Jim Steranko: 1960s spy fan

Jim Steranko provides a Sean Connery/007 cameo in Strange Tales No. 164 (1967)

Not that it’s a terrible surprise but writer-artist Jim Steranko, who had a legendary run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1960s, was a big fan of 1960s spy entertainment.

His S.H.I.E.L.D. stories included a weapons master named Boothroyd. He also had the Sean Connery version of James Bond make a one-panel cameo in Strange Tales No. 164 in 1967.

Anyway, Steranko takes questions from fans (or “henchmen”) each Sunday night on Twitter.

The Spy Commander couldn’t resist. So I asked if he had seen The Man From U.N.C.L.E. during the period.

The answer? Well, judge for yourself:

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I needed to look it up. The Hunter was a 1952 series where, according to IMDB.COM, Bart Adams used the cover of an international businessman to battle Communist spies. Barry Nelson was the first actor to play James Bond in the 1954 CBS television production of Casino Royale.

Spanish in James Bond movies

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

SMERSH’s dossier on James Bond stipulates he is fluent in three languages: English, French and German.

However in the films, Bond and those he encounters speak a fair amount of Spanish on occasion.

 

From Russia with Love (1963)

The audience hears a few words in Spanish during the SPECTRE training sequence in the pre-title sequence.

As Red Grant terminates the fake 007 during his exercise, a few headlights are turned on and a voice in an unidentified dialect says: “Silencio, cada uno donde está”, which in English means “Silence! Everyone, stay where you are.”

Goldfinger (1964)

In the pre-title sequence of Goldfinger, James Bond breaks into a heroin-making laboratory in Latin America.

After setting up explosive charges over nitro barrels in Ramírez’ lab, Bond goes to a nearby canteen. There, a dancer named Bonita makes up a flamenco step show with people cheering.

The charges explode and as the crowd moves along, Bond talks to a man in English. It’s his contact. He warns 007 not to go back to his hotel and to take the first plane to Miami. He addresses Bond as Señor, not Mister.

Bond disregards the advice and goes to see Bonita. He is attacked by an assailant, whom he terminates with electricity in a “shocking” way. The assailant, played by stuntman Alf Joint, is wrongfully credited in publications as “Capungo” as if it were a name or a surname. In Ian Fleming’s novel, we know capungo is a Mexican slang for “thug” or “hitman.”

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

Villain Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) says a single line in Spanish when having lunch with Bond, claiming the death of 007 “mano a mano, face to face” will be all his.

FYEO U.S. Insert

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

This is the first film in the series where 007 speaks in Spanish. Roger Moore has the distinction of being the first Bond to use the language.

007 is sent to Madrid to capture and interrogate Héctor González, a Cuban hitman responsible of the death of Timothy and Iona Havelock. While spying on the González estate, Bond is captured. The agent escapes after a diversion caused by Melina, the daughter of the late Havelocks, when she shots a bolt into González’ back.

As Bond and Melina escape, we hear some words: “¡Vamos, que no se puede escapar!” (Come on, we can’t let him escape). Later, 007 and the girl try to find a way out while driving Melina’s Citroen 2 CV.

The car flips down while taking a low road and some of the natives try to help the couple. As the henchmen of González try to reach them in their more powerful Mercedes Benz, Bond asks the citizens to help them push the car: “Por favor, ¡empujen!”

Safe in his hotel, Bond reserves a flight back to London and thanks in Spanish: “Muchas gracias.”

octopussy

Octopussy (1983)

Spanish is much heard during the first ten minutes of the film, when 007 infiltrates an air base in an unknown Latin American country (probably Cuba) to sabotage a missile. We hear trough the radio phones one Colonel Alvarado is performing an equestrian show.

Bianca, a Latin American agent, helps 007 don his disguise (fake moustache included): Colonel Luis Toro. A detail to note is that the prop department wrongfully abbreviated the word “Colonel” in English (Col. Toro) when it should have used the Spanish abbreviation (Cnel. Toro).

Moore makes a good use of his double entendrés with Toro’s surname: “Toro? Sounds like a load of bull” (The English for toro is “bull”).

Bond –- posing as Toro -– infiltrates the compound and greets one of the officers working on the missile. “Coronel,” the man says.  007 replies “Continúe” (Carry on) before knocking the man unconscious and getting discovered by the real Toro.

“Interrogación”, the military orders for the impostor to be arrested and interrogated. One of the officers complies while replying: “Sí, Coronel. Métanlo al camion” (Yes, Colonel. Get him on the truck).

007 escapes with the aid of Bianca’s seductive skills and, before taking a leap on the Acrostar jet for the definitive runaway, he thanks her with a “gracias, querida” (Thank you, darling).

Licence to Kill's poster

Licence to Kill’s poster

Licence to Kill (1989)

Given the film had major locations shot in Mexico, Spanish is present in the last film with Timothy Dalton as 007.

Bond himself only uses the language by addressing the villain as “Señor Sánchez” and by translating to Leiter the villain’s statement: “Plomo o Plata” (literally translated as “Lead or Silver”).

The villain played by Robert Davi uses a handful of Spanish words: “No te preocupes” (Don’t worry) to his girlfriend Lupe before whipping her; “amigo” (friend) to Krest and Bond); and even a mouthful: “¡Este hijo de p*ta!” (son of a bitch) before shooting the dead body of double agent Kwang, who killed himself with cyanide to avoid capture.

So does Lupe Lamora –often addressed as señorita instead of Miss– mixing words in Spanish with English phrases: “You loco” and “You borracho” (loco: crazy, borracho: drunk) to Bond and Krest.

Milton Krest, one of Sànchez’ associates, says a “muy bien” (all right) while searching for Bond as he escapes his troops. We can notice Anthony Zerbe’s voice is dubbed.

More of the language is heard when Bond and Pam (Carey Lowell) arrive at Isthmus City, when a radio is playing a populist narration claiming the benefits for the people given by the president (a puppet of Sánchez): “Beneficios para el pueblo con Héctor López, su Presidente”.

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The film begins in Bilbao, Spain, while visiting a corrupt banker, Lachaise. The mission for Pierce Brosnan’s Bond is to recover Sir Robert King’s money and extract information on who eliminated a fellow agent.

Bond fights Lachaise’s thugs and manages to escape from the Spanish police trough the office window. We hear officers speculating about the crime scene and shouting warinings: “Creo que son dos o tres, están armados… se oyeron cinco disparos y una explosión… ¡Abra la puerta, Policía!” (I think there were two or three, they’re armed. We heard five shots and an explosion. Police! Open the door!).

007 calmly escapes and, as he walks through the streets close to the Guggenheim, museum, one of Lachaise’s guards is caught: “¡Quieto ahí! Levanta las manos!” (Stay right there! Hands up!).

DADposter

Die Another Day (2002)

Bond (Brosnan) visits Cuba to eliminate assassin Zao. His first stop in Havanna is Raoul’s tobacco factory, where he asks for Delectados, a kind of cigars not made anymore.

“Raoul, aquí hay un tipo que busca delectados, de Universal Exports” (Raoul, there’s a guy asking for delectados, from Universal Exports), an old man notifies via telephone. Delectados were used as an understanding code between the agents.

In the tobacco factory, a man is reading the newspaper aloud to the employees, an article about the selling of lenses and recording cameras.

As Bond and Raoul talk about Zao, he calms down the tense looking old man, holding a gun to protect his boss, given the case: “Bueno, ¡pero relájate, hombre!”

Strangely, Raoul is a French name and the Spanish version of that name should have been “Raúl.”

Enjoying a bit of the Cuban culture, Brosnan makes use of his Spanish knowledge as James Bond: “Un mojito, por favor”, he asks ordering the famous Cuban drink.

To gain access to the Álvarez Clinic in Los Órganos, where Zao a patient for DNA makeover therapy, he knocks down a grumpy patient, carries him unconscious in a wheelchair and uses his papers to transport him. Before he does, he greets the prostitute: “Buenos días” (Good morning). Then, he delivers his papers to a boat transbord agent, calling him señor, and as the man grants him permission Bond replies “gracias”.

International poster for Quantum of Solace

International poster for Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace (2008)

The 22nd film in the series is set in Latin American locations, with Panama and Chile doubling for Bolivia.

For the first time, Spanish was an important language in a Bond film and not restricted to a few words. The Spanish dialogue was so important that in most countries it was subtitled.

In Haití, Camille greets General Medrano. Before capturing her, the military, responsible for the death of her parents, tells her: “Conocí a su familia, tristemente, creo que fui el último que los vio vivos” (I met your family. Sadly, I think I was the last one who saw them alive).

As Bond (Daniel Craig) rescues Camille, the general will throw orders in Spanish: “¡Síganlos!” (Follow them!).

Following the lead to villain Dominic Greene, Bond visits La Paz with Mathis, returning to the series after Casino Royale.

Upon reaching the city, they’re joined by Fields, a British agent sent to return Bond to London but who ends up joining the quest.

Stationed in Bolivia for almost a decade, Mathis is a friend of the Police Colonel, Carlos, whom he calls as a chatterbox taxi driver complains of the poor state of the country: “Calentamiento global… llueve mucho o no llueve nada” (Global warmth, it either rains or it never rains) and of the high taxes. Mathis continuously shushes him: “Cállate, ya, ¡chito!

When Bond checks into the luxurious Grand Andean Hotel, Craig says, “Hola, somos maestros en año sabático, y nos ganamos la lotería” (We’re teachers on sabbatical, and we have just won the lottery).

The concierge replies, “Felicidades, señor. ¿Les puedo ayudar en algo?” (Congratulations. How can I help you?). The voice of the concierge was dubbed by noted Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.

There are some mistakes in the subtitles added to the film: when 007 approaches a villager asking for the DC-3 plane to escape with Camille, the man rudely asks: “Buenos días, ¡¿Qué es lo que quiere?!” Subtitled as the polite “How can I help you?”, it should have been translated as the more literal “What do you want?” given the rudeness of the voice tone of the man.

Another Mexican director, Alfonso Cuarón, provided the voice for the radio guiding the Bolivian jet planes sent by Greene to hunt Bond and Camille, with the first phrase being “Objetivo eliminado” (Target terminated).

Something rather funny happens near the end of the film, when General Medrano and the Chief of Police have a chat on the Perla de las Dunas hotel.

Both characters are Bolivian, yet Medrano is played by a Mexican actor (Joaquín Cosio) and Carlos, the Colonel is played by a Spaniard actor (Fernando Guillén Cuervo).

The different dialects show up, and there’s yet another mistake in the subtitles.

Complaining by the noise made by the fuel cells to give electricity to the complex, the Colonel says: “Maldito quebradero de cabeza, la verdad”. Subtitled as “Pain in the ass, really”, the more literal “This sound wrecks my head” would have been more appropriate.

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE's main titles

Daniel Craig in SPECTRE’s main titles

SPECTRE (2015)

The movie begins in Mexico City during the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. Bond (Craig) is seen, in disguise, with a girl called Estrella, who in the hotel elevator mutters him some words in Spanish to his ears – presumably “te deseo” (I desire you) is logical since she kisses him as they both reach the room.

Not much more is heard except for the melody sang aloud by the attendants: “Los muertos vivos están, siento ya su poder, vengan todos aquí, este día llegará” (The dead are alive, I can feel their power. Let’s get all together, this day will arrive).

At around the half of the film, the SPECTRE agents are reunited in Rome to discuss the job in hand after the death of Sciarra in Bond’s hands. One of Blofeld’s assistants claims the next duty for Sciarra was the assassination of Mr. White, and offers the assignment to a Spaniard member known as Guerra.

Guerra, played by Benito Sagredo, complies by showing his loyalty to the organization in his own language: “Por supuesto. Mi lealtad a esta organización es absoluta. La protegeré hasta mi último aliento. No habrán más… aficionados. No veremos más muestras de debilidad” (“Of course. My loyalty to this organization is total. I will protect it with my last breath. There will be no more… amateurs. No more shows of weakness”).

 

Craig’s 007 tenure now second-longest, fan website says

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond is now second-longest, according to a fan website, Dalton Was Best.

The site’s websmaster, Adrian Stirrup, made the calculations for a Jan. 1 post. Stirrup said they were based on the date each Bond actor was announced publicly.

In the Jan. 1 post, Stirrup wrote that Craig would take over the No. 2 spot from Pierce Brosnan as of Feb. 20. The webmaster followed that up with a post on Twitter today, saying Craig now has 4,147 days in the role, compared with Brosnan’s 4,146.

The public announcement for Craig being cast as 007 was Oct. 14, 2005.

No. 1 is Roger Moore at 5,118 days. Sean Connery, the original film Bond, has 3,049 days with two stints in the role combined. Based on Jan. 1 post, the calculation is only for Connery’s time making six movies in the Eon Productions series. The actor did a seventh non-Eon Bond film, Never Say Never Again.

You can view today’s follow up tweet by Stirrup below.

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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.

You Only Live Twice: Beginning of the end of ’60s spymania

You Only Live Twice promotional art

You Only Live Twice promotional art

The 50th anniversary of You Only Live Twice isn’t just a milestone for a memorable James Bond film. It’s also the anniversary for the beginning of the end of 1960s spymania.

The 007 film series led the way for spymania. Over the course of the first four Bond films, everything skyrocketed. Not only did the Bond series get bigger, it created a market for spies of all sorts.

By June 1967, when You Only Live Twice debuted, that upward trajectory had ended.

To be sure, Twice was very popular. But there was a falloff from its predecessor, 1965’s Thunderball. Twice’s box office totaled $111.6 million globally, down 21 percent from Thunderball’s $141.2 million.

The fifth 007 movie produced by Eon Productions didn’t lack for resources.

Twice’s famous volcano set cost $1 million, roughly the entire budget of Dr. No. Helicopters equipped with giant magnets swooped out of the sky. A seeming endless number of extras was available when needed. .

At the same time, the movie’s star, Sean Connery, wanted out of Bondage. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman adjusted his contract. But their inducements weren’t enough.

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

You Only Live Twice marker in western Japan

It didn’t help that Broccoli and Saltzman themselves had their own, growing differences. Broccoli didn’t want to take on Connery as another partner — the same kind of arrangement Broccoli’s former partner, Irving Allen, bestowed upon Dean Martin for the Matt Helm movies.

Finally, there was another Bond film that year — the spoof Casino Royale, released in the U.S. less than two months before Twice. However, anybody who viewed Casino Royale’s marketing or trailers could mistake the Charles K. Feldman production for the Eon series.

As this blog has discussed before, Twice has a lot going for it. Ken Adam’s sets were spectacular. John Barry’s score was among the best for the Bond series. It was also the one film in the series photographed by acclaimed director of photography Freddie Young.

In the 21st century, fan discussion is divided. Some appreciate the spectacle, viewing it as enough reason to overlook various plot holes. Others dislike how the plot of Ian Fleming’s novel was jettisoned, with only some characters and the Japanese location retained.

With this year’s 50th anniversary, the former may be celebrated more. The movie’s scope, even its posters, aren’t the kinds of things you see these days.

The longer-term importance of the movie, however, is that Twice symbolizes how interest in the spy craze was drawing to a close. Bond would carry on, but others — including U.S. television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy — weren’t long for this world when Twice arrived at theaters.

Fun with numbers: Most popular Bond in U.S.

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Consider this post fun with numbers on a holiday: Who was the most popular James Bond in the United States when it comes to getting people to actually pay for a movie ticket?

If you guessed Sean Connery, the original film 007, you’re right and it’s not much of a surprise. But available statistics show how dominant the Scotsman was in the U.S. when it came to Bond movies.

On Box Office Mojo, you can find a list of Bond films by estimated number of tickets sold in the U.S. It has 25 films, the 24 made by Eon Productions plus 1983’s Never Say Never Again.

By that measure, Connery 007 films comprise five of the top 10 Bond movies.

In order: Thunderball (1), Goldfinger (2), You Only Live Twice (4), From Russia With Love (8) and Diamonds Are Forever (9).

In that top 10, two actors are tied at two apiece. Daniel Craig has Skyfall (3) and Casino Royale (10). Pierce Brosnan has Die Another Day (6) and Tomorrow Never Dies (7).

Rounding out the top 10 is Roger Moore with Moonraker (5).

Looking at the list, there’s a surprise or two.

Live And Let Die in 1973 and The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977 were big hits globally at the time of their release.

Live And Let Die, Moore’s debut and featuring a Paul McCartney title song, was the first Bond movie to exceed Thunderball at the worldwide box office. Spy re-energized the franchise after the split of producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

But on the U.S. list of ticket purchases, Spy shows up  at No. 16. It’s edged out by Octopussy at No. 15. Meanwhile, Live And Let Die is No. 17.

Curious about how George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton did? Well, Lazenby’s sole 007 effort, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is No. 21. Dalton’s two Bond films come in at No. 23 (The Living Daylights) and No. 25 (Licence to Kill).

Finally, Connery isn’t completely invincible on this list. Dr. No, the first Bond film (which came to the U.S. in 1963) is No. 19. Never Say Never Again, Connery’s effort to do a Bond without Albert R. Broccoli, is No. 20.

If you’re a James Bond fan in general, or of a specific 007 actor, none of this should really matter.

Even when keeping it to tickets purchased, comparisons across decades are a dicey thing. For example, movie going habits have changed. In the 1960s, people went more often to the movies than they do now.

Diamonds’ 45th: Rodney Dangerfield of 007 films

Diamonds Are Forever poster

Diamonds Are Forever poster

When Diamonds Are Forever came out 45 years ago this month, it was a huge deal. Sean Connery was back! Everything was back to normal in 007 land.

Nowadays, Diamonds is more like the Rodney Dangerfield of James Bond films, not getting any respect.

Some fans complain about too much humor, about Connery not being in shape, about Blofeld (Charles Gray) dressing in drag as a disguise and about Bond’s wardrobe (his fat, pink tie in particular).

Perhaps the biggest advocate of the movie is former United Artists executive David Picker. In his 2013 memoir, Musts, Maybes and Nevers, he says Diamonds saved the Bond series because he got the idea of paying Connery a lot of money to return as 007.

Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had cast American John Gavin in the role. But UA became more hands on with the seventh film in the series compared with previous entries. UA (via Picker) didn’t want to take a chance after George Lazenby played Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Regardless, Diamonds reflected the creative team’s desire to get back to the style of Goldfinger. As a result, director Guy Hamilton returned. So did production designer Ken Adam after a one-picture absence. John Barry was on board and this time Shirley Bassey would return to perform the title song.

There was new blood, however, in the form of screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, brought in to rewrite Richard Maibaum’s early drafts. Mankiewicz would work on the next four films of the series, although without credit on The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

"What does that mean, anyway?"

Q was aghast at Bond’s tie.

Mankiewicz (1942-2010), part of a family prominent in both show business and politics, still generates sharp divisions among Bond fans. Supporters say his witty one liners enlivened the proceedings. (“At present, the satellite is over Kansas,” Blofeld muses at one point. “Well, if we destroy Kansas, the world may not hear about it for years.”) Detractors say he simply didn’t understand Bond and made things too goofy.

The writer’s initial draft actually contained more bits from Ian Fleming’s 1956 novel than would be in the final film. (This 2011 ARTICLE has more details, just scroll down to the section about the Mankiewicz draft.) Still, with Diamonds, it was now standard practice that the films need have little in common with Fleming’s novels.

The legacy of the movie is mixed. Diamonds got 007 into the 1970s. But as late as 1972, people still questioned whether the series could survive without Sean Connery. That wouldn’t be evident until after Diamonds. And the movie clearly began a lighter era for the series.

Still, Bond was Bond. The movie was a success with moviegoers. It had a worldwide box office of $116 million, an improvement from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s $82 million and You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million.

Diamonds fell short of Goldfinger and Thunderball ($124.9 million and $141.2 million respectively). But it did well enough that Eon Productions would again try to find a successor to Connery.