007’s love-hate relationship with The Beatles

Poster for A Hard Day’s Night starring The Beatles, another United Artists profit engine.

By J. H. Bográn, Guest Writer

Although it’s hard to imagine now, there was a time when some people didn’t like the music from The Beatles. Back in 1964, the group was still a relatively new band that the teenagers went crazy over. In contrast, adults thought of The Beatles as a fad, as ephemeral as a lightening. Oh, and they also thought The Beatles made nothing but noise.

1964 was the year Goldfinger was released. The movie is consistently in everybody’s top-five lists of James Bond’s movies. One scene in particular offers undisputed proof of the loathing that then-adults had for such musical styling. Upon finding a champagne bottle gone hot James utters this admonition to a wide-eyed Jill Masterson:

“My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!

Shocking, isn’t it? Positively shocking. The truth is that every adult thinks of the next generation’s music as garbage. There’s even a term for it: Generational Gap. During the ’60s the producers, directors and even actors in the Bond films were way above their 30s and The Beatles was the music of teenagers. Of course, they’d hate it.

It should be noted that both Bond (via the series produced by Eon Productions) and movies featuring The Beatles were major contributors to the profits of United Artists in the 1960s.

Now, fast forward to the next decade when the same producers wanted to introduce another actor in the role made famous by Sean Connery.

They were careful and hesitant. After all, they had attempted the same feat four years earlier with the then-unknown George Lazenby, a man who had a passing resemblance to Connery in that they were both broad-shouldered, black haired and squared-faced.

This time they were using a dark blond thinner man that had had his bit of fame in the small screen with The Saint. Still, the producers insisted on Roger Moore went a different way from Connery in every possible way.

That premeditated distance meant Bollinger replaced Dom Perignon. Gone were the cigarettes and in their place Moore smoked cigars when he was not making snake barbecue.

Design for LIve And Let Die’s soundtrack album

Not to mention the absence of vodka dry Martinis, Moore ordered Bourbon. By my count, Bond lost two Walter PPKs in the course of this adventure, and thus for the final battle he sported a heavy silver-plated revolver—perhaps influenced by 1971’s Dirty Harry.

There was one other major difference: The artist playing the title song was none other than a former Beatle, and the producers loved him enough they removed the earmuffs!

Paul McCartney’s song (written with Linda McCartney) went on to become a Bond classic in its own right. Of course, ten years had passed and The Beatles had proven themselves as artists with staying power, even after they broke up. Furthermore, the youngsters from the early ’60s had grown up and they were the target audience for the ’70s. What a difference a decade can make.

What’s more, former Beatles producer George Martin (1926-2016) helped sell producer Harry Saltzman on the song. Martin also scored the movie.

Despite its flaws, Live and Let Die has endured and has become Moore’s best performance of the character—perhaps followed closely by For Your Eyes Only. The self-imposed distance must have helped.

Then again, the old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same is also true in this instance.

Moore wasn’t imitating Connery, but as part of an ongoing series the movie kept enough mementos of the previous decade: Bond wore a Rolex as in Goldfinger; there were sharks like in Thunderball; and of course, double-entendre quips still ruled. “Sheer magnetism,” says Bond as he lowers the zipper of an Italian agent’s dress with a magnet.

J.H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. His genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. For more details, check out his website, http://www.jhbogran.com.

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Justice League trailer: Many explosions, bit of humor

Warner Bros. this morning brought out a new trailer for Justice League, its big superhero movie. The film, due out Nov. 17, has been the subject of a lot of press coverage and seen extensive reshoots.

The new trailer features a lot of explosions and mayhem as Earth is imperiled with Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) leading a new team.

And there’s some humor toward the end, presumably Warners’ way of addressing criticism that 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was too dark and moody.

Speaking of Superman, this is the first Justice League trailer where he appears. But it’s still unclear how they’re going to bring him back.

Here’s the trailer:

The Spy Command marks its 9th anniversary

Today marks the ninth anniversary of The Spy Command.

The blog began with the name The HMSS Weblog. The first post on Oct. 8, 2008 concerned how three Raymond Benson James Bond continuation novels had been collected under the title The Union Trilogy. The post was penned by Paul Baack, who had the idea of the blog.

The Spy Commander, who has been running the blog for some time, didn’t weigh in with his first post until Oct. 19, 2008. That concerned A Man Called Sloane, the short-lived spy adventure with Robert Conrad and produced by QM Productions.

The blog began to hit its stride (and find its own voice) with a 2009 series of posts about the 45th anniversary of Goldfinger. It later had series of posts about the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and From Russia With Love as well as series about Dr. No’s script and behind-the-scenes financial issues of Dr. No. (CLICK HERE for part I.)

The blog formally was on its own in September 2014. The blog changed its name to The Spy Command in February 2015.

Assuming the blog is still around next year, we’ll have to do something more elaborate for the 10th anniversary.

About that lack of a Bond 25 distributor

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Some James Bond fans were sure — just sure — that Global James Bond Day would include a significant announcement about Bond 25.

But, like Linus in the Peanuts comic strip looking forward to seeing the Great Pumpkin, those 007 fans were disappointed. The only Global James Bond Day announcement was a one-day sale of 007 T-shirts at 10 percent off.

Denis Villeneuve being announced as Bond 25’s director? Didn’t happen.

Announcement of Bond 25’s distributor? Didn’t happen.

Until that distributor issue is resolved, Bond 25 can only proceed so far. Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in July announced a U.S. release date of November 2019. But neither has a global distribution operation. MGM needs to cut a deal with somebody who has that capability.

Are such entities interested? Of course. But that distributor likely is going to have to supply a lot of the financing. Sony provided half of the production costs of Skyfall and SPECTRE, but only got 25 percent of the profits. Sony only got a small profit for Skyfall and who knows if it got anything for SPECTRE between higher production outlays and a bit less at the box office.

There was one other bit of Bond-related news on Global James Bond Day 2017. MGM extended the contract for CEO Gary Barber to 2022, according to the Deadline: Hollywood entertainment news website.

Barber has been gradually improving MGM’s business. But the studio’s biggest asset still remains Agent 007.

As the Twitter feed for the MI6 James Bond website asked, “How about getting on that Bond 25 distribution deal now, Gary?”

Our interview with The Batman Vs. James Bond Show

The Batman Vs. James Bond Show logo

This week the Spy Commander participated in his first podcast interview at The Batman Vs. James Bond Show.

The interview took place in Episode 83 and the subject was Global James Bond Day (which is tomorrow, Oct. 5). Host Brian Thomas and I covered various topics related to James Bond ahead of the film franchise’s 55th anniversary.

A lot of the discussion covered Bond 25 and the future of the franchise. We also talked about the ties between 007 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

As indicated by its name, the podcast covers both Batman and Agent 007. Other recent Bond-related topics include Bond and Batman connections (Episode 78), feminism and Bond moves (Episode 80) and Daniel Craig’s return for a fifth Bond film (Episode 77).

 

What critics are saying about Villeneuve

Blade Runner 2049 poster

Denis Villeneuve, a potential Bond 25 director, is getting a lot of attention in reviews for Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Blade Runner that he helmed.

007 fans are playing a game of “will he or won’t he” regarding Villeneuve, He’s acknowledged being in talks about the next James Bond film while also having other projects on his plate. The Blade Runner 2049 reviews may further boost the interest of Bond fans in Villeneuve.

Blade Runner 2049 currently has a 94 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website that collects reviews.

With that in mind, here are non-spoiler excerpts (focused on Villeneuve) from some reviews.

CHRIS KLIMEK, NPR: “I’m severely restrained in my ability to tell you very much, as the publicity team read to the critics at the screening I attended an appeal from Villeneuve: an exhaustive list of specific characters and plot developments he has kindly asked that we not discuss. I’m complying because he has made a superb movie, one that really is stocked with revelations and counterrevelations worth preserving intact.”

A.O. SCOTT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Like any great movie, Mr. (Ridley) Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ cannot be spoiled. It repays repeated viewing because its mysteries are too deep to be solved and don’t depend on the sequence of events. Mr. Villeneuve’s film, by contrast, is a carefully engineered narrative puzzle, and its power dissipates as the pieces snap into place. As sumptuous and surprising as it is from one scene to the next, it lacks the creative excess, the intriguing opacity and the haunting residue of its predecessor.”

MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: “‘Blade Runner 2049,’ the superb new sequel by Denis Villeneuve (‘Arrival’), doesn’t just honor that (Blade Runner) legacy, but, arguably, surpasses it, with a smart, grimly lyrical script (by [Hampton] Fancher and Michael Green of the top-notch ‘Logan’); bleakly beautiful cinematography (by Roger Deakins); and an even deeper dive into questions of the soul.”

DAVID JENKINS, LITTLE WHITE LIES: “What Villeneuve had presumed in his lightly passive-aggressive memo (asking critics to not include spoilers) is that there would be material in his film that viewers would possess a natural urge to spoil. And yet, to these eyes, there was nothing. This film is little more than a bauble: shiny, hollow and shatters under the slightest pressure. Maybe it’ll be good news for the spoilerphobic among us, but there is little in the film that is actually worth spoiling – at least not without reams of fiddly context and turgid backstory.”

DANA STEVENS, SLATE: “Denis Villeneuve, who made Arrival, Sicario, and Enemy, is a director who enjoys not-fully-solved enigmas, and 2049’s twisty, misdirection-filled story alternates between suspenseful and tediously murky. But Villeneuve is working with the legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose mobile yet stately camera provides stunning bird’s-eye perspectives on the bleak urban habitat where these humans and replicants live.”

Dr. No’s 55th: A peculiar anniversary

Dr. No poster

This week, the James Bond film franchise celebrates the 55th anniversary of its first entry, Dr. No. However, it’s a bit of peculiar milestone.

Five years ago, for the 50th anniversary, it was a time of celebration. The golden anniversary of Dr. No was marked with the knowledge that a new Bond film, Skyfall, would be out soon.

For Bond fans, it was a “win-win.” They could celebrate the franchise’s past while looking forward to the near future

For the 55th, not as much.

Eon Productions and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in July announced a November 2019 release date for Bond 25. But, as of this writing, there isn’t an actual distributor to get the movie into theaters. Such a distributor likely would provide a significant chunk of the funding for the project.

The incumbent 007, Daniel Craig, said in August he’s coming back for a fifth outing. However, besides the lack of a distributor, there’s no director in place, either.

Veteran 007 film scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are working on Bond 25 story, according to that July announcement.

But until a director is on the job — and directors are known for bringing in their own writers to re-work a script — things can only proceed so far. One of the reported contenders, Denis Villeneuve, confirmed to The Montreal Gazette, that he has been in talks with Craig and Eon boss Barbara Broccoli. But Villeneuve, coming off Blade Runner 2049, is in demand for other projects.

What’s more, there have been fuzzy, imprecise vibes that Eon Productions might sell off its interest in 007 after Bond 25. Nobody has actually said this will happen but people have said it might happen.

Finally, tech giants Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are looking to get the Bond 25 distribution rights or perhaps acquire the whole thing, according to a Sept. 6 story by The Hollywood Reporter. Yet, major news outlets that follow both Apple and Amazon closely (think The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal) have ignored the story.

Is there anything to The Hollywood Reporter’s story or not? Who knows?

All this uncertainty overshadows Dr. No.’s anniversary. The first 007 film included Sean Connery introducing the line, “Bond, James Bond. It was a project the followed the unusual circumstances that brought Eon founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman together.

While a modestly budgeted production, the work of production designer Ken Adam made Dr. No look more expensive than it was. And actress Ursula Andress made an impression on audiences. Director Terence Young, not the first choice of either the producers or distributor United Artists, got the series off to a rousing start.

Some Bond fans fans are sure a major announcement about Bond 25 is coming on Oct. 5, Global James Bond Day and also the anniversary of Dr. No’s premiere. Maybe they’re right. We’ll see.

In any case, the 55th anniversary of Dr. No has an uncertainty that the 50th anniversary didn’t.