New SPECTRE poster unveiled, Craig listed as co-producer

New SPECTRE poster

New SPECTRE poster

The official 007 WEBSITE unveiled a new SPECTRE poster, featuring star Daniel Craig in a white dinner jacket as well listing the actor as a co-producer of the 24th James Bond film.

Craig has long been described as more involved in creative matters than other 007 actors. The co-producer credit is a confirmation of that. The other co-producers are Andrew Noakes and David Pope.

To easier read the credits, click on the image and a bigger version should appear.

The poster also disclosed a long writing credit.

The credits for the poster say the screenplay is by “John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth,” while the plot is by Logan, Purvis and Wade.

Butterworth’s involvement came to light last fall when he was featured in a profile by The New Yorker magazine. The article said Butterworth had also contributed to the script of 2012’s Skyfall.

Butterworth didn’t get a credit for Skyfall. The SPECTRE credit indicates his contribution are greater this time around.

Logan originally wrote SPECTRE solo, but was replaced in the summer of 2014 by Purvis and Wade.  The “story by” credit is an indication that Purvis and Wade substantially revamped the story line Logan first submitted in March 2014.

UPDATE: “One more thing,” as Lt. Columbo used to say. Based on the poster, it appears the co-bosses of Eon Productions, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, have opted to not have the “p.g.a.” mark.

That label, or “producer’s mark,” is from the Producers Guild of America, and has been in use since mid-2013 to indicate who the primary producers are for a movie. The guild sought this with the proliferation of producer credits. The mark is voluntary but has been used widely in films the past two years. Apparently, Wilson and Broccoli felt it wasn’t necessary in their case.

GUEST REVIEW: Trigger Mortis

Trigger Mortis cover

Trigger Mortis cover

By Brad Frank, Guest Writer
Anthony Horowitz’s Trigger Mortis proves to be one of the better James Bond continuation novels, though not because of what has been emphasized in the novel’s publicity.

The book has been heavily hyped as featuring the return of Pussy Galore. It’s set in 1957, immediately following the novel Goldfinger, with Pussy having moved in with Bond in London.

She is not, however, the primary heroine of the book, and actually has nothing to do with the main story line. Two of Goldfinger’s Korean thugs make an attempt on her life out of revenge, but Bond comes to the rescue. Soon afterwards, she leaves Bond to resume her lesbian lifestyle (as in the original book), having appeared in less than one fourth of the novel.

Ian Fleming’s unpublished story outline “Murder on Wheels” is the basis for the first third of the new novel (CLICK HERE for the back story). It concerns a SMERSH plot to assassinate a famous driver during a Grand Prix race. (The motivation behind this is unclear.)

Bond is assigned to protect him, under cover as a wealthy amateur racing enthusiast, who has bought his way into the race.

Prior to the race, Bond brushes up on his driving skills with the help of Logan Fairfax, the daughter of another famous driver who was killed at Le Mans in 1955, in a real life tragedy that claimed the lives of 83 people, mostly spectators. (One wonders why they wouldn’t simply recruit a professional racer instead … but then, Bond wouldn’t have a mission.)

The would-be assassin is a Russian driver. Needless to say, Bond thwarts the plot. Horowitz describes the race with great skill, evoking similar imagery to Fleming’s descriptions of car chases.

Following the race, all of the drivers and VIPs are invited to a party at the residence of a wealthy patron, Sin Jai-Seong, aka Jason Sin, a Korean SMERSH agent who was not only behind the assassination attempt, but has something much grander in the works.

At the party, Bond meets a journalist named Jeopardy Lane, who turns out to be a U.S. Treasury agent. Together, they discover Sin’s complicated plot to sabotage a U.S. rocket test. This was timely stuff for 1957. The Space Race was about to begin, with the Soviet launch of Sputnik later that year, with America’s Project Mercury soon to follow.

As most of the later Bond authors do, there is a certain amount of name-dropping of Fleming characters, intended to invoke nostalgia, and/or to convince the reader that this is a genuine Bond novel.

Like Sebastian Faulks (Devil May Care) and William Boyd (Solo) before him, whose recent Bond novels were set in the ’60s, Horowitz includes numerous contemporary references, intended to solidly fix the story in a specific historical year. He manages to insert both of these elements fairly naturally, and is less in-your-face about it than his predecessors.

In a very Fleming-esque scene, the villain Sin tells Bond his life story, and his motivation for the sabotage. Horowitz winks at the reader, acknowledging the obvious cliché from both books and films, by having Sin tell Bond “I will admit that it gives me some satisfaction in relating it … (and) in a short while, you will be dead.”

Goldfinger (in both the book and the film) used mostly Korean help, and this is mentioned in the current novel. Since Jason Sin is also Korean, I was expecting some connection between them to ultimately be revealed, but nothing like that is suggested or implied. It might have been better had Jason Sin been of a different ethnicity.

On the whole, Trigger Mortis is one of the better continuation novels. I would place it among the top 10 percent of them all. Definitely recommended.

Comments below contain spoilers.

An attempt on Pussy Galore’s life is one of the weaker points of the novel. Two of Goldfinger’s Korean henchmen kidnap her, and paint her gold. It’s obviously meant to be ironic, but comes across as a rather lame attempt to invoke a Fleming-ism.

What really spoils the scene is how it perpetuates the myth of skin suffocation. A few years ago “Mythbusters” proved that, while being covered in paint is unpleasant and over time can lead to heat exhaustion due to blockage of the pores, it would not be fatal or even particularly harmful in the short term. The fact is that skin does not breathe.

And yet in the novel, as they’re covering her with the paint, Pussy almost immediately collapses and begins gasping, implying that she will survive for only a few minutes once her body is completely covered. Of course, Bond interrupts them before it gets that far.

A major plot point hinges on a bomb being set off in the New York subway, with a replica of the test rocket planted there to give the false impression that it went off course and was responsible for the explosion.

There are two problems with this. The launch site is 330 miles from New York, and the rocket is easily tracked while in flight. And the massive amount of C-4 explosive used –- supposedly enough to demolish a building –- would totally obliterate the fake rocket.

Fleming certainly had his share of implausibilities, so despite these criticisms, so despite all that, I highly recommend Trigger Mortis.

© 2015, Brad Frank

 

Brad Frank is a director of the Ian Fleming Foundation

Craig tells Esquire he can’t ‘conceive’ of doing more Bonds

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Caveat emptor: Daniel Craig told Esquire IN AN INTERVIEW that, “At the moment” he “can’t even conceive” doing another 007 film after SPECTRE. However, he certainly doesn’t close the door.

The interview, by Alex Bilmes, was conducted in July, days after SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, completed production, according to the Esquire story.

Here’s an excerpt:

There has been much speculation that Spectre will be Craig’s last film as Bond. I thought he’d signed on for two more after Skyfall, meaning there would be at least one more after Spectre.

“I don’t know,” he says. He really doesn’t know? “I really don’t know. Honestly. I’m not trying to be coy. At the moment I can’t even conceive it.”

Would he at least like to do another one? “At this moment, no. I have a life and I’ve got to get on with it a bit. But we’ll see.”

That’s pretty much all the interview touches upon the subject. Craig discusses other subjects in more depth. Some samples:

–“His mentor and substitute mother died in his arms. ‘[Bond] failed,’ he says, of Judi Dench’s character’s death at the end of Skyfall. ‘That was a big decision.'”

–On whether he likes the character of James Bond. “I don’t know if I’d like to spend too much time with him…Maybe an evening but it would have to be early doors.”

–Describing Bond’s life. “He’s very f***ing lonely here’s a great sadness. He’s f***ing these beautiful women but then they leave and it’s… sad.”

To read the entire interview, CLICK HERE.

Trigger Mortis: a preview

Trigger Mortis cover

Trigger Mortis cover

By Brad Frank, Guest Writer
Trigger Mortis, by Anthony Horowitz, the newest James Bond continuation novel, comes out Sept. 8. This one is unique because it’s based on an original story outline by Ian Fleming, and brings back one of his most famous characters.

Fleming had always been interested in seeing James Bond on the screen, and throughout the 1950s he considered various deals for the film and/or television rights. A live TV adaptation of his first novel, Casino Royale, aired on CBS in 1954.

In 1956, Fleming was commissioned to create a TV series called “Commander Jamaica.” It was never produced, so he changed the main character’s name and other details, and used it as the basis for his 1958 novel Doctor No.

Another network proposed a James Bond TV series, and Fleming wrote a handful of episode outlines. When that project fell through, he adapted three of them into short stories, which were published in the 1960 collection For Your Eyes Only. Fleming’s habit of adapting unproduced scripts would come back to haunt him during the extended Thunderball legal case.

Fleming’s unused TV outlines have never been seen outside of the archives of Ian Fleming Publications until now. Trigger Mortis is based on one of them, originally called “Murder on Wheels.” Trigger Mortis takes place immediately following the events of Goldfinger, and features that book’s heroine, Pussy Galore.

Goldfinger is arguably the most famous Bond story of all time, although it’s known mainly from the 1964 film starring Sean Connery and Honor Blackman, which differs somewhat from the book.

The first obvious difference between the novel and film is that Bond’s friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter does not appear in the early parts of the book. He only shows up at the very end, during the raid on Fort Knox. Also notable is that in the book, Goldfinger works for SMERSH, using his gold to pay operatives, while the film presents him as a totally independent criminal who has partnered with China.

In the film, Jill Masterson (Masterton in the book) is adamant that Goldfinger pays her only to be seen with him, nothing else. It’s quite the opposite in the novel, in which Goldfinger fantasizes about literally making love to gold. Her death via gold paint isn’t revealed until much later, when Bond (and the reader) learns about it from her sister. And while the golden girl is one of the most memorable images in all of film, upon analysis it makes no sense outside of the broader context.

Fleming, who was very skilled at describing games or competitions, presents all 18 holes of the golf match in wonderful detail. The film reduces this to only three holes, but the results are the same. In the novel, Oddjob is not Goldfinger’s caddy, only his chauffeur. Following the game, Goldfinger in the novel invites Bond to dinner at his home, where we learn about Oddjob’s Karate skills and trick bowler hat.

As in the film, Bond tails Goldfinger to Geneva, meeting Jill’s sister Tilly Masterton along the way. When they are captured spying on Goldfinger’s factory, Tilly is NOT killed –- she survives almost to the end of the novel. The famous laser beam table is merely an old-fashioned circular saw table in the book. Goldfinger inexplicably hires Bond and Tilly to work for him on Operation Grand Slam. In the film, he keeps Bond alive merely for show, knowing that they are being spied upon by Bond’s friends.

Pussy Galore is actually a relatively minor character in the novel, who has little contact with Bond until the end. She is not Goldfinger’s private pilot –- in fact she isn’t a pilot at all, but rather the head of an all-female criminal organization. She first appears along with the other crime bosses who Goldfinger wants to join his big plan.

It has often been stated that the film improved on the book’s plot by having Goldfinger irradiate Fort Knox with an atomic bomb, thus increasing the value of his own gold reserves, rather than trying to steal it. This may be true, and yet there are many other changes in the film which make little or no sense. I’ve already mentioned Jill’s death. Another example is that, in the novel, while Goldfinger does murder the one gangster who refuses to join him, the others, along with Pussy, become active members in the attack on Fort Knox.

The film merely hints, with one line of dialogue, that Pussy may be a lesbian. The novel makes this quite explicit. She and Tilly are obviously attracted to each other. Pussy does not help Bond thwart Goldfinger’s plans, and only turns to his side in the last two chapters.

The novel concludes with their rescue from the crashed plane, which in the book was a hijacked commercial airliner, rather than Goldfinger’s private jet. Oddjob, not Goldfinger, gets sucked out of the airplane window. To justify her conversion, Pussy tells Bond “I never met a man before,” and Bond promises her a course of T.L.C. – Tender Loving Care — treatment.

Fleming would usually, during the opening chapters of his next novel, tie up any loose ends from the previous one. But he never again mentioned Pussy Galore, or what happened between her and Bond after the novel’s conclusion. That conveniently left the door open for her to reappear in Trigger Mortis.

© 2015, Brad Frank

Brad Frank is a director of the Ian Fleming Foundation.

MeTV’s ‘Spies Who Love ME’ concludes Sunday

metv logo

MeTV, the U.S. channel mostly featuring 1960s and ’70s shows, is ending its “Spies Who Love ME” Sunday night block of shows this weekend.

Mission: Impossible, which had been on at 11 p.m. ET Sunday, and The Saint, which has been airing at 1 a.m. Mondays, are leaving the MeTV schedule altogether for now, the channel said in an announcement about its fall schedule.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which has been telecast at 10 p.m. ET on Sundays, is moving to the overnight weekend schedule. It will be on at 2 a.m. ET Sundays and Mondays (considered part of the Saturday and Sunday schedules).

Get Smart will be telecast on the overnight Sunday schedule, showing at 1 a.m. on Monday. With “Spies Who Love ME,” MeTV showed two episodes of the 1965-70 comedy start at midnight.

To see the entire new schedule, which begins Aug. 31, CLICK HERE for a PDF version.

GUEST REVIEW: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

I never fully watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I wasn’t born when it was released and no DVDs (and few TV telecasts) where released in my country, at least in my teens.

As a Bond fan, of course, I enjoyed many rip-offs, from the funny ones like Get Smart, Johnny English and Kingsman: The Secret Service to the more realistic ones like Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible saga, the Harry Palmer films and a few modern-espionage films like The International.

Still, I barely knew about Napoleon Solo and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. except for the fact it was one of the many ingredients of the ‘60s spy phenomenon and the Ian Fleming connection with the character of Napoleon Solo. I was kind of interested, but I never ended up closely following the episodes as I did with Zorro, Batman, The Saint or other cult TV series.

So, what follows “review” of someone in the mid-20s who hasn’t properly watched the original TV series produced by Norman Felton but has an idea on it.

I had a free afternoon so I booked the tickets on a close theatre in my hometown in Buenos Aires. The screening was around 6:30 p.m. As I entered the theatre, all the seats were empty! I wondered if some of the negative reviews had such an impact on people that left Napoleon Solo a bit… “solo” (if you speak Spanish, you’ll get the word game).

A few minutes later, people appeared — not many, five or seven more, making around ten people if you count me. On a side note, I catched the SPECTRE teaser trailer before the film. I’ve always been unlucky in finding a Bond trailer on a screening, something that only happened before in 2002 when the Die Another Day trailer popped up before My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the movie my grandmother took me to watch.

And then, Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. filled the screen.

Overall, the film is enjoyable… enough to relax after a tough day at work, at least. It looks indeed as a movie set in the 1960s: a masterful work of the cinematographer, the costume designer, and Daniel Pemberton in the music department.

There’s a lot of humor like the one you’ll find in Kingsman: The Secret Service, but a lot less exaggerated, and more in the vein of the 1972 TV series The Persuaders. The Henry Cavill-Armie Hammer relationship onscreen is in a way very similar to the Roger Moore-Tony Curtis one.

A scene of Napoleon Solo (Cavill) comfortably drinking wine and having sandwiches while sitting in a truck as Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin (Hammer) gun fighting his enemies on a boat is particularly effective and funny for the inclusion of “Che Vuole Questa Musica Stasera” (sung by Peppino Gagliardi) as both events are taking place. This rivalry that slowly turns into friendship is akin to The Persuader’s pilot “Interlude.”

Other of the film’s pros is the backdrop created for the protagonists: Solo being an art thief working for the CIA on probation and Kuryakin having with anger management problems. The girls, Gaby (Alicia Vikander) and Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki), are in a way the stereotypical “good girls” and “bad girls” you’ll find in any retro spy series. They are not complex characters, but they fit very well into the film.

More into the 60s influence, the scene where Solo is tortured seems to have a small nod to the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale, where Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) provides a “mind torture” to Peter Sellers’ Evelyn Tremble, aka James Bond 007, when uncle Rudi shows a video of the Nazi “achievements” as the hero is tied to an electric chair.

A special mention is deserved by Hugh Grant as Waverly, whose presence itself is more than welcome and adds a special touch to the film with his comic quips.

There is, however, a big negative point in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: the editing. It tried to be artistic and it perhaps succeeded in the desired effect, but the fast camera shots, the flashbacks and the split-screen shots are very distracting. It happens, even in a more confusing way, the same that in the shakey cam shots of Quantum of Solace.

The film’s ending offers a nice cliffhanger, maybe predictable, but very similar to the current “reboot” movies where we see the inception of what has been established before. There is a word association to the last line said by Waverly to the relationship a character had with other, something that would probably get lost in translation for many non-English speaking countries.

Verdict: Love the ‘60s spy movies with lots of humor? Watch it!

MI6 Confiential looks at GoldenEye

GoldenEye's poster

GoldenEye’s poster

MI6 Confidential is out with a new issue looking at GoldenEye, the 1995 007 that jump started the franchise after a six-year absence.

The issue has several articles on the movie, including an interview with director Martin Campbell.

GoldenEye was the first 007 film since 1989’s Licence to Kill. The hiatus had been marked by a legal fight and a financial reorganization at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Eventually after multiple script rewrites, a new Bond film finally went into production.

The film was Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond, the start of a four-movie run in the role. It was also Judi Dench’s debut as M.

For more information about the issue’s contents and ordering information, CLICK HERE.

The issue costs 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros, plus postage and handling.

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