Case study: How your views of 007 films evolve

Original 007 gunbarrel logo with Bob Simmons subbing for Sean Connery.

Following the release of 2006’s Casino Royale, the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website commissioned an interesting project. It asked all of its contributors to score all of the Eon 007 films plus Never Say Never Again.

The scores were then assigned points and the various films ranked. It was a very detailed effort.

While HMSS has been offline since 2014, much of it has been preserved at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine website. And that includes the survey of HMSS contributors.

For the purposes of this post, I’m not linking to the survey. Anyone else who participated in that HMSS survey can speak up for themselves if they’d like. I’m just keeping this post to my own ups and downs with the Bond films.

Still, viewing my own comments in that survey, I can appreciate how feelings about different series entries can vary over time.

So, to begin with, my harshest rating (D) and comments were for Moonraker.

Roger Moore looks like he’s sleepwalking at times (though he has a couple of good scenes). The hovercraft scene almost ruins a decent chase scene in Venice. The outer space effects are OK but not up to Lucasfilm levels. Too jokey at times…Ken Adam and John Barry are again the real stars of the film.

I still dislike elements now that I did then (pigeons doing double takes, Jaws flapping his arms when his parachute malfunctions, less-than-subtle product placement for Marlboro, British Airways and 7-Up).

At the same time, I’m more accepting of what Moonraker for what it is. The film was incredibly ambitious in terms of spectacle (and was even more so in its first-draft script). And, looking back, I was too harsh on Roger Moore, though I thought his performance in For Your Eyes Only was better.

Put simply, I’m more forgiving of the movie for its flaws, more enthusiastic about its strong points.

For what it’s worth, my grade wasn’t the lowest in that survey. There were two D-Minus grades and an F.

Speaking of For Your Eyes Only, I had the highest grade in that survey for that film, an A.

“The opening scene at the cemetery clearly shows this film is going to be different than Moonraker,” I wrote at the time. “The quick end for Blofeld didn’t bother me that much, but as many fans, the line, ‘I’ll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel’ makes me groan.”

I saw For Your Eyes Only again in a theater in 2017, part of a tribute to Moore after his death in May of that year. Viewing it again on a movie screen with an audience pretty much reinforced how I felt. Perhaps it was because the 1981 film seemed more in line with the Bond films of the 21st century.

Finally, one more: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Over the past 20 years or so, people have made the case for why this should be considered in the top three (or so) of Bond films.

My grade was B, which lagged the pack (there were four A grades and one A-plus).  What held me back was George Lazenby’s inexperience.

Extremely faithful adaptation of one of Fleming’s best. Lazenby’s inexperience is evident. On the other hand, would Connery have cried at the end? Diana Rigg is a major plus. Telly Savalas is OK as Blofeld. Probably Richard Maibaum’s best script for the series. Ken Adam is gone but not really missed. John Barry hits on all cylinders.

If pressed, I’d probably give it a higher grade today. Still, I don’t think it’d be the greatest Bond film if Sean Connery had done it.

Had Majesty’s been done for 1967 instead of You Only Live Twice, we wouldn’t have gotten Peter Hunt as director. We now know thanks to the book The Making of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service details of various script drafts, including one that included an underwater Aston Martin.

Hunt being installed in the director’s chair after editing the first five Eon 007 films had a major impact. In a lot of ways, the 1969 version of Majesty’s was catching lightning in a bottle.

Working on a film set

Peter Hunt during an interview.

For the past week or so, there have been numerous stories about supposedly grim feelings on the Bond 25 set.

The thing is, given how unnatural it is to work on a movie, it’s surprising there aren’t even more accounts about unease on film sets.

With On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, first-time director Peter Hunt played mind games with first-time actor George Lazenby during the film’s critical ending scene.

“I would make him sit and wait and get a bit nervous,” Hunt said of Lazenby said in an interview for the documentary Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. “I wanted him to feel nervous and uptight.”

It’s not just Bond films, of course. Martin Landau, as part of a TCM video, talked about feeling insecure during filming of a scene in North by Northwest.

Landau talked about how director Alfred Hitchcock whispered direction to Cary Grant, James Mason and Eva Marie Saint. Landau approached Hitchcock whether he wanted the tell the actor anything.

“Martin, I’ll only tell you if I don’t like what you’re doing,” Landau quoted Hitchcock as saying while doing a Hitch impersonation.

Working on a film (for actors, anyway) involves waiting a long time while the director of photography and other crew members get things ready to film a scene. For actors, doing a play is more natural. But films pay better.

Bond 25 may, or may not, have had a lot of tension on the set so far. Regardless, making movies isn’t a 9-to-5 job. We won’t really know how it’s going until the finished product is ready for viewing.

An educated guess about Bond 25: The volatile mix

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The British tabloid press is generating stories about what supposedly caused Danny Boyle to exit Bond 25. One example: a Daily Mail story (not done by Baz Bamigboye who has a record of scoops proven to be correct). The new story purports to provide behind-the-scenes detail.

The thing is, under the best of circumstances, Bond films often are tense, expensive affairs. Thunderball raced to meet a Christmas 1965 release. The script of Tomorrow Never Dies was being written on the fly extensively. SPECTRE’s production issues were explosed via the Sony hacks before filming began.

The tabloid stories have sought to sniff out specific details. But it almost doesn’t matter. Bond 25, from the outside, appears to have had an even more volatile mix than even the 007 series norm. And some of the factors go back years.

Eon’s desire for critical respect: The James Bond film franchise was built, in part, on the work of journeymen directors such as Terence Young and Guy Hamilton.

For example, Young helped to shape Sean Connery’s performance as Bond, introducing him to tailored suits and expensive dress shirts. Later, Eon would promote the likes of Peter Hunt and John Glen (who had been editors and second unit directors) to the 007 director chair.

But in the 21st century, Eon wants more respect. “(W)e’ve never been one to hire directors for hire,” Eon boss Barbara Broccoli said in a 2012 interview with ComingSoon.net.  “We always wanted someone who was a great director in their own right and a storyteller.”

As a result, Eon hired the likes of Marc Forster for Quantum of Solace and Sam Mendes for Skyfall and SPECTRE. So the hiring of Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting, was part of a broader pattern.

Boyle had even directed a video for the 2012 Olympics featuring Daniel Craig as Bond. A natural, right? Not so fast.

A new director who had mixed feelings: Boyle had previously said he wasn’t Bond director material.

“I’m not the guy to make Bond movies,” Boyle said in 2013. “I love watching them and I like the books…As a teenager, I read those books cover to cover many times.” He said working on lower-budget films like the ones he usually does provides more freedom. You can see for yourself in the video below, starting about the 1:56 mark.

However, Daniel Craig, returning for his fifth 007 film, really wanted Boyle as director, according to March Daily Mail story by Baz Bamigboye.

If Craig wanted it, then it was likely that Barbara Broccoli would want it, too. Broccoli made the choice of Craig in the first place in 2005 and has made it clear she wants him to stick around as long as possible.

Boyle got himself in this position by pitching an idea that would later be written into script form by John Hodge, Boyle’s screenwriter on Trainspotting.

Sure enough, on May 25, Eon announced Boyle would direct Bond 25 from an original screenplay by Hodge. Everything was rolling, right?

A 007 star with unprecedented power: With 2015’s SPECTRE, Craig added the title of co-producer. It was something no other Bond actor in the Eon series had achieved. Connery in the 1960s wanted to be an Eon partner but was turned down.

Exhibit A as an example of Craig’s power: The Aug. 21 press release announcing Boyle’s departure. “Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig today announced that due to creative differences Danny Boyle has decided to no longer direct Bond 25.”

If Boyle had any serious disagreement with Craig, chances are he wasn’t going to come out on top.

The mix: So we have an “auteur” director uncomfortable with big-budget film making, who’s used to doing things his own way. He’s working his way amid a big, expensive project. He’s working with a star who had the additional clout of a producer’s title who also has the backing of the leader of the production company that’s been making 007 films since 1962.

Shrug. Just another day at the Universal Exports office, I suppose.

OHMSS script: Train of the dead, other surprises

OHMSS poster

The blog got around to reading the shooting script for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. While very close to the finished film, there were still a few surprises, including a rail coach full of corpses.

The title page says the script was “issued 5th September, 1968” with some pages saying they had been revised “8.10.68.” There are no names on the title page. Richard Maibaum got the sole screenplay credit while Simon Raven got a credit for “additional dialogue.”

By this time, Maibaum had spent years developing a screen adaptation of one of Ian Fleming’s best 007 novels.

Charles Helfenstein’s The Making of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service summarizes 10 different treatments or scripts, including this one. The blog obtained its copy from collector Gary J. Firuta.

The script begins in a slightly different way than the film. After the gunbarrel, the script begins at the lobby of Universal Exports. A “Uniformed SECURITY MAN” is “at desk near door checking credentials of EMPLOYEES.”

The security man greets dome of the employees. Then there’s an “elderly MAINTENANCE MAN, mottled face, scraggly moustache, carrying wrench and plunger, plodding toward desk.”

The security man says (“cheerfully” as the maintenance man passes), “Morning, Double O-Seven.” We then go to the scene where M, Q and Moneypenny talk about how Bond can’t be found. Something not in the film: Moneypenny says, “Station R, Reykjavik seems to think Double O-Seven’s in Iceland — !”

After that, the scene where Bond meets Tracy unfolds much as it does in the film. One difference is that Tracy is driving a Bugati, rather than the Mercury Cougar we’d see in the movie.

‘This Never Happened Before’

The end of the pre-credits sequence ends with a slightly different line compared with the film. “This never happened before, Double O-Seven.”

On Her Majesty Secret Service’s gunbarrel.

Immediately after the titles, however, Bond returns to MI6. In the final film, this wouldn’t occur until later.

The sequence as depicted in the script is very similar to the final movie, except with some minor differences in dialogue. For example, Bond refers to M as “the Director.” (“Does this mean The Director has lost confidence in me?”)

As in the film, Bond dictates a letter of resignation to Moneypenny after the agent has been taken off Operation Bedlam (“Take a memo to the Director, Moneypenny.”) When Bond gets back to his office and starts clearing out his desk. The only specified object from a previous film is the “WRIST-WATCH GAROTTE used in FROM RUSSIA.”

The script has Moneypenny changing the resignation to a request for leave.

Before he departs MI6, there’s another scene in a garage area with the “latest model” Aston Martin. “You can break it in during your holiday,” Q says.

The pre-titles sequence had Bond driving an Aston. This script says is a new model. Bond gets in the car and checks it out.

“No reclining-seat lever?” Bond asks.

“No, Double O-Seven,” Q responds. “We don’t consider convenient love-making essential.”

“Your department always underestimates the personal requirements of my work, Q.”

Q “prissily” replies, “We still haven’t developed a substitute for that, Double O-Seven.”

“BOND grins, starts motor, drives ASTON-MARTIN out of garage.”

Pardon My French

The agent makes it to Portugal and, eventually, meets up with Tracy again. As in the movie, Bond uses his relationship with her to get some help from her father, Marc Ange Draco, in locating Blofeld.

In the scene where Bond meets Draco there’s this exchange:

BOND
She fascinates me, Mr. Draco — but I’m not a psychiatrist —

DRACO
(contemptuously)
Psychiatry! Merde! What she needs is a man, to beat her, to make love to her enough to make love him! A man like you, Mr. Bond

For the uninitiated, “merde” is the French version of a familiar swear word (if you don’t know it, just click here and look on GoogleTranslate). Evidently, in 1968-69, James Bond movies apparently weren’t ready to go that far in terms of language.

Train of the Dead

Eventually, Bond gets back on Blofeld’s trail. He’s off to the College-of-Arms to meet with Sir Hilary Bray and Phidian, an artist. The latter leaves and Bond talks to Sir Hilary. What follows in the script is a major sequence that wouldn’t be in the film.

“Put on any new personnel lately?” Bond asks.

“Only Phidian — last week — poor chap was out of work so long he presented me with a token of his appreciation.” The token is a paperweight lion on Sir Hilary’s desk. “Carved it himself,”

Bond is immediately suspicious and picks up the paperweight.

“Talented, isn’t he?” Sir Hillary asks.

“BOND screws off lion’s head, revealing tiny MICROPHONE. His fingers remove it,” the stage directions read. “SIR HILARY dumbfounded as BOND shows him microphone.”

A chase ensues, including some on rooftops. Bond and Phidian end up in a train tunnel. Phidian ends up “STRIKING ELECTRIFIED RAIL. Blinding flash and PHIDIAN’s scream. An instant later TROLLEY hits him, hurling his body off track and smashing it against wall.”

Phidian at one point in the sequence had written a telegram and put it in his pocket. “BOND stares down at PHIDIAN, mericifully below CAMERA LINE, reaches down into his jacket pocket, takes TELEGRAM OUT OF IT.”

It had been a warning from Phidian to Blofeld. “CONSIGNMENT NOT AS SPECIFIED. PHIDIAN.” Bond blocks out the word “NOT” and sends the telegram.

Now, of course, Bond has to make sure Phidian’s death doesn’t appear suspicious. So Bond, assisted by Q (!), stages a train accident.

The dead Phidian and other corpses are put in a train coach. Here’s the description.

“CAMERA SHOOTING FROM COORDOR THROUGH GLASS OF COMPARTMENT DOOR. PHIDIAN is very dead, swaying slightly in motion of train. CAMERA PULLS BACK SLIGHTLY. He is seated between TWO OTHER CORPSES. THEN CAMERA DOLLIES BACK ALONG CORRIDOR SHOOTING INTO OTHER COMPARTMENTS. SIX PEOPLE IN EACH, ALL DEAD. CAMERA HOLDS ON LAST COMPARTMENT. BOND IS SEATED BETWEEN TWO STIFFS.”

The engine cab and coach full of bodies is switched off onto a siding. Bond and a motor man put on “crash-helmets and protective jackets.” They jump from the engine cab.

The engine then plows into some freight cars. “As ENGINE crashes into them. FREIGHT CARS telescope,” the script says. “(If on elevated stretch they plunge over side with Engine and Coach.”)

BOND

(turning to MOTORMAN)

Ghastly wreck —
(wryly)
At least they felt no pain —

The finished film may refer to all of this. Campbell, Bond’s MI6 contact in Switzerland, is reading a newspaper. It has a front-page headline referring to a fatal train crash.

Bond and Tracy Get Chatty

After that, we’re back into familiar territory. After all this buildup, the stage directions don’t make a big deal about Blofeld. He’s described as “an impressively and strongly-built man in his early fifties.”

Some scenes have more dialogue than in the final film.

After Tracy rescues Bond, she is driving her Bugati and they talk a bit more.

TRACY
(slowing slightly)
Shall I stop so can spank me?

BOND
Step on the gas, Countess. Business before pleasure.

Later, after the pair find a “typical Swiss farm two-level stone and wood building” to stay for the night they talk a lot more. In fact, they’re downright chatty.

TRACY
Did you miss me at all? Up there on the mountain?

BOND
I had…a lot to occupy me. Body and mind.

TRACY
I understand.

BOND
Not quite, you don’t. I was…using people, Tracy. Using women, for my job. And I enjoyed it.

TRACY
(level)
If you didn’t, you wouldn’t do it well.

BOND
You don’t mind?

TRACY
You forget, James. I’ve used people too. And without even the excuse of a job. Do you mind?

In this script, it’s Tracy who ends up proposing. Director Peter Hunt, in the documentary Inside On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, said he had it changed to Bond making the proposal. Hunt said in the documentary that Bond was the stronger character and therefore should be the one who proposes.

‘Your Double-O Man’

Much later, at the wedding there are some bits that wouldn’t make the final film.

M specifically tells Bond that all of the “angels of death” (the women Blofeld had programmed to distribute Virus Omega, which could wipe out grains and livestock) have been accounted for. Bond then begins to ask M if he’ll be godfather to his and Tracy’s first child.

Before he can complete the sentence, the “CAMERA ANGLE WIDENS TO INCLUDE MONEYPENNY, with Q.”

“You’ll find your Double-O man some day, dear girl,” Bond tells Moneypenny.

“Bless you, James,” she replies.

The scripts ends with Tracy’s death. One slight difference is in the stage directions.

“His head remains against TRACY’s, his face smeared with her blood.”

Trailer for Becoming Bond released

OHMSS poster

George Lazenby in OHMSS poster

Hulu has released its trailer for Becoming Bond, which recounts George Lazenby’s short tenure as James Bond. The streaming television outlet will show it on May 20.

The “unique documentary/narrative hybrid chronicling the stranger-than-fiction true story ” also is getting its world premiere March 11 at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Lazenby’s sole 007 film was 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He won the role despite having no acting experience. The Peter Hunt-directed movie arguably was the most faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming 007 novel.

Josh Lawson plays Lazenby, with Adamo Palladino as Peter Hunt. The cast also includes Jane Seymour, who played Solitaire in 1973’s Live And Let Die.

The trailer wouldn’t embed here at the blog, but you can view it at Entertainment Weekly’s website.

UPDATE: Hulu has now posted the trailer to YouTube. You can view it below.

How fans view 007 movies as LEGO blocks

On Her Majesty's Secret Service poster

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service poster

Fans treat the object of their affection like LEGO blocks. You can just move a few blocks from here to there without any other differences.

So it is with 007 films and 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

For years — decades, actually — Bond fans have debated the subject. The 007 film series produced its adaptations of Majesty’s and You Only Live Twice out of order.

Take out George Lazenby and put in Sean Connery? OHMSS would be a lot better is a common talking point.

Except, real life doesn’t necessarily work that way.

“If only they’d made OHMSS before YOLT…”

Except, you don’t get Peter Hunt as director. In turn, that means a ripple effect. You likely don’t get the most faithful adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel, as the 1969 movie turned out to be.

Instead, you get You Only Live Twice except the character names and locations are changed.

Meanwhile, you have a greater chance of an underwater Aston Martin (in one of the script drafts before Hunt came aboard). You may even get Blofeld as a half-brother of Goldfinger.

All this isn’t speculation. Author Charles Helfenstein provides a summary of the various 1964-68 treatments and drafts for Majesty’s written by Richard Maibaum. Blofeld as Goldfinger’s half-brother was in a screenplay dated March 29, 1966, according to the book (pages 38-39).

In real life, making movies is more complicated. Change a major piece, such as the director, and there are ripple effects throughout the production.

Meanwhile, Eon Productions changed the order it filmed Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

With the novels, Russia came first. Dr. No came second. The movies reversed the order. Yet, few Bond fans complain about that.

Fan discussions about 007 movies are similar to debates among sports fans. Example: Which baseball team was better, the 1927 New York Yankees or the 1976 Cincinnati Reds?

For fan purposes, things would have been a lot better if Ian Fleming hadn’t sold off the rights to Casino Royale, his first novel, so quickly. In theory, if that had happened, Eon could have done Fleming’s novels in order.

Except, does anyone believe Sean Connery would have done a dozen Bond films?

Would Connery really have been satisfied doing that many 007 films in a little more than a decade? On the other hand, would fans have been satisfied with a Bond series of only six Connery movies starting with Casino Royale and ending with Dr. No?

Fans have their fantasies. Real life, though, is more complicated. Certainly, making movies is not like assembling LEGO blocks.

Guy Hamilton, an appreciation

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

James Bond was never the same after Goldfinger and director Guy Hamilton got done with it.

The first two 007 films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, were solid successes at the box office. Goldfinger was a spectacular one.

The first two movies contained humor. Goldfinger expanded it.

Dr. No had elements of stories found in pulp magazines and From Russia With Love was grounded in the Cold War. Goldfinger was outlandish, including a henchman with a deadly hat, a tricked out car with an ejector seat among other gadgets and a villain who planned to explode an atomic bomb inside of Fort Knox.

In short, Goldfinger was 1964’s equivalent to today’s comic book-based movies. And Guy Hamilton, who died this week at age 93, was the ringmaster of the show.

Hamilton, in interviews he granted in his later years, made clear Goldfinger was never intended to be anything other than escapist entertainment. Audiences couldn’t get enough.

From that point forward, Bond had to be spectacular. Thunderball, helmed by original 007 director Terence Young, advertised itself as “the biggest Bond of all.” You Only Live Twice tried to be even bigger than that, including a villain’s lair hidden inside a volcano.

The series tried to reel things back a bit with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, with George Lazenby succeeding Sean Connery as Bond. Director Peter Hunt insisted on a faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel, unlike how You Only Live Twice jettisoned most of the author’s 1964 book. But Majesty’s was still huge and escapist, not a Cold War thriller like From Russia With Love.

When Majesty’s box office fell off from You Only Live Twice (which in turn earned less than Thunderball), the production team opted for “another Goldfinger.” That included bringing Guy Hamilton back as director for Diamonds Are Forever.

Guy Hamilton (1922-2016)

Guy Hamilton (1922-2016)

Diamonds also was helped by the return of Connery (a United Artists move). But the movie also reflected a clear change in tone from its predecessor to something much lighter and fluffy.

Diamond smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) is aware of the existence of Bond (“You’ve just killed James Bond!” she says after 007 switches wallets with deceased thug Peter Franks.) Blofeld at one point dresses in drag as part of a getaway. Some sequences (a chase involving a moon buggy and plant security cars comes to mind) contain a lot of slapstick.

Bond again was a success at the box office. Hamilton was retained to help introduce Roger Moore as the new 007 after Connery again departed the series.

The lighter tone continued, even intensifying, including a long boat chase in Live And Let Die and a ditzy Mary Goodnight in The Man With the Golden Gun. The former was a big hit worldwide, becoming the first Bond to exceed Thunderball at the box office. Golden Gun, however, fell off from that.

Hamilton was hired to direct his fifth Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me, but changed his mind and bowed out. In the 1990s, Hamilton told writer Adrian Turner that he probably had stayed too long with the series.

Perhaps so. Nevertheless, Hamilton had an enormous impact on the film Bond. Goldfinger let a genie out of the bottle. It wasn’t until the 21st century with the 007 films of Daniel Craig that there was a sustained, concerted effort to dial back humor. For Your Eyes Only and Licence to Kill were one-off attempts to do so. Even so, the former included an ending with slapstick involving a Margaret Thatcher lookalike and the latter had an over-the-top Wayne Newton and an ending featuring a blinking fish.

Even the Craig films, though, reflect the Hamilton-directed Bond movies.

Skyfall and SPECTRE include the tricked out Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. (Casino Royale had a different, left-hand drive DB5 without gadgets.) A car chase in SPECTRE contains Goldfinger-style lightness. Quantum of Solace had a Goldfinger homage — a woman dipped in oil, rather than a woman painted in gold paint.

Goldfinger’s impact on the series lingers today. Guy Hamilton was one of the major reasons.