The Living Daylights script: Writing for a new Bond

Timothy Dalton’s gunbarrel for The Living Daylights

In 1986, writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson were working on a new chapter for the cinematic James Bond.

Roger Moore’s era had ended. The choice of the next film 007 film actor would be unsettled. For a time, it was Pierce Brosnan. But when NBC and MTM Productions wanted him back for additional episodes of Remington Steele, Timothy Dalton seized the prize.

By the time Maibaum and Wilson were writing their second-draft script, much of the basic story had been settled. The story line and major set pieces in this script would, more or less, appear as they would in the final 1987 film.

Still, there were significant differences. Some scenes play differently. Also, the Maibaum and Wilson team appeared to be unaware of the basics of firearms.

Pre-credits sequence

The second-draft script (which doesn’t have a date on its title page) has a pre-credits sequence very similar to the finished product.

One major difference: This script begins at the London offices of Universal Exports (the MI6 front).  Nevertheless, the script wants to have a little suspense before the audience can see the new James Bond.

After an establishing shot, the script takes the reader to Moneypenny’s office. We’re told “as door opens” that “BOND’S HAND, holding hat, appears in doorway and poises to throw it toward COSTUMER in B.G.  TWO HATS already on pegs.”

As Bond tosses yet another hat on a peg, Moneypenny tells him that M wants to see him.

Inside M’s office, Bond joins two other Double-O agents and the stage directions specify none of the men’s faces can be seen by the camera.

M explains the assignment (an exercise to see if the Double-O operatives can penetrate the Rock of Gibraltar’s defenses). But in this script, M has a voice over of Gibraltar images.

When this script depicts the mission, the agents are only identified as first, second and third “DOUBLE-O MAN.”

They parachute down to Gibraltar. The first Double-O man is described as “a rugged, lantern jawed young man, but obviously not James Bond.” The second 00-agent “too, could not be James Bond.”

When the first “Double-O man” is killed by an imposter, we’re given a description of third.

THIRD DOUBLE-O MAN ON RIDGE
strapping on PARACHUTE CONTAINER. He turns INTO CAMERA. We now see his face. James Bond at last!

What follows is similar to the final film. Bond escapes while the imposter is killed in an explosion. Bond parachutes his way to a luxury yacht where he meets a woman named Linda. She is described as “impressed, amused and interested” after Bond lands.

The Defection

After the main titles, the primary plot of the movie unfolds. While similar to the final film, there are some major differences.

Bond, instead of attending a concert, 007 goes to a book store. He briefly encounters Halas an “elderly, book-wormy proprietor.”

007 provides some code words. “Have you a Czech first edition of Karl Marx ‘Das Kapital’?” Halas closes the book store.

This, however, is a prelude to Bond having his first meeting with Saunders, head of Station V, Vienna. Bond prepares to take out a Soviet-bloc assassin so that Soviet General Koskov can successfully defect.

As in the final film, Bond suspects something is up and doesn’t kill the supposed sniper. He takes over command of Koskov’s defection and tells Saunders to meet him at the border.

Halas (!) resurfaces, helping Bond and Koskov work their away around the grounds of the Soviet pipeline that’s bringing natural gas to Western Europe. Halas even says, “It is good to work with you again, Mr. Bond.”

Based on this script, Bond’s double cross of Saunders is even more elaborate than we’d see in the movie.

Still, this is all preliminary to Bond meeting up with Rosika Miklos, “a huge but attractive young woman.” Bond and Rosika arrange for Koskov to be taken pass the border in a “pig” via the pipeline.

General Gogol (?!)

After Koskov has made it to the U.K., he says he has defected because General Gogol of the KGB has gone mad.

“I tell you why I defect,” Koskov says. “General Gogol is why.”

Gogol (Water Gotell) had made appearances in Bond movies starting with 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. He had a significant role in that film, while showing up in Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View To a Kill. (Gotell had also appeared as a SPECTRE villain in 1963’s From Russia With Love.)

In the final movie version of The Living Daylights, Gogol had joined the Soviet diplomatic service. He was replaced by Gen. Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies). Thus, Gotell received a cameo in his final appearance in the 007 film series.

On some James Bond message boards, fans argue there should be no attempts at continuity among movies. This script is not like the inter-connected movies made by Marvel Studios. But it is similar to the continuity of early 007 films, such as the references in From Russia With Love to Dr. No.

No Aston Martin (!)

After Koskov’s seeming defecting, Bond drives a Bentley to the MI6 safehouse where Koskov is being debriefed.

Later, when Bond gets Kara Milovy away from the KGB, the agent steals a KGB car and isn’t driving a gadget-laden Aston Martin. As a result, the sequence gets Bond onto a frozen lake much quicker than the completed film.

As the action unfolds on the frozen lake, an “ice yacht” happens by. The yachtsman helps rescue Czech policemen. This leads to an extended action sequence where Bond and Kara, more or less, end up in the same spot in the movie.

Finale 

The final film had a relatively romantic movie. This script? Not so much.

BEHIND SCREEN KARA BOND

his shirt already unbuttoned, awaits her. She gives startled gasp.

BOND
You didn’t think I would miss this performance did you?

She laughs delightedly, takes off his shirt.

Firearms

When Bond puts the squeeze on Gogol in Tangiers, this appears in the stage directions:

BOND slips a silencers out of his jacket pocket, then affixes it to his revolver as he moves behind GOGOL.

The problem with this is that silencers, generally speaking, don’t work as well on revolvers as they do on semi-automatic pistols. TV Guide, in the 1970s, mentioned silencers on revolvers as among TV-generated myths. (Another was how getting wounded in the shoulder in real life is very bad, while on TV shows, it’s like a flesh wound.)

THIS 2013 VIDEO explains some of the science involved. Some revolvers can be noise suppressed but they’re not common, the silencers are very large and they aren’t as quiet as depicted in movies and TV shows.

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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.”

A View To A Kill’s script: Q goes out in the field

A View To A Kill’s poster

In 1984, the writing team of Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson commenced work on their third consecutive James Bond film.

A View To A Kill (shortened from the Ian Fleming short story title From a View to a Kill) would go all-in on a contemporary plot involving computers and microchips.

A copy of a script identified as a first draft (but with some pages saying they had been revised later) indicates the Maibaum-Wilson team had worked out most of the story issues.

The script is similar to the final film that reached audiences in 1985. But, as is often the case, there are interesting differences.

The most significant is that Q is out in the field during the long San Francisco sequence.

As in the film, Q first shows up in the briefing scene shortly after the main titles. He explains the importance of computer chips and how they can be rendered useless by electro magnet pulses. Bond also comments, “expertise showing,” according to the script.

From there, we’re off to Ascot, where the MI6 crew is at the races. We’re introduced to Max Zorin, described as “tall, slender, impeccably dressed, in his late thirties. Unusually handsome he has one grey eye and one blue eye.”

David Bowie (1947-2016)

Eon initially courted David Bowie to play Zorin. Bowie turned 38 in 1985 and had two different eye colors. He turned down the part and Christopher Walken. who turned 42 the year the movie came out, got the job.

The script also describes May Day as “a shapely, tall, somewhat bizarrely dressed twenty eight year old girl with a distinctively short hairdo and a beautiful but saturninely placid face.”

Most of what follows mirrors the final film until the story shifts to San Francisco.

Bond and Q are in a van using’s Q’s surveillance device, identified in the script as “Snooper.” They’re spying on Zorin and his minions, trying to figure out what he’s up to in his operation in San Francisco Bay. A sample:

IN VAN BOND Q

watching and listening at TV SCREEN showing GROUP in STATION CONTROL ROOM. Voices from TV are faint and somewhat obscured by sound of pumping.

CONLEY ON TV
We’re at maximum pumping now…

ZORIN ON TV
We have a deadline. I’ll hold you personally responsible if we miss it.

A guard dog menances the Snooper. The device sprays the dog with repellent that Q describes as, “Foul smelling stuff.”

Thanks to the Snooper, Bond and Q discover that the Russians are also trying to plant bugs on Zorin’s operation. One Russian is captured by May Day while the other escapes. The second Russian, of course, is Pola Ivanova. Bond intercepts her and things proceed more or less as in the movie.

Desmond Llewelyn (1914-1999)

In the script, we don’t hear anymore from Q until the end of the movie. Still, one suspects this idea resonated with the Eon creative team.

Previously, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) journeyed into the field to provide Bond with gadgets (Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me). But in the script, Q is working with Bond side by side.

Q would venture out into the field to assist Bond directly in Licence to Kill.

A few more things of note:

–No Dick Tracy joke when a police captain tries to arrest Bond. In the script, the captain is in plain clothes, rather than a uniform as in the movie.

–Some lines of dialogue between Zorin and Mortner in the blimp were switched between this script and the final film.

–The scene where May Day, having been betrayed by Zorin, sacrifices herself reads flat. It has the dialogue (“Jump! “Have to hold the brake off…..Get Zorin for me!”). But it’s mostly explaining how we get from point A to point B.

After reading the script, I again watched the scene in the movie. Roger Moore and Grace Jones did a lot more with it than what was written. It’s possible director John Glen influenced that (an observation from reader Matthew Bradford made on The Spy Command page on Facebook). Also, having a John Barry absolutely increased the drama. I think it’s one of the best scenes in the movie but you couldn’t tell it by reading the script.

–At the end, it’s the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., and not Gogol (as in the movie) who is visiting M (who “looks very glum,” according to the stage directions).

“The president is most anxious to personally thank Mr Bond and inform him he will be the first foreigner ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor,” the U.S. ambassador says. In the final film, Gogol shows up with the Order of Lenin for Bond.

Bond is missing, which accounts for the sad mood at MI6. But, as in the movie, Q is on the job (and still in San Francisco) using the Snooper to track Bond down. In the script, Q shuts off the monitor and quickly calls M. In the film, the gag would be extended for a bit.

For Your Eyes Only script: M goes undercover

Roger Moore in a 1980s publicity still

Screenwriter Richard Maibaum returned to the 007 fold with For Your Eyes Only. He hadn’t been involved with Moonraker, which took James Bond into outer space.

For the 12th James Bond film, he was paired with Michael G. Wilson, stepson of Eon Productions founder Albert R. Broccoli. Their intent was for a more-grounded outing. Roger Moore returned as Bond but things would be much different.

An Aug. 12, 1980 draft, late in the scripting process, is very similar to the final film viewed by audiences in the summer of 1981. But there are notable differences.

Among them: M, who had been played by Bernard Lee in the 11 previous films, was still present. M shares some scenes with Bill Tanner, the chief of staff.

M also goes undercover briefly. It is the MI6 chief who dresses as a Greek priest and meets Bond in a confessional. “That’s putting it mildly, Double-O Seven,” M replies after Bond says he has sinned.

With the M version, there’s a subtle change in one of Bond’s lines. “I’ve contacted a well-informed person about that, sir –” (emphasis added) Bond says, referring to the many St. Cyrills in Greece. It’s the main clue Bond has about the whereabouts of villain Kristatos, who will supply a British device to the Soviets.

Lee, who died in January 1981 at the age of 73, wouldn’t be up to participating in the movie. Desmond Llewelyn’s Q would get the church scene. Tanner would end up with much of M’s other dialogue in the August 1980 script.

What follows are some of the differences in the script vs. finished film as well as additional information. In general, the script is a bit chattier than the film.

“MAN WITH CAT” menaces 007 at the start of For Your Eyes Only

Pre-credits sequence: The script specifies that Tracy’s headstone reads, “Teresa Bond, 1943-1969, Beloved wife of JAMES BOND.”

The scene between a vicar (telling Bond his office is sending a helicopter) is mostly the same as in the film. But the stage directions have some interesting points.

BOND
(subdued mood)
It usually is.

He places flowers on grave. CAMERA IN on his brooding face. SOUND OF APPROACHING HELICOPTER.

Bond soon in peril from “MAN WITH CAT.” As in the film the helicopter pilot is electrocuted.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Bond,” the not-so-mysterious villain tells Bond over the helicopter’s radio. “I thought we should celebrate the tenth anniversary of last meeting. Don’t concern yourself with the pilot — one of my less useful people.”

At the time, Kevin McClory, claimed ownership of the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE. Blofeld had last appeared in Eon’s 1971 Diamonds Are Forever and this was a reference to that. The line was cut from the finished film but appeared in the Marvel Comics adaptation of For Your Eyes Only.

Well, it’s a James Bond movie, so Bond gets the upper hand, gaining control of the helicopter and uses the aircraft to spear the villain’s wheelchair.

In the script, however, Bond flies over the Thames and dumps the villain in it, rather than the smokestack seen in the movie. “The party’s a washout,” Bond says “grimly,” in the script.

For Your Eyes Only poster

Murder of the Havelocks: The Havelocks (Sir Timothy Havelock and his wife Iona) are secretly working on trying to find a sunken British spy ship equipped with ATAC (Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator) has sunk. They’re visited by their daughter Melina, who has been flown out to them by Gonzales.

The latter actually is a hired killer. He’s described in the script as “a pudgy amiable Cuban in his late thirties with curly hair and several gold teeth.”

The script includes an exchange between Sir Timothy and Max the parrot.

“Get up in there, Max,” Havelock says.

“Can’t get it up, can’t get it up,” Max replies.

“Watch your language, Max,” Sir Timothy says. “Melina’s coming.”

Gonzales, as in the film, kills the Havelocks with machine gun fire from his plane. ”

Opening MI6 scene: The Bond-Moneypenny exchange is very similar to the film. However, when Moneypenny uses the mirror in a filing drawer to apply lipstick, the stage directions say, “Obviously the vanity is a gift from Q.”

The briefing is conducted by M and Tanner. The dialogue is very similar to the film, except in the movie it was delivered by Tanner and the Minister of Defence.

Bernard Lee (1908-1981)

Gonzales villa: Stage directions describe Loque as, “Tall, lean, late thirties, he has a cadaverous impassive face with hooded eyes behind incongruous steel-rimmed spectacles. He wears black hat and suit.”

Bond initially wears “a business suit” while driving. Later, he “now wears a camouflage recce jacket.”

At the pool inside the villa, one of the women there is nude, according to the script.

Bond and Melina make their escape. Her car is specified as “a small dilapidated DEUX CHEVAUX COMPACT.” Melina wants to know what 007 was doing at the villa. “I’m a kind of detective, too.”

Second briefing scene: Upon his return to London, Bond is in a meeting with M. Tanner and the Minister of Defence.

Q Branch: In the script, Bond enters Q branch, watches one of Q’s assistants demonstrate the phony arm cast that can strike an enemy.

“Sneaky,” Bond says. “Have you got one for a leg?” The assistant responds: “We’re working on it.”

“The KGB should get a kick out of that,” Bond says.

Bond meets Kristatos: Kristatos says skater Bibi Dahl is, “An American girl from a broken home. I have taken her as my ward.”

Also, in the script, Bond says, “I have heard of Jacoba Brink,” Bibi’s teacher. In the movie, Bond says he has seen Brink skate.

Ferrara’s Death: Ferrara, an MI6 agent based in Italy, is the movie’s sacrificial lamb. In the script, Bond doesn’t immediately realize Ferrara has been killed. “We’ve got a lot to sort out. Where can we get a drink?” Bond asks, not realizing his fellow agent is dead.

Corfu Casino: Milos Columbo is described as “a tanned, well-groomed, well-tailored man in his middle fifties.”

In the script, the bug Columbo has placed to record the conversation between Bond and Kristatos is in a chair. The chair is removed by the Maitre D.

Bond’s showdown with Loque: Loque’s car, as in the movie, is precariously situation. The killer is wounded after being shot by Bond.

007, according to the stage directions, “gives car gentle push. CAMERA FOLLOWS IT DOWN DEEP TO THE BOTTOM.” Bond quips, “He never looked better.”

Bond and Melina join forces: Bond and Melina have this exchange:

MELINA
I’m not interested in your sex life, Mr Bond

BOND
I didn’t come here to discuss it. I need your help. It’s time we joined forces. Where can we — ?

Climax: Bond, Melina, Columbo and a few man confront Kristatos and his forces at the abandoned St. Cyril monastery. Columbo and Kristatos, in this script get in an exchange they didn’t have in the movie.

KRISTATOS
Let us see who cuts whose throat, Milos!

COLUMBO
I should have cut yours forty years ago!

Also, Bond sets a trap for Kriegler, the athlete who’s really a Soviet operative.

INSERT — KRIEGLER’S FOOT
hitting end of sprung board.

NEW ANGLE — BOND AND KRIEGLER
as board comes up and wacks him in the crotch. The weight of the font throws him off balance, backward and he falls against the window, crashing through it.

Bibi asks Bond what happened. Bond replies, “He just stepped out.”

The End: No Margaret Thatcher. Bond and Melina are skinny dipping near the a cutter” where M, the Minister of Defence, Columbo, Bibi and Brink are.

“Don’t dawdle out here too long, Double-O Seven,” M says. “You’re needed on active service. So get on with it!”

Bond and Melina get to the Triana (the Havelock boat).

“For your eyes only, darling,” Melina says while wearing only a towel.

Max the parrot gets in the last word. “Darling, darling — “

Remembering that 1989-95 007 hiatus

GoldenEye’s poster

Our post the other day about the anniversary of Licence to Kill’s release got the blog to thinking about what followed: The six-year hiatus in James Bond film production.

Like the earlier post, this is more of a personal take on the events.

The thing is, in those pre-internet days, the news was much slower in getting around. During much of this period, I saw a number of items in The Wall Street Journal. I had a subscription at the time.

Also, the extent of what was going on wasn’t immediately evident.

There were reports in the trade press that director John Glen and screenwriter Richard Maibaum wouldn’t be returning to the series. This was the first indication (at least to me) that a big makeover, rather than minor tweaks, was in store.

There were occasional stories about potential new directors and screenwriters. Things got more serious when it was announced that Danjaq, parent company of Eon Productions, was putting itself up for sale. Eventually, no sale occurred, but seeing the original announcement was an eye-opener.

What’s more, the soap opera at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio, went into overdrive. MGM was bought and sold again, with a bank (Credit Lyonnais) taking over the operation. Bond fans now needed to read the business pages of newspapers just to keep things straight.

Also, Danjaq/Eon filed a lawsuit related to what was going on with MGM. It was clear the next James Bond film wouldn’t be made soon. Even when the lawsuit was settled (I had a chance to read the press release at my office), it still wasn’t clear when production would resume.

Timothy Dalton

During this period, there were questions about what would happen with the incumbent 007, Timothy Dalton. Geraldo Rivera had a syndicated U.S. television show at the time and one broadcast was devoted to Bond. Some Bond experts participated. Rivera asked if Dalton would be back. The experts said they expected him to return.

Finally came the announcement that Dalton was gone. What was going to happen next?

Attention turned to Pierce Brosnan, who lost out on his chance to play Bond in 1986, when Dalton got the nod.

Eon maintained in a 1987 television interview that Dalton was always its No. 1 choice. In that interview, Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson said Brosnan had never been signed to play Bond.

Brosnan had been signed (and it’s detailed in the Inside The Living Daylights documentary that’s part of home video release), but NBC reacted by ordering more episodes of Remington Steele. That, of course, was what gave Dalton his opportunity to play Bond.

In 1994, shortly before the casting decision was announced, The Wall Street Journal weighed in with a long front-page story about the Bond search and that it was not a clear-cut choice.

Regardless, Brosnan got the nod. Many fans, no doubt, thought, “Finally!”

Advertisement for 1994 James Bond convention

Still, Bond had been away from theater screens for quite a while. Eon did something it had never done — having an official James Bond fan conventions in the fall of 1994 and 1995 (the latter days before the premiere of GoldenEye).

That was part of an effort to revive interest in Bond. For hard-core fans, they were anxiously waiting all along. Still, both conventions were interesting to attend. For some fans, it was a chance to meet like-minded people they had never had a chance to encounter before.

In the end, Bond resumed production. 007 even maintained an every-other-year schedule until the end of the 1990s.

Still, looking back at the hiatus, it’s a reminder that film franchises — for fans, for productions companies, for studios — can’t be taken for granted.

Licence to Kill: Odd opening day in 1989

Licence to Kill’s poster

Twenty-eight years ago today, Licence to Kill, the 16th James Bond film had its U.S. opening.

It didn’t go well, financially. Licence to Kill finished No. 4 at the U.S.-Canada box office that weekend, behind even Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

But even leaving that aside, it was an odd day for various reasons. This is a more personal post about that day.

I had arranged to take the day off from work. Back then, you didn’t really have the Thursday night preview showings (starting at 7 p.m.) that are common today. You’d have to show up late and the movie would begin just after midnight. It was technically a Friday showing.

Anyway, Mrs. Spy Commander and myself went to the first showing. It was after 1 p.m. Today, multiplexes start their day at 10 a.m. or earlier.

I knew ahead of time there was a scene (“He disagreed with something that ate him”) based on the Live And Let Die novel that had gone unused when the book was adapted by Eon in the early 1970s. I knew Licence to Kill was supposed to be a grittier Bond film and was more than ready to view it.

My initial reaction was the movie probably needed another draft for its script. It didn’t have the polish of previous Bond adventures. But I was also aware that a Writers Guild strike meant Richard Maibaum hadn’t fully participated in the proceedings despite the fact he shared the writer’s credit with Michael G. Wilson.

Anyway, after it was over, I asked Mrs. Spy Commander what she thought.

“It was….fine,” she replied.

Uh-oh. This was my first sign she didn’t like it. I pressed for more of a reaction.

“No, it’s OK,” she said. “They got their revenge story.”

When things really got odd was when we got home. I turned on TV and began “channel surfing.”

Suddenly, on Nickelodeon of all places, there was a Licence to Kill special. Kid anchors from the network were interviewing the principals of Licence to Kill. Clearly, the interviews had been done months before when the crew was filming in Key West, Florida.

The most unusual sequence was a joint interview of producer-screenwriter Michael G. Wilson and character actor Anthony Zerbe, who played secondary villain Milton Krest.

The kid interviewer asked about the increased violence in Licence to Kill. Wilson said something about how Bambi was emotionally intense.

Zerbe reacted by pretending he was about to cry. “I never got over Bambi,” he said.

That was the highlight of the show, such as it was. Timothy Dalton also did an interview for the Nickelodeon special, but it wasn’t nearly as memorable as Zerbe’s bit of comedy.

The thing was, I had no idea it would be more than six years before I’d have a chance to see another new James Bond film.

Nobody does it better: 40 years of The Spy Who Loved Me

The Spy Who Loved Me poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Four decades after its theatrical release (on that apt 7/7/1977 date) , The Spy Who Loved Me remains one of the most beloved James Bond films — not only for the Roger Moore era but the entire Eon Productions series.

Moore himself declared a couple of times this was his favorite Bond film. His preference for this film was understandable.

The film’s production had a rough start. In 1975, shortly after the release of The Man With The Golden Gun, Harry Saltzman sold his share of the Bond rights to United Artists after facing serious debts and personal problems, leaving Albert R. Broccoli as sole producer.

Eon Productions was not allowed by contract to use anything from Ian Fleming’s 1962 novel except for the title. It is known that the James Bond creator wasn’t happy with his most peculiar book, written in first person from the viewpoint of Vivienne Michel, a young girl attacked by goons in a motel in the United States and rescued by James Bond.

Various writers were hired to devise a story. Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum would receive the screenplay credit. Guy Hamilton departed the project, originally set for a 1976 release. Finally, Lewis Gilbert, who directed You Only Live Twice a decade before, was hired.

Attempts to bring back Ernst Stavro Blofeld and SPECTRE were cancelled after Thunderball producer Kevin McClory threatened with legal action. Nevertheless, scribes Wood and Maibaum penned a suitable Bond extravaganza that pleased audiences.

In the process from the script to screen, a huge set was built at Pinewood Studios to double for the tanker owned by the villain. Claude Renoir’s camera captured the exotic beauty of turistic spots like Sardinia and Cairo. In Egypt, the crew was constantly monitored by the government. The catering service was a disappointment, leaving Cubby Broccoli to step up and personally cook spaghetti for the whole crew.

The Spy Who Loved Me stands out as an improvement for the Moore 007 movies. After two entertaining but rather “cheap” Bond films, this third Moore/Bond adventure looks expensive.

The action scenes are tidy and organized proving to be a perfect syncronization between the soundtrack, the cinematography, the stunt team and Lewis Gilbert’s experience in delivering an extraordinary adventure in the scale of You Only Live Twice.

Also notable was the work of the model unit to turn Bond’s white Lotus Espirit into a mini submarine, which he uses to explore the villain’s lair beneath the Sardinian seas (actually shot in The Bahamas, as were most of 007’s underwater sequences).

However, honors for The Spy Who Loved Me should go for a very brave man who performed an unforgettable stunt.

1975 trade advertisement for The Spy Who Loved Me before Harry Saltzman sold out his interest in Bond

Rick Sylvester got on his skis and slided trough the snowy summit of Canada’s Mount Asgard. He jumped off a cliff and opened a Union Jack parachute. This moment that won cheers and applause over cinemas across the United Kingdom almost killed Sylvester when one of the abandoned ski poles nearly punctured the parachute.

Roger Moore kept his grace in his third Bond film. He dashingly wears a Royal Navy uniform and has the USS Wayne submarine troops in charge before a big scale gunfight takes place against the villain’s forces. He lets an assasin fall to his death after extracting him information. And, bravely, he tells her KGB companion Anya Amasova that he was responsible for the death of her boyfriend. “In our business, Anya, people get killed.”

Barbara Bach lacked acting talent as the leading lady. This weak aspect was compensated by Curt Jurgens magnificient performance of Bond’s nemesis Karl Stromberg who tries to ignite World War III as the initial step for the inception of a world beneath the sea.

However, the most memorable character in the film’s rogue gallery was Richard Kiel’s Jaws, the giant with steel teeth who would return to join the side of good in the next film, Moonraker. The popularity of Jaws was so big that Richard Kiel shared his likeness for three Bond videogames: GoldenEye 007 (1997), Everything or Nothing (2003) and 007 Legends (2012).

Marvin Hamlisch delivered a score in tone with the times, influenced by the Bee Gees music and the late 1970s disco tunes but also with the dramatic tunes some moments require, such as the tanker battle near the end.

Particularly good are his remixes of the classic James Bond Theme that heralded the many action sequences of the film. For the main title song, Hamlisch and lyricist Carole Bayer Sager took inspiration from Mozart and created the immortal ode to Bond: “Nobody Does it Better,” a title that could very well also fit the effort to deliver a Bond film with capital B.