About James Bond fandom

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over the decades, James Bond fans have gotten into spirited debates.

I’ve been on the receiving end of such debates. People I once thought were friends have unloaded on me.

That’s how it goes. I’ve been accused as rooting for James Bond films to perform badly at the box office.

Is that true? No. Still, it happens.

People like to think there’s a “James Bond Community.”

That’s a nice idea. It evokes how fans from many walks of life can come together.

Yet, it doesn’t always work out that way. There are fans representing many generations. Some of those fans believe they *know* more than others.

What’s more, some of those fans disagree. Their positions erupt into disagreements that are difficult to reconcile. What were once friendships are disrupted, never to come back together.

That’s life. That can occur with any long-running enterprise.

Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s 40th anniversary

Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in a publicity still for The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Adapted from a 2013 post with updates.

You can’t keep a good man down. So it was for former U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, who made a return 40 years ago.

The intrepid agents, again played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, were back after a 15-year absence. This time they appeared in a made-for-television movie broadcast in April 1983 on CBS, instead of NBC, home of the original 1964-68 series.

It was a mixed homecoming. Return’s script, penned by executive producer Michael Sloan, recycled the plot of Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film. Thrush steals two nuclear bombs from a U.S. military aircraft. Thrush operative Janus (Geoffrey Lewis) boasts that the criminal organization is now “a nuclear power.” Yawn. Thrush was much more ambitious in the old days.

The show had been sold to NBC as “James Bond for television.” Sloan & Co. took the idea literally, hiring one-time 007 George Lazenby to play “JB,” who happens to drive as vintage Aston Martin DB5. (In real life, the car was constantly in need of repair.) JB helps Solo, who has just been recalled to active duty for U.N.C.L.E., to get out of a jam in Las Vegas.

In a sense, this TV movie was a footnote to 1983’s “Battle of the Bonds.” Roger Moore and Sean Connery were starring in dueling 007 films, Octopussy and Never Say Never Again respectively. All three Bond film actors up to that time were either playing 007 or a reasonable facsimile. Lazenby filmed his scenes for The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on Dec. 2-3, 1982.

The original U.N.C.L.E. series had been filmed no further out than about 30 miles from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s studio in Culver City, California. Return was really filmed in and around Las Vegas, with the desert nearby substituting for Libya, where Thrush chieftain Justin Sepheran (Anthony Zerbe) has established his headquarters.

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George Lazenby’s title card in the main titles of The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Vaughn and McCallum, being old pros, make the best of the material they’re given, especially when they appear together. That’s not often, as it turns out. After being reunited, they pursue the affair from different angles. Solo has to put up with skeptical U.N.C.L.E. agent Kowalski (Tom Mason), who complains out loud to new U.N.C.L.E. chief Sir John Raleigh (Patrick Macnee) bringing back two aging ex-operatives.

Sloan did end up bringing in two crew members of the original series: composer Gerald Fried, who worked on the second through fourth seasons, and director of photography Fred Koenekamp, who had photographed 90 U.N.C.L.E. episodes from 1964 through 1967.

Also on the crew was Robert Short, listed as a technical adviser. He and Danny Biederman had attempted to put together an U.N.C.L.E. feature film. Their project eventually was rejected in favor of Sloan’s TV movie.

In the end, the April 5, 1983 broadcast produced respectable ratings. CBS, however, passed on committing to a new U.N.C.L.E. series.

For a long time, Return remained the last official U.N.C.L.E. production. Another U.N.C.L.E. project wouldn’t be seen until 2015. That’s when The Man From U.N.C.L.E. film debuted. It had an “origin” storyline, didn’t feature many of the familiar U.N.C.L.E. memes, and revised the back stories of Solo and Kuryakin.

In 2013, the blog published a post about Return’s 30th anniversary. Since then Vaughn, Macnee and Koenekamp have died.

For a more detailed review of The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., CLICK HERE.

Finally, in 2021, director Ray Austin hosted a live stream with participants of the 1983 TV movie. Austin had once been the stunt arranger on The Avengers television series.

RE-POST: The hero’s last stand

No Time to Die poster

Adapted from a 2021 post

No Time to Die wrapped up a five-movie arc featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond. It was a self-contained Bond universe that (mostly) didn’t concern itself with the previous 20 Eon Productions movies.

Eon Productions got the idea in the middle of the arc (in between Skyfall and SPECTRE). Skyfall director Sam Mendes originally said that movie had nothing to do with the first two Craig 007 movies.

Still, it’s now official these films are their own thing. That’s much the way that Christopher Nolan’s three Batman movies are their own thing, not related to any other Batman films.

Whether Eon wants to admit it or not, the makers of the Bond film series are following the same path set by Fox and Marvel movies featuring Marvel comic book characters

With 2015’s SPECTRE, Eon specifically adapted interconnected storytelling featured in movies made by Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios. With No Time to Die, Eon has doubled down on that concept.

2017’s Logan (made by Fox before it was absorbed by Disney), we had the final Hugh Jackman adventure as Logan/Wolverine. In 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, we had the concluding tale of Tony Stark/Iron man (Robert Downey Jr.), ending an arc of more than a decade.

The concept, of course, is The Hero’s Last Stand. The hero falls, but falls heroically. The audience weeps.

When executed well, it works.

To be clear, The Hero’s Last Stand goes back a long time. It was included in genres as diverse as Biblical epics (Samson and Deliah) and Westerns (Ride the High Country and The Shootist). But Biblical movies and Westerns aren’t popular anymore.

But comic book films are.

For example, Tony Stark makes the ultimate sacrifice to save those who matter the most to him. Sound familiar?

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron about to make the ultimate sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame (2019)

You may respond that’s a coincidence. No, it’s not.

The tabloids ran stories in 2018 and 2019 speculating about whether Bond 25 would kill off Craig’s Bond. They also had stories asking whether Eon or Danny Boyle, No Time to Die’s original director wanted to kill Bond off.

The Sun said in August 2018 that Boyle quit because he did not want to kill off Bond. The Daily Star said in April 2019 that it was Boyle who wanted Bond “to die in the arms of returning Bond girl Lea Seydoux in the 25th spy movie Shatterhand.” (Oops.)

Regardless, we now know that somebody did. The notion of Bond dying has been in plain sight for years.

To be sure, movies can have similar themes and still be good. High Noon and Rio Bravo featured western lawmen who were outnumbered by the bad guys. But the two movies had considerably different takes on the same notion.

Many Bond fans despise Marvel films. Many fans are in denial that Bond has been adapting Marvel film concepts (including Eon boss Barbara Broccoli).

Of course, it also works the way around. Both Nolan’s Batman movies and Marvel’s film output have been influenced by Bond. Example: Look at casino scenes in 2012’s Skyfall and 2018’s Black Panther, for example.

Regardless, all still comes down to execution. So how does No Time to Die’s version of The Hero’s Last Stand compare?

When I finally saw it, I thought it was done very well. The ending had been spoiled for me. Not in a, “I stumbled it while surfing the internet” way but hearing it presented to me full on. Nevertheless, watching No Time to Die for the first time, it felt genuinely emotional.

You may disagree. And that’s fine. The thing is, Bond’s exit in No Time to Die was not brand-new territory.

Goldfinger’s ‘secret sauce’

Iconic publicity still for Goldfinger with Sean Connery leaning against the Aston Martin DB5.

Almost 60 years after it debuted, 1964’s Goldfinger remains one of the landmarks of the James Bond film franchise. But why was it?

The series made by Eon Productions and released by United Artists had two solid financial successes with Dr. No and From Russia With Love. But Goldfinger took everything up a notch or two or three.

What was the “secret sauce”?

Maybe it was the choice of the source material by Ian Fleming.

Eon had multiple options for proceeding after From Russia With Love. The Fleming novels Live And Let Die and Diamonds Are Forever were available. Eon had the rights to other Fleming short stories.

But, at the end of 1963, the cinematic Bond was ready to break out. The film franchise was ready to take on a larger-than-life story. There were elements of that in the first two films. Eon had passed on the giant squid of Fleming’s Dr. No novel. Regardless, Fleming’s Goldfinger novel had even more.

A robbery of Fort Knox. One of Fleming’s best villains. A henchman who hadn’t been seen before?

The filmmakers expanded upon Fleming’s vision. The author’s buzz saw was replaced with a laser beam. Fleming’s Aston Martin DB3 was replaced with an even more elaborate DB5.

In 2014, the blog raised the question of whether Goldfinger was the first A-list comic book film.

Sometimes, it’s just timing. Almost 60 years later, there’s no way to be sure.

My guess, selecting Goldfinger to be the third film was a choice that attracted U.S. audiences.

The selection may have been a simple business choice. The story would have more U.S. scenes, a way to capture American audiences.

Regardless, it was one of the best choices Eon and UA ever made.

Live And Let Die’s 50th: The post-Connery era truly begins

Live And Let Die's poster

Live And Let Die’s poster

Adapted from a 2013 post
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 in 1973. It 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 and The Persuaders! television shows. Older than Connery, Moore would 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 that 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 survive 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 editors at the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website criticized the movie and its star in a survey many 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’

Real life catches up to (some) futuristic tropes

Dick Tracy started out with a two-way wrist radio (1946), then upgraded to a two-way wrist TV (1964) and upgraded yet again to a two-way wrist computer (1986).

One of the appeals of the 1960s spy craze was how it embraced gadgets.

In From Russia With Love (1963), James Bond could be buzzed out in the field to call back to headquarters. In Goldfinger, the original version of the Aston Martin DB5 was equipped with a GPS device (a term not coined at the time). The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had communication devices of apparently unlimited range.

The spy craze was predated by the Dick Tracy newspaper comic strip by Chester Gould (1900-85). The detective got his two-way wrist radio in 1946, courtesy of industrialist Diet Smith. Smith upgraded the device to a two-way wrist TV in 1964 and a two-way wrist computer in 1986.

But has real life caught up to all this?

The Screen Rant website has come out with an article saying Bond 26 will struggle to utilize gadgets.

Although the gadgets used by James Bond have always been a vital part of the franchise’s appeal, it seems unlikely that Bond 26 will be able to bring back this 007 trope.

We’ll see about that.

The 1960s spy craze had some gadgets yet to be invented. For example, episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. included “McGuffins” such as a limitless energy supply developed to repel invaders from outer space (The Double Affair), a serum that accelerates the healing of the human body (The Girls of Nazarone Affair), a mind-reading machine (The Foxes and Hounds Affair) and a device that can reverse the aging process (The Bridge of Lions Affair).

And, of course, we have yet to see anything like the Space Coupe, Diet Smith’s spacecraft with magnetic power.

Wait, what? Really?

Henry Cavill

Supposedly, a sequel to the 2015 movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is in development, according to a website called Giant Freakin Robot. (Giant Freakin Robot?)

Cavill, who turns 40 in June, has departed various film franchises. He was once Superman but is no longer. He was once the star of the streaming series The Witcher but is no longer.

U.N.C.L.E. didn’t catch on when it was released in August 2015. Normally, that would be it.

Yet, this is an excerpt from the latest article:

 Through our trusted and proven sources, we can report that The Man from U.N.C.L.E 2 is being developed with Henry Cavill returning in the main role. Guy Ritchie is also returning to write and direct the sequel, though we are sure Armie Hammer will not be in it.

Armie Hammer, who played Illya Kuryakin in the 2015 movie, has endured, shall we say, various controversies that have stalled his acting career.

For now, color the blog skeptical. Maybe something will happen. Then again, it may be another chapter in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse.

Rewatching The Avengers Part II

Patrick Mcnee and Diana Rigg in a publicity still for The Avengers

Here are some more selections from the fourth season of The Avengers, which introduced Diana Rigg as Emma Peel and the first season produced on film.

Too Many Christmas Trees: John Steed (Patrick Macnee) is having nightmares involving Christmas trees and someone who has dressed up like Santa Claus. After awakening from one sucsh nightmare, Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) arrives at Steed’s flat and gives him some Christmas cards he has received.

One is from Cathy Gale. Steed is pleased but wonders why Mrs. Gale sent it from Fort Knox. Mrs. Gale, of course, was played by Honor Blackman, who played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger.

The Girl From Auntie: Emma is incapacitated and kidnapped after an “MFU” (Man From U.N.C.L.E.?) all-night costume party. Another woman has been substituted in Emma’s place.

Auntie refers to Mr. Auntie, the villain of the episode. But there are multiple in-jokes. Two dead men (of several) are named Bates and Marshall, presumably a reference to John Bates (costume designer for Diana Rigg) and Marshall (presumably a reference to writer Roger Marshall). Auntie operates out of the offices of Art Incorporated. Steed investigates the office. While checking out a control panel, it starts beeping. The sound is similar to (but not identical to) the communicator sound of the communicator from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

We also see in Emma’s apartment she has a copy of “Self Defence: No Holds Barred” supposedly written by Ray Austin. Austin was the stunt arranger for the series. He’d become a director and emigrate to the U.S. where he would helm episodes of various productions. One was the 1983 TV movie The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The cast includes David Bauer as a sinister Soviet bloc diplomat. He’d later appear in You Only Live Twice (American diplomat) and Diamonds Are Forever (Mr. Slumber). At one point, certain knitting needles are referred to as “double-ohs.”

A Touch of Brimstone: This episode is perhaps best remembered for Diana Rigg appearing in a skimpy outfit while wearing a spiked collar

When the U.S. ABC network imported the show to the United States, ABC did not broadcast this installment. In 1999, the U.S. cable television channel TV Land had a week of spy-related TV shows as part of a promotion for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The night for The Avengers included A Touch of Brimstone and referenced the censorship issue.

A new Hellfire Club is doing no good, bringing Steed and Mrs Peel into the case. The striking visuals cause this to be one of the best-remembered episodes of the series.

The cast included Carol Cleveland, who often appeared with Monty Python, and Alf Joint, the stunt performer who appeared in the pre-titles sequence of Goldfinger.

The House That Jack Built: The audience learns A LOT about the background of Emma Peel. In previous episodes, we’re told how she’d a genius. In this episode, we eventually are told how she took control of the empire of her late father, Sir John Knight. The audience is shown part of a newspaper headline that says, “21-year-old girl to head board.” Once in control, Emma fired an automation expert.

That expert is Professor Keller. He is the one who has lured Emma into the trap. Except it turns out that Keller IS DEAD. He laid out the trap to live beyond him. He has made recordings to test Emma. The point of the exercise is to drive Emma to kill herself

Thankfully, Steed is on the job. Regardless, the episode is a showcase for Diana Rigg and art director Harry Pottle, with his imaginative sets. Pottle would work on the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, working with production designer Ken Adam

FRWL’s 60th: The dancer in the main titles

Autographed photo of Julie Mendez (Provided by Steve Oxenrider)

Steve Oxenrider, a long-time James Bond fan, originally prepared this story more than a decade ago. He talked to Julie Mendez, who was the dancer in the main titles of From Russia With Love. She passed away in 2013.

By Steve Oxenrider, Guest Writer

A belly dancer’s best friend is her snake.  If Julie Mendez had had her way, the undulating, gyrating movements of the main title dancer in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE might have featured a boa constrictor. 

Julie is the dance artist who performed as the credits were projected onto her shimmering body for the introduction to the second James Bond thriller. When I spoke to her at her Brighton home summer 2009, Julie had just returned from holidays in Málaga, Spain. 

She was tanned, exuberant and excited to talk about her contribution to what many fans and critics consider the best  Bond film.  She is also extremely modest.  “All my work, no matter how popular, I just regarded it as going from one job to another.  It never went to my head…even FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.”

“My background was as a specialty dancer.  I started training at age 4.”  Julie continued training and practice and her love of dance developed into other talents.

“I left home when I was 15 and was chaperoned around England by an American family of performers.  I learned how to ride a unicycle, jump trampoline, even shooting.”  Somewhere around the age of 18 or 19, Julie added a new dimension to her cabaret act by working with large, live snakes.

“I learned everything I could about them.  I had no fear at all.  Each snake has its individual characteristics.  I would do housework, vacuuming, washing dishes with the snake wrapped around me and that way the snake would get used to me.” 

But accidents do happen. “Before I went on one evening, I was bitten by one of the snakes after it had been fed two large rats.  I went to the hospital and got a tetanus shot and went right back on stage.  But I had a noticeable bite mark inside my arm.  So I applied glue and glitter and it looked just like a decorative bracelet, part of my costume.”

Julie says she prefers boas to pythons.  “Boas cling to you but pythons are more interested in trying to escape.”

 One of Julie’s earliest screen appearances was in the 1959 Brian Rix comedy THE NIGHT WE DROPPED A CLANGER in which she appeared as a tassel dancer.  She had a brief role as an alluring snake dancer in THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960), as an exotic cabaret dancer in THE VALIANT (1962) and as a cabaret snake dancer in THE INSPECTOR (1962) starring Stephen Boyd. 

 “In Tel Aviv, THE INSPECTOR was advertised by posters with me holding the snake!  I always took an interest in all the places I traveled to.  Before I went to Israel I learned all about the desert.  It’s much more interesting to talk to people about their countries than about my snake!  I read up on copper mining before I went to Zambia and so on.”

There is a lot of debate over how the innovative title design of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE evolved.  In a 1964 interview for SHOWTIME magazine American graphic designer and creative advertising specialist Robert Brownjohn recalled how a student, late to his typography class, accidentally walked in front of his slide-projector presentation at school.  “He walked in front of the projector’s beam.  Immediately the type in the slide shot on to his shirt.  Of course, the shirt wasn’t flat like a screen, so the type changed sizes.  It looked great!” 

In her lavishly produced book ROBERT BROWNJOHN: SEX AND TYPOGRAPHY (2005, Princeton Architectural Press, New York) author Emily King stated that in animator Trevor Bond’s initial meeting with Robert Brownjohn the FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE main title design was to be an animated chessboard, with bullet holes.

But when Bond producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli met with Brownjohn and mentioned there was a belly dancer in the film, the slide projector idea immediately came back to Brownjohn.  The designer demonstrated the notion by borrowing a projector, darkening the room, removing his jacket and dancing in front of a beam of projected images.  “It’ll be just like this,” he told the producers and executives, “except we’ll use a pretty girl.”

In fact, three different women would be used for the title design.  Harry Saltzman introduced Brownjohn to Trevor Bond, who had animated the Maurice Binder titles for DR. NO.  After Brownjohn explained the belly dancer theme, Trevor Bond accompanied him to audition girls at Omar Khayyam,  a famed Oriental cabaret of Middle Eastern belly dancers in London in the 1960s.  They brought one of the dervish dancers to the studio to do tests, but when they asked her to lift her skirt in order to project on her legs, the frightened girl fled in disgust.  A brief filmed sequence of this first girl appears during the smaller credits. Then a friend mentioned Julie Mendez to Trevor Bond.

“I approached Robert Brownjohn directly, not through an agent.  I didn’t have to audition as I just showed him stills of myself from another film, THE INSPECTOR, with Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart.  The costume I did the FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE titles in was used in several other films, including THE INSPECTOR.  We had a chat and that was it.  His choice was made.  I did not meet the director, Terence Young.”

“Robert Brownjohn was a large man, very charming and extremely professional.”  Julie was very candid in describing her working relationship with Brownjohn.  “I just remember him sitting behind a desk.  He had very little to do with me, whereas Trevor Bond was young, hip and attractive.  Secretly… he took a fancy to my hairdresser!”

“Trevor directed me to move my body, but not to music, and he focused the letters to my body as I moved.  He’d direct me to step back a little…move to the left…which way to step.”

“I remember that at one stage during filming, the titles were focused on my right thigh.  So when I moved, it tended to disappear…up my backside!!  We all laughed about this, as it was highly amusing.  In the end, I had to change position so this didn’t happen.”

“I had to concentrate my movements on the titles…I had to focus on accuracy.  I had good balance and could do it quickly.  Time is money.  The whole lot was filmed over several days in a private studio on Baker Street in London.”

A third girl, a Persian model, was later brought in for the face and breast shots, with ‘007’ projected onto them.  Years later, Julie says she wasn’t really aware of any other face in the titles and speculates “it might have been Robert Brownjohn’s wife as I had seen her around a lot in the office.”  FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square, London, on October 10, 1963.  Julie was invited along with the rest of the cast and crew but had a previous engagement and was unable to attend.  “I saw it for the first time at a West End cinema.”

When asked if she is ever confused with Lisa ‘Leila’ Guiraut, the sensual belly dancer who charms Bond at the gypsy camp, Julie replies, “Whenever anyone has asked, I have always said I was the belly dancer behind the credits and that’s all.  As far as being recognized, if people don’t know, I don’t say anything.  I’m four feet eleven inches.  Leila was much taller.”

“Leila and I did cabaret together at Omar Khayyam.  She was booked long before the main titles were done.  I actually invited her to my house for tea.  She was lovely, very charming and an excellent belly dancer.”

 The rest of the 1960s was an especially prolific period for Julie, with a steady stream of film and television offers (SHE, THEATRE OF DEATH, DUFFY, “Hugh and I Spy”, “Virgin of the Secret Service”), choreographer on several CARRY ON films (“In FOLLOW THAT CAMEL I taught Anita Harris how to belly dance”), worldwide theatre and cabaret, even a safety film for the National Coal Board!

 Readers can enjoy seeing Julie in two of her most celebrated on-screen appearances.  In a 1970 episode of the British TV. comedy On the Buses titled, appropriately enough, “The Snake”, Stan and Jack go to an Indian evening at the depot. Both have their eye on an attractive Indian cook, Fatima, played by Mendez.  As the evening progresses, Fatima, much to their surprise, does an exotic dance with a large snake and ends by putting the snake’s head in her mouth!

Interestingly, the character Ahmed is played by Ishaq Bux, who 20 years later would appear as the fakir disturbed from his restful bed of nails in the OCTOPUSSY market scene.  And in perhaps the funniest scene of THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)  Dr. Longstreet (Terry-Thomas) tries desperately to get his inquisitive maid out the door so he can enjoy a ‘stag’ film of a scantily-clad snake dancer (Mendez) on an old-fashioned home projector, shortly before he becomes victim to one of Phibes’ ingeniously gruesome murders.

“I entertained U.S. forces in Germany, France and England.  Other belly dancers or artists would come on stage and the GIs would be yelling out ‘Take it off!’  But when I appeared, with a large snake wrapped around me, there was surprise, then a long silence, then applause.  The snake controlled the audience.”

  Note from Steve Oxenrider: A special thank you to Vicky Yare for arranging this interview

From Russia With Love’s 60th conclusion: Legacy

Sean Connery in a From Russia With Love publicity still

Sean Connery in a From Russia With Love publicity still

Adapted from a 2013 post 

From Russia With Love, the second James Bond film, remains different from any 007 adventure since.

It’s the closest the Bond series had to a straight espionage thriller. The “McGuffin” is a decoding machine. That’s important in the world of spying but the stakes would be much larger in future 007 adventures: the fate of the U.S. gold supply, recovering two atomic bombs, preventing nuclear war, etc.

From Russia With Love includes memorable set pieces such as the gypsy camp fight between Bulgarians working for the Soviets and the gypsies working for MI6’s Kerim Bey, as well as Bond dodging a helicopter. But they’re not the same scope compared with what would be seen in future 007 films.

No underwater fights. No giant magnets snatching cars from a highway. No death-dealing satellites. Even when Bond movies such as For Your Eyes Only and The Living Daylights tried to have From Russia With Love-like moments, they still had larger action sequences.

From Russia With Love is by no means a small, “indie” film. It’s just different compared with what producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and their successors, would offer in future 007 installments. Perhaps that’s why some fans keep coming back to view From Russia With Love again and again.

From Russia With Love also introduced stylistic changes to the Bond series, particularly with the beginning of the 007 pre-credits sequence. It also had an actual title song, unlike Dr. No. However, the main titles used an instrumental version (plus an arrangement of the James Bond Theme). The vocal, performed by Matt Monro, is briefly heard during the film and isn’t played in its entirety until the end titles. Finally, the movie was the first time Eon Productions revealed the title of the next 007 adventure in the end titles.

From Russia With Love also demonstrated that Dr. No wasn’t a fluke. If Sean Connery as Bond had been a diamond in the rough in Dr. No, he was now fully polished in his second turn as Bond. At the box office, From Russia With Love was an even bigger hit with audiences than Dr. No.

The 1963 007 outing proved once and for all the judgment of Broccoli and Saltzman — the odd couple forced by circumstances to join forces — that Bond had major commercial potential. The likes of Irving Allen (Broccoli’s former partner who hated Ian Fleming’s novels) and Columbia Pictures (which had the chance to finance Dr. No only to see United Artists do the deal) had egg on their faces.

More than a half-century later, From Russia With Love is often in the conversation among fans (particularly older ones) as among the best of the Bond films. It also ensured the series would continue — though nobody realized how big things would get.

THE END…NOT QUITE THE END…JAMES BOND will return in the next Ian Fleming thriller “GOLDFINGER.”