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.

U.N.C.L.E. and the crowded U.K. filming scene

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

The Los Angeles Times has A STORY TODAY about the booming U.K. movie industry. One of the people interviewed is Guy Ritchie, director of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie and an old hand at filming movies in England.

An excerpt from the end of the story:

Like others, English director Guy Ritchie, who has made two Sherlock Holmes movies for Warner Bros. in Britain and is now at work on “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” is noticing his home turf getting more crowded. While shooting a car chase at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, which he had also used in his 2005 film, “Revolver,” and in “Sherlock Holmes,” Ritchie noted that the location has popped up in several other movies, including “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Skyfall” and “Les Miserables.”

“Maybe the novelty will wear off,” Ritchie said. “I quite like it, because I can go home at night. I don’t know who the chap is that got this going. Whoever he is, I’d like to take him out for a drink.”

The U.N.C.L.E. movie is based out of Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden. The site is a former factory converted into a movie studio for the production of 1995’s GoldenEye. Warner Bros. used Leavesden to film the Harry Potter movies. Warner Bros. bought the studio in 2010. Warners spent more than 100 million British pounds to rebuild and expand the studio, according to the official website for Leavesden tours.

The Los Angeles Times story by Rebecca Keegan provides details of how the movie boom came about, including tax incentives, the country’s ” tungsten northern light,” and work rules that appeal to studio bosses. The story also references a number of current and upcoming U.K.-based films. The list includes the next Star Wars film that will be shot at Pinewood Studios, the tradition home for James Bond films. To read the entire story, CLICK HERE.

Separately, the Henry Cavill News fan website PUBLISHED A POST of photos shot by a fan identified as marliimarl_ of an U.N.C.L.E. boat chase with stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer participating. The post includes a couple of videos that Henry Cavill News also uploaded to YouTube.

How British are 007 films?

Skyfall's poster image

BAFTA winner for Outstanding British Film

Of course James Bond films are British. They concern a British icon and are filmed in the U.K. What could be more obvious? That’s like asking if Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley are British.

Well, that might not be the best comparison given that Jaguar and Land Rover are owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd. and Bentley is owned by Volkswagen AG. Still, 007 films have always been considered British.

Still, the answer isn’t as easy as it might appear.

In the early days, the series made by Eon Productions Ltd. was U.K.-based. While producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were born elsewhere, they were operated out of the U.K. and the movies were full of British film talent such as director of photography Ted Moore, (naturalized citizen) production designer Ken Adam and editor Peter Hunt. Of course, the U.S.-based studio United Artists financed the movies.

It pretty much remained that way until Diamonds Are Forever. The Inside Diamonds Are Forever documentary directed by John Cork notes that the producers initially intended to Americanize Bond, even hiring an American (John Gavin) for the role. It was going to be based out of Universal Studios.

Things changed. Sean Connery returned as Bond (at the insistence of United Artists) and U.K.’s Pinewood Studios was again the home base. Yet, some key jobs were split between British and American crew members, including stunt arranger, assistant director, art director, set decorator, production manager and visual effects.

Also, as the years passed, Eon for a variety of reasons (financial among them) based some films primarily outside of the U.K. They included Moonraker (the first unit was based out of France, Derek Meddings’s special effects unit still labored at Pinewood), Licence to Kill (Mexico) and Casino Royale (Czech Republic, with some sequences shot at Pinewood).

What’s more, movies not thought of as British, such as Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978) and Batman (1989) were based out of the U.K. Each had key British crew members, including: Star Wars with production designer John Barry (not to be confused with the 007 film composer), whose group won the art direction Oscar over Ken Adam & Co. (The Spy Who Loved Me); Superman with Barry again, director of photography Geoffrey Unsworth, and second unit director John Glen; Batman with art director Terry Ackland-Snow, assistant director Derek Cracknell and special visual effects man Derek Meddings. Batman was filming at Pinewood at around the same time Licence to Kill’s crew was working in Mexico.

Still, Superman and Batman (which both debuted during the Great Depression) are American icons and Star Wars, while set in a galaxy far, far away, is too.

At the same time, Skyfall, which came out on DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 12, is very British. Much of the story takes place there and many of Shanghai and Macao scenes were really filmed at Pinewood, with the second unit getting exterior shots.

On Feb. 10, Skyfall picked up the Oustanding British Film award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It was a first and a lot of 007 fans are still taking it all in.

In truth, movies generally are an international business these days, Bond films included. But 007 isn’t likely to lose his identification as being a British product anytime soon, much the way Jaguar, Land Rover and Bentley have a British identity regardless of ownership.

Let the speculation begin! Blog says Bond going to 20th Century Fox

With all the uncertainty about MGM and what’s happening with Bond 23, we have a report about James Bond reportedly finding a new movie studio home.

The We Are Movie Geeks site says News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox may become the studio that releases James Bond movies. Some excerpts:

A source close to the dealings has let We Are Movie Geeks know that Bond is alive and well, and will be settling into his new domicile for marketing and distribution at 20th Century Fox. That’s right, expect the official word to come out any day now, but it looks like ‘Bond 23′ is going to be running behind the Fox banner.

We’ll see. If it does come to pass, this development would lead to some interesting possibilties:

1. Product placement. You might see copies of The Wall Street Journal or the New York Post used prominently as props. That’s not so far fetched. In the 2003 movie Daredevil, reporter Ben Urich went from working for the fictional Daily Bugle to the New York Post. Also, if a character is watching television during Bond 23, it wouldn’t be surprising that they’d be watching Fox News, Fox Business Channel or FX.

2. The magic word: synergy! When Bond DVDs are sold, it may be part of a package deals with Star Wars DVDs or other parts of Fox’s film library.

3. Cameos. Eon Productions bossman Michael G. Wilson may have to share time with News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch.

For the entire WAMG post, just CLICK RIGHT HERE.

UPDATE: Another blog says they’ve gotten an e-mailed denial from MGM. To see that CLICK HERE.

UPDATE II: Yet another blog that references MGM’s denial can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.