Mission: Impossible 7 (and Bond) questions

The trailer for Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One is out. For understandable reasons, fans of the James Bond films are interested.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

Is Tom Cruise’s M:I series ripping off Bond? You might not want to throw bricks from inside a glasshouse.

Live And Let Die evoked “Blaxploitation” films of the early 1970s. The Man With the Golden Gun evoked kung fu films from the same period. Moonraker evoked Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (even using the same musical notes from John Williams’ score from the latter movie). Moonraker also has similarities to the 1966 movie Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die.

So how would you phrase it?

It depends on how well the ideas are executed.

Movie audiences, generally, don’t care about what ideas are borrowed from whom. They care about whether they like the movie or not.

What makes Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible films different from the most recent Bond movies?

The most recent M:I movies (2011, 2015, 2018) are, for the most part, more fun than the Bond installments of the same period. According to Barbara Broccoli, No Time to Die was a “cinematic masterpiece” (source: No Time to Die official podcast).

No Time to Die enthusiasts would agree. Others may or may not say they had a better time viewing the three M:I films of the 2010s.

That’s all a subject for debate. The seventh M:I film won’t be out for more than a year. We’ll see how it goes.

Mission: Impossible 7 trailer officially released

Paramount released the trailer for Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One today after it had leaked out over the weekend.

The trailer for the seventh film in the M:I series starring Tom Cruise contains some homages to James Bond films such as:

–Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt driving a car with its doors knocked off, similar to Daniel Craig’s Bond in Quantum of Solace.

–Cruise/Hunt driving a small yellow car in a chase, similar to Roger Moore’s Bond driving an extremely small car in a chase in For Your Eyes Only.

–A fight on top of a train, with the participants having to duck when approaching tunnels, a la Octopussy.

–Cruise/Hunt riding a motorcycle off a cliff similar to Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in GoldenEye.

The trailer has some striking images, including an Osprey aircraft in flight and a train locomotive going off a cliff.

Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One is scheduled for release next year, with the following installment coming out in 2024. Originally, the two movies were to have been filmed back-to-back. That was before delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The trailer is below.

Mission: Impossible 7 trailer leaks

Tom Cruise

A trailer for Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One leaked for a time on social media before being yanked by Paramount.

A version of the trailer for the movie had been shown last month at CinemaCon. An official trailer hasn’t been released. The existence of the leak was reported by The Hollywood Reporter and other outlets.

A website called The Digital Fix quoted David Ellison, a producer on Top Gun: Maverick and the M:I movie, as saying the trailer will “drop next week.”

The video for the seventh Mission: Impossible film starring Tom Cruise that circulated on social media appears to have homages to the James Bond film series. They include scenes that evoke For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, and GoldenEye.

Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One is scheduled for release on July 14, 2023. The eighth film will be released in 2024.

M:I 7 gets a title as part of CinemaCon preview

Tom Cruise

The delayed Mission: Impossible 7 now has a title, Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One, it was revealed during a preview at CinemaCon.

The reveal was reported by various outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline: Hollywood, and Empire. CinemaCon is the convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners. The M:I news was disclosed at a Paramount presentation at the convention.

The seventh and eighth installments of the Tom Cruise M:I film series have been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both movies are directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who also helmed the previous two films in the series.

Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One currently has a July 14, 2023 release date, with the next M:I movie coming on June 28, 2024. Cruise, who turns 60 on July 3, both stars in and produces the M:I films.

Another 60th: Hope and Crosby provide 007 a `Road’ map

Bob Hope, left, and Bing Crosby in the opening to The Road to Hong Kong

Originally posted in 2012.

Five months before the debut of Dr. No, the final Bob Hope-Bing Crosby “Road” movie came out, The Road to Hong Kong. The film, we suspect by coincidence, provided a road map to the future of 007 movies.

The 1962 movie had some major departures from previous “Road” movies. It was produced in the U.K. and was released by United Artists. The earlier films in the series had been produced in Hollywood and released by Paramount. Dorothy Lamour, the female lead of the previous Road movies, makes a cameo as herself but Joan Collins is the main female lead.

The change in locale meant the Norman Panama-Melvin Frank production (both would write the script, Panama directed and Frank produced; the duo had written the 1946 Road to Utopia) would take advantage of U.K. movie talent: Syd Cain was one of the art directors. Maurice Binder designed the main titles. Walter Gotell is one of the main lieutenants of a mysterious organization — stop us if you’ve heard this before — trying to take over the world. Bob Simmons shows up late in the movie as an astronaut in the employ of the villainous organization.

What’s more, there are “animated” sets (designed by Roger Furse) at the villain’s lair that would do Ken Adam proud. Two future participants in the 1967 Casino Royale (Peter Sellers and David Niven) show up in cameos. Did we mention Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin making cameos at the end? Well, they do.

If you’ve never seen The Road to Hong Kong, you can CLICK HERE and watch the 91-minute film on YouTube (at least until it gets taken off that Web site). While a comedy, it is a preview of the more fantastic Bond movies that would emerge a few years later, starting with 1967’s You Only Live Twice.

Nehemiah Persoff, veteran character actor, dies

Nehemiah Persoff in Mission: Impossible

Nehemiah Persoff, a character actor who excelled at playing villains, has died at 102, according to Deadline: Hollywood and other outlets.

Persoff, over a career lasting from the late 1940s to almost 2000, played:

–A Blofeld-like villain in the 1961 John Wayne Western The Comancheros;

–A secondary Thrush villain out to kill his former mentor Mandor (Jack Lord) in The Master’s Touch Affair in the final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.;

–Three episodes of The Wild Wild West, including the show’s 1965 pilot;

–Two episodes of I Spy, three episodes of Mission: Impossible, an episode of It Takes a Thief, and seven episodes of Hawaii Five-O.

Persoff could play heavies in comedies as well as dramas.

For example, Persoff played gangster Little Bonaparte in 1959’s Some Like It Hot. The mobster was hearing impaired, wearing hearing aids. Little Bonaparte has fellow gangster Spats Columbo (George Raft) and his men gunned down at a party, with the killer coming out of a large cake.

A lawman played by Pat O’Brien enters asking what happened.

“There was something in that cake that didn’t agree with them,” Little Bonaparte replies.

The actor was versatile and didn’t only portray villains.

In a 1975 episode of Columbo, he played a nightclub owner who is blackmailing a former Nazi (Jack Cassidy). Persoff’s character is killed by Cassidy’s magician character during the middle of his act.

In the final episode of Gunsmoke, he played an immigrant father who pressures his eldest son (Robert Urich) to fight him as a rite of passage.

Cruise’s M:I, like NTTD before it, is in ‘the barrel’

Tom Cruise

Exploding production budgets and release delays stemming (at least in part) to COVID-19. That’s a familiar tale to fans of the cinematic James Bond and No Time to Die.

But, based on a Hollywood Reporter story posted March 24, the scenario is being repeated with Mission: Impossible 7 and 8.

Both projects have been in “the barrel,” something hit by bad luck — bad luck that lasts a long time.

No Time to Die, the 25th Bond film produced by Eon Productions, cost about $300 million to make. The movie incurred five delays, with three because of COVID-19. The other two were because the movie’s original director, Danny Boyle, departed because of “creative differences.”

Originally, Mission: Impossible 7 and 8, starring and produced by Tom Cruise, were to be made back to back.

M:I 7 has been delayed four times, THR noted, with a current release date of July 2023. MI:7 isn’t done yet while work has started on M:I 8, the entertainment news site said.

Here’s an excerpt:

By holding on to the film as a work in progress while working on the eighth, Cruise and his writer-director, Christopher McQuarrie, ensure that Paramount won’t have much luck imposing budget restrictions on what is allegedly the final installment in the franchise. It also gives Cruise — who has creative control — flexibility with respect to the cliffhanger ending of M:I 7.

Cruise’s Mission: Impossible movies have been popular. In the 2010s, there were more M:I installments (2011, 2015, and 2018) than Bond films (2012 and 2015). Some Bond fans point out that some M:I sequences were an homage to Bond. And the M:I films haven’t matched Bond’s global box office.

Regardless, since COVID-19, Cruise’s series has been challenged by the pandemic, as was No Time to Die, finally released in the fall of 2021.

THR reports MI: 7’s budget is at $290 million and counting (in the same territory as No Time to Die).

Another interesting tidbit in The Hollywood Reporter story: Cruise vetoed the idea of Paramount, the studio that releases the M:I movies, coming up with a television spinoff. The idea “was no-go,” THR said.

That sounds similar to how Eon Productions, which makes the Bond film series is resisting Bond spinoffs for streaming television.

Mission: Impossible originated as a TV series made by Desilu in 1966. It became a Paramount property when Lucille Ball sold Desilu to Gulf + Western, then the parent company of Paramount. That transition took place during the 1967-68 season. One week, the end titles had a Desilu logo. The next week, the end titles carried a “Paramount Television” logo.

You can CLICK HERE to read the entire THR story, written by veteran entertainment journalist Kim Masters.

The other Fleming 60th anniversary

Ian Fleming, drawn by Mort Drucker, from the collection of the late John Griswold.

Adapted from a 2015 post.

NEW INTRODUCTION: 2022, of course, marks the 60th anniversary of the James Bond film series. It also marks the 60th anniversary of when Ian Fleming became involved with what would become The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Fleming spent three days talking to television producer Norman Felton (born in London but who emigrated to the U.S.). The James Bond author made contributions that had an impact on the final product.

ORIGINAL POST: A Bond collector friend let us look over his photocopies of various Ian Fleming correspondence. Much of it included the 007 author’s involvement with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series.

First, there were photocopies of 11 Western Union telegraph blanks where Fleming in October 1962 provided ideas to U.N.C.L.E. producer Norman Felton. The first blank began with “springboards,” ideas that could be the basis for episodes.

One just reads, “Motor racing, Nurburgring.” Fleming had a similar idea for a possible James Bond television series in the 1950s. This notion was included in this year’s 007 continuation novel Trigger Mortis by Anthony Horwitz, which boasts of containing original Ian Fleming content.

On the fifth telegram blank, Fleming includes this idea about Napoleon Solo: ““Cooks own meals in rather coppery kitchen.”

Whether intentional or not, this idea saw the light of day in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie released in August. In an early scene in the film, Solo (Henry Cavill) is wearing a chef’s apron, having just prepared dinner for Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) after getting her across the Berlin Wall.

Fleming also made some other observations about Solo and the proposed series.

Telegraph blank No. 8: “He must not be too ‘UN’” and not be “sanctimonious, self righteous. He must be HUMAN above all else –- but slightly super human.”

Telegraph blank No. 11: “In my mind, producing scripts & camera will *make* this series. The plots will be secondary.”

Ian Fleming notes, written on one of 11 telegram blanks, and given to Norman Felton

On May 8, 1963, the Ashley-Steiner agency sends a letter to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which includes details about Fleming’s financial demands for being a participant in U.N.C.L.E.

“He definitely wants to be involved in the series itself if there is a sale and is asking for a mutual commitment for story lines on the basis of two out of each 13 programs at a fee of $2500.00 per story outline,” according to the letter.

Fleming also wants a fee of $25,000 to be a consultant for the series per television season. In that role, the author wants two trips per “production year” to travel to Los Angeles for at least two weeks each trip and for as long as four weeks each trip. The author wants to fly to LA first class and also wants a per diem on the trips of $50 a day.

On June 7, 1963, Felton sends Fleming a letter containing material devised by Sam Rolfe, the writer-producer commissioned to write the U.N.C.L.E. pilot.

“In the latter part of the material, which deals with the characterization of Napoleon Solo, you will discover that those elements which you set down during our New York visit have been retained,” Felton writes Fleming. “However, the concept for a base of operations consisting of a small office with more or less a couple of rooms has been changed to a more extensive setup.”

This refers to the U.N.C.L.E. organization that Rolfe has created in the months since the original Fleming-Felton meetings in New York.

“It will give us scope and variety whenever we need it, although as I have said, in many stories we may use very little of it,” Felton writes. “This is its virtue. Complex, but used sparingly.

“In my opinion almost all of our stories we will do little more than ‘touch base’ at a portion of the unusual headquarters in Manhattan, following which we will quickly move to other areas of the world.”

At the same time, Felton asks Fleming for additional input.

“I want the benefit of having your suggestions,” Felton writes Fleming. “Write them in the margin of the paper, on a telegraph blank or a paper towel and send them along. We are very excited, indeed, in terms of MR. SOLO.” (emphasis added)

However, Fleming — under pressure from 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman — soon signs away his rights to U.N.CL.E. for 1 British pound.

On July 8, 1963, Felton sends Fleming a brief letter. It reads in part:

Your new book, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, is delightful. I am hoping that things will calm down for you in the months to come so that in due time you will be able to develop another novel to give further pleasure to your many readers throughout the world.

They tell me that there are some islands in the Pacific where one can get away from it all. They are slightly radioactive, but for anyone with the spirit of adventure, this should be no problem.

Fleming responds on July 16, 1963.

Very many thanks for your letter and it was very pleasant to see you over here although briefly and so frustratingly for you.

Your Pacific islands sound very enticing, it would certainly be nice to see some sun as ever since you charming Americans started your long range weather forecasting we have had nothing but rain. You might ask them to lay off.

With best regards and I do hope Solo gets off the pad in due course.

Hard reboots vs. continuations

In the coming years, the James Bond franchise will need to decide how to continue. The basic paths involve hard reboots (which Bond has done once) versus continuations.

What follows is a sampling of each.

Mission: Impossible (1988): A new television version of Mission: Impossible debuted in 1988. Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) came out of retirement after his protege was murdered.

Phelps took command of a new collection of agents. Some of the original operatives, played by Greg Morris and Lynda Day George, appeared in one-offs. The series ran for two years.

Mission: Impossible (1996 and beyond): When Mission: Impossible went to the big screen in the 1990s, there was a hard reboot. So hard that Phelps (now played by Jon Voight) was the villain, leading star-producer Tom Cruise to become the lead figure. That has continued into the 21st century.

Casino Royale (2006): Eon Productions opted to start over with Casino Royale (a very hard reboot) when Eon’s Barbara Broccoli pushed hard for Daniel Craig to become the new James Bond. That era has now been completed with 2021’s No Time to Die.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015): So much time had elapsed from the 1964-68 television series (and a 1983 made-for-TV movie), a movie would have to do a hard reboot. Early takes included an older Solo paired with a young Kuryakin but it ended up with two actors near the same age, like the original TV show.

Decoding The Man Who Knew Too Much

The Spy Command teamed up with The Spy Movie Navigator for a podcast to decode the 1934 and 1956 versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Director Alfred Hitchcock did his first version of the story fairly early in his career, and early in the sound era of motion pictures.

Hitchcock returned to the tale in the 1950s, now a major director. The 1956 version had James Stewart and Doris Day as stars. Hitchcock also had composer Bernard Herrman and writer John Michael Hayes, who had penned a number of Hitchcock scripts in the 1950s, along for the ride.

The podcast examining all this runs for about 90 minutes. It can be found here:

Website link: https://spymovienavigator.com/podcast/the-man-who-knew-too-much/

Apple: https://apple.co/3AOBaKm

Overcast: https://overcast.fm/+Spu89lNLg

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3ghbw7U

Castbox: https://bit.ly/3s6Nimi

Podcast Addict: https://podcastaddict.com/episode/134824797