On Superman’s 80th, a few 007 connections

Christopher Reeve (right) with Roger Moore during filming of Octopussy.

This week marks the 80th anniversary of the introduction of Superman. DC Comics is out with Action Comics No. 1,000 to celebrate the occasion

The thing is, there are some elements in common, thanks to how the Christopher Reeve Superman movies were made at Pinewood Studios, the long-time home to the James Bond film franchise.

So here’s a few of them. It’s not a comprehensive list and I’m sure there are many stunt performers who worked on both.

Geoffrey Unsworth: Unsworth (1914-1978) was a celebrated cinematographer, whose credits included Superman (1978) and Superman II (1981), much of which was photographed at the same time as the film movie. Unsworth’s credits also included 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Unsworth also had a James Bond connection. On Dec. 21, 1961, he photographed screen tests for actresses vying to play Miss Taro for Dr. No.

John Glen: Glen directed five James Bond films, 1981-89, after earlier editing and being second unit director on three 007 films. He was one of the second unit directors for the 1978 Superman film.

Stuart Baird: Baird was editor on the first Superman movie. He performed the same duties on Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012).

Alf Joint: A stunt performer on the Bond series, perhaps his most famous bit was in the pre-titles of Goldfinger as Capungo, who gets killed by Bond (Sean Connery). He was also a stunt coordinator on Superman.

Shane Rimmer:  He had small roles in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever while having a larger supporting role as a U.S. submarine captain in The Spy Who Loved Me. It also *sounds* like he does some voiceover work in the pre-titles of Live And Let Die as an agent who’s killed in New Orleans. (“Whose funeral is it?”)

He also played a NASA controller in Superman II. The IMDB listing for Superman III lists him as “State Policeman.” Truth be told, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, I can’t confirm.

Guy Hamilton: He directed four 007 films, two with Sean Connery and two with Roger Moore. He was signed to direct Superman but exited the project and replaced by Richard Donner.

(UPDATE 9:40 a.m., April 20): By popular demand, two more.

Tom Mankiewicz: The screenwriter of 1970s 007 films was credited as “creative consultant” in Superman and Superman II. He essentially rewrote the scripts, combining elements of very serious Mario Puzo drafts and much lighter drafts by David Newman and Leslie Newman.

Clifton James: The veteran actor, who played Sheriff J.W. Pepper in two Bond films, again played a sheriff in Superman II.

Bond 25 questions: Release date edition

Daniel Craig

An announcement by Universal and a line in a Variety story have stirred the pot, getting fans concerned — or at least wondering — about Bond 25’s release date.

The announcement was made by Universal that it planned to release a Danny Boyle-directed comedy/musical in September 2019. That’s two months before Bond 25’s current release date of November 2019.

The line in the Variety story: ” MGM announced last summer that it would open Bond 25 on Nov. 8, 2019, but it’s unlikely to do so.”

So, let the questions begin.

How likely is Bond 25 to be delayed? Variety didn’t specify. In fact, it didn’t indicate whether that line was based on hard reporting or a simple assertion.

Meanwhile (while I was writing this very post), the MI6 James Bond website put out this tweet about the Variety story:

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That sounds like an endorsement of what Variety said. But Variety wasn’t the model of transparency with its readers. And there’s ways to be more transparent while not identifying specific sources.

Is there something else? Fans have mostly overlooked how Bond 25 doesn’t have a distributor.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hasn’t had a distribution operation since emerging from bankruptcy in 2010. Sony Pictures’s most recent two-picture 007 distribution deal ended with SPECTRE.

MGM took a step last year to getting back into distribution by forming a joint venture with Annapurna Pictures to distribute each other’s movies in the U.S. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal.

Deadline: Hollywood reported in November that the MGM-Annapurna joint venture had just about wrapped up U.S. distribution for Bond 25. But no announcement ever came. The Hollywood Reporter said April 4 that the distribution deal had been held up as MGM seeks to sell itself.

Under the most recent MGM-Sony deal, the two studios split the production costs while MGM kept 75 percent of the profits.

Unless MGM either sells itself or grows itself into a bigger entity, getting a distributor deal is vital to financing Bond 25.

Put another way, until you finance the movie, you can’t make the movie. There’s been an element of uncertainty surrounding Bond 25 all along. The November 2019 release date may have been built on a foundation of sand since it was first announced.

Boyle’s musical (comedy?) gets September 2019 release

Danny Boyle

Director Danny Boyle’s “other” movie has been given a Sept. 13, 2019, release by Universal, The Hollywood Reporter said, citing an announcement by the studio.

The project has been described at times as a musical, although the THR story called it a comedy. The writer attached is Richard Curtis.

Boyle also has said he will direct Bond 25, which currently has a November 2019 release, despite the lack of a distributor.

Boyle’s participating depends on whether a script by Boyle collaborator John Hodge is accepted for the 007 project.

THR said it “could prove challenging to promote two films debuting so close together. However, there is speculation that the Bond pic may move to another date, since MGM is still figuring out who is going to handle it internationally.”

Interestingly, THR itself reported on April 4 that even the U.S. distribution wasn’t settled because Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was seeking a buyer and trying to use its James Bond rights as a selling point.

THR didn’t specify who was doing the speculating about Bond 25. We’ll see what happens.

UPDATE (April 17): Variety had its own story about the Universal announcement. It had this passage: ” MGM announced last summer that it would open Bond 25 on Nov. 8, 2019, but it’s unlikely to do so.”

Dick Tracy: The space era revisited

Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

The blog, during an ice storm this past weekend, got caught up on recent developments in the Dick Tracy comic strip.

It turns out the strip’s current creative team, artist Joe Staton and writer Mike Curtis, revisited one of Dick Tracy’s most unusual eras — the Space era, which began in the early 1960s and appeared to be done by the late 1970s.

Background: Tracy creator Chester Gould (1900-1985) abruptly took the intrepid detective into the space age in the early 1960s.

As one story line was ending, Tracy got a call from industrialist Diet Smith, whose company supplied the police with two-way wrist radios and other gadgets. He had something he wanted to show Tracy.

That something was the space coupe, which traveled via magnetic power. Well, the space coupe quickly became the target of criminals. They stole it and used it to commit crimes. One strip showed the stolen space coupe dumping a victim into Earth’s obit.

Tracy recovered the amazing machine. Meanwhile, Diet Smith sent a crew to the moon in the space coupe. Moon Maid, a humanoid woman with horns, stowed away and came to Earth. She was part of a group of Moon People who lived in a part of the Moon (Moon Valley) with an atmosphere.

Chester Gould’s original version of the space coupe.

For a strip which had its beginnings during gangsters and Prohibition, it was a huge departure.

Eventually Tracy’s adopted son Junior fell in love with her and they got married (albeit with a lot of complications). The couple eventually made Tracy a grandfather.

Eventually Gould dialed things back. He retired from the strip, with his last contribution appearing Dec. 25, 1977.

His first successors, writer Max Allan Collins and artist Rick Fletcher (who had been Gould’s art assistant), seemed to close the door on the space era.

Big Boy, the strip’s original villain was dying and put out a contract on Tracy. But Junior’s wife (dubbed Moon Maid by Gould) was killed by a bomb meant for Tracy. The Moon People broke off diplomatic relations with the Earth. The last remnant of the space era (or so it seemed) was Junior’s daughter, Honeymoon.

2012-2013: Many years later, under the Stanton-Curtis team, a woman who appears to be Moon Maid reappears. She is seen at Wildwood Cemetery where Moon Maid (aka Mysta Tracy) is buried. She smashes the tombstone.

This is a part of “Moon Maid sightings.” But initially this is a subplot. Nevertheless, Tracy — with the help of Diet Smith — takes Honeymoon to, well, the Moon, as a sort of Christmas present.

However, Moon Valley, where the Moon people lived is deserted and there’s no atmosphere. Honeymoon, who had anticipated meeting her other grandparents is heartbroken.

The Moon Maid saga becomes the strip’s main tale in the spring of 2013. The mystery is whether Moon Maid is really back, is a clone or something else. It is not revealed until October 2013 that she was genetically altered using the original Moon Maid’s DNA and programmed to believe she was the original.

In between those events, classic Tracy villains BB Eyes and Mumbles show up as part of the proceedings as supporting heavies. There’s an attempt to steal Diet Smith’s remaining space coupe by the main villains (Dr. Tim S. Sail and Dr. Zy Ghote). But the crafty industrialist programmed it to fly into deep space.

Given the choice, and knowing the truth, the “new” Moon Maid remains to retain her appearance. She takes the name Mysta Chimera.

2017-2018: The Stanton-Curtis team decided to revisit the Space Era once more.

The Moon Governor, father of the original Moon Maid, shows up on Earth. He meets with Mysta Chimera’s real father.

Meanwhile, Diet Smith has evidence of a signing of one of the space coupes the Moon People had. Smith had built a few for the Moon People. “There were a few minor differences between the space coupes, Smith says. “And the Moon Governor had a fleet of five.”

Another classic Gould villain, Bribery, is involved in yet another plot. He wanted to get to the Moon via a space coupe so he could steal gold that had been at Moon Valley. But Bribery wasn’t aware the Moon had been abandoned. Shortly there after, Tracy moves in to arrest Bribery.

At the end of the story, it’s revealed the Moon People, indeed had fled to Earth. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how the story’s conclusion reflects 21st century issues — climate change/environmental issues and immigration.

“When we realized our oxygen was dissipating, we launched a vigorous campaign to replenish it,” the Moon Governor (actually now former Moon Governor) says. “But despite our technological advances, it was too late.”

He adds the following: “So we emigrated to the Earth, where our location will remain secret.”

Thus, the Moon People walk among us. Undocumented immigrants, indeed.

MI6 Confidential, 007 Magazine out with issues

For Your Eyes Only poster

There are new offerings available from MI6 Confidential and 007 Magazine.

MI6 Confidential No. 45 focuses on For Your Eyes Only.

The 1981 film, the 12th in the series produced by Eon Productions, marked a major change in direction following 1979’s Moonraker. For Your Eyes Only adapted two Ian Fleming short stories and was the most grounded Bond film in years at the time of its release.

Articles include a compilation of impressions from the movie’s cast and crew; a look at the Marvel Comics adaptation of the film; and  a look at the subaquatic archaeology featured in For Your Eyes Only.

There are other features, including an interview with actor Arnold Williams, who played a cab driver in the employ of Dr. Kananga in Live And Let Die.

The price is 7 British pounds, $9.50 or 8.50 euros. To find how to order, CLICK HERE.

007 Magazine No. 50 is a “paper printed version of the second of two previous online editions from 2006,” according to the publication’s website.

It includes features on Casino Royale, the 2006 film Eon used to reboot the 007 movie series. There are interviews with actors Daniel Craig, Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green.

Other articles a look at Ian Fleming before he wrote the Bond novels and 007 screen tests of “Sean Connery, George Lazenby, James Brolin, Lambert Wilson, Sam Neill, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan,” according to the website.

The price is 12.99 British pounds, $16.99 or 15.99 euros. 007 Magazine said it will ship this month. To find out how to order, CLICK HERE.

James Bond opera arrives in Canada

“Centerpoint Theatre? I’d like to order two tickets to your new opera, please.”

A James Bond opera has arrived in the Ottawa area.

James Bond: A Convenient Lie is being performed at the Centerpointe Theatre in Nepean, Ontario. CBC Radio’s All in a Day program devoted a segment to the production.

The opera is made possible by the fact that the James Bond character (at least the literary version) is now in the public domain in Canada. Already, new 007 stories have been published in the country.

James Bond: A Convenient Lie now moves the gentleman agent into opera. The show takes existing public domain opera music and added new lyrics written by actor Kyle McDonald, who plays Bond. A sampling:

The name is Bond, James Bond,

Don’t be nervous;

I’m in Her Majesty’s Secret Service

And whenever the world is in danger,

I’ll be there to dispatch the en-e-my

I’m the fearless, mysterious stranger

Who has been sent to apply the rem-e-dy

McDonald, in the CBC Radio segment, said people attending the opera needn’t have a detailed knowledge of 007 to enjoy the stage production. He said the opera retains, Bond, Moneypenny and Q. The opera concerns an eco-terrorist who Bond must stop. That, of course, is a plot familiar not only to Bond fans, but repeatedly used in spy entertainment in general.

To hear the full radio segment, CLICK HERE. You can also view a story on the CBC’s website summarizing the segment by CLICKING HERE. Below is a video that teases the production.

Bond 25: Annoying stories edition

Daniel Craig

This week, Daniel Craig talked (very, very) briefly about Bond 25. He didn’t say much, except to say (again) he’d be doing the movie. However, that didn’t stop a number of stories with very annoying passages. Here’s a look at some.

VANITY FAIR, APRIL 11: “Bond 25 Is Coming Sooner Than You Think,” the magazine proclaimed in a headline on its website. In the first paragraph, it said, “Break out your martinis and Omega watches, because Bond 25 is upon us.”

No, no it’s not. Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer said last year the movie would have a U.S. release date of November 2019. MGM, last month on an investor call, said Bond would return in 2019. Bond 25 is not upon us.

In other words, nothing has changed. The only people who are surprised are the scribes and editors at Vanity Fair who, from a 007 perspective, have been in a slumber to rival that of Rip Van Winkle’s.

DEN OF GEEK!, APRIL 11: The entertainment news website examines the release slate of Sony Pictures and ponders whether Sony might end up distributing Bond 25.

“We’ve learned that indie outfit Annapurna Pictures will team with MGM and EON Productions for US distribution, but last we heard, the international rights are up for grabs,” Den of Geek! said.

Well: 1) Eon Productions isn’t involved in distribution. It may or may not have a say, but distribution is an MGM decision. 2) Clearly, Den of Geek! has fallen behind in its reading, including last week’s STORY BY THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER that no Bond 25 distribution decision has been made and that MGM is using its Bond rights to attract buyers.

To be sure, MGM and Annapurna last year formed a joint venture to distribute each other’s movies in the United States. But Bond 25 wasn’t part of the deal. Deadline: Hollywood reported in November that joint venture was close to getting the U.S. Bond 25 deal. But hasn’t happened yet.

Note to Den of Geek!: There’s this site affiliated with the blog called the Bond 25 Timeline. You might want to check it first before doing your next article on Bond 25. h/t to reader @CorneelVf on Twitter for pointing out the Den of Geek! story.

OBSERVER, APRIL 10: The story isn’t bad for the most part. It notes for example, the lack of a distributor for Bond 25. But there is one line that was annoying.

“We can only assume that franchise producer Barbara Broccoli is paying Craig handsomely for his fifth and final Bond installment,” the Observer said.

Ultimately, Barbara Broccoli doesn’t pay the bills. The studio (or studios with co-financing deals) handles that chore. Eon has never financed Bond movies. Whatever money it has fronted has been returned once a studio (beginning with United Artists in the early 1960s, MGM after it acquired UA in the 1980s) OK’s the movie and started paying.

VARIETY, APRIL 10: The entertainment publication/website essentially summarized an Associated Press video of what Craig said this week. So far, so good. Then, there was this passage:

“At one point  (Craig) said he would ‘rather slash my wrists’ than play Bond again and said he would only do another film ‘for the money.’ Apparently, the studio paid him handsomely.”

At least Variety understands the studio foots the bills. However, this falls into the annoying category because Variety ignored the scoop of its rival (The Hollywood Reporter) about MGM seeking to be acquired and putting off a Bond 25 distribution deal.

I’m sure Craig is in line for a big pay day if Bond 25 is made. But it won’t get made unless it is financed (something at least somewhat in doubt until the distribution situation is ironed out). It might have been a better use of time for Variety to find out what really is going on than to write a snarky line.

Daniel Craig (briefly) discusses Bond 25

Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz made an appearance Monday night at a charity event. Craig didn’t say much about Bond 25, except to confirm yet again he’ll be in it. Craig first said in August 2017 he’d be back for a fifth turn as 007.

The actor ducked a question whether Danny Boyle will direct. Boyle has said he will if a script by John Hodge is accepted.

The Associated Press posted a short video. You can view it below.

Soon-Tek Oh, busy actor, dies

Soon-Tek Oh as an ill-fated secret agent in the Matt Helm film Murderers’ Row.

Soon-Tek Oh, a Korean-born actor whose career extended decades, died April 4, according to an obituary in Korea JoonAng Daily, an English language newspaper in South Korea.

The publication listed his age as 85. The Internet Movie Data Base listed his age as 74.

(UPDATE: Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have listed his age as 85.)

Korea JoonAng Daily said Oh graduated from  Yonsei University in 1959 with a degree in political science. He then went to the University of California-Los Angeles, where he ended up studying acting, the newspaper said.

The actor made his rounds in spy and international intrigue related movies and television series.

He played Lt. Hip in the second Roger Moore 007 film, The Man With The Golden Gun. Before that, he appeared in I Spy, the Matt Helm movie Murderers’ Row (an uncredited role as a Japanese secret agent who’s killed early in the film), It Takes a Thief, The Wild Wild West (a small role as the villain’s houseboy) and eight episodes of Hawaii Five-O.

Lt. Hip assisted Moore’s Bond on a mission in Golden Gun. Often in Bond films, that’s the type of role that ends up being a “sacrificial lamb.” Oh’s Lt. Hip avoided that fate. The character also had two nieces whose martial arts skills helped Bond get out of a jam.

With Five-O, the actor was present at the beginning. In the pilot episode, he played a lab technician for villain Wo Fat, who has devised an unusual torture method involving a “cocoon.”

His parts got larger as the series progressed. Oh returned in a first-season Five-O episode, Face of the Dragon, He played a Chinese agent who is spreading Bubonic plague. Oh also portrayed a “young Maoist” who is being manipulated by Wo Fat as part of a plot in the fifth-season episode The Jinn Who Clears the Way.

The actor’s IMDB.COM entry lists 116 acting credits, extending from 1965 and running through 2006. He was also billed as Soon-Taik Oh (as he was in The Man With the Golden Gun) and Soon-Teck Oh.

If the literary James Bond were on Twitter

Part of the Twitter home page for @JB_UnivEX

Ever wonder what it would be like if the literary James Bond had been on Twitter? Well, @JB_UnivEx on Twitter has one interpretation.

The Twitter account debuted March 13, as Mr. Bond makes his first post.

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Of course, Bond knows that Twitter is not a secured form of communication. That’s part of the fun of the @JB_UnivEX feed as Bond uses code names and euphemisms in his tweets.

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Bond’s image on the Twitter handle is Hoagy Carmichael, keeping with Ian Fleming’s description. The blog doesn’t want to give too much away. But the events in France have concluded and he’s on his way home, expressing himself in a Twitter sort of way.

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We’ll have to see how the literary Bond in the Twitterverse unfolds. The blog suspects this would qualify as fair use for being a parody (an obviously affectionate one).