A View To a Kill’s 30th: no more Moore

A View to a Kill's poster

A View to a Kill’s poster

To sort of steal from Christopher Nolan, A View To a Kill isn’t the Bond ending Roger Moore deserved, but it’s the one that he got when the film debuted 30 years ago this month.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli had prevailed at the box office in 1983 against a competing James Bond film with Sean Connery, Broccoli’s former star. Broccoli’s Octopussy generated more ticket sales than Never Say Never Again (with Connery as de facto producer as well as star).

That could have been the time for Moore to call it a day. Some fans at the time expected Octopussy to be the actor’s finale. Yet, Broccoli offered him the role one more time and the actor accepted.

Obviously, he could have said no, but when you’re offered millions of dollars that’s easier said than done. There was the issue of the actor’s age. Moore would turn 57 during production in the fall of 1984.

That’s often the first thing cited, such as THIS SUMMARY OF THE MOVIE posted on April 2 by What Culture, an entertainment website that specializes in “click bait” lists.

However, the problems go deeper than that. As we’ve written before, the movie veers back and forth between humor and really dark moments as if it can’t decide what it wants to be.

Typical of A View To a Kill's humor

Typical of A View To a Kill’s humor

Director John Glen and screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson constantly go from yuks and tension and back again. If the humor were better, that might be easier to accept. Typical example: In the pre-titles sequence, there’s an MI-6 submarine that’s supposed to be disguised as an iceberg but its phallic shape suggests something else.

For those Bond fans who never liked Moore, just mentioning the title of the movie will cause distress. Based strictly on anecdotal evidence over the years, many times admirers don’t mention it as one of his better 007 efforts.

We could critique the movie further, but most fans have heard it all before and, honestly, we don’t feel like going over the same ground here. If you want to experience that, go to a James Bond fan group on Facebook, type in, “I really like A View To a Kill,” and read the responses come in.

Regardless whether you’re a critic of Moore as 007 or a fan, he did hold down the 007 fort through some hectic times (including the breakup of Broccoli with his 007 producing partner Harry Saltzman). It would have been nicer to go out on a higher note than A View To a Kill. But storybook endings usually only happen in the movies.

1984: Kevin McClory’s SPECTRE

Kevin McClory ad in Variety in 1984.

Kevin McClory ad in Variety in 1984.

In 1984, a year after Never Say Never Again had arrived in theaters, Kevin McClory was already trying to kick start another James Bond film project not affiliated with Eon Productions.

Bond collector Gary Firuta sent us along the accompanying ad from Variety, the entertainment trade publication.

It says that Paradise Film Productions III had acquired “to license or sell certain James Bond film properties including S.P.E.C.T.R.E.” The ad goes on to say, “Bids will be considered shortly.”

McClory had an executive producer credit on 1983’s Never Say Never Again. He and producer Jack Schwartzman shared the “presents” vanity credit, similar to the Eon’s 007 series where producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman “presented” the film (with Broccoli the sole presenter after Saltzman sold off his interest in the enterprise).

Never Say Never Again got made because Sean Connery, who had starred in six Eon 007 films, was willing to come back to play Bond. But that was a one-time deal.

Still, McClory wasn’t done with Bond and would spend more than a decade trying to launch yet another Bond film adventure. Eventually, Eon (and Danjaq LLC) would best McClory in court. In 2013, Eon, Danjaq and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer would settle with McClory’s estate to get back the rights to SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The current Eon 007 film, SPECTRE, is now in production.

Aging in James Bond movies

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Skyfall director Sam Mendes this month said his 007 film was the first Bond adventure “where characters were allowed to age.” But was it really?

In 2000, author James Chapman made an observation about the opening of 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. At the start of the film, Roger Moore’s Bond visits the grave of his late wife, Tracy. Her headstone gives her year of death as 1969, the year On Her Majesty’s Secret Service came out.

What is unusual, however is not that the film refers back to Bond’s wife…but that it should do so in such a temporally precise way. The dates on the gravestone place the Bond of For Your Eyes Only as being twelve years older than the Bond of OHMSS. Assuming that Bond is usually taken to be in his late thirties, then the Bond of For Your Eyes Only would therefore be approaching fifty. In this sense, the film brings Bond roughly in line with Roger Moore’s own age (he was fifty-three when the film was released) and works better for Moore than it would likely have done for a younger, incoming actor.

Licence to Thrill, Columbia University Press, page 207

Chapman, interacting with fellow 007 fans on Facebook, also mentioned how Desmond Llewelyn’s Q aged. In The World Is Not Enough, he refers to his upcoming retirement and gives Bond a piece of advice before the agent departs on his mission. It would be the last time Llewelyn’s Q would be seen. The actor died after the film was released in the fall of 1999.

This wasn’t the first time such a notion had been considered. In Bruce Feirstein’s first draft script for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, Q is retired. He has been succeeded by a man named Malcolm Saunders. Q even got a retirement gift from the CIA.

However, later in the Feirstein draft, Q interrupts his retirement to help Bond out. In the final version of Tomorrow Never Dies, there is no hint about a Q retirement.

Finally, while it’s not part of the Eon Productions series, 1983’s Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery returning as Bond, embraced the older Bond concept.

Arguably, though, Mendes’ Bond film addressed the aging issue the most of a 007 story.

Variations of the line sometimes, the old ways are best were repeated. Mendes, in various interviews, quoted himself as telling Daniel Craig before production started that “you’ll have to play this at close to your own age.” Also, Roger Deakins, the movie’s director of photography, seemed to highlight every wrinkle on Judi Dench’s face in some closeups.

UPDATE: Some other examples of aging in the pre-Mendes Bond universe:

–Connery, in a 1971 article in True magazine, indicated he wanted to play an older Bond in Diamonds are Forever. He said how immortality “isn’t anyone’s, not yours, not mine and not James Bond’s.” The article also referenced how Connery would have preferred to portray a balding Bond.

–Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny, in Octopussy, says “as I used to be?” when Moore’s Bond talks about how lovely her new assistant is. Of course, this changed when the part was recast in The Living Daylights.

–In Licence to Kill, David Hedison tells his wife that Bond had been married “a long time ago,” in a reference that’s not as specific as the one in For Your Eyes Only.

Writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. dies

Lorenzo Semple Jr. scripted the Batman pilot and 1966 feature movie

Lorenzo Semple Jr. scripted the Batman pilot and 1966 feature movie

Lorenzo Semple Jr., a writer best known for the 1960s Batman television show but who also did spy-related scripts including Never Say Never Again, has died at 91, according to an obituary in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Semple wrote the pilot for the 1966-68 Batman series as well as the quickly made 1966 feature film starring Adam West and Burt Ward. When executive producer William Dozier decided on a less-than-serious take, Semple devised a simple format for other writers to follow.

The opening of Part I would establish a menace. Batman and Robin would be summoned by Police Commissioner Gordon. The dynamic duo proceeded on the case, ending with a cliffhanger ending. Part II opened with a recap, the heroes escaped and eventually brought the villains to justice.

Among Semple’s memorable lines of dialogue: “What a terrible way to go-go,” and “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”

Never Say Never Again's poster

Never Say Never Again’s poster

Semple always was drawn more than once to the spy genre. In the 1950s, he worked on drafts of a script based on Casino Royale, the first 007 novel, but nothing went before the cameras. Decades later, he was the sole credited writer on Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake not produced by Eon Productions but starring Sean Connery. Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, writers brought in by de facto producer Connery, did uncredited rewrites.

Between Semple’s Bond work, he scripted films such as 1967’s Fathom with Raquel Welch (featuring a Maurice Binder-designed title sequence), 1974’s The Parallax View with Warren Beatty (a movie about a conspiracy to assassinate political candidates) and 1975’s Three Days of The Condor, a serious spy film with Robert Redford.

In The Hollywood Reporter’s obituary, Semple is quoted about the ups and downs of film production. Here’s a passage involving Never Say Never Again:

Semple met with Sean Connery in Marbella, Spain and sold him on his 70-page treatment for Never Say Never Again, which saw the aging actor return as 007 in the much-litigated Warner Bros. film based on Thunderball. But when some action scenes were cut as a cost-saving measure, the producers pacified an angry Connery by blaming — and then booting — Semple.

“I was quite relieved; I really didn’t want to go on with it,” he said. “I also agree a human sacrifice is required when a project goes wrong; it makes all the survivors feel very good.”

To read the entire obituary, CLICK HERE. There’s one mistake. It says Semple only wrote the first four episodes of Batman. He wrote or co-wrote 10 episodes during the first season, though he penned fewer in the final two seasons.

The polarizing history of Kevin McClory

Kevin McClory's cameo in Thunderball

Kevin McClory’s cameo in Thunderball

Kevin McClory could always stir emotions among James Bond fans.

In the early 1980s, some fans viewed him as a hero. He had stood up to Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli and had helped bring an alternate version of 007 to the screen. It would have Sean Connery back in the role and show Eon what Bond movies should be.

Over the past 15 years, some fans (on Internet message boards and the like) have been vocal in casting McClory as, at best, a pest and at worse a villain who helped drive Ian Fleming to an early grave.

The more complicated truth has been the subject of books such as The Battle for Bond.

In short, McClory had worked on a Bond movie project in the 1950s. Ian Fleming was involved. The heavy lifting on the script was done by writer Jack Whittingham. When a film didn’t materialize, Fleming based his Thunderball novel on at least some of the screen material. McClory sued and, in a settlement, got the screen rights.

McClory entered an agreement with Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to make Thunderball. McClory even had a cameo in a casino sequence.

As part of the deal, McClory had to wait 10 years before doing anything more with his rights. When that time was up, the Broccoli-Saltzman partnership had ended and the Eon Productions 007 series was in flux. Court fights ensued between McClory and Broccoli. It would take several years, but finally Never Say Never Again, a Thunderball remake, came out in 1983.

It was during this period that McClory was hailed by some fans, particularly those who felt the Eon 007 films with Roger Moore had gone too light. In the end, Never did OK at the box office but not as well as Octopussy, Eon’s 1983 007 entry.

Years passed and McClory kept trying anew to start his own Bond series. Eventually, if you took a look around 007 Internet outlets, fans complained about McClory, wondering why he just couldn’t go away — especially during court fights in the 1990s.

The MI6 007 website has a story 10 NEGATIVE WAYS KEVIN MCCLORY AFFECTED THE 007 FRANCHISE, summing up the anti-McClory case.

McClory died in 2006. His family and estate have sold whatever rights he had held to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the Broccoli family. The move brings an end to McClory’s polarizing 007 history.

Never Say Never Again’s 30th: Battle of the Bonds round 2

Never Say Never Again's poster

Never Say Never Again’s poster

Never Say Never Again marks its 30th anniversary in October. The James Bond film originally was intended to go directly up against Octopussy, the 13th film in the 007 film series made by Eon Productions, that came out in June 1983.

Sean Connery, after a 12-year absence from the role, was going to make a James Bond movie his way. Warner Bros. and producer Jack Schwartzman had made the actor the proverbial offer he couldn’t refuse. He was not only star, but had approval over various creative aspects. He had much of the power of a producer without the responsibilities.

Schwartzman, an attorney turned film producer, took charge of a long effort to make an non-Eon 007 film. Kevin McClory, who controlled the film rights to Thunderball, had been trying to mount a new production since the mid-1970s with no success. Schwartzman became the producer, with McClory getting an executive producer credit and both men “presenting” Never Say Never Again.

McClory, at one point, had attemped a broader new 007 adventure. Never Say Never Again was only supposed to be a remake of Thunderball. Lorenzo Semple Jr., who had scripted non-serious (the pilot for the Adam West Batman series) and serious (Three Days of the Condor) was hired as writer. Irvin Kershner, who had directed The Empire Strikes Back, was brought on as director. As an added bonus, Kershner had a history of working with Connery in the 1966 movie A Fine Madness.

“As far as I’m concerned, there never was a Bond picture before,” Kershner said in quotes carried in the movie’s press kit. “There is a certain psychological righness to the characters as (Ian) Fleming saw them. He understood people very well. He was an observer of life and that’s what makes him a good writer. I tried to maintain that quality in the film. I wanted the people to be true.”

Not mentioned in the press hit was the fact that Connery, who had script approval, objected to Semple’s effort. As a result, at Connery’s urging, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais were hired to rewrite but didn’t get a credit.

The end result was a storyline that veered from a version of Largo who’s clearly off his rocker to goofy site gags involving the likes of British diplomat Nigel Small-Fawcett (Rowan Atkinson). Perhaps Connery really meant it when, in 1971, he called Tom Mankiewicz’s lighthearted Diamonds Are Forever script the best of the Eon series up to that point.

Also present in Never was an over-the-top SPECTRE assassin, Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera), a far wilder version of Thunderball’s Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi). In Thunderball, Bond tells Domino (Claudine Auger) her brother has been killed in a dramatic scene on a beach. In Never, he tells Domino (Kim Basinger) in the middle of a tango in a campy scene with loud music playing on the soundtrack.

Speaking of music, composer Michel Legrand was recruited by none other than star Sean Connery, according to Jon Burlingame’s 2012 book, The Music of James Bond. According to the book, Legrand felt burned out after working on the movie Yentl. “Sean’s warmth and enthusiasm persuaded me,” Legrand is quoted by Burlingame. Legrand’s score is a sore point with fans, who still give Connery a pass for his role in bringing Legrand to the film.

Understandably, fans prefer to focus on Connery’s performance in front of the camera, rather than decisions he made behind it. The actor, who turned 52 before the start of production in 1982, looked fitter than his Eon finale, Diamonds Are Forever. A survey of HMSS editors reflects admiration for his acting while mostly downplaying his decision making behind the scenes.

At the box office, Never Say Never Again did fine while trailing 1983’s Eon entry, Octopussy, $55.4 million to $67.9 million in the U.S. The Schwartzman production had been delayed by four months compared with Octopussy.

Years later, Connery was seen on a CBS News show, saying that Never had “a really incompetent producer.” For Schwartzman, things didn’t end happily. He died in 1994 at the age of 61 of pancreatic cancer. Connery remained a star until he retired from acting in the early 2000s. Eon and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer eventually gained control of the rights to Never Say Never Again.

Octopussy’s 30th: Battle of the Bonds, round 1

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Poster with a suggestive tagline.

Thirty years ago, there was the much-hyped “Battle of the Bonds.” Competing 007 movies, the 13th Eon Productions entry with Roger Moore and a non-Eon film with Sean Connery, were supposed to square off in the summer.

Things didn’t quite work out that way. In June 1983, Eon’s Octopussy debuted while Never Say Never Again got pushed back to the fall.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli was taking no chances. He re-signed Moore, 54 at the start of production in the summer of 1982, for the actor’s sixth turn as Bond. It had seemed Moore might have exited the series after 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. Broccoli had considered American James Brolin, and Brolin’s screen tests surfaced at a 1994 007 fan convention in Los Angeles. But with Never Say Never Again, a competing 007 adventure starring Connery, the original screen Bond, the producer opted to stay with Moore.

Also back was composer John Barry, who been away from the world of 007 since 1979’s Moonraker. Octopussy would be the start of three consecutive 007 scoring assignments, with A View To a Kill and The Living Daylights to follow. The three films would prove to be his final 007 work. Barry opted to use The James Bond Theme more that normal in Octopussy’s score, presumably to remind the audience this was the part of the established film series.

Meanwhile, Broccoli kept in place many members of his team from For Your Eyes Only: production designer Peter Lamont, director John Glen, director of photography Alan Hume and associate producer Tom Pevsner. Even in casting the female lead, Broccoli stayed with the familiar, hiring Maud Adams, who had previously been the second female lead in The Man With the Golden Gun.

Behind the cameras, perhaps the main new face was writer George MacDonald Fraser, who penned the early versions of the script. Fraser’s knowledge of India, where much of the story place, would prove important. Richard Maibaum and Broccoli stepson Michael G. Wilson took over to rewrite. The final credit had all three names, with Fraser getting top billing.

As we’ve WRITTEN BEFORE, scenes set in India have more humor than scenes set in East and West Germany. Some times, the humor is over the top (a Tarzan yell during a sequence where Bond is being hunted in India by villain Kamal Khan). At other times, the movie is serious (the death of “sacrificial lamb” Vijay).

In any event, Octopussy’s ticket sales did better in the U.S. ($67.9 million) compared with For Your Eyes Only’s $54.8 million. Worldwide, Octopussy scored slightly less, $187.5 million compared with Eyes’s $195.3 million. For Broccoli & Co., that was enough to ensure the series stayed in production.

Hype about the Battle of the Bonds would gear back up when Never Say Never premiered a few months later. But the veteran producer, 74 years old at the time of Octopussy’s release, had stood his ground. Now, all he could do was sit back and watch what his former star, Sean Connery, who had heavy say over creative matters, would come up with a few months later.



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