Some Rod Taylor spy movies on TCM early Friday

Rod Taylor from the main titles of the Masquerade television series.

Friday, Aug. 18, is Rod Taylor day on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. And some of Taylor’s spy movies will be part of the proceedings.

As an aside, TCM’s programming day starts at 6 a.m. New York time. The spy movies start early. Sorry for the late notice, but the Spy Commander just found out himself.

6 a.m.: 36 Hours, World War II espionage movie. Germans kidnap an American officer (James Garner). They make him think World War II is over to trick him out of information about the invasion of Europe. Taylor plays the German performing the deception. Based on a story by Roald Dahl.

8 a.m.: The Liquidator. Rod Taylor as John Gardner’s Boysie Oakes. Music by Lalo Schifrin and a title song performed by Shirley Bassey.

10 a.m.: The Glass Bottom Boat, a Doris Day comedy involving spies seeking secrets from a Tony Stark-like character played by Taylor. Cameo by Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo.

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Gold, only Gold: Goldfinger at 50

Sean Connery and Gert Frobe

Sean Connery and Gert Frobe

By Nicolás Suszczyk, guest writer

It doesn’t have to be your favorite film. You might be in the minority of those who don’t like it, and, of course, you might not find it as serious as From Russia with Love, Skyfall, Casino Royale or The Living Daylights.

But you can’t deny Goldfinger is the James Bond film which set the standards to “what a James Bond film is” to the eyes of the worldwide public.

The third Bond film has all the ingredients that made us Bond fans: three (main) beautiful girls, an imposing villain with world domination dreams, a dangerous henchman and larger-than-life sets, the thrilling John Barry score and the still-memorable Shirley Bassey song, an icon of the Bond culture.

Over the years Auric Goldfinger evolved into Max Zorin and Elliott Carver; Jill Masterson’s golden body was re-adapted in the 21st century as Strawberry Field’s unwanted oil bath for Quantum of Solace; and Oddjob was the “father” of all the powerful and unbeatable henchmen.

The Aston Martin DB5 was the Bondmobile that the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig eras resurrected and all its accessories inspired Maxwell Smart’s red Sunbeam Alpine. Goldfinger wasn’t just important as a template for the following James Bond films, but for all the 1960s spy series and spoofs like Get Smart and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., with agents and their gadgets, girls and extravagant villains.

Let me share a personal story between the facts many of us know –- I found Goldfinger terribly boring the first time I saw it, when my grandmother rented it and I was 9 or 10. I was carried away by the spectacle of the Pierce Brosnan films and the funny treats of the Roger Moore era after watching -–in that order– The Man with the Golden Gun, Live and Let Die and Moonraker.

By the late 1990s I was mad for GoldenEye and its 1997 videogame version that, as we all knew, featured villains like Jaws, Baron Samedi and Oddjob in the multiplayer modes. I’ve seen Jaws and Baron Samedi and then I wanted to watch Oddjob, hence, I asked my grandmother to rent me Goldfinger. I heard a very good review of it from the father of a schoolmate then who told me “it was great,” but as I started watching it… it was strange. I found Sean Connery’s performance extremely dull, and I barely watched some scenes of it. It’s a hard thing to confess, don’t you think?

But, well, luckily I grew up and by the second time I watched it (it was the last Bond film I bought to complete my VHS collection) I enjoyed it very much.

Even when It hadn’t had the thrilling action scenes of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is not Enough or the emotionally deep plots of Casino Royale and Licence to Kill, and the idea of James Bond questioning himself for killing somebody –- present in the 1959 Ian Fleming novel and resurfaced in the latest Bond films — was completely wiped out as in the first scene Connery’s Bond electrocutes a thug and leaves an unconscious girl dropped in the floor by claiming the situation was “positively shocking.”

Goldfinger broke new ground. Ted Moore’s cinematography became more colorful, John Barry’s soundtrack had a funnier approach in contrast with the previous film’s percussion sound bites, the action scenes were more spectacular and the humor in the dialogue grew up. The women, that in the first two films followed the hero, became more self-reliant: Pussy Galore was “immune” to Bond’s charms for a long time.

This film also set the starting point for the classic love-hate relationship between Bond and Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, even when this was the second film where Llewelyn appeared as the character. It was director Guy Hamilton who convinced Llewelyn to show disdain toward Bond for the way he mistreats his gadgets, a formula that worked for many years.

Every day closer to the 50th anniversary, Goldfinger is the first 007 film that will come to the mind of every moviegoer. Since Sept. 17, 1964, Sean Connery, Gert Frobe, Honor Blackman, Guy Hamilton and John Barry literally told us how a spy film should be made.

Moonraker’s 35th: when outer space belonged to 007

moonrakerposter

June marks the 35th anniversary of Moonraker, a James Bond movie fans either like or despise.

Producer Albert R. Broccoli sought to make the most extravagant Bond film ever. The film’s first-draft script was too big even for the ambitions of the veteran producer. Twin mini jets, a jet pack and a keel hauling sequence were removed in subsequent drafts. Some of the ideas would be used in the next two films in the series, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy.

But there was plenty left, including taking Agent 007 into outer space (or Outer Space! as it was spelled in the list of locations in the end titles). Writer Tom Mankiewicz did uncredited work to develop the story. Screenwriter Christopher Wood received the only screen credit for the film.

Broccoli and United Artists initially wanted to spend about $20 million, a substantial hike from the previous 007 adventure, The Spy Who Love Me. It soon became evident the budget would have to even higher, costing more than $30 million.

Broccoli and director Lewis Gilbert had teased the audience in 1967’s You Only Live Twice with the idea of Bond going into space. In that film, Ernst Stavro Blofeld catches Sean Connery’s Bond in a mistake before Bond can be launched into orbit. This time out, Broccoli and Gilbert would not use such restraint. Roger Moore’s Bond would go into space, in a spacecraft modeled after the space shuttles that NASA had in development.

As with other Bond films of the era, there was a lot of humor, including pigeons doing double takes and henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) suffering various indignities. The movie got good reviews from some critics, including Frank Rich, then of Time magazine. A sample of Rich’s take: ” When Broccoli lays out a feast, he makes sure that there is at least one course for every conceivable taste.”

Also singing Moonraker’s praises was reviewer Vincent Canby of THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Moonraker, Canby wrote, was “one of the most buoyant Bond films of all. It looks as if it cost an unconscionable amount of money to make, though it has nothing on its mind except dizzying entertainment, which is not something to dismiss quickly in such a dreary, disappointing movie season.”

Bond fans have a more mixed reaction. Some feel it’s too far from the spirit of the original Ian Fleming novels. For examples, CLICK HERE. Others, while acknowledging there isn’t much from Fleming’s namesake novel, are more than content to go along for the ride.

Despite the higher budget, Broccoli & Co. weren’t willing to pay what major U.S. special effects houses wanted. Instead, Derek Meddings used decidedly lower tech ways to simulate a fleet of Moonraker rockets launching into space and meeting up with a space station. Meddings and his crew an Academy Award nomination. Meddings & Co. lost to Alien.

For Moonraker, it was a major accomplishment to get the nomination. Meddings and his special effects colleagues were the only crew members working at England’s Pinewood Studios. The home base for Moonraker was Paris because of tax reasons.

Two stalwarts of the Bond series, composer John Barry and production designer Ken Adam were also aboard. Moonraker monopolized stages at three Paris studios with Adam’s sets. It would be designer’s farewell to the series. Shirley Bassey performed the title song, her third and final 007 film effort.

In the end, Moonraker was a success at the box office. The movie’s $210.3 million worldwide box office was the most for the series to date.

Broccoli changed course soon after, with 1981’s For Your Eyes Only being much more down to earth, with a greater emphasis on Ian Fleming original source material. Never again would Broccoli or United Artists (or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which acquired UA in 1981) attempt a spectacle on this scale.

Sean Connery’s (sort of) return to Bondage

Sir Billi poster

Sir Billi poster

Sean Connery has interrupted his retirement to voice the title character in an animated story, Sir Billi, who engages in adventures not unlike those of James Bond, the role that made the Scotsman a star. The poster image even includes a familiar looking car.

Here’s the description from a press release.

Kaleidoscope Entertainment is delighted to announce Scotland’s first full-length animated feature film SIR BILLI, releasing in cinemas from 13 SEPTEMBER 2013 and DVD on 16 SEPTEMBER 2013.

An ageing, skateboarding veterinarian Sir Billi goes above and beyond the call of duty fighting villainous policemen and powerful lairds in a battle to save an illegal fugitive — Bessie Boo the beaver!

A heart-warming and action packed family movie where thrilling car chases, heroic skydiving and daring stunts from this octogenarian, fuelled with encounters with a hostile submarine, will keep you on the edge of your seat!

Voiced by Sir Sean Connery, everyone wants a grandpa like Sir Billi, the Guardian of the Highlands! With a star-studded cast including Alan Cumming (Spy Kids, The Smurfs 2, X-Men 2) Miriam Margolyes (Harry Potter, Mulan), Kieron Elliot (How to Train Your Dragon) and title track performed by Dame Shirley Bassey. Original score by Oscar nominee Patrick Doyle.

For the official Sir Billi Web site, CLICK HERE. To view Sir Billi’s page on the U.K. version of Amazon.com, CLICK HERE.

Comparing 1982 and 2013 Oscars from a 007 view

oscar

The Oscars on Oct. 24 had the biggest 007 presence since 1982. So how did the two nights compare?

For 007 fans, this year’s Oscars were a mixed bag. Skyfall won two Oscars, breaking a 47-year Oscar drought. But a promised Bond tribute seemed rushed and some fans grumbled that Skyfall should have come away with more awards.

Skyfall came away with the Oscar for Best Song after three previous 007 tries (Live And Let Die, Nobody Does it Better from The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only) as well as best sound editing in a tie with Zero Dark Thirty. But neither director of photography Roger Deakins or composer Thomas Newman scored an award, continuing their personal Oscar losing streaks.

Anyway, the 1982 and 2013 Oscars shows had one thing in common: Each had a montage of James Bond clips. In ’82, it was presented just before Eon Productions co-founder Albert R. Broccoli received the Irving R. Thalberg Award, given to a producer for his or her body of work. That montage included dialogue, including different actors getting to say, “My name is Bond, James Bond.”

Thirty-one years later, there was another montage, a little snappier but clips still familiar to most 007 fans. The clips were accompanied by The James Bond Theme and an instrumental version of Live And Let Die.

The 1982 show had a big production, with Sheena Easton performing For Your Eyes Only (nominated for Best Song, but which lost) along with a Moonraker-themed dance number that included appearances by Richard Kiel as Jaws and Harold Sakata as Oddjob. In 2013, the clip montage led to Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger and drawing a standing ovation. And then….well, the 007 tribute was over. Adele performed Skyfall separately as one of the Best Song nominees.

In 1982, Roger Moore introduced Cubby Broccoli. In 2013, no Bonds appeared. Supposedly, that wasn’t the original plan, according to Nikki Finke, editor-in-chief of the Deadline entertainment news Web site. In a “LIVE SNARK” FROM THE OSCARS, she wrote:

The Academy and the show’s producers hoped to gather together all the living 007 actors. But Sean Connery refused to come because he hates the Broccoli family. Something about how he thinks they cheated him out of money he was owed. Then Pierce Brosnan refused to come because he hates the Broccoli family as well. Something about how he thinks they pulled him from the role too early. Roger Moore was dying to come because, well, he’s a sweetheart. And Daniel Craig would have come because he does what he’s told by the Broccoli family’s Eon Productions whose Bond #23 Skyfall just went through the box office global roof. So there you have it.

Finkke didn’t say how she came by this information. In mid-February, her site ran an interview with the producers of the Oscars show and that story said the six Bond film actors wouldn’t appear at the show and referred to “rampant media speculation” concerning such a joint appearance. Still, her Web site was the first to report that Sam Mendes was likely to direct Skyfall, so it can’t be disregarded completely.

In any case, the 1982 show had something not available to the producers of the Oscars show this year: Cubby Broccoli. He gave a particularly gracious speech when accepting his Thalberg award. He acknowledged both of his former partners, Irving Allen and Harry Saltzman, despite substantial differences of opinion he had with them in the past.

In the end, that speech sets the 1982 show apart from a 007 perspective despite the record two 007 wins for Skyfall. We’ve embedded it before, but here it is once more:

Skyfall breaks 007’s 47-year Oscar drought

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image


RECAP (11:55 p.m.): Skyfall won two Oscars, the first 007 film to win more than one. Goldfinger and Thunderball won one apiece. It broke a 47-year Oscar drought for the Bond series. The highest profile win was Best Song by Adele and Paul Epworth, finally giving the series a win after three previous Best Song nominations.

UPDATE IV (11:20 p.m.): Skyfall finally broke the 007 Best Song jinx, winning the Oscar for Adele and Paul Epworth (Best Song Oscars go to the songwriters, not the performer). Adele thanked producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.

007 films had been nominated for Best Song three times with no wins: Live And Let Die, Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only. Classic Bond songs such as Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever were never nominated.

A few minutes earlier, Skyfall’s Thomas Newman lost to Life of Pi’s Mychael Danna. Skyfall ends the evening with two wins out of five categories.

UPDATE III (11:03 p.m.): Earlier Adele performed Skyfall. Reaction was mixed in our quick survey of social media. Some fans felt she nailed it, others felt there were too many backup singers or other flaws. Afterwards, two musicians with ties to the 007 series made the “In Memoriam” segment: Hal David, who wrote lyrics for the 1967 Casino Royale spoof, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and 1979’s Moonraker; and Marvin Hamlisch, who scored 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Hamlisch was nominated twice for Spy (score and for “Nobody Does It Better”) but didn’t pick up any wins that night.

UPDATE II (10:20 p.m.): Skyfall broke 007’s 47-year Oscar drought by tying with Zero Dark Thirty for sound editing. Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers picked up Oscars, though they started to get shooed off the stage as the orchestra played the theme from Jaws.

It was the first win for a Bond movie since John Stears won for special effects for 1965’s Thunderball. Just before that, film lost the sound award to Les Miserables.

UPDATE I (9:28 p.m.): Halle Berry introduced the James Bond tribute segment, comprised of clips from the movies accompanied by the James Bond Theme and an instrumental of Live And Let Die.

Immediately after, Shirley Bassey appeared and did a rendition of Goldfinger, with a very traditional sounding arrangement. It was the Bond highlight so far after Roger Deakins’s loss. Twitter lit up with users commenting about Dame Shirley’s performance.

However, Ezra Klein, a political commentator, wasn’t impressed with the 007 tribute part. He wrote on Twitter: “Congratulations, Oscars, you managed to make the Bond franchise look unexciting.”

ORIGINAL POST: Roger Deakins, nominated for his cinematography in Skyfall, lost to Life of Pi’s Claudio Moranda.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, has been nominated for five awards, the most in the history of the Bond film series. The previous 007 record was held by The Spy Who Loved Me with three nominations (and no wins).

Still to come as of 9:12 p.m. are the best song, best score and two sound categories where Skyfall has been nominated. For now, 007’s 47-year Oscar drought continues. The last Bond movie to get an Oscar was 1965’s Thunderball for special effects. A tribute to James Bond movies is coming up.

2013 Oscars to have biggest 007 component in 31 years

oscar

UPDATE II (8:05 p.m.): Halle Berry said on ABC that’s she has seen some of the Bond tribute for the Oscars show and that it’s “fabulous” and that she’s proud to be part of the 007 franchise. Immediately after, Adele says on ABC she’s “really excited” to perform tonight. Obviously, nothing terribly revealing in either interview.

UPDATE (6:55 p.m.): Shirley Bassey showed up on CNN’s Oscars “red carpet” show. Nothing startling. She sang the word “Goldfinger.” She told Piers Morgan she’s going to be nervous during the show. “With all these stars, I’m going to be jelly.” She said her favorite Bond was Sean Connery.

ORIGINAL POST: Tonight’s Oscars show is guaranteed to have the biggest 007 presence in 31 years.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie, has been nominated for five awards, the most in the history of the film series. The previous 007 record was held by The Spy Who Loved Me with three nominations (and no wins).

We know that Adele will perform the Skyfall title song. That’s one of the five nominations for Skyfall (Adele and Paul Epworth are nominated as the songwriters). Shirley Bassey has been announced as appearing and there will be some kind of James Bond tribute. Tom Jones may be there as well but there appears to be no official announcement to that effect in the PRESS RELEASE ARCHIVE for the Oscars.

A Bond film hasn’t been nominated since 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, for best song. The series is 0-for-3 on best song nominations (Live And Let Die and Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me also got nominations). For the 1982 show, Sheena Easton performed For Your Eyes Only as part of an elaborate 007 dance number and Albert R. Broccoli won the Irving Thalberg award, given to a producer for his or her body of work.

We’ll Tweet @HMSSWeblog and turn those into posts here.