Skyfall listed as one of 2012’s most anticipated events

Entertainment news Web site The Wrap, after excluding Skyfall from its list of most-anticipated films of 2012, has included the 23rd James Bond film as one of the new year’s most-anticipated entertainment events.

The new list comprises a variety of media, including television (the return of Mad Men on AMC) and plays (revivals of Death Of a Salesman and Harvey), live performances (Madonna at the Super Bowl) as well as movies. To see the entire list CLICK HERE.

On 007’s 50th, will Harry Saltzman be the forgotten man?

This week, the official Web site added some new features, including this greeting from Michael G. Wilson, co-boss of Eon Productions:

At the 0:22 mark, Wilson says, “Cubby Broccoli made Dr. No, the first Bond film, in 1962.” Albert R. Broccoli did indeed produce the film with his then-partner Harry Saltzman. Now, Wilson is Broccoli’s stepson and our guess is this isn’t an intention dig at Saltzman, who exited the series in 1975 and died in 1994. It is, after all, a 45-second video, not a definitive history. But it may be a sign that in 2012, the year of the cinema Bond’s 50th anniverary, Saltzman may end up being overlooked.

When Saltzman’s name comes up today, the image is of a cranky, volatile man who almost axed the classic Goldfinger title song, ordered elephant shoes for a movie (The Man With the Golden Gun) that didn’t have any elephants in it, etc., etc. At least one film historian, Adrian Turner, took a different view in his 1998 book, Adrian Turner on Goldfinger.

“To begin with, Saltzman took the responsibility for the scripts” of the early 007 films, Turner wrote. “Having worked with John Osborne, it’s clear he thought that Richard Maibaum — Broccoli’s man — was little more than a hack.” Obviously, that’s hardly a unanimous opinion of Maibaum. Still, Maibaum is quoted on page 100 in author James Chapman’s 2000 book Licence to Thrill as saying that Saltzman did bring in U.K. screenwriter Paul Dehn to do the later drafts of Goldfinger (the notes section of the book says the quote is from page 285 of a book called Backstory.)

We only bring this up to show that Saltzman’s contributions extended beyond being an eccentric crank. The Broccoli-Saltzman partnership wasn’t an easy one. Eventually, the pair largely alternated producing the films while both were listed as producers. Saltzman primarily responsible for Live And Let Die (though Broccoli did visit the set in Louisiana and posed for a photograph with Saltzman and star Roger Moore) while The Man With the Golden Gun was Broccoli’s picture.

The Broccoli-Wilson clan, now headed by Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, has supervised the 007 series since 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Nobody is suggesting that Cubby Broccoli wasn’t a master showman, who deserves a lot of credit for launching Bond on the screen. Still, it would be a shame if Saltzman ends up being the forgotten man as fans look back on a half century of 007 films.

Also, here’s a shoutout to Dell Deaton, who blogs about James Bond watches. A tweet of his got us to thinking about all this.

Happy 91st birthday, Jack Lord

The first screen Felix Leiter, Jack Lord, would be 91 years old if he were alive today. The Leiter character wasn’t in the Dr. No novel by Ian Fleming but he ended up in the 1962 film version scripted by Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood and Berkely Mather. When approached about reprising the role in Goldfinger, he famously demanded billing on par with Sean Connery and was refused.

007 fans wonder why Lord would have done that, but let’s face it: being Felix in a Bond movie isn’t going to get you much screen time and probably isn’t going to help your career that much. A few years later, five days before filming was to begin on the pilot, Lord was cast as lawman Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-O, whose lead character dabbled in spy storylines. Here he is on The Mike Douglas Show during the show’s first season, 1968-69:

And here are the opening credits of the 11th season Five-O episode The Year of the Horse, where former Bond George Lazenby was “special guest star.” (No Lazenby in the clip but you do see his billing). McGarrett even flies to Singpore on Pan Am, the airline of choice in the Bond movies up to this time (United was the normal airline shown on series episoes):

Does M:I 4 make a peace offering to fans of the TV show?

We watched Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (or M:I 4 for short) this week. Maybe it was a coincidence, but it seemed as if the film, starring Tom Cruise and directed by Brad Bird, was maybe, kind of attempting to apologize to fans of the original 1966-1973 Mission: Impossible series.

A bit of background. Some fans of the show strongly objected to Cruise’s first M:I movie in 1996, which turned Jim Phelps (Peter Graves in the show, Jon Voight in the movie) into the story’s bad guy who eventually gets dispatched, leaving Cruise’s Ethan Hunt as Mr. Impossible Missions Force. Also, in the Cruise version of M:I, Ethan Hunt did it all — mastermind, disguise expert, etc., etc. The IMF was more of a Greek chorus cheering Ethan Hunt on than a real team.

Well, with M:I 4, Cruise, Bird and company seemed to make some homages to the show. (WARNING: spoilers follow)

Early in the film, Ethan Hunt and IMF team member Benji (Simon Pegg) have infiltrated the Kremlin. They bring with them a high-tech screen that they can hide behind. The guard down the hall will look at the screen and see everything as they should be. This is remarkably similar to The Falcon, the only three-part story of the original series, which aired in season four. In that story, Phelps hides behind a projection screen so he can free a prisoner. M:I 4’s version has more bells and whistles but this certainly appears to be more or less the same device.

Later, former IMF field agent-turned-analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner) wears a metallic suit under his clothes, dives into a shaft headed toward massive fan blades that keep a massive computer installation cooled. A robot craft controlled by Benji stops Brandt from falling into the blades using magnetic power. Brandt is suspended mere inches from the blades, evoking a moment in Cruise’s first M:I film. But Benji then steers the robot craft (with Brandt still suspended above it) through a series of shafts. Benji can also raise or lower Brandt as needed.

That device is a larger, more elaborate version of a device Barney Collier (Greg Morris) rigged up in a two-part episode called The Bunker that ran in the third season of the television series. In that show, Barney had a small, radio-controlled saucer that could navigate through ventilator shafts as part of a typically complicated IMF plan. The saucer had to descend and rise as it traveled through the shafts. The device didn’t really work and in some shots you could see the wires holding it up. MI:4, thanks to 21st Century special effects, is more elaborate.

Finally, after the mission has been completed successfully, Ethan Hunt is listening to an audio recording related to his next assignment (should he decide to accept it). It turns out a terrorist group calling itself “The Syndicate” is making trouble. The Syndicate was used in the M:I television series, and other 1960s and ’70s shows, instead of the word Mafia. Syndicate bosses of that time also tended to have Anglicized names.

M:I always had at least some episodes featuring The Syndicate as villains and opted for Syndicate story lines pretty much exclusively in the sixth and seventh season as an economy move (no need to make up signs for fictional European countries, for example).

But the biggest homage to the TV show comes in the film when Ethan Hunt attempts to complete the mission by himself and can’t. He actually needs a team and for team members to blend their talents.

As we said, all of this may be coincidence. But all of the above elements comprise an awful lot of coincidence.

One list of top 15 anticipated 2012 films excludes Skyfall

The Wrap, one of the big U.S. entertainment news Web sites, excluded Skyfall from its list of the top 15 most-anticipated films of 2012.

What made the list? Here’s part of it:

–Three major superhero movies (two based on Marvel Comics characters including THIS ONE, while the other features one of DC Comics big hitters).

–Two films featuring Abraham Lincoln as a character (including one where Honest Abe hunts vampires.

–Yet another remake of The Great Gatsby (a 1949 version was produced and co-scripted by 007 film scribe Richard Maibaum).

–A film remake of a gothic horror television soap opera.)

Two companies that provided 007 rides facing tough times

Two automakers that provided James Bond his ride at various times are facing tough times.

Earlier this month, Saab Automobile of Sweden of Sweden filed for bankruptcy and may be broken up. Author John Gardner depicted Bond using a Saab when he began his run of continuation novels in 1981 with Licence Renewed.

Meanwhile, Lotus may be put up for sale after 15 years of unprofitable ownership by Malaysia’s Proton Holdings. Lotus appeared in two 007 films, most famously in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, when a Lotus converted into a submarine car. Lotus also appeared in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, including one depicted as exploding when a thug (Bond stunt arranger Bob Simmons) tried to break into it.

Roger Moore describes filming For Your Eyes Only

Roger Moore, as told to The Telegraph’s Georgia Dehn, described what it was like to film 1981’s For Your Eyes Only.

You can read the entire story, which was originally published Dec. 15, BY CLICKING HERE. An excerpt follows:

(A photograph accompanying the story) brings to mind the scene in For Your Eyes Only where Bond meets another bearded priest, who was in fact Q, played by Desmond Llewelyn, in disguise. Originally Bernie Lee’s character M was going to play that priest, but poor Bernie, who had played M for the first 11 Bond films, was ill with cancer and had a lot of problems so couldn’t do it – he died while we were still filming and M was written out of the film.

The story describes how Moore played producer Albert R. Broccoli for big stakes in backgammon (“On the last day of shooting we’d settle up and by then things had usually evened out, so it might end being only two or three thousand dollars that one of us had to pay.”). Perhaps the inspiration for a gambling scene in 1983’s Octopussy.

How the ex-spies fared in Hawaii Five-O season 11

We finally caught up with the Hawaii Five-O season 11 set that we informally dubbed the ex-spy edition. So we watched the episodes featuring guest stars who had previously portrayed spies and made a few notes about the performances of series star Jack Lord, who had been the screen’s first Felix Leiter in Dr. No. WARNING: spoilers await.

Ross Martin (Number One With a Bullet parts I and II, Stringer): The former Artemus Gordon from The Wild, Wild West makes the strongest impression of the guest star ex-spies. In all three episodes, he plays crime boss Tony Alika, the head of the Hawaiian mob the Kumu.

In the two-part Number One With a Bullet, aka the “disco” episode, he gets limited screen time in a storyline involving a clash between Alika and a Mainland crime boss (Nehemiah Persoff) for control of Hawaii’s discos and music industry. But Martin draws the viewer’s attention whenever he’s on the screen, including when he verbally jousts with Jack Lord’s Steve McGarrett.

Martin returned for another episode, Stringer, in which free-lance photographer Paul Williams takes photos of Alika having a meeting with a public official and attempts to commit blackmail. Martin’s Alika gets more screen time as the primary villain. Going into one commericial break, Alika’s evil laugh continues over the Five-O logo.

Evidently, the actor made an impression with the production team because he’d be brought back for the show’s final season. Meanwhile, Martin and Williams would work together again a short while later in the 1979 television movie The Wild, Wild West Revisited, with Williams as the son of Dr. Loveless.

Robert Vaughn (The Spirit is Willie): The one-time Napoleon Solo got “special guest star” billing and Vaughn’s phony psychic is the episode’s villain. By this time, Vaughn mostly played bad guys so if you’ve ever seen one of those performances, that’s more or less what you have here. Vaughn is a poster child for bad 1970s fashion, wearing a leisure suit whose shirt is unbuttoned at least one button too far.

The episode is a sequel to a 10th season story involving a mystery writer who likes to also solve real-life mysteries. Thus, Mildred Natwick’s Millicen Shand character gets more of the attention.

George Lazenby’s wardrobe in The Year of the Horse wasn’t as nice as in OHMSS

George Lazenby (The Year of the Horse): Lazenby, a decade removed from playing James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, also gets “special guest star” billing but is clearly a secondary villain. He appears in a very non-Bondian manner. He sports a baggy three-piece white suit, white hat and wears sandals. He also has a mustache and a few days growth of beard. However, he definitely comes across as a better actor than his one 007 film.

Disappointingly, Lazenby doesn’t have any scenes with Jack Lord, so we don’t get to see a meeting between movie Leiter No. 1 and film Bond No. 2. Most of Lazenby’s scenes are with Barry Bostwick, an Annapolis graduate presumed killed during the Vietnam War who’s now involved with drug smuggling. Lazenby and Bostwick are buddies, but Lazenby’s character is dispatched when he attempts to double cross Bostwick.

The two-hour episode takes place in Singapore and was actually filmed there. It was the season’s final episode and is also the final appearance in the series of James MacArthur’s Danno, who, as it turns out, really doesn’t get much to do. Which leads us to:

Jack Lord (series star): Lord didn’t get an executive producer credit but by this time his control of the show was so tight he probably should have. In earlier seasons, you’d have occasional episodes built around the supporting cast, but that became more rare as the series progressed.

Lord’s McGarrett by the 11th season, was also wearing leisure suits, favoring a very dark Navy blue one (if you CLICK HERE it’s described as being black but the revamped picture quality of the DVDs makes it look very, very dark blue to us). At least he kept his shirt buttoned, so it’s not as much of a distraction. He also sometimes shows up with a gray leisure suit.

McGarrett also gets preachier here than in earlier seasons. That trend began in the 10th season and it gets worse in the final season. But he’s still McGarrett and if you liked his take on the character, there’s nothing here to cause you to reverse that judgment.

There is the issue of McGarrett’s age.

In the second season episode “Blind Tiger,” it was implied that the Big Kahuna was in his mid-30s, so he should at least be close to 45 in season 11. Death Is a Company Policy, the first show of the fifth season, gave McGarrett a 1926 birth date, meaning he would be 52 or 53 when season 11 ends, depending on the specific date. And actor Lord turned 58 in December 1978.

Yet, in The Year of the Horse, which aired in the spring of 1979, one of George Lazenby’s lackeys (who’s about to be killed) describes McGarrett as being “40, 42.” Lord looks pretty good for 58, but there’s no way he looked that young.

007 Magazine has new issue devoted to Martine Beswicke

007 Magazine has an Archive Files edition devoted to actress Martine Beswicke, who appeared in From Russia With Love and Thunderball. In addition to photos from the 1960s, the issue has a new interview with the 70-year-old Beswicke.

For more information CLICK HERE. Prices run at $15.99 in the U.S., 9.99 British pounds and 11.99 euros.

Highlights of The James Bond Bedside Companion

Photo copyright © Paul Baack


With the news that Raymond Benson’s James Bond Bedside Companion will be reissued in 2012, we dusted off our 1984 first edition copy of the book to remind ourselves what the fuss was all about. Here are a few examples:

It had an introduction by Ernest Cuneo, one of Ian Fleming’s friends: “Ian Fleming was of the twentieth century and indeed his creation, James Bond, who emerged full blown from his imagination as a Greek God from the brow of Zeus, may be one of the twentieth century’s landmarks.” And that was just the first sentence of a three-page essay.

The book originated concepts that still fans use today: The James Bond Bedside Companion analyzed both 007 novels and movies. On page 123 of the first edition, Benson introduces the phrase the “Blofeld Triology” to describe Fleming’s novels Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. The author says the novels mark “the change from the earlier (Fleming) novels to the more mature books.”

This theme has resonated with 007 fans, including the proprietors of this blog. Our parent site once ran an article saying that the Bond film series would have gotten more respect if it had adapted the trilogy in the order the Fleming novels were published. Instead, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman brought out You Only Live Twice after Thunderball rather than Majesty’s while tossing out Fleming’s plot for Twice.

Then again, during the period Benson described, Fleming wrote *four* novels, including the quirky 1962 The Spy Who Loved Me, which has first-person narration from a woman character. Nonetheless, the term “The Blofeld Trilogy” has stuck since Benson introduced it.

Benson introduced diagrams of novels and films that still stick with fans: Pages 156 and 157 have a literal diagram of the Eon Productions film series up to 1984. Each movie is dissected by “places,” “girls,” “villain and employer,” “villain’s project,” “obligatory sacrificial lamb,” “minor villains,” “Bond’s friends,” “gadgets” and “remarks.” Many Bond fans were aware the movies had these elements but Benson, with that one diagram, helped crystallize those notions. To this day, 007 message boards refer to “sacrificial lambs” for Bond allies who get killed in the movies.

Benson didn’t pull punches: The author clearly is a fan of the literary and cinema Bond. But there are portions of the book where he doesn’t let his admiration get in the way of his analysis. On page 116 of the first edition, Benson quotes from Chapter 16 of Fleming’s Goldfinger novel which describes how Bond views Oddjob, Goldfinger’s Korean henchman, in less than admiring terms.

“So Bond is revealed to be a bigot as well,” Benson writes. “This aspect of his character is not particularly evident elsewhere in the series, though one should notice 95 percent of the villains in the novels are non-British.”

That’s tough stuff. Many fans want to hear about why the character they like is great. They don’t want to hear how the character, his novels or his films might possibly fall short of expectations. (Trust us, we know all about this.)

Benson established a template for a generation of fans regarding the movies: The over-simplified version would be Sean Connery good, Roger Moore bad. Benson is more detailed than that, but he captures the mood of many first-generation movie fans who saw 007 become the coolest thing on earth, circa 1965, only to see the character be less than that in the 1970s.

On pages 216-217, Benson diagrams the similarities between Connery’s You Only Live Twice and Moore’s The Spy Who Loved Me, which makes it hard to deny the 1977 film wasn’t a remake of the 1967 effort. The diagram was based on an article published in the 007 fan publication Bondage (which is credited), but Benson’s book gave it a larger audience.

To be honest, more space is required to analyze why The James Bond Bedside Companion had such an impact in the 1980s. Afterall, the first edition was 256 pages, including the index. The book was originally published before the Internet made it easier to do research. But it was also written by someone who clearly cared about the subject matter who wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers.

The author is a friend of the publishers of this blog and its parent Web site. Still, we’re not blowing smoke that it struck a cord among 007 fans. The news that a new edition is coming in 2012 caught fire on various Bond Web sites. You don’t get that kind of reaction unless fans actually care.

Benson eventually became a participant in the Bond machine, penning 007 continuation novels and three movie novelizations. As we understand it, the new editions won’t update the book beyond its 1988 edition. And that’s understandable. Once you cross over to being a participant, you can no longer maintain your distance.

The new version of the Bedside Companion — coming out in time for the 50th anniversary of the 007 film series — will help preserve a work that was published at an important time for 007 fans.