How well do Americans like 007?

Sean Connery, as 007, circa 1963

Sean Connery, as 007, circa 1963

A market research company called YouGov surveyed 999 Americans on Dec. 4-5 about James Bond. The survey occurred just before SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond film, began principal photography.

According to YouGov’s polling results:

–20 percent of Americans said they thought they had seen every James Bond movie. That included 24 percent of men, 16 percent of women.

Breaking down the numbers further, 18 percent of whites thought they’d seen every 007 film, 31 percent of blacks and 18 percent of Hispanics. By age, it broke down to 18 percent 18-29, 21 percent 30-44, 20 percent 45-64 and 20 percent 65 and older. By family income: 17 percent below $40,000, 22 percent $40,000 to $80,000 and 29 percent $80,000 and above.

–27 percent liked 007 films “a lot,” while 29 percent liked them “somewhat,” 20 percent “a little” and 18 percent “not at all.” Another 6 percent were “not sure.”

–50 percent said Sean Connery was their favorite screen Bond, with Pierce Brosnan at 19 percent, Roger Moore at 17 percent, Daniel Craig at 11 percent, Timothy Dalton at 2 percent and George Lazenby at 1 percent.

When Bond fans are broken down by age, things changed. In the 18-29 category, Connery was still No. 1 at 33 percent but Craig was a close second at 26 percent. Pierce Brosnan stood at 21 percent, with Roger Moore at 13 percent, 4 percent for Dalton and 3 percent for Lazenby.

Connery was No. 1 with 42 percent 30-44, 54 percent 45-64 and a whopping 72 percent 65 and older.

Want a break down by political affiliation? Connery was No. 1 with 51 percent among both Democrats and Republicans, and 48 percent among independents.

Regional breakdown? Connery was tops in all regions: Northeast (53 percent), Midwest (54 percent), South (46 percent) and West (49 percent).

To see the YouGov tables, CLICK HERE.

YouGov, IN A DEC. 10 STORY ON ITS WEBSITE also says it asked respondents an “open ended question” who should be the next screen 007 after Daniel Craig. YouGov said the most popular choice was actor Idris Elba but the story didn’t provide a detailed breakdown. YouGov also said Benedict Cumberbatch and Jason Statham “were also particularly popular.”

A few things best to forget about You Only Live Twice

You Only LIve Twice poster

You Only LIve Twice poster

The other night over at the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. SPIES AND DETECTIVES FACEBOOK PAGE, a conversation broke out about implausibilities of various James Bond movies. You Only Live Twice came up quite a bit.

So, it got us to thinking about things that are best to forget or overlook about the 1967 James Bond film directed by Lewis Gilbert. For the purposes of this post, we won’t even go into things chewed over the years, such as Bond trying to impersonate a Japanese.

“Arrange usual reception, please.” In You Only Live Twice, Bond (Sean Connery) and Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) are being followed and shot at by SPECTRE thugs.

No problem (as future 007 sacrificial lamb Vijay might say). Aki requests Japanese Secret Service chief Tanaka to, “Arrange usual reception, please.” A helicopter swoops down, extends a magnet, snares the thugs’ car, whisks it out over Tokyo Bay and drops it.

A few things (as noted in the Facebook conversation): Should Tanaka have maybe captured the thugs and interrogated them? And since this is the “usual reception,” how many times a year does the Japanese secret service dump cars full of thugs into the bay? It’s probably best not to think about any of this, or else you’ll be distracted by the Kobe docks chase that follows.

SPECTRE not exactly being inconspicuous: The criminal organization kills an American tourist because she happened to take a photo of the ship Ning Po (which, is connected to SPECTRE). As Bond remarks, the photo shows “a ship and a strip of land, it could be anywhere.” In effect, SPECTRE has announced its presence. Later, Bond flies over the volcanoes in Little Nelly. SPECTRE sends out four helicopters to try to shoot Bond down, confirming its presence in the area.

Of course, it’s best to forget all that because we wouldn’t have the helicopter battle that follows.

Bond’s magical ninja shirt: Bond and Kissy investigate a cave. But there’s poisonous gas, so they dive overboard and swim away. Bond is wearing a shirt and a white undershirt (see the 1:25:51 mark).

Much later, when he and Kissy have reached the top of volcano (and the metal roof that’s supposed to look like water), Bond has his gray ninja shirt on underneath (1:29:41 mark). It’s sort of like the DC Comics superhero Green Lantern who creates his costume using his power ring.

But it’s best to forget all that because the climax of the movie will be coming up shortly.

The film’s weird timeline: When Bond and Kissy reach the top of the volcano, it’s still daylight. The sun must have set pretty quickly because it’s night when they get to the metal door.

Meanwhile, the trek of Bond and Kissy up the mountain was depicted as long and arduous. The use of dissolves implies it took a long time. Some the shots show the walking isn’t easy. Also Bond said there were “miles” of cave tunnel leading to the top of the volcano.

Yet, Bond when sends Kissy “to get Tanaka,” she goes back down the mountain, swims across a bay, dodges bullets from a SPECTRE helicopter and brings Tanaka and his ninjas all in darkness. Maybe Bond misjudged the distance. Anyway, something else to ignore or else you’ll miss the big ninja raid on SPECTRE HQs.

Raymond Benson observations on 007 and other topics

Raymond Benson's Die Another Day remains the most recent 007 film novelization. Photo copyright © Paul Baack

Raymond Benson, circa late 1990s. Photo by Paul Baack.

Raymond Benson, 007 scholar and one-time James Bond continuation novel author, granted an interview to the SIRENS OF SUSPENSE WEBSITE.

Here are a few of his observations.

About writing his 007 continuation novels and short stories:

“I grew up with Bond and (Ian) Fleming. I knew the universe inside-and-out…and I believe that’s why the people at the Fleming Estate hired me.”

On his favorite Bond actor:

Sean Connery will always be my favorite: he’s the iconic Bond, the guy against everyone else will be measured. That said, I feel the most accurate portrayal of Fleming’s literary Bond was that of Timothy Dalton.

On the chances Idris Elba will ever play 007:

As for the Elba discussion, it’s a moot point. Mr. Elba is a fine actor and could certainly do the role, but he’s aleady too old.

When the computers of Sony Pictures were hacked, one disclosure that emerged was that Sony executive Amy Pascal voiced a preference for Elba (born Sept. 6, 1972) to succeed Daniel Craig (b. 1968) in the role. Craig is currently filming SPECTRE, due for release in November and his contract calls for one more 007 film after that.

On whether Benson might every get the chance to do another 007 novel:

The Estate has never re-hired an author, just as the film producers are never going to re-hire Brosnan or Dalton.

Benson’s last Bond novel and 007 movie novelization were both published in 2002.

To view the entire interview, CLICK HERE.

Majesty’s 45th: ‘This never happened to the other fella’

OHMSS poster

OHMSS poster

When Sean Connery was cast as James Bond in Dr. No, there was interest. Ian Fleming’s 007 novels were popular. President John F. Kennedy was among their fans. Still, it wasn’t anything to obsess over.

Six years later, things had changed. Bond was a worldwide phenomenon. 007 was a big business that even producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman hadn’t anticipated originally. Now, the role was being re-cast after Sean Connery departed the role.

As a result, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which debuted 45 years ago this month, was under intense scrutiny. The film required a long, exhausting shooting schedule. This time, Bond would be played by a novice actor, George Lazenby, and a first time director Peter Hunt.

Hunt, at least, was no novice with the world of 007. He had been editor or supervising editor of the previous five Broccoli-Saltzman 007 films and second unit director of You Only Live Twice. So he was more than familiar with how the Bond production machine worked. Also, he had support of other 007 veterans, including production designer Syd Cain, set decorator Peter Lamont, screenwriter Richard Maibaum and composer John Barry.

Lazenby, on the other hand, had to take a crash course. He was paired with much more experienced co-stars, including Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas. And he was constantly being compared with Connery.

When, at the end of the pre-titles sequence, Lazenby says, “This never happened to the other fella,” the statement was true on multiple levels.

Majesty’s was also the first time Eon Productions re-calibrated. You Only Live Twice had dispensed with the main plot of Fleming’s novel and emphasized spectacle instead. Majesty’s ended up being arguably the most faithful adaptation of a Fleming 007 novel. It was still big, but it had no spaceships or volcano hideouts.

Majesty’s global box office totaled $82 million, according to THE NUMBERS WEBSITE. That was a slide from You Only Live Twice’s $111.6 million. Twice’s box offce, in turn, had declined compared with Thunderball.

For Lazenby, once was enough. He subsequently has said he erred by not making a second Bond. “This never happened to the other fella,” indeed.

Today, Majesty’s has a good reputation among 007 fans. In 1969 and 1970, the brain trust at Eon Productions and United Artists concluded some re-thinking was needed. Things were about to change yet again.

Goldfinger: the first ‘A-movie’ comic book film?

Goldfinger poster

Goldfinger poster

Here’s a thought as Goldfinger celebrates its 50th anniversary. In a way, the third James Bond film may have been the first “A-movie” comic book film.

Before Goldfinger, comic book films existed as serials. Lewis Wilson, father of Eon Productions co-boss Michael G. Wilson, played Batman in a 1943 serial, for example. Serials would run for weeks in 15-minute or so installments ahead of the main feature.

Goldfinger, of course, was based on Ian Fleming’s novel, not a comic book. Still, some Fleming novels seem to draw their inspiration from pulp adventure stories (also a source of inspiration for comic books).

In Fleming’s novel, Goldfinger’s henchman Oddjob was already over the top. With the film, that increased. A gold bar bounced off his chest without causing Oddjob harm. Harold Sakata’s Oddjob crushed a golf ball to show his displeasure with Sean Connery’s Bond. The henchman used his steel-rimmed hat to kill with precision. Oddjob, for a time in the Fort Knox sequence, bats Bond around like a cat playing wth a mouse.

Nor did the comic book style action end there. Bond’s tricked out Aston Martin became the inspiration for “spy cars,” with far more weaponry that a few extras the novel’s Aston had. The deaths of both Oddjob and later Auric Goldfinger could be described as comic book like. It was as if Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics drew the storyboards.

The difference, of course, was this all occurred in a $3 million A-movie where the audience could see the story all in one night.

Goldfinger’s success certainly was felt in the 007 series. In Thunderball, Bond flew a jet pack and in the climatic underwater fight had an oversized air tank that had additional weapons. You Only Live Twice included a helicopter snatching a car with a giant magnet and Blofeld’s volcano headquarters set that cost more than it took to produce Dr. No.

The success of such movies demonstrated audiences had an appetite for such uber-escapist sequences when executied in an entertaining way. You could make the case that Goldfinger blazed a trail that the likes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and, yes, movies based directly on comic books, exploited.

The path from Connery’s Bond to, say, Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man may be shorter than it appears.

The most obvious sign: director Christopher Nolan, a self-described 007, adapted Bond bits (the Bond-Q briefing evolved into Bruce Wayne getting new equipment from Lucius Fox) into his three Batman movies. Director Sam Mendes in Skyfall returned the favor, saying Nolan’s 2008 The Dark Knight influenced the 2012 007 film.

Goldfinger’s 50th anniversary: the golden touch

Sean Connery and Honor Blackman projected onto the iconic "Golden Girl."

Sean Connery, Honor Blackman and the “Golden Girl.”

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Goldfinger, the third James Bond film.

Where Dr. No and From Russia With Love were wildly successful, Goldfinger turned 007 into a phenomenon. Where the first two films were escapist, Goldfinger was outlandish — a woman killed with gold paint, a car equipped with an ejector seat, machine guns and other weaponry, a plot to invade Fort Knox and a henchman who killed people by throwing a steel-rimmed hat at them.

Audiences could not get enough. Worldwide, Goldfinger’s box office was 58 percent higher ($124.9 million) than the box office of From Russia With Love ($78.9 million). In the U.S., Goldfinger’s box office more than doubled that of its 007 predecessor ($51.1 million compared with $24.8 million).

Sean Connery had become a star as Bond, his status confirmed by having his name “above the title” in the main credits. In the first two films, it was “Starring Sean Connery” immediately after the name of the movies was shown.

As noted here before, Goldfinger was the tide that lifted all boats of the 1960s spy craze.

In the U.S., The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which had struggled in the ratings early in its run, rallied around the time Goldfinger made its American debut. By the fall of 1965, spy shows would be a major attraction on U.S. television.

In theaters, Bond’s success encouraged both wildly escapist films (the Flint and Matt Helm series) and the occasional serious, “anti-Bond” film (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and The Ipcress File, the later produced by 007 co-producer Harry Saltzman and having several 007 production crew members aboard.).

Television commercials likewise were inspired by Goldfinger and 007. Harold Sakata, who played henchman Oddjob, starring in a series of spots for cough medicine. Butterfinger candy bars had a spot that utilized the hit John Barry-Leslie Bricusse-Anthony Newley Goldfinger title song.

The movie has been analyzed in many, many places, including five years ago at this blog. It was a difficult film to script, with Richard Maibaum, and later, Paul Dehn tackling storytelling issues in Ian Fleming’s novel. The final script turned Fleming’s longest novel into a tight film that ran below two hours.

In the 21st century, some Bond fans will say Goldfinger isn’t the best 007 movie. Some even say they’ve seen it so many times they’re really not sure they can watch it again.

Still, whatever one’s opinion, Goldfinger changed everything in the 007 universe. For years, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman sought “another” Goldfinger. Richard Maibaum’s first take on Diamonds Are Forever included Goldfinger’s twin brother, an idea that was rejected.

You can make the case that various 007 films are better. Some fans cite From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale and Skyfall among them. But Goldfinger, because of its impact not only on the 007 franchise but on other popular entertainment, may be the most important.

Dr. No’s script Part V: Meeting the villain, Bond woman

Not what Dr. No's screenwriters had in mind.

Not what Dr. No’s screenwriters had in mind.

Concluding our look at an early 1962 version of Dr. No’s script provided by Bond collector Gary Firuta.

The first James Bond movie required a top-notch James Bond villain. The screenwriters of Dr. No envisioned an entrance for the title character that was different than what audiences would eventually see.

The January script by Richard Maibaum, Wolf Mankowitz and Johanna Harwood species the scene is “POV” (point of view) of Dr. No.

According to the stage directions, “All we see of DR. NO is the edge of his desk, and a slight shadow cast from a reading lamp as he makes a slight movement. In short, we see this scene entirely from his eyeline.”

This, of course, is the scene in the finished film where Dr. No’s lackey, Professor Dent, rushes out to the villain’s headquarters in broad daylight to tell his superior how Agent 007 refuses to be killed. After Dr. No says, “Good afternoon….Professor,” the stage directions add this detail.

“He makes ‘Professor’ sound like an insult.”

From here on out, the dialogue is similar to the finished movie, until this stage direction:

“DR. NO learns forward, extending one hand, still in silouhette, toward a nearby table, from which he picks up small glass cage. As he holds it out towards DENT we see something black and furry moving inside it. DENT recoils involuntarily.”

At this point, Dr. No says, “Since your attempts at assassination have been so ineffectual….let’s try ‘natural causes’ this time.”

In real life, production manger Ken Adam came up with a set, that maximized his minimal resources. The striking set created a strong visual. Dr. No’s voice is heard, but the audience doesn’t even see a shadow. The tarantula Dr. No provides Dent seems to materialize out of nowhere.

Meanwhile, the writing team also was faced with adapting one of Ian Fleming’s most memorable passages, where Bond meets Honey(chile) Ryder.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.

Ursula Andress as part of her entrance in Dr. No.


The sun beats down on BOND as he sleeps. In the distance, as if in his dreams, he can hear a WOMAN SINGING.

(snip)
146. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

What he sees: HONEY, standing at the water’s edge, her back to him. She is naked except for a wisp os (sic) home-made bikini and a broad leather belt with an undersea knife in a sheath….Her skin is deep honey cooured (sic)….She stretches contentedly like a cat in the warm sun.

147. EXT. BOND’S EYELINE. DAY

BOND – appreciates what he see (sic), in a moment he takes up the calypso refrain.

At the end of the script, as in the finished film, Bond is in a boat with Honey that’s out of fuel. But before the pair can make out very much “we hear the throbbing of an approaching motor launch.” It’s Felix Leiter, of course, spoiling their fun.

LEITER
I’ve brought the Marines….

BOND
(with a sly grin, as he helps HONEY up to her feet)
You picked a helluva time to come to the rescue.

THE END
James Bond will return….

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