Bond 25 questions: The coronavirus delay edition

Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond

James Bond defeated the likes of Dr. No, Rosa Klebb, Auric Goldfinger, Blofeld, et. al. But even 007 had to retreat in the face of a potential pandemic with the delay of No Time to Die pushed back to November.

Naturally, the blog has questions.

What happened? The coronavirus (technical name COVID-19). It surfaced in China at the end of 2019. It spread to Japan, South Korea, Italy, and other nations. There have now been deaths in the U.S. from the disease.

Why is that such a big deal? COVID-19, at this point, is very contagious. It also is more potent than normal seasonal flu.

Seasonal flu has a death rate of between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent. The new coronavirus had been estimated at 2 percent. The World Health Organization then raised it to 3.4 percent. But that’s a moving target, subject to revision as more data becomes available. The 1918 “Spanish flu” had a death rate of about 2.5 percent. It killed between 20 million and 50 million globally.

Is there a broader context? Yes. Theaters in China have been closed for weeks. Coronavirus outbreaks in Europe have had results, including the cancellation of this year’s Geneva Motor Show. Some countries are cracking down on events with mass gatherings in an effort to cut back on spread of the disease. Many major companies are eliminating travel for employees for now.

How did No Time to Die get involved? The 25th James Bond film’s Beijing premiere was canceled a while back. So was a publicity tour in China, South Korea and Japan.

Earlier this week, the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier published an open letter urging Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Universal (the international distributor) to delay the movie’s March 31 premiere. The letter noted that major markets for Bond films already had been affected by the coronavirus, with more impact to come.

The open letter went viral. Over the next two days, a number of outlets wrote about the open letter, beginning with The Hollywood Reporter. Others include the BBC, Variety, IndieWire, The Guardian, Daily Mail, and Uproxx among others.

Chances are Eon, MGM and Universal were already thinking about it. But the global reaction to the open letter had to be a factor.

What happens next? Presumably the publicity build-up goes on hold and we’ll come back to it later.

For what it’s worth, Bond films since 1995’s GoldenEye have been released in either November or December. No Time to Die  is back in that part of the calendar. But the delay does cement the 2015-2020 gap between SPECTRE and No Time to Die as the second-longest in the history of the Eon series.

No Time to Die delayed to November because of coronavirus

Daniel Craig/James Bond character poster

The release of No Time to Die was delayed until November because of the coronavirus, it was announced today.

“MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, announced today that after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020,” according to a tweet on the official Eon 007 account on Twitter.

In a follow-up tweet, it was specified the U.K. release was now Nov. 12, 2020 while the U.S. release will be on Nov. 25.

The move comes amid the spread of the disease, with governments moving to clamp down on places where large numbers of people gather.

Movie theaters in China have been closed for weeks. There have been outbreaks in Europe that resulted in the closing of the Louvre museum in Paris and the cancelation of this year’s Geneva Motor Show.

The 25th James Bond film had been set to premiere on March 31 in London, with an April 2 release. The U.S. release had been set for April 10.

Earlier this week, the MI6 James Bond website and The James Bond Dossier had published an open letter to Eon and the studios urging them to delay the film’s release. The open letter was then picked up in a number of outlets including The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, IndieWire and others.

Here’s the first tweet:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Those odd back covers to 1960s Bond paperbacks

Back cover to a Signet paperback edition of Live And Let Die (it’s on top of a DVD collection of UPA cartoons, in case you’re wondering).

In episode 0028 of the James Bond & Friends podcast, there was a discussion about the back covers of 007 paperbacks and the odd order they listed the Ian Fleming books.

David Leigh of The James Bond Dossier noted how Pan paperback editions of the Fleming novels listed the books in a seemingly random order.

The podcast got a reaction on social media. I remembered the U.S. paperbacks also seemed odd. So I got out a couple of my own Signet paperbacks issued in the U.S. during the 1960s.

A 1963 Signet printing of For Your Eyes Only listed the books in this order:

Casino Royale, Live And Let Die, Goldfinger, From Russia With Love Moonraker, Doctor No, Diamonds Are Forever and Thunderball.

Casino Royale and Live And Let Die were the first two books in the series. But it jumps out of order after that.

At the same time, an inside page lists the Fleming Bond novels in a different order. It starts with From Russia With Love, goes back to Doctor No, then presents the rest randomly (Casino Royale listed fourth, Goldfinger fifth and Moonraker sixth, among others.

The 27th printing by Signet of Live And Let Die (no specific printing date but before The Man With the Golden Gun was out in paperback) has this listing in alphabetical order (discounting “the”) with more titles:

Casino Royale, Diamonds Are Forever, Doctor No, For Your Eyes Only, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Live And Let Die, Moonraker, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, The Spy Who Loved Me, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice.

Spy Command participates in two podcasts

Spybrary podcast logo

The Spy Command was part of two podcasts in the past week.

The Spybrary podcast on July 31 featured an interview with me. Host Shane Whaley asked for my “dead drop five.”

I named a combination of TV shows and books, including The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible (the original TV series), and From Russia With Love novel and film as a joint entry. I also listed the Matt Helm series of serious novels (as opposed to the Dean Martin movies).

Shane and I have discussed this possibility for more than a year and it was fun to get it done. Shane also wants me to host a panel about U.N.C.L.E. in the future.

The Spybrary host followed up with an Aug. 5 podcast reviewing The Removers, the third Matt Helm novel by Donald Hamilton. It was one of the titles I had discussed on the July 31 podcast.

James Bond & Friends logo

Meanwhile, James Bond & Friends, produced by the MI6 James Bond website, is back with episode 0020, which came out on Aug. 6. This edition includes a new guest, Marcos Kontze of the James Bond Brasil website. I was there as well along with David Leigh of The James Bond Dossier, Ben Williams of MI6 Confidential as well as MI6 founders Paul Atkinson and James Page. A description from the MI6 website:

Observing the passing of David Hedison – two time Felix Leiter – we note how he became the first man to return to the role some 10 years later with the long-serving ally’s pivotal role in ‘Licence to Kill’. We continue by discussing Leiter and Bond’s relationship and how the re-casting has lead to some inconsistent characterisation. Along the way, we stumble on Leiter’s drinking habits, Felix’s faux pas, his Kennedy impersonation, Jack Lord’s moisturiser, Felicia Leiter, big livers, the martini olive scam, an ill-fated fishing trip, Le Chiffre’s undead exit, rewrites whilst boozing, and the Leiterverse.

Golden Gun’s 45th anniversary: The unloved Bond?

goldengunposter

The Man With the Golden Gun poster

Updated and expanded from a 2014 post.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of The Man With The Golden Gun.

The 1974 film has received a lot of flak over the decades. It’s exhibit A when the subject comes up about 007 film misfires. Too goofy. Too cheap. Too many of the crew members having a bad day.

For example, Don McGregor, then a writer for Marvel Comics, savaged the movie in a lengthy article in a 1975 issue of Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine (which featured a cover drawn by comics legend Neal Adams).

Also, the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website had few kind words when its contributors (including myself) did rankings of the Bond films. (Speaking only for myself, as I look back on my comments, one about John Barry was over the top.)

Over the years, Bond fans have said it has an average John Barry score (though one supposes Picasso had average paintings). It has too many bad gags (Bond watches as two teenage karate students take out a supposedly deadly school of assassins). And, for a number of first-generation 007 film fans, it has Roger Moore playing Bond, which is bad it and of itself.

Golden Gun is a way for fans to establish “street cred” — a way of establishing, “I’m not a fan boy.”

Neal Adams cover to The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine containing an article savaging The Man With the Golden Gun

However, the movie also has its defenders. Among them is David Leigh, who runs The James Bond Dossier website and is a regular guest on the James Bond & Friends podcast.  Also, the August 2018 issue of 007 Magazine (which is sold out) had an article titled, “In Defence of The Man With the Golden Gun.”

The movie was a bit of a disappointment at the box office. Golden Gun’s worldwide box office plunged 40 percent compared with Live And Let Die ($97.6 million versus $161.8 million, according to THE NUMBERS website). Within a few weeks of its December 1974 U.S. release, United Artists hurriedly paired Golden Gun with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, which UA released earlier in 1974, to make a double feature.

In terms of long-term importance, Golden Gun was the finale of the Albert R. Broccoli-Harry Saltzman 007 partnership. Saltzman would soon be in financial trouble and have to sell out his share of the franchise to United Artists. In a way, things have never really been the same since.

The end of the car jump of The Man With the Golden Gun

Golden Gun is not the best offering in the Eon Production series. Rather, in many ways, it’s the runt of the litter that many like to pick on — even among the same people who’d chafe at criticism of their favorite 007 film.

The documentary Inside The Man With The Golden Gun says the movie has all of the 007 “ingredients.” Of course, such a documentary is approved by executives who aren’t demanding candor.

But the statement is true. It has not one, but two Oscar winning directors of photography (Oswald Morris and Ted Moore); it has a score by a five-time Oscar winner (John Barry); it is one of 13 007 movies Richard Maibaum contributed writing.

Then again, movies sometimes are less the sum of their parts. It happens. Not everyone has their best day.

For many, Golden Gun is a convenient piñata. Despite some positives (including a genuinely dangerous driving stunt), it doesn’t get much love from part of the 007 fan community.

James Bond & Friends Discusses Changing Fan Tastes

James Bond & Friends logo

Episode 0013 of the James Bond & Friends podcast examines changing fan tastes for older 007 films during the Daniel Craig era.

Host James Page of the MI6 James Bond website examined how user ratings at IMDB.com have changed the past 15 years. That kicked off a discussion about the general topic.

Here’s a more detailed description from the website:

After we round up the latest Bond 25 news and tabloid bumblings, we dive into dissecting how public opinion of every film in the James Bond series has changed over the past 15 years – from 2004 to 2019. Using a semi-scientific method, the results were surprising! Along the way, we stumble upon the next Uncle Bond, psych out John Wayne, ponder Dalton’s dark prophecy, freeze frame Judi Dench, and downgrade some classics.

The discussion also includes a reference to a certain canine that appears in Thunderball.

The blog was one of the participants. Others were:

— David Leigh of The James Bond Dossier

— Calvin Dyson, who examines 007 films and books at his YouTube channel

— Author Mark O’Connell

James Bond & Friends discusses 007 scripts

James Bond & Friends logo

Episode 0012 of the James Bond & Friends podcast discusses 007 film scripts, including how some drafts provide fodder for future films.

Here’s part of the description:

How much of a Bond film is recycled from unused scripts?

In the first segment, we wrap up some loose ends and dive in to the latest Bond 25 media coverage including Daniel Craig’s injury and how Twitter would cover the production of early films.

The blog participated in the podcast, which was recorded on May 17. Other participants were:

–James Page, co-founder of the MI6 James Bond website.

–Ajay Chowdbury, co-author of Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films.

–David Leigh, webmaster of The James Bond Dossier.

–Ben Williams, who writes for the MI6 James Bond site.