Happy New Year 2020 from The Spy Command

Our annual greeting

It’s the end of another year. Here’s hoping for a great 2020 for readers of The Spy Command. There’s actually going to be a James Bond film in the new year, so there will be plenty to discuss.

And, as Napoleon Solo reminds everyone, be sure to party responsibly this New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year, everyone.

Pluto TV: Bond fans hardly knew ye

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Easy come, easy go.

Viacom’s Pluto TV streaming service is ending its free James Bond channel, Pluto said in a Dec. 29 tweet.

Before we say goodbye to our #007 channel, we’re spending the next 2 days counting down fan-favorite James Bond movies!” according to the post on Twitter.

“Soak up the best of Bond on our #PlutoTV 007 channel (CH 7)! pluto.tv/live-tv/pluto- #JamesBond”

Pluto TV was founded in 2013 and purchased by Viacom earlier this year. Its James Bond channel debuted in September. It provided Bond films with commercials thanks to a licensing deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions.

You can view Pluto’s tweet below. h/t James Bond Television

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

What we know (and don’t know) about NTTD’s music

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

(Corrects to note Dan Romer listed in August press release.)

One of the main unanswered questions about No Time to Die is who will do the music. There’s been a lot of smoke but no definite answers.

So, here’s a recap.

1. IndieWire reported July 2 that Dan Romer had the job. The same day, Romer put out a tweet thanking IndieWire and said he was “very excited for this year.”

2. An August press release about the title No Time to Die lists Romer as composer.

3. The James Bond Radio fan website on Nov. 1 says it has heard Romer has departed the project. But the website also says to take the development with a grain of salt. Romer’s Twitter account is of no help. Its last post was on Sept. 6.

4. David Arnold, a five-time Bond film composer (and a fan favorite), says Dec. 4 on Twitter he hasn’t been approached about working on No Time to Die. “I can sit back and enjoy it with everyone else,” he writes.

5. Anton Volkov, founder of TrailerTrack (@antovolk), posts a Dec. 27 tweet saying “there’s some smoke” that someone affiliated with Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions may be doing the No Time to Die’s score.

One of the sources is a message board at Zimmer’s website. The site administrator reportedly is close to Zimmer.

6. One question is whether we’re talking about Zimmer himself or another composer affiliated with his Remote Control Productions company. For background about Remote Control, CLICK HERE to view a 2014 story by Variety.

7. James Bond Radio comes back with a Dec. 28 tweet saying it doesn’t know who the composer is, just that it’s not Zimmer but “one of his guys” at Remote Control. The tweet includes a link to composers affiliated with Remote Control.

One of the 63 composers shown on the Zimmer website page is Tom Holkenborg, known professionally as Junkie XL. Holkenborg and Zimmer shared the composer credit for 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Holkenborg was supposed to score 2017′ Justice League but got replaced by Danny Elfman.

Another one of the Remote Control composers is Lorne Balfe, the credited composer for 2018′ Mission: Impossible-Fallout.

UPDATE (10:15 a.m., New York time, Dec. 29): On Dec. 25, Film Music Reporter had a story about Dan Romer’s latest project, Wendy. It does not list No Time to Die as among Romer’s credits. h/t MI6 James Bond website, which mentioned in a story.

Wo Fat’s namesake is to be restored

James MacArthur and Emme Tomimbang, outside of the Wo Fat restaurant in Honolulu during a 1996 television special.

A landmark structure in Honolulu, the former Wo Fat restaurant, is to be restored and redeveloped, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported.

Hawaii Five-O creator Leonard Freeman used the name of the of the Chinese restaurant for the arch villain who would oppose lawman Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord).

Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dhiegh, made his first appearance in the 1968 Five-O pilot. Initially, Wo Fat was a Chinese agent. After the U.S. and China established diplomatic relations in the 1970s, Wo Fat went independent.

Regardless, Wo Fat took on McGarrett a number of times during the 12-year run of the show. The 1980 series finale brought back Wo Fat one last time.

A rebooted series that began in 2010 (with the spelling Five-0) had its own version of Wo Fat. The second version of the character was killed off in the 100th episode of that series. That installment aired in 2014.

Here’s an excerpt of the Star Advertiser story that describes developer plans to convert the restaurant for multiple uses:

The Wo Fat project calls for a cafeteria-style eatery and some retail on the ground floor along historic Hotel and Maunakea streets, and a 23-room boutique hotel on the second and third floors in what for decades served as the main dining halls for one of the largest and most prestigious Chinese banquet restaurants on the island.

The 86-year-old building was acquired by new owners in 2017, the newspaper said. The restoration project will cost an estimated $10 million. The Star Advertiser described some of the problems involved with the project.

It’s not a simple undertaking. In the early 2000s, the former owners of the building allowed it to become a nightclub and its proprietors decided to paint over the distinctive artwork that adorned the ceilings and columns, as well as the building’s unique, multi-­colored stained-glass windows — with black.

The development group spearheading the project is named Mighty Wo Fat LLC.

1967: The U.N.C.L.E./Invaders connection

A first-season episode of The Invaders directed by Sutton Roley…

….and a fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode directed by Sutton Roley

The final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1967-68) included a major change in tone. The show got a lot more serious after a campy third season.

The primary reason was a change in producers. In came Anthony Spinner, a veteran of some Quinn Martin series. His time at QM Productions up to that point included being associate producer for the first season of The Invaders.

Spinner had written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Secret Sceptre Affair. But he also wrote a number of episodes for Quinn Martin series such as 12 O’Clock High and The FBI.

QM Productions hired Spinner for the Invaders, where he was deputy to the day-to-day producer, Alan A. Armer.

The show was a departure for QM — it was a science fiction series about how architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) tries to convince humanity the Earth is being invaded by an alien race.

The Invaders was a mid-season replacement series that debuted in January 1967 on ABC. Spinner departed the show after the first half-season and he landed as the new day-to-day producer for U.N.C.L.E.

Spinner, along the way, hired some contributors from The Invaders. Among them were writers Don Brinkley, Robert Sherman and John W. Bloch. Bloch, like Spinner, had also worked on a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode. Sherman’s U.N.C.L.E.’s script was among those that went unproduced because the series was canceled at mid-season.

But perhaps the most significant contributor from The Invaders was director Sutton Roley (1922-2007).

Roley was known for filming shots from unusual angles. He helmed two episodes of the first season of The Invaders, including one titled The Innocent.

The aliens try to fool David Vincent about their intentions, claiming they really want to help mankind.

The episode includes a point-of-view shot where Vincent, having not been fooled, looks up at the aliens.

Roley would direct three episodes in U.N.C.L.E.’s Spinner-produced final season, including the two-part series finale, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair. The director practically duplicates his shot from The Invaders as we see Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) look at people hovering over him.

For U.N.C.L.E., the changes brought by Spinner didn’t pan out. The show got clobbered in the ratings by Gunsmoke on CBS (a series which had been initially canceled but reprieved).

Nevertheless, a number of contributors to The Invaders had an impact on the tone for the final 16 episodes of The Man From U.N.C..E.

Footnote: The main guest star in The Innocent was Michael Rennie. He’d be the villain in the fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Thrush Roulette Affair. Rennie would also return in the second season of The Invaders for the show’s only two-part story.

Broccoli says Eon resisting doing Bond spinoffs

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

Eon Productions chief Barbara Broccoli says in a recent magazine story that the production company has been pressured to make James Bond spinoffs but is resisting such a move.

“We’ve been under a lot of pressure to make spinoffs,” Broccoli told Total Film, whose 2020 movie preview issue went on sale this month.

“Bond is Bond, she added. “We want to make these theatrical films. We want to make them one at a time, and create an anticipation for them, and deliver films of a very high standard.”

Broccoli didn’t specify where the pressure was coming from. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq (Eon’s parent company) share custody of Bond.

Marvel Studios, which has produced more than 20 inter-connected movies since 2008 is branching into TV series for the Disney + streaming service.

The entire Total Film article is not online but scans of it are showing up on internet bulletin boards. There is a preview of the story online.

Eon has avoided planning long story arcs. Quantum of Solace was always intended to be a “direct” sequel to Casino Royale. But Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a 2011 news conference that his movie wasn’t tied to the two earlier Daniel Craig films.

Then, with SPECTRE, the filmmakers did a “retcon,” making Skyfall connected to Casino and Quantum after all. Skyfall villain Silva became part of SPECTRE/Quantum after the fact. Now, all four are connected to the upcoming No Time to Die.

In the 2000s, Eon developed a proposed Bond spinoff movie featuring Jinx, the character played by Halle Berry in Die Another Day. Nothing came of the project.

Meanwhile, Eon has stepped up its production of non-Bond movies, including the upcoming The Rhythm Section being released by Paramount in January.

A look back at the blog’s other media appearances

2019 was an interesting year for the blog because of appearances on podcasts and one YouTube video. So what follows are some highlights. Thanks to all involved for having me on.

James Bond & Friends logo

James Bond & Friends podcast: This is a podcast produced by the MI6 James Bond website and MI6 Confidential magazine. It debuted in March and I was on some episodes.

Part of the format is the title of an episode is based on the often freewheeling conversation among participants. During recording, I’m often not sure what the title of an episode will be until it’s out.

I ended up contributing a few titles including these:

Episode 0012: Cai-Cai-Cairo (May 20): The episode’s main topic was how unused parts of Bond screenplays show up in later films. The title is from the pre-titles sequence of Diamonds Are Forever where the dialogue and lip movements didn’t quite match.

Episode 0013: The Peeing Dog (May 28): Somewhere in the conversation (which primarily was about how perception of Bond films can change over the years), I referenced the dog that’s urinating in the middle of a frame during Thunderball’s Junkanoo sequence.

Episode 0016: Powered by Explodium (July 3): The episode primarily explored “defending the indefensible.” But the title referred to the apparent power source for the hotel in the middle of nowhere featured in Quantum of Solace.

Other highlights for me (where I had nothing to do with the title) included Episode 0029 Survey Says, based on the game show Family Feud. I blew the climatic question that lost my team the game.

Also, Episode 0024 Freddy’s Got a Cold was pretty fun. That episode had suggestions for alternate takes on James Bond songs. The idea was to put together something similar to David Arnold’s 1990s album Shaken and Stirred.

My suggestions were offbeat: Tony Bennett singing Goldfinger (similar to the arrangement Anthony Newley once performed) and Hugh Jackman performing Thunderball.

Spybrary podcast logo

Spybrary: Spybrary is for fans of spy books and movies. Host Shane Whaley interviewed me in a July 31 episode. We discussed Bond films and novels, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Mission: Impossible and Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm novels.

I discovered what it’s like to host a podcast in a Nov. 23 episode of Spybrary that provided an overview about The Man From From U.N.C.L.E. The other participants were academic Cynthia Walker and Robert Short, a film industry professional and long-time U.N.C.L.E. fan. He has the distinction of appearing in both an U.N.C.L.E. episode and a James Bond movie (Diamonds Are Forever in an out-of-focus way).

Hosting a podcast is harder than it sounds. You have to recruit guests and then keep an eye on the clock during recording. Shane Whaley was on hand to handle production, which was a big help.

Being James Bond: The podcast hosted and produced by Joseph Darlington interviewed me for an Oct. 11 episode. We covered a lot of ground about Bond, the blog and the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website.

The Bond Experience: David Zaritsky, host of the YouTube channel, asked me to discuss how James Bond marketing has evolved. The video was posted Oct. 27 and is embedded below.