1972: 007’s TV debut on The ABC Sunday Night Movie

United Artists re-released Goldfinger in the summer of 1972 as part of a triple feature a few months before it was shown on ABC.

With all the 007 anniversaries this year, one isn’t getting much attention: the 40th anniversary of the first U.S. television showing of a James Bond film when Goldfinger was shown on The ABC Sunday Night Movie.

ABC, which had obtained the TV rights for 007 films, decided to kick off the 1972-73 season with Goldfinger, the third movie in the series made by Eon Productions. ABC had promoted Goldfinger throughout the summer and especially during its broadcasts of the Summer Olympics in Munich, where 007 promos seemed to air every two hours, prior to the tragic kidnapping and murders of Israeli athletes. United Artists, moving to squeeze out money from one last theatrical run, had a triple feature of Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger during the summer of 1972.

Finally, on the night of Sept. 17, 1972 (right after the eighth-season opener of The FBI), Goldfinger was broadcast to millions of homes in the U.S. Bond fans who’d seen the film in theaters were caught by surprise immediately. The classic 007 gunbarrel logo had been edited out by the network (though John Barry’s gunbarrel music arrangement remained). It would be the first in a series of changes and cuts ABC would make in the Bond movies.

The ABC broadcast of Goldfinger started at 9 p.m. New York time and ran (including commercials) until 11:15 p.m.. In future showings, ABC would take out the pre-credits sequence altogether and start with the main titles so the TV broadcast would run no longer than two hours.

Still, it was a new era. ABC was the U.S. television home for Bond into the early 1990s. ABC even had a last hurrah in 2002, when the network showed the first nine 007 films in the Eon series on consecutive Saturday nights. Today, with DVDs, streaming video, video on demand, etc., none of this sounds special. But, 40 years ago, it was a big deal when agent 007 was available for the first time in living rooms.

007 Thanksgiving hack-a-thon on Sci-Fi channel

On Thanksgiving Day, the Sci-Fi Channel was the latest U.S. cable network to feature a James Bond marathon. Sci-Fi showed Pierce Brosnan’s first three efforts, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, and The World Is Not Enough. The problem: Sci-Fi apparently thought it should treat the Bond movies like a Thanksgiving turkey and cut them up.

Had Eon Productions Big Kahuna Michael G. Wilson been watching Tomorrow Never Dies on Sci-Fi he’d have no doubt been disappointed. The scene with villain Elliott Carver having a video conference with various confederates was hacked out entirely. So much for MGW’s biggest Bond appearance.

Even worse was what Sci Fi did to The World is Not Enough, Desmond Llewelyn’s farewell to the series. In the middle of Llewelyn’s final scene, Sci Fi cut away just after John Cleese “demonstrates” a gadget. A viewer would miss the touching finale to the scene, which begins with Brosnan/Bond asking, “You’re not retiring anytime soon — are you?”

And, of course, we won’t even talk about what they did to the end titles. Echh.