Jay Milligan, Golden Gun stunt supervisor, dies

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

Jay Milligan, the driving stunt supervisor of The Man With the Golden Gun, died in March, according to a tribute video by the Erie County (New York) Fair.

Mulligan had helped to create a stunt where a car would do a full rotation between two ramps, landing right side up on the other side.

The stunt was adapted in 1974’s Golden Gun in a car supposedly driven by James Bond (Roger Moore) with Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) as his passenger.

According to the documentary Inside The Man With the Golden Gun, the stunt went so smoothly, director Guy Hamilton wanted a second try. The stunt driver, Bumps Willard, understandably refused. Milligan himself did other stunt driving in the film, according to the documentary.

“The movie came out in 1974. I was elated,” Milligan said in a 2015 interview with The Buffalo News. “When does an adopted kid from West Chester, Pennsylvania, ever have the opportunity of being a stunt director and driver of a James Bond car?”

The Erie County Fair produced the tribute video because Milligan had produced demolition derbies at the fair. Here’s the video:

Phrases long-time 007 fans will recognize instantly

Well, he did say, “Hit me.”

You can tell when long-time James Bond fans get together. They’re likely to say phrases that make no sense to the average person.

“Cai…Cai…CAIRO!” In the pre-titles sequence of Diamonds Are Forever, James Bond is hunting down Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Apparently in Japan (no doubt a sound stage at Pinewood Studios), 007 throws a would-be informant through a couple of paper walls.

Finally, Bond asks, “Where is Blofeld?” The informant says, “Cai…Cai…Cairo!” What makes the sequence is the informant’s mouth movements don’t remotely match the words he’s supposedly saying. For Bond fans, that’s part of the fun.

“Hit me.” In the next scene of Diamonds, we see a casino in Cairo. You can tell by the guys wearing a fez that This Must Be in The Middle East.

One is playing blackjack and says, “Hit me.” Cue Bond punching the guy out.

“Opening crater…Closing crater.” Those are the only lines that a lower-level SPECTRE employee we’ve dubbed “Crater Guy”  gets to utter in You Only Live Twice.

Crater Guy, well, opens the closes the door to SPECTRE’s volanco headquarters in the movie. He’s not a mastermind (Blofeld is). He’s not even a henchman (Hans is).

Crater Guy, no doubt, is a working stiff just trying to feed his family. Bond kills him but can’t kill Blofeld, the guy who started all this trouble. The blog suspects this could spur academic papers about how Bond tramples on the working class.

Clifton James as Sheriff J.W. Pepper in Live And Let Die

“You made a shocking mess of my hair, you sadistic brute!” That’s a line from SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) in Thunderball after she’s made love with Bond.

Occasionally, when Bond fans get together, they come up with, eh, more colorful variations of the first half of the line. All spoken in an Italian accent (matching Paluzzi’s), of course.

“What are you, some kind of doomsday machine, boy?” That’s probably the most memorable line spoken by Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) in Live And Let Die.

Bond fans, in addition to that line, are known to utter other Pepperisms such as, “I got me a regular Ben Hur down here, doing 95 minimum.”

James passed away recently. Most obits referenced Live And Let quite a bit. That reflects how the New York-born actor stole the scenes he was in for the eighth James Bond film.

Clifton James, known as 007 sheriff, dies at 96

Clifton James as Sheriff J.W. Pepper in The Man With The Golden Gun

Clifton James, a character actor whose career extended more than 60 years but perhaps best known as a redneck sheriff in two 007 films, has died at 96, according to an obituary by The Associated Press.

James embodied a 1970s shift in James Bond films to a lighter, more comedic tone. He played Sheriff J.W. Pepper, a Louisiana lawman who was comic relief in 1973’s Live And Let Die and 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun.

“What are you, some kind of doomsday machine, boy?” James’ Pepper says, emerging from a wrecked police car and confronting Roger Moore’s James Bond following that film’s massive boat chase sequence.

J.W. Pepper was created by screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz. In the documentary Inside Live And Let Die, the scribe said he didn’t want the audience laughing at the African American villains in the film.

Clifton James as J.W. Pepper fit the bill. James said in the documentary he wore padding to make himself look heavier.

The character was brought back for Golden Gun. In one January 1974 draft, by 007 veteran Richard Maibaum (who took over for Mankiewicz), Pepper only had a small appearance.

Somewhere along the way, things changed. In the final film, Pepper accompanies Bond on a car chase. The sheriff at one point is leaning out a car window, yelling at other drivers. (The Maibaum draft had a Thai character simply called “Prospective Buyer” ride with Bond.)

James, however, was far more than J.W. Pepper. He easily made a convincing villain in various television series. He also played cheapskate Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey in Eight Men Out , a drama about the scandal when the baseball team threw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

James’s IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 100 acting credits from 1954 to 2017.

UPDATE (6:05 p.m., New York time): Roger Moore took to Twitter to note the death of Clifton James.

 
UPDATE II (April 16): The official James Bond Twitter feed published a post about the actor’s passing.

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Live And Let Die, a reappraisal

We decided, after quite some time, to rewatch Live And Die. It was the debut of Roger Moore as James Bond but, in some ways, it’s more of a milestone than that. For some people, including Skyfall director Sam Mendes, it was the point of entry for a second generation of Bond fans to get addicted.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider Mendes’s own words at the Nov. 3 news conference Eon Productions held: “I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me.” Mendes was born in 1965, too late to catch the first wave of Bond films. For people of that age, their first 007 contact was the Roger Moore Bond of the early 1970s.

Given that, we thought we’d give it another view. First reaction: the Roger Moore 007 didn’t have the swagger, or seem to present the danger element, the way Sean Connery did. At times (mostly when 007 is dealing with African American gangster types early in the film), he’s like Lt. Columbo Bond, trying to lull his adversaries into complacency.

“Waste him?” Bond asks Solitaire (Jane Seymour) after Mr. Big orders his execution. “Is that a good thing?” Shortly thereafter, he’s forced from a door outside into a wall. “Thank you,” Bond says politely.

Later, when the odds have evened up a bit, Moore/Bond comes across as unflappable, rather than having the swagger of Connery/Bond. When he’s told that “Mrs. Bond” has already checked into his bungalow in San Monique, 007 registers concern for a second then cooly says, “Incurable romantic, Mrs. Bond.”

Live And Let Die definitely continues the trend begun in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, Connery’s farewell to the Eon Productions-made film series. Both films were directed by Guy Hamilton, with the final Diamonds script by Tom Mankiewicz (rewriting Richard Maibaum’s earlier drafts) and Mankiewicz working solo on Live And Let Die.

The humor in sequences such as the signature boat chase is even more over the top. Diamonds had some clueless law enforcement officers. Live And Let Die exceeds that with Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), a tabacco-chewing redneck (and clearly racist) sheriff. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, in the documentary Inside Live And Let Die, indicates he didn’t want humor to be at the expense of the African American villains, thus he invented other characters to be the butt of jokes. Also, the death of Live And Let Die’s villain, Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), is on the same level as a Tex Avery-directed cartoon.

The movie is also dated in that it was influenced by so-called “Blaxploitation” films (Shaft, Super Fly) of the early 1970s. That bothers some first-generation fans, who feel that Bond led the way in the ’60s. Then again, when Bond was rebooted with 2006’s Casino Royale and its sequel, 2008’s Quantum of Solace, they were influenced by Jason Bourne movies starring Matt Damon. That doesn’t bother supporters of those films.

Still, the boat chase is amazing, no computer generated special effects (which, of course, didn’t exist then), just real men using their brains guts and tricks such as hidden ramps. So is the stunt by crocodile farm owner Ross Kananga (Mankiewicz’s inspiration for the villain’s name), doubling Roger Moore, he really did risk death five times before finally successful running over the backs of alligators to safety.

Composer George Martin tends to get overlooked because the title song by Paul and Linda McCartney was so popular. After six consecutive John Barry scores, it was up to Martin to provide the film’s background music. Martin didn’t write the Live And Let Die song but was vital to its preparation and selling it to Eon. So, perhaps because he had a vested interest, he weaves the title song throughout the film very effectively while working within the Barry/Bond music templates. If that sounds easy, we suspect it wasn’t.

Finally, upon this viewing, Yaphet Kotto’s performance struck us as interesting. For the film’s first half, he’s dour and doesn’t say much. After it’s revealed he’s both Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big, he suddenly begins having fun with the role. He explains Kananga’s plot of flooding the U.S. with free heroin to drive out criminal competitors. “Man or woman, black or white, I don’t discriminate.” He then says once the plan is implemented, and the number of addicts has doubled, he’ll start charging for the heroin, leaving “myself and the phone company as the only going monopolies in this nation for years to come.”

A Live And Let Die fan

Live And Let Die isn’t a perfect film by any means. (It was mostly panned in a survey of editors on the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website (this post used to have a link but it’s gone dead so we removed it.) But you can see how it appealed to a new generation of fans. Sam Mendes doesn’t exactly have a reputation for directing light movies, so we suspect Skyfall won’t resemble Live And Let Die. But it is interesting, at least on some level, that he cites Live And Let Die as an influence.

Finally, it should be noted that Live And Let Die was the first 007 film to have a higher worldwide gross than 1965’s Thunderball, $161.8 million to $141.2 million Its U.S. box office, though, was below Diamonds Are Forever.

In sum, Live And Let Die is a movie that’s going to divide Bond fans. The first-generation fans throw their arms up in the air while, for the second generation, it’s a landmark to explain how they became interested in 007.

UPDATE: 007 Magazine e-mailed us that is has a back issue concerning Live And Let Die. So if you CLICK HERE you’ll see a selection of back issues of 007 Magazine Archive Files, and find the issue devoted to Live And Let Die.

A look at Tom Mankiewicz’s impact on 007 films

Tom Mankiewicz, a screenwriter who helped shaped film versions of James Bond and Superman, died over the weekend. Mankiewicz, 68, tends to generate widely varying fan reaction among followers of 007. To some, he contributed witty dialogue that enlivened the films he worked on. To others, he was one of the main reasons the Bond films entered a “Dark Age.”

CommanderBond put up THIS STORY ON AUG. 1 while the MI6 Web site ran THIS LONG OBIT ON AUG. 2. We won’t try to duplicate those efforts but we do want to note Mankiewicz did have a big impact. He was credited on three Bond movies: Diamonds Are Forever (taking over from Richard Maibaum, with both getting credit), Live And Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun (where Mankiewicz started and Maibaum took over). And he did uncredited work on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

First things first. Actors, including Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Clifton James are seen complimenting Mankiewicz’s dialogue in documenaries about the 007 films scripted by the writer. Here’s a sample from Diamonds:

Then again, Mankiewicz (presumbly reflecting the wishes of producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman) tended to push Bond in a more comic direction. James’s J.W. Pepper is one of the main examples of that in Live And Let Die. And Dr. Kananga’s demise in the same movie was probably the least dignified for a Bond villain:

Still, one doubts actor Yaphet Kotto complained too much. He got one of the better villain speeches earlier in the film where he said how his plans to give out free heroin samples to addicts would be “leaving me and the telephone companies as the only growing monopolies in this country for years to come.”

Regardless of which side of the fence, a fan falls on, Mankiewicz’s commentary track on Live And Let Die is interesting and provides insight to the screenwriting process. Mankiewicz definitely had a major impact on the series. Here is in a Writers Guild video discussing his overall career: