007 reasons not to hate Moonraker

Let’s face it. It’s fashionable for fans of James Bond movies to criticize Moonraker, the 11th 007 movie made by Eon Productions and the fourth to star Roger Moore. Some fans who count Sean Connery as the best film 007 dismiss Moore as “Roger, the clown.” Some fans who say Daniel Craig, the current film 007, is the best screen 007, dismiss Sir Roger as “Roger, the clown.”

That’s a heavy burden for any James Bond movie to carry. Still, there are some reasons why Moonraker isn’t a lost cause. For example:

001. It’s the last 007 film where Hal David did the lyrics: Hal David (b. 1921) did the lyrics for three 007 movies, starting with 1967’s Casino Royale spoof, extending to songs for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and concluding with 1979’s Moonraker. David has a long and distinguished record for writing lyrics for songs in films.

002. It was the last time that John Barry’s 007 theme was used: John Barry orchestrated (and, in real life, added to) Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme. Barry composed the 007 theme for From Russia With Love, hoping it would replace The James Bond Theme. No such luck, but Moonraker was the last time the 007 theme (da-da-da-da-DUH DUH) would be used in a Bond film.

003. It was the last time a Bond movie got an Oscar (R) special effects nomination: Moonraker’s special-effects crew, led by Derek Meddings, secured a nomination for an Academy Award. Meddings & Co. didn’t win. Still, Moonraker came out the same year as Alien (which won the Oscar). Meddings may not have had the resources of its competitor but the nomiation was still an accomplishment for the Bond crew. The last time a 007 movie received an Oscar nomination was For Your Eyes Only (1981) for best song. Meanwhile, John Stears won a special effects Oscar (R) for Thunderball.

004. It was the last time Ken Adam was production designer for Bond: Adam designed the sets for seven Bond films and Moonraker was his finale. Starting with Dr. No, Adam established a distinct look for the films (making the modestly budgeted Dr. No look more expensive than it was). Adam’s work in Moonraker was as good as it was in any other 007 film he worked on.

005. It has a John Barry score: Any John Barry score is special and the composer didn’t disappoint with his work for Moonraker.

006. It was the first 007 film that exceeded Thunderball in U.S. ticket sales. 1965’s Thunderball had U.S. ticket sales of $63.6 million. Live And Let Die exceeded Thunderball’s unadjusted worldwide ticket sales. But the U.S. market held on to Thunderball as the top-grossing 007 movie until Moonraker, where $70.3 million in tickets were sold.

007. Outer Space! (exclamation mark included) listed as a location for filming in the end titles. When was the last time you saw that in a 007 movie?

Rest In Peace, John Barry Prendergast

We have lost a musical giant, and one of our true heroes. A supremely sad day.

Thank you, Mr. Barry.

HMSS nominations for underrated 007 moments

What we’re about to discuss aren’t necessarily the *best* James Bond film moments but they may be the most *underrated.* So let’s get right into it:

Most underrated score by somebody not named John Barry: John Barry composed the score for half of Eon Productions Ltd.’s 22 007 movies. He also worked on Dr. No, helping to arrange The James Bond Theme composed by Monty Norman. Barry has earned a special status in the 007 film canon. But what of the other composers in the series?

It’s a hard call. By sheer volume, David Arnold gets notice (the only non-Barry composer to do more than one 007 film). But George Martin, composer of the score for Live And Let Die gets the nod here. Martin, producer of the albums of the Beatles, helped Paul McCartney sell his title song to Eon. And Martin made use of the song by Paul and Linda Martney in his score. It may not be the best non-Barry 007 score, but Martin’s score is a major plus for Roger Moore’s 007 debut.

Most underrated voice dubbing: Robert Rietty dubbed Adolfo Celi’s Largo in Thunderball, Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice and (sort of) Ernst Stavro Blofeld in For Your Eyes Only. Monica Van der Zyl dubbed Ursula Andress’s Honey Ryder in Dr. No, and possibly other roles.

However, Shayne Rimmer may get the nod, dubbing a doomed CIA agent in the pre-credits sequence of Live And Let Die. That’s because Rimmer (who had appeared on-screen twice before LALD and would do so again in The Spy Who Love Me is perhaps the least obvious dubbing job.

Most underrated screenwriter not named Richard Maibuam: Maibuam worked on 13 Bond films as a writer. Often his work would get re-written by others but the fact that producer Albert R. Broccoli repeatedly turned to Maibuam indicates the U.S.-born writer (1909-1991) had a special status.

So who earns the most underrated screenwriter title? The Neal Purvis-
Robert Wade duo is a distant second to Maibuam at four films. Tom Mankiewicz has three 007 writing credits (though he may have contributed to two other films on an uncredited basis) and Bruce Feirstein has three Bond film writing credits. Roald Dahl was an accomplished writer but his one Bond screenplay, You Only Live Twice, is a writing equivalent of painting by the numbers.

For the moment, we’ll give the nod (and this is very tentative) to Mankiewicz. His commentary on the DVD of Live And Let Die provides a clinic on how to write a screenplay (you may disagree with his choices but he explains how the choices were made; plus he’s an entertining presecen on DVD documentaries).

Your mileage may vary.

007 music at the Olympics courtesy of Kim Yu-Na

Korean ice skater Kim Yu-Na used a medley of James Bond music for her short program at the Vancouver Olympics. NBC waited until 11 p.m. ET to show her performance.

Selections included some of John Barry’s scores, including Thunderball and From Russia With Love and a Barry-esque sounding selection that David Arnold composed for Die Another Day. There were also versions of Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme.

She scored 78 points, a record, for the short program.

UPDATE: Our friend Mark Henderson points out this wasn’t exactly her debut at using 007 music:

UPDATE II: J.A. Adande, a participant in the Feb. 24 edition of ESPN’s Around the Horn, praised the “James Bond moment” during a commentary at the end of the show after he won the game of “competitive banter.”

The murky origins of the James Bond theme: a sequel

Eleven months ago, we posted about the murky origins of the James Bond Theme which included a link to a portion of a U.K. documentary.

The gist of the documentary was that while Monty Norman wrote the theme originally, John Barry contributed a great deal with the way he arranged and orchestrated it. And it should be noted that producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman would retain Barry, rather than Norman, to compose scores for future 007 films.

Last month, a YouTube poster called Blofeld39 weighed in with a video. It basically shows how various compositions, mostly by Barry, influenced what has become one of the most famous pieces of film music ever. Here it is:

James Bond Theme is played during Oregon-Arizona college football game

ABC (well technically ESPN via ABC) is showing the Oregon-Arizona college football game on Nov. 21. Around 8:30 p.m. ET, one of the bands of the teams involved played the James Bond Theme. It remains to be seen whether one of the best-known movie themes shows up again during the broadcast.

A lesser Cubby Broccoli credit

It’s the title song for Call Me Bwana, the movie Eon Productions Ltd. made in between Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

For Bond fans, it’s mostly famous for the scene in FRWL when Bond helps Kerim Bey kill a murderous Bulgar. An ad for Call Me Bwana, including a likeness of a smiling Anita Ekberg, is on the side of the building. The names of Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman are visible. In Ian Fleming’s novel, the correspondign sequence had an ad for Niagara, the movie that made Marilyn Monroe a star but was released by 20th Century Fox. The 007 producers decided to substitute their own comedy “epic” (released by United Artists, the Bond studio).

As it turns out, Call Me Bwana had many of the crew members who’d have a big impact on Eon’s Bond movies, including special effects wizard John Stears, editor Peter Hunt and director of photography Ted Moore.

Anyway, here’s old Ski Nose, Bob Hope, the star of Call Me Bwana, performing the song. In the video you can see an old 45 record where Monty Norman, the composer of The James Bond Theme, is credited with the song: