‘Enjoy it lightly, lightly’: Guy Hamilton’s 007 films

Guy Hamilton

Guy Hamilton

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Dedicated to Guy’s memory. Sadly, I didn’t have the chance to meet or interact with him, but The Man With The Golden Gun and Live and Let Die were the first two classic Bonds I ever saw, both very entertaining. May he rest in peace. .

The contribution the late Guy Hamilton made to the James Bond series can be defined in a phrase he said to Roger Moore and Christopher Lee on the set of The Man With the Golden Gun: “Enjoy it, lightly, lightly”.

Hamilton took the helm of Goldfinger after rejecting Dr. No and came up shining the James Bond series. As previously stated on this site, the Bond movies became more extravagant since the third outing, released in 1964.

Goldfinger, starring Sean Connery, added to the humorous situations of Dr. No and From Russia With Love, directed by Terence Young, and brought a simple and basic premise repeated in subsequent films: an extravagant mastermind (the title villain, played by Gert Frobe), special gadgets shown in a Q Lab scene, who went further than the attaché case from the previous film with Bond’s trademark Aston Martin DB5; and the abundance of beautiful women to please the secret agent and the audience (this time, there weren’t only two or three women but a group of beauties working for the main girl, Pussy Galore).

The formula was established: movie begins with a mini-adventure, then follows up with actual assignment. Bond gets M’s briefing, his gadgets from Q and is sent to investigate the villain. Eventually, he’ll come across many girls and thrills across the globe until the villain captures him and reveals his outrageous plan: a plan 007 averts before or after killing the main villain (and/or the henchman) and ending with one of the girls.

While Goldfinger had a great success and impact among Bond fans, the following 007 film directed by Hamilton, Diamonds Are Forever, isn’t held in the same high regard. Neither are the other Bonds he directed, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, now with Roger Moore on the role.

Diamonds Are Forever’s asset was the return of Sean Connery in the role. The movie, released in 1971, was very representative of the times and way more relaxed in comparison of the previous James Bond adventure, the faithfully adapted On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Not everything in the movie is perfect, but it manages to shine with a very eye-pleasing cinematography by Ted Moore, who excelled with colorful shots of Las Vegas or the monotone palette of the Nevada dunes. The lines, although a bit parodic, are punchy. That’s particularly true in the scene when 007 infiltrates Blofeld’s oil rig off the California coast by saying: “Good morning, gentlemen. Acme pollution inspection. We’re cleaning up the world, we thought this was a suitable starting point.”

Guy Hamilton’s collaboration with screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz (Mankiewicz wrote the later script drafts) provided a funny ride for Sean Connery’s return in Diamonds Are Forever, with gorgeous girls and comical situations like having James Bond escaping from a compound in a Moon buggy (even John Barry’s music captured the funny aspect of the scene).

For Roger Moore’s introduction as James Bond in 1973, Hamilton opted to make the new Bond completely different from his predecessor, the Scottish actor who patented the image of 007. He would return for a last 007 outing in 1974 for Moore’s second Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun.

Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun

Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun

These two films lack some of the qualities of Goldfinger or Diamonds Are Forever, yet a lot of humor, girls and gadgets are maintained. Roger Moore’s adventuristic spirit was inspired from his days as Simon Templar in The Saint, helping to enhance the standard quota of humor from Hamilton and Mankiewicz.

The story lines of Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun were simplistic. In the former, Bond is sent to investigate the death of colleagues and a British representative at the UN that leads to a case of drug-dealing. In the latter, Bond is the target of assassin Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), who also wants to monopolize solar energy.

In Live and Let Die, 007 breaks interracial barriers with CIA agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), visits the Caribbean once more and opposes Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), the mastermind behind the drug trafficking. There were no vehicles this time but a Rolex Submariner wristwatch with a powerful magnet.

The technical aspect of the 1973 movie is a bit of a letdown in comparison to Diamonds Are Forever or Goldfinger. George Martin’s score succeeds the difficult task of replacing the usual John Barry, but the cinematography -–again by Ted Moore -– is somewhat lackluster.

On the other hand, The Man With The Golden Gun brought John Barry back and Ted Moore, joined by Oswald Morris, brought more colors to the scenes.

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

There is an abundance of women in the movie. The ninth Bond installment saw the secret agent involved with both Britt Ekland and Maud Adams, with a romantic-comedy-like jealousy scene included, plus some Asian beauties such as the suggestive nudist swimmer Chew Me and two teenager karate experts.

Guy Hamilton’s goodbye to the series was filled with humorous situations not only made by the actors or screenwriters, but also in the technical area: John Barry added a sound effect as Bond’s AMC Matador car takes a 360-degree jump and the art crew set the MI6 base in Hong Kong inside the sunken remains of the Queen Elizabeth ship, apparently because of the expensive Hong Kong real estate, or so a a British naval officer explains Bond in the film.

These two films feature a recurring character: Sheriff J. W. Pepper, played by Clifton James, whose scenes almost turn both films into comedies. If in Live and Let Die the southern lawman interfered in a boat chase between 007 and the bad guys and made some racist remarks, in The Man with the Golden Gun he’s fully ridiculed by an elephant who throws him to the Thai canals.

It’s a continuous subject of debate if the cinematic James Bond should be a dramatic anti-hero as the one seen in Licence to Kill or Casino Royale or a lighter action man as the protagonist of the movies Guy Hamilton directed. Both definitions of Ian Fleming’s character were key to make 007 the longest running franchise in cinema history.

Guy Hamilton was the man who popularized Bond. The term “popularized” goes in a appeasing way, because he made these movies the kind of entertainment teenagers and adults wanted in the 1960s or 1970s. And he did not only “entertaining movies,” but great, entertaining adventures.

Guy Hamilton made James Bond a super star, an icon of the popular culture.

Guy Hamilton, an appreciation

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

James Bond was never the same after Goldfinger and director Guy Hamilton got done with it.

The first two 007 films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, were solid successes at the box office. Goldfinger was a spectacular one.

The first two movies contained humor. Goldfinger expanded it.

Dr. No had elements of stories found in pulp magazines and From Russia With Love was grounded in the Cold War. Goldfinger was outlandish, including a henchman with a deadly hat, a tricked out car with an ejector seat among other gadgets and a villain who planned to explode an atomic bomb inside of Fort Knox.

In short, Goldfinger was 1964’s equivalent to today’s comic book-based movies. And Guy Hamilton, who died this week at age 93, was the ringmaster of the show.

Hamilton, in interviews he granted in his later years, made clear Goldfinger was never intended to be anything other than escapist entertainment. Audiences couldn’t get enough.

From that point forward, Bond had to be spectacular. Thunderball, helmed by original 007 director Terence Young, advertised itself as “the biggest Bond of all.” You Only Live Twice tried to be even bigger than that, including a villain’s lair hidden inside a volcano.

The series tried to reel things back a bit with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with George Lazenby succeeding Sean Connery as Bond. Director Peter Hunt insisted on a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel, unlike how You Only Live Twice jettisoned most of the author’s 1964 book. But Majesty’s was still huge and escapist, not a Cold War thriller like From Russia With Love.

When Majesty’s box office fell off from You Only Live Twice (which in turn earned less than Thunderball), the production team opted for “another Goldfinger.” That included bringing Guy Hamilton back as director for Diamonds Are Forever.

Guy Hamilton (1922-2016)

Guy Hamilton (1922-2016)

Diamonds also was helped by the return of Connery (a United Artists move). But the movie also reflected a clear change in tone from its predecessor to something much lighter and fluffy.

Diamond smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) is aware of the existence of Bond (“You’ve just killed James Bond!” she says after 007 switches wallets with deceased thug Peter Franks.) Blofeld at one point dresses in drag as part of a getaway. Some sequences (a chase involving a moon buggy and plant security cars comes to mind) contain a lot of slapstick.

Bond again was a success at the box office. Hamilton was retained to help introduce Roger Moore as the new 007 after Connery again departed the series.

The lighter tone continued, even intensifying, including a long boat chase in Live And Let Die and a ditzy Mary Goodnight in The Man With the Golden Gun. The former was a big hit worldwide, becoming the first Bond to exceed Thunderball at the box office. Golden Gun, however, fell off from that.

Hamilton was hired to direct his fifth Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me, but changed his mind and bowed out. In the 1990s, Hamilton told writer Adrian Turner that he probably had stayed too long with the series.

Perhaps so. Nevertheless, Hamilton had an enormous impact on the film Bond. Goldfinger let a genie out of the bottle. It wasn’t until the 21st century with the 007 films of Daniel Craig that there was a sustained, concerted effort to dial back humor. For Your Eyes Only and Licence to Kill were one-off attempts to do so. Even so, the former included an ending with slapstick involving a Margaret Thatcher lookalike and the latter had an over-the-top Wayne Newton and an ending featuring a blinking fish.

Even the Craig films, though, reflect the Hamilton-directed Bond movies.

Skyfall and SPECTRE include the tricked out Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. (Casino Royale had a different, left-hand drive DB5 without gadgets.) A car chase in SPECTRE contains Goldfinger-style lightness. Quantum of Solace had a Goldfinger homage — a woman dipped in oil, rather than a woman painted in gold paint.

Goldfinger’s impact on the series lingers today. Guy Hamilton was one of the major reasons.

Guy Hamilton, Goldfinger director, dies

Guy Hamilton

Guy Hamilton

Guy Hamilton, director of the first 007 mega-hit, Goldfinger, died at 93, according to an OBITUARY BY THE BBC.

Hamilton directed four Bond films, with Diamonds Are Forever, Live And Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun being the others. He initially agreed to direct The Spy Who Loved Me, but bowed out after agreeing to direct Superman. He ended up not directing that movie either, paving the way for Richard Donner to helm Christopher Reeve’s debut as the Man of Steel.

Hamilton also was offered the opportunity to direct Dr. No, the first 007 film produced by Eon Productions. He refused, with Terence Young eventually getting the job. After Young turned down Goldfinger, Hamilton didn’t say no to Bond a second time.

Hamilton was no rookie in the film industry when he got the Goldfinger job. He had been assistant director on The Third Man (1949) and The African Queen (1951). In the early 1950s, he graduated to the director’s chair on a series of films.

In the 1990s, Hamilton was interviewed by the British writer and film historian Adrian Turner for the book Adrian Turner on Goldfinger. Some highlights:

–On Eon Productions founders Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman: “Harry had the subtlety of an ape and he made Sean (Connery) feel like a complete gorilla…I could work happily with Harry and happily with Cubby, but when they were together it was a nightmare.”

— On Pussy Galore being gay in Ian Fleming’s original novel: “We had to glide over it. And you had to be wary of the censor who played a very big part in Bond.”

— On how a skeleton crew shot at the real Fort Knox: “It was just (Director of photography) Ted (Moore), Cubby ( producer Albert R. Broccoli) and me, and we did more shooting the next day than I think I’ve ever done in my life.”

–On taking over from Terence Young’s crew on Dr. No and From Russia With Love: “They were obviously surprised by the success of Dr. No and Russia so they were a bit lazy and arrogant…It was part of my job to put a big boot up all their arses.”

–On Live And Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun: “I regret doing the two with Roger (Moore)…They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

–On how Hamilton though Burt Reynolds would be a good James Bond: “I was in America and found the perfect Bond, who was Burt Reynolds. He had all Sean’s (Connery’s) qualities, a nice wit, but he moved like a dream. But UA (United Artists) said forget it, he’s just a stuntman.”

In the 21st century, some fans view Hamilton as being lucky with getting the Goldfinger job, while his three following 007 films didn’t come close to meeting the same standard.

Regardless, Hamilton was in the director’s chair for the first Bond film that made 007 a worldwide phenomenon. His record also includes directing a Harry Palmer film for Harry Saltzman (Funeral in Berlin) as well as the producer’s Battle of Britain movie.

With Hamilton’s passing, only Lewis Gilbert (b. 1920) remains among the directors of the first 11 Bond films. Terence Young died in 1994 and Peter Hunt died in 2002.

Roger Moore took to Twitter to write about Hamilton.

The official 007 Blofeld survey and the options not listed

Max Von Sydow

Max Von Sydow

When you have a long break between films, you need to engage the fans somehow.

So the official James Bond account on Twitter asked, “Who is your favourite Blofeld?”

However, given the weird history about Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s film rights, this question is more complicated, with some options understandably not listed.

The four choices are the Blofeld actors whose face could be seen onscreen in movies made by Eon Productions: Donald Pleasence (You Only Live Twice), Telly Savalas (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Charles Gray (misspelled Grey, at least when the tweet first went up, in Diamonds Are Forever) and Christoph Waltz (SPECTRE).

Not making the cut are the combination of Anthony Dawson (body) and Eric Pohlman (voice), used in From Russia With Love and Thunderball. On screen, we never see Blofeld’s face. The dialogue only refers to “Number One,” although the From Russia With Love end titles list “Ernst Blofeld” followed by a question mark in the cast of characters.

This version of Blofeld also dresses different than the others, wearing a suit and not the Nehru jacket-style top of the other four.

Also not listed is the stuntman (body) and Robert Rietty (voice) in the pre-titles sequence of For Your Eyes Only. Last year, the official 007 website carried a press release promoting a re-release of Bond movies featuring SPECTRE. The list included For Eyes Only. The villain in the pre-titles sequence was the only trace of SPECTRE in the movie.

At the time Eyes came out, the rights to Blofeld were in dispute and officially the character in the pre-titles sequence wasn’t Blofeld. In 2013, a settlement was reached with the estate of Kevin McClory, finally bringing Blofeld back into the Eon fold.

Finally, and most significantly, there’s Max Von Sydow, who played Blofeld in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, the McClory-Jack Schwartzman remake of Thunderball. It, of course, is not part of the Eon series and there’s no way the 007 Twitter account would include Von Sydow.

Still, Von Sydow is a great actor and his casting was a major plus for the movie. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get that much screen time. Von Sydow’s Blofeld does have a cat (like Eon’s Blofelds) but wears a suit.

The tweet about Blofeld is embedded below. Click on it to see the complete image.

UPDATE (10:10 p.m. New York time): Over on the official James Bond Facebook page, that version of the post does include the Dawson-Pohlman duo.

It should be noted that you can’t actually cast a ballot either on Twitter or Facebook.

Writing’s On The Wall wins Best Song Oscar

SPECTRE LOGO

Writing’s On The Wall, the title song for SPECTRE, won the Best Song Oscar on Sunday night.

The award marked the first back-to-back Academy Awards for the James Bond franchise since Goldfinger won a sound award (Norman Wanstall) and Thunderball won for special effects (John Stears) in the 1960s. 2012’s Skyfall also won for Best Song as well as receiving an Oscar for sound editing.

Co-writer and performer Sam Smith gave a short acceptance speech. The award went to Smith and his co-writer, Jimmy Napes.

Meanwhile, songs from James Bond movies played a prominent part of the Oscar proceedings. Live And Let Die (nominated but which didn’t win) and Diamonds Are Forever (not even nominated) were played at various spots in the telecast on ABC. Also played was the main theme from 1967’s Casino Royale, a comedy that’s not part of the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions.

Also during the show, stand-up comic Sarah Silverman introduced Sam Smith’s rendition of Writing’s On The Wall. It became a forum for Silverman to tell James Bond jokes. Here’s a sample from the JUST JARED website.

“I guess I was a Bond girl, in that I had sexual intercourse with James Bond and never heard from him… I know he has a cell phone – he has four!” Sarah said. “He loves sleeping with women with heavy Jewish boobs.”

“Oh here’s something. James Bond – not a grower or a shower. I don’t want to say he’s terrible in bed… but he’s slept with 55 women in 24 movies and most of them tried to kill him afterwards.”

The show’s In Memoriam segment included Christopher Lee (including a brief clip from The Man With The Golden Gun) and mogul Kirk Kerkorian, who bought and sold Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer multiple times. It was under Kerkorian’s leadership that MGM bought United Artists in the early 1980s, a move that still affects the Bond franchise to this day.

Also in the segment was character actor Theodore Bikel, who auditioned for the role of Auric Goldfinger but lost to Gert Frobe.

Finally, related to 2015 spy-related films, Mark Rylance won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Bridge of Spies.

UPDATE: They’re playing the theme from Goldfinger (another Bond song never even nominated for an Oscar) going into the final commercial break.

007 movies listed by number of tickets sold, 1995-present

Skyfall teaser poster

Skyfall teaser poster

The BOX OFFICE MOJO website has tools that let you look beyond unadjusted movie box office. You can also, for example, get a listing (for the U.S. and Canada, at least) of the estimated number of tickets sold.

There are various formulas for adjusting box office figures for inflation. But tickets sold is basic. So we decided to take a look back at the number of tickets sold for the eight 007 films of the past 20 years. Home video was firmly established, as opposed to the early years of the Bond series, where it didn’t exist and movies could get re-released.

Using this measure, 2012’s Skyfall, by far, sold the most tickets among 007 films in the region. After that, there’s less difference that the unadjusted box office figures might suggest.

What follows is each movie’s total U.S.-Canada tickets sold, with the number in parenthesis the number for its opening weekend. The average ticket price for each year is also listed. The total figure for SPECTRE is through Nov. 23.

GoldenEye (1995): 24,403,900 (6,024,100); average ticket price, $4.35

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): 26,911,200 (5,477,800); average ticket price, $4.59

The World Is Not Enough (1999): 24,853,800 (6,991,900); average ticket price, $5.08

Die Another Day (2002): 27,584,000 (8,101,900); average ticket price, $5.81

Casino Royale (2006): 25,428,700 (6,234,100); average ticket price, $6.55

Quantum of Solace (2008): 23,449,600 (9,405,100); average ticket price, $7.18

Skyfall (2012): 37,842,000 (10,977,000); average ticket price, $7.96

SPECTRE (2015): 18,085,500, through Nov. 23, (8,176,900); average ticket price, $8.34. UPDATED FIGURE: 22,996,5000 through March 27, 2016.

UPDATE: Out of curiosity, we went back to the earliest days of the series. Remember, these movies had re-releases, in some cases several re-releases. But in the cases of Goldfinger and Thunderball, you get an idea that Bond was a *very* big thing in the U.S. in the mid-1960s. Also, there was a big decline, relatively speaking, when You Only Live Twice came out. At the same time, Twice sold almost as many tickets in the U.S. and Canada as Skyfall did. Anyway, here’s a sampling:

Thunderball (1965): 74,800,000 (no opening weekend figure available)

Goldfinger (1964): 66,300,000

You Only Live Twice (1967): 35,904,000

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): 16,038,400

Diamonds Are Forever (1971): 26,557,300

Live And Let Die (1973): 19,987,500

Moonraker (1979): 28,011,200 (2,832,000 opening weekend)

Octopussy (1983): 21,553,500 (2,826,200)

Licence to Kill (1989): 8,732, 200 (2,210,300)

UPDATE II: To give that Thunderball figure some perspective, the top box office movie in the U.S. and Canada so far this year has been Jurassic World. It sold about 79 million tickets, according to Box Office Mojo. While comparisons that far apart are dicey, it’s fair to say Thunderball was in the same general league in its day. But before Bond fans brag too much, The Sound of Music (released the same year as Thunderball and also re-released several times), sold more than 142 million tickets.

The Chronicles of SPECTRE Part VI: Diamonds Are Forever

Another moment of 007 clothing splendor

Jimmy Dean, Sean Connery and Shane Rimmer in Diamonds Are Forever

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Sean Connery returned one last time as James Bond to Eon Productions’ 007 series in Diamonds Are Forever, the first Bond film of the 1970s.

Feeling they went a bit too far with the dramatic On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Guy Hamilton’s 1971 film returned to the tone set in Goldfinger. Bond’s revenge of his murdered wife Tracy was left to a short scene in the pre-credits sequence..

Once again, there’s no SPECTRE here. The organization isn’t mentioned, with Ernst Stavro Blofeld taking the lead as the villain. Still, we can see the famous octopus logo on his ring and one of his vehicles, the Bathosub.

Far of the volcano lairs and the mountain top headquarters, Blofeld is now stationed on an oil rig off Baja California and atop the Whyte House Hotel, impersonating the Howard Hughes-like millionaire Willard Whyte.

His plan, that inspired the Austin Powers movies (and, yes, Die Another Day), is to randomly detonate missiles with his laser satellite utilizing diamonds stolen to a number of smugglers killed by his henchmen couple, Wint and Kidd.

The Blofeld we see here, played by Charles Gray, is far from the man who caused the death of 007’s wife.

After Bond drowns him (actually, one of his doubles) in boiling mud during the film’s teaser sequence, he seems to forget he’s after the responsible of Tracy’s death.

Following a diamond smuggling link integrated by Tiffany Case, the exhuberant leading lady played by Jill St John, and avoiding a number of creative ways to die by Wint and Kidd, James Bond finds himself face to face with Number One.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q is aghast at Bond’s pink tie.

What follows until the film’s end credits is a number of double entendrés, philosophical quotes (Cubby Broccoli complained about quoting François de La Rochefoucauld) and funny situations where you see 007 very light against the man who took his wife away. The tone was set by Tom Mankiewicz, who rewrote Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. (CLICK HERE for an article that includes details of an early Mankiewicz draft for Diamonds.)

Much like the Telly Savalas version, Blofeld also goes to action… dressed as a woman! He has some authority, but far from threatening it sounds funny as he argues with his laser expert Professor Dr. Metz (Joseph Furst) about giving up or not as the Americans led an attack on his lair.

In the literary Bond timeline, there’s a so-called “SPECTRE trilogy” (Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice, in that order). For multiple reasons, the effect of that trilogy was wasted up on their screen adaptations, by having 007 not properly setting the score with the villain, as in the gritty last pages of Ian Fleming’s 1964 book.

The legal conflicts between Eon and Thunderball producer Kevin McClory prevented the official series from using SPECTRE in subsequent films, until now. Here we are days away of the U.S. release of the 24th James Bond adventure, using the organization name as the title.

Blofeld would make a return in the 1983 Bond production by McClory and Jack Schwartzman, Never Say Never Again, played by a charming Max von Sydow.

Half of the world hasn’t seen SPECTRE yet, so for many of us there’s still the doubt about who is really Franz Oberhauser, leader of the rebooted SPECTRE we’ll see fighting Bond soon.

Christopher Waltz, who plays Oberhauser in the fiction, categorically denied Ernst Stavro Blofeld is behind his character. Is it possible that, this time, Blofeld is it overshadowed by the organization he created without even the single mention of his name is heard?

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