Edge of Darkness: various 007 connections

Edge of Darkness, Mel Gibson’s first starring role since 2002, has multiple James Bond connections. The advertisements stressed how this was “From the Director of Casino Royale” (Martin Campbell).

That meant that two-time 007 director Cambell would include Phil Meheux, who worked as director of photography with Campbell on GoldenEye and Casino Royale; film editor film editor Stuart Baird; and costume designer Lindy Hemming as part of his crew.

In addition, Dan Rissner, one of at least four executive producers on the film, was an United Artists executive in the 1970s who coordinated the studio’s involvement with James Bond films in the 1970s. He’s mentioned prominently during the documentary Inside The Spy Who Loved Me.

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. makes list of 15 worst spinoff series

Entertainment Weekly has come out with a list of the 15 worst spinoff series. The only spy series, and one of the oldest series on the list, is The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., which ran in the 1966-67 series.

We’d excerpt except there’s not much text. Essentially, it says Stefanie Powers’s April Dancer comes across as a weak character, suffering in comparison to Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel, who could be seen on The Avengers at the same time. You can see what EW has to say BY CLICKING HERE. Once there you can click around to see the rest of the list, which includes Joey and After M*A*S*H.

To read some detailed reviews of episodes from The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., you can go to our sister site, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide, by CLICKING HERE.

1973: Time profiles the new James Bond

In January 1973, Time magazine thought the impending debut of a new James Bond, in this case Roger Moore, was important enough to merit to merit a 1,200-plus-word article and multiple photographs. (As we discussed previously, Time panned Live And Let Die after it came out.)

For most people, Sean Connery, who played 007 in all but one of the seven Bond features, is James Bond. (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service starred George Lazenby.) If he had not become tired of the role—and grown rich playing it—Connery probably could have grown old, gray and feeble in the part. But the smooth, handsome Moore is, ironically, more like the original 007 in the late Ian Fleming’s novels than was Connery, a tough, rugged Scot. “Fleming saw Bond as himself,” observes Saltzman, “as a kind of disenfranchised member of the Establishment, Eton, Harrow and Cambridge. And Sean was none of those. Fleming would have been delighted with Roger, however. He is the classic Englishman.”

Moore himself seemed quite satisifed with his new gig:

“I think the Bonds are marvelous subjects —escapist entertainment expensively made. It’s all going for you as an actor. I often stop in the middle of a day’s work and say: ‘Jesus Christ, they’re really going to pay you for being a kid and living out your fantasies!’ “

Time, in the article’s opening, suggested the film probably would be successful.

A wristwatch with a magnetic field to deflect bullets. A bad guy named Tee Hee who has a metal hand that can crush a gun to talcum powder. Voodoo sacrifices and a pool of 86 hungry crocodiles, each of them waiting for just one bite of the struggling hero. It sounds like a comic strip, and in a way it is. The newest James Bond movie, Live and Let Die, is the most inventive—and the most potentially lucrative—comic strip ever made, two hours of thrilling, high-powered nonsense.

To read the entire article, JUST CLICK HERE.

Salute to Martin Grace, 007 stuntman

This week, the 007 film world lost Martin Grace, 67, a veteran stuntman who was Roger Moore’s primary stunt double from The Spy Who Loved Me through A View To a Kill. The MI6 Web site reported he died Jan. 27, two months after an accident where he fractured his pelvis. He had suffered a similar injury doubling for Sir Roger in an action sequence set on a train in Octopussy.

It seems fitting that Grace deserves a salute from this site. And a good place to start is For Your Eyes Only, whose pre-titles featured Grace doubling for Sir Roger holding on for dear life in a helicopter controlled by an old acquaintance:

In A View To a Kill, Grace was promoted to the spot of lead stunt arranger while still doubling for 007 in a sequence filmed at the Eiffel Tower.

The veteran stunt man had lots of work outside of the world of James Bond, as this clip shows from a film that’s instantly recognizable:

New Orleans Saints pull a James Bond — intercept Brett Farve with 0:07 to go

The New Orleans Saints pulled a James Bond — they intercepted the Minnesota Vikings and QB Brett Farve with 0:07 to go in the game.

It’s tied 28 all at the end of regulation. The NFC championship game is going into sudden-death overtime.

UPDATE: The Saints win the game 31-28 in overtime. The Vikings never got to touch the ball.

1968: Time analyzes Mission: Impossible’s appeal

Few people remember Bruce Geller today. He created Mission: Impossible, developed Mannix and was viewed in his heyday as a brilliant television producer. His series were known for very stylized title sequences. In fact, it’s his hand who strikes the match that lights the fuse in the M:I title sequence of the original TV series. He died in a aircraft crash in 1978 but was very much on the mind of Time magazine a decade earlier when it described his most successful TV product:

The program is TV’s hottest suspense series, and its fans find in it the same inspired implausibility that characterized The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in its prime. Bruce Geller, 37-year-old film, TV and off-Broadway writer who conceived the whole enterprise, concedes that his original script was basically a paste-up of Topkapi and several other favorite movies. When Hollywood wouldn’t buy it, he turned to Desilu. When Desilu proposed a series, he turned nervous, fearing he would run out of ideas—his own or other people’s. But he tried, and made it. M:l won four Emmys last year, and now in its second season it ranks as a solid favorite in the Sunday evening slot formerly occupied by Candid Camera and What’s My Line? Needless to say, Lucille Ball is disavowing nothing.

In many ways, Time described M:I at its peak. In the third season, a quarrel between Geller and his best writers, William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, would lead to the departure of the latter duo. Also, during the second season, Paramount acquired Desilu from Lucille Ball. That led to a new studio regime that emphasized cost cutting — which, in turn, led to the departure of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.

To read the entire, story, just CLICK HERE.

1965: Time describes Bondomania

For James Bond fans, 1965 was quite a year.

In the U.S., Goldfinger played well into the year after a December premier; United Artists circulated a double bill of Dr. No and From Russia With Love; the television special The Incredible World of James Bond (airing in the timeslot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., then at its peak of popularity and which had also benefitted from Bond) drew a big audience; and in December, Thunderball hit theaters.
Here’s how Time magazine described it all in the June 11, 1965, issue:

JAMES BOND IS BACK … TO BACK! screamed the ads and the marquees. Dr. No and From Russia with Love, both less than three years old, were being double-billed across the U.S. In the New York area, they jammed 26 theaters, grossed $650,000 for the week. The same crowds, the same large grosses in Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington; at the drive-ins, traffic rivaled the commuting hour.

What makes the box-office figures the more astonishing is that both films are grossing nearly as much the second time around as the first. Sparking the revival is the success of Goldfinger, the third Bond film, still finishing its first run and heading for a gross that now seems likely to reach $30 million.

Bear in mind, Goldfinger had a budget of around $3 million, so that was a pretty fast return on investment, as the MBA types would say.

What’s more, as the ads forThunderball said, James Bond does it everywhere!

In England, all three films broke box-office records, and Ian Fleming’s last book, the posthumous Man with the Golden Gun, has already climbed to the top of the bestseller list.
There seems to be no geographical limit to the appeal of sex, violence and snobbery with which Fleming endowed his British secret agent. In Tokyo, the queue for Goldfinger stretches half a mile. In Brazil, where From Russia broke all Rio and Sao Paulo records, one unemployed TV actor had only to change his name to Jaime Bonde to be swamped with offers. In Beirut, where Goldfinger outdrew My Fair Lady, even Goldfinger’s hat-hurling bodyguard, Oddjob, has become a minor hero.

Not everyone was happy about Bondomania, however.

British Columnist Malcolm Muggeridge is also appalled. While admitting that Bond’s “instant appeal to attractive women, his dash and daring and smartness combined with toughness, make him every inch a hero of our time,” he also notes that “insofar as one can focus on so shadowy and unreal a character, he is utterly despicable: obsequious to his superiors, pretentious in his tastes, callous and brutal in his ways, with strong undertones of sadism, and an unspeakable cad in his relations with women, toward whom sexual appetite represents the only approach.”

Well, to each their own. Meanwhile. star Sean Connery had his own observations.

Nor is Connery backward about claiming that he has helped the James Bond image along no end. “You must realize,” he says, “that Ian Fleming’s books began coming out after the war and rationing and all that, and they had all this selectivity of detail of eating and drinking. It was marvelous journalism. But Ian told me it was nothing but padding. You know, vodka must be shaken and not stirred, that kind of razzmatazz. But he did write with a bit of size.” The only thing the Fleming books lacked, in Connery’s view, was a sense of humor. “I discussed it with Ian, and he thought there was humor in them. But Terence Young and I did not. So we injected some.”

If you want to read the entire article — and since this is a 007 Web site and it’s the 45th anniversary of Bondomania — you can CLICK HERE. Note a glaring error in the final paragraph.

More about MGM’s worsening finances

Bloomberg.com has a story today (Jan. 21) providing more details about the deteriorating finances at MGM, which controls half of the James Bond franchise. The story by Kristen Haunss and Sarah Rabil starts thusly:

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.’s $3.7 billion term loan has fallen about 5 cents on the dollar this month, according to people familiar with the market, as analysts said the Los Angeles film studio may fetch less than expected.

MGM’s term loan traded at about 60.75 cents on the dollar yesterday in New York, said the people, who declined to be identified because the trades are private. It traded at 65.25 cents on Jan. 4, one person said.

The story quotes an Matthew Harrigan, a Denver-based analyst with Wunderlich Securities as estimating MGM is worth $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion. Bloomberg says MGM’s creditors were hoping for at least $2 billion when the studio put itself up for sale.

To read the entire story, JUST CLICK HERE.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal, on its Web site, has an update about MGM bidding that begins:

The first round of bids for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer turned out a shade better than expected, but the offers aren’t close to covering the $3.7 billion that is owed to lenders.

Bids ranged between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion, according to people with knowledge of the situation, and MGM has begun to explore how it could stage a streamlined “prepackaged” bankruptcy as part of the auction.

The story can be found by CLICKING RIGHT HERE. Be warned, the WSJ is a mostly pay site. You can see a short free preview but you have to subscribe to access the whole thing.

1965: Time predicts big things for Robert Vaughn

In early 1965, Time magazine was expecting big things for Robert Vaughn, the star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a series that had been pitched to NBC executives as “James Bond for television.”

Bond is not hard to copy, however, and—given the mass audience of television—the actor who plays Solo may soon be even more celebrated than Sean Connery, who plays Bond in the movies. The U.N.C.L.E. man’s real name is Robert Vaughn. He is 32, and he is on his way to his first million. Impoverished a couple of years ago, he now has increasing herds of livestock and several gas wells.

Looking back, the statement seems more than a bit startling. But it shows how Connery was viewed at that point as a one-trick pony and not as an acclaimed actor he’d be viewed as later. It’s also a reminder that, at one time, U.N.C.L.E. was big. When this story was published by Time, ratings were starting to climb. The series had narrowly avoided being canceled in its initial season. It was moved from Tuesday to Monday nights in January 1965, a move that boosted viewership. The show was also helped by Bond’s growing popularity as Goldfinger became the first 007 mega-hit.

The Time piece made some other observations about actor Vaughn:

Off the screen, he is a swinging bachelor who drives around in a Lincoln Continental convertible, which he insists is not maroon in color but “black cherry.” The car has a telephone and a monaural tape machine; it will soon have two telephones, a TV set, a stereo tape recorder, an icemaking midget refrigerator and a walnut-paneled bar. He is a wine lover and a gourmet too.

But Robert Vaughn is different. He is well on his way toward his doctorate, in a remarkable department at the University of Southern California that bridges the fields of journalism, political science, drama, cinema, radio and television.

What did the actor say about the role he played, Napoleon Solo, and the series itself? Here’s what he told Time:

He makes no apologies for his now fatted life. “I don’t feel guilty,” he says. “I’ve knocked around for a lot of years, collected a lot of unemployment checks, and I worked very hard. I feel I have earned whatever I got.” The show? “I have nothing against it. In fact, it’s a rather good charade, and nobody is pretending that it is more than that. The show is all right, if you realize it is a massive put-on.”

Also, at this point, Time didn’t have much to say about David McCallum, whose portryal of Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent Illya Kuryakin would generate popularity to rival Vaughn’s own. Here’s how Time described The Fiddlesticks Affair, the second episode to air in the Monday time slot:

And only last week, when Solo and his assistant Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) were invading an underground vault, Solo was confronted with the need to avoid electrocution while crossing the “electroporous grating” of an “electrostatic floor.” Solo reached into his apparently bottomless pockets and came up with a self-inflating, full-sized rubber landing craft, which hissed and swelled into the perfect vessel on which to sail across the electroconvulsive sea.

To read the entire article, just CLICK HERE.

Conan O’Brien drops Blofeld reference into monologue

In what is probably one of his last shows on NBC, Conan O’Brien dropped an Ernst Stavro Blofeld reference into his Jan. 19 monologue.

On The Tonight Show, O’Brien again took a shot at his soon-to-be-former network, NBC. He began the bit by saying there were reports that he couldn’t say anything unflattering about NBC. But, he added, that wouldn’t stop him from speaking in Spanish about NBC. After saying an insult in Spanish, the comic acted as if he were a cross between an NBC executive and Blofeld. “What did he say?” he sneeered, acting as if he were petting a cat. “What he did he say?”

UPDATE: O’Brien repeated the NBC executive/Blofeld bit while interviewing Quentin Tarentino.