Without whom, etc. (56th anniversary)

Funko Pops are back in action again

No Time to Die teaser poster

James Bond Funko Pops are back in action again, including No Time to Die versions.

The online 007 Store today made the following Funko Pops available for pre-order:

James Bond No Time to Die version. Price: 12 British pounds (about $15.70).

Safin. Same price.

Nomi. Same price.

Paloma. Same price.

There is also a James Bond Moonraker also available for pre-order. Again, the same price.

Bond’s future: Time to go modest again?

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen a lot of debate about the post-COVID-19 future. As it relates to James Bond, is it time for Bond to go modest again?

No Time to Die, a $250 million blockbuster, was a pre-COVID-19 movie. It was an attempt to keep up with blockbuster “tentpole” movies.

Over the decades, Bond had plenty of experience going big — Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Die Another Day (2002). SPECTRE (2015).

For No Time to Die, the problem is it could not be finished in time to be released before the novel coronavirus. The 25th James Bond film was intended to be distributed in an era where moviegoers crowded into theaters as fast as they could.

Studios looked to get as much money as quickly as they could before a home video release.

COVID-19 has changed all that. And the nature of the change isn’t clear yet.

Anecdotally, I’ve seen Disney fans complain a lot about how the studio has called off a theatrical release for Mulan in favor of a $29.99 digital release for people who subscribe to the company’s Disney + service. (You pay the $29.99 fee on top of the monthly subscription cost.)

More broadly, will all the COVID-19 changes force studios to be more frugal? No more $250 million (or more) blockbusters. with a star getting $20 million? (Daniel Craig’s reported fee for No Time to Die is $25 million.)

We’ll see. For Bond fans, let me make an optimistic point. Over the decades, Bond has shown it can go small (or at least less blockbuster) at key points. Bond likely has a future in the post-COVID-19 era.

It’s just that No Time to Die is caught in the middle.

A modest proposal: Video game about making of B25

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

There have been various video games featuring James Bond. But what about a video game about the making of a James Bond movie? Specifically about the making of Bond 25/No Time to Die.

Format: You are Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions navigating the various problems of making Bond 25/No Time to Die.

Game begins: It is 2015. Daniel Craig says he’d rather slit his wrists than play James Bond again.

Ominous music plays.

Level 1: Broccoli observes conflicting press reports. Daily Mail says Craig turns down a big offer. BBC says that may not be the case.

Broccoli screen tests possible replacements. One is Tom Hiddleston (or is slightly renamed to avoid lawsuits.) Broccoli isn’t happy.

Level 2: Broccoli produces Othello play, featuring Daniel Craig as Iago, hoping to keep him interested in Bond.

Level 3: Neal Purvis and Robert Wade say they can’t imagine writing another James Bond film. Broccoli has to change their minds.

Level 4: Broccoli finally gets Craig onboard.

Level 5: Director search. Includes Danny Boyle pitching idea by himself and John Hodge. Hodge displaces Purvis and Wade.

Level 6: Broccoli and Boyle have their differences. Boyle leaves (or is fired?).

Level 7: Director search II. Broccoli checks out various Boyle replacements.

Level 8: Title debate between Broccoli and studios.

Level 9: Production

Level 10: Post-production and, then, CORONAVIRUS. Broccoli fights with a giant COVID-19 virus. Large, symphonic score.

MGM gets into PVOD via Bill & Ted 3

MGM’s Leo the Lion logo

It doesn’t get a lot of 007 fan discussion but Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, is dipping its toe in the premium video on demand water with Bill & Ted Face the Music. 

The third Bill & Ted movie is a project of Orion, a brand of MGM. It’s coming out on Aug. 28 “in traditional theatres, drive-ins and PVOD,” as noted by Exhibitor Relations Co. Essentially it’s being released by both traditional and PVOD means amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

To be clear there are a lot of differences between Bill & Ted 3 and No Time to Die. Bill & Ted is a smaller budgeted film. MGM’s Orion brand is set up to release less expensive movies.

Also, Bill & Ted 3 is a “an acquisition title” for Orion, The Hollywood Reporter noted in a July 23 story.

No Time to Die, meanwhile is part of MGM’s crown jewels, the Bond franchise. The 25th 007 film has a reported $250 million budget. The conventional wisdom is it needs a big theatrical release.

Walt Disney Co. earlier this week, opted to move one of its big projects, Mulan, to PVOD. It will be available for $29.99 to people who already subscribe to its Disney + streaming service.

How much does any of this have to do with No Time to Die? Maybe nothing. At the very least, MGM is getting a little experience with PVOD.

Billy Goldenberg, composer for famous TV shows, dies

Title card for the Columbo episode Murder by the Book

Billy Goldenberg, who scored a number of key television productions in the 1970s, died this week at 84, Variety reported.

Goldenberg composed the score for the 1971 TV movie Ransom for a Dead Man, which served as the second pilot for Columbo. The composer was brought back for a few episodes when Columbo went to series.

Perhaps his most famous Columbo effort was Murder by the Book, the first regular series installment.

The episode’s director (Steven Spielberg) and writer (Steven Bochco) would both become famous over long careers. But Goldenberg more than held his own with the score, which included sound effects similar to a typewriter.

In the episode, Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) plays his usual cat-and-mouse game with half of a famous writing team (Jack Cassidy) who has killed his partner (Martin Milner), who did all the work.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the first time Goldenberg did the music for a Spielberg-directed TV show.

Goldenberg also credited for providing the scores for LA 2017 (an episode of The Name of the Game directed by Spielberg); the 1969 pilot for Night Gallery, written by Rod Serling, which had a Spielberg-directed segment; and Duel, a 1971 TV movie starring Dennis Weaver and helmed by Spielberg.

Murder by the Book made Columbo a hit. It would run until 1977 on NBC. Columbo would then be revived on ABC from 1989 to 2003.

Goldenberg also scored the 1973 TV movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders. That led to the 1973-78 series Kojak with Telly Savalas. Goldenberg also provided the theme for the show’s first four seasons.

No Time to Die: Waiting for news

New No Time to Die poster

So are we any closer to knowing the fate of No Time to Die?

Answer: Not really.

A Dutch fan site, in an Aug. 3 post, says (via Google translate) there’s a “pretty big” chance that the 25th James Bond film will make its currently scheduled November release date.

“Maybe even 70%.,” according to the website.

The thing is, Bond fans don’t know. It’s hard to tell if the studios involved (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, or Universal, which is handling international distribution) know at this point.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a moving target. The United States is the global hot spot for the pandemic, with some of its most-populated states (Florida, Texas and California) some of the worst locations for the pandemic.

Do studios follow the pattern that Warner Bros. seems to be following with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (an international release in August with a limited U.S. release in September)?

The thing is, AT&T owned-Warner Bros. is a bigger operation than MGM. Warner Bros. has more options than MGM, the run of Hollywood’s studio litter, has.

For now, there’s a lot more uncertainty than certainty. We’ll see.

Wilford Brimley in spy entertainment

Wilford Brimley as President Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisited.

Wilford Brimley died over the weekend at the age of 85. He’s being remembered for a number of roles in movies, TV and commercials. But his long career included some appearances in the spy genre.

Brimley (born Sept. 27, 1934) was less than a year older than actor Robert Conrad (born March 1, 1935). But in 1979, Conrad reprised his role as dashing U.S. Secret Service agent James West, with Brimley playing President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisited.

In the TV movie, Michelito Loveless Jr. (Paul Williams) has kidnapped Cleveland, Queen Victoria, the Czar of Russia and the King of Spain. The villain has replaced them with clones (referred to as “replicas”).

West and his partner Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) finally meet up with the president. “Aren’t you the people who are supposed to be sure this doesn’t happen to the president of the United States?” Brimley’s Cleveland asks.

A bigger spy role for Brimley was in 1985’s Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

The film was intended to launch a franchise. The producers enlisted two alumni of the James Bond film franchise, director Guy Hamilton and screenwriter Christopher Wood.

Brimley was the head of a secret United States organization which took on missions where the U.S. could disavow its operatives (sounds familiar). Brimley’s chief character was prepared to commit suicide if things came to that.

The agency abducts a New York City policeman (Fred Ward) and trains him to be an agent. Ward’s character is trained by Chiun (Joel Gray) and is assigned to take out an evil businessman who is also a U.S. military contractor.

UPDATE (Feb. 3, 2020): Here’s the trailer for Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

 

U.N.C.L.E. script: The Never-Never Affair

Solo and Illya during the theater gunfight in The Never-Never Affair

The Never-Never Affair was an important episode for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Supposedly, after it aired, NBC executives decided its balance of drama and humor were what they were looking for in the show.

It also launched Dean Hargrove’s tenure as an U.N.C.L.E. writer. Up until this time, Hargrove had been primarily a comedy writer. Hargrove, in a 2019 video interview said his U.N.C.L.E. work boosted his career.

A preliminary script for the episode, dated Jan. 25, 1965, indicated there was a lot of work to be done before it’d be ready for airing on March 22.

The Jan. 25 script weighs in at 68 pages. The rule of thumb is each script page roughly equals one minute of screen time. In 1965, excluding commercials, an U.N.C.L.E. episode was 50 minutes, including titles and a preview of next week’s episode.

The early script has the core of what would be broadcast — the story’s “innocent,” Many Stevenson, is an U.N.C.L.E. translator yearns for the excitement of espionage. Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) gives her a pretend mission (she’s really getting more tobacco for U.N.C.L.E. chief Alexander Waverly.

But she gets a microdot (intended to be taken by courier to Europe) by mistake. She is then sought by heroes and villains as she takes a route in New York City that Solo gave her.

However, a lot of streamlining would take place.

Agent Falchek we hardly knew ye: The story begins with U.N.C.L.E. agent Falchek being hunted by a team of Thrush operatives. Falchek has a microdot with information about the villainous organization and Thrush wants it back.

The sequence plays out pretty much like the final version. Falchek would be replaced by Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum), cutting down the number of characters in the story.

In any case, Falchek brings the microdot to U.N.C.E. headquarters. Falchek later joins Solo and Illya in seeking Mandy. Falchek catches up to Mandy first but gets shot by Thrush agents for his trouble.

On page 24, the stage directions refer to “Falchek’s body” (one of the Thrush agents is searching Falchek’s pockets). But on the next page, a doctor tells Solo that Falchek is still alive despite being shot twice.

In the final version, there is no Falchek. It’s Illya who brings in the microdot. Illya also catches up to Mandy first, though he doesn’t get shot.

Theater shootout: When Hargrove pitched his Never-Never idea, one of its highlights was a shootout in a movie theater. A villain would be behind the movie screen hooting at the U.N.C.L.E. agents.

The Jan. 25 script has some differences from the broadcast version. The movie being shown is an “Italian melodrama” involving Mafia types. In the broadcast version, it’d be a war movie.

Solo and Illya, once they figure out where the Thrush assassin is empty their guns into the screen. Hargrove refers to the pistols as revolvers while the guns used in the show were P-38s. The killer falls through the screen, dead.

Hargrove’s stage directions have a touch not seen in the episode. “THE END” is being shown on the movie screen as Solo and Illya inspect the body.

Dean Hargrove

U.N.C.L.E. raid: Eventually, Mandy is captured by Thrush and taken to a field center disguised as a garage. Solo opts to go inside while Illya waits for reinforcements.

Hargrove’s script has a longer sequence of Solo dealing with a mechanic who is really a Thrush agent. The broadcast version shortened the sequence considerably.

As in the final version, Hargrove’s script has Solo captured but improbably getting the upper hand.

The Jan. 25 script, however, has an entire U.N.C.L.E. raid sequence, including Illya squaring off against Thrush henchwoman Miss Raven. In the final version, viewers could hear some shooting sound effects before Waverly and some agents show up.

The end: In Hargrove’s script, the final scene was at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. A courier named Pearson takes custody of the microdot.

Waverly remembers he still doesn’t have any new tobacco and the shop will close in a half-hour. In this script, Illya volunteers to get the tobacco because “I’m low on tobacco myself.”

In the final version, Solo gets the job of fetching Waverly his tobacco because of all the trouble he caused by playing the prank on Many in the first place. “Yes, I feel it is coming to me,” Solo says in the broadcast version.