The `banned’ 007 commentaries: what was the fuss?

Over the holidays, we had a chance to listen to the so-called “banned” James Bond laser disk commentaries from the early 1990s. They appeared on Criterion laser discs of Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, featuring some of the people who helped create those classic 007 films.

The commentaries have taken on a life of their own. Albert R. Broccoli, who started the film series with then-partner Harry Saltzman, objected after the discs went on sale and unsold discs were recalled. As a result, the original discs are collector’s items. But what was the fuss? Why did Broccoli object so strongly?

We can only guess. So here are two of them:

There’s some occasional bad language, at least by early ’90s standards. Near the end of the Goldfinger commentary, film editor Peter Hunt says that star Sean Connery “was really a very sexy man” and that the few stars of his appeal “virtually can walk into a room and f*** anybody.”

Some of this language includes anti-gay slurs (or certainly would be classified as that now).

Terence Young, director of From Russia With Love, describes his first meeting with Pedro Armendariz. Prior to that encounter, Young says he intended to shampoo his own hair while accidentally using his wife’s hair coloring. He had his hair dyed black but it turned “black green.” Armendariz stared at the director’s hair. “Look here, Mr. Armendariz, you get one thing straight, I’m not a…” Young says before using the anti-gay slur, which got got NBA player Kobe Bryant in hot water when he used it on a referee.

Guy Hamilton, director of Goldfinger, describes the scene where Bond wins Pussy Galore to his side, using a term for a female gay person, says the character goes from that “to sexpot, to heroine in the best of two falls, one submission, one roll in the hay. I suppose it comes off.”

Some comments may have rubbed the Eon leadership the wrong way. Screenwriter Richard Maibaum, in an interview shortly before he died in 1991, talked about why James Bond made such an impression on movie goers.

“He was a great ladies’ man,” Maibaum says on the Goldfinger commentary. “He was not above using them in his work. That was part of the James Bond mystique, that he could manipulate women that way….The women’s lib people hated that…we eventually had to do it less and less.” That would imply Eon might have compromised the Ian Fleming original to appeal to changing audience tastes.

Young, on the From Russia With Love commentary, talks about how the series went from small- to big-budget films. “They threw money around,” he says. Beyond that, the host of the From Russia With Love commentary introduces himself as Steve Rubin. Steven Jay Rubin wrote 1981’s The James Bond Films, a book where Eon didn’t cooperate and thus no stills from the movies could be used. It’s possible his participation might not have sat well with Broccoli.

Again, these are only guesses. If language was a concern, well, one can only imagine what Cubby Broccoli would have thought about Daniel Craig interviews such as this one in Esquire or this one in Time Out magazine.

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