The Spy Who Loved Me’s 40th: 007 rolls with the punches

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me, which debuted 40 years ago this year, showed the cinema 007 was more than capable of rolling with the punches.

Global box office for the previous series entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, plunged almost 40 percent from Live And Let Die, the debut for star Roger Moore. For a time, things got worse from there.

The partnership between 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, unsteady for years, ruptured. Eventually, Saltzman was bought out by United Artists, leaving Broccoli in command. But that was hardly the end of difficulties.

Kevin McClory re-entered the picture. He had agreed not to make a Bond movie with his Thunderball rights for a decade. That period expired and McClory wanted to get back into the Bond market. Eventually, court fights permitted Broccoli’s effort for the 10th James Bond movie to proceed while McClory couldn’t mount a competing effort.

But that still wasn’t the end of it. Numerous writers (among them, Anthony Burgess; Cary Bates, then a writer for Superman comic books; future Animal House director John Landis; and Stirling Silliphant) tried their hand at crafting a new 007 tale.

Finally, a script credited to Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, with uncredited rewriting by Tom Mankiewicz, emerged.

Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct his fifth Bond movie but left the project. That paved the way for the return of Lewis Gilbert, who helmed You Only Live Twice a decade earlier. It was Gilbert who brought Christopher Wood to work on the script.

The final film would resemble Twice. Spy had a tanker that swallowed up submarines where Twice had an “intruder missile” that swallowed up U.S. and Soviet spacecraft.

With Saltzman gone, Cubby made his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, a key player in the production. Wilson was already on the Eon Productions payroll and was involved in the negotiations that saw Saltzman’s departure.

For Spy, Wilson’s official credit was “special assistant to producer” and it was in small type in the main titles. However, Spy was that downplayed Wilson’s role. An early version of Spy’s movie poster listed Wilson, but not production designer Ken Adam, whose name had been included in the posters for Twice and Diamonds Are Forever.

UA, now in possession of Saltzman’s former stake in the franchise, doubled down, almost doubling the $7 million budget of Golden Gun.

In the end, it all worked. Bond shrugged off all the blows.

Spy generated $185.4 million in worldwide box office in the summer of 1977, the highest-grossing 007 film up to that point. (Although its $46.8 million in U.S. ticket sales still trailed Thunderball’s $63.6 million.)

Roger Moore, making his third Bond movie, would later (in Inside The Spy Who Loved Me documentary) call Spy his favorite 007 film.

The movie also received three Oscar nominations: for sets (designed by Adam, aided by art director Peter Lamont), its score (Marvin Hamlisch) and its title song, “Nobody Does It Better” (by Hamilsch and Carole Bayer Sager). None, however, won. 

MI6 Confidential looks at Lewis Gilbert’s 007 films

A Moonraker poster

A Moonraker poster

MI6 Confidential’s new issue takes a look at the “Monorail Trilogy” of director Lewis Gilbert’s three 007 films: You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979)

The publication says articles in the issue include new interviews with Gilbert, 95, and Ken Adam, 94, who was production designer on all three movies.

Gilbert’s three 007 films were spectacles, which included massive sets and big action sequences. Adam designed, among other things, SPECTRE’s volcano headquarters in Twice, a tanker that could capture submarines in Spy and an orbiting space station in Moonraker.

Issue 30 of the publication also includes an article on Richard Kiel (1939-2014), who played henchman Jaws in Spy and Moonraker, and a story about the poster artwork of Robert McGinnis.

For information about ordering, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $11 or 8.50 euros.

Blast from the past: The Spy Who Loved Me (1975)

Bond collector Gary Firuta forwarded the following trade advertisement dated May 1975 in a publication called Cinema TV Today. It’s for The Spy Who Loved Me.

Of interest is that Harry Saltzman is still onboard at Eon Productions along with Albert R. Broccoli. Both are listed as presenting the movie. Also, at the time of the advertisement, Guy Hamilton was still slated to be director — with a 1976 release date.

Finally, in the 1975 ad, it says, “Ian Fleming’s The Spy Who Loved Me.” In the film, it said Roger Moore was playing “Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 in The Spy Who Loved Me.” The final film with “Ian Fleming’s” affixed to the title was Moonraker.

There would be many twists and turns between this advertisement and the release of the movie in the summer of 1977. The biggest twist would be Saltzman’s exit from Eon, selling out his interest to United Artists, a development that still affects the franchise today. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picked up UA’s interest in 007 when it acquired UA in 1981. Hamilton would also exit the project, to be replaced by Lewis Gilbert.

UPDATE: Back in September 2011, we had a post about THE ORIGINAL POSTER for The Spy Who Loved Me and how it differed from the final version.

SPY - AD CINEMA 1975

A few things best to forget about You Only Live Twice

You Only LIve Twice poster

You Only LIve Twice poster

The other night over at the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. SPIES AND DETECTIVES FACEBOOK PAGE, a conversation broke out about implausibilities of various James Bond movies. You Only Live Twice came up quite a bit.

So, it got us to thinking about things that are best to forget or overlook about the 1967 James Bond film directed by Lewis Gilbert. For the purposes of this post, we won’t even go into things chewed over the years, such as Bond trying to impersonate a Japanese.

“Arrange usual reception, please.” In You Only Live Twice, Bond (Sean Connery) and Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) are being followed and shot at by SPECTRE thugs.

No problem (as future 007 sacrificial lamb Vijay might say). Aki requests Japanese Secret Service chief Tanaka to, “Arrange usual reception, please.” A helicopter swoops down, extends a magnet, snares the thugs’ car, whisks it out over Tokyo Bay and drops it.

A few things (as noted in the Facebook conversation): Should Tanaka have maybe captured the thugs and interrogated them? And since this is the “usual reception,” how many times a year does the Japanese secret service dump cars full of thugs into the bay? It’s probably best not to think about any of this, or else you’ll be distracted by the Kobe docks chase that follows.

SPECTRE not exactly being inconspicuous: The criminal organization kills an American tourist because she happened to take a photo of the ship Ning Po (which, is connected to SPECTRE). As Bond remarks, the photo shows “a ship and a strip of land, it could be anywhere.” In effect, SPECTRE has announced its presence. Later, Bond flies over the volcanoes in Little Nelly. SPECTRE sends out four helicopters to try to shoot Bond down, confirming its presence in the area.

Of course, it’s best to forget all that because we wouldn’t have the helicopter battle that follows.

Bond’s magical ninja shirt: Bond and Kissy investigate a cave. But there’s poisonous gas, so they dive overboard and swim away. Bond is wearing a shirt and a white undershirt (see the 1:25:51 mark).

Much later, when he and Kissy have reached the top of volcano (and the metal roof that’s supposed to look like water), Bond has his gray ninja shirt on underneath (1:29:41 mark). It’s sort of like the DC Comics superhero Green Lantern who creates his costume using his power ring.

But it’s best to forget all that because the climax of the movie will be coming up shortly.

The film’s weird timeline: When Bond and Kissy reach the top of the volcano, it’s still daylight. The sun must have set pretty quickly because it’s night when they get to the metal door.

Meanwhile, the trek of Bond and Kissy up the mountain was depicted as long and arduous. The use of dissolves implies it took a long time. Some the shots show the walking isn’t easy. Also Bond said there were “miles” of cave tunnel leading to the top of the volcano.

Yet, Bond when sends Kissy “to get Tanaka,” she goes back down the mountain, swims across a bay, dodges bullets from a SPECTRE helicopter and brings Tanaka and his ninjas all in darkness. Maybe Bond misjudged the distance. Anyway, something else to ignore or else you’ll miss the big ninja raid on SPECTRE HQs.

Moonraker’s 35th: when outer space belonged to 007

moonrakerposter

June marks the 35th anniversary of Moonraker, a James Bond movie fans either like or despise.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli sought to make the most extravagant Bond film ever. The film’s first-draft script was too big even for the ambitions of the veteran producer. Twin mini jets, a jet pack and a keel hauling sequence were removed in subsequent drafts. Some of the ideas would be used in the next two films in the series, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy.

But there was plenty left, including taking Agent 007 into outer space (or Outer Space! as it was spelled in the list of locations in the end titles). Writer Tom Mankiewicz did uncredited work to develop the story. Screenwriter Christopher Wood received the only screen credit for the film.

Broccoli and United Artists initially wanted to spend about $20 million, a substantial hike from the previous 007 adventure, The Spy Who Love Me. It soon became evident the budget would have to even higher, costing more than $30 million.

Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert had teased the audience in 1967’s You Only Live Twice with the idea of Bond going into space. In that film, Ernst Stavro Blofeld catches Sean Connery’s Bond in a mistake before Bond can be launched into orbit. This time out, Broccoli and Gilbert would not use such restraint. Roger Moore’s Bond would go into space, in a spacecraft modeled after the space shuttles that NASA had in development.

As with other Bond films of the era, there was a lot of humor, including pigeons doing double takes and henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) suffering various indignities. The movie got good reviews from some critics, including Frank Rich, then of Time magazine. A sample of Rich’s take: ” When Broccoli lays out a feast, he makes sure that there is at least one course for every conceivable taste.”

Also singing Moonraker’s praises was reviewer Vincent Canby of THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Moonraker, Canby wrote, was “one of the most buoyant Bond films of all. It looks as if it cost an unconscionable amount of money to make, though it has nothing on its mind except dizzying entertainment, which is not something to dismiss quickly in such a dreary, disappointing movie season.”

Bond fans have a more mixed reaction. Some feel it’s too far from the spirit of the original Ian Fleming novels. For examples, CLICK HERE. Others, while acknowledging there isn’t much from Fleming’s namesake novel, are more than content to go along for the ride.

Despite the higher budget, Broccoli & Co. weren’t willing to pay what major U.S. special effects houses wanted. Instead, Derek Meddings used decidedly lower tech ways to simulate a fleet of Moonraker rockets launching into space and meeting up with a space station. Meddings and his crew an Academy Award nomination. Meddings & Co. lost to Alien.

For Moonraker, it was a major accomplishment to get the nomination. Meddings and his special effects colleagues were the only crew members working at England’s Pinewood Studios. The home base for Moonraker was Paris because of tax reasons.

Two stalwarts of the Bond series, composer John Barry and production designer Ken Adam were also aboard. Moonraker monopolized stages at three Paris studios with Adam’s sets. It would be designer’s farewell to the series. Shirley Bassey performed the title song, her third and final 007 film effort.

In the end, Moonraker was a success at the box office. The movie’s $210.3 million worldwide box office was the most for the series to date.

Broccoli changed course soon after, with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only being much more down to earth, with a greater emphasis on Ian Fleming original source material. Never again would Broccoli or United Artists (or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which acquired UA in 1981) attempt a spectacle on this scale.

Bond fandom in the 21st and 20th centuries

A sample of Roger Deakins' photography in Skyfall

A sample of Roger Deakins’ photography in Skyfall

Perhaps nothing illustrates how Bond fandom has evolved in the 21st century than all of the attention being paid to how Skyfall’s director of photography, Roger Deakins, has said he won’t return for Bond 24 because “I don’t know what else I could do with it, really.”

The news has discussed and analyzed on fan message boards (CLICK HERE for one example and CLICK HERE for another). Websites such as Ain’t It Cool News declared the development to be a “little bit of a bummer.”

Deakins was nominated for an Oscar for his Skyfall efforts and got a lot of praise. Skyfall director Sam Mendes said Deakins’ opening shot was so special, he just couldn’t put the gunbarrel logo at the start of the film. So, fans are wondering how his absence will affect Bond 24, which will start filming later this year.

In the early years of the film 007, a director of photography didn’t get that kind of attention. Eon Productions had a kind of “in-house” DOP in Ted Moore. It’s not like Moore was a hack. He got AN OSCAR for photographing 1966’s A Man For All Seasons.

Moore was behind the camera for the first four Bond films and did other jobs inbetween. For the fifth 007 film, director Lewis Gilbert sought Freddie Young, who he described as “one of the great artists in British cinema.” But the center of fan discussion was Ken Adam’s volcano set or Sean Connery’s impending departure as Bond.

In 1974, Eon subbed one Oscar-winning director of photography for another when Oswald Morris took over after Ted Moore fell ill. But again, it wasn’t a major top of fan conversation.

Flash forward to 2014. Nobody’s pushing the panic button, but certainly many fans are disappointed Deakins isn’t coming back. Perhaps this reflects greater artistic expectations in the fan base. Perhaps it’s also concern about not breaking up a winning team after Skyfall. Perhaps it’s a lack of much else to talk about regarding Bond 24.

Things change. The attention given Deakins is an indicator how the 007 fan world has changed.

Skyfall and Oscar nominations: glass half full or empty?

Thomas Newman

Skyfall composer Thomas Newman

For James Bond fans, this year’s Oscars ended a long 007 drought. Yet, fans on social media had a very mixed reaction.

On the bright side, Skyfall secured five nominations, the most for any 007 film. The previous best for a Bond movie was 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me with three. Not so bright: no nomination for Best Picture and no nomination for director Sam Mendes. In other words, fans wanted more.

Here’s a look at some of the reaction we saw among 007 fans via social media.

Thomas Newman got nominated for best score but John Barry never did for a 007 movie? Outrageous! Newman has been nominated for several movies, with Skyfall being the latest. John Barry won five Oscars but never got nominated for a 007 score, even though he established the Bond music template.

A couple of thoughts: in theory, Oscar nominators are supposed to only consider scores for a single year of movies. The 2012 nominators weren’t in a position to do a “make good” for Barry because, well, he’s no longer alive. Also, there’s probably very little overlap between those who voted to nominate Newman and those who passed over Barry in the 1960s. It doesn’t mean that Newman’s score is better than Barry’s work.

Skyfall deserved a Best Picture nomination. Why didn’t it get one? There had been a buzz that Skyfall could have gotten in. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences can nominate as many as 10 movies for the Best Picture honor. U.K. BOOKIES GAVE SKYFALL EVEN ODDS. The Whatculture Web site on Jan. 3 offered up TEN REASONS IT THOUGHT SKYFALL WAS A CONTENDER FOR A NOMINATION.

It didn’t happen. The academy only nominated nine movies. The academy tends to be pretty tight lipped. But keep this in mind: Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant and Peter O’Toole never got a competitive Oscar (Grant and O’Toole did eventually get honorary Oscars). With any group, such as the academy, there are internal politics, relationships, etc., that come into play. If you really believe Skyfall (and for that matter director Sam Mendes) really deserved a nomination, well, don’t let the Oscars get you down.

It’s too bad Skyfall only got technical nominations. Cinematography (where Skyfall’s Roger Deakins got nominated) and score actually are as much artistic as they are technical. (Skyfall also got nominations for best song, best sound editing and best sound mixing.)

Lewis Gilbert, in the documentary Inside You Only Live Twice, referred to Freddie Young (who photographed the fifth 007 film) as one of the great artists of British cinema. The director frames the shot, but the director of photography, though his or her lighting, greatly affects the look of a film. It’s not uncommon for DOPs to make the jump to directing. Music, meantime, has a big impact on the emotional feel of a movie.