About that ‘Chairman Mao’ 007 villain wardrobe

UPDATE: @SuperThunderFan on Twitter reminds us that Dr. No had a similar look in the movie of the same name, not to mention Bond himself (of course, those were borrowed clothes) as well as Kamal Khan in Octopussy.

ORIGINAL POST: Is it asking too much for a little variety? Let’s consider, the “Chairman Mao” look appears to have originated with the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.

The “dramatic reveal” (such as it is) is that Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen), the nephew of James Bond (David Niven), is the villain.

woody-allen-casino-royale-1967

Just a few months later, You Only Live Twice, the fifth 007 film produced by Eon Productions, debuted. It’s the first time we see Blofeld on screen. In his previous appearances (in From Russia With Love and Thunderball), Blofeld wore a suit. But not for this big reveal in the person of Donald Pleasence.

blofeld-yolt

This look for Blofeld would continue for the next two Eon films, including Charles Gray as Blofeld in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.

blofeldsmiles

Diamonds would be the final appearance by Blofeld in an Eon movie for a while. But, in 1973’s Live And Let Die, “Wardrobe by Blofeld” continued in the person of Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto). And he had *nothing* to do with SPECTRE.

lald-yahphet-kotto

A couple of movies later, Bond did battle with rich/crazy guy Karl Stromberg and…oh, for crying out loud, couldn’t he afford his own wardrobe?

stromberg-tswlm

Well, The Spy Who Loved Me was a huge hit. Producer Albert R. Broccoli was ensured the resources for an even bigger hit with 1979’s Moonraker — except for a new wardrobe for his villain, embodied by Michael Londale’s Drax.

moonraker-drax

We’ll skip ahead many years (leaving aside the question about whether that guy in the pre-credits sequence of For Your Eyes Only was Blofeld or not). It’s now 1997. It’s a new era.

So in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies….oh, for crying out loud! Apparently, Jonathan Pryce’s villainous media baron is cheap when it comes to clothes!

tomorrow-never-dies-villain

OK, let’s go further forward to the 21st century. The franchise has been rebooted. Oh, there’s a new version of Blofeld? Almost certainly, there’s no way they’d copy that campy, goofy 1960s version. Right? Maybe not.

blofeld-waltz

If the producers need a Blofeld for Bond 25, and Christoph Waltz is unavailable, they should perhaps consider one of the performers in this video. Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis Jr. are no longer with us. But Regis Philbin is still going strong.

U.N.C.L.E. and catching lightning in a bottle

The original U.N.C.L.E.s, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum

The original U.N.C.L.E.s, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum

We were reminded how this month is the 50th anniversary of The Beatles meeting Robert Vaughn, the star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The gathering reflected how U.N.C.L.E., for a time in the 1960s, was a very big deal. 

It was the Fab Four who requested the meeting. They were fans of the show and wanted to see the actor.

Vaughn was busy simultaneously being the lead in a U.S. television series and studying for a Ph.D. But the meeting took place anyway.

U.N.C.L.E.’s history is very much one of ups and downs. It almost got canceled in its first season. It enjoyed its best ratings in its second season (1965-66).

In fact, James Bond films actually benefited from U.N.C.L.E. Two 007 television specials, The Incredible World of James Bond and Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond (made to promote Thunderball and You Only Live Twice), aired in U.N.C.L.E.’s time slot on NBC.

But by January 1968, U.N.C.L.E. was canceled as its ratings plunged.

For the most part, U.N.C.L.E. was like catching lightning in a bottle — bright and powerful. For enthusiasts (including the Spy Commander, it should be noted), the light still shines bright. To the broader population, not so much. The same applies to other ’60s spy entertainment such as The Wild Wild West, I Spy and other shows.

In the 21st century, the “lightning in a bottle” shows still are fondly remembered by the original fan base. Trying to interest younger viewers remains a challenge. A year ago this month, a new movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. didn’t find an audience even as the fifth installment of the Mission: Impossible film series was a hit.

So it goes. Nevertheless, those who were along for the ride originally still have their memories.

Ken Adam to be honored by American Film Institute

Ken Adam

Ken Adam

Ken Adam, the long-time film production designer who died in March, is being honored by the American Film Institute with a film series that runs starting July 9 and into September.

AFI is showing a range of films reflecting Adam’s work, including all seven James Bond films he designed for producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

In addition, the series includes The Ipcress File, the first Harry Palmer film that was produced by Saltzman, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the children’s movie based on an Ian Fleming novel that Broccoli produced.

The movies are being shown at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The dates are as follows. The movies are shown at different times of day and for full details, CLICK HERE.

July 9, 11, 13: Dr. No (1962), the first James Bond film, where Adam’s sets made the movie look more expensive than it really was.

July 10, 12, 14: Goldfinger (1964). Adam, with no access to the interior of Fort Knox, created one from his imagination.

July 16, 20: Thunderball (1965). The Biggest Bond of All and Adam’s work was one of the reasons.

July 17: You Only Live Twice (1967), the first Bond film to toss out an Ian Fleming plot and substitute its own. Adam’s SPECTRE volcano headquarters set was a major highlight.

July 23, 26: Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

July 25: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

July 31: Around the World in 80 Days (1956), Michael Todd-produced film version of the Jules Verne novel starring David Niven, with various stars making cameo appearances.  Adam is credited as an art director and his name is spelled Adams. The movie’s associate producer was William Cameron Menzies, who helped pioneer the concept of a production designer responsible for the overall look of a film.

Aug. 6, 10: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Adam returned after a two-picture absence from the Bond series. His work included the interior of what’s supposed to be a tanker that swallows nuclear submarines.

Aug. 7, 9: Moonraker (1979), Adam’s farewell to the 007 series, where his contributions included a space station.

Aug. 13, 16: The Ipcress File (1965), Adam demonstrated he could handle a more realistic spy film.

Aug. 20, 24: Barry Lyndon (1975), Stanley Kubrick-directed film where Adam won an Academy Award.

Aug. 26, 30, Sept. 1: Night of the Demon (1957)

Aug. 27, 28, 30, Sept. 1: Gideon of Scotland Yard (1958)

Sept. 2, 3, 5: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). Who better to design a flying car than Ken Adam?

Sept. 3, 6, 8: The Last of Shiela (1973)

Ken Adam's "war room" set from Dr. Strangelove

Ken Adam’s “war room” set from Dr. Strangelove

Sept. 9, 10, 12, 13, 14: Dr. Strangelove (1964): Adam passed on the second Bond film, From Russia With Love, to work with Kubrick on the nuclear war satire. Adam’s biggest contribution was the War Room set, which has inspired production designers and art directors ever since.

Sept. 10: The Madness of King George, which resulted in Adam’s second Academy Award.

 

007 and the peak of movie poster art

Arguably, that would be 1967’s You Only Live Twice, which featured multiple memorable images.

The masterpiece was this image, which wasn’t even the primary piece of art for the film. Sean Connery’s tuxedo-clad James Bond improbably is using his feet to support himself while Tiger Tanaka’s ninjas raid SPECTRE’s volcano headquarters.

You Only Live Twice art

You Only Live Twice art

Depending on the format of the poster, the main poster images featured Connery/Bond in Little Nellie above the SPECTRE base, or Connery/Bond with Japanese women. Some posters managed to combine both.

YOLT skinny poster

You don’t get that kind of art these days with movies, which digitally manipulate photographs and don’t utilize lush illustrations. The entertainment website Birth.Movies.Death took to Twitter, reminding its followers about the You Only Live Twice art.

Civil War is like You Only Live Twice, the book and film

Spectacle phase of Captain America: Civil War

Spectacle phase of Captain America: Civil War

No real spoilers, but your mileage may vary.

To use a James Bond reference, imagine a movie that had both the sprawling spectacle of You Only Live Twice, the movie, plus the personal elements of Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice novel.

That’s what you get with Captain America: Civil War.

The film, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and scripted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, goes through a progression:

–More or less standard super heroics with serious undertones.

–Expansion to a spectacle phase, fueled by the introduction of Spider-Man into the proceedings.

–A surprisingly personal climax, which ties up plot threads dating back to when Marvel started producing its own movies eight years ago.

With You Only Live Twice, there has been a half-century fan debate whether Fleming’s 1964 novel could actually be filmed versus a disappointment of fans of the novel there wasn’t an actual attempt.

Civil War walks a similar tightrope with style. Marvel is drawing upon multiple stories (but especially a 2006-2007 story line that crossed over various titles), rather than a single novel. So perhaps it’s not the fairest comparison.

Regardless, Civil War traverses that tightrope in style. Truth be told, the Spy Commander was wondering whether Marvel could maintain its momentum heading into its “Phase III.”

As it turns out, Civil War launches Phase III into new territory.

Civil War has the equivalent of two 007 pre-title sequences, one a short period piece, the other a more elaborate one set in the present day. In the latter, there have been some collateral casualties, spurring a move among United Nations members to rein in the Avengers, the team led by Cap (Chris Evans).

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is in favor but Cap isn’t convinced.

So far, so good. Along the way, the audience meets a new character, T’Challa, the Black Panther, who becomes the ruler of the advanced African nation of Wakanda after his father his killed during a terrorist attack during a U.N. ceremony.

As a result, a big conflict breaks out, with the two heroes recruiting allies. It’s here where the latest Spider-Man (Tom Holland) makes an appearance and he immediately ramps things up. The scene where Tony Stark recruits a teenage Peter Parker is one of the highlights of the film.

The major fight, as impressive as it is, only sets up the climax, where we get into intense personal conflict (albeit with super heroics) delivered with a wallop.

One criticism of the movie (from Los Angeles Times and NPR reviewer Kenneth Turan) is that it’s harder for viewers who aren’t hard-core Marvel fans to get up to speed. Perhaps so.

Still, the Russo brothers get the audience’s attention from the beginning. By the end of the two-and-a-half hour movie, Marvel fans will be especially pleased but there’s something for everyone. To again use a 007 reference, it’s like seeing Thunderball or You Only Live Twice (or later film) as your first James Bond film. It’s easy enough to get up to speed.

One more thing: There are *two* scenes in the end titles. The first wraps up things from Civil War, the latter sets up a future Marvel production. The very last image of the end titles utilizes a page from the playbook of the early Bond films, something the 2011 Thor and Captain America movies did as well.

GRADE: A

Ken Adam, who created 007’s film world, dies

Ken Adam

Ken Adam (1921-2016)

Ken Adam, who helped create the film world of James Bond, has died at 95, ACCORDING TO AN OBITUARY BY THE BBC.

Adam’s official title was production designer, a duty he held on seven 007 films, starting with Dr. No in 1962 and concluding with Moonraker in 1979.

Part of Ken Adam's handiwork on Dr. No

Part of Ken Adam’s handiwork on Dr. No

With Dr. No, a modestly budgeted film, Adam’s set designs made the movie look more expensive than it really was. An example was a large room where Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) converses with an unseen Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman).

In a John Cork-directed documentary, Adam described the style as “slightly ahead of its time.” Dr. No’s lair looked fantastic, yet had antiques.

Dr. No was no fluke. The Adam-designed interior of Fort Knox in Goldfinger was attention grabbing. Ian Fleming’s novel never made it inside the U.S. gold depository. Adam made it almost dream like. You could understand why Auric Goldfinger lusted after gold.

Sean Connery may have breathed film life into Fleming’s creation. Ken Adam gave the film Bond a world to inhabit.

Also, over time, Adam altered his style. His early Bond films had rectangle-shaped sets. With The Spy Who Loved Me, he introduced more curved shapes.

Finally, as the Bond films expanded in scope and budget, Adam’s job took on aspects of a construction boss.

The SPECTRE volcano base in You Only Live Twice cost as much or more than all of Dr. No. Its construction at Pinewood Studios caused “hardened” film professionals to give up their lunch hours to watch it being built, sound man Norman Wanstall said in one of the Cork-directed documentaries.

Even more ambitious was The Spy Who Loved Me, featuring the inside of a tanker that swallowed nuclear submarines. Spy got Adam an Oscar nomination. He probably would have won if the movie had come out in 1976. Instead, it came out in 1977 and was up against the first Star Wars film, which got the Oscar in the category.

Adam’s style had a huge impact, not only with other spy films of the 1960s, but well into the 21st century. 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness had an homage to Adam’s “War Room” set from 1964’s Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

A giant in his field has left us. But Adam leaves behind an enormous legacy, not only with the Bond series but many other films.

UPDATE: Here’s the tweet Roger Moore sent out about Ken Adam’s passing.

UPDATE (March 13): It took a few days but The New York Times has come out with A VERY DETAILED OBITUARY for Ken Adam.

Also, here’s the tweet from the official 007 account that announced Adam’s death.

About that whole ‘Blofeld Trilogy’ thing…

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

This blog’s recent post about suggestions for Bond 25 included the idea that it may be time to let the “Blofeld Trilogy” idea pass. But many don’t want to let go. So here’s a closer look.

What is it? The phrase was popularized by Raymond Benson in his 1984 book The James Bond Bedside Companion, referring to Ian Fleming’s novels, Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice.

The term “Blofeld Trilogy” isn’t mentioned in the index. On page 123, the author introduces his analysis of Thunderball thusly:

The ninth James Bond novel, Thunderball, is a terrific book. It is the beginning of what could be called the Blofeld Trilogy, which also includes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice. Thunderball also marks the change from the earlier novels to the later, more mature books.

Anything wrong with that? Not wrong, but perhaps more complex.

How so? First, Fleming almost certainly didn’t plan a trilogy. The Thunderball novel was Fleming’s way of recouping time spent on the unsuccessful film project spearheaded by Kevin McClory. McClory sued after the novel came out. In the resulting settlement, future editions of the novel indicated it was based on a screen treatment by McClory, screenwriter Jack Whittingham and Fleming.

Second, Fleming wrote four novels during this period. He also penned The Spy Who Loved Me, published in 1962, written from the perspective of a woman who encounters Bond in the last third of the novel. Bond is on the trail of SPECTRE but this only is mentioned in passing. Again, a sign this wasn’t a planned thing.

An important part of the Blofeld Trilogy: At the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond’s new bride, Tracy, is dead. Early in the You Only Live Twice novel, we’re told how Bond has fallen apart and is about to get his walking papers. He’s given a last chance to salvage his career. The unlikely mission leads to Blofeld and a final confrontation.

Yeah, so? The 007 film series adapted the novels out of order (as hard-core fans know all too well), so the Blofeld Trilogy, per se, wasn’t done. However, Eon Productions already has clearly cherry picked from the Blofeld Trilogy.

Example: In Skyfall, Bond has fallen apart after being shot by Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). He’s a shell of former self when he finds out MI6 has been attacked. Even then, it takes quite a bit of screen time before Bond is back to his former self.

I repeat, yeah, so? Some fans would like Bond 25 to adapt the setup of the Blofeld Trilogy, have Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) killed and have 007 have a proper “revenge” story.

Initially, SPECTRE was a bit of a remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. During the scripting process, there was a henchwoman named Irma Bunt and the last line of the movie was Bond saying, “We have all the time in the world.” Both were deleted from the final film.

A couple of things, regarding Bond 25:

1) Do we really want Bond to fall apart for the second time in three movies? Remember, it’s not the Blofeld Trilogy if he doesn’t fall apart.

2) We’ve had either revenge story lines or elements of them in Licence to Kill, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day and Quantum of Solace. Does the film series really cry out for another revenge story?

Nobody is going to change their mind based on this post. Just something to think about.