007 collectibles then and now: From kids to old guys

James Bond lunchbox seen around U.S. school yards, circa 1965-66

In the mid-1960s, there was no doubt. James Bond — suave ladies man with a license to kill — was being marketed to American school children.

Gilbert marketed a series of James Bond figures that included backgrounds based on the 007 films produced by Eon Productions.

Among the figures:

–James Bond being menaced by Goldfinger’s laser beam. Or, as it was phrased on a home video extra, the “most famous near castration in cinema history.”

–M’s desk with a sheet of bullet-resistant glass that came up from the desk, presumably based on Ian Fleming’s final 007 novel, The Man With the Golden Gun, where bullet-resistant glass came down from the ceiling.

–A small model of Dr. No’s “dragon,” a small figure of the Disco Volante from Thunderball.

Some of the 007 Gilbert figures

I know this because I had that Gilbert set. My late father explained the significance of the bullet-resistance glass in M’s desk and how it worked in the novels. The set didn’t survive my childhood. Kids, after all, tend to be destructive when it comes to toys.

There was also, during this time, a James Bond lunch box. I never had that. But I saw it in school.

Almost 60 years later, things have changed. New 007 collectibles aren’t really aimed at kids. They’re intended for middle-aged (or older) men who have enough money to afford them.

The newest example will debut officially later month — a Lego Aston Martin DB5. It’s to be unveiled at a July 18 event at a Lego store in London. Images have leaked out and it may sell for about $170.

People have told me via social media that, of course, Bond can’t be aimed at kids. Bond, after all, has that license to kill and there’s no way it could ever, ever be marketed to young audiences.

Except, of course, it once was. But that’s how it goes.

All this may reflect the aging of the Bond audience. The people most likely to plunk down $170 (or whatever the price ends up being for a Lego Aston Martin DB5) are men in their 50s and 60s with some disposable income.

In any event, things rarely stay the same.

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Images of Lego Aston Martin DB5 apparently leak

One of the images of the Lego Aston Martin DB5 on Instagram

Images of packaging for the new Lego Aston Martin DB5 appeared to have leaked and are on Instagram.

The images appear on #legoleaks on Instagram.

When the blog looked this morning, there were five postings of the packaging, including special cards. One of the postings quotes a price of $169.99.

The packaging include words “Licence to Build.” The hashtag #LicenceToBuild has been used by Lego, Aston Martin and Eon Productions’ official 007 feed on Twitter to promote the project.

The companies formally haven’t identified the DB5 as the licensed product. However, in recent social media promotions, they have used quotes from Goldfinger, Skyfall and SPECTRE. Lego has scheduled an event at 10:07 a.m., July 18 at its store in London.

Thanks to .@CorneelVF on Twitter for the heads up.

Ford cars, RIP

“Have you not heard? Ford is getting out of the car business!”

This week, Ford Motor Co. said it was virtually exiting the car business in North America, its home (and most profitable) market. By 2020, Ford announced, it will just have two cars in its lineup: the Mustang sports car and the Ford Active crossover due out next year. Ford will concentrate on trucks, SUVs and “crossovers.”

For people of a certain age this seems almost unthinkable. Ford always was aggressive with product placement. Ford cars have been in generations of films and U.S. television shows.

Here’s a look at some prominent examples.

James Bond films: The Bond Cars website provides a list, which says Ford shows up early in the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions. For example, it’s a Ford that serves as the hearse used by Dr. No’s assassins when they kill MI6 operative Strangways.

Ford’s relationship geared up in Goldfinger. A Lincoln Continental is crushed. Felix Leiter rides around in a Ford Thunderbird. Auric Goldfinger uses Ford trucks to transport his larger laser gun to Fort Knox.

And, of course, the movie marked the film debut of Mustang. The sports car was introduced in the spring of 1964 while filming was underway on Goldfinger. Mustangs would also show up in Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever.

Thunderball also featured a lot of Ford cars, including the Continental, Count Lippe’s Ford Fairlane and a station wagon among other vehicles. Emilo Largo drives a Ford Thunderbird on his way to SPECTRE headquarters immediately after the film’s main titles.

The automaker had an on-and-off relationship with the series. Teresa Bond (Diana Rigg) favored a red Mercury Cougar in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A number of Ford cars are crashed in the moon buggy chase in Diamonds Are Forever.

Ford also owned Aston Martin from 1987 until 2007. For Die Another Day, Ford had a huge product placement deal, mostly to promote European brands it owned at that time, including Aston, Land Rover and Jaguar. However, a Ford Thunderbird (driven by Halle Berry’s Jinx) also showed up.

The company’s ties to the film series ended with 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Land Rover would return in the 2010s, but after Ford had sold it off.

Matt Helm and Gail Hendricks (Dean Martin and Stella Stevens) in Matt’s Mercury station wagon equipped with a bar.

Matt Helm film series: For four 1960s Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin, Ford provided the vehicles.

Perhaps the most offbeat car was a Mercury station wagon, which was Matt Helm’s personal car in The Silencers (1966). It was equipped with a bar (!) in the back seat. Matt encourages Gail Hendricks (Stella Stevens) to have a drink or two to loosen up. She ends up consuming too much and passing out.

Other Ford-made cars in the series included a Thunderbird Matt drove around Monte Carlo in Murderers’ Row. It had some extras, including a device where words dictated into a microphone are spelled out on the car’s tail lights. (“If you can read this, you’re too close…”)

Hawaii Five-O (original series): Steve McGarrett’s signature car was a Mercury (a two-door model in the pilot, a four-door version thereafter). Lots of other Ford-made cars showed up during the 1968-1980 series.

Ford even supplied cars for an 11th season episode filmed in Singapore. The cast of that two-hour installment, The Year of the Horse, included George Lazenby, who received “special guest star” billing.

Erskine in a Mercury made by Ford Motor Co. in a sixth-season end titles of The FBI.

The FBI: Ford supplied cars for a number of Quinn Martin-produced shows. But the tightest relationship between the company and QM Productions was this 1965-1974 series.

Ford cut a deal to sponsor the show, which was broadcast on ABC. The automaker agreed to kick in extra money to ensure the series would be filmed in color. Executives felt a color series would show off Ford cars better. When The FBI debuted in fall 1965, most of ABC’s lineup was still produced in black and white.

Ford also vetoed the broadcast of one first-season episode, The Hiding Place, because there had been talk of a boycott being organized. The episode finally saw the light of day in 2011 when Warner Archive began releasing the show.

Symbolic of the ties between Ford and show came in the end titles. Inspector Lewis Erkine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) came out of the FBI Building (now the Department of Justice Building) and drove a Ford product home. It was a Mustang for the first four seasons. Subsequent seasons had different Ford-made cars.

The end titles were productions in and of themselves. Zimbalist traveled to Washington for annual meetings with then-Bureau Director J. Edgar Hoover. Ford would transport a car for him to drive in Washington for the following season’s end titles. Some of the cars were prototypes and weren’t the most sturdy.

This post merely scratches the surface. There have been many series over the years featuring Ford cars. It won’t be quite the same with Ford cars going away.

A look at some 007 #MeToo moments

#MeToo went viral last year as the result of workplace sexual harassment and assault, a lot of it media related such as now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

With the 25th James Bond film (slowly) in development, there has been speculation about how Bond will be affected by the Me Too movement. We won’t know for some time.

However, certain scenes from previous Bond films were cited in THIS ARTICLE from The Scotsman.

“Almost as soon as Harvey Weinstein’s dressing-gown fell open, and the first gruesome revelations of sexual coercion and assault in Hollywood spilled out, a debate was sparked about the future of Bond,” wrote Aidan Smith of The Scotsman.

With that in mind, here are some Bond movie scenes that get cited in #MeToo conversation.

“Dink, say goodbye to Felix.”

“Man Talk” (Goldfinger, 1964)

After the main titles of Goldfinger, the CIA’s Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) makes contact with Bond (Sean Connery).

Bond is with Dink (Margaret Nolan, who also participated in the main titles as the “Golden Girl” of the title song).

Bond sends Dink on her way saying he has to engage in some “man talk” with Felix. As she walks away, Bond slaps her on her buttocks, accompanied by an Oscar-winning sound effect.

Not something you could do in the 21st century.

“You don’t mean…”

“I’d Lose My Job” (Thunderball, 1965)

Bond (Connery again) is almost killed after Count Lippe sets a device intended to stretch the spine on full speed and the agent is helpless to do anything about it.

Patricia Fearing (Molly Peters), a nurse who had strapped Bond into the machine in the first place, returns early and saves the agent’s life.

As he’s recovering, Bond says somebody will regret this day. He’s referring to Count Lippe but there’s no way for Patricia to know that.

She urges Bond to stay silent or else she could lose her job.

Bond immediately seizes upon the situation. “I suppose my silence could have a price…”

“You don’t mean…”

“Oh, yes…”

According to the stage directions of the script:

The steam rises higher and higher making is even more difficult to see anything at all.

This is probably just as well.

As the saying goes, it is what it is. After having sex with Patricia, Bond gets even with Count Lippe. However, the villain doesn’t meet his demise until it is administered by another SPECTRE operative who figures into our next example.

Interplay between Bond and Fiona in Thunderball.

“Would You Please Give Me Something to Put On?” (Thunderball)

SPECTRE executioner Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) uses her sex appeal as part of her work for the criminal organization.

For example, posing as the “social secretary” for a NATO pilot, she arranges for him to be killed so a SPECTRE double can take his place. This enables SPECTRE to steal two atomic bombs.

Later, Fiona has encountered Bond but finally decides he needs to be eliminated.

She’s naked in a bathtub when Bond enters. “Would you please give me something to put on?” Fiona says. Bond hands her a pair of sandals and sits in a chair.

Not much later, they have sex. After they get dressed, SPECTRE thugs enter the hotel room. Eventually, Bond escapes. Fiona catches up, but she’s killed when one of the thugs tries to shoot Bond.

This is stretching things a bit in terms of #MeToo. Fiona knew exactly what she was doing and sex was part of her M.O. Also, Luciana Paluzzi had played a very similar character in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Fiona absolutely was a strong, independent character. She just came up short going against Bond.

“I like you better without your Beretta.”

Bond and Severine in Skyfall (2012)

This example is one of the most controversial, certainly among recent 007 films.

Severine (Bérénice Marlohehad been forced into the sex trade at a young age. Bond (Daniel Craig) deduces this from a small tatoo of hers.

She tells Bond her bodyguards will try to kill him as soon as she departs. But in case she survives, she tells Bond the name of the yacht she’ll be on, where to find it and that it will be casting off in an hour.

Severine waits in her cabin, with a bottle of champagne on ice. The yacht casts off. But when she decides to take a shower, Bond is there as naked as she is.

However, for Severine, things go downhill from there. Silva (Javier Bardem) has her roughed up. Later, there’s a William Tell bit where Bond and Silva try to shoot a glass of Scotch off her head. Silva doesn’t bother to really try and just shoots her to death.

Bond fights his way out this and helicopters descend to capture Silva.

Why this is controversial: I’ve seen some fans on 007 message boards compare Bond’s encounter with Severine in the shower to rape. But the shot of Severine with the bottle of champagne on ice suggests she was wanting Bond to get to the yacht.

On the other hand, Bond shows no remorse whatsoever that Severine was killed. After he gets the upper hand, Bond gloats to Silva. But he doesn’t acknowledge Severine’s ultimate sacrifice.

By comparison, both Thunderball (with the death of MI6 agent Paula) and You Only Live Twice (with the death of Japanese agent Aki) depict Bond acknowledging the deaths of the women, which is emphasized by John Barry’s music.

Uncomfortable moments in early 007 films

Close captioned image from Dr. No

Over the past few days, there have been three stories (in LAD Bible, the Daily Mail and the Express) about how millennials (people becoming adults in the early 21st century) find early James Bond films lacking.

The stories rely heavily on posts on Twitter from those who complain that Bond is a rapist or comes across as “rapey.” There are also complaints about racism as well.

But many of the tweets don’t get into specifics. With that in mind, here are some scenes that might be generating that reaction.

In selecting these three examples, they’re about Bond himself. In the stories linked above, some of the posters on Twitter objected to, for example, Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), who appeared in Live And Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun.

The sheriff clearly was racist, but was devised by screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz for the audience to laugh at and ridicule.

“Fetch my shoes” (Dr. No): While on Crab Key, Bond (Sean Connery) instructs Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) to, “Fetch my shoes.”

Quarrel, a Jamaican native, had been assisting MI6 operative Strangways. The latter’s disappearance spurred M to assign Bond to find out what happened to Strangways. That put him on the trail of Dr. No.

Anyway, Bond telling Quarrel to “fetch” his shoes wasn’t a major plot point. Bond, Quarrel and Honey are getting ready to hide out in Crab Key.

While Bond’s line doesn’t have good optics in the 21st century, it wasn’t so great in the 1960s, either. The U.S. civil rights movement already was well underway. The Montgomery bus boycott began in December 1955.

In 2014, a website called The Complainist  did a detailed analysis of Dr. No. Concerning “Fetch my shoes,” it said the following:

“Oh goddammit. Fetch you’re own shoes JB. Gross. Gross gross gross.”

Bond and Kerim laugh lecherously (From Russia With Love): In From Russia With Love, Connery’s Bond is talking to Pedro Armandariz’s Kerim about whether Tatiana’s offer to deliver a Soviet decoding machine is genuine.

Bond and Kerim enjoy a laugh together in From Russia With Love

Kerim is skeptical. “My friend, she has you dangling.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Bond replies. “All I want is that Lektor.”

“All? Are you sure that’s all you want?”

“Well…” Bond says. The two then laugh lecherously for about five seconds before we cut to the next scene.

The thing is, this is a big difference from Ian Fleming’s novel. Bond was afraid he might actually be falling for Tatiana. In the film, at least in this scene, there isn’t nearly as much emotion involved. It’s an example of the different worldview of the novels and films.

Bond’s roll in the hay with Pussy (Goldfinger): This is likely the source of the “rapist” and “rapey” comments.

Auric Goldfinger instructs Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) to show Bond around his horse farm to reassure CIA agents who are keeping an eye on the place.

Bond and Pussy eventually go inside a barn. They demonstrate their skills in self defense. After Bond throws Pussy to the ground, the agent says, “Now, let’s both play.”

Pussy resists for a while before embracing Bond.

Bond tries to secure Pussy’s cooperation in Goldfinger.

As depicted in the film, she appears to have been wooed over by Bond but it’s not until the very end of the scene.

It’s not just millenials who’ve commented about this sequence over the years. I’ve had discussions with first-generation 007 film fans who feel the scene gets very close to rape.

Just a year later, in Thunderball, the filmmakers allude to Goldfinger. Bond has gone to bed with SPECTRE killer Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). But she stays loyal to SPECTRE.

“What a blow it must have been,” she says to Bond.

“Well, you can’t win them all,” Bond says.

In the 1990s, director Guy Hamilton recorded comments about the film for a Criterion laserdisc home release that got recalled.

“I think this is one of the trickiest scenes in the movie,” the director said on the commentary track. “How to go from dy** to sexpot to heroine in the best of two falls, one submission and one roll in the hay. I suppose it comes off.”

007’s love-hate relationship with The Beatles

Poster for A Hard Day’s Night starring The Beatles, another United Artists profit engine.

By J. H. Bográn, Guest Writer

Although it’s hard to imagine now, there was a time when some people didn’t like the music from The Beatles. Back in 1964, the group was still a relatively new band that the teenagers went crazy over. In contrast, adults thought of The Beatles as a fad, as ephemeral as a lightening. Oh, and they also thought The Beatles made nothing but noise.

1964 was the year Goldfinger was released. The movie is consistently in everybody’s top-five lists of James Bond’s movies. One scene in particular offers undisputed proof of the loathing that then-adults had for such musical styling. Upon finding a champagne bottle gone hot James utters this admonition to a wide-eyed Jill Masterson:

“My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!

Shocking, isn’t it? Positively shocking. The truth is that every adult thinks of the next generation’s music as garbage. There’s even a term for it: Generational Gap. During the ’60s the producers, directors and even actors in the Bond films were way above their 30s and The Beatles was the music of teenagers. Of course, they’d hate it.

It should be noted that both Bond (via the series produced by Eon Productions) and movies featuring The Beatles were major contributors to the profits of United Artists in the 1960s.

Now, fast forward to the next decade when the same producers wanted to introduce another actor in the role made famous by Sean Connery.

They were careful and hesitant. After all, they had attempted the same feat four years earlier with the then-unknown George Lazenby, a man who had a passing resemblance to Connery in that they were both broad-shouldered, black haired and squared-faced.

This time they were using a dark blond thinner man that had had his bit of fame in the small screen with The Saint. Still, the producers insisted on Roger Moore went a different way from Connery in every possible way.

That premeditated distance meant Bollinger replaced Dom Perignon. Gone were the cigarettes and in their place Moore smoked cigars when he was not making snake barbecue.

Design for LIve And Let Die’s soundtrack album

Not to mention the absence of vodka dry Martinis, Moore ordered Bourbon. By my count, Bond lost two Walter PPKs in the course of this adventure, and thus for the final battle he sported a heavy silver-plated revolver—perhaps influenced by 1971’s Dirty Harry.

There was one other major difference: The artist playing the title song was none other than a former Beatle, and the producers loved him enough they removed the earmuffs!

Paul McCartney’s song (written with Linda McCartney) went on to become a Bond classic in its own right. Of course, ten years had passed and The Beatles had proven themselves as artists with staying power, even after they broke up. Furthermore, the youngsters from the early ’60s had grown up and they were the target audience for the ’70s. What a difference a decade can make.

What’s more, former Beatles producer George Martin (1926-2016) helped sell producer Harry Saltzman on the song. Martin also scored the movie.

Despite its flaws, Live and Let Die has endured and has become Moore’s best performance of the character—perhaps followed closely by For Your Eyes Only. The self-imposed distance must have helped.

Then again, the old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same is also true in this instance.

Moore wasn’t imitating Connery, but as part of an ongoing series the movie kept enough mementos of the previous decade: Bond wore a Rolex as in Goldfinger; there were sharks like in Thunderball; and of course, double-entendre quips still ruled. “Sheer magnetism,” says Bond as he lowers the zipper of an Italian agent’s dress with a magnet.

J.H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. His genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. For more details, check out his website, http://www.jhbogran.com.

The Spy Command marks its 9th anniversary

Today marks the ninth anniversary of The Spy Command.

The blog began with the name The HMSS Weblog. The first post on Oct. 8, 2008 concerned how three Raymond Benson James Bond continuation novels had been collected under the title The Union Trilogy. The post was penned by Paul Baack, who had the idea of the blog.

The Spy Commander, who has been running the blog for some time, didn’t weigh in with his first post until Oct. 19, 2008. That concerned A Man Called Sloane, the short-lived spy adventure with Robert Conrad and produced by QM Productions.

The blog began to hit its stride (and find its own voice) with a 2009 series of posts about the 45th anniversary of Goldfinger. It later had series of posts about the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and From Russia With Love as well as series about Dr. No’s script and behind-the-scenes financial issues of Dr. No. (CLICK HERE for part I.)

The blog formally was on its own in September 2014. The blog changed its name to The Spy Command in February 2015.

Assuming the blog is still around next year, we’ll have to do something more elaborate for the 10th anniversary.