University of Illinois kicks off 007 celebration next month

Casino Royale's original cover

Casino Royale’s original cover

We’ve written before about how the University of Illinois will have exhibits related to the 60th anniversary of the Casino Royale novel. Here’s a list of events in April that will kick off that celebration.

3 p.m. central time, April 12: Michael VanBlaricum, co-founder of the Ian Fleming Foundation, delivers a talk about items on display and how his collection of Ian Fleming novels evolved. Location: Room 66 Library, 1408 West Gregory Drive, Urbana, Illinois.

7 p.m., April 13: Concert featuring music from James Bond films by the University of Illinois concert jazz band. Location: Spurlock Museaum Knight Auditorium, 600 South Gregory, Urbana, Illinois.

April 26-28: James Bond film festival. Besides movies being shown, there will be discussions about the films. Those talks will be led by John Cork, who made a series of documentaries about the making of the 007 films that are on DVDs as extras. Schedule of films and activities will be available at http://www.spurlock.illinois.edu (you can also try THIS LINK; no titles or times are listed yet). Location: 600 South Gregory, Urbana, Illinois.

The university is at Urbana-Champaign, in the east-central part of Illinois near where I-57 and I-74 intersect. You can view a map of the University of Illinois campus by CLICKING HERE.

If you want to go the April 12-14 weekend, expect to stay well outside the Urbana-Champaign area. There are other university events that weekend and hotels are booked.

E-book on the Matt Helm films now available

Dean Martin as Matt Helm with Stella Stevens in The Silencers.

Dean Martin as Matt Helm in The Silencers.

There’s an new e-book about the four-film Matt Helm series available. Bruce Scivally has written Booze, Bullets & Broads: The Story of Matt Helm, Superspy of the Mad Men Era.

Scivally previously worked on John Cork-directed documentaries of the James Bond films that were part of DVD extras. He and Cork also wrote James Bond: The Legacy, a coffee table book that came out last decade.

Here’s the description from the new e-book’s AMAZON.COM LISTING:

The story of Matt Helm, spy of the Mad Men era. After his creation by Donald Hamilton, Helm went from being a literary rival of James Bond to being a cinematic rival with the production of four movies starring crooner Dean Martin as a woozy, boozy secret agent. Produced by Irving Allen, the former partner of 007 film producer Cubby Broccoli, the Helm movies influenced not only the Bond films but also Austin Powers, and remain a “guilty pleasure” viewing favorite of red-blooded males everywhere.

We’ve written before how the first Helm movie, The Silencers, had THE BIGGEST EFFECT ON THE 007 FILM SERIES from rival movies because Dean Martin got a bigger paycheck than Sean Connery. Allen made Dino a partner in the enterprise. Soon after, Connery began demanding not only more money but to be a partner in the Bond films. 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman resisted the partnership demand, contributing to Connery’s departure after You Only Live Twice.

Also, according to film historian Adrian Turner, some at United Artists were keen on Phil Karlson to direct Dr. No. But Karlson’s asking price was $75,000, which helped Terence Young get the job. Karlson ended up directing The Silencers and The Wrecking Crew, the final Helm movie.

For the Scivally e-book, the price is $2.99. You can download it for free if you’re a Prime Member of Amazon.

How British are 007 films?

Skyfall's poster image

BAFTA winner for Outstanding British Film

Of course James Bond films are British. They concern a British icon and are filmed in the U.K. What could be more obvious? That’s like asking if Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley are British.

Well, that might not be the best comparison given that Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd. and Bentley is owned by Volkswagen AG. Still, 007 films have always been considered British.

Still, the answer isn’t as easy as it might appear.

In the early days, the series made by Eon Productions Ltd. was U.K.-based. While producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were born elsewhere, they were operated out of the U.K. and the movies were full of British film talent such as director of photography Ted Moore, (naturalized citizen) production designer Ken Adam and editor Peter Hunt. Of course, the U.S.-based studio United Artists financed the movies.

It pretty much remained that way until Diamonds Are Forever. The Inside Diamonds Are Forever documentary directed by John Cork notes that the producers initially intended to Americanize Bond, even hiring an American (John Gavin) for the role. It was going to be based out of Universal Studios.

Things changed. Sean Connery returned as Bond (at the insistence of United Artists) and U.K.’s Pinewood Studios was again the home base. Yet, some key jobs were split between British and American crew members, including stunt arranger, assistant director, art director, set decorator, production manager and visual effects.

Also, as the years passed, Eon for a variety of reasons (financial among them) based some films primarily outside of the U.K. They included Moonraker (the first unit was based out of France, Derek Meddings’s special effects unit still labored at Pinewood), Licence to Kill (Mexico) and Casino Royale (Czech Republic, with some sequences shot at Pinewood).

What’s more, movies not thought of as British, such as Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978) and Batman (1989) were based out of the U.K. Each had key British crew members, including: Star Wars with production designer John Barry (not to be confused with the 007 film composer), whose group won the art direction Oscar over Ken Adam & Co. (The Spy Who Loved Me); Superman with Barry again, director of photography Geoffrey Unsworth, and second unit director John Glen; Batman with art director Terry Ackland-Snow, assistant director Derek Cracknell and special visual effects man Derek Meddings. Batman was filming at Pinewood at around the same time Licence to Kill’s crew was working in Mexico.

Still, Superman and Batman (which both debuted during the Great Depression) are American icons and Star Wars, while set in a galaxy far, far away, is too.

At the same time, Skyfall, which came out on DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 12, is very British. Much of the story takes place there and many of Shanghai and Macao scenes were really filmed at Pinewood, with the second unit getting exterior shots.

On Feb. 10, Skyfall picked up the Oustanding British Film award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It was a first and a lot of 007 fans are still taking it all in.

In truth, movies generally are an international business these days, Bond films included. But 007 isn’t likely to lose his identification as being a British product anytime soon, much the way Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley have a British identity regardless of ownership.

Dr. No’s 50th anniversary part IV: `The Elegant Venus’

For their first 007 film, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman faced a challenge. Ian Fleming had provided a memorable introduction for Honeychile Ryder in the Dr. No novel.

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


The first time Bond sees the novel’s heroine she’s “not quite naked. She wore a broad leather belt around her waist with a hunting knife in a leather sheath at her right hip.” Agent 007 is reminded of “Botticelli’s Venus seen from behind.” The title of chapter is “The Elegant Venus.” The task for Broccoli and Saltzman was to find somebody who live up to that title.

The producers cast Ursula Andress. Director Terence Young staged her first appearance, coming out of the Carribean in a bikini, rather than naked as in the novel. The scene is one of the most commented aspects of the movie. Young’s technique was simple. Andress (dubbed by Monica Van der Zyl) walks out of the sea, singing Underneath the Mango Tree. There are no fancy camera angles: first a long shot of Andress, followed by a reaction shot of Sean Connery as Bond, followed by a waist-high shot of Andress.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it made an impact on the audience. Honey doesn’t even appear until after an hour of screen time, but Andress, nevertheless, became the first major Bond woman in the series. As noted by the John Cork-directed Inside Dr. No, Ian Fleming was impressed by Andress, even dropping in a mention of the actress into his On Her Majesty’s Secret Service novel that he was writing as Dr. No was being filmed.

A half-century later, Barbara Broccoli, the current co-boss of Eon Productions, told the London Evening Standard: “And look at Ursula Andress [emerging from the sea in Dr No]. Yes, she’s the most stunningly beautiful person in the whole world but her look was very different to what had come before. First of all, she had a very athletic body, and she was also incredibly natural — no make-up, no false eyelashes. I think that image of natural beauty is one we appreciate.”

Contrast that with Die Another Day, the 40th anniversary Bond movie in 2002. Director Lee Tamahori tried to emulate the scene from Dr. No with Halle Berry’s Jinx wearing an orange bikini, rather than the white one Andress wore. Tamahori used a couple of slow-motion shots and Berry preens for a moment before she comes out of the ocean. The extra bells and whistles of that scene emphasize how it’s a copy, rather than an original.

NEXT: Ken Adam’s magic

Rev. Moon and his 007 connection

Terence Young


Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, has died at age 92. His obituaries make for interesting reading for a number of reasons, but we’re noting it because of his James Bond connection.

That connection? Well, as the Deadline entertainment Web site notes, the Unification Church financed 1981’s Inchon, which was a big critical and financial bomb. The film told the story behind one of the key battles of the Korean War and was directed by Terence Young, who helmed three of the first four James Bond movies.

Paul Scrabo’s “Bond Memories” video series noted a number of 007 connections in the cast, including Gabriele Ferzetti and (probably) Rik Van Nutter. The video also has some behind-the-scenes footage:

Also, in “Bond Vivant,” a John Cork-directed documentary that’s an extra on 007 DVDs, actress Luciana Paluzzi describes how Young took a quick break from filming Inchon to give her away at her wedding. Paluzzi, of course, was the femme fatale in Thunderball, Young’s last 007 movie.

Reproducing the cinema 007’s original suits

The original Anthony Sinclair (right) fits Sean Connery


Anthony Sinclair, the Savile Row tailoring house named after the man who supplied Sean Connery with his original 007 suits a half century ago, is reproducing two of the suits for an exhibit in London in July.

A STORY IN THE CURRENT ISSUE OF BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK MAGAZINE quotes David Mason, the creative director at Anthony Sinclair, about the effort. Also, you, too, can dress like the original film 007. Anthony Sinclair offers an “off-the-rack” version of the suits for 750 British pounds, or a tailored one starting at 2,000 pounds, according to the article.

The Anthony Sinclair Web site describes how the original Sinclair developed a look known as the Conduit Cut beginning in the late 1950s, named after Conduit Street where he was based. The Web site says, “The style is timeless, and as fresh today as it was when 007 first stepped onto the screen in 1962. When Sinclair retired, his shears were handed down to his apprentice, Richard W. Paine, who continues to work for the company today, maintaining the standard of exemplary quality and style set by the master.”

The Anthony Sinclair tailoring house also has a Conduit Cut weblog. An entry on APRIL 15 describes the origins of the effort to reproduce the 007 suits:

To help celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the Bond films, the Barbican in London is hosting an exhibition entitled, “Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style”. However, most of the clothes made for the first actor, Sean Connery, have long disappeared, and so EON, the film’s producers, have approached Anthony Sinclair to request faithful reproductions of some of the pieces originally made by the company, including the famous evening suit worn by Connery in his first appearance as James Bond in the 1962 film, “Dr. No”. The records of production of these suits have also vanished from Sinclair’s archives, consequently the specifications for the remakes are being put together piece by piece, with the help of the exhibition’s curators, starting with the cloth.

The blog has had additional entries on APRIL 28, MAY 7 and MAY 19 concerning the work performed to come up with the 007 suit reproductions. The blog entries include some Bond film history, including how George Lazenby and Roger Moore were fitted by different tailors for their Bond films.

The John Cork-directed documentary Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service noted how Lazenby bought a suit by Sinclair to audition for the role. “Whilst this would have ensured that he looked the part for the screen test, it was as close as Sinclair’s tailoring got to the film production,” the Conduit Cut weblog says. The last Bond film featuring Sinclair suits was 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, according to the weblog.

Casino Royale’s 45th anniversary: Oh no, 007!

April Fool’s Day is as good as any occasion to note this month marks the 45th anniversary of Charles K. Feldman’s Casino Royale, the producer’s 1967 send-up of 007.

Feldman, one-time agent (Albert R. Broccoli was one of his employees) turned producer, was nobody’s fool. He had produced films in a variety of genres such as 1948’s Red River (uncredited), 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire, 1955’s The Seven Year Itch and 1965’s What’s New Pussycat.

So, when he acquired the film rights to Ian Fleming’s first 007 novel in the early 1960s, Feldman recognized it had commercial potential even as the film series produced by one time associate Broccoli and Harry Saltzman was getting underway in 1962. (CLICK HERE for a post on Jeremy Duns’s Debrief blog for a more detailed history.)

Feldman tried to entice director Howard Hawks, his one-time colleague on Red River. Hawks was interested but the director backed out after seeing an early print of Dr. No with Sean Connery.

Feldman pressed on, signing distinguished screenwriter Ben Hecht to come up with a screenplay. Details of Hecht’s work were reported last year by Jeremy Duns in the U.K. Telegraph newspaper. Hecht died in 1964, while still working on the project.

By now, Eon’s series was reaching its peak of popularity with 1964’s Goldfinger and 1965’s Thunderball. Broccoli and Saltzman agreed to a co-production deal with Kevin McClory, holder of the film rights for Thunderball. James Bond, The Legacy, the 2002 book by John Cork and Bruce Scivally, presents a narrative of on-and-off talks between Feldman, Broccoli, Saltzman and United Artists, the studio releasing the Broccoli-Saltzman movies. In the end, talks broke down. (Behind the scenes, Broccoli and Saltzman had their own tensions to deal with, including Saltzman’s outside ventures such as his Harry Palmer series of films.).

So Feldman opted to go for farce, but not in a small way. His movie had an estimated budget, according to IMDB.com. of $12 million. The Cork-Scivally book put the figure at $10.5 million. Either way, it was more than the $9.5 million budget of You Only Live Twice, the fifth entry in the Broccoli-Saltzman series. Twice’s outlay included $1 million for Ken Adam’s SPECTRE volcano headquarters set.

Feldman’s film didn’t have that kind of spectacle. But he did pay money (or Columbia Pictures’ money) for talent such as John Huston (one of five credited directors), David Niven (playing the “original” James Bond, brought out of retirement, who implies the Sean Connery version of the Broccoli-Saltzman series was assigned the James Bond name by MI6), Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress (now famous because of Dr. No), William Holden, Woody Allen and….well CLICK HERE to view the entire cast and crew.

Casino Royale, however, was less than the sum of its impressive parts. The humor is uneven, it doesn’t really have a story, despite employing a number screenwriters, including Wolf Mankowitz, who introduced Broccoli and Saltzman to each other. (For a more sympathetic view, CLICK HERE for a long essay on the subject.)

The’67 Casino managed a reported worldwide gross of $41.7 million. That was good in its day, though less than a third of Thunderball’s $141.7 million global box office.

Much has been written since 1967 about the stressful production, including reported feuds between Sellers and Welles. Perhaps all that took a toll on the film’s producer. Feldman died in May 1968, a little more than 13 months after Casino Royale’s premier, at age 64.