SPECTRE by the numbers (and not just 007)

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE is starting production in Rome, for a five-week shoot, including a car chase, that will cost almost as much (if not more) than some movies.

So, here’s a breakdown of the kind of spending that’s known about the 24th James Bond film. We’ll assume a total production budget of $300 million.

According to information from hacked Sony documents, the budget was on pace to well exceed that, but there were also efforts to rein it in. We’ll assume the trends cancel themselves out so we’ll go with a nice round number with $300 million.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume a 30-week shooting schedule. Principal photography began on Dec. 8 and is supposed to run seven months. Actual total may run a week or two less than 30 weeks, but some filming was done before principal photography began. So, again, we’ll use a round number.

Cost per week, total: $10 million.

Cost per week, Rome shoot: $12 million (five weeks, $60 million, according to figures reported by Variety.com)

ESTIMATED COST OF NOTABLE JAMES BOND MOVIES (not adjusted for inflation)

Dr. No: $1 million

From Russia With Love: $2 million

Goldfinger: $3 million

You Only Live Twice: $9.5 million (Ken Adam’s volcano set alone cost more than Dr. No)

The Spy Who Loved Me: $14 million

Moonraker: $31 million to $34 million, depending on estimate (Initial plan was to keep it close to Spy’s budget but it was evident that wouldn’t hold)

Tomorrow Never Dies: $110 million (first to exceed $100 million)

Quantum of Solace: $230 million (first to exceed $200 million)

SPECTRE: $300 million (first to reach $300 million).

One week’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than You Only Live Twice, which had the one set that cost more than Dr. No.

Put another way, each day’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than Dr. No. At $10 million a week, if you shot seven days a week, equals $1.43 million daily.

ESTIMATED COST OF OTHER 2015 SPY MOVIES

Taken 3: $48 million

Kingsman: The Secret Service: $81 million

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: $75 million

To be fair, none of this takes into account 50 years of inflation. At the same time, this exercise is also a reminder that studios don’t play with Monopoly money. Studios don’t get to spend, or receive, inflation-adjusted dollars.

Louis Jourdan dies at 93

Louis Jourdan in Octopussy

Louis Jourdan in Octopussy

Louis Jourdan, a star of the musical Gigi who later played villains on some spy-related entertainment, has died at 93, according to AN OBITUARY ON VARIETY’S WEBSITE.

Jourdan’s long movie career went back to 1939. By the 1950s, he alternated between film and television.

With his elegant manner, he was perfect to play sophisticated villains. He appeared three times in The FBI in stories involving spy rings or plots involving national security. Perhaps his best appearance on the series was his first, Rope of Gold. In the episode, Jourdan gets to show off his acting ability when his character describes how, as a boy, he killed his father.

Jourdan played villain Kamal in Octopussy. Kamal is conspiring with a Russian general to detonate an atomic bomb at a U.S. base in West Germany. The explosion is to appear to be accidental, which will spur momentum for Europe to ban atomic weapons.

One of the highlights of the 1983 film depicts Bond outcheating Kamal at backgammon (a game 007 actor Roger Moore played with producer Albert R. Broccoli for high stakes). Another, of a sort, is when Octopussy (Maud Adams) confronts Kamal after the plot has been foiled byBond. “Octo-poosy, Octo-poosy,” Kamal says.

UPDATE: Roger Moore sent out the following message via Twitter.

Kingsman’s opening U.S. weekend: $35.6 million

kingsman logo

Kingsman: The Secret Service will have an estimated $35.6 million opening weekend in the United States, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO website.

That was well above projections for $20 million for the Feb. 13-15 weekend, according to DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD. It’s also near the $39.2 million opening weekend of Taken 3, the year’s first major spy film, which debuted in January.

Kingsman was a distant second to Fifty Shades of Grey, where the estimated three-day figure is $81.7 million, according to Box Office Mojo. 20th Century Fox essentially marketed Kingsman as an action alternative to Fifty Shades.

Kingsman is based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. Matthew Vaughn’s movie changed the spy organization from the comic book’s MI6 to a privately financed international group. It also added memes from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers.

Familiar meme: megalomaniac environmentalists

This weekend’s U.S. release of Kingsman: The Secret Service marks the return of a familiar meme in spy entertainment — the megalomaniac environmentalist who has the means to take radical action (i.e. wipe people out) to restore ecological balance.

This is a sampling of both television and movie efforts.

Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn) looks displeased with associate Kitten Twitty (Jenie Jackson)

Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn) looks displeased with associate Kitten Twitty (Jenie Jackson)

The Wild, Wild West: The Night of the Murderous Spring (first broadcast April 15, 1966): Dr. Loveless, after three prior defeats by U.S. Secret Service agents James West and Artemus Gordon, is in the midst of his biggest scheme yet.

Loveless (Michael Dunn) arranges to use West (Robert Conrad) as a test subject for his newest discovery. When Loveless’ powder is mixed with water, it’s absorbed into people. When that happens, they lose their inhibitions and their aggressive tendencies are magnified. The powder also causes hallucinations.

In separate incidents, West imagines he kills Loveless and Gordon (Ross Martin). When the real Arty gets into town, he’s told West has been taken to a hospital. It’s really a cover for Loveless’s hideout.

The plan is revealed. Loveless will use a large number of birds to distribute his powder. It’s the start of spring. The birds will reach water, spread the powder and people will kill themselves. Loveless provides a demonstration where the bulk of the “hospital’s” staff kill themselves off.

West and Gordon barely avert catastrophe. Loveless and two women, Antoinette and Kitten Twitty, flee on a boat across a lake. West shoots a hole in the boat and it sinks. After 20 minutes, the agents give up. Bad move, but that won’t become evident until the show’s second season.

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die poster

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die poster


Kiss the Girls and Makes Them Die (1966): Ardonian (Raf Vallone) is concerned about the prospects of overpopulation. (The world’s population was about 3 billion at the time, it reached 7 billion in 2011.)

Ardonian, being a megalomaniac, isn’t content to just fret. He plans to launch a satellite that will zap the earth. Sexual activity will stop and the population will decline naturally as people die off.

Meanwhile, Ardonian is abducting various beautiful women and having them frozen. When it’s time to repopulate the Earth, Ardonian will have sex with the women and get them pregnant.

Ardonian’s activities, however, don’t go unnoticed. American agent Kelly (Mike Connors) and British agent Susan Fleming (Dorothy Provine) eventully join forces and foil the scheme.

The Malthusian Affair, unmade television movie, 1976: Sam Rolfe wrote the pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and was its first-season producer. In 1976, he was hired to write a new U.N.C.L.E. television movie that would double as a pilot for a new series.

The title refers to Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), who warned about population growth in his day.

The head of Mogul Industries is a big believer in Malthus. So he’s going to kill off vast numbers of people to restore ecological balance and run things himself. (Funny how megalomaniacs never volunteer to sacrifice themselves.)

U.N.C.L.E. agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, aided by two younger agents, put a stop to the plan. But their luck with studio executives wasn’t nearly as good so the story never went before the cameras.

For more information, CLICK HERE For The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode guide’s page on never-made U.N.C.L.E. projects.

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster


The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Industrialist Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) is concerned about the world’s oceans. All those billions of people keep polluting them.

Solution: Snatch nuclear submarines and launch their missiles to start a nuclear war. Stromberg uses a specially built freighter. Its front opens up, swallowing up the subs. Stromberg also has some kind of electronic device to disable the submarines, making it easier to make off with them.

James Bond (Roger Moore) and Soviet agent Triple-X (Barbara Bach) are assigned by their respective governments to find the missing submarines. Similar to Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die, the two agents initially oppose each other before joining forces.

The two are aboard a U.S. submarine to observe Stromberg’s massive ship when the megalomaniac adds that sub to his collection. The timing is good. Stromberg is just about to execute the final stages of his plan. Long story short, the plan is foiled, Bond kills Stromberg and Bond and Triple-X have sex.

Moonraker teaser poster

Moonraker teaser poster

Moonraker (1979): Industrialist Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) has two obsessions — the exploration of space and fixing the environmental mess on Earth.

Like other megalomaniacs, he concludes it’s best to kill off most people, leaving himself in charge. He already has a space station in orbit that nobody knows about because it has a radar jamming system. He plans to make it into an orbiting “stud farm” to repopulate the Earth after he kills off everybody except himself and his employees.

Drax makes his first mistake when he steals one of his own Moonraker shuttles from the British. One of the shuttles Drax planned to use developed a fault. The problem with this move is the British are rather annoyed (they’ve lost a 747 aircraft and its crew was killed). So James Bond (Roger Moore) is on the case.

Bond begins his investigation in Southern California, where the Moonrakers are made. It turns out the CIA has an operative, Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), working undercover there. Like Mike Connors and Dorothy Provine….well, you can guess by now what happens.

The story goes to Venice to Rio to the Brazilian rain forest to, eventually, Outer Space! (as it says in the end titles listing the locations.) The space station will launch globes of a deadly poison to kill off Earth’s population. After dispatching Drax, Holly flies a Moonraker while Bond destroys three launched globes (the others were destroyed previously) with a laser.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015): Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine is the latest megalomaniac to decide he’s the man to solve Earth’s environmental problems.

We’ll avoid the specifics. His plot is similar Dr. Loveless’s, except Valentine’s involves electronics, rather than a chemical.

This being the 21st century, things are nastier. We witness a demonstration of Valentine’s device. Also, it’s implied Valentine is at least partially successful. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people may have died before the plot was stopped.

REVIEW: Kingsman: The Secret Service

kingsman logoThis review contains a significant spoiler to make a broader point. There will be a warning.

By Bill Koenig

Matthew Vaughn set out to make an old-fashioned James Bond movie. It turns out Kingsman: The Secret Service is like Die Another Day — an excellent first half, with an overwrought second.

The first half of Kingsman, which Vaughn directed and co-scripted, stylishly updates familiar spy memes. It draws from 1960s Bond movies (including a score that evokes John Barry without copying), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers while updating them for 21st century audiences.

So far, so good. In fact, it’s better than good. You get socked in, you care about the heroes. Things move at a brisk pace.

Then, roughly at the midway point, there is a long, violent sequence. The purpose is to show (rather than tell) the villain’s scheme. But it’s so over the top, bordering on revolting, is like’s violence porn.

Now, I can hear some reactions now. “Whaddya expect? It’s Matthew Vaughn! It’s Mark Millar!” (Millar wrote and Dave Gibbons drew the comic book this film is based on, for those unfamiliar with the source material.)

True enough. Vaughn is known for violent films such as Layer Cake. Millar wrote Marvel and DC Comics stories of note to turn himself into a brand.

Still, much of it is unnecessary. The sequence could have been equally horrifying, and set the audience on edge, while still not becoming violence porn. But it doesn’t.

The plot is, essentially, a dressed up version of a megalomaniac trying to take over the world plot. Said megalomaniac here is Samuel L. Jackson, as Valentine, a billionaire who speaks with a speech impediment.

Valentine’s activities come to the attention of the Kingsmen, a private, non-governmental intelligence agency. One of its best operatives is Harry Hart (Colin Firth). Harry has a lot of his mind. Besides his normal derring do, he is trying to repay a slain colleague. Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the dead Kingsman’s son, had great promise but isn’t going anywhere. His mother lives with a low-life. Eggsy has been in trouble with the law.

When Valentine has another Kingsman operative killed, there’s an opening in the organization. Harry sponsors Eggsy, who’s up competing against a group of mostly upper class snobs.

Valentine’s ultimate plan is along the lines of The Spy Who Loved Me or Moonraker. But this being the 21st century and a Matthew Vaughn-directed film, things are more cynical than that. It turns out, some world leaders are more than willing to be a part of the scheme.

The aforementioned major spoiler follows. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know.

Eventually, the Kingsmen — well, what’s left of them — get the upper hand. They even manager to activate an implant in the necks of those world leaders who are collaborating with Valentine. As a result, their heads explode.

One of those people whose head explodes is U.S. President Barack Obama. Oh, he’s not named as such. But a tall, thin, African American U.S. president is in a bunker with his trusted advisers and they all have Valentine’s implants. Said U.S. president is photographed from the back. But nobody is fooled about who is this is supposed to be.

Anyway, all of their heads explode. It’s played for laughs — albeit extremely dark humor laughs. It’s part of a broader sequence where various, well-connected members of the 1 percent have their heads explode.

Now, in the “good old days,” escapist spy movies might have actors depicting an actual U.S. president without showing his face. Lyndon B. Johnson made “appearances” in Our Man Flint and The Wrecking Crew. But when such an official was needed for longer stretches, a “generic” U.S. president was shown such as In Like Flint, with actor Andrew Duggan.

Watching this movie, one suspects U.S. cable news networks may end up jumping in. One that’s known for leaning conservative (and owned by the parent company of 20th Century Fox, which released this movie) may call it brilliant satire. Another, known for leaning liberal, may work itself into a frenzy. We’ll see.
End spoiler.

In the end, Kingsman is worth seeing, particularly for fans of the spy genre who like an escpaist bent. However, it had a chance at excellence. It falls short. “Manners maketh man,” as Harry Hart says. Unfortunately, the filmmakers don’t follow their own advice. GRADE: B-Minus, mostly on the strength of the movie’s first half.

UPDATE: Valentine’s basic plot was also done in The Night of the Murderous Spring, near the end of the first season of The Wild Wild West. The episode, directed by Richard Donner, was the fourth appearance of Dr. Loveless. In this outing, he’s developed what amounts to a drug that releases all inhibitions so people kill each other.

In the episode, Loveless (Michael Dunn) is having dinner while James West and Artemus Gordon (Robert Conrad and Ross Martin) are caged up. A thug (Leonard Falk, Robert Conrad’s real life father) is leaning up against the door of a dining room where a large number of people are having food that includes Loveless’s drug. Suddenly, there are screams and yelling. Some of the people try to get out but the thug leans harder against the door to keep them in.

Now, this staging in part reflects the modest budgets for television. But it also forces the viewer to *imagine* the carnage occurring. Kitty, part of Loveless’s inner circle eventually opens the door is horrified. Loveless orders her to clean up the mess. Matthew Vaughn could have learned some lessons watching this episode.

UPDATE II (Feb. 15): Matthew Vaughn denies the U.S. president shown in the movie is supposed to be Barack Obama, the director said in a Feb. 13 story on ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’S WEBSITE.

Here’s the quote:

First of all, it’s not Obama. I just want to be clear. This is not an attack on Obama at all. This is an attack on all politicians, but the easiest way to making the point where people knew that Valentine was in power was to have the White House. We needed someone who was reminiscent of Obama, so that people got the point.

Personally, I think he’s being disingenuous. But there you go.

Post-trailer questions about the U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Fans have now gotten a peek of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie via the teaser trailer that went online Feb. 11. That means one thing: more questions.

So here we go:

What does the score sound like? The trailer put out by Warner Bros. doesn’t use any of Daniel Pemberton’s score, the composer said on Twitter. That’s pretty common, especially for a film’s first trailer. Music is always a big element of a movie. But fans will have to wait longer to sample the results of Pemberton’s labors. Ditto for whether the score uses Jerry Goldsmith’s theme for the original theme for the 1964-68 television series.

What about Young Napoleon Solo? The trailer, understandably, spends most of its time on the movie’s leads: Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin. There was just a quick peek of Hugh Grant as Waverly. During production in 2013, it came out there was a “young Napoleon Solo” character. He didn’t appear in the trailer, so no indications of whether young Solo will be part of an extended flashback sequence or something shorter and faster.

Will the “international criminal organization” be revealed as Thrush? In the movie, the discovery of said organization — with ties to former Nazis — spurs the United States to work together with the Soviet Union in 1963, the year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Will director Guy Ritchie still use Thrush as a name?

On the original show, Thrush was a very massive organization. The shows makers also had trouble with the name. It initially was Thrush. But after the pilot was filmed, other names were considered, including WASP and MAGGOTT. The makers of the show went with Thrush.

The U.N.C.L.E. Special appeared. Will any other memes of the series? Given the movie has an “origin” story, that makes it harder. Some of the memes — the secret headquarters, badges related to the security system, the communicators — were there because U.N.C.L.E. had been well established. Still, some fans feared the U.N.C.L.E. Special might be missing from the film. So perhaps others might be present somehow.

REVIEW: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. trailer

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser trailer debuted Wednesday night. There were at least a couple of surprises. And one possible James Bond homage.

To be specific:

–0:04 mark: Henry Cavill’s Napoleon Solo, in the back seat of a vintage car, asks, “Are they still following us?” He employs dramatic pauses similar to the original Solo, Robert Vaughn. Why is that surprising? Cavill has said he never watched an episode of the original 1964-68 series. Meanwhile, Brit Cavill sounds convincingly American (not surprising given how he played Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel).

–Armie Hammer, as Illya Kuryakin, has a strong Russian accent. It’s much stronger than David McCallum, the actor who originated the part, ever displayed.

–The homage? Around the 1:00 mark, CIA agent Solo and KGB operative Kuryakin fight in a rest room, demolishing it. That’s extremely similar to the pre-credits sequence of the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale, the rebooted 007 movie where the British agent records his first kill.

According to the trailer, the year is 1963. An unknown criminal organization “with ties to former Nazis” is said to have built an atomic bomb. This forces the United States and Soviet Union to cooperate — even to the point of assigning Solo and Kuryakin, shown here as being foes, to work together.

Obviously, this just a taste of the movie. It doesn’t have familiar U.N.C.L.E. memes such as the secret headquarters, because U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t been formed yet. At the very end of the trailer, we catch a glimpse of Hugh Grant as Waverly. It’s hard to evaluate anything about how the actor will do playing a role originated by Leo G. Carroll.

The trailer, in effect, was the first “official” U.N.C.L.E. production since the 1983 TV movie The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It’s interesting. You can’t evaluate an entire movie based on a trailer, of course. For those who welcome a new take on U.N.C.L.E., there’s nothing to be discouraged about. For those who wanted the series left alone, they likely won’t be reassured.

GRADE: Incomplete. But we’d like to see more. You can view the trailer below:

UPDATE: Missed this the first three times, but at 1:08 mark, Kuryakin appears to be using a preliminary version of what would become the U.N.C.L.E. Special on the television series.

1:19 mark: another Vaughn like delivery by Cavill: “This could get a little messy.”

1:57 mark: possible homage to the original series and the third-season opener, The Her Master’s Voice Affair.

UPDATE II: Warner Bros. has yanked the video we embedded.

UPDATE III: This embedded video still works.

UPDATE IV: Could this be the movie’s version of the U.N.C.L.E. Special?

Armie Hammer with a weapon that looks like an U.N.C.L.E. special

Armie Hammer with a weapon that looks like an U.N.C.L.E. special

UPDATE V: The official WEBSITE FOR THE MOVIE is now up.

UPDATE VI: Daniel Pemberton, who composed music for the film, says via Twitter the trailer doesn’t contain his score.

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