment for the likes of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

FEBRUARY 2012 POST: LIVE AND LET DIE, A REAPPRAISAL

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME PROFILES THE NEW JAMES BOND

JANUARY 2010 POST: 1973: TIME CALLS 007 A `RACIST PIG’

How British are 007 films?

Skyfall's poster image

BAFTA winner for Outstanding British Film

Of course James Bond films are British. They concern a British icon and are filmed in the U.K. What could be more obvious? That’s like asking if Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley are British.

Well, that might not be the best comparison given that Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd. and Bentley is owned by Volkswagen AG. Still, 007 films have always been considered British.

Still, the answer isn’t as easy as it might appear.

In the early days, the series made by Eon Productions Ltd. was U.K.-based. While producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were born elsewhere, they were operated out of the U.K. and the movies were full of British film talent such as director of photography Ted Moore, (naturalized citizen) production designer Ken Adam and editor Peter Hunt. Of course, the U.S.-based studio United Artists financed the movies.

It pretty much remained that way until Diamonds Are Forever. The Inside Diamonds Are Forever documentary directed by John Cork notes that the producers initially intended to Americanize Bond, even hiring an American (John Gavin) for the role. It was going to be based out of Universal Studios.

Things changed. Sean Connery returned as Bond (at the insistence of United Artists) and U.K.’s Pinewood Studios was again the home base. Yet, some key jobs were split between British and American crew members, including stunt arranger, assistant director, art director, set decorator, production manager and visual effects.

Also, as the years passed, Eon for a variety of reasons (financial among them) based some films primarily outside of the U.K. They included Moonraker (the first unit was based out of France, Derek Meddings’s special effects unit still labored at Pinewood), Licence to Kill (Mexico) and Casino Royale (Czech Republic, with some sequences shot at Pinewood).

What’s more, movies not thought of as British, such as Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978) and Batman (1989) were based out of the U.K. Each had key British crew members, including: Star Wars with production designer John Barry (not to be confused with the 007 film composer), whose group won the art direction Oscar over Ken Adam & Co. (The Spy Who Loved Me); Superman with Barry again, director of photography Geoffrey Unsworth, and second unit director John Glen; Batman with art director Terry Ackland-Snow, assistant director Derek Cracknell and special visual effects man Derek Meddings. Batman was filming at Pinewood at around the same time Licence to Kill’s crew was working in Mexico.

Still, Superman and Batman (which both debuted during the Great Depression) are American icons and Star Wars, while set in a galaxy far, far away, is too.

At the same time, Skyfall, which came out on DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 12, is very British. Much of the story takes place there and many of Shanghai and Macao scenes were really filmed at Pinewood, with the second unit getting exterior shots.

On Feb. 10, Skyfall picked up the Oustanding British Film award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It was a first and a lot of 007 fans are still taking it all in.

In truth, movies generally are an international business these days, Bond films included. But 007 isn’t likely to lose his identification as being a British product anytime soon, much the way Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley have a British identity regardless of ownership.

New 007 magazine out; Fleming manuscript auctioned

Two items of note that crossed our desk about the same time:

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming


Graham Rye’s 007 Magazine HAS A NEW ISSUE OUT, DEVOTED TO SKYFALL.

Among the offerings: A feature article on actress Berenice Marlohe, who plays the doomed Severine in the 23rd James Bond film; a separate story about how Marlohe was cast in the movie; and a story about Heineken’s tie-in ad campaign.

The price is 9.99 British pounds, 11.99 euros or $15.99. You can CLICK HERE for more information.

John Cox’s The Book Bond blog reports that A MANUSCRIPT OF IAN FLEMING’S DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER NOVEL has sold for 97,250 British pounds or $158,000. An excerpt:

The manuscript had been owned by Fleming’s typist, Ulrica Knowles, and had remained in her family until 2008. According to the auction, among the many revisions in the manuscript is the fact that the book’s hoodlum “Dolly” Kidd is called “Boofy” Gore throughout (the name was changed following the objection of Fleming’s former schoolfriend from whom the name was taken).

You can read the entire article by CLICKING HERE. Thanks to Bond collector Gary Firuta for bringing this to our attention.

Skyfall’s credit oddities

Bérénice (Lim) Marlohe, unable to solve the mystery of the different Skyfall poster and movie credits, has a sip of Jameson’s.

So, Skyfall has been out for a few weeks and is about to become the highest-grossing James Bond movie of all time. But there are a couple of oddities that nobody has explained and, to be honest, almost no fans are talking about.

What are those? The odd differences in credits between the movie poster for the 23rd James Bond movie and the main titles of the film itself.

Exhibit A: Actress Berenice Marlohe. Or is it actress Berenice Lim Marlohe?

On the poster and regular advertisements (such as the one on page C13 of the national edition of The New York Times on Nov. 16), she’s billed as Berenice Marlohe. But, in the main titles designed by Daniel Kleinman, she is listed as Berenice Lim Marlohe. During the publicity buildup to Skyfall, she was also listed as Berenice Marlohe. Most people didn’t know she had a middle name until they saw the movie.

Exhibit B: the different film editing credit between movie poster and movie.

On the poster, it’s “STUART BAIRD A.C.E.” (That’s American Cinema Editors to you civilians.) The movie? Something a bit different. It says “Editors” (plural) and lists Stuart Baird in BIG LETTERS with a second name, Kate Baird in small letters.

Kate Baird’s IMDB.com entry doesn’t list any specific relationship to 65-year-old Stuart Baird. Kate Baird was also as assistant editor on 2006′s Casino Royale, where Stuart Baird was the editor.

Meanwhile, this arrangement in the main titles seems to be something of a first for the Bond series. A number of 007 films has two or three credited film editors (Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun and Quantum of Solace among them). But with those 007 films, the name of the editors were all in the same size of type.

So, did Kate Baird do more work than an assistant editor (thus meriting a place in the main titles) but perform substantially less than Stuart Baird (thus accounting for her name being smaller)? While this is trivial, agents spends lots of time and effort negotiating these details concerning the credits of major movies.

One final note, that’s not an oddity but is worth mentioning. Gregg Wilson, the son of Michael G. Wilson, the 70-year-old co-boss of Eon Productions, got a promotion on Skyfall. The younger Wilson’s title on Quantum of Solace was assistant producer (his on-screen credit appeared with four other credits) while it was associate producer on Skyfall (sharing the screen with only one other name).

Presumably, this is an indication Gregg Wilson is positioning himself among the next generation of the Wilson-Broccoli clan for a bigger role in the future.

The dog days of Skyfall

It’s under a month before Skyfall’s world premier and about six weeks before the 23rd James Bond movie comes out in the U.S. At this point, it’s all over but the shouting. Still, perhaps because it’s the 50th anniversary of the first 007 movie, there are few more things to be endured for the dog days of Skyfall. No. 1 example: speculation about who will perform Skyfall’s title song.

Endured? That may seem an odd phrase, but in some ways appropriate. Various Web sites have had breathless stories about how they’ve confirmed that Adele will perform Skyfall’s title song.

One of the most persistent has been a Web site called Showbiz 411, which has run multiple stories saying Adele is the title song performer. The most recent was THIS ONE which not only repeated Adele would sing it but provided what is says are lyrics from the song. Meanwhile, on Twitter, a number of proprietors of 007 fan Web sites (including OUR TWITTER FEEDhave noted nothing has been “confirmed” (a word used in most of the title song stories) because no actual announcement has happened.

Then it hit us: at this point, it doesn’t really matter. Adele do the song? “That’s nice.” Jack White is back for a second time? “That’s nice.” The cast of 2012′s The Three Stooges? “That’s nice.”

Why such a tepid response? Because it’s not really going to affect the movie. After all, the title songs of 2006′s Casino Royale, 2002′s Die Another Day, 1999′s The World Is Not Enough, 1997′s Tomorrow Never Dies, 1995′s GoldenEye, 1987′s The Living Daylights, 1983′s Octopussy, etc., etc., etc. didn’t have a massive impact on those movies.

There’s a handful of “classic” Bond title songs. For argument’s sake, let’s call Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die, Nobody Does It Better and For Your Eyes Only classic title songs. And not everybody would agree on all of those. Some people, for example, will discuss why, Goldfinger, is a musically challenged song. And some Bond fans say there’s absolutely nothing redeeming about any 007 film with Roger Moore.

Meanwhile, the composer of the movie’s score (Thomas Newman in Skyfall’s case) will either enhance or detract from scenes in the movie.

In fact, TWO OF THE TOP THREE 007 movies in a vote by readers of 007 Magazine, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and From Russia With Love, didn’t have songs in their main titles (while having songs later in the film). Dr. No, the first movie, led off with The James Bond Theme, some Jamaician-sounding music courtesy of Monty Norman and a short song called “Three Blind Mice.”

But the entertainment Web sites soldier on as if the selection of a title song performer represented the second coming of Shirley Bassey or Nancy Sinatra. Still, the 50th anniversary (Oct. 5 to be precise) is more than a week away. A title song announcement would be natural for the occasion. Then again, it might be anti-climatic. Anyway, until then, the dog days of Skyfall continue.

Who were the 007 women standing with a clipboard?

Barbara Broccoli, co-boss of Eon Production, which produces 007 movies, gave an interview that generated a long story in the London Evening Standard. Many of Broccoli’s quotes have been chewed over. One passage caught our eye:

Barbara Broccoli

We can also credit Broccoli with tackling the sexism of 007. “Fortunately, the days of Bond girls standing around with a clipboard are over,” she says drily.

The writer, Liz Hoggard, doesn’t appear to have pressed Broccoli for specific examples of “clipobard” Bond girls. The Eon co-boss gives a pass in general to 007 heroines of the early movies: “Actually, when you read the early books, and watch the early films, the women were very interesting, exotic, complicated people. I always get into such an issue when I talk about these things. But they were pretty strong in their own right.” (emphasis added)

Broccoli specifically exempts Ursula Andress’s Honey Rider and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. But that still begs the question — who were the “clipboard” Bond heroines?

For argument’s sake, let’s skip the first six Eon Bond films (five of which were relatively faithful adapations of Ian Fleming novels) and survey the possibilities. We’ll also skip the Casino Royale-Quantum of Solace reboot because Broccoli and her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, remolded the franchise as they wished. Without further ado:

Tiffany Case (Jill St. John): Tiffany starts out Diamonds Are Forever as a tough, shrewd character but does engage in some slapstick before the 7th Eon 007 film ends.

Solitaire (Jane Seymour): Virginal with apparent supernatural powers (prior to having sex), Solitaire didn’t show a lot of self-defense skills.

Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland): Played mostly for laughs in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach): Top agent of the KGB, the female lead of the Spy Loved Me was the first “Bond’s equal” character.

Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles): An astronaut *and* a CIA agent. Another “Bond’s equal” character. Bond needs her to fly a Moonraker shuttle to Drax’s space station.

Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet): Young woman seeking revenge for her slain parents and carries a mean crossbow.

Octopussy (Maud Adams): Successful businesswoman and smuggler.

Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts): A professional woman (a geologist) but not always very self-aware (a noisy blimp sneaks up on her).

Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo):A talented musician but has a tendency to be manipulated by men.

Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell): One-time CIA agent and skilled pilot.

Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco): Russian computer programmer, Bond can’t defeat the former 006 without her help.

Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh): Ace Chinese secret agent, another “Bond’s equal” character.

Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards): Another professional woman (skilled in dealing with nuclear weapons), though many fans felt casting of Richards undercut that.

Jinx Johnson (Halle Berrry): Operative for the U.S. NSA, yet another “Bond’s equal” character.

A View To a Kill, a reappraisal

If there ever were a James Bond movie that suffered from a split personality, it would be A View To a Kill, the 14th entry in the series produced by Eon Productions.

The 1985 007 film is not a favorite of HMSS editors. It was Roger Moore’s seventh, and final, appearance as Bond. A good many HMSS editors never liked Moore to begin with and weren’t about to cut him any slack. The actor was 56 when filming began and he’d celebrate his 57th birthday during production. But upon viewing the movie again, the future Sir Roger is the least of the movie’s problems.

How’s that? Well, Moore soldiers on despite the movie’s wildly uneven tone. Want a serious Bond? He does what the story calls for. Want a jokey Bond? The actor delivers. He gets the blame from fans for the uneven tone but that blame probably belongs elsewhere. Was he too old to play Bond? Easy to say in hindsight, but Moore didn’t hire himself. Perhaps it was a reward for 1983′s Octopussy doing better box office than the rival Never Say Never Again.

The pre-titles sequence, set in Siberia, is a microcosm of what follows. Some moments seem absolutely brilliant, with tension, drama and great stunts. Then the movie abruptly switches to slapstick, with Bond escaping Soviet soldiers, accompanied by a Beach Boys song (without the Beach Boys performing it). Then, we’re back to tense excitement as Bond gets out of his precarious situation followed by a light, if cheesy, moment.

The rest of the movie more or less follows this pattern. We get some yuks as Bond and Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) pose a vapid rich guy and his valet to infiltrate a horse auction held by villain Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). When Sir Godfrey ends up as the movie’s sacrifical lamb, Bond appears genuinely upset and PO’d with Zorin, looking like he really wants to kill the bad guy. Later, Bond and heroine Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) narrowly escape a Zorin deathtrap it’s appropriately tense (though Roberts’s screaming can be annoying). That’s followed up by a bad joke that breaks the fourth wall which also implies Stacey and a San Fancisco police captain know all about the famous James Bond. “Yeah and I’m Dick Tracy and you’re still under arrest!” the police captain says. And so on.

It’s almost as if director John Glen, with his third consecutive 007 outing, decided to, at times, channel Jules White, who helmed many of the classic short films of The Three Stooges. But at others, the movie takes on a very dark tone. One example: when Zorin and right-hand man Scarpine (Patrick Bauchau) gun down a work crew the villain has hired as part of his plot. It’s as if Glen, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson and screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Wilson couldn’t quite find the right mix of drama and humor so they opted to go extremes both ways.

Walken, as Zorin, also reflects the odd back-and-forth tone. At times, he seems like a true psychopath, at others as if he knows it’s a big joke and he’s playing along. Walken is a wonderful actor. Still, we’re also told that Zorin is French and speaks five languages without an accent. Then it’s revealed he’s the result of a genetic experiment held in a German concentration camp during World War II. Yet, we only hear Zorin speak in English with a Brooklyn accent. “MO-ah! Mo-ah POW-ah!” he proclaims after Bond has enared Zorin’s blimp at the Golden Gate Bridge in the film’s climax.

John Barry is the one member of the creative team who performs at his best. The composer, scoring consecutive 007 films for the first time since 1969 and 1971 (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds Are Forever), does his best to elevate the proceedings and succeeds. Even when action sequences get too jokey at times, his music keeps things moving. If you ever hear somebody claim say that underscore in a movie doesn’t matter, A View To a Kill is Exhibit A that the opposite is true.

The movie was an end of an era. Besides Moore’s final 007 appearance, it was also the finale for Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny and she’s fine. Desmond Llewelyn’s Q reports for duty. In one shot in the final scene, he goes a bit over the top with a leering expression and askew headset, but that’s what his director presumably wanted. (“Desmond, as you do this scene, I want you to look like Curly Howard seeing a naked beautiful woman for the first time!”)

Finally, there’s an in-joke for those familiar with the business side of 007. Bond, desperately holding onto a rope attached to a blimp, has his manhood imperiled by the top of the Transamerica Building in San Francisco. That structure was home to the conglomerate that formerly owned United Artists, the studio that released Bond films. Transamerica dumpted UA, selling it to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after the movie Heaven’s Gate bombed at the box office.

With A View To a Kill, there are times it’s as if a classic James Bond movie is fighting to get out. There are flashes here and there, but the film never escapes its wildly inconsistent tone. Life’s that way sometimes. Mo-ah POW-ah, indeed.

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