Website says 007 cinematography of Craig era improved

Apparently pre-Craig era 007 cinematography, like this Alec Mills shot from The Living Daylights, was the work of hacks.

The Film School Rejects website, in a post last month, said the cinematography of James Bond films during the Daniel Craig era was noticeably better than its predecessors.

An excerpt:

All the earlier efforts were, with due respect, vehicles for action sequences, there was little to nothing dynamic about their cinematography otherwise, and even the action sequences were more dazzling for their production design than for the way they were shot.

But with Casino Royale, directed by Martin Campbell and shot by Phil Mehuex, the cinematography of the franchise leapt forward, becoming every bit as slick, stark, daring, and as fluidly brutal as the character whose adventures it captured. It was a pattern that continued through Quantum of Solace (dir. Marc Forster, DP Roberto Schaefer), Skyfall (dir. Sam Mendes, DP Roger Deakins), and Spectre (dir. Mendes, DP Hoyte Van Hoytema) and as a result the Craig-Bond-era has been uniquely successful for the historic franchise. (emphasis added)

A few things:

— Mehuex also photographed 1995’s GoldenEye (which was also directed by Campbell). Was Meheux a hack during GoldenEye who became an artist 11 years later? Was his photography in Casino Royale that much better than his work in GoldenEye?

–Pre-Craig 007 directors of photography weren’t exactly slouches. Ted Moore, the original DOP, won an Oscar for 1966’s A Man For All Seasons. Freddie Young, who photographed 1967’s You Only Live Twice, won three Oscars and was described by director Lewis Gilbert as one of the great artists of British cinema.

Oswald Morris, co-DOP of The Man With The Golden Gun, won an Oscar and had two nominations. (With Golden Gun, he took over for Ted Moore, who fell ill, and photographed interior sequences. Both Moore and Oswald shared the DOP credit.) Claude Renior, who photographed The Spy Who Loved Me, was highly regarded.

–Other 007 DOPs had their moments. Alec Mills, who had been promoted up the ranks until photographing 1987’s The Living Daylights, had a striking shot during that movie’s Afghanistan sequence.

The Film School Rejects’ post includes a video with a sort of “best of” video of shots from the Craig era. See for yourself.

Longest-lived among 007 film creators

Lewis Gilbert b. 1920

Lewis Gilbert, director of three James Bond movies, celebrated his 97th birthday on March 6.

Among 007 film creators (and we’re talking behind the camera) who worked on multiple Bond films, he may be the one who enjoyed the longest life. Oswald Morris, who was co-director of photography for The Man With the Golden Gun (for interior scenes only) lived to be 98.

What follows is a partial list:

Lewis Gilbert (director, three films): 97 and counting.

Ken Adam (production designer, seven films): 95

Guy Hamilton (director, four films, including Goldfinger): 93

Syd Cain (art director, production designer, multiple films): 93

Albert R. Broccoli (co-founder Eon Productions): 87

Johanna Harwood (co-screenwriter, Dr. No, adaptation, From Russia With Love): 86 or 87 and counting

Peter Murton (production designer, The Man With the Golden Gun, had worked as art director under Adam on Thunderball): 85

John Glen: (director, five films): 84 and counting.

Richard Maibaum (screenwriter or co-screenwriter, 13 films): 83

Terence Young (director, three films): 79

Christopher Wood (screenwriter or co-screenwriter, two films): 79

Harry Saltzman (co-founder Eon Productions): 78

John Barry (composer, 11 films): 77

Peter Hunt (editor, director of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, editor five films): 77

Michael G. Wilson (screenwriter and producer multiple films): 75 and counting

Roald Dahl (screenwriter, You Only Live Twice): 74

Ted Moore: (director of photography or co-DOP, six films): 72

Ian Fleming (James Bond creator): 56

Meanwhile, outside of the Eon-produced series (and all one-timers):

Douglas Slocombe (director of photography, Never Say Never Again): 103

Charles Bennett (co-scripted 1954 Casino Royale on CBS): 95

Lorenzo Semple Jr. (writer, Never Say Never Again): 91

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.

Golden Gun’s 40th anniversary: 007’s sacrificial lamb

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Normally, we’d have waited to do a post about The Man With The Golden Gun’s 40th anniversary. But with this week’s passing of co-director of photography Oswald Morris, this is as good a time to examine the ninth James Bond film.

Let’s face it: Golden Gun doesn’t get a lot of love among James Bond fans or even professionals. It’s exhibit A when the subject comes up about 007 film misfires. Too goofy. Too cheap. Too many of the crew members having a bad day.

Over the years, Bond fans have said it has an average John Barry score (though one supposes Picasso had average paintings). It has too many bad gags (Bond watches as two teenage karate students take out a supposedly deadly school of assassins). And, for a number of first-generation 007 film fans, it has Roger Moore playing Bond, which is bad it and of itself.

Golden Gun is a way for fans to establish “street cred” — a way of establishing, “I’m not a fan boy.” The 1974 film is a way for the makers of 007 films to establish they’re really talking candidly, that not every Bond film has been an unqualified success.

The latter point is true enough. Golden Gun’s worldwide box office plunged 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die ($97.6 million versus $161.8 million, according to THE NUMBERS website). Within a few weeks of its December 1974 U.S. release, United Artists hurriedly paired Golden Gun with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, which UA released earlier in 1974, to make a double feature.

In terms of long-term importance, Golden Gun was the finale of the Albert R. Broccoli-Harry Saltzman 007 partnership. Saltzman would soon be in financial trouble and have to sell out his share of the franchise to United Artists. In a way, things have never really been the same since.

This is not to argue that Golden Gun is the best offering in the Eon Production series. Rather, in many ways, it’s the runt of the litter that everybody likes to pick on — even among the same people who’d chafe at criticism of their favorite 007 film.

The documentary Inside The Man With The Golden Gun says the movie has all of the 007 “ingredients.” Of course, such a documentary is approved by executives who aren’t exactly demanding candor. But the statement is true. It has not one, but two Oscar winning directors of photography (Morris and Ted Moore); it has a score by a five-time Oscar winner (Barry); it is one of 13 007 movies Richard Maibaum contributed writing.

Then again, movies sometimes are less the sum of their parts. It happens. Not everyone has their best day.

For many, Golden Gun is a convenient piñata. Despite some positives (including a genuinely dangerous driving stunt), it’s never going to get much love in the 007 community.

Director of photography Oswald Morris dies at 98

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Oswald Morris, a distinguished director of photography whose work included part of one James Bond movie, has died at age 98.

Morris photographed films of various genres, according to his IMDB.COM BIO. They included Moulin Rouge, Moby Dick, A Farewell to Arms, Lolita, The Hill, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and The Man Who Would Be King.

His one Bond contribution was 1974’s The Man With The Golden Gun, the second Roger Moore 007 film.

Morris was hired to replace Ted Moore, who had fallen ill after completing location shooting in the Far East. Morris took over photography of the interiors. That included the scenes at the “fun house” of assassin Francisco Scaramanga, which the assassin uses for training. In the John Cork-directed documentary Inside The Man With the Golden Gun, Morris commented shooting on the set with its many mirrors was “a pain in the butt” to photograph. Morris also had tight deadlines to meet Christmas 1974 release dates.

Neither Morris nor Ted Moore would return to the 007 series. Morris won an Oscar (for Fiddler On The Roof) and was nominated for two others, ACCORDING TO IMDB.COM

You can CLICK HERE to read an obituary by The Hollywood Reporter, HERE for Variety.com’s obit and HERE one by The Guardian.

Peter Yates, ‘Bullitt’ director, dies; had earlier directed Danger Man/Secret Agent

Peter Yates, best known as the director of 1968’s “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen, has passed away at age 81, according to an obituary at The Wrap Web site. Yates, though, had experience with spy stories, including episodes of the U.K. series “Danger Man,” shown in the U.S. as “Secret Agent.”

Bullitt is most famous for its car chase and a very good, understated performance by McQueen. Before getting a chance at that film, Yates helmed a number of episodes of Danger Man, with Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake. Here are some excerpts from one of the episodes he did. The episode was edited by John Glen, who directed five James Bond films in the 1980s.

Even earlier, in 1961, Yates was assistant director on “The Guns of Navarone,” set in World War II, a combination war/spy film. This clip includes the prologue (while excluding the narration) and the main titles with Dimitri Tiomkin’s magnificent theme music. That film also included photography by Oswald Morris, who finished up work as director of photogrpahy on The Man With The Golden Gun after Ted Moore fell ill.