Golden Gun’s 45th anniversary: The unloved Bond?

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The Man With the Golden Gun poster

Updated and expanded from a 2014 post.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of The Man With The Golden Gun.

The 1974 film has received a lot of flak over the decades. It’s exhibit A when the subject comes up about 007 film misfires. Too goofy. Too cheap. Too many of the crew members having a bad day.

For example, Don McGregor, then a writer for Marvel Comics, savaged the movie in a lengthy article in a 1975 issue of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine (which featured a cover drawn by comics legend Neal Adams).

Also, the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website had few kind words when its contributors (including myself) did rankings of the Bond films. (Speaking only for myself, as I look back on my comments, one about John Barry was over the top.)

Over the years, Bond fans have said it has an average John Barry score (though one supposes Picasso had average paintings). It has too many bad gags (Bond watches as two teenage karate students take out a supposedly deadly school of assassins). And, for a number of first-generation 007 film fans, it has Roger Moore playing Bond, which is bad it and of itself.

Golden Gun is a way for fans to establish “street cred” — a way of establishing, “I’m not a fan boy.”

Neal Adams cover to The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine containing an article savaging The Man With the Golden Gun

However, the movie also has its defenders. Among them is David Leigh, who runs The James Bond Dossier website and is a regular guest on the James Bond & Friends podcast.  Also, the August 2018 issue of 007 Magazine (which is sold out) had an article titled, “In Defence of The Man With the Golden Gun.”

The movie was a bit of a disappointment at the box office. Golden Gun’s worldwide box office plunged 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die ($97.6 million versus $161.8 million, according to THE NUMBERS website). Within a few weeks of its December 1974 U.S. release, United Artists hurriedly paired Golden Gun with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, which UA released earlier in 1974, to make a double feature.

In terms of long-term importance, Golden Gun was the finale of the Albert R. Broccoli-Harry Saltzman 007 partnership. Saltzman would soon be in financial trouble and have to sell out his share of the franchise to United Artists. In a way, things have never really been the same since.

The end of the car jump of The Man With the Golden Gun

Golden Gun is not the best offering in the Eon Production series. Rather, in many ways, it’s the runt of the litter that many like to pick on — even among the same people who’d chafe at criticism of their favorite 007 film.

The documentary Inside The Man With The Golden Gun says the movie has all of the 007 “ingredients.” Of course, such a documentary is approved by executives who aren’t demanding candor.

But the statement is true. It has not one, but two Oscar winning directors of photography (Oswald Morris and Ted Moore); it has a score by a five-time Oscar winner (John Barry); it is one of 13 007 movies Richard Maibaum contributed writing.

Then again, movies sometimes are less the sum of their parts. It happens. Not everyone has their best day.

For many, Golden Gun is a convenient piñata. Despite some positives (including a genuinely dangerous driving stunt), it doesn’t get much love from part of the 007 fan community.

Bond 25: Tabloid spoiler, new clapperboard shot

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

Like it says in the headline, spoiler. So scram if you’re spoiler adverse.

After a short respite, the tabloids are back, this time with the Mirror saying it knows part of the Bond 25 plot.

James Bond will return with a tear-jerking storyline – as his new wife is murdered and he struggles to cope with depression and grief.

New writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge – hired to refresh the script after her huge hit with Killing Eve – is said to be exploring the spy’s mental health for the franchise’s 25th instalment.

“There have been a lot of changes with the script but one angle they want to pursue is showing Bond’s more emotional side,” an insider revealed.

First things first. The Mirror has had a rocky record with accuracy. In 2017, for example, it claimed Bond 25 was based on the 007 continuation novel Never Dream of Dying by Raymond Benson. The author said on Twitter he was never contacted by the Mirror and “can only assume that article is fabrication. Would be wonderful if it were true.”

Even if the basic premise is correct, I suspect you can’t give Waller-Bridge the sole responsibility.

Eon has been at least flirting with the idea going back to the later script drafts of SPECTRE. A draft dated Dec. 1, 2014 — one week before filming began — ended with Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world.”

That, of course, was the line Bond (George Lazenby) says after marrying Tracy (Diana Rigg) in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where the Tracy ends up dead.

It was taken from the end of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel. The line was snipped from the final version of SPECTRE. However, the notion of turning Ley Seydoux into Tracy 2.0 has been there for a while.

Also, in the 1964 novel You Only Live Twice, Bond goes to pieces. Bond also went to pieces in 2012’s Skyfall but that was seven years ago. So even though it was just two Bond movies ago, it wouldn’t be a shock for Eon to follow that path once more.

One more thing: In May, Seydoux told Variety she hadn’t started work on Bond 25 and was working on another movie. Presumably, that means she’s not part of the sequences filmed in Jamaica during May.

We’ll see.

Meanwhile, Eon’s official social media accounts put out a clapperboard shot. It was for a sequence in London that takes a while into the movie based on the scene number (152).

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UPDATE (5:45 p.m.): Eon’s official Twitter account posted this photo, which some fans comment is the best Bond 25 promotional still they’ve seen.

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Bond 25 questions: The mid-year edition

We’re almost halfway through 2019. That’s as good a reason as any for the blog to ask some new questions about Bond 25.

What do you make of the (apparently) discarded title A Reason to Die?

The MI6 James Bond website sniffed out that A Reason to Die was the tentative title for Bond 25. But Eon Productions after conferring with its studio partners decided not to proceed with it the night before an April 25 live stream event from Jamaica.

What the blog wonders is why did it take so long to make that decision? Or, put another way, was the live stream event scheduled before said studio partners (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal among them) weighed in?

Back in 2015, Eon’s Michael G. Wilson said the production company devises the marketing while the studios executes those plans.

So, was A Reason to Die an Eon initiative? Were MGM (handling U.S. distribution for Bond 25) and Universal (handling international distribution) not in the loop until the last minute? Or was the situation more complicated?

Where did A Reason to Die come from anyway?

Edward Biddulph of the James Bond Memes website wrote on Twitter the title may stem from the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service novel.

Specifically, in Chapter 5, The Capu, Marc-Ange Draco tells Bond, referring to his daughter Tracy: “Will you help me save this girl? It is my only chance, that you will give her hope. That you will give her a reason to live. Will you?”

Is that a big deal?

It’s hardly the most significant Ian Fleming reference available. Fleming short titles (Risico, The Hildebrand Rarity, The Property of a Lady and 007 in New York) haven’t been used. However, plot elements from Risico were used for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. Ditto for The Hildebrand Rarity in 1989’s Licence to Kill (plus a passing reference to the name Hildebrand in 2015’s SPECTRE). Also, plot elements from  The Property of a Lady showed up in 1983’s Octopussy.

What’s more, there are chapter titles from the Fleming novels that might be worth considering. Still, veteran 007 screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are known for mining small details from Fleming. They were the first screenwriters on Bond 25. It’s possible A Reason to Die fits their original script.

So what happens next?

When Prince Charles visited the Bond 25 set at Pinewood Studios earlier this month, Daniel Craig told him that filming on the production was about one-third complete.

There’s no teaser trailer yet, although a promotional video was released this week. A teaser trailer may be out sooner than later and we may get a title — A Reason to Die or something else — at that time. As usual, we’ll see.

A Reason to Die was B25’s tentative title, MI6 site says

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

A Reason to Die was the tentative title for Bond 25, the MI6 James Bond website said.

The title “was attached to Bond 25 right up until” April 24, the night before a livestream event from Jamaica revealing cast and crew members, the website said.

Eon Productions conferred with its studio partners and A Reason to Die was “considered weak and ‘not Bond enough’ and pulled from the event,” the website reported. “A title treatment had been created.”

Bond 25, due out in April 2020, will be distributed by United Artists Releasing (a joint venture between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Annapurna Pictures) in the U.S. and Universal internationally.

MI6 James Bond sent out this tweet on Wednesday night. It includes a red “X” and the April 24 date written in pencil.

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Reports based on the tweet alone then surfaced earlier today, including The Express and Esquire UK. The latter said it was skeptical MI6 James Bond was correct.

At the April event in Jamaica, Eon’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson only referenced Bond 25. Wilson said he couldn’t remember the last time a Bond film had a title when filming began. A May 5 Haphazard Stuff video contrasted that statement with Eon media events held when filming began on earlier Bond films.

Eon posts behind the scenes video of Bond 25

Eon Productions today released a short video showing behind the scenes work on Bond 25 in Jamaica.

The video was posted via social media and was posted on YouTube. It lasts a minute was edited similar to a music video. With Skyfall and SPECTRE, Eon produced “video blogs” that lasted a few minutes each and covered different topics.

UPDATE: This is probably a coincidence (or not), but the video includes a shot of a clapperboard. Of course, during Skyfall and SPECTRE, Eon posted many clapperboard shots and it gave you a rough idea where the scene involved took place in the film. The shot in this video is fleeting but you can see the scene number.

Tarantino’s LA theater to show five 1960s 007 films

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Actor-director Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles will show five 1960s James Bond films in July.

The movies are scheduled for 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday afternoons as part of the theater’s “Afternoon Classics” series.

The theater is showing IB Tech prints of each film. The term refers to a process for making color movie prints that allows for use of more stable dyes.

The schedule is as follows:

July 3: From Russia With Love.

July 10: Goldfinger

July 17: Thunderball

July 24: You Only Live Twice

July 31: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

UPDATE: Plaza Atlanta, which describes itself as Atlanta’s oldest movie theater, plans to show 25 James Bond films in July — the 24 (to date) produced by Eon Productions plus 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

A Facebook post by the theater has the schedule. They will be shown in order, with Dr. No leading off on July 1.

Bond 25: The week the optics changed

Eon’s Bond 25 logo

The Royal family this week, intentionally or not, gave 007 an assist with the optics of Bond 25’s production.

Prince Charles on Thursday showed up at Pinewood Studios and chatted with the likes of Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and director Cary Fukunaga on Bond 25 sets.

As is often the case, there were many media members in attendance, with video and stills being taken.

It wasn’t the prince’s first turn at doing this sort of thing, In the 1980s, he and his then-wife, Princess Diana, toured Pinewood during production of The Living Daylights.

Such visits are arranged well in advance. It’s not like Prince Charles would just show up at Pinewood.

Still, for one day at least, the images and stories generated from the visit washed away a lot of previously Bond 25 publicity concerning star injuries, script rewrites, the departure of Danny Boyle as director, an explosion that damaged the famous 007 Stage and tales of other problems.

The timing may have been coincidental. But for Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (the latter handling international distribution of Bond 25), the prince’s visit could not have come soon enough.

For those who wanted more, a video by 5 News provided some Bond 25 tidbits as the prince asked questions of the Bond 25 cast and crew.

To be sure, Bond 25 has a lot of filming to go. About a third has been completed. Also, making large, big-budget movies rarely is an easy endeavor.

Still, the topic of Bond 25 conversation has been changed, at least for a while.