1975: When Marvel Comics ripped 007

One of the more unusual titles published by Marvel Comics came out in the mid-1970s. That’s when the company’s Dealy Hands of Kung Fu magazine ran a detailed critique of The Man With The Golden Gun. The article by Don McGregor, then a writer for Marvel, ripped almost everybody associated with the movie.

Some background: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu was a 75-cent magazine on newsstands featuring characters such as Shang Chi and the Sons of the Dragons. Horror comics and kung fu stories were popular for Marvel so the company came out with magazines with black-and-white artwork and a higher price (regular comics were 25 cents at the time).

Issue 12 of the magazine in 1975 was unusual in that the cover story was McGregor’s long review of the movie, not a comic story. Marvel even commissioned iconic comic artist Neal Adams to do the cover of Roger Moore as Bond, in a scene based on the movie’s “karate school” sequence. You can view that cover by CLICKING RIGHT HERE. Our recollection of the article is that McGregor wrote from the perspective of a long-time fan who didn’t care for the lighter tone of the 1970s films that Eon Productions was making. The title of the article: The Man With The Golden Gun Shoots Blanks!

We were reminded about after some Bond fans we know were discussing Golden Gun. It’s been years since we read the McGregor article but it’s definitely one of the more unusual things Marvel had done up to that time. Evidently, nobody at Eon held a grudge because Marvel ended up doing the official comics adaptation of For Your Eyes Only in 1981.

About two decades later, McGregor did his own take on 007 in a comic book story called The Quasimodo Gambit.

The ultimate weird (and sad) Man From U.N.C.L.E. cameo

Here’s a postscript to a previous post about cameos involving The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Our previous examples were when the show’s popularity was strong and were part of other MGM productions. This one aired one week after the show was canceled in January 1968 and was part of its replacement:

That’s of course Leo G. Carroll, who placed U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly. We suspect, when it was taped, no one on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In realized they’d be taking U.N.C.L.E.’s place on NBC’s schedule.

Ted Kennedy: 007 fan to the end

The Kennedy family has a history with James Bond. When President John F. Kennedy told Life magazine that From Russia, With Love was one of his ten favorite books, U.S. sales of Ian Fleming’s novels soared. It turns out his younger brother, Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, was also a fan.

Mark Leibovich of The New York Times unearthed this nugget in an Aug. 26 feature story about Ted Kennedy’s last days:

As recently as a few days ago, Mr. Kennedy was still digging into big bowls of mocha chip and butter crunch ice creams, all smushed together (as he liked it). He and his wife, Vicki, had been watching every James Bond movie and episode of “24” on DVD.

To read the rest of the NYT report, just CLICK RIGHT HERE.

Weird Man From U.N.C.L.E. cameos

In the 1960s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had one spy franchise with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So the studio decided to use every opportunity possible for exposure, even if it meant putting it into situation comedies or comedic movies.

Take, for example, MGM’s sitcom Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. Here the young boys of the show’s featured family get an uxpected thrill:

Well, as you might imagine some misunderstandings, presumably leading to yuks occur. (We say apparently because we haven’t seen the complete episode). But by the end of the story, somebody else shows up to clear things up:

Now it’s a little unclear on what level we’re supposed to take this. In the end titles, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum are billed as their fictional characters, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. Maybe in this fictional universe, U.N.C.L.E. has a sanctioned television show (that the boys watch) a la the 1965-74 version of The FBI?

Meanwhile, MGM also produced a spy comedy with Doris Day and Rod Taylor called The Glass Bottom Boat. The film’s director, Frank Tashlin, was known for sight gags similar to the ones he used when directing Warner Bros. cartoons. Thus, we see this scene:

Geoffrey Jenkins stories back in print

From the Bawiseconsulting blog:

GEOFFREY JENKINS, one of the world’s greatest “adventure-thriller” writers, is coming to iUniverse this fall. The classics, “A Twist of Sand,” and “Hunter Killer,” featuring the famous Jenkins character, Commander Geoffrey Peace, will soon be returning, along with all the other sixteen classic Jenkins adventures, including “A Grue of Ice,” “The Unripe Gold,” “A Bridge of Magpies,” “River of Diamonds,” and many, many more.

Jenkins, himself, a direct protegee’ of James Bond author, Ian Fleming, was born in 1920 in South Africa, and migrated to England, where he first met Fleming…Fleming and Jenkins shared a tremendous mutual respect and were fast friends for life.

When Ian Fleming died, suddenly, in 1964, at age 56, the “James Bond Mania” that swept the world, after the screen performances of Sean Connery as 007 in “Dr. No,” “From Russia, With Love,” and “Goldfinger,” left a void in the literary world of James Bond. In 1966, Geoffrey Jenkins was chosen by the Ian Fleming Estate, (Now Ian Fleming Publications) to write the first James Bond 007 continuation novel, “Per Fine Ounce,” under the pseudonym, “Robert Markham.” Unfortunately, a contractual dispute kept the finished book from ever being published, and anyone who can locate the original manuscript is urged to contact bawiseconsulting@yahoo.com . Eighteen pages of the 300 page manuscript have been located, but in the last forty-three years much has happened, and the Jenkins manuscript of this Bond thriller has completely disappeared, creating one of the greatest literary mysteries of recent times.

To read the entire post, JUST CLICK HERE.

1966: U.N.C.L.E. tries to “extend the brand” with The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

In the jaded 21st Century there’s a marketing phrase, “extend the brand,” where a company tries to take an existing brand name of a product and produce a similar, yet slightly different version. For example, Coke began Diet Coke, New Coke (oops), Cherry Coke, etc. So it was with The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

The pilot for the series was an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., written by Dean Hargrove and directed by Joseph Sargent. It featured Mary Ann Mobley as a quite young April Dancer (a character name that was one of Ian Fleming’s few contributions to the U.N.C.L.E. universe) and a 40-year-old plus Mark Slate (Norman Fell).

Before the series began filming, both roles were recast with Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison. Over at the Television Obsurities site, there’s a history of the one-season series. That report, which includes a video of a GFU promo, can be view by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.

To read reviews of a good many episodes of the series, CLICK HERE.

James Bond Vs. Matt Helm: a study

We found an academic paper online that compares the literary James Bond and the literary Matt Helm (each with significant differences than their movie counterparts).

Among the comparisons made by the author, Joseph Allegretti of Siena College, about the novels Casino Royale and Death Of a Citizen:

Both Bond and Helm are professionals who find their deepest meaning in their work.

After quoting a passage from the Casino Royale novel, the author observes:

Bond seems reluctant, almost embarrassed to talk about his Double O status. (Note how quickly he shifts the conversation to food.) He expresses no pride or sense of accomplishment in his killings.

In a revealing flashback, Helm thinks about his wartime service and wonders how Mac had been able to persuade his superiors to set up an assassination bureau. He muses, “It must have taken some doing, since America is a fairly sentimental and moral nation, even in wartime, and since all armies, including ours, have their books of rules – and this was certainly not in the books.’….Helm’s role in today’s war is the same as it was in World War II – to be a skilled assassin.

In Casino Royale, unlike most of the other (007) novels, Bond undergoes a true moral crisis….Helm cannot undergo a crisis of conscience, as does Bond, because his conscience had been ripped out years ago.

Despite these differences, the similarities between the two characters are equally impressive. Professionalism is the hallmark of each. Bond and Helm are good at what they do and derive intense satisfaction from doing a job well.

By the end of the books, the two heroes have arrived at almost the same place. Bond had decided to quit his job as a spy, only to recommit himself after the death of Vesper. Helm had already quit the job of spying, but now he has rejoined the dark world of espionage.

To read the entire article, just CLICK RIGHT HERE. The paper is in the PDF format.

Salute to Lalo Schifrin

You don’t hear a lot about Lalo Schifrin these days, and that’s too bad because he’s a tremendously talented composer. So, we thought we’d remedy that and remind readers about his contributions to spy entertainment.

One of his early contributions came during the second season (1965-66) of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He scored only one episode that season, “The Ultimate Computer Affair.” That was the first episode produced that season (and the third broadcast). But Schifrin also did a new arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme.

Goldsmith HATED Schifrin’s arrangement, according to film and TV music expert Jon Burlingame. Regardless, the 1965-66 season was also U.N.C.L.E.’s most-watched season so a lot of people sampled Schifrin’s take. Here it is:

Schifrin also was doing film scores. We’ve linked to this before but we’ll do it again, the composer’s main title theme for the second Matt Helm movie, Murderers’ Row:

This was the prelude to Schifrin’s biggest contribution to spy music, the theme to Mission: Impossible, where the composer also contributed a number of scores for individual episodes. Here’s the main title to the pilot. Trivia note: the hand holding the match that lights the fuse is that of creator Bruce Geller.

By the show’s fifth season, there was a movie to bringing in younger agents, via Lesley Warren and Sam Elliott. Schifrin obliged by providing a jazzed up arrangement of the theme.

In 1988, ABC sought to revive the show. It only last two seasons but Schifrin scored the pilot and did yet another new arrangement of his theme:

In 1996, Paramount released a Mission: Impossible movie. It took many liberties — including making Jim Phelps the villain. Schifrin got passed over in favor of Danny Elfman for scoring the movie. Still, the studio did include the theme, if not Schifrin himself:

Finally, while Schifrin never was retained to score a James Bond movie, in 2007, he provided a taste of what he could have done. Schifrin did a concert in Paris that included his own music but he also showed off his take on The James Bond Theme. (Sorry, this video isn’t complete)

HMSS nominations for top composers for 1960s spy entertainment

In a previous post, we touched upon this subject. The more we thought about it, the more we thought we had an excuse to make another post. So, without further ado:

1) John Barry: arranger, The James Bond Theme, in Dr. No; composer, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Ipcress File, The Quller Memorandum.

Born in 1933, Barry (birth name John Barry Prendergast) helped shape the James Bond Theme and composed the score for five of the first six 007 movies. On top of that, he did the scores for two more serious 1960s spy movies. That’s an enormous legacy, no matter how you view it.

2) tie, Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin. For Goldsmith: composer The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme, three episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (with those scores repeated in numerous first- and fourth-season episodes); composer, Our Man Flint, In Like Flint, Our Man Flint, The Chairman.

For Schifrin: arranger of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Theme (second season), composer, Murderers Row, composer theme, Mission: Impossible plus several episodes of that series, composer, The President’s Analyst, The Liquidator.

To be honest, you could make the case for either composer. Goldsmith is no longer with us, but Schifrin (b. 1932) is still around. So we’ll make it a tie.

3. Gerald Fried: composer for numerous episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible. A sometimes overlooked artist, he also composed music for several episodes of the original Star Trek series including an episode when Kirk fought Spock, which Jim Carrey used in The Cable Guy.

4. Richard Markowitz: Who, you ask. Well he composed the theme for The Wild, Wild West and quite a few episodes during that series first two seasons.

5. Robert Drasnin: composed scores for episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E, The Wild, Wild West, (including the “Dr. Loveless Theme”) and Mission: Impossible, he is perhaps the least know of the composers on this list. But he is far from the least talented.

6. Hugo Montenegro: arranger, two albums of music from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; composer, The Ambushers, The Wrecking Crew. Montenegro’s two U.N.C.L.E. albums have fans to this day. He also composed scores for two of the four Matt Helm movies starring Dean Martin.

Salute to Jerry Goldsmith

It doesn’t seem possible, but it has been five years since the death of film and television composer Jerry Goldsmith, who would have celebrated his 80th birthday in February if he were still with us. Arguably, Goldsmith is second only to John Barry in musical influence of 1960s spy entertainment. (Lalo Schifrin would also be a contender.)

Barry, of course, was the composer was associated with every 007 movie of the decade (arranging Monty Norman’s James Bond theme in Dr. No and composing the scores for the five other Eon-produced Bond films of the decade).

Goldsmith’s effect on spy entertainment had two legs: he composed the theme for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. along with scores for three episodes. Because the series only had original scores for about half of its episodes, that music got recycled so that Goldsmith’s music could be heard on a majority of first-season episodes. In the show’s fourth, and final, season, Goldsmith’s music was re-recorded and used liberally.

Here’s the “documentary” style opening for the seventh episode, The Giuoco Piano Affair, that features Goldsmith’s original verison of the theme:

Goldsmith also scored the two Derek Flint movies, Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. Here’s his stylish Flint theme from the main titles of Our Man Flint:

Near the end of the film, Flint (James Coburn) engages in some derring-do, which provides a chance to sample Goldsmith’s score:

In the sequel, Flint combats a general who wants to take over the U.S. who has manipulated some powerful women who want to take over the world. Don’t ask, just go with the flow and enjoy Goldsmith’s score (with the possible exception of a “pop goes the weasel” effect):