007 *FINALLY* gets some respect on U.S. TV: Connery films coming to TCM

TCM, the Time Warner cable channel that shows movies uncut and in their original form (e.g. widescreen, where applicable) will be showing the Sean Connery Bond movies in May. Or, to be more precise, the six Connery films in the “official” series produced by Eon Productions Ltd. since 1962.

In recent years, Bond has fared worse with U.S. cable networks than he did with the foes of his movies. In general, the movies are shown in pan-and-scan (taking a rectangular original and showing it almost square, lopping off major parts of shots). The end titles get squeezed into tiny type on the side or bottom of the screen so cable networks can promote other shows. And worst, they’re often turned into hackathons, including a major mutilation of The World Is Not Enough in December.

The schedule (all times ET):

May 1: 8 p.m., Dr. No; 10 p.m. From Russia With Love.

May 2: 2 p.m., Dr. No; 4 p.m., From Russia With Love.

May 8: 8 p.m., Goldfinger; 10 p.m., Thunderball

May 9: 2 p.m., Goldfinger; 4 p.m., Thunderball

May 15: 8 p.m., You Only Live Twice; 10 p.m., Diamonds Are Forever.

May 16: 2 p.m., You Only Live Twice; 4 p.m., Diamonds Are Forever

There are a number of other Connery films playing that month on TCM, including The Hill, The Anderson Tapes and The Wind And the Lion. But there is one non-Bond film that may be of particular interest to 007 fans. On May 1, after From Russia With Love, TCM will show 1961’s On The Fiddle, which was one of the Connery movies that caught the eye of 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and led to Connery’s casting as Ian Fleming’s secret agent.

On the Fiddle is sometimes known as Operation Snafu, as it was retitled for a 1965 U.S. release. The movie’s film editor was Peter Hunt, who’d be an important crew member of the early Eon 007 films.

The prime showings on TCM also include introductions by host Robert Osborne, which ususally include some nice details about the films.

A final look at Matt Helm titles: The Wrecking Crew

We wrap up our look at the titles of Matt Helm movies with a brief discussion of the series finale, The Wrecking Crew.

To be honest, it’s a mixed bag. The visuals are much stronger than the series previous entry, The Ambushers. They’re at least based on something in the movie, a bank of monitors used by the villain to watch his plans unfold. Wayne Fitzgerald designed the titles and used a combination of animation and clips from the movie. There’s a few subtle touches. Actor Nigel Green’s monitor is colored, well, green.

Accompanying the visuals is a weird song, The House of Seven Joys, which is also referenced in the movie. Producer Irving Allen, Cubby Broccoli’s ex-partner, hired Mack David to do the lyrics, a task David also did for the first Helm movie, The Silencers. Composer Frank DeVol does the music, but only for the song. Hugo Montenegro, returned as the film’s composer but got frozen out of the title song. In any event, The House of Seven Joys is far from politically correct (“Ah so, very, very nice!”).

We can only wonder what Helm creator Donald Hamilton thought (besides making sure all the checks cleared). You can take a look by clicking RIGHT HERE. Embedding was disabled.

EXTRA BONUS: A few years later, Hamilton got some more checks when a short-lived Matt Helm TV series aired on ABC. Instead of Dean Martin, we got Tony Franciosa. Instead of a spy, Helm was a private detective. This was 1975 and in the post-Watergate world, spies seemed unseemingly. Here’s the titles to one episode, The music is by Morton Stevens, who also composed the theme to Hawaii Five-O.

Cubby Broccoli’s former secretary about to be made homeless by Jeffrey Katzenberg

OK, that’s a sensationalistic headline. But there’s more than a grain of truth to it.

A nursing home run by the Motion Picture & Television Fund is on the verge of being closed down. One of its occupants is Mary Stellar, the former secretary to 007 producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli. She’s suffering from dementia. Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Walt Disney Co. executive and now CEO of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. says the facility needs to close because of financial problems.

It’s a complicated story. But you can get the full details in this Bloomberg News story by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

UPDATE: June 14, 2016: Bloomberg a few years ago revamped its wesbsite. In doing so, it destroyed links to old sotries such as the one about the nursing home.

Quantum of Solace: preview of things to come?

A few months ago, when Quantum of Solace hit U.S. theaters, this video was produced by an outfit called ScienCentral. The upshot: water is going to be a source of conflict in the future, similar to the plot of the 007 movie. QoS director Marc Forster shows up in the video.

1967: The cheesy titles of The Ambushers

We’ve taken a look at the titles of the first two Matt Helm movies starring Dean Martin. So when you’re on a roll, you might as keep going.

The third Helm movie, The Ambushers, is often cited as the worst in the four-film series (a shame because it’s based on a very good serious Helm novel by Donald Hamilton published in 1963). The main title sequence is certainly the weakest of the bunch.

The titles feature the, eh, “talents” of “The Slaygirls” who also appear throughout the film. Producer Irving Allen, Albert R. Broccoli’s former partner, apparently decided to reward song writers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart the chance to record the title song. Boyce and Hart and written a Dino, Desi and Billy song used in the previous Helm effort, Murderers’ Row and the pair had also written the title song for The Monkees television series.

Two problems: 1) Boyce and Hart didn’t have the vocal range of the acts they wrote for; they actually recorded The Monkees title song for the pilot, but it’s vastly inferior to the version recorded by Micky, Davy, Mike and Peter. 2) Boyce and Hart wouldn’t get to write the title song for The Ambushers. That task would fall to Hugo Montenegro (the third different composer in as many Helm films) with the movie’s screenwriter, Herbert Baker, also penning the lyrics.

Take a look for yourself by clicking RIGHT HERE. (Embedding was disabled for the video.)

Warning: The film makers did not use a reader-friendly typeface for the credits and they insisted on coloring the titles red, further making them hard to read. The video below has the first 10:55 of the 1967 flick.

Second Raymond Benson anthology in the works

Over at CommanderBond.net,, the Web site is reporting that a second Raymond Benson anthology has been announced.

The tentative title, according to the site, is Choice of Weapons. Included: the novels Zero Minus Ten, The Facts of Death and The Man With the Red Tattoo plus the short stories Midsummer Night’s Doom and Live at Five.

Of the short stories, Midsummers Night Doom first appeared in Playboy and features Bond at the Playboy Mansion and we learn that Hugh Hefner, well…read it for yourself. Live at Five first ran in TV Guide.

The first Benson anthlogy, The Union Trilogy consisted of three novels utilizing a villainous group called the Union plus an unabridged version of the short story Blast From the Past (about a third longer than the version that ran in Playboy).

CommanderBond.net says there’s no firm publishing date for Choice of Weapons but it may come out in 2010.

Benson’s 007 continuation novels, movie novelizations and short stories were published from 1997 through 2002. His final year at the helm for Ian Fleming Publications included Red Tattoo and the novelization of Die Another Day.

1983: Siskel and Ebert Analyze 007’s appeal

Today, Feb. 20, is the 10th anniversary of the death of movie critic Gene Siskel and his former TV partner (and newspaper rival), Roger Ebert, writes about it HERE.

In 1983, in the midst of their TV run, the duo dedicated one installment of their movie review show to James Bond. Two 007 movies, Octopussy (the 13th entry in Eon Production’s official series) and Never Say Never Again (a rival production and a remake of Thunderball) were out.

So here’s a bit of nostalgia and you can watch the critics spar anew. Siskel doesn’t think much of either Roger Moore or George Lazenby while Ebert defends Sir Roger (at least to a degree).

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

The FBI Vs. Spies — Inspector Erskine Vs. Gene Hackman

UPDATE II (February 2015): You can read more about this episode on the SEASON TWO PAGE of The FBI episode guide.

UPDATE (June 2013): The YouTube videos originally embedded were yanked by the Google-owned video service. The Gene Hackman episode is part of THIS BOX SET of The FBI. You can also CLICK HERE for IMDB.com’s entry about the episode.

You got to love YouTube. We’ve previously discussed how the TV series The FBI had numerous spy stories. Here’s one. The editing is a bit abrupt but it was written and produced by Charles Larson on behalf of executive producer Quinn Martin:

1966: Murderers’ Row fascination with dots in main title

It’s nothing significant but it seems too much just to be coincidence.

Some time back, we linked to the main titles of The Silencers, the first Matt Helm movie produced by Irving Allen, the ex-parter of Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli. Allen utilized women doing strip tease dances (plus Cyd Charisse lipsynching to Vicki Carr’s vocals) for the main titles.

For his followup effort, Allen went a bit more conservative, animated women in fur coats and go-go boots prancing to a Lalo Schifrin instrumental. The titles also had a bullseye motif, which meant lots of dots.

At the 1:00 mark, one of the dots starts moving an awfully lot like the dots at the start of a 007 gunbarrel sequence that started Broccoli’s Bond movies. In the case of Allen’s Murderers’ Row, the dot pulls up short for the credit of Sam Leavitt, the director of photography.

As the main titles conclude, a dot opens up with a shot of Washington, similar to the way Eon’s gunbarrel dot would reveal (starting with Thunderball) the opening shot.

As we said, nothing startling but take a look for yourself:

Michael G. Wilson discusses the marketing of 007

Michael G. Wilson, stepson of Cubby Broccoli, has an association with James Bond films going back to Goldfinger (as an extra). So when the co-producer of the Bond film series (along with his half-sibling Barbara Broccoli), talks the business of Bond, it’s worth a listen.

This video is from 1991, and goes into some detail about 1989’s Licence to Kill. That film was a turning point for the franchise — a financial failure in the U.S. and the swan song for Bond veterans such as director John Glen and scripter Richard Maibaum. But there is also some discussion of The Living Daylights and some nice footage of the filming of The Spy Who Loved Me. Take a look: