Happy 86th birthday, Sean Connery

Sean Connery how we remember him, circa 1963, while posing for publicity stills for From Russia With Love.

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Sean Connery in a 007 publicity still

Our salute to Jim Steranko’s classic SHIELD cover

It’s birthday No. 240 for the United States of America. So, we’re celebrating Independence Day like we usually do with this Jim Steranko cover to Strange Tales No. 167, published in January 1968.

This time, though, we thought we’d present a little more detail.

This particular issue wrapped up a months long Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD story line where writer-artist Steranko revived a Marvel villain from the 1950s, the Yellow Claw.

Along the way (issue 164, to be precise), Steranko included a one-panel cameo by the Sean Connery version of James Bond at a SHIELD front in New York (a barber shop, to be precise).

Jim Steranko's cover to Strange Tales 167

Jim Steranko’s cover to Strange Tales 167

 

 

Issue 167 had a twist ending where it was revealed the Claw was actually a robot being manipulated by Dr. Doom, the Marvel villain of all Marvel villains. For Doom, it was just a game for amusement. (The very same month, Doom had manipulated the Fantastic Four into fighting Daredevil, Thor and Spider-Man. Obviously, Doom was a busy man.)

Steranko reveals his twist ending in Strange Tales 167.

Steranko reveals his twist ending in Strange Tales 167 via two full comic book pages.

Should Daniel Craig stay or should he go?

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Should he stay or should he go?

It seems like yesterday when Pierce Brosnan was dismissed from the role of James Bond, Martin Campbell announced as the director of Bond 21 aka (the official version of) Casino Royale and the thousands of candidates tipped by the press to replace him: Heath Ledger, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill and Daniel Craig.

It also seems like yesterday when Daniel Craig was finally announced to the doubtful worldwide press as “The New James Bond.”

I was 15 then. I can even recall a newsflash in Argentina reading, “Doubts, many doubts” when showing the footage of the Chester-born actor, posing next to producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli for a photo call that seemed to say it all without a single caption describing it.

In 10 years that passed as 10 seconds, Craig seems to be leaving the role.

I don’t know if he will and I don’t believe in the gossip British and American tabloids, whose headlines are almost copied-pasted throughout the rest of the world, where the James Bond phenomenon has expanded since 1962. But, I have to admit, when people such as Graham Rye, the 007 Magazine editor, provides information on the subject, I may actually think about it.

So, without saying if he stays or if he goes (because I clearly don’t have that information, and maybe very few people do) or the real reasons on why he’s leaving or has been ditched, according to the sources we’ve heard, I want to offer my opinion on his future. And it’s going to be a very heartfelt opinion, because Craig was the Bond of my teens and adult life.

I want him to come back, but I think he should leave.

I’m not too much convinced on the tipped “replacements” and, of course, Craig can do one more Bond film at 48.

He still looks the part and showed a cool side of Ian Fleming’s spy: tough and brutal, but still fresh and humorous. But I honestly think he gave us all he had to give and “his” Bond found what he was looking for.

CinemaSins jokingly said that none of Craig’s Bond films can get over Casino Royale in their “sin count” of SPECTRE, and beyond the puns intended, that is indeed true. Because the 2006 film presents us the main conflict of the character: his emotions shattered after the induced suicide of the girl he loved, his purpose to avenge her (yes, to go behind the man “who held the whip” but with a slight desire of settling the score) and the need of getting over her and run away from that world of violence he belongs to because, apparently, it was “better than the priesthood.”

In Casino Royale, Craig/Bond loses Vesper; in Quantum of Solace, he finds a way to make justice; in Skyfall, an apparently “unrelated” story arc movie, he fails to protect Judi Dench’s M, who dies in his arms; and in SPECTRE we learn everything was connected to his foster brother Ernst Stavro Blofeld who operated from the shadows to make him lose the ones he loved.

007 defeats the villain, but instead of shooting him at point blank he decides to leave him to MI6 and sign off for a better life next to his new love, Madeleine Swann.

The end of the movie is a bit reminiscent to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where Bond and his new wife Tracy left on an Aston Martin and then she was shot dead by a machine gun attack led by Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Bunt. Even the last sentence of the 1969 film was, at one point, in SPECTRE’s script: “We have all the time in the world.”

In the finished film, the line was dropped and a smiling James Bond drove the DB5 next to Madeleine right through the London streets as Monty Norman’s trademark theme sounded.

I was incredibly happy when I saw that scene and I immediately thought it’s the best farewell Craig’s Bond could have.

Incredibly enough, after my first watching, a friend told me: “Hey, but she’s going to die in the next one,” connecting that scene to the tragic climax of the only 007 movie starring George Lazenby.

I wouldn’t like that again for two reasons: one, it would be way too repetitive that Bond loses two women close to his heart in four movies. It would be expected. It would be repeating a past, an exclusive past that is not compared to have many villains plotting WWIII or extravagant liars.

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

Two, Craig’s portrayal of the role has been so special, unique and different to the other five actors (the whole creative process for this era was different and continuity, in a way or another, mattered) that I feel he deserves this happy ending.

It’s a far cry for Connery/Bond next to a hussy Tiffany Case asking for the diamond-made satellite in the sky, Moore/Bond taking a shower with the clingy Stacey Sutton, a tuxedo-clad Dalton/Bond kissing the self-reliant Pam Bouvier in a swimming pool or Brosnan/Bond throwing diamonds on NSA agent Jinx’s belly during lovemaking.

Only George Lazenby’s final scene as Bond had the tragic ending of the hero crying over the dead body of his bride.

And SPECTRE’s ending is the perfect “revenge” to that scene: James Bond finally gets to be happy with the girl he loves and not with a fling, and they can have a happy future: a future that will not be known to us.

How could Bond and Madeleine fell for each other so quickly is still a subject of debate and I agree the relationship needed more development. Yet Léa Seydoux’s character can make a judgment call on 007 and make him throw the gun away right before he shoots Blofeld dead.

Minutes before, the villain lured Bond into the soon-to-be-demolished ruined MI6 building, now decorated with photos of Vesper and M. “This is what left of your world, everything you stood for, everything you believed in, are in ruins.”

When 007 opts not to kill his “brother,” he embraces Madeleine. They kiss and walk away of the crowded Westminster street where a wounded Blofeld lies before being arrested. Bond walks out of that world of violence and destruction the mastermind wanted for him.

The film’s proper ending is a Bondian epitaph for the Daniel Craig era. He is now the James Bond we all know and love, he’s there again, but keep “being Bond” would mean the end of his happy life: another Vesper. So, he says goodbye.

In 1615, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra decided to kill of Don Quixote so that no other author could continue writing about him, because he wanted to “own” him. The same should happen to this version of James Bond, because Daniel Craig “owned” the character, from that brutal black and white bathroom fight (at the start of Casino Royale) to the stylish Aston Martin ride with a girl.

So, to summarize this article – or extensive dilemma– should Daniel Craig’s James Bond stay or go? I want him to stay, I would love him to stay.

But he should go.

UPDATE (June 23): “Versión en español en Bond en Argentina” (to read a version in Spanish on the website Bond en Argentina), CLICK HERE.

 

Theater features 007 triple feature for Father’s Day

Promotional art for Father's Day 007 triple feature

Promotional art for Father’s Day 007 triple feature

A theater in eastern Pennsylvania has come up with an interesting way to spend Father’s Day — a James Bond triple feature, each with a different actor playing James Bond.

The Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, is having its Bonding With Dad Marathon on Sunday. The lineup consists of 1963’s From Russia With Love with Sean Connery, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with George Lazenby and 2006’s Casino Royale with Daniel Craig.

For older Bond fans in the area, it’s a one-day chance to relive the past when 007 double (and even triple) features were released between Bond film releases. That fell by the wayside for the most part after Bond films first appeared on television and then went to home video. Today, such double features occur as special events.

The Colonial Theatre first opened in 1903. “Real movie buffs know that the Colonial was featured in the 1958 science fiction classic, The Blob, starring Steve McQueen and filmed in and around Phoenixville,” according to the Colonial’s website.

The Bond three movies run from 12 noon until 7 p.m. Prices are $21 for adults, $16 for seniors and students and $11 for children under 13. Phoenixville is near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

 

007 and the peak of movie poster art

Arguably, that would be 1967’s You Only Live Twice, which featured multiple memorable images.

The masterpiece was this image, which wasn’t even the primary piece of art for the film. Sean Connery’s tuxedo-clad James Bond improbably is using his feet to support himself while Tiger Tanaka’s ninjas raid SPECTRE’s volcano headquarters.

You Only Live Twice art

You Only Live Twice art

Depending on the format of the poster, the main poster images featured Connery/Bond in Little Nellie above the SPECTRE base, or Connery/Bond with Japanese women. Some posters managed to combine both.

YOLT skinny poster

You don’t get that kind of art these days with movies, which digitally manipulate photographs and don’t utilize lush illustrations. The entertainment website Birth.Movies.Death took to Twitter, reminding its followers about the You Only Live Twice art.

Morley Safer’s 007 moment

Morley Safer, the long-time 60 Minutes correspondent, died on Thursday only days after CBS announced his retirement.

Safer covered the Vietnam War for CBS and came aboard 60 Minutes in 1970, two years after the broadcast began. During that stretch, he managed a James Bond moment.

In the 1970s, he did a story about the Orient Express, including how it had seen better days. You can catch a few shots of it in The Associated Press video obituary below, starting around the 20-second mark.

At one point, the story showed the train changing engines, with the new engine having the number 007 on its front.

That led to a brief sequence edited to make it appear as if Safer was listening in on the From Russia With Love fight between James Bond (Sean Connery) and Red Grant (Robert Shaw).

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find that clip, but the AP obit below is worth a watch. It runs 1:17. Meanwhile, while living as a bachelor in London in the 1960s while working for CBS, he bought a Bentley with his poker winnings, according to Sunday’s 60 Minutes telecast about Safer’s career.

UPDATE (10:25 p.m.): If you CLICK HERE, you may be able to view the 1977 story about the Orient Express. The video seems to be freezing up after a commercial is shown. The story was titled “Last Train to Istanbul.”

 

‘Enjoy it lightly, lightly’: Guy Hamilton’s 007 films

Guy Hamilton

Guy Hamilton

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

Dedicated to Guy’s memory. Sadly, I didn’t have the chance to meet or interact with him, but The Man With The Golden Gun and Live and Let Die were the first two classic Bonds I ever saw, both very entertaining. May he rest in peace. .

The contribution the late Guy Hamilton made to the James Bond series can be defined in a phrase he said to Roger Moore and Christopher Lee on the set of The Man With the Golden Gun: “Enjoy it, lightly, lightly”.

Hamilton took the helm of Goldfinger after rejecting Dr. No and came up shining the James Bond series. As previously stated on this site, the Bond movies became more extravagant since the third outing, released in 1964.

Goldfinger, starring Sean Connery, added to the humorous situations of Dr. No and From Russia With Love, directed by Terence Young, and brought a simple and basic premise repeated in subsequent films: an extravagant mastermind (the title villain, played by Gert Frobe), special gadgets shown in a Q Lab scene, who went further than the attaché case from the previous film with Bond’s trademark Aston Martin DB5; and the abundance of beautiful women to please the secret agent and the audience (this time, there weren’t only two or three women but a group of beauties working for the main girl, Pussy Galore).

The formula was established: movie begins with a mini-adventure, then follows up with actual assignment. Bond gets M’s briefing, his gadgets from Q and is sent to investigate the villain. Eventually, he’ll come across many girls and thrills across the globe until the villain captures him and reveals his outrageous plan: a plan 007 averts before or after killing the main villain (and/or the henchman) and ending with one of the girls.

While Goldfinger had a great success and impact among Bond fans, the following 007 film directed by Hamilton, Diamonds Are Forever, isn’t held in the same high regard. Neither are the other Bonds he directed, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, now with Roger Moore on the role.

Diamonds Are Forever’s asset was the return of Sean Connery in the role. The movie, released in 1971, was very representative of the times and way more relaxed in comparison of the previous James Bond adventure, the faithfully adapted On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Not everything in the movie is perfect, but it manages to shine with a very eye-pleasing cinematography by Ted Moore, who excelled with colorful shots of Las Vegas or the monotone palette of the Nevada dunes. The lines, although a bit parodic, are punchy. That’s particularly true in the scene when 007 infiltrates Blofeld’s oil rig off the California coast by saying: “Good morning, gentlemen. Acme pollution inspection. We’re cleaning up the world, we thought this was a suitable starting point.”

Guy Hamilton’s collaboration with screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz (Mankiewicz wrote the later script drafts) provided a funny ride for Sean Connery’s return in Diamonds Are Forever, with gorgeous girls and comical situations like having James Bond escaping from a compound in a Moon buggy (even John Barry’s music captured the funny aspect of the scene).

For Roger Moore’s introduction as James Bond in 1973, Hamilton opted to make the new Bond completely different from his predecessor, the Scottish actor who patented the image of 007. He would return for a last 007 outing in 1974 for Moore’s second Bond film, The Man With the Golden Gun.

Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun

Christopher Lee in The Man With the Golden Gun

These two films lack some of the qualities of Goldfinger or Diamonds Are Forever, yet a lot of humor, girls and gadgets are maintained. Roger Moore’s adventuristic spirit was inspired from his days as Simon Templar in The Saint, helping to enhance the standard quota of humor from Hamilton and Mankiewicz.

The story lines of Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun were simplistic. In the former, Bond is sent to investigate the death of colleagues and a British representative at the UN that leads to a case of drug-dealing. In the latter, Bond is the target of assassin Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), who also wants to monopolize solar energy.

In Live and Let Die, 007 breaks interracial barriers with CIA agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), visits the Caribbean once more and opposes Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), the mastermind behind the drug trafficking. There were no vehicles this time but a Rolex Submariner wristwatch with a powerful magnet.

The technical aspect of the 1973 movie is a bit of a letdown in comparison to Diamonds Are Forever or Goldfinger. George Martin’s score succeeds the difficult task of replacing the usual John Barry, but the cinematography -–again by Ted Moore -– is somewhat lackluster.

On the other hand, The Man With The Golden Gun brought John Barry back and Ted Moore, joined by Oswald Morris, brought more colors to the scenes.

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

There is an abundance of women in the movie. The ninth Bond installment saw the secret agent involved with both Britt Ekland and Maud Adams, with a romantic-comedy-like jealousy scene included, plus some Asian beauties such as the suggestive nudist swimmer Chew Me and two teenager karate experts.

Guy Hamilton’s goodbye to the series was filled with humorous situations not only made by the actors or screenwriters, but also in the technical area: John Barry added a sound effect as Bond’s AMC Matador car takes a 360-degree jump and the art crew set the MI6 base in Hong Kong inside the sunken remains of the Queen Elizabeth ship, apparently because of the expensive Hong Kong real estate, or so a a British naval officer explains Bond in the film.

These two films feature a recurring character: Sheriff J. W. Pepper, played by Clifton James, whose scenes almost turn both films into comedies. If in Live and Let Die the southern lawman interfered in a boat chase between 007 and the bad guys and made some racist remarks, in The Man with the Golden Gun he’s fully ridiculed by an elephant who throws him to the Thai canals.

It’s a continuous subject of debate if the cinematic James Bond should be a dramatic anti-hero as the one seen in Licence to Kill or Casino Royale or a lighter action man as the protagonist of the movies Guy Hamilton directed. Both definitions of Ian Fleming’s character were key to make 007 the longest running franchise in cinema history.

Guy Hamilton was the man who popularized Bond. The term “popularized” goes in a appeasing way, because he made these movies the kind of entertainment teenagers and adults wanted in the 1960s or 1970s. And he did not only “entertaining movies,” but great, entertaining adventures.

Guy Hamilton made James Bond a super star, an icon of the popular culture.