Richard Johnson, would be 007, dies

Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

Veteran actor Richard Johnson, a potential screen James Bond, died over the weekend.

How close Johnson, who was 87 when he died, to snagging the role isn’t clear.

Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, in his autobiography, acknowledged Johnson was in the conversation. But the co-founder of Eon Productions, makes it sound as if Johnson wasn’t that close.

(Dr. No director) Terence Young had been promoting the idea of getting that polished British actor Richard Johnson to play Bond. It was a valid idea, but we thought (Sean) Connery was a much more exciting proposition. We called Terence in to hell him.

When the Snow Melts, page 169-170

On the other hand, an obituary by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (VIA THE NEW YORK TIMES) carries a different account.

(Johnson) told Cinema Retro magazine in 2009 that he declined the role and that he felt Sean Connery, who got the part and went on to play it in seven films, was miscast — but that the casting turned out to be perfect, “because it turned the thing on its head and he made it funny.”

Whatever the truth, Johnson did get his turn in the 1960s spy boom. The character of Bulldog Drummond was dusted off and turned into a series of spy films with Johnson as Drummond.

For more information, you can CLICK HERE for a post at Cinema Retro’s website. You can also CLICK HERE for an obit at The Telegraph.

UPDATE: The Double O Section blog HAS A POST that details Johnson’s other spy roles.

Robert Rietti, 007 voiceover artist, dies at 92

Emilo Largo (Adolfo Celi) was dubbed over by Robert Rietti

When Largo appeared in Thunderball, American audiences saw Adolfo Celi’s face but heard Robert Rietti’s voice.

Robert Rietti, an actor who dubbed over a number of characters in James Bond films, died earlier this month at 92, according to obituaries in THE TIMES OF LONDON and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Rietti’s participation in 007 films went all the way back to the first, 1962’s Dr. No. He dubbed over Timothy Moxon’s lines as Strangways, the doomed head of the Kingston station of British intelligence.

Rietti also dubbed over Adolfo Celi’s Emilo Largo in Thunderball, Testuro Tamba’s Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice and a bald villain intended to evoke Ernst Stavo Blofeld (but who officially wasn’t the SPECTRE chief because of rights disputes) in For Your Eyes Only. Thus, it was Rietty who uttered the line, “I’ll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel!”

With Thunderball, American audiences heard the real voices of Celi and Claudine Auger as Domino in a that clip that was part of the television special The Incredible World of James Bond, which aired in November 1965. But they heard Rietti’s voice paired with Nikki Van der Zyl’s the next month when Thunderball arrived in theaters.

Van der Zyl was even more of a 007 veteran at that point, doing voice work on the three previous 007 films, including dubbing over Ursula Andress in Dr. No.

You can CLICK HERE to view Rietti’s IMDB.com bio (where his name is spelled Rietty), which lists 256 acting credits.

The rise of the ‘origin’ storyline

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Fifty, 60 years ago, with popular entertainment, you didn’t get much of an “origin” story. You usually got more-or-less fully formed heroes. A few examples:

Dr. No: James Bond is an established 00-agent and has used a Baretta for 10 years. Sean Connery was 31 when production started. If Bond is close to the actor’s age, that means he’s done intelligence work since his early 20s.

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: During the first season (1964-65), Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) has worked for U.N.C.L.E. for at least seven years (this is disclosed in two separate episodes). A fourth-season episode establishes that Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) graduated from U.N.C.L.E.’s “survival school” in 1956 and Solo two years before that.

Batman: While played for laughs, the Adam West version of Batman has been operating for an undisclosed amount of time when the first episode airs in January 1966. In the pilot, it’s established he has encountered the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) before. There’s a passing reference to how Bruce Wayne’s parents were “murdered by dastardly criminals” but that’s about it.

The FBI: When we first meet Inspector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) in 1965, he’s established as the “top trouble shooter for the bureau” and is old enough to have a daughter in college. We’re told he’s a widower and his wife took “a bullet meant for me.” (The daughter would soon be dropped and go into television character limbo.) Still, we don’t see Young Lewis Erskine rising through the ranks of the bureau.

Get Smart: Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) was a top agent for CONTROL despite his quirks. There was no attempt to explain Max. He just was. A 2008 movie version gave Max a back story where he had once been fat.

I Spy: Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) have been partners for awhile, using a cover of a tennis bum and his trainer.

Mission: Impossible: We weren’t told much about either Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) or Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), the two team leaders of the Impossible Missions Force. A fifth-season episode was set in Phelps home town. Some episodes introduced friends of Briggs and Phelps. But not much more than that.

Mannix: We first meet Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) when he’s the top operative of private investigations firm Intertect. After Joe goes off on his own in season two, we meet some of Joe’s Korean War buddies (many of whom seem to try to kill him) and we eventually meet Mannix’s father, a California farmer. But none of this is told at the start.

Hawaii Five-O: Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) is the established head of the Hawaiian state police unit answerable only to “the governor or God and even they have trouble.” When the series was rebooted in 2010, we got an “origin” story showing McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) as a military man, the unit being formed, his first meeting with Dan Williams, etc.

And so on and so forth. This century, though, an “origin story” is the way to start.

With the Bond films, the series started over with Casino Royale, marketed as the origin of Bond (Daniel Craig). The novel, while the first Ian Fleming story, wasn’t technically an origin tale. It took place in 1951 (this date is given in the Goldfinger novel) and Bond got the two kills needed for 00-status in World War II.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Nevertheless, audience got an “origin” story. Michael G. Wilson, current co-boss of Eon Productions (along with his half-sister, Barbara Broccoli) wanted to do a Bond “origin” movie as early as 1986 after Roger Moore left the role of Bond. But his stepfather, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, vetoed the idea. With The Living Daylights in 1987, the audience got a younger, but still established, Bond (Timothy Dalton). In the 21st century, Wilson finally got his origin tale.

Some of this may be due to the rise of movies based on comic book movies. There are had been Superman serials and television series, but 1978’s Superman: The Motion Picture was the first A-movie project. It told the story of Kal-El from the start and was a big hit.

The 1989 Batman movie began with a hero (Michael Keaton) still in the early stages of his career, with the “origin” elements mentioned later. The Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins in 2005 started all over, again presenting an “origin” story. Marvel, which began making movies after licensing characters, scored a big hit with 2008’s Iron Man, another “origin” tale. Spider-Man’s origin has been told *twice* in 2002 and 2012 films from Sony Pictures.

Coming up in August, we’ll be getting a long-awaited movie version of U.N.C.L.E., this time with an origin storyline. In the television series, U.N.C.L.E. had started sometime shortly after World War II. In the movie, set in 1963, U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t started yet and Solo works for the CIA while Kuryakin is a KGB operative.

One supposes if there were a movie version of The FBI (don’t count on it), we’d see Erskine meet the Love of His Life, fall in love, get married, lose her and become the Most Determined Agent in the Bureau. Such is life.

SPECTRE by the numbers (and not just 007)

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE is starting production in Rome, for a five-week shoot, including a car chase, that will cost almost as much (if not more) than some movies.

So, here’s a breakdown of the kind of spending that’s known about the 24th James Bond film. We’ll assume a total production budget of $300 million.

According to information from hacked Sony documents, the budget was on pace to well exceed that, but there were also efforts to rein it in. We’ll assume the trends cancel themselves out so we’ll go with a nice round number with $300 million.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume a 30-week shooting schedule. Principal photography began on Dec. 8 and is supposed to run seven months. Actual total may run a week or two less than 30 weeks, but some filming was done before principal photography began. So, again, we’ll use a round number.

Cost per week, total: $10 million.

Cost per week, Rome shoot: $12 million (five weeks, $60 million, according to figures reported by Variety.com)

ESTIMATED COST OF NOTABLE JAMES BOND MOVIES (not adjusted for inflation)

Dr. No: $1 million

From Russia With Love: $2 million

Goldfinger: $3 million

You Only Live Twice: $9.5 million (Ken Adam’s volcano set alone cost more than Dr. No)

The Spy Who Loved Me: $14 million

Moonraker: $31 million to $34 million, depending on estimate (Initial plan was to keep it close to Spy’s budget but it was evident that wouldn’t hold)

Tomorrow Never Dies: $110 million (first to exceed $100 million)

Quantum of Solace: $230 million (first to exceed $200 million)

SPECTRE: $300 million (first to reach $300 million).

One week’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than You Only Live Twice, which had the one set that cost more than Dr. No.

Put another way, each day’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than Dr. No. At $10 million a week, if you shot seven days a week, equals $1.43 million daily.

ESTIMATED COST OF OTHER 2015 SPY MOVIES

Taken 3: $48 million

Kingsman: The Secret Service: $81 million

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: $75 million

To be fair, none of this takes into account 50 years of inflation. At the same time, this exercise is also a reminder that studios don’t play with Monopoly money. Studios don’t get to spend, or receive, inflation-adjusted dollars.

A few things best to forget about the first 3 007 films

Poster for a 1972 007 triple feature

Poster for a 1972 007 triple feature

After we did a post about things best to overlook about You Only Live Twice, two readers suggested earlier 007 movies deserved similar treatment.

Thunderball, the fourth Bond film, is rather notorious for a number of continuity flubs (not to mention a certain dog). So, we’ll keep this post to the first three 007 movies and things that are best to overlook to enjoy the movies.

DR. NO

Does M routinely work at 3 a.m.?: Granted, if you were running MI6 (or MI7 as Bernard Lee’s M refers to it) and one of your stations chiefs went missing, it’d be serious. But does that merit staying at the office overnight? Along with your secretary and your quartermaster?

In Dr. No, the answer appears to be yes. So you stick around. As does Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and Major Boothroyd (Peter Burton). Do Moneypenny and Boothroyd get overtime?

Why is Dr. No flushing all that water through his ventilator shafts? In the novel Dr. No, Ian Fleming depicts Bond going through an obstacle course that ends with 007 having to fight a giant squid. The first Bond movie didn’t have a budget to include that. So we get Bond (Sean Connery) going through a large ventilator shaft. It gets rather hot and a lot of water is being flushed. But why?

Bond doesn’t exactly have it easy, but eventually comes out in a room that includes radiation suits. It’s the perfect place for Bond to change to confront Dr. No in his reactor room.

Bond’s magical hair: After Bond has vanished Dr. No, he gets ready to head through a hatch. His hair is disheveled. Agent 007 runs his hands through his hair as he enters the hatch. Upon exiting, every hair is in place.

When Dr. No’s headquarters blows up — out-of-control atomic reactor and all — would that present a radiation hazard? Just wondering. The good folks at Cracked.com seemed to think it might render vast portions of the Carribean into a nuclear wasteland IN THIS 2012 POST.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

What was the purpose of the training exercise in the pre-credits sequence? Red Grants stalks a guy wearing a James Bond mask and kills him. “One minute, fifty-two seconds, that’s excellent,” one of the SPECTRE officials says. Yeah, but does this really help grant get ready to kill Bond? And why did the guy playing Bond participate? Did he volunteer? Or was he forced to? And what would have happened if he killed Grant? Then again, if they didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have an exciting pre-credits sequence, would we?

Who took away the bodies after the fight between the gypsies and the Bulgars at the gypsy camp? You’d think somebody would have noticed. Maybe there’s a deleted scene we’ll never get to see. Istanbul police chief: “Cripes, the Bulgars and the gypsies have been fighting again! What a headache!”

Who took away Rosa Klebb’s body at the Venice hotel? Bond quips that, “She’s had her kicks.” Presumably, the chap from the embassy Bond was chatting with on the phone had some connections with the Italian authorities.

GOLDFINGER

“Why didn’t he just kill him?” That’s the question that Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) asked an excited Jethro Bodine (Max Baer) in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies concerning the plot of Goldfinger.

It’s an old joke, but still a good one. Mike Meyers managed to get three Austin Powers movies made essentially using the idea. Goldfinger screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn sweated bullets over it in separate drafts of the script. Still, the Austin Powers movies haunt the 007 franchise to this day, ACCORDING TO CURRENT 007 DANIEL CRAIG.

“Must be a double blowout!” That’s Bond’s sort-of explanation for why Tilly’s Mustang ran off the road when he used his Aston Martin DB5’s device that not only shredded her tires but put a nice, long hole in the Mustang’s body between the tires. Presumably, Tilly’s powers of observation weren’t too keen.

Why does Goldfinger have Mr. Solo’s body crushed after he’s already dead? Oddjob shoots Solo, then drives the Lincoln Continental to a junk yard, where the car — including its contents of a gangster, a note from Bond in the gangster’s pocket, Bond’s homer also in the gangster’s pocket and a million dollars worth of gold — is crushed.

When Oddjob returns the squished block of metal back to Goldfinger’s stud farm, the villain remarks, “I must arrange to separate my gold from the late Mr. Solo.” Given this is the day before the raid on Fort Knox, seems like Goldfinger has created extra work for himself on top of an already busy schedule.

How did Goldfinger take over the plane that’s supposed to be going to Washington? Granted, the villain is wearing a general’s uniform. But do you think you could get onto a major U.S. Army base and get everything you want just by wearing a general’s uniform? Best not to think about that because you’ll be distracted and miss the ending.

Jonny Quest’s 50th: espionage gets animated

Race Bannon about to rescue Jonny Quest

Race Bannon about to rescue Jonny Quest

A half-century ago, one piece of spy-related entertainment involved a villain planning to use a laser beam to shoot down a U.S. rocket being launched to go to the moon.

A mix of Dr. No and Goldfinger? Sort of. It was the debut of The Adventures of Jonny Quest, later shortened to just Jonny Quest.

The Hanna-Barbera cartoon debuted on Sept. 18, 1964, with The Mystery of the Lizard Men on ABC’s prime-time schedule.

The series chronicled the adventures of Jonny, only son of key American scientist Benton Quest. The importance of Dr. Quest, a widower, was such that U.S. intelligence operative assigned agent Roger “Race” Bannon as bodyguard and tutor.

According to AN ONLINE DOCUMENTARY, the project originated when producer Joseph Barbera saw Dr. No, the first James Bond film. Barbera knew it was a genre he and partner William Hanna had to develop a cartoon for.

The producers initially thought they could revive the radio series Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. A test cartoon was made and, the Quest documentary states, part of it was incorporated into the start of Jonny Quest’s end titles.

Hanna and Barbera soon dropped that idea and opted to develop their own characters. They enlisted cartoonist Doug Wildey, who ended up doing much of the heavy lifting of devising characters. Much of the finished product was Wildey’s. One major exception, according to the documentary, was Jonny’s pet dog, Bandit. Wildey wanted a more exotic pet while Bandit ended up an obvious cartoon dog.

In the opener, ships are being destroyed in the Sargasso Sea by mysterious means. Thus, Benton Quest is called in to investigate with his son and Bannon in tow. Soon after, Jonny, Race and Bandit are soon in peril and stumble upon the conspiracy by an unnamed foreign power headed by an unnamed villain.

The story — written by Wildey, Hanna, Barbera and Alex Lovy — reflected its Bondian influences. The plot’s McGuffin resembles Dr. No. The villain’s main gadget, a laser gun, was part of Goldfinger, which was debuting in the U.K. at the same time (and wouldn’t reach the U.S. until December).

Quest was different than previous H-B productions. Characters (with the exception of Bandit) were drawn realistically, including shadowing.

The series was helped significantly by composer Hoyt Curtin, especially the debut episode. According to the Quest documentary, Curtin wrote the signature theme in such a way that trombone players couldn’t actually play it correctly. It was Curtin’s way of getting back at the musicians who playfully complained that the composer’s music was too easy to perform.

The credits on Jonny Quest downplayed the significance of Wildey and Curtin. Wildey wasn’t created as the show’s creator. On some episodes, he was listed as “supervising art director,” in others it was stated the show was “based on ideas created by” Wildey. Curtin was credited for “musical direction.” Meanwhile Hanna and Barbera got a “produced and directed by” credit in larger type for each episode.

Quest wasn’t a big hit. It ran only season in prime time. It would later be rerun on Saturday mornings. In the 1980s and ’90s, there would be Quest cartoon revivals. But it was never the same.

In the 2000s, there was a DVD release of that first season. But there were changes. Some politically incorrect lines were taken out. Also, the end titles from two episodes were used over and over. The writing credits for each episode were in the end titles. As a result, the viewer doesn’t really know who penned the episodes.

In any case, for people of a certain age, Jonny Quest still resonates, especially Curtin’s theme. Quest’s golden anniversary, understandably, will be overlooked because of the 50th anniversary of Goldfinger. Still, for some, will look back at the series with great fondness.

Dr. No’s script Part V: Meeting the villain, Bond woman

Not what Dr. No's screenwriters had in mind.

Not what Dr. No’s screenwriters had in mind.

Concluding our look at an early 1962 version of Dr. No’s script provided by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The first James Bond movie required a top-notch James Bond villain. The screenwriters of Dr. No envisioned an entrance for the title character that was different than what audiences would eventually see.

The January script by Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood species the scene is “POV” (point of view) of Dr. No.

According to the stage directions, “All we see of DR. NO is the edge of his desk, and a slight shadow cast from a reading lamp as he makes a slight movement. In short, we see this scene entirely from his eyeline.”

This, of course, is the scene in the finished film where Dr. No’s lackey, Professor Dent, rushes out to the villain’s headquarters in broad daylight to tell his superior how Agent 007 refuses to be killed. After Dr. No says, “Good afternoon….Professor,” the stage directions add this detail.

“He makes ‘Professor’ sound like an insult.”

From here on out, the dialogue is similar to the finished movie, until this stage direction:

“DR. NO learns forward, extending one hand, still in silouhette, toward a nearby table, from which he picks up small glass cage. As he holds it out towards DENT we see something black and furry moving inside it. DENT recoils involuntarily.”

At this point, Dr. No says, “Since your attempts at assassination have been so ineffectual….let’s try ‘natural causes’ this time.”

In real life, production manger Ken Adam came up with a set, that maximized his minimal resources. The striking set created a strong visual. Dr. No’s voice is heard, but the audience doesn’t even see a shadow. The tarantula Dr. No provides Dent seems to materialize out of nowhere.

Meanwhile, the writing team also was faced with adapting one of Ian Fleming’s most memorable passages, where Bond meets Honey(chile) Ryder.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.


The sun beats down on BOND as he sleeps. In the distance, as if in his dreams, he can hear a WOMAN SINGING.

(snip)
146. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

What he sees: HONEY, standing at the water’s edge, her back to him. She is naked except for a wisp os (sic) home-made bikini and a broad leather belt with an undersea knife in a sheath….Her skin is deep honey cooured (sic)….She stretches contentedly like a cat in the warm sun.

147. EXT. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

BOND – appreciates what he see (sic), in a moment he takes up the calypso refrain.

At the end of the script, as in the finished film, Bond is in a boat with Honey that’s out of fuel. But before the pair can make out very much “we hear the throbbing of an approaching motor launch.” It’s Felix Leiter, of course, spoiling their fun.

LEITER
I’ve brought the Marines….

BOND
(with a sly grin, as he helps HONEY up to her feet)
You picked a helluva time to come to the rescue.

THE END
James Bond will return….

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