Daniel Craig featured in August Esquire

Apropos of this month’s cover story on Daniel Craig, those hepcats at Esquire have a new issue with cool James Bond stuff.

There’s a pretty interesting interview with Mr. Craig, which of course touches on the next (as yet untitled) Bond screen adventure,

Filming starts soon, and Craig tells [Esquire] he’s “really fucking really lookin’ forward” to working with its team

and a thoughtful analysis of the signature 007 cocktail, the Vesper.

As good a place as any to start is a slideshow featuring A Fashion Lesson to Learn from (Nearly) Every James Bond. Messrs. Connery, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and Craig show off their trademark 007 looks for us mere mortals to copy.

Through the decades, Esquire magazine — much like its little brother Playboy — has been both a champion and a critic of the James Bond phenomenon. But it’s always been generous in its coverage; Bond fans would do well to keep up with this venerable organ of men’s custom.

Listen (and sort of watch) the John Barry memorial concert

Last month’s memorial concert for John Barry, composer for 11 James Bond films and a five-time Oscar winner, has been written up on numerous 007 fan Web sites. There’s not much more to say except if you give it a listen, it’s a wonderful experience. The concert was later broadcast by the BBC. A version of that broadcast was uploaded to YouTube and here it is:

The BBC is also making the concert available on its Web site for a limited time. You can check it out by CLICKING HERE.

Either way, it runs almost two hours. It contains a lot of Barry work outside the Bond series and it’s all outstanding. Michael Caine speaks from the U.S. (because of working on next year’s Batman movie), Dame Shirley Bassey performs, David Arnold plays guitar on a rendition of The James Bond Theme (Barry did the arrangement of the version heard in Dr. No, in addition to his 11 Bond scores)….it’s worth the time invested.

Meanwhile, if you’re a big Bond fan and you can’t wait to listen one of the highlights, well, here’s one (we’ll see how long it stays up on YouTube):

Lt. Columbo’s encounters with spies

Peter Falk passed away last month and obituaries SUCH AS THIS ONE IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES documented his varied career while noting he was most famous for playing Lt. Columbo, who wore a rumpled raincoat but had a sharp mind. We thought we’d take some time out to detail a couple of enounters the character had with spies.

In “Identity Crisis,” in 1975 from Columbo’s fifth season on NBC, the murderer Columbo pursues is Nelson Brenner. The CIA operative is played by Patrick McGoohan, who seems to channel his John Drake and Number Six personas. McGoohan, who also directed the episode, was back for his second turn as a murderer on the show. McGoohan even works in his “Be seeing you!” line from The Prisoner.

The script, by Bill Driskill, is pretty complex. The murder victim (Leslie Nielsen) is another agent. There’s a non-existent operative named Steinmetz and….well, you get the idea.

Brenner has a cover identity as a business consultant. At one point, the CIA director (David White) pays a visit on Columbo, telling him to can his investigation in the interest of national security. Columbo, of course, doesn’t give up that easily but knows it’ll be even trickier to bring in Brenner.

The CIA shows up in a more indirect role in “Columbo Goes to the Guillotine,” the first Columbo to air on ABC when the show was revived in 1989. Elliott Blake (Anthony Andrews) is trying to convince the agency he’s a genuine psychic who can be of aid in intelligence work. The CIA hires a magician, Max Dyson (Anthony Zerbe), who has also exposed other psychics as frauds, to test Blake’s abilities.

The two men, however, have met before. They were in a prison in Uganda years earlier. They meet the night before the test and rig it in Blake’s favor. Afterward, Dyson says he agreed because of what the two mean to each other while in prison. Blake, though, knows that Dyson sold him out to get out of that prison. He kills Dyson, making it appear the magician was killed in an accident involving a guillotine trick.

Columbo engages in his usual cat-and-mouse games with Blake. Meanwhile, the CIA’s Mr. Harrow (Alan Fudge) is convinced Blake is the real thing. The agency is ready to whisk Blake away with a new identity. Columbo, armed with a court order, prevents that. He duplicates the Dyson-Blake test, ending the CIA’s interest in Blake.

The episode was written by William Read Woodfield (a writer on the original Mission: Impossible series and a magician himself) and directed by Leo Penn. It ends with Columbo taking a big chance to make his case against Blake:

The 50th anniversary of United Artists making a bet on 007

This past week was the 50th anniversary of the United Artists studio cutting a deal with two middle aged movie producers, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. The result of the 1961 agreement would be the James Bond film series, which would make its debut before audiences the following year with Dr. No.

United Artists today is an occasionally used brand controlled by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. A half century ago, it was a functioning studio, albeit one that functioned differently than other studios. It didn’t have its own backlot, a la an MGM or Paramount. In fact, at that time even two companies primarily engaged in television production (Desilu and Revue) had their own backlots while UA didn’t.

What UA did have were executives including Benjamin Krim, Robert Benjamin and David Picker. Krim and Benjamin acquired UA from founders Charles Chaplin and Mary Pickford in the 1950s. Under the Krim-Benjamin regime, UA would cut deals people such as producer Walter Mirisch, producer-director Billy Wilder and actor-producer Burt Lancaster.

You might not get the same money at UA as you might get at other studios. But UA was also known to grant more creative leeway. Today, UA’s selection of films are part of MGM’s film library; the MGM lion logo is shown at the start of the UA films when they’re shown on television.

Anyway, UA was where Saltzman (who had a six-month option on the bulk of Ian Fleming’s 007 novels) and Broccoli ended up going. The John Cork-directed documentary Inside Dr. No described UA and its interest in Bond. Here’s the start of that documentary. At the 5:13 mark, you can see a copy of the June 29, 1961, press release UA issued about its agreement with Broccoli and Saltzman.

We’ll give a shoutout to the MI6 James Bond fan Web site, which reminded us of the UA/Broccoli-Saltzman anniversary. You can read its post about the subject BY CLICKING HERE.

For more about United Artists — whose non-Bond projects included The Heat of The Night, The Fugitive, The African Queen and many others — you can view Wikipedia’s recap of UA history BY CLICKING HERE. And, if you can track down a copy, we’d also recommend the excellent 1985 book Final Cut by the late Steven Bach, a one-time UA executive who writes about how the movie Heaven’s Gate wrecked the studio.