Attention James Bond collectors! Break out your checkbook…

Stephen Lane’s The Prop Store of London, which sells motion picture props, costumes, and other memorabilia, is running a “Bond Week” sale, with more than 150 props and other artifacts from the 007 movies. It began March 23, but there still appears to be a number of items as yet unsold.

casinoroyale-cardbox1The relevance of items offered runs from WOW! to HUH?, and the prices run from NOT TOO BAD, I CAN HANDLE THAT to OUCH! Of course, in the world of collecting, everything is subjective. We like this particular item — a Casino Royale pack of playing cards — which is reasonably priced and very very cool. All items purchased from The Prop Store of London are exhaustively researched as to their provenance, and come with a Certificate of Authenticity.

So cash in whatever worthless stocks you still have, raid your 401(k), or arranged to sell your firstborn, and head over to their website to do some serious shopping. Tell ’em HMSS sent you!

Bond girl interview coming up this week

Wes Britton, a friend of this site, passes along the following:

When you think of Bond girls, the name Max Versterhalt might not jump to mind. However, she not only appeared in Roger Moore’s 1981 For Your Eyes Only, she was originally intended to be one of its stars.

On the next edition of the online radio show, Dave White Presents, Max tells her story, of how a poster of her promoting Greek tourism brought her to the attention of Cubby Broccoli, what went on during the filming of the casino scene, and what she thought of Roger Moore and director John Glen. She discusses a new website currently being constructed about “Bond Girls of Color.”

The other guests are Lonnie Burr, an original member of the Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers and David Vasquez, author of Mr. Swan’s Big Idea; The Revitalization of America’s Railroads. These interviews, plus the usual “predictably unpredictable” comedy bits, will first air this Tuesday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m. Pacific time, 10:30 EST over—

On April 1, the show will become available for 24/7 access at

Cubby Broccoli’s relationship with United Artists

Steven Bach, a former United Artists executive, died March 25. He wrote a great book, Final Cut, about the making of Heaven’s Gate, the movie that doomed UA as a studio.

As it turns out, Bach’s 1985 book has a recurring, cameo chracter: Albert R. Broccoli, the James Bond producer. The book gives an insight (albeit in small doses) of the Eon bossman’s relationship with the studio that released the 007 films.

First, some background. In 1951, Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin took over and revived UA. It was the Krim-Benjamin regime that first made the deal with Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to start the 007 series. Transamerica, an insurance concern, bought UA in 1967, while keeping on Krim and Benjamin. By 1978, Krim and his people bolted to start Orion. That led to the promotion of executives, including Bach, into key decision making roles.

In his book, Bach describes another UA exec, Danton Rissner and Andy Albeck, the new president of UA:

Rissner’s number two production job in the company had involved some important responsibilities, inclduing supervision of the James Bond pictures produced by Albert (“Cubby”) Broccoli and Blake Edwards’s successful Pink Panther series starring Peter Sellers, both of which were major sources of UA pride and income and which Albeck hoped to perpetuate. (Final Cut, page 68)

Later in the year, things weren’t going so well.

True, there were some bright spots. Moonraker was starting production in July (though there was still no formal budget when Albeck and I met with Cubby Broccoli and his staff at Studios Boulognes in June). (Final Cut, page 90).

UA hoped to control the Moonraker budget. It wasn’t going so well but UA wasn’t that concerned:

I filled the others in on my day at Studios Boulognes, where Moonraker was finally finishing months of production. We had hoped in June to contain the picture’s cost at $20 million, but it had gone beyond $30 million, a figure I was not about to raise here and now, and there was still unpredictable and costly special-effects work remaining at Pinewood…Whatever urgency I tried to convey about budget concerns was muted by assumptions everyone, including UA, made regarding Moonraker: James Bond couldn’t miss*

*He didn’t. Moonraker went on to become the biggest box-office success in the history of that remarkable series. Until the next one. (Final Cut, page 193)

Broccoli next comes up a couple of years later as the UA executive team is getting the ax following Heaven’s Gate and its heavy financial losses. Broccoli seems to act oddly when encountering UA exec Hy Smith in New York

Cubby seemed strangely, atypically nervous to Smith and left the restaurant quickly…

When Smith returns from lunch

Smith realized why Cubby Broccoli had beaten so hasty a retreat from Vesuvio’s…Broccoli confirmed that he had known Hy was fired and was shocked to realize…that everyone “on the street” but Hy knew that Hy was out of a job. Broccoli asked Hy to stay on with him as special marketing consultant on For Your Eyes Only. (Final Cut, pages 386-387)

If you can find it, Final Cut is a great read. And if you’d like to see Steven Bach’s obituary in The New York Times, you can just CLICK RIGHT HERE.

Eon gets casting suggestions for Bond 23

The Cinematical site has come up with seven suggestions for actresses for Eon Productions to consider when casting the female lead for Bond 23. Kevin Kelly, the author of the post, opines about Quantum of Solace:

I just found myself bored throughout it, except maybe during that opening car chase. Otherwise, it was snoozeville. I lay part of that blame on the fact that we didn’t get a decent Bond girl to go with it. Olga Kurylenko bored me to tears with her monotonal portrayal of a daughter seeking revenge, and I would have much rather seen more of the redhead who is all-too-briefly seen as another MI6 agent sent to guard Bond.

Among Kelly’s suggestions: Megan Fox and Carla Gugino. You can read the entire article by clicking RIGHT HERE.

A lesser Cubby Broccoli credit

It’s the title song for Call Me Bwana, the movie Eon Productions Ltd. made in between Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

For Bond fans, it’s mostly famous for the scene in FRWL when Bond helps Kerim Bey kill a murderous Bulgar. An ad for Call Me Bwana, including a likeness of a smiling Anita Ekberg, is on the side of the building. The names of Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman are visible. In Ian Fleming’s novel, the correspondign sequence had an ad for Niagara, the movie that made Marilyn Monroe a star but was released by 20th Century Fox. The 007 producers decided to substitute their own comedy “epic” (released by United Artists, the Bond studio).

As it turns out, Call Me Bwana had many of the crew members who’d have a big impact on Eon’s Bond movies, including special effects wizard John Stears, editor Peter Hunt and director of photography Ted Moore.

Anyway, here’s old Ski Nose, Bob Hope, the star of Call Me Bwana, performing the song. In the video you can see an old 45 record where Monty Norman, the composer of The James Bond Theme, is credited with the song:

A tiger by the tail

cubby_broccoliBritish newspaper The Independent‘s website has an interesting article about the legendary producer of the James Bond films, Cubby Broccoli — the man with the golden franchise. 2009 marks the centenary anniversary of Broccoli’s birth, and we’re bound to see many tribute pieces in various media.

The article covers some brief biographical information, and then gets down to the meat of discussion — James Bond. It talks of what Broccoli, an Italian-American, brought to the British fictions of Ian Fleming’s fantasy world. Thunderball issues, vis-à-vis Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham looked at. And the really interesting question is posed: prior to Bond, Broccoli produced war films, comedies, custom dramas, etc. After Dr. No in 1962, the balance of his career was exclusively devoted to the adventures of 007 (notwithstanding another Ian Fleming property he produced, 1968’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang):

Was he frustrated at having to confine himself to 007? His daughter and stepson insist not. “He was happy to make the Bond films. He loved it. He said that he had a tiger by the tail and that he couldn’t let it go,” remembers Wilson.

The British Film Institute is running a retrospective of Broccoli’s films. Cubby Broccoli: From The Red Beret to Bond runs the last three weeks of April at BFI Southbank. Programs, showtimes, and ticket sales are at their website

Michael G. Wilson’s latest utterings on producing 007 movies

Over at the Cinema Retro site, Lee Pfeiffer has a long article describing a recent U.K. appearance by Eon Productions bossman Michael G. Wilson. The entire story can be viewed by clicking RIGHT HERE.

A few excerpts follow:

Eon’s relations with studios

Wilson acknowledged that the production of each film is a frantic period and that Eon delivers the finished movie to the studio with relatively little wiggle room to make changes. He said this actually works in Eon’s favor because it precludes studio brass from ordering wide-ranging alterations to the films, as there simply isn’t enough time to enact them. On the other side of the coin, he expressed frustration that the tight deadlines have compromised Eon’s influence over the title song. He said that in the past, the composer of the song worked in consultation with the filmmaking team. In recent years, however, Eon had little or no say over the song, which has been delivered so late in the process that the producers have to accept whatever is delivered.

Eon’s relationships with crew members

Wilson also explained why Eon tends to use writers and technicians who are veterans of the series. He said it is very time consuming to bring on new talent and wait for them to assimilate into understanding Eon’s methods, as well as comprehend the company’s philosophies of how the Bond character should be presented. He also said that he doesn’t let fan or media bias deter his creative instincts.

Wilson answers to audience questions

One in particular hit the mark when someone asked Wilson why he allowed the action sequences in Quantum to be edited with so many fast cuts that it robbed the scenes of any suspense. Wilson acknowledged that they were attempting to please modern audiences who are used to that style of editing but did not outwardly endorse the style. He said that Eon always experiments with different filmmaking styles that the director may favor – and that by the time the first edit is done, there is precious little time to make radical changes.The only news Wilson broke about the next Bond film is that there is no news at all. He said there had been no significant work done on the next entry.

Poll by The Times finds it’s hazardous to be 007’s girlfriend

The Times of London did a survey in connection with the 50th anniversay of the publication of Goldfinger. The resulting article by Jack Malvern and Jeremy Duns finds the following:

The murder of Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, the third Bond film in 1964, set a precedent that has resulted in 16 of Bond’s 51 lovers coming to a grisly end. In Dr No and From Russia with Love, all four lovers escaped with their lives, but Sean Connery’s Bond became increasingly toxic. In Thunderball and You Only Live Twice two women were killed in assassination attempts aimed at the spy and one was eaten by piranhas.

To read the entire article, just click RIGHT HERE.

1965: the apex of the 007-Ford Motor relationship

Ford Motor Co. has had a long association with the James Bond film series, most recently with Quantum of Solace. But the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker’s involvement with 007 probably peaked with Thunderball.

The company’s cars not only saturate Sean Connery’s fourth 007 outing, but the automaker’s CEO, Henry Ford II (1917-1987), worked as an extra and Ford had what has to rank as one of the most unusual movie promotions for Bond.

First, a sampling of Ford cars that appear in the movie. For the record, we are excluding the Aston Martin DB V. Ford didn’t buy U.K.-based Aston until 1987 and sold it off in 2007. This list is of Ford Motor offerings at the time of production and release.

— “Madam Bouvard” departs the funeral for “her” husband in a Lincoln Continental.

— SPECTRE No. 2 Emilo Largo arrives at the criminal organization’s Paris headquarters in a white Ford Thunderbird convertible. The two-door Tbird, while hardly Ford’s biggest car of the era, looks huge in the narrow Paris street.

— SPECTRE operative Count Lippe tools around in a Ford Fairlane while doing his part for the criminal group’s plan to hijack two NATO military aircraft. Lippe’s Fairlane meets an explosive end, courtesy of rockets from SPECTRE hitwoman Fiona Volpe’s motorcycle.

— Bond, nearly killed while inspecting Largo’s yacht underwater, swims ashore and ditches his wetsuit. He thinks he’s lucky when a baby blue Mustang pulls up. But it’s driven by Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) and Bond isn’t sure whether he’s going to survive the drive as the SPECTRE hitwoman gets the Mustang up to 120 mph.

— Bond drives a light blue Lincoln Continental to Largo’s Palmyra estate for lunch. A rental car? Was Bond looking for more room after driving the Aston so much? Were Ford executives relieved to see Bond, and not the bad guys, driving one of their cars?

— Bond, after a pleasant interlude with Fiona, is captured by SPECTRE. They take him in a Ford station wagon until they hit congestion from the Junkanoo festival. The disruption gives Bond a chance to escape.

This wasn’t all of Ford’s involvement. The company produced A Child’s Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car, in which a British chap takes his godson to watch the filming of a scene from Thunderball. The scene is where Fiona (actually a stutman subbing for Luciana Paluzzi) shoots rockets at Count Lippe’s Fairlane (here driven by stuntman Bob Simmons). The audience can view how special effects man John Stears (who’d win an Oscar for his efforts on Thunderball) prepares gasoline-soaked rags, which will be ignited to create the explosion and make it look like the handiwork of rockets. Unfortuantely, this gives the god son unfortunate ideas…

The Ford promo had gone unseen for decades until TWINE Entertainment’s The Thunderball Phenomenon was produced in 1995 as part of a special VHS issue of Thunderball and Goldfinger. The featurette remained as part of DVD issues but the entire Ford production is now part of two-disk Thunderball sets.

Saab, once the literary 007’s ride, facing tough times

When John Gardner began writing James Bond continuation novels in the early 1980s, his choice for 007’s car was a Saab. While Saabs never made the movies, the Swedish brand is part of Bond’s history.

Well, things aren’t going so well for Saab, the Swedish automaker owned by General Motors Corp. Sarah Lyall of The New York Times, traveled to Trollhattan, Sweden, to describe what’s going on. A sample:

(I)t is impossible to find anyone in this city in southwest Sweden who is not somehow connected to Saab. Which makes it all the more wrenching that the Swedish government has responded to Saab’s desperate financial situation by saying, essentially, tough luck.

To read the entire story, just click RIGHT HERE. Registration may be required for you to check it out.