20th anniversary of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant

Paul Baack, co-founder of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant, left, along with some doofus, circa 2013.

Next month is the 20th anniversary of the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant fan website.

This blog, which debuted in 2008, was a spinoff of the site.

HMSS was founded by Paul Baack and Tom Zielinski in April 1997 as a James Bond “e-magazine.”

HMSS churned out issues that included contributions from Raymond Benson, the 007 novel continuation novel author from 1997 to 2002.

HMSS’ final issue was in the fall of 2011 and it went offline in 2014.

Still, for those of us (such as the Spy Commander) who contributed articles it was mostly an enjoyable time. In any creative endeavor, there are different points of views. But the end product was always worth it.

The highlight of every issue were the graphics that Paul Baack designed. If an article was OK, his graphics made it good. If the article was good, his graphics made it excellent. He always had exciting ideas to bring articles to life.

A personal note: I’ve always admired Paul’s energy and ideas. Not to belabor the point (and not to go into details), but he’s had health difficulties for a long time. I cannot personally imagine what he’s gone through.

So, with this post, the Spy Commander (figuratively) raises a glass to a special time. Those of us who contributed ot the site will never forget it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays one and all

This has been the blog’s annual holiday greeting since 2011, when it was affiliated with the now-inactive (but fondly remembered) Her Majesty’s Secret Servant site.

The graphic was designed by Paul Baack, co-founder of HMSS, who also had the idea for the blog.

It’s such a great image and it’s presented here once more. Paul still reads the blog on occasion. So if he spots this, here’s a big thanks from the Spy Commander.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

Christmas-greetings-from-HMSS

Merry Christmas from The Spy Command

This has been the blog’s annual holiday greeting since 2011, going back to when the blog was affiliated with the now-inactive Her Majesty’s Secret Servant site.

The graphic was designed by Paul Baack, who had the idea for the blog. It’s such a great image and it’s presented here once more.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

HMSS-Xmas-greetings

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Our annual holiday greeting, a tradition since 2011. Art by Paul Baack.

Christmas-greetings-from-HMSS

The evolution of James Bond movies

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

Daniel Craig during the filming of Skyfall

An exchange with a former colleague prompted us to look back at how James Bond films have evolved the past decade.

Paul Baack, co-founder of the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website (and originator of this blog), made the following observation via social media. His quote is presented here with his permission.

“At their best, James Bond movies are factory-made ‘B’ pictures with…’A movie’ polish.”

Ian Fleming’s original novels had a lot of influences. Some of his novels come across as fancier versions of pulp adventure stories. At one time, pulp-like stories were “B” movie fodder while “A” films were more prestigious, adult fare.

The early Bond movies were, indeed, like “B” movies with “A” movie gloss. Even the modestly budgeted Dr. No had Ken Adam-designed sets that made it look more expensive than it really was. Back in September, we posed the questions whether Goldfinger could be considered the first “A-movie” comic book film.

And, whether you consider them a factory product, the movies were controlled by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and later Broccoli solo. Directors had impact, but Bond films weren’t part of the auteur school of movie making.

Since 2005, when actor Daniel Craig was cast for Casino Royale, the formula changed. The Bond series, in some respects, became “A-movie” dramas with genre-movie action sequences and special effects.

Directors began to exhibit auteur tendencies. Marc Forster had scripts reshaped to fit his “classical four elements” theme of fire, water, earth and air (see HAPHAZARD STUFF’s four-part video review of the film for details). Sam Mendes, with Skyfall, emphasized drama. Example: near the end of the pre-credits sequence, when it appears Bond has been killed, it starts raining outside M’s office. Also, M (Judi Dench) gets to read a poem in a dramatic moment.

Bond directors have yet to get a vanity credit — “A Sam Mendes Film” or “A Film by Sam Mendes”. Still, they do seem to have more control than under the Brocccoli-Saltzman days. With Mendes aboard once more for SPECTRE, that doesn’t look to change.

Meanwhile, the new Bond dramas aren’t inexpensive. Documents hacked from Sony Pictures indicate the new movie’s budget may exceed $300 million, which would make it one of the most expensive movies of all time. That’s not just “A-movie” polish, that’s a warehouse full of “A-movie” polish.

Happy 85th birthday, Roger Moore

Roger Moore, star of seven 007 movies from 1973 to 1985, turns 85 on Oct. 14.

When he talks about Bond, he frequently compliments other actors in the role, particularly Sean Connery and Daniel Craig. Occasionally, such as the new Everything Or Nothing documentary, he’ll analyze his own films. For example, in that documentary, he mentions a scene in The Man With the Golden Gun he now cringes about. His Bond double crosses a Thai boy and pushes him in the water.

But when it comes to Bond, he mostly still promotes the enterprise even though his direct involvement ended long ago while not (publicly at least) seeming to worry about his place in it.

Here’s an excerpt from a 2010 essay by HMSS co-founder Paul Baack that analyzed Moore as 007:

While one may quibble over screen Bond depictions vs. Ian Fleming’s descriptions, Roger Moore actually had quite a satisfactory screen presence in the role. That he was handsome goes without saying, although he’s been charged with being “blandly handsome.” Whatever. His voice is perhaps the best of all the Bonds, a rich baritone with a drawling English accent just this short of being plummy (which he could actually turn quite crisp when he needed to).

(snip)
It didn’t often seem like it, but Moore could actually act. His style wasn’t flashy like Timothy Dalton’s or studied like Sean Connery’s, but you never saw him looking awkward on the screen. Goofy at times, sure, but even then it was always in concert with the scene and the other actors. He could project great warmth or steely coolness; it’s still a thrill to see the gravitas he brought to his “serious” scenes. Like you would imagine 007 to be, Moore was comfortable in his own skin, naturalistic and at ease onscreen as “that gentleman secret agent.”

He was a great ambassador for the James Bond movies. Moore was a frequent, and welcome, guest on most of the major television talk shows, where he could banter and/or engage in serious conversation with wit, charisma, and charm. Whether promoting the newly-released film or talking about going into production on the next one, his enthusiasm and appreciation were always tempered by his self-deprecating sense of humor and private amusement at where his career had taken him…. The old saw about “he kept the series popular” is largely true, and no small accomplishment.

You can read the entire essay BY CLICKING HERE.

The new issue of HMSS has arrived!

Volume VI, Issue 2


The publishers and editors of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant take enormous pleasure, and a little bit of pride, in announcing that a brand-new issue is up, awaiting your perusal and enjoyment. There’s lots of good stuff to explore in this one: an exhaustive cataloguing of the collectible goodies spun off from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; an examination of the Cold War career of Mr. Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man); an investigation into what the heck happened with the cinematic “Blofeld trilogy;” an appreciation of Roger Moore’s contribution to the 007 screen saga; and an eye-pleasing look at our top 10 favorite (and hottest!) Bond girls.

So, swing on over to HMSS.com and get knee-deep in the 007 weeds!