A modest proposal for a Moonraker video game

Moonraker teaser poster

On a Nov. 27 James Bond & Friends livestream, the discussion veered into the opinion of participants about which films might make a good video game.

I suggested Moonraker. It takes James Bond into outer space (a place many fans say Bond should never go). It was a big, sprawling film that lends itself to video games.

The movie also has a number of similarities to 1966’s Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die. Since you’ve gone that far, why not adapt scenes from the earlier movie and provide Sony Corp. (parent company of Columbia, which released the 1966 film) a token payment.

For example, in a Moonraker video game, you could have a level where Jaws and other Hugo Drax henchmen chase Bond to the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Bond goes inside the statue, followed by the baddies. You could have a series of fights as Bond struggles to get to the top. Finally, Bond makes it. In comes Manuela, the local Rio operative from British Intelligence, flying a helicopter with a ladder dangling from it.

Bond gets on the ladder just in time as Jaws lunges for the agent. But Jaws only gets Bond’s shoe. Bond then smiles at Jaws (the way he did in The Spy Who Loved Me and in the film Moonraker) to taunt him. Jaws shakes his fist at the escaping Bond.

Another possibility would a proper sequence at Iguazu Falls. The location figures briefly into the movie but you don’t get a sense of the majesty of the place. Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die sets its title sequence at the falls and you get a better feel for the location.

Thus, with a Moonraker video game, another level would depict Bond with a mini-adventure at the falls.

Separately, Christopher Wood’s novelization for Moonraker had Bond doing a space walk to get from one place on Drax’s space station to another. Obviously, the could make an interesting level for a Moonraker video game.

Needless to say, these suggestions won’t be going anywhere. Consider them food for thought.

Author discusses James Bond Movie Encyclopedia

Cover to the new edition of The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia

Steven Jay Rubin has written about the James Bond films since the early 1980s. A new edition of the author’s The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia is out.

The encyclopedia first debuted in the 1990s and the most recent edition was published in 2003. Since that edition, the entire Daniel Craig era has unfolded.

The blog sent Rubin questions by email. Disclosure: I fielded some questions as the author was conducting research to update the encyclopedia and he referenced me in the acknowledgments.

What follows is the interview.

THE SPY COMMAND: What prompted you to update the James Bond Movie Encyclopedia?

STEVEN JAY RUBIN: The last edition had come out in 2003, so I had not covered the Daniel Craig era. Also, the publisher that brought out the 2003 edition was too cheap to re-alphabetize the book, so the latest Pierce Brosnan films were stuffed in the back.

TSC: The last edition of the book was in 2003. What are the challenges involved updating something after that long of a hiatus?

RUBIN: My biggest challenge was re-illustrating. I felt strongly that if anyone was going to buy another edition, it would have to be an almost completely new book.

Over the years, I had met a number of collectors around the world who had amassed huge still collections. I reached out to people like Anders Frejdh in Sweden, Dave Reinhardt in Canada, Michael Van Blaricum in Santa Barbara, Luc Le Clech in France and special effects maestro Brian Smithies in England.

The result was a huge trove of new pictures so that the book is 95 percent new images.

Chicago Review Press also budgeted for color images — my first in a James Bond book. This not only allowed me to use some spectacular color photos, but I had the opportunity to reach out to artists Jeff Marshall and Brian May to use their extraordinary interpretations of the films. They’re just wonderful. 

TSC: It has been almost 40 years since your first Bond book, The James Bond Films. Have your views toward Bond evolved? If so, how?

RUBIN: I must say that Daniel Craig’s era has revitalized my interest in the series.

I grew up with Connery, so, for me at least, the movies that followed never had that level of entertainment. I liked Roger Moore and his films were spectacular – but they were just too funny to be taken seriously.

Timothy Dalton is a fine actor, but The Living Daylights was just fair, and Licence to Kill played like a two-hour episode of Miami Vice. 

I was a big fan of Pierce Brosnan, but, once again, I thought his movies were just fair – my favorite being The World is Not Enough. 

So I came into the Daniel Craig era not expecting much. Casino Royale just blew me away. And although the quality of the scripts has gone up and down, Craig is always good.  Love his Bond. The grittiness, the avoidance of stupid humor, the realism.

Obviously, the series has had to compete with the Bourne films, Mission: Impossible, even the stunts of The Fast and the Furious films, and they’ve been competitive.

TSC: The new edition of The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia is your first analysis of the Daniel Craig era of Bond films. What makes it different from earlier eras?

RUBIN: Realism. We’ve actually come full circle. The very first two James Bond movies – Dr. No and From Russia with Love – were real spy adventures with a story that could have happened in the real world. 

The Craig era Bonds have that quality.  No one is trying to take over the world – many of the stories are about international terrorism and blackmail –- stories that could be in the news right now.

As screenwriter Richard Maibaum once said to me when discussing the motivation for the more realistic For Your Eyes Only, it was decided to pull in the balloon and get away from the big fantastic plots – to do a realistic spy adventure.  It worked back then.  And it continues to work today.

To view the book’s page on Amazon.com, CLICK HERE.

NTTD song to get even more exposure before film debuts

Billie Eilish publicity photo

The title song for No Time to Die will get even more exposure before the 25th James Bond film goes into theaters.

Performer Billie Eilish scored a Grammy nomination for the movie’s title song in the category of Best Song Written for Visual Media. The award show is at the end of January.

Eilish’s involvement with the song has been a buzz among Bond fans for almost a year. The MI6 James Bond website said Jan. 12 of this year that Eilish would become the youngest performer of a Bond song.

Eon Productions confirmed the news on Jan. 14. The song itself bowed on Feb. 13. This was when No Time to Die was scheduled to be released in April.

Then, No Time to Die was postponed to November. The song’s music video came out on Oct. 1.

On Oct. 2, the film’s release date was pushed back to April 2021. Nevertheless, Eilish performed the song on Oct. 5 on The Tonight Show in the U.S. The movie’s star, Daniel Craig, appeared on the same telecast.

The April-November-April delays stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic. But, with the Emmys telecast, the song No Time to Die will be one of the most exposed Bond title songs in the history of the film series.

Empire to publish Connery tribute

Empire magazine will publish a tribute to Sean Connery in its January 2021 issue.

Here’s the description Empire put out today.

Midway through production on the latest issue of Empire came some tragic news – that legendary actor Sean Connery, the man who brought Bond and so much more to life, had passed away at the age of 90. He left behind a brilliant cinematic legacy, which we’ve celebrated inside the new January 2021 issue – with a series of features delving into the way he made an indelible dent on cinema with the role of 007, exploring the rich variety of his work beyond that British super-spy, revisiting his final Empire interview, and more.

Connery died at the end of October. His first James Bond film was released in the fall of 1962. He did six 007 films for Eon Productions and a seventh Bond film, Never Say Never Again, that wasn’t part of the Eon series in 1983.

Pluto TV starts a Mission: Impossible channel

Pluto TV, a free streaming service (with commercials) started a Mission: Impossible channel today. At 1 p.m. Eastern time, the channel streamed the pilot for the 1966-73 series.

The pilot was written by series creator Bruce Geller. His script won an Emmy. Team leader Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) comes up with a plot to steal two nuclear warheads from a Caribbean nation unfriendly to the United States.

At first glance, it was hard to tell how many M:I episodes Pluto TV will televise.

Regardless, it’s another chance for spy fans to sample to the original show that begat the Tom Cruise film series that has been in production (on and off) since 1996.

UPDATE: Pluto TV appears to be showing the episodes in broadcast order. The second episode was “Memory,” same as the first-season broadcast order.

Rollin Hand (Martin Landau) initially goes in the discard pile when Briggs selects his team. The guest agent is Baresh, played by Albert Paulsen, who normally played villains (and would so in later M:I episodes). But Rollin provides an assist later in the story.

Also, Bruce Geller’s photo (wearing sinister looking sunglasses) also goes in the discard pile.

Herbert Solow, who helped revive Desilu in ’60s, dies

Herbert F. Solow title card from a second-season Mission: Impossible episode

Herbert F. Solow, an executive who helped revive Desilu in the mid-1960s, died this week at 89, Variety said.

Desilu, one a major producer of TV shows, was primarily leasing studio space by the middle part of the 1960s. Solow was brought in to revive production.

The executive sold Star Trek to NBC and Mission: Impossible to CBS for the 1966-67 season.

“This was a particularly sweet time for me,” Solow said in the 1996 book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, co-authored with Robert H. Justman. Justman worked as associate producer on both pilots and was on the crew for most of Star Trek’s original three-year run.

“Star Trek and Mission were the first projects I’d put into development after I joined Desilu,” Solow said in the book.

Both would be complicated shows to make, especially for a studio that had been relatively inactive. “I’d fought the budget battles and the casting problems, the network egos and the studio’s old-fashioned polices,” he wrote.

A year later, Solow sold another series, Mannix, a private eye drama, to CBS for the 1967-68 season. That would be the final Desilu series. Gulf + Western, then Paramount’s parent company, purchased Desilu from Lucille Ball. Desilu became Paramount Television.

Solow stayed for a time but departed. Paramount management put on more pressure to cut costs.

“It wasn’t the same, so I asked out of my contract,” Solow told Patrick J. White, author of The Mission: Impossible Dossier. Solow ended up at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as an executive.

UPDATE: Here is a YouTube video of Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman reading from their 1996 book. h/t @Stingray_travel for the heads up.

New book examines never-made Dalton 007 films

A question asked by James Bond fans is what would have happened if Timothy Dalton made more than two 007 films.

A new book, The Lost Adventures of James Bond, may provide answers. A press release for the book says that author Mark Edlitz “uncovers different scenarios for Timothy Dalton’s abandoned third and fourth Bond movies.”

Edlitz previously wrote the book The Many Lives of James Bond.

In 1990, a treatment for Bond 17 was written by Michael G. Wilson and Alfonse Ruggeriro that took a bigger, more science fiction take compared with Dalton’s Licence to Kill movie. The treatment included robots, including a robot that could pass for a woman.

The treatment was turned into a script by other writers and this gets examined in the new book.

A third Dalton movie ultimately was derailed when Danjaq, the parent company of Eon Productions, got into a legal fight with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Bond would not return to theater screens until 1995’s GoldenEye, with Pierce Brosnan as Bond.

The Edlitz book also looks at other Bond-related events, including the James Bond Jr. animated series and a “lost” performance by Sean Connery as Bond.

For information about ordering, CLICK HERE.

MGM update: Still a hot mess

The Hollywood Reporter is out with a story today that won’t make James Bond fans feel good about the super spy’s home studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The article, by veteran journalist Kim Masters, focuses primarily on Mark Burnett, the reality TV guru who was brought into MGM to run its television operation. Burnett reportedly was instrumental in having CEO Gary Barber fired in 2018.

Burnett, at MGM, hasn’t duplicated the success he had earlier in his career (Survivor, The Apprentice, et. al.). But what’s of interest to Bond fans are passages about how MGM is being managed overall.

A few excerpts follow. The first describes Barber’s firing.

The company has gone without a chief executive since March 2018, when Barber — a tight-fisted, bottom-line oriented businessman who had engineered the acquisition of Burnett’s businesses in a series of deals that began in 2014 — was fired. Barber, who had breathed life into MGM after it emerged from bankruptcy in 2010, was escorted from the company’s Beverly Hills offices with only a few minutes’ notice. Just months earlier, his contract had been renewed through December 2022.

The second concerns how MGM has been managed since Barber’s departure.

With his departure, Burnett was free to roam. MGM is to some degree guided by an Office of the Chief Executive, but the company does not disclose its members. (Sources say the committee is made up in part of Burnett, COO Christopher Brearton, and the heads of divisions.) But one exec says, “Everyone does their own thing. It’s a rudderless ship.”

To be fair, the article contains comments about how everything is just fine.

MGM controls the Bond film franchise along with Danjaq LLC, parent company of Eon Productions.

WW 1984 becomes 1st ‘tentpole’ to debut via streaming

Wonder Woman 1984 publicity still

Warner Bros. blinked, becoming the first studio to debut a big-budget “tentpole” film, Wonder Woman 1984, via streaming in the United Sstates.

The studio will release the sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman on Dec. 25, both in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service, Variety said. The movie will be shown in theaters internationally ” wherever theaters are open on Dec. 16,” Deadline: Hollywood said.

During this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, studios have played a game of chicken, with nobody wanting to debut their biggest movies while the coronavirus rages. COVID-19 has intensified this fall in the U.S., a major movie market.

As a result, the studios have delayed their big films repeatedly, including No Time to Die, the 25th James Bond film. The Bond adventure was pushed back from April 2020 to November 2020 and again to April 2021.

The conventional wisdom is the big budget movies need a theatrical release and can’t debut on streaming services.

But, as the pandemic has dragged on, inhibiting theater attendance, there has been more financial pressure on studios. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, reportedly explored leasing No Time to Die to streaming services. For now, there’s no sign that will happen.

There are promising COVID-19 vaccines being developed but there are questions how quickly they can be deployed.

HBO Max is the streaming service being marketed by AT&T, parent company of Warner Bros. and HBO. AT&T is looking to HBO Max to compete with Netflix.

A comic book writer’s racy spy novels

Gardner F. Fox (1911-1986)

Gardner F. Fox (1911-1986 may not be that well-remembered today. But in his time, he created many comic book characters, including the original Flash, Hawkman, the Justice Society of America and the Justice League of America.

He also wrote a number of Batman stories and contributed to that character’s mythos.

Fox also penned a 1961 story where the original Flash met the second Flash, who was introduced in 1956.

However, during the period Fox worked, comic books didn’t pay that well. So the prolific Fox did other writing, including racy spy novels.

There is now an official website about his paperback novels. It features complete stories.

Among those novels, there was a series featuring the Lady From L.U.S.T. (written under the pen name of, ahem, Rod Gray) and a series featuring Cherry Delight (written under the pen name of Glen Chase).

Fox also wrote novels featuring (as the website calls them) Tough Guys.

You can read these stories for free on the official Gardner F. Fox website. Here’s an example of a promo on Twitter: