Salute (sort of) to YOLT’s “Crater Guy”

James Bond movies aren’t known for their working-class characters. But if you look closely, they are present. Take, for example, “Crater Guy” from You Only Live Twice.

“Crater Guy” (we’re never actually told his name) is the fellow who opens and closes SPECTRE’s entrance to its secret Japan headquarters built inside a supposedly extinct volcano. He activates a switch so a camouflaged door (designed to look like a lake in the volcano) so SPECTRE helicopters can come and go and, of course, so SPECTRE’s “interceptor” rocket can snare U.S. and Soviet spacecraft. Also, he must utter the critical words, “Openin’ crater…closin’ crater.”

We’re never given any backstory to “Crater Guy.” But we imagine he’s a working stiff, just trying to feed his family. Our guess is the SPECTRE crater job was probably the best-paying job he ever had. Maybe he even got the job by answering a want ad a SPECTRE front took out.

“Crater Guy,” perhaps, even had his own ambitions. One day, he might have worked his way up to mastermind. Unfortunately, it all ended rather suddenly — and badly — as shown at the 7:18 mark of this video:

Bond 23 generates lots of reading material but few answers

Want to find out what’s going on with Bond 23? It seems like the more you read, the less you *actually* know. But recent articles cover enough ground, a reader can pretty much reinforce his or her own prejudices.

Are you inclined to believe Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Wilson are concerned, hands-on, smart operators trying to get Bond 23 to theaters as soon as possible despite financial troubles at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer? Well, THIS HOLLYWOOD REPORTER STORY VIA REUTERS is for you:

But Bond appears to be left out in the cold as MGM debtholders extended a deadline to get the studio’s financial house in order to September 15. Broccoli and Wilson declined comment but are said to be deeply concerned about the effect of an indefinite delay.

“They’re completely panicked that if they go five, six years without a Bond movie, it’ll be over,” a former MGM insider said. “They don’t want to kill the golden goose.”

That depiction, of course, is different than other accounts where, Wilson in particular, talks about how tired and exhausted he is from making James Bond movies.

On the other hand, if you’re really, really skeptical whether a new Bond movie can possibly come out soon, then READ THIS BLOG BY THE U.K. NEWSPAPER THE INDEPENDENT. Here’s a sample:

Today’s announcement that Daniel Craig is to star in a Hollywood film of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is great news for fans of Stieg Larsson. But it represents a rather less exciting development for those who prefer Craig’s other alter ego, James Bond.

(snip)
This suggests that the British star may very well not be expecting to be called up for Bond duty any time soon. So 007’s most recent outing, in 2008’s underwhelming Quantum of Solace, is likely to be his last for several more years to come.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times weighed in WITH A LONG STORY YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE that explains how MGM hot into its current mess and the studio’s relationship with Bond. The FT frowns upon even the slightest excerpting on the Web, so we’ll just link to it. One criticism, though: the FT story confuses films released by the old United Artists studio (i.e. the first 11 Bond films, Annie Hall, In The Heat of the Night, The Apartment) with films actually produced and released by MGM before MGM acquired UA.

Bottom line: you may learn *some* things but Bond fans won’t likely find definitive answers to the questions they care most about.

HMSS nominations for underrated 007 moments

What we’re about to discuss aren’t necessarily the *best* James Bond film moments but they may be the most *underrated.* So let’s get right into it:

Most underrated score by somebody not named John Barry: John Barry composed the score for half of Eon Productions Ltd.’s 22 007 movies. He also worked on Dr. No, helping to arrange The James Bond Theme composed by Monty Norman. Barry has earned a special status in the 007 film canon. But what of the other composers in the series?

It’s a hard call. By sheer volume, David Arnold gets notice (the only non-Barry composer to do more than one 007 film). But George Martin, composer of the score for Live And Let Die gets the nod here. Martin, producer of the albums of the Beatles, helped Paul McCartney sell his title song to Eon. And Martin made use of the song by Paul and Linda Martney in his score. It may not be the best non-Barry 007 score, but Martin’s score is a major plus for Roger Moore’s 007 debut.

Most underrated voice dubbing: Robert Rietty dubbed Adolfo Celi’s Largo in Thunderball, Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice and (sort of) Ernst Stavro Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only. Monica Van der Zyl dubbed Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder in Dr. No, and possibly other roles.

However, Shayne Rimmer may get the nod, dubbing a doomed CIA agent in the pre-credits sequence of Live And Let Die. That’s because Rimmer (who had appeared on-screen twice before LALD and would do so again in The Spy Who Love Me is perhaps the least obvious dubbing job.

Most underrated screenwriter not named Richard Maibuam: Maibuam worked on 13 Bond films as a writer. Often his work would get re-written by others but the fact that producer Albert R. Broccoli repeatedly turned to Maibuam indicates the U.S.-born writer (1909-1991) had a special status.

So who earns the most underrated screenwriter title? The Neal Purvis-
Robert Wade duo is a distant second to Maibuam at four films. Tom Mankiewicz has three 007 writing credits (though he may have contributed to two other films on an uncredited basis) and Bruce Feirstein has three Bond film writing credits. Roald Dahl was an accomplished writer but his one Bond screenplay, You Only Live Twice, is a writing equivalent of painting by the numbers.

For the moment, we’ll give the nod (and this is very tentative) to Mankiewicz. His commentary on the DVD of Live And Let Die provides a clinic on how to write a screenplay (you may disagree with his choices but he explains how the choices were made; plus he’s an entertining presecen on DVD documentaries).

Your mileage may vary.

Recommended 007 reading

For fans of the literary James Bond, a 2006 book is still available that amplifies the original 007 novels and short stories by Ian Fleming.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond: Annotations and Chronologies for Ian Fleming’s Bond Stories provides the following, according to the Web page for the book:

•Each novel is analyzed and includes a glossary and a detailed chronology of events with annotations. The glossaries have translations of foreign terms, annotations, and other information of interest.

• Maps have been created for many of the novels along with in-depth information concerning specific topics such as, the Moonraker bridge game and the Goldfinger golf game.

•The sections covering the novels and short stories are presented in chronological order based on the analysis in the Overview for the creation of a high level chronology and a high level crosscheck by sequence of the books as they were published.

There’s more in the book by John Griswold and you can view the book’s Web site by CLICKING RIGHT HERE. You can buy it at Amazon.com by CLICKING HERE.

1969 Hawaii Five-O soundtrack to be re-released

On the message boards of Film Score Monthly, which produces soundtracks of movies and television shows, news popped up that the original 1969 Hawaii Five-O soundtrack album will be re-released digitially and on CD.

In the thread, WHICH YOU CAN READ BY CLICKING HERE, FSM’s Lukas Kendall confirms that FSM plans to produce a CD. That’s in response to a post by the webmaster of The Hawaii Five-O Home Page who shared that he got an e-mail saying the Capitol Records album will be released on Aug. 24 on digital sites including Amazon and iTunes.

The 1969 album features music composed and conducted by Morton Stevens, mostly from the pilot plus a few tracks from first-season episodes. One of our editors has the album, purchased for $12 at a collectors show in the 1990s. The version of the famous Five-O theme by Stevens was the 90-second original used in the pilot. Here it is on YouTube, uploaded by CBS, which aired the original show from 1968 to 1980 and is bringing out a revival in September:

007 homages in Angelina Solie’s Salt

The big movie opening this weekend is the U.S. is Salt with Angelina Jolie. We haven’t seen it yet, but those who have are noting various James Bond homages.

A.O. Scott, film critic for The New York Times (whose review you can read by CLICKING HERE) provides this comment:

Not that “Salt” matters much. Despite an overlay of geopolitics, the movie is as loud and empty as James Newton Howard’s score, which I don’t mean entirely in a bad way. The music does what it needs to do to amplify and inflect the action, while also paying subtle sonic homage to the brassy Bond-style soundtracks of the past.

Meanwhile, one Times readers posting comments to Scott’s review notes an early scene (Salt being tortured in North Korea) is similar to Pierce Brosnan’s 007 farewell Die Another Day. Another reader posted a comment that compared Salt and Bond in some detail.

And in the comments section of yesterday’s post on this weblog, Mark Henderson provides his own list of Salt-007 homages.

It should also be notes that Bond film veterans worked on the film. John Anderson’s review in The Wall Street Journal noted the work of one such crew member while not mentioning his work on 007 films:

Watching Ms. Jolie do her own acrobatics, under the direction of her longtime stunt coordinator Simon Crane, is a kick, especially in an era when our knowledge of special effects have so diluted the vicarious thrills of high-wire moviemaking.

Crane has done similar duties on Bond films and shows up in some of the documentaries on 007 film DVDs. You can read Anderson’s review by CLICKING HERE.

Salt was photographed by Robert Elswit, who performed the same duties on Tomorrow Never Dies and one of the editors is Stuart Baird, who edited 2006’s Casino Royale.

007 questions related to being a James Bond fan

001. Do we know any more about Bond 23 than we did three months ago? Not really. Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson has been quoted as saying a new film might occur “soon,” but he provided no dates, no details. In the space of three months, Eon said work was suspended indefinitely, a U.K. newspaper called the project “cancelled” and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. has gotten extensions on making debt payments and remains a Hollywood pauper.

002. Should I be pessimstic or optimistic? Until MGM’s situation is more clear, it’s hard to be optimistic. MGM, which controls half the Bond franchise, supplies the cash from which everything else happens. But some fans go the other way and say it may be a decade before the next movie comes out. For now, that sounds extreme, but who really knows?

003. What do James Bond experts say? Depends on the expert and how much he/she really knows. There’s a lot of heat and not much light right now.

004. How do I pass the time and still engage my passion for 007? You can still easily find the original Ian Fleming novels. Raymond Benson’s novels are being reprinted. Jeffrey Deaver has been commission to write a new 007 novel to be published next year. There are video games coming out. You can still watch DVDs of the 21 Eon 007 films, Never Say Never Again and the 1967 Casino Royale. There are alternatives.

005. What’s annoying about being a Bond fan? Here’s one possibility: the Know-It-All Fan. This is the person who claims an inside connection and that they simply know *more* about it than you do. All fandoms have this, but James Bond fandom has been more corporate than many others. If you encounter such a fan on a message board, you may even try to inquire just *how* they know this, but the Know-It-All Fan will scoff with never answering the question.

Comments by the Know-It-All Fan raise two possibilities: 1) the Know-It-All Fan doesn’t really know (bad enough) or 2) the Know-It-All Fan does have a connection at least of a sort. But with No. 2, that means Know-It-All Fan is, essentially, in the pocket of James Bond filmmakers (or whoever). This type of Know-It-All Fan’s isn’t going to jeopardize that access. Their primary interest is maintaining access, not full disclosure.

006. How do you deal with Know-It-All Fan? It’s tempting to call Know-It-All fan out. Ultimately, though, it’s going to be fruitless. You should either ignore them or just nod as if you were listening.

007. Gee, this is kind of grim picture of James Bond fandom. Why continue being a fan? We’re in a lull (maybe an extended lull, maybe not) in the film series. Thus, there’s not much new on the film front other than MGM’s debt situation, etc. In other words, nothing much fun to change the subject. But, as we said, there are alternatives, including new books and video games. And James Bond is still James Bond. If you like 007, all of this is worth putting up with. It’s just how you choose to go about it.