1972: 007’s TV debut on The ABC Sunday Night Movie

United Artists re-released Goldfinger in the summer of 1972 as part of a triple feature a few months before it was shown on ABC.

With all the 007 anniversaries this year, one isn’t getting much attention: the 40th anniversary of the first U.S. television showing of a James Bond film when Goldfinger was shown on The ABC Sunday Night Movie.

ABC, which had obtained the TV rights for 007 films, decided to kick off the 1972-73 season with Goldfinger, the third movie in the series made by Eon Productions. ABC had promoted Goldfinger throughout the summer and especially during its broadcasts of the Summer Olympics in Munich, where 007 promos seemed to air every two hours, prior to the tragic kidnapping and murders of Israeli athletes. United Artists, moving to squeeze out money from one last theatrical run, had a triple feature of Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger during the summer of 1972.

Finally, on the night of Sept. 17, 1972 (right after the eighth-season opener of The FBI), Goldfinger was broadcast to millions of homes in the U.S. Bond fans who’d seen the film in theaters were caught by surprise immediately. The classic 007 gunbarrel logo had been edited out by the network (though John Barry’s gunbarrel music arrangement remained). It would be the first in a series of changes and cuts ABC would make in the Bond movies.

The ABC broadcast of Goldfinger started at 9 p.m. New York time and ran (including commercials) until 11:15 p.m.. In future showings, ABC would take out the pre-credits sequence altogether and start with the main titles so the TV broadcast would run no longer than two hours.

Still, it was a new era. ABC was the U.S. television home for Bond into the early 1990s. ABC even had a last hurrah in 2002, when the network showed the first nine 007 films in the Eon series on consecutive Saturday nights. Today, with DVDs, streaming video, video on demand, etc., none of this sounds special. But, 40 years ago, it was a big deal when agent 007 was available for the first time in living rooms.

5 Responses

  1. I miss those ABC Nighttime Movies, especially the James Bond movies. If it wasn’t for ABC alot of us would not be James Bond 007 fans today.

  2. I bet the ratings will go up if the network brought that back!

  3. That is exactly what the ABC Network (USA) should do is bring back the James Bond movies for prime time showing.

  4. ABC edits: I remember the first time I saw “From Russia With Love” on home video in the early 1980s. It a complete (albeit a pan and scan version) print, and I was just blown away.
    The girl fight and the battle at the gypsy camp had been cut out (violence and time I guess) on network runs in the 70s. I had never seen them and viewing it for the first time complete, it was an entirely new movie.
    It was incredible. Then I began to rewatch all the 60s Bonds on video to see what I had been denied – OHMSS on network was unrecognizable – and it seems the 60s Bonds were butchered. I wonder what other films were changed or gutted because of national morality and advertising (“A Fistful of Dollars” had a similar treatment with some gibberish opening tacked on to make Clint Eastwood’s bounty hunter appear on a moral crusade from US government as part of a parole given by a territorial governor.)
    I sure don’t miss the censorship of that day.

  5. Goldfinger, on its second showing on ABC, had the entire pre-credits sequence cut so the movie could make a two-hour time slot. (The first showing was 2 hours and 15 minutes, including the commercials.).

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