1966: Bob Hope’s spy parody

Cover to a home video release of Bob Hope television specials

In 1962, the final Bob Hope-Bing Crosby Road film, The Road to Hong Kong, provided a kind of preview to what would soon be seen in James Bond movies.

Four years later, in October 1966, Hope devoted most of one of his NBC specials to a parody of James Bond films and other spy entertainment titled, “Murder at NBC.”

In it, Hope plays a mad scientist who has developed a “chemical spray” that can shrink objects or people. He’s demanding $1 billion from the United States or else he’ll sell it to a foreign power.

To be honest, the special is more noteworthy for the comedians assembled than it is for the extended skit itself.

Among the performers: Jonathan Winters, Rowan & Martin, Dan Adams (as Maxwell Smart), Bill Dana (as Jose Jimenez), Johnny Carson (as himself), Don Rickles, Red Buttons, Soupy Sales, Bill Cosby (not playing Alexander Scott fro I Spy), Dick Shawn, Jimmy Durante and Milton Berle (in drag, an old Berle bit).

Some of the misfires: Jack Carter as detective “Charley Chin” (using just about all Asian stereotypes) and Wally Cox as the diminutive Mr. Big, a gag previously used in the pilot for Get Smart when a character by that name was played by Michael Dunn). Finally, there are plenty of Mexican stereotypes in the final sequence.

Put another way, it’s roughly on par with the Eon Productions comedy Call Me Bwana, which also starred Hope.

Toward the end of the story, the mad scientist confronts Mr. Big.

“Who are you with?” Hope’s character asks. “Smersh? KAOS? SPECTRE? What’s your network?”

“NBC,” Mr. Big replies.

If you really want to see it (and how it turns out), a video is embedded below. “Murder at NBC”  begins just after the 8:00 mark following an opening monologue by Hope.

Thanks to Craig Henderson for the tip about this.

 

Eon’s new normal

Barbara Broccoli

Barbara Broccoli

For Eon Productions, which produces James Bond films, the old normal was trying to make a 007 film every other year, maybe every third year.

The new normal: A Bond film maybe every third year (Bond 24, the next movie is scheduled for the fall of 2015), with various other projects in-between.

Examples of the new normal as it applies to non-Bond projects: a new U.K. stage production based on the Alfred Hitchock movie Strangers On a Train and, possibly, a movie based on a Glenn Greenwald book about Edward Snowden.

The latter depends if Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures wins the bidding for the rights to the Greenwald book according to AN OCT. 11 STORY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES. Other studios are also seeking the rights to the book, according to the Times story. (Broccoli didn’t respond to the newspaper’s requests to comment.)

This follows the stage production of Once, where WHERE EON CO-BOSSES BARBARA BROCCOLI AND MICHAEL G. WILSON were among the producers. The duo have also been interested in a remake of a 1957 horror movie called Curse of the Demon or Night of the Demon depending on where it was released.

When Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman co-founded Eon Productions in 1961, they planned to do non-007 projects. The duo did produce the Bob Hope comedy Call Me Bwana. After that, however, they went their separate ways on non-Bond material. Saltzman produced the Harry Palmer series and other films without Broccoli. Broccoli produced Chitty Chitty Bang Bang without Saltzman.

By the 1970s, Broccoli was concentrating on the Bond series primarily. Saltzman pursued other projects but financial problems forced him to sell off his interest in 1975.

Under the new normal, Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson appear to be following the Saltzman model — exploring stage and film projects beyond the 007 series — more than the Albert R. Broccoli model. Or perhaps they’re going back to the model that Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman intended to follow.

In any event, Barbara Broccoli, in a NOVEMBER 2012 INTERVIEW WITH THE LOS ANGELES TIMES signaled not to expect Bond movies to come out as often as they once did.

“Sometimes there are internal pressures from a studio who want you to make it in a certain time frame or for their own benefit…We have to keep the deadlines within our own time limits.”

1962: Hope and Crosby provide 007 a `Road’ map

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

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.

A lesser Cubby Broccoli credit

It’s the title song for Call Me Bwana, the movie Eon Productions Ltd. made in between Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

For Bond fans, it’s mostly famous for the scene in FRWL when Bond helps Kerim Bey kill a murderous Bulgar. An ad for Call Me Bwana, including a likeness of a smiling Anita Ekberg, is on the side of the building. The names of Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman are visible. In Ian Fleming’s novel, the correspondign sequence had an ad for Niagara, the movie that made Marilyn Monroe a star but was released by 20th Century Fox. The 007 producers decided to substitute their own comedy “epic” (released by United Artists, the Bond studio).

As it turns out, Call Me Bwana had many of the crew members who’d have a big impact on Eon’s Bond movies, including special effects wizard John Stears, editor Peter Hunt and director of photography Ted Moore.

Anyway, here’s old Ski Nose, Bob Hope, the star of Call Me Bwana, performing the song. In the video you can see an old 45 record where Monty Norman, the composer of The James Bond Theme, is credited with the song: