David Letterman’s 007 moments

David Letterman, after 33 years on late-night U.S. television (11 years on NBC, 22 on CBS), is retiring after his May 20 telecast.

One of Letterman’s most memorable moments occurred shortly after his switch to CBS. He interviewed Sean Connery in a segment that opened with an homage to Thunderball.

The 1993 appearance had its ups and downs but is still, after all these years, a Letterman highlight. Connery was on the mend from a serious throat condition so the laughs had an undertone of seriousness.

Take a look:

Two years later, Letterman hosted in show from London. One of those installments included interviewing Pierce Brosnan as filming of GoldenEye was wrapping up.

TCM schedules To Trap a Spy for June 13

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

Turner Classics Movie has scheduled a prime time showing ON JUNE 13 at 10:15 p.m. New York time of To Trap a Spy, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s pilot episode.

The production has an unusual history.

The U.N.C.L.E. pilot was filmed in color. During production in late 1963, there was an internal debate within the production team whether U.N.C.L.E. agent Solo’s first name should be Napoleon. (Academic Cynthia W. Walker has written about this subject IN HER BOOK ABOUT THE SERIES.)

In the actual pilot, originally titled Solo, Robert Vaughn’s character is only called Solo. In the pilot, as originally filmed, the end titles said, “Starring Robert Vaughn as Solo.”

According to a timeline researched and compiled by Craig Henderson, additional footage was filmed March 31 through April 2, 1964, to turn the pilot into a feature film. The footage includes Luciana Paluzzi playing a femme fatale named Angela. Her character is very similar to the Fiona Volpe character she’d play a year later in Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film.

In that footage, Solo introduces himself to Angela as “Napoleon Solo.” Evidently, by the spring of 1964, the internal debate about the agent’s name had been settled in favor of the moniker bestowed upon him by Ian Fleming, the creator of 007.

In the end, Solo becomes a series, but under the title The Man From U.N.C.L.E. To Trap a Spy initially is shown in international markets, but with U.N.C.L.E.’s popularity, it is shown in the United States in 1966 as part of a double feature with The Spy With My Face, another movie based on an U.N.C.L.E. episode with additional footage.

U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, Norman Felton, was nothing if not thrifty. A tamer version of the Luciana Paluzzi footage shows up in a first-season episode that aired in the spring of 1965 called The Four-Steps Affair. It also includes some of the extra footage used in The Spy With My Face.

Another curiosity: in To Trap a Spy, the name of the villainous organization is changed from “Thrush” to “Wasp.” If you watch closely, you can see the actors saying “Thrush” with “Wasp” on the audio track. To Trap a Spy also includes the original U.N.C.L.E. boss, Will Kuluva as Mr. Allison. With the pilot, scenes were reshot with Leo G. Carroll playing Mr. Waverly, Solo’s new superior.

Regardless, To Trap a Spy is the first “official” U.N.C.L.E. movie. TCM has shown the film previously, but usually nowhere near prime-time.

Robert Rietti, 007 voiceover artist, dies at 92

Emilo Largo (Adolfo Celi) was dubbed over by Robert Rietti

When Largo appeared in Thunderball, American audiences saw Adolfo Celi’s face but heard Robert Rietti’s voice.

Robert Rietti, an actor who dubbed over a number of characters in James Bond films, died earlier this month at 92, according to obituaries in THE TIMES OF LONDON and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Rietti’s participation in 007 films went all the way back to the first, 1962’s Dr. No. He dubbed over Timothy Moxon’s lines as Strangways, the doomed head of the Kingston station of British intelligence.

Rietti also dubbed over Adolfo Celi’s Emilo Largo in Thunderball, Testuro Tamba’s Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice and a bald villain intended to evoke Ernst Stavo Blofeld (but who officially wasn’t the SPECTRE chief because of rights disputes) in For Your Eyes Only. Thus, it was Rietty who uttered the line, “I’ll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel!”

With Thunderball, American audiences heard the real voices of Celi and Claudine Auger as Domino in a that clip that was part of the television special The Incredible World of James Bond, which aired in November 1965. But they heard Rietti’s voice paired with Nikki Van der Zyl’s the next month when Thunderball arrived in theaters.

Van der Zyl was even more of a 007 veteran at that point, doing voice work on the three previous 007 films, including dubbing over Ursula Andress in Dr. No.

You can CLICK HERE to view Rietti’s IMDB.com bio (where his name is spelled Rietty), which lists 256 acting credits.

Dissecting the SPECTRE teaser trailer

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

This post originally appeared in Portuguese on the Pipoca Gigante website. People who consider trailers as spoilers should not read.

The arrival of the teaser trailer is one of the most awaited moments for James Bond fans every time a new film is produced. It’s the first actual glimpse of the upcoming film and it gives you an idea of what awaits.

On the evening of Friday, March 27, the countdown on the official James Bond site reached zero and fans from around the world got the first look at SPECTRE, set for a November release.

The tradition of the 007 teaser trailers has changed as much as the movie plots. Back in the 1960s and 1970s we had the high-sounding coming attractions shouting JAMES BOND IS BACK, showcasing much of the action sequences of the film and the name of the star, SEAN CONNERY or ROGER MOORE in big and bold capital letters, as well as many of the members of the cast being mentioned.

This tradition slowed down by the times of Pierce Brosnan, whose James Bond era started with GoldenEye in 1995. Teaser trailers were less extravagant, yet they focused in the action scenes, the witty lines and –- in a more discrete way –- the name of the actor playing Bond either had a credit or was mentioned in the narrations.

One of the key elements of the Brosnan era teaser trailers were the narrations: “Some men want to rule the world, but for one man… The World is not Enough,” claimed the trailer for the 1999 blockbuster directed by Michael Apted.

As Daniel Craig took over the role in 2006 with Casino Royale, a grittier approach was taken with shots of the film’s action sequences or Bond’s emotional reactions. 2012’s Skyfall gave little away about the film’s plot and its highlight was 007’s admission test with a therapist who provokes a stone-faced reaction of the spy when he mentions the film’s title during a word-association exercise. That, of course, led to the usual flashes of action sequences.

SPECTRE is particularly interesting because the teaser trailer breaks a tradition. There are no action scenes at all.

The focus is on the mysterious past of James Bond and a few ties with the Skyfall case: personal effects on found on the ruins of 007’s childhood residence show he had a secret. “something you can’t tell anyone, because you don’t trust anyone”, in the words of Naomie Harris’ Miss Moneypenny.

We can see 007 exploring some papers including an authorization of guardianship when he was 12 (dated January 21, 1983 – so we assume Bond was born in 1971) and a photo of him in a snowy place with an elderly man and another older stepbrother whose face isn’t clearly seen since the photo survived the lodge’s explosions.

We’re meant to believe this is also related to the film’s villain, Oberhauser, played by Cristoph Waltz. In the short story Octopussy, Ian Fleming specifies a man called Hannes Oberhauser taught James Bond to ski during his teens and as a matter of fact the secret agent is sent to settle the score with the man who apparently shot him, one Major Dexter Smythe (this is also briefly mentioned and modified in the 1983 film with the same name).

As many Bond enthusiasts know, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have always borrowed Fleming materials since they started working on the series in The World is not Enough, so it won’t be strange something of this material would make an appearance in SPECTRE.

The following shots, besides highlighting Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography, contain quite a few references to the previous Bond films.

As 007 enters an abandoned cabin two crows quickly fly next to him, a quick reminder of director John Glen’s trademark every time a dove disturbed Bond when climbing a building or a mountain (see For your eyes only and Licence to Kill). Then the spy meets an old enemy, Mr. White, the character Jesper Christensen played in two previous Daniel Craig films, Casino Royale and his follow-up Quantum of Solace.

The man, leader of the Quantum criminal organization and responsible of the suicide of Bond’s short-time girlfriend Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), is seen in the misery: beardy, tired and ragged. He’s playing chess, apparently alone, which could be considered as a reference to 1963’s From Russia with Love where SPECTRE agent Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) is a chess master and uses his intellect to plan Bond’s assassination.

“You’re a kite dancing on a hurricane, Mr. Bond”, says White as 007 shows him a more discreet version of the classic octopus ring that identified the organization the film is named after.

We understand, as many sources pointed out, that this movie would tie the stories and sub-plots started in the three previous films, such as Vesper’s death (Casino Royale), the Quantum organization (Quantum of Solace) and the passing of Judi Dench’s M (Skyfall).

The very last minutes of the teaser trailer are a clear reference to the SPECTRE meeting in Thunderball (1965), where Ernst Stavro Blofeld leads a meeting of his operatives in Paris. The image of Oberhauser, with his face hidden in the shadows, echoes the days where Blofeld’s face wasn’t seen leaving the audiences only with a shot of his hands stroking the white cat.

“Welcome, James. It’s been a long time. But finally, here we are,” Oberhauser says during an Illuminati-esque board meeting of the organization that Bond seems to infiltrate after –- or before -– attending a funeral where Monica Bellucci’s character Lucia Sciarra is seen. Curiously enough, in Thunderball Blofeld mentioned to his agents the death of another SPECTRE member, Colonel Jacques Boitier. Would be that a SPECTRE funeral, maybe?

As the countdown to the film’s release starts, producer Michael G. Wilson told reporters he aimed to construct this teaser trailer as “a puzzle”. Without doubt, he accomplished this effect with great success.

Nicolás Suszczyk is editor of The GoldenEye Dossier.

Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it:

SPECTRE: newest twist on 007 product placement

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

No spoilers.

James Bond movies have never been shy about product placement. SPECTRE may just be a twist on a long-standing tradition.

For decades, the 007 film series produced by Eon Productions has cut deals with companies pitching their wares. Goldfinger did deals with Ford Motor Co. and Gillette. With Thunderball, not only did Ford provide vehicles but then-CEO Henry Ford II appeared as an extra. Moonraker had deals with Marlboro, 7 Up and British Airways.

By the time Pierce Brosnan was 007 (1995-2002), writer Bruce Feirstein, in his FIRST DRAFT for what would become Tomorrow Never Dies, didn’t even specify a car model for 007’s vehicle. It just said “(Insert name).”

What’s different about SPECTRE is it may amount to being product placement for a country — Mexico, to be specific — than a series of companies.

The Tax Analysts website, which is targeted at tax professionals, PUBLISHED A MARCH 3 ARTICLE detailing how SPECTRE’s script was altered to take advantage of as much as $20 million in Mexican incentives. (If you click on the link, there are spoilers.)

The incentives are intended to make Mexico look as good as possible in movies, according to the website. The country has reason to do so, according to AN ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST. Here’s an excerpt:

The Mexican government’s sensitivities to its violent reputation are no secret. When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012, he tried to minimize the focus on the drug war while emphasizing economic and political reforms. But ongoing high-profile violence, including battles in Michoacan and the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has undercut that message.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. For blockbuster movies, access to the vast Chinese market is a must. The 2013 movie Iron Man 3 was a co-production with China. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn turned the villains into North Koreans instead of Chinese.

With SPECTRE, according to Tax Analysts, it was more of a direct subsidy. SPECTRE’s budget may exceed $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that owns half the Bond franchise, emerged from bankruptcy only a few years ago. It doesn’t even release its own movies, cutting deals with Sony Pictures (including the 007 films) or Warner Bros. (the now-completed Hobbit series). For MGM, $300 million is a huge bet, even for a 007 film and even though the most recent Bond movie (Skyfall) had a worldwide box office of $1.1 billion.

Put another way, $300 million is real money. Some Bond fans may get annoyed with product placement but they don’t have to sign the checks. As a result, it’s understandable why MGM would be willing to change SPECTRE’s story in return for millions of dollars.

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.

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