Octopussy’s 35th: Battle of the Bonds, round 1

Octopussy poster with a suggestive tagline.

Poster with a suggestive tagline.

Adapted from a May 2013 post with an epilogue added at the end..

Thirty-five 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 than 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 takes 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.

2018 epilogue: Over the past five years, Octopussy has continued to generate mixed reaction.

One example was an article posted this month the Den of Geek website. 

While the site said Octopussy deserves another chance with fans, it also levied some criticisms.

It’s a funny old film, Octopussy, one used as evidence by both Moore’s prosecution and his defense. Haters cite the befuddled plot, an older Moore, some truly silly moments (Tarzan yell, anyone?), a Racist’s Guide to India, and the painfully metaphorical sight of a 56 year-old clown trying to disarm a nuclear bomb (rivalled only by Jaws’ Moonraker plunge into a circus tent on the “Spot the Unintentional Subtext” scale.)

At the same time, Den of Geek also compliments aspects of the movie, including its leading man.

Moore also submits a very good performance, arguably his strongest. Easy to treat him as a joke but the man really can act. Sometimes through eyebrows alone.

Thirty-five years later, Octopussy still has the power to enthrall some and to generate salvos from its critics.

I know someone, now in his 40s, who says it’s his favorite James Bond film. I have a friend who refuses to buy a home video copy of it (and every other Roger Moore 007 film) on the grounds that none of the Moore entries are true James Bond films. So it goes.

MI6 Confidential, 007 Magazine out with new issues

The World Is Not Enough poster

Two separate publications are out that may be of interest to James Bond fans.

MI6 Confidential No. 44 focuses on The World Is Not Enough, the 19th James Bond film. The 1999 movie was the final 007 production of the 20th century and the third Bond film to star Pierce Brosnan.

Articles include a look at how Brosnan felt about the Bond role the third time out; a feature about Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards and the characters they played; and a story about how Robbie Coltrane returned to the series and his character was expanded.

The issue also has stories going beyond the movie, including one about production Peter Lamont and how he became involved in the film series and another about former United Artists executive Jeff Kleeman and his involvement with Bond in the 1990s

For ordering information, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $9.50 or 8.50 euros.

Meanwhile, 007 Magazine is accepting pre-orders for a 007 Magazine Archives Files issue devoted to Luciana Paluzzi, who played SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball.

Luciana Paluzzi and Sean Connery during the filming of Thunderball

According to the publication, Paluzzi “discussed in detail her varied life and career.” Other highlights for Paluzzi included a pre-Thunderball appearance on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as another femme fatale. Toward the end of her career, she was a guest star in the original Hawaii Five-O series as an Italian journalist. On that episode, she played opposite Jack Lord, the first screen Felix Leiter.

For ordering information, CLICK HERE. The price is 9.99 British pounds, $15.99 and 11.99 euros. The issue is to begin shipping on March 26.

 

MI6 Confidential brings out 2 new publications

Peter Lamont

MI6 Confidential is bringing out two new publications.

The first is a 100-page special publication focused on Peter Lamont’s work on 1973’s Live And Let Die.

In the publication, “Peter tells the story of making the film, location by location, as they appear in the film. It is lavishly illustrated with rare stills from the film, behind the scenes photographs never committed to print, and notes and storyboards from Lamont’s personal collection,” according to the MI6 Confidential website.

Lamont had the title of co-art director on the film. He worked on the 007 film series in various art department capacities starting with Goldfinger and running through Casino Royale. The only Bond film he missed was 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies because he was production designer on Titanic.

The other publication is issue 42 of the regular MI6 Confidential magazine. It concentrates on George Lazenby and 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Included is a story about Lazenby and “007’s lifelong shadow” on the actor as well as a feature on Diana Rigg.

To order the 100-page special, CLICK HERE. The price is 17 British pounds, $22 or 19.50 euros.

To order MI6 Confidential No. 42, CLICK HERE. The price is 7 British pounds, $10 or 8.50 euros.

Gassner says he will be Bond 25’s production designer

Dennis Gassner told International Cinematographers Guild Magazine that he will return as production designer for Bond 25.

“I’m about to do my fourth James Bond film, and acknowledging the efforts of Ken Adam and others is a big part,” Gassner said. He said with franchise films ““you have to honor the established elements while meeting audience expectations.”

The ICG article primarily is about Blade Runner 2049.

Gassner, 68, took over as 007 production designer with 2008’s Quantum of Solace. He held the position with 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s SPECTRE.

Prior to Gassner, Peter Lamont had a long run as production designer starting with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only and running through 2006’s Casino Royale. The only Bond film Lamont didn’t work on during that period was 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies.

The MI6 James Bond website earlier wrote about Gassner’s return as part of a roundup of recent Bond 25 news.

Below is a 2012 Skyfall video blog featuring Gassner describing his work on that film.

The Spy Who Loved Me’s 40th: 007 rolls with the punches

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

The Spy Who Loved Me, which debuted 40 years ago this year, showed the cinema 007 was more than capable of rolling with the punches.

Global box office for the previous series entry, The Man With the Golden Gun, plunged almost 40 percent from Live And Let Die, the debut for star Roger Moore. For a time, things got worse from there.

The partnership between 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, unsteady for years, ruptured. Eventually, Saltzman was bought out by United Artists, leaving Broccoli in command. But that was hardly the end of difficulties.

Kevin McClory re-entered the picture. He had agreed not to make a Bond movie with his Thunderball rights for a decade. That period expired and McClory wanted to get back into the Bond market. Eventually, court fights permitted Broccoli’s effort for the 10th James Bond movie to proceed while McClory couldn’t mount a competing effort.

But that still wasn’t the end of it. Numerous writers (among them, Anthony Burgess; Cary Bates, then a writer for Superman comic books; future Animal House director John Landis; and Stirling Silliphant) tried their hand at crafting a new 007 tale.

Finally, a script credited to Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum, with uncredited rewriting by Tom Mankiewicz, emerged.

Guy Hamilton originally was signed to direct his fifth Bond movie but left the project. That paved the way for the return of Lewis Gilbert, who helmed You Only Live Twice a decade earlier. It was Gilbert who brought Christopher Wood to work on the script.

The final film would resemble Twice. Spy had a tanker that swallowed up submarines where Twice had an “intruder missile” that swallowed up U.S. and Soviet spacecraft.

With Saltzman gone, Cubby made his stepson, Michael G. Wilson, a key player in the production. Wilson was already on the Eon Productions payroll and was involved in the negotiations that saw Saltzman’s departure.

For Spy, Wilson’s official credit was “special assistant to producer” and it was in small type in the main titles. However, Spy was that downplayed Wilson’s role. An early version of Spy’s movie poster listed Wilson, but not production designer Ken Adam, whose name had been included in the posters for Twice and Diamonds Are Forever.

UA, now in possession of Saltzman’s former stake in the franchise, doubled down, almost doubling the $7 million budget of Golden Gun.

In the end, it all worked. Bond shrugged off all the blows.

Spy generated $185.4 million in worldwide box office in the summer of 1977, the highest-grossing 007 film up to that point. (Although its $46.8 million in U.S. ticket sales still trailed Thunderball’s $63.6 million.)

Roger Moore, making his third Bond movie, would later (in Inside The Spy Who Loved Me documentary) call Spy his favorite 007 film.

The movie also received three Oscar nominations: for sets (designed by Adam, aided by art director Peter Lamont), its score (Marvin Hamlisch) and its title song, “Nobody Does It Better” (by Hamilsch and Carole Bayer Sager). None, however, won. 

Peter Lamont book coming soon, Roger Moore says

Peter Lamont

Peter Lamont

Peter Lamont, production designer on nine James Bond films, has a memoir coming out soon, Roger Moore announced on Twitter.

Moore’s tweet included a picture of Lamont holding a copy of The Man With the Golden Eye: Designing the James Bond Films.

Lamont’s book was first announced in September 2013. At the time, it was supposed to be published by Tomahawk Press.

In March 2015, the project was moved from Tomahawk amid creative differences. Whatever happened, the Sir Roger tweet said the book is a now a go.

Lamont, 86, first worked on the 007 series in Goldfinger, serving as a draftsman, in effect taking the first step toward making Ken Adam’s designs real. He worked his way up to set decorator and later art director.

When Adam left the series for good following Moonraker, Lamont got the production designer job starting with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. His last Bond film was 2006’s Casino Royale.

Here’s what the Roger Moore tweet looked like:

Lamont book being moved to another publisher

Peter Lamont

Peter Lamont

UPDATE (7:30 a.m.) — Max Pemberton, Peter Lamont’s co-writer of a memoir on the production designer’s career, said in a written statement that the project has been “moved to another publisher”  other than Tomahawk Press and will proceed. He didn’t provide additional details.

UPDATE II (8:50 a.m.) — Pemberton IN A STATEMENT ON FACEBOOK says, “We have simply moved on to a different publisher due to creative differences. The book is still going ahead. The new publisher and availability will be announced in due course.”

ORIGINAL POST: Tomahawk Press, IN A MARCH 7 ANNOUNCEMENT ON ITS FACEBOOK PAGE, said a memoir by former 007 production designer Peter Lamont had been canceled.

Here’s the text:

It is with the greatest regret that we have to announce that the authors of Peter Lamont – The Man With the Golden Eye have decided not to continue with this project. Tomahawk Press is highly regarded worldwide for the quality of our books, and we had planned something really special with this book – a beautifully designed large-format publication to do justice to all of Peter Lamont’s work. We are saddened by the authors’ decision, and apologise to the hundreds of you that had expressed interest and the dozens of reviewers that had been put on our list for review copies.

An item on the website FROM SWEDEN WITH LOVE says the memoir is to be published “from a different publisher [to be revealed later].” No other details were provided in that post. Tomahawk originally announced the Lamont memoir in September 2013.

Lamont, 85, began working on the 007 film series as a draftsman on Goldfinger. He succeeded Ken Adam as art designer for 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. His last Bond film was 2006’s Casino Royale.