‘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.

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.

Thunderball’s 50th: apex of the 1960s spy craze

Thunderball British quad poster.

Thunderball British quad poster.

December marks the last major 007 anniversary of this year — the 50th anniversary of Thunderball, the fourth Bond film and the apex of the 1960s spy craze.

This blog has written a lot about Thunderball. It was a milestone. In the fall of 1965, spies had taken over television, trying to get a piece of the spy frezy unleashed by Agent 007. But Thunderball transcended all that.

A half-century after it was released, Thunderball generates mixed reactions. For those who were there, it was a huge event. For those who weren’t, some go so far to wonder what the fuss was all about.

The former looks fondly at a spectacle that could only be viewed on the silver screen, not on TV. The latter sees a slow-moving movie (at least in its underwater sequences).

The former sees a self-assured Sean Connery as Bond, at the height of his powers. The former says, “Meh!” and the original 007 director, Terence Young, phoning it in.

In the U.S. and Canada (ticket information outside that region is hard to come by), no James Bond movie sold more tickets for viewing in a theater. Not just during its initial release, but various re-releases that took place for almost a decade.

In the end, which James Bond movie you like best comes down to personal preference. When looked at on that basis, there are untold opinions.

But Thunderball remains the movie when 007 made his biggest impact on popular entertainment. Thunderball was the follow-up to Goldfinger, the first Bond mega-hit. That was a time that can’t be re-created.

Thunderball, like other spy-entertainment of the mid-1960s, was like catching lightning in a bottle. No matter was happens in the 007 film series, Thunderball remains something to be celebrated.

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.

Thunderball poster sells for $13,145

Thunderball British quad that was auctioned Saturday

Thunderball British quad that was auctioned Saturday

A 1965 Thunderball poster was sold for $13,145 on Saturday, including a buyer’s premium, as part of an auction of James Bond film posters and lobby cards by Heritage Auctions.

The Thunderball poster was a British quad, put up for sale by collector Gary J. Firuta, who earlier this month sold off his collection of first-edition James Bond novels.

Here’s part of the description of the Thunderball poster by Heritage:

This extremely rare and highly sought country of origin British quad will surely be the highlight of all Bond fans’ attentions. Ian Fleming’s agent 007 is at his most spectacular, with Sean Connery in his fourth, and some say best, outing as Bond. As seen on this advance quad, the non stop action takes place in the air, on the land, and in the sea. Only a small number of copies still exist left uncut and this is the only poster from this film to use the artwork featured on the lower right side by Robert McGinnis and Frank McCarthy.

Another highlight of the sale was a Goldfinger “Style B” British quad that went for $10,157.50, including the buyer’s premium. This version had “more conservative artwork for the film was produced primarily for Ireland,” according to the Heritage description. It was also put up for sale by Firuta.

Prices varied widely and 1970s posters put up for sale by Firuta fetched less. A version of The Man With The Golden Gun‘s poster that included Bond villains from previous films went for $1,971.75. A British quad of Moonraker, which also plugged Seiko watches, sold for $406.30. A British quad for The Spy Who Loved Me, that also plugged Seiko, sold for $370.45.

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