How fans view 007 movies as LEGO blocks

On Her Majesty's Secret Service poster

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service poster

Fans treat the object of their affection like LEGO blocks. You can just move a few blocks from here to there without any other differences.

So it is with 007 films and 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

For years — decades, actually — Bond fans have debated the subject. The 007 film series produced its adaptations of Majesty’s and You Only Live Twice out of order.

Take out George Lazenby and put in Sean Connery? OHMSS would be a lot better is a common talking point.

Except, real life doesn’t necessarily work that way.

“If only they’d made OHMSS before YOLT…”

Except, you don’t get Peter Hunt as director. In turn, that means a ripple effect. You likely don’t get the most faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel, as the 1969 movie turned out to be.

Instead, you get You Only Live Twice except the character names and locations are changed.

Meanwhile, you have a greater chance of an underwater Aston Martin (in one of the script drafts before Hunt came aboard). You may even get Blofeld as a half-brother of Goldfinger.

All this isn’t speculation. Author Charles Helfenstein provides a summary of the various 1964-68 treatments and drafts for Majesty’s written by Richard Maibaum. Blofeld as Goldfinger’s half-brother was in a screenplay dated March 29, 1966, according to the book (pages 38-39).

In real life, making movies is more complicated. Change a major piece, such as the director, and there are ripple effects throughout the production.

Meanwhile, Eon Productions changed the order it filmed Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

With the novels, Russia came first. Dr. No came second. The movies reversed the order. Yet, few Bond fans complain about that.

Fan discussions about 007 movies are similar to debates among sports fans. Example: Which baseball team was better, the 1927 New York Yankees or the 1976 Cincinnati Reds?

For fan purposes, things would have been a lot better if Ian Fleming hadn’t sold off the rights to Casino Royale, his first novel, so quickly. In theory, if that had happened, Eon could have done Fleming’s novels in order.

Except, does anyone believe Sean Connery would have done a dozen Bond films?

Would Connery really have been satisfied doing that many 007 films in a little more than a decade? On the other hand, would fans have been satisfied with a Bond series of only six Connery movies starting with Casino Royale and ending with Dr. No?

Fans have their fantasies. Real life, though, is more complicated. Certainly, making movies is not like assembling LEGO blocks.

You Only Live Twice: Beginning of the end of ’60s spymania

You Only Live Twice promotional art

You Only Live Twice promotional art

The 50th anniversary of You Only Live Twice isn’t just a milestone for a memorable James Bond film. It’s also the anniversary for the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

The 007 film series led the way for spymania. Over the course of the first four Bond films, everything skyrocketed. Not only did the Bond series get bigger, it created a market for spies of all sorts.

By June 1967, when You Only Live Twice debuted, that upward trajectory had ended.

To be sure, Twice was very popular. But there was a falloff from its predecessor, 1965’s Thunderball. Twice’s box office totaled $111.6 million globally, down 21 percent from Thunderball’s $141.2 million.

The fifth 007 movie produced by Eon Productions didn’t lack for resources.

Twice’s famous volcano set cost $1 million, roughly the entire budget of Dr. No. Helicopters equipped with giant magnets swooped out of the sky. A seeming endless number of extras was available when needed. .

At the same time, the movie’s star, Sean Connery, wanted out of Bondage. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman adjusted his contract. But their inducements weren’t enough.

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

It didn’t help that Broccoli and Saltzman themselves had their own, growing differences. Broccoli didn’t want to take on Connery as another partner — the same kind of arrangement Broccoli’s former partner, Irving Allen, bestowed upon Dean Martin for the Matt Helm movies.

Finally, there was another Bond film that year — the spoof Casino Royale, released in the U.S. less than two months before Twice. However, anybody who viewed Casino Royale’s marketing or trailers could mistake the Charles K. Feldman production for the Eon series.

As this blog has discussed before, Twice has a lot going for it. Ken Adam’s sets were spectacular. John Barry’s score was among the best for the Bond series. It was also the one film in the series photographed by acclaimed director of photography Freddie Young.

In the 21st century, fan discussion is divided. Some appreciate the spectacle, viewing it as enough reason to overlook various plot holes. Others dislike how the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel was jettisoned, with only some characters and the Japanese location retained.

With this year’s 50th anniversary, the former may be celebrated more. The movie’s scope, even its posters, aren’t the kinds of things you see these days.

The longer-term importance of the movie, however, is that Twice symbolizes how interest in the spy craze was drawing to a close. Bond would carry on, but others — including U.S. television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy — weren’t long for this world when Twice arrived at theaters.

Ken Adam to be honored by American Film Institute

Ken Adam

Ken Adam

Ken Adam, the long-time film production designer who died in March, is being honored by the American Film Institute with a film series that runs starting July 9 and into September.

AFI is showing a range of films reflecting Adam’s work, including all seven James Bond films he designed for producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

In addition, the series includes The Ipcress File, the first Harry Palmer film that was produced by Saltzman, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the children’s movie based on an Ian Fleming novel that Broccoli produced.

The movies are being shown at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The dates are as follows. The movies are shown at different times of day and for full details, CLICK HERE.

July 9, 11, 13: Dr. No (1962), the first James Bond film, where Adam’s sets made the movie look more expensive than it really was.

July 10, 12, 14: Goldfinger (1964). Adam, with no access to the interior of Fort Knox, created one from his imagination.

July 16, 20: Thunderball (1965). The Biggest Bond of All and Adam’s work was one of the reasons.

July 17: You Only Live Twice (1967), the first Bond film to toss out an Ian Fleming plot and substitute its own. Adam’s SPECTRE volcano headquarters set was a major highlight.

July 23, 26: Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

July 25: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

July 31: Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Michael Todd-produced film version of the Jules Verne novel starring David Niven, with various stars making cameo appearances.  Adam is credited as an art director and his name is spelled Adams. The movie’s associate producer was William Cameron Menzies, who helped pioneer the concept of a production designer responsible for the overall look of a film.

Aug. 6, 10: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Adam returned after a two-picture absence from the Bond series. His work included the interior of what’s supposed to be a tanker that swallows nuclear submarines.

Aug. 7, 9: Moonraker (1979), Adam’s farewell to the 007 series, where his contributions included a space station.

Aug. 13, 16: The Ipcress File (1965), Adam demonstrated he could handle a more realistic spy film.

Aug. 20, 24: Barry Lyndon (1975), Stanley Kubrick-directed film where Adam won an Academy Award.

Aug. 26, 30, Sept. 1: Night of the Demon (1957)

Aug. 27, 28, 30, Sept. 1: Gideon of Scotland Yard (1958)

Sept. 2, 3, 5: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). Who better to design a flying car than Ken Adam?

Sept. 3, 6, 8: The Last of Shiela (1973)

Ken Adam's "war room" set from Dr. Strangelove

Ken Adam’s “war room” set from Dr. Strangelove

Sept. 9, 10, 12, 13, 14: Dr. Strangelove (1964): Adam passed on the second Bond film, From Russia With Love, to work with Kubrick on the nuclear war satire. Adam’s biggest contribution was the War Room set, which has inspired production designers and art directors ever since.

Sept. 10: The Madness of King George, which resulted in Adam’s second Academy Award.

 

Ken Adam, who created 007’s film world, dies

Ken Adam

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam, who helped create the film world of James Bond, has died at 95, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY BY THE BBC.

Adam’s official title was production designer, a duty he held on seven 007 films, starting with Dr. No in 1962 and concluding with Moonraker in 1979.

Part of Ken Adam's handiwork on Dr. No

Part of Ken Adam’s handiwork on Dr. No

With Dr. No, a modestly budgeted film, Adam’s set designs made the movie look more expensive than it really was. An example was a large room where Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) converses with an unseen Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman).

In a John Cork-directed documentary, Adam described the style as “slightly ahead of its time.” Dr. No’s lair looked fantastic, yet had antiques.

Dr. No was no fluke. The Adam-designed interior of Fort Knox in Goldfinger was attention grabbing. Ian Fleming’s novel never made it inside the U.S. gold depository. Adam made it almost dream like. You could understand why Auric Goldfinger lusted after gold.

Sean Connery may have breathed film life into Fleming’s creation. Ken Adam gave the film Bond a world to inhabit.

Also, over time, Adam altered his style. His early Bond films had rectangle-shaped sets. With The Spy Who Loved Me, he introduced more curved shapes.

Finally, as the Bond films expanded in scope and budget, Adam’s job took on aspects of a construction boss.

The SPECTRE volcano base in You Only Live Twice cost as much or more than all of Dr. No. Its construction at Pinewood Studios caused “hardened” film professionals to give up their lunch hours to watch it being built, sound man Norman Wanstall said in one of the Cork-directed documentaries.

Even more ambitious was The Spy Who Loved Me, featuring the inside of a tanker that swallowed nuclear submarines. Spy got Adam an Oscar nomination. He probably would have won if the movie had come out in 1976. Instead, it came out in 1977 and was up against the first Star Wars film, which got the Oscar in the category.

Adam’s style had a huge impact, not only with other spy films of the 1960s, but well into the 21st century. 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness had an homage to Adam’s “War Room” set from 1964’s Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

A giant in his field has left us. But Adam leaves behind an enormous legacy, not only with the Bond series but many other films.

UPDATE: Here’s the tweet Roger Moore sent out about Ken Adam’s passing.

UPDATE (March 13): It took a few days but The New York Times has come out with A VERY DETAILED OBITUARY for Ken Adam.

Also, here’s the tweet from the official 007 account that announced Adam’s death.

Our Man in Havana’s (sort of) 007 in-joke

Our Man in Havana

We’re still catching up with TCM’s marathon of spy films from Jan. 25. Anyway, in the Carol Reed-directed Our Man in Havana, there’s a sort-of in-joke to James Bond films.

Considering the movie was released in late 1959, before the 007 film series debuted with Dr. No in 1962, that’s a mean trick.

Here’s the explanation. Our Man in Havana’s crew included Syd Cain, who was the movie’s assistant art director. Cain, of course, worked on a number of Bond films, including as art director of Dr. No and From Russia With Love and production designer of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Our Man in Havana involves Jim Wormold (Alec Guiness), a seller of vacuum clearners who’s recruited to be the British Secret Service’s man in pre-revolution Havana. Wormold, after unsuccessfully trying to recruit a spy network, begins making stuff up — and London is buying (literally) every bit of it.

Wormold is now considered so important that British Intelligence is assigning him support personnel, including a secretary (Maureen O’Hara). One of Wormold’s fictional agents supposedly flew over a secret Cuban installation and saw a secret weapon (really a drawing of a vacuum cleaner). Now, there’s pressure from London to get photographs of it.

Wormold, in trying to decide his next step, happens to see a comic strip in a newspaper. It’s called Rock Kent and is supposed to be by Syd Cain. (It’s on the top of the page, just above Blondie.)

This particular strip depicts Rock crashing into the side of a mountain. “We shall hear no more of Captain Rock Kent!” reads the caption accompanying the drawing of the plane crashing.

This gives Wormold an idea how to solve his problem. Of course, things get more complicated.

Regardless, it’s an amusing moment for viewers familiar with the early 007 movies.

Financial behind the scenes of Dr. No, Part III

Terence Young

Terence Young

Film Finances Inc. had agreed to provide a “completion bond” for Dr. No and provide contingency funding to ensure the first James Bond film would be finished.

However, because of continuing cost overruns, Film Finances under its agreement with Eon Productions and United Artists, exercised its right to take over responsibility for the production as it began post production.

According to the 2011 book, A Bond for Bond, published by Film Finances, such an option was supposed to be a last resort. In 1962, Film Finances would end up doing it three times on United Artists movies, including Tom Jones, another film plagued by overruns.

Dr. No producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman and director Terence Young would retain responsibility for creative decisions. Film Finances, however, now controlled the purse strings, author Charles Drazin wrote. The book reproduces documents in the archives of Film Financing.

Post-production included some additional film shooting to complete the movie, including shots of Bond (Sean Connery) in a shaft in Dr. No.’s headquarters, the agent laying on his hotel room when a tarantula arrives and two men exiting a hatch from the “dragon” that patrolled Crab Key.

Originally, these shots were to be performed over two days. With Film Finances now in control, they were done in a single day, April 26, 1962.

Other matters needed to be resolved. There had been 7,000 pounds (almost $20,000 at an exchange rate of $2.80 to the pound) in cost overruns for sets — overages that production designer Ken Adam had anticipated and informed Saltzman about.

Film Finances agreed not to force repayment of the set overruns. In return, Danjaq SA, the holding company for Eon Productions, agreed on April 10, 1962 to grant 5 percent of Dr. No’s profits to Film Finances.

However, Danjaq had the option to buy back Film Finances’ profit participation  for the sum of the 7,000 pounds (for the set overruns) plus an additional 2,500 pounds after Film Finances recovered all money advanced to finance the production. Danjaq ended up exercising the option, Drazin wrote. A copy of the agreement is on page 94 of the book.

Another issue was Terence Young’s compensation. The director had agreed to defer as much as 10,000 of his 15,000 pound fee. More than 8,600 pounds was to be withheld from Young until it “had been earned back at the box office,” Drazin wrote. (page 85)

This didn’t  make Young happy.

“But I do feel, and I feel this most strongly, that Film Finances have behaved very shabbily to put it mildly,” the director wrote in a letter to his lawyer (pages 95-98).

“When I got back from Jamaica, I expected to get a medal for what I had accomplished,” Young wrote. “I have never in my life worked so hard, I have never on any location film had to put up with so many difficulties, and at the end I got no thanks whatsoever but was told Cubby and Harry made a mistake in ever taking me.”

On page 99 and 100, there’s a copy of a memo by Film Finances executive Robert Garrett about Young.

“I do not dispute that Terence Young probably worked very hard on location, but I do suggest he is a director who seems quite incapable of ever making compromises when things do not go smoothly.”

In the end, Dr. No’s final budget was more than 392,022 pounds (almost $1.1 million), according to a copy dated Jan. 11, 1963 filed by associate producer Stanley Sopel to Film Finances (pages 103-106). The sources of the money were 322,069 pounds from a Bank of America loan (the budget before overruns), 10, 063 pounds from United Artists and 59,890 pounds from Film Finances.

Film Finances, in a letter to Eon dated Jan. 21, 1964, said as of Dec. 31, 1963, it had been paid back with interest. From that point forward, author Drazin wrote, Eon would not utilize Film Finances’ services for Bond films.

 Thanks to Gary J. Firuta for loaning the blog his copy of A Bond for Bond.

Financial behind the scenes of Dr. No Part II

Jack Lord, Ursula Andress and Sean Connery relaxing on the Dr. No set

Jack Lord, Ursula Andress and Sean Connery relaxing on the Dr. No set

The first day of filming on Dr. No had a bad omen.

Principal photography began Jan. 16, 1962 at the Kingston, Jamaica, airport. Jack Lord, playing CIA agent Felix Leiter, had been scheduled to arrive Jan. 14 and report for work at 8:30 a.m., Jan. 16.

Because of travel complications, Lord couldn’t get to Kingston until 12:20 p.m. on Jan. 16 and didn’t arrive on the set until 2:45 p.m. Sean Connery, playing Bond, and John Kitzmiller, playing Quarrel, had arrived at 8:30 a.m.

“Because of the sun angle, we lost his first shots,” production manager L.C. Rudkin wrote on a unit progress report on Jan. 16, referring to Lord. The Dr. No crew would have to return to the airport the following day, putting the production of the first James Bond film one-half day behind schedule on its very first day.

That report is one of the various documents in the 2011 book A Bond for Bond, describing the travails of Dr. No’s production. The book, by Charles Drazin, focuses on the contributions of Film Finances Inc., the company that provided the “completion bond,” ensuring the movie would be finished.

Nor was that the only delay the Dr. No unit would see.

Day 4: “Bad light and generator breakdown,” according to a summary of location shooting after principal photography concluded. “Nearly day lost yet we shot -” Day 6: “Rough seas made abandonment necessary. Had to move over to location 15 miles.” Day 17: “Rough seas and two locations with retakes.” Day 20: “Rained nearly all day – shot in rain.” Day 24: “Whole beach had to be rebuilt because of hurricane in night, yet we shot.” Day 25: The “dragon” broke down and a safety winch also broke down, causing another half-day delay.

By the end of location shooting, according to this summary, 10 to 12 days of work had been lost and two sequences (“Interior Hotel Foyer” and the interior of Playdell-Smith’s office) would have to be filmed when the production moved to Pinewood Studios in England.

The report also contained this passage: “It is questionable if any other major film, with a similar budget, had ever accomplished the feat of shooting on 22 major different sets in 23 days. This practically Television or ‘B’ picture scheduling, but on this film it was necessary, and had to be done.”

Trouble was also brewing at Pinewood. Production designer Ken Adam had written a letter to Film Finances that the budget for sets was adequate. It wasn’t.

In a Feb. 1, 1962 letter to co-producer Harry Saltzman, and cc’d to his partner Albert R. Broccoli, Adam said set construction, props and set dressing would be more than budgeted. “This is merely a note to make quite certain you have realised this,” Adam wrote Saltzman.

On Feb. 18, Saltzman wrote Film Finances executive Robert Garrett to reassure him about cost overruns — which were exceeding the financing for contingencies that Garrett’s company had provided.

“I must say that (director) Terence Young has behaved tremendously well, despite all our misgivings and I honestly must say that none of the hold-ups have been due to his proclivity from procrastination,” Saltzman wrote. At the same time, the producer wrote that Young still has a “grande seigneur” lifestyle. “He has spent money personally like water.”

Saltzman added, “In spite of all the ulcer-making frustrating situations and the invasion of a good part of our contingency fund, the stuff we have shot here is tremendously impressive and I think well worth our troubles.”

Garrett wasn’t reassured. In a March 16, 1962 letter to Saltzman, the executive outlined budget overruns for publicity, music, studio rentals, insurance and other expenses and said it appeared the pace of production had slowed during filming at Pinewood.

“I must ask you and Cubby to take all possible measures of economy and above all, to see that the schedule position does not deteriorate further,” Garrett wrote. “From the progress to date in the studio we had the impression Terence Young has lost his earlier sense of urgency.”

According to author Draznin, Dr. No had exceeded its budget by 57,027 pounds (almost $160,000) for the week ending March 23, 1962. Principal photography finally ended April 3. By that time, Film Finances took an action it normally considered a last resort.

Thanks to Gary J. Firuta for loaning the blog his copy of A Bond for Bond.

NEXT: Film Finances takes control of Dr. No.